Exploring Kentucky's Prehistoric Past
The Filson collections include a rich trove of prehistoric artifacts that shed light on Kentucky’s earliest settlers of Kentucky. Nomadic hunters first reached Kentucky during the Ice Age, more than 10,000 years ago, and left behind the weapons they used to kill mastodons and other Pleistocene “megafauna”. In later millennia, Kentucky tribes began to exploit local flint deposits, explore the many caves and waterways, and leave gigantic shell mounds along the Ohio and Green Rivers. When the women of these tribes began to cultivate large crops of corn, beans and squash, extensive villages were built to accommodate the booming populations. In the late 18th century, when the first Europeans reached Louisville, they found huge earthen mounds looming over what is today the downtown area. These mounds were soon leveled, obliterating all monumental traces of our region’s first inhabitants. Only their artifacts of stone, bone and pottery remain as mute witnesses to their vanished way of life.
Dr. John R. Hale is an archaeologist at the University of Louisville, with degrees in archaeology from Yale University and Cambridge University in England. He has conducted excavations at prehistoric sites in the Ohio River Valley, including Louisville. A diver, Hale has also pursued underwater excavations at shipwreck sites in the Mediterranean and a sunken Maya city in Lake Atitlan, Guatemala. His book Lords of the Sea recounts the epic story of the ancient Athenian navy and the birth of democracy.
For more information visit filsonhistorical.org