Who built the ancient mounds in Fayette County?

Meet the remarkable Adena People

Drive down the beautiful Mt. Horeb area of Fayette County and you’re sure to see uniquely undulating hills across the rural landscape. These manmade mounds reflect a rich ancient culture once centered in the Bluegrass.

The mounds have long fascinated visitors, with early theories suggesting the builders were part of a lost tribe of Israel or a race of giants.

Between 800-100 BC, the ancient native “Adena” people cultivated gardens, mined for minerals, and conducted complex rituals in Central Kentucky. These native groups existed so long ago that no modern tribe can connect its lineage to the Adena.

The Adena inhabited the inner Bluegrass during the warmer months and migrated to the protection of the Red River Gorge surrounds as it grew cooler. A diet of wild game and native plants was supplemented by small-scale agriculture. The earlier Adena people lived before squash, beans, & corn was cultivated here. Instead, they grew sunflowers (for edible seeds and oil), goosefoot (similar to quinoa), and knotwood (from the buckwheat family).

The Adena were masterful traders, with artifacts from as far as Florida’s gulf coast and the Great Lakes discovered here. Further discoveries reveal their skill in textile arts, pottery, and stone carving. Pictured here is a pipe made by Adena people in nearby Ohio.

Much of our current knowledge can be attributed to a WPA project exploring several Adena sites led by William Webb. Numerous relics were uncovered and a fuller understanding of the Adena emerged. It is now believed the impressive mounds were used for burials, religious rituals or historic markers.

Today, the Bluegrass is forever marked by a ingenious, vibrant people no doubt drawn to the fertility and beauty of Central Kentucky.

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