Abstract

The construction of earthen enclosures changed how the Middle Woodland landscape was monumentalized in central Kentucky. Archaeologists have long associated these monuments with important social changes, leading to modern interpretations of these mounds as material evidence for cooperative labor, large kin-based coalitions, and pan-regional ritual practices and cosmological beliefs. We conducted research at nine enclosures in central Kentucky that allowed us to examine the evidence for their potential correlation with astronomical phenomena and identify variability in how enclosures were constructed. In this article we present archaeoastronomical and geoarchaeological data from these nine sites to explore how local groups built and used geometric enclosures. Our data led us to consider the diverse ceremonial situations under which these monuments were constructed. We suggest that the variability present in, and the spread of, small enclosures reflects both the simultaneous reinterpretation and adoption of pan-regional institutions during local manifestations of a Middle Woodland situation.

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