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The Daniel Boone National Forest is rich with ancient native history.

And about a dozen undergraduate students and faculty at Eastern Kentucky University intend to get to the bottom of it. Literally.

The University’s anthropology program recently entered into an agreement with the U.S. Forest Service to conduct archaeology field schools in the Forest for the next five years (and likely beyond) at various sites within Daniel Boone National Forest. The work will begin this summer with an investigation of prehistoric Native American sites in Jackson County.

“We are assisting the Forest Service in its mission of managing and protecting our nation’s history and conducting the first systematic, scientific investigations at these sites,” said Dr. Jon Endonino, assistant professor of anthropology, who will oversee the students’ work. “By collecting and documenting valuable information from these irreplaceable and endangered sites before it is lost forever, this work serves both the learning objectives of our students and EKU’s regional stewardship mission while simultaneously assisting the Forest Service in the documentation and management of historical properties within the forest. It’s a win-win for everybody involved.”

Over a four-week period this summer, the EKU team will evaluate two Jackson County sites where evidence of human activity may date back to the Middle Woodland Period (approximately 500 BC to 1000 AD). A subsequent field school will study two similar sites.

“There’s lots to learn,” Endonino said. “What has been done has barely scratched the surface, mostly illegal looting that is rampant in Daniel Boone Forest.”

Within the larger context of its research, the EKU team hopes to determine subsistence practices, seasonality of site occupation, stone tool technology, production methods and use of bone tools, chronological patterns, and much more.

Archaeological sites within the Daniel Boone National Forest are commonly recorded during compliance-level surveys. However, Endonino noted, in most cases they are recommended for avoidance and/or additional testing.

“This has created a backlog of archaeological sites that require additional testing to determine their significance for the National Register of Historic Places,” he said. “Additional research also provides needed data about the ancient native cultures, which are still poorly understood at these sites. This project will provide critical information for placing these sites in the appropriate heritage management category. Data gathered from this study will complement and integrate with data already obtained by EKU and Forest Service archaeologists. The result will provide a more comprehensive and integrated approach to cultural resource management and protection than either party could obtain independently.”

The EKU team’s work will also include a public outreach component, with presentations at local schools and libraries, and even a chance for local citizens to join in the effort to rehabilitate the sites.                      

“We want people to know what kind of history they have right in their back yards,” Endonino said.

EKU’s anthropology program is housed in the Department of Anthropology, Sociology and Social Work. For more information, visit