On Thursday, September 22, Preservation Kentucky recognized the Daniel Boone National Forest for achievements in protecting cliff rock shelters in the Red River Gorge.
State and federal archaeologists joined other resource management officials for a brief ceremony. Forest Supervisor Frank Beum accepted the award on behalf of the U.S. Forest Service.
“Preservation Kentucky is proud to recognize the U.S. Forest Service's great efforts to preserve these important prehistoric and historic places on national forest lands,” said PK Executive Director Rachel Kennedy.
“Because of their leadership in this effort, we presented a Best Practices Award to the U.S. Forest Service. We hope that others can follow their lead and protect these invaluable resources for future generations.”
In the Red River Gorge, archaeological evidence indicates human inhabitance of rock shelters beginning at least 12,000 years ago. The artifacts found at these sites represent the daily lives of Native Americans who once lived in Kentucky. Rock shelters also include the remains of many historic period industries, such as saltpeter mining and moonshining.
The examination of rock shelters in the gorge indicate that Native Americans began domesticating plants as food crops more than 3,700 years ago. Scientists often rely on the archaeological resources of the Red River Gorge to address the origins of agriculture in eastern North America.
In 2000, the Forest Service closed all rock shelters in the Red River Gorge to camping. In 2011, all rock shelters occurring in the Daniel Boone National Forest were closed to camping in an effort to preserve these fragile sites.
At the Gladie Cultural-Environmental Learning Center in the gorge, the Forest Service interprets the significance of rock shelters for visitors. The center is host to the annual Living Archaeology Weekend, which took place over the weekend.
Thursday’s award ceremony was attended by representatives from the University of Kentucky, the Kentucky Heritage Council/Kentucky State Historic Preservation Office, Frenchburg Job Corps, Forest Service and Preservation Kentucky.
Preservation Kentucky is a nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving Kentucky’s historic resources through education and advocacy. They sponsor the “Most Endangered Historic and Prehistoric Places” list every year to highlight trends and threats to historic preservation in the Commonwealth. This year, the list included archaeological resources.