George Crothers, director of the U.K. Museum of Anthropology, pushes a five-sensor array across a field in the back of the Valley Oak industrial area. The sensors help map out underground features that could show potential fire pits or buildings in a village created 1500 years ago.

In the middle of one of Pulaski’s modern industrial parks lies an area that is a window into life in Kentucky back before European settlers reached the Americas – closer in time to the era of the Roman Empire than to the us.

In the midst of the Ky. 461’s manufacturing row – just off Pin Oak Drive and behind Gatormade Trailers – is a flat field that is in the process of applying to be placed on the Nation Register of Historic Places. It’s a field in which artifacts dating back to 400 or 500 AD have been found, and it’s proof that Native Americans had villages and settlements here.

Last Wednesday, a group of archeologists and archeologists-in-training – instructors and students from the University of Kentucky and Western Kentucky University – used specialized equipment to survey the area and make an electronic map in search of more evidence that the area holds historical significance.

The current charge to protect and preserve the area is being led by the Somerset-Pulaski Economic Development Authority (SPEDA).

The site was first protected by the Somerset-Pulaski County Development Foundation in the 1990s, and that group laid the groundwork in helping to keep the two-acre plot of land as green space while developing the area around it.

SPEDA now wants to take it a step further, potentially fencing off the area and adding signs that would illustrate how the village would have looked.

SPEDA invited state experts in to further look at the area. Dr. David Pollack, the director of the Kentucky Archaeological Survey and a faculty member from WKU’s Current Folk Studies and Anthropology department helped to coordinate efforts between his university and UK. Joining him was George Crothers, director of the UK Museum of Anthropology

Crothers used a device that held five sensors on it, carting it back and forth within the field to generate a map of sorts.

As Pollack explained, the sensors send electronic pulses into the ground, which will read below the surface and find and depressions or difference in ground structure. Those areas could indicate anything from a fire pit, storage pit, collection of pottery or drainage areas. Finding those may indicate where structures or aspects of the village may have set.

Crothers explained about the sensor array further. “The whole Earth has a magnetic field, but then there’s a local magnetic field caused by whatever’s buried in the ground,” he said.

In each of the five sensors, there’s a top and bottom reading. The bottom one reads the local magnetic field strength as well as the magnetic field of the Earth. The top one reads the magnetic field of the Earth only. By subtracting the top reading from the bottom reading, the archeologists can create an electronic map of what is found in the ground locally.

With the area mapped out, it would be possible to find the “anomalies” and either take bore samples or dig up the area to see what might be causing the blip on the map.

Crothers said it depends on scheduling and what SPEDA may want done with the area as to what further actions may take place, but that SPEDA had indicated that preservation was the main focus.

Pollack described what a village from that time, called the Late Woodland Period, would look like. “If you were to come here at that time, you would see several houses here and fires going, people cooking, kids running around, people doing all the kinds of things you would see in families gathering.”

He said settlement also had farming areas where they grew native cultigens, or seeded plants that were high in protein, oils or fats and would be very nutritious.

Those plants included sunflowers, maygrass, and a kenopod known as goosefoot or quinoa.

As the researchers worked, archeologists who live nearby gathered to watch the proceedings. Melissa Ramsey, district archeologist the U.S. Forest Service, and Wayna Roach, an archeologist with the U.S. Forest Service, observed and asked questions, learning about the equipment and the techniques being used by the surveyors.

“The archeological community is not, as you might imagine, a huge community, so we all tend to know each other,” Roach said. “And this is a rare site type and it’s a beautiful landscape. And I don’t get to see this kind of technology very often.

“Because this is our profession it behooves us to know about this technology,” she said.

Both Roach and Ramsey said it was also educational for the public to learn about the site as both an historical connection to their pasts and to better understand what type of work archeologists do.

“I don’t the public knows more than the popular image of archaeology, which is digging for treasure or Indiana Jones. I think they need to know there’s a lot we can do with an archaeological site that doesn’t even necessarily involve digging,” Roach said.

Ramsey added, “There’s also the persistent myth that people didn’t live here, that they only hunted and fought wars here.”

Known as the “dark and bloody ground myth,” there is a popular belief that native factions only fought in Kentucky or hunted here, but that there were no permanent settlements.

Sites like this one prove there were residential settlements, she said.

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