Date of Award

Spring 5-15-2018

Author's School

Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

Author's Department


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Type



Geometric earthen enclosures are some of the best known pre-Columbian monuments in North America. Across the Eastern Woodlands, many have been preserved as state and national parks. However, their chronological placement is poorly understood as they relate to the rise of complex social behaviors associated with the Adena-Hopewell florescence (500 BC–AD 500) in the Middle Ohio Valley. This is especially true for communities who built smaller enclosures referred to by archaeologists as ‘scared circles’. To better understand the timing, tempo, and nature of their construction I examined the Bluegrass Region in Central Kentucky using aerial and terrestrial remote sensing methods to learn if more enclosures were built than previously known. My results indicate the remnants of many sites exist but have been greatly damaged by modern agricultural activities and development. I then excavated a series of seven sites, examining their embankments, ditches, and internal use-areas. I found the communities who built these monuments did so in ways unique to their local histories of participation in the Adena-Hopewell social movement. Chronological modeling suggests the construction of all earthen enclosures in the Bluegrass region likely occurred in 170 years or less and the spread came from the north, possibly Central Ohio. Burial mounds, however, were built as early as 400 BC and the switch to building enclosures signals a major social change in the need for ritual space. From the sum of these results I argue that the traditional definition of Adena is indeed earlier than the major Hopewell climax in Ohio. However, I argue that this may indicate the material evidence for Hopewell ritual cycles, of which local populations in Kentucky were likely active participants in, do not represent a separate culture but instead a different context and situation for interregional integration.


English (en)

Chair and Committee

Tristram R. Kidder

Committee Members

Sarah I. Baitzel, David A. Fike, Michael D. Frachetti, Gayle J. Fritz,


Permanent URL: