Cave Archaeology

Unless otherwise noted or titled, all courses are held at Hamilton Valley Field Station, located on the border of Mammoth Cave National Park near Bowling Green, Kentucky.


Please note there has been a change to the instructors of the course. Dr. Uomini will NOT be able to assist the course. The focus of the content will thus be Cave Archaeology more so than Rock Art.

June 2-8, 2019

The course is an opportunity for graduate students, undergraduate students, and interested cavers to explore and learn about the multifaceted use of caves by people in prehistory and during historical times.  Over the course of the week-long class, eight field trips are taken to various sites above and below ground. Five of these trips are to remote or deep cave locations and three of the trips are to cave entrances and rock shelters, linking the underground world to the environment above.  Students learn about the many cave resources that were used by people in the past, such as color pigments, chert, gypsum, mineral salts, and nitrates, and the technology of cave mineral mining. In hands-on sessions students will practice rock art skills to reconstruct the variety of rock art types found in local caves and throughout the world. Activities include making prehistoric torches, and creating petroglyphs, mud drawings, and real ochre paintings. Students will learn techniques to record undocumented rock art and thus help contribute to the preservation of local prehistoric rock art. Caves are discussed as both natural features of the environment utilized by people in the past and as features with cosmological significance that were incorporated into native belief systems, such as human burial sites, rock art traditions, and other ritual uses. Overall, students will learn about the unique contribution of cave sites to our understanding of eastern North American prehistory from preservation issues to geological formation processes, and learn how the local cave archaeology fits into a wider global context through comparisons with European, African, and Australian archaeological and rock art typologies. Students will gain an appreciation for conditions in caves that affect the application of archaeological methods and techniques and have an opportunity to apply those techniques in a cave setting.

Dr. George Crothers

George Crothers is an Associate Professor of Anthropology and Director of the William S. Webb Museum of Anthropology at the University of Kentucky. He received his Ph.D. in Anthropology from Washington University in St. Louis. Over the past 35 years, Crothers has worked extensively in cave sites in the Southeastern and Midwestern U.S. He is an associate editor for anthropology for the Journal of Cave and Karst Studies and Chief Scientist for the Cave Research Foundation.

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