Archeological study finds a “Motel 6”
on the banks of the Little Laurel River
Thousands of years ago, hunter-gatherers made their way through what is now Laurel County and made camp at a “Motel 6” on the banks of the Little Laurel River.
That was the conclusion of an archeological study conducted recently by the Kentucky Archeological Survey on a 135.5-acre tract of land that will soon become Laurel County’s newest industrial park.
The London-Laurel County Industrial Development Authority purchased the tract at the corner of U.S. 25 and KY1006 last fall and named it the Greer Industrial Park South after the longtime landowners.
The archeological study was required before any industrial development could proceed at the site.
“This is a necessary step to ensure the property is clear of artifacts and ready to develop,” said Paula Thompson, executive director of the industrial development authority. “This step is required if you intend to apply for federal grants, use federal funds, or create a build-ready site, which we are.”
The development authority contracted with the archeology department at the University of Kentucky to conduct a site survey. The land had to be plowed with 12-ft wide furrows crisscrossing the property.
Thompson said she had many calls and inquiries from people wanting to know what was being planted at the farm. Plowing was needed to bring any artifacts to the surface. Then, archeologists waited for a hard rain to further reveal artifacts before beginning the survey.
Eric Schlarb, a staff archeologist with UK, headed the site survey along with three assistants. They undertook the painstaking process of walking all the plowed furrows in search of artifacts. They put down red flags when they found things of interest.
Initially they wanted to investigate an area where a large farmhouse used to exist on a road just off KY 1006. But Schlarb said the house had been “blitzed” by a bulldozer and nothing of value was found there.
Other promising areas for artifacts were the mounds on the south end of the property that overlook the Little Laurel River. Careful investigation of the mounds produced one artifact of prehistoric origin.
“We did find a prehistoric site,” Schlarb said. “We couldn’t determine the date because we didn’t find any diagnostic tools, like an arrowhead or anything. But we did find what we call a scraper. This would have been a stone tool for scraping animal hides.”
Schlarb said high ground next to a river would have been a perfect place for prehistoric hunters to stop and make camp.
“An area like that, the best I can describe if I were talking to the public, they were using it like a Motel 6,” he said. “You stop by for one night. Maybe you re-sharpen your tools. You discard your tools and move on.”
Chips off of stone tools used by the hunters also were found on the property, but nothing more of interest that would require further excavation and study.
“For that being a dairy farm for a hundred years, and all the plowing that took place, plus erosion, it was difficult to find anything more of significance,” Schlarb said. “But we definitely know that people were on the tract of land prehistorically.”
With the archeological study completed and nothing found that would hinder development, the industrial development authority is proceeding with building infrastructure into the park.
“We are happy to report there were no environmental or archeological issues found with this study and we are ready to move forward with our first entrance road,” Thompson said.