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The Buffalo archeological site is located on the east bank of the Kanawha River near the town of Buffalo, Putnam County. The site is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It encompasses at least four time periods in one Late Archaic village (4000–1000 B.C.), one Middle Woodland village (A.D. 390–530), and at least two overlapping Fort Ancient villages (A.D. 1300–1600).

After many years of amateur archeological activity, systematic excavations were conducted between 1963 and 1965 by Edward V. McMichael, an archeologist with the West Virginia Geological and Economic Survey. The excavations revealed at least two overlapping oval stockades of the Fort Ancient period, with more than 40 houses surrounding a central plaza. Approximately 15 percent of the site was excavated, uncovering 562 burials and tens of thousands of ceramic, stone, shell, and bone artifacts.

The predominant burial orientation (84 percent) was with the head to the east; 53 percent of those buried were lying flat on their backs; and 71 percent of the burials were located within houses. Children and young adults were most likely to be buried with ceremonial grave goods, but unlike Ohio Fort Ancient sites none of the burials at Buffalo had complete pots as grave offerings. Several exotic marine shell gorgets, such as the Buffalo Mask, indicate contact with Mississippian peoples in the Southeast. The presence of copper artifacts, glass trade beads, and extended burials places the latest village within the Protohistoric period, about A.D. 1600.

The Late Archaic component of the Buffalo site represented the remains of a temporary campsite consisting of several shallow fire, cooking, and refuse pits, and flint processing areas. Study of the Buffalo archeological site resulted in the identification of two new projectile point types, Buffalo Expanding Stem and Buffalo Straight Stem.

This Article was written by Darla S. Spencer

Last Revised on January 13, 2020


Broyles, Bettye J. A Late Archaic Component at the Buffalo Site, Putnam County, West Virginia. Report of Archeological Investigations, no. 6. Morgantown: West Virginia Geological & Economic Survey, 1976.

Hanson, Lee H. Jr. The Buffalo Site: A Late 17th Century Indian Village Site in Putnam County, West Virginia. Report of Archeological Investigations, no. 5. Morgantown: West Virginia Geological & Economic Survey, 1975.

Maslowski, Robert F. Protohistoric Villages in Southern West Virginia. Upland Archeology in the East, Symposium 2. Harrisonburg, VA: James Madison University, 1984.

Cite This Article

Spencer, Darla S. "Buffalo Archeological Site." e-WV: The West Virginia Encyclopedia. 13 January 2020. Web. 24 September 2023.


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