West Virginia Department of Arts, Culture & History

“Early Native Americans in West Virginia: The Fort Ancient Culture” to be Presented by Darla Spencer at Grave Creek Mound Archaeological Complex


MOUNDSVILLE, W.Va. – Darla Spencer, registered professional archaeologist, will present "Early Native Americans in West Virginia: The Fort Ancient Culture" at Grave Creek Mound Archaeological Complex in Moundsville on Thursday, May 25. The program begins at 7:00 p.m. and is free and open to the public.

The hills and valleys of what is now West Virginia were occupied by native people long before the first Europeans entered the Ohio Valley. Since Europeans came to the area in the 1700s, historians, ethnologists, and archaeologists have struggled to identify the people who once lived here. For many years, West Virginia was described as an "Indian hunting ground" with no long-term occupations by early native people. However, it is now known that people hunted and inhabited the state for at least 10,000 years before the arrival of Europeans. Along the major rivers, farmers cannot plow their fields without exposing stone tools and other evidence of the native people who once lived here.

The people known as Fort Ancient occupied the Ohio Valley including southern West Virginia between approximately A.D. 1000 and sometime in the late 1600s. Spencer’s presentation will describe what is currently known about the Fort Ancient people in West Virginia and their culture, including how and where they lived, and show some of the material culture or artifacts they left behind.

Darla Spencer has researched the archaeology and early Native American history of West Virginia for more than 20 years. In 2002, she was awarded the Sigfus Olafson Award of Merit by the West Virginia Archeological Society (WVAS) for her contributions to West Virginia archaeology. Spencer is secretary and treasurer of the WVAS and a member of the board of directors of the Council for West Virginia Archaeology. Her first book on the Fort Ancient culture of West Virginia was published in 2016.

Operated by the West Virginia Division of Culture and History, Grave Creek Mound Archaeological Complex features one of the largest conical burial mounds built by the Adena people between 250 – 150 B.C. and ranks as one of the largest earthen mortuary mounds anywhere in the world. Exhibits and displays in the Delf Norona Museum interpret what is known about the lives of these prehistoric people and the construction of the mound. The complex also houses the West Virginia Archaeological Research and Collections Management Facility.

Admission to Grave Creek Mound Archaeological Complex is free. The Delf Norona Museum, located at 801 Jefferson Avenue, is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and closed Sunday and Monday. Outdoor access closes at 4:30 p.m.

For more information about activities and programs at Grave Creek Mound, contact Andrea Keller, cultural program coordinator, at (304) 843-4128 or andrea.k.keller@wv.gov or visit www.facebook.com/gravecreekmound and www.twitter.com/gravecreekmound.

The West Virginia Division of Culture and History is an agency within the Office of Secretary of Education and the Arts with Gayle Manchin, cabinet secretary. The division, led by Commissioner Randall Reid-Smith, brings together the past, present and future through programs and services focusing on archives and history, arts, historic preservation and museums. For more information about the division’s programs, events and sites, visit www.wvculture.org. The Division of Culture and History is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Employer.



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