Status: Vol. III, Episode 5 (58:00 min); original release 2010

“Historic Archaeology: Beneath Kentucky’s Fields and Streets” examines what archaeologists are learning about the lives of settlers, slaves, laborers and immigrants during the 1800s. This one-hour documentary travels to historic sites across the Commonwealth, blending interviews with video, artifacts, archival photographs and original animation. The documentary is presented in four segments based on archaeological periods: Frontier, Antebellum, Civil War and Industrialization. Each segment features key scientific discoveries made by some of the state’s top archaeologists over the past decade.

Frontier (1770s to 1820s)
Archaeologist Nancy O’Malley describes the role of archival research in efforts to locate hundreds of frontier forts in the Inner Bluegrass region of Kentucky. O’Malley also explains how faunal remains from a hearth at Fort Boonesborough provide a better understanding of the pioneer diet. Additional Sites/InvestigationsMammoth Cave, Edmonson County, and John Arnold Farmstead, Logan County.

Antebellum (1820s-1860s)
Viewers learn about the discovery of a privy at Ashland filled with over 900 ceramic vessels; the reconstruction of Farmington’s slave cabin, how x-marked objects provide insights into slave culture; and surprising conclusions about the people buried in Old Frankfort Cemetery. Additional Sites/Investigations: Ashland Privy; Farmington Slave Cabin, Archaeology and Slave Culture; Old Frankfort Cemetery, Shaker Village at Pleasant Hill; Higbee Tavern.

Civil War (1861-1865)

Archaeologists compare architectural plans of fortifications to actual features in the ground, the life of common soldiers and evidence surrounding a tragedy at the refugee encampment site in Camp Nelson. Additional Sites/Investigations: Battery Hooper, types of Civil War sites.

Industrialization (1860s -1910s)

Archaeologists focus on the lives of immigrant families at Portland Wharf Park. Once a major steamboat port, Portland Wharf vanished due to floods, the expansion of the Louisville-Portland canal and the construction of a floodwall. Today, archaeology is being used to preserve the park and reconnect the community with its past. Additional Sites/Investigations: Old Capitol Square privy, Franklin County; U.S. Marine Hospital, Jefferson County; Covington Riverfront Project, Kenton County.


Historic Archaeology companion website

Historic Archaeology media release (PDF)

DVDs: The Kentucky Archaeological Council sells DVDs of this program at cost. Contact David Pollack (859) 257-1944,

Kentucky Archaeology resources – Kentucky Heritage Council/KAS site


“Historic Archaeology: Beneath Kentucky’s Fields and Streets” was made possible with support from the Kentucky Archaeological Survey, Kentucky Heritage Council, Federal Highway Administration, Kentucky Transportation Cabinet and Voyageur Media Group, Inc.