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Cave Archaeology

Unless otherwise noted, all courses are based out of Hamilton Valley Field Station, located on the border of Mammoth Cave National Park near Bowling Green, Kentucky. See Logistics page for more information.


JULY 16-22

The Cave Archaeology 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 rockshelters, 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 chert, gypsum, mineral salts, and nitrates, and the technology of cave mineral mining.  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, including human burial sites, rock art, and other ritual uses.

Instructor: Dr. George Crothers


Dr. 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 30 years, Crothers has worked extensively in cave sites in the Southeastern and Midwestern U.S. In 2007, he created an Archaeological Geophysics Lab specializing in near-surface geophysical prospection to aid in site identification and sub-surface mapping. He uses geomagnetic, electrical resistivity, ground-penetrating radar, and other methods as a non-invasive research tool to design field excavations and as a preservation tool to identify and preserve culturally sensitive sites. Crothers primary research area is west central Kentucky, particularly the Green River valley, where sites dating to both Archaic Period hunters and gatherers and Early Woodland horticultural groups are well known. These projects are multidisciplinary efforts that involve specialists in paleoethnobotany, zooarchaeology, geoarchaeology, and bioarchaeology.


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