Entries - Entry Category: Archaeology

Archaic Period

The Archaic Period refers to the time between 9500 and 650 BC in the Native American history of Arkansas. As was the case in other regions in North America, Arkansas’s Archaic Period was a long span of cultural development and innovation that transformed small-scale Paleoindian groups into the larger and more complex societies seen during the Woodland and Mississippian periods. Within the Archaic Period, archaeologists have identified more specific regional cultures, such as the Dalton, San Patrice, Tom’s Brook, Big Creek, and Poverty Point cultures. These do not correspond directly to the tribes that lived in Arkansas during the Archaic period but do show that Native American societies were adapting to different environments and to each other across Arkansas in …

Arkansas Archeological Survey

In 1967, the Arkansas legislature created the Arkansas Archeological Survey (Act 39), the first statewide coordinated archaeological research and public service organization in the country. The survey’s mission is to study and protect archaeological sites (both prehistoric and historic) in Arkansas, to preserve and manage information about those sites, and to communicate that information to the people of Arkansas. This interest in Arkansas’s archaeological past originated from Representative John Bethel, who had a life-long interest in archaeology, particularly around his Des Arc (Prairie County) home. In 1959, he had also sponsored the creation of an archaeological laboratory at the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County), but no funds were forthcoming from the legislature at that time. At this same 1959 …

Battle Mound Site

The Battle Mound site is a Caddo site located along the Red River in Lafayette County. The Red River landscape is an ecologically diverse region with numerous channel scars, oxbow lakes, and back swamps. With agriculturally productive soil deposits and a web of linked navigable waterways, the region has numerous prehistoric and historic archaeological sites, many being sites left by the ancestors of the Caddo Indians who lived in this area from at least as early as circa AD 900 and as late as the early nineteenth century. The most prominent feature at Battle Mound is a large north-south-aligned earthen mound with at least three platforms. The mound is the largest in the Caddo area and one of the largest …

Civil War Archaeology

Since the late twentieth century, Civil War archaeology has been a thriving research area. Arkansas has been a location of much interest and continues to attract attention for work being done around the state. Federal and state agencies, along with private firms, have been part of this process. Their work focuses on several types of sites, including battlefields, camps, and civilian locations. BattlefieldsBattlefields get the most attention, as they are the Civil War sites people think of most commonly. For many years, archaeologists thought it was impossible to study battlefields because of their large size and the thin scattering of artifacts. Then, in 1983, a brush fire burned across the Little Bighorn Battlefield in Montana, exposing the ground surface and …

Crenshaw Site

The Crenshaw Site was a large village and ceremonial center occupied from about AD 700 to 1400 along the Red River in Miller County in southwestern Arkansas; the site is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The large size of the site (estimated at approximately eighty acres), along with limited archaeological investigations, hampers reconstruction of the site’s cultural history. The prevailing archaeological interpretation of the site is that it was first occupied by the Fourche Maline culture (AD 700–900) and developed into a significant village. Numerous earthworks were constructed, including at least four (and perhaps six) mounds and a raised causeway that connected two of the larger mounds. Evidence for a sizeable population includes a midden deposit (soil …

Curtiss, Edwin

Edwin Curtiss, a nonprofessional field man who excavated archaeological sites and collected antiquities, is credited by Arkansas archaeologists with making the first scientific archaeological excavation in their state. In 1879 and 1880, Curtiss and his associates spent eighty-six days excavating at ancient Native American village sites along the St. Francis River in northeast Arkansas, where he collected nearly 1,000 pottery vessels and hundreds of other specimens for Harvard University’s Peabody Museum of American Archaeology and Ethnography. Edwin Curtiss was born on January 27, 1830, in North Lansing, New York. Originally a tailor by trade, Curtiss served in the Union army during the Civil War, subsequently moving with his family to Tennessee. After the war, Curtiss worked as an independent contractor …

Dalton Period

The Dalton Period extends from 10,500 to 9,900 radiocarbon years ago (circa 8500 to 7900 BC), during which there existed a culture of ancient Native American hunter-gatherers (referred to as the Dalton people) who made a distinctive set of stone tools that are today found at sites across the middle of the United States. The name “Dalton” was first used in 1948 to refer to a style of chipped stone projectile point/knife. The Dalton point was named after Judge Sidna Poage Dalton, who had found numerous Dalton sites in central Missouri. Evidence of the Dalton culture has been found throughout the Mississippi River Valley. As Dalton points were found in different regions of the mid-continent, they were given different names, …

Dellinger, Samuel Claudius

Samuel Claudius Dellinger was curator of the University of Arkansas Museum in Fayetteville (Washington County) and head of the Department of Zoology for over thirty years. As curator, he built the museum’s archaeology collection into one of the best in the nation. In Dellinger’s view, the museum was, first and foremost, an educational resource for the people of Arkansas, and he worked to generate interest in it from the university community and the general public. Samuel Dellinger was born on January 14, 1892, in Iron Station (later Lincolntown), North Carolina, to Robert H. and Laura Loftin Dellinger. After graduating from high school, Dellinger attended Trinity College (later Duke University), where he was a varsity wrestler and swimmer. Dellinger earned his …

Eaker Site

The Eaker Site is a large, prehistoric archaeological site located near Blytheville (Mississippi County) on land that was formerly Eaker Air Force Base. The site is named after the base. The Eaker Site is considered the largest and most intact Late Mississippian Nodena site in the Central Mississippi Valley. The site was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1996 and is on the National Register of Historic Places. Archaeologists use the term “Nodena” to describe the Native American way of life along the Mississippi River that the Eaker Site represents. The site is believed to have been a Nodena-Phase town, with sturdy permanent houses, a defensive wall and ditch, and a mound. Native Americans built the structures at the Eaker …

Hampson, James Kelly

One of the few amateur archaeologists to be honored with an obituary in American Antiquity, Dr. James Kelly Hampson amassed an important collection of artifacts and cooperated with professional archaeologists working in northeast Arkansas. James Hampson was born in Memphis, Tennessee, on July 9, 1877, to Henry Clay Hampson and Mary Sue Hanaver Hampson. He had a brother who died at an early age and two sisters. In 1879, Louis Hanauer, Hampson’s maternal grandfather, purchased Nodena Plantation, a parcel of over 3,000 acres located about twelve miles south of Osceola (Mississippi County), at a court-ordered sale. The following year, Hanauer sold the property to the firm of (Daniel Lee) Ferguson and (Henry Clay) Hampson. Hampson’s father and mother lived at …

Harrington, M. R.

aka: Mark Raymond Harrington
Mark Raymond Harrington was a pioneer in the field of archaeology in Arkansas. He researched Native Americans in Arkansas for the Museum of the American Indian, Heye Foundation (New York). This work brought him to Arkansas between 1916 and 1923. His two books published on these investigations, Certain Caddo Sites in Arkansas (1920) and The Ozark Bluff-Dwellers (1960), have had a lasting influence on the development of archaeology in Arkansas and in the southeastern United States. M. R. Harrington was born in Ann Arbor, Michigan, on July 6, 1882, to Rose Martha Smith Harrington and Mark Walrod Harrington, astronomer, meteorologist, and then director of the University of Michigan’s Detroit Observatory. The family later lived in Washington DC; Seattle, Washington; and …

Head Pots

Head pots are a very rare and unique form of pre-historic Native American pottery found almost exclusively in northeast Arkansas and the adjacent bootheel region of Missouri. They are distinguished from other native North American pottery in that the entire vessel is molded into the general shape of a human head, as opposed to facial features such as eyes, nose, and mouth simply being applied to the surface of a bottle or jar form. Artistically, head pots vary from crude to remarkably lifelike representations. Most are somewhat smaller than the head of a normal adult, averaging about five to six inches in height. Head pots are associated with the Late Mississippian Period to the time of European contact, dating about …

Historical Archaeology

Archaeologists do more than study the ancient remains of Native Americans; they are also interested in the lives of the explorers, colonists, settlers, and their descendants who contributed to the more recent history of America. Even during periods when written records were kept, not everything about the past was recorded. The details of everyday life often are neglected in historical accounts, but archaeologists believe that these details contribute to a fuller understanding of the past. This more recently developed field of archaeological study is called historical archaeology, and perhaps its greatest strength is its partnership with other fields of study, including history, archival documentation, architectural studies, and folklore. When combined, these different approaches provide a richer and more complex understanding …

Indian Mounds

Indian Mounds were constructed by deliberately heaping soil, rock, or other materials (such as ash, shell, and the remains of burned buildings) onto natural land surfaces. In Arkansas and elsewhere in eastern North America, Native Americans built earthen mounds for ritual or burial purposes or as the location for important structures, but mound-building ceased shortly after European contact due to changes in religious and other cultural practices. Mississippian people in eastern Arkansas were using mounds when Spanish explorers arrived in 1541, and the Caddo in the Red River valley were still using mounds during the winter of 1691–92, when explorers from Mexico visited them. Most of the thousands of mounds built in Arkansas have been destroyed by modern development and …

Menard-Hodges Site

The Menard-Hodges Site, located in Arkansas County near Lake Dumond, is part of the Arkansas Post National Memorial. It has been widely considered to be the first location of Arkansas Post and also a location of the Quapaw village of Osotouy. Recent research indicates that the site is part of the historic eighteenth century landscape, but the precise location of the village and post have yet to be pinpointed. Archaeological research of the site has yielded many artifacts from both prehistoric and historic settlement of the region. Two large mounds and several smaller house mounds are still evident at the site, as are the locations of nineteenth-century French family farms. The location was strategically placed to take advantage of the …

Mississippian Period

The Mississippian Period is one of several broad categories (including Paleoindian, Archaic, and Woodland) that archaeologists use to subdivide the American Indian past of the Southeast and Midwest. Between AD 900 and about AD 1600, Mississippian people farmed maize extensively; lived in societies known as chiefdoms led by hereditary rulers; conducted long-distance trade in copper, marine shell, and other valuables; resided in towns, villages, and farmsteads; built monumental architecture in the form of earthen, flat-topped mounds; conducted warfare, often fortifying their towns with stockades; and shared religious and iconographic traditions. When the first Europeans (the Hernando de Soto expedition) arrived in Arkansas in 1541, the people they encountered were Mississippians. The Rise of Agriculture Perhaps fueled by a climate shift …

Moore, Clarence Bloomfield

Clarence Bloomfield Moore was an amateur archaeologist from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, who investigated hundreds of Native American mounds and archaeological sites in several Southern states, including Arkansas. He published lavishly illustrated volumes, based on his excavations, which have been reprinted recently. Clarence Moore was born on January 14, 1852, in Philadelphia. He was the son of Bloomfield Haines Moore and Clara Sophia Jessup. His father was the head of the prosperous Jessup & Moore Paper Company of Wilmington, Delaware. His mother was a prolific writer, mostly of books on etiquette and advice to young women. Clarence had two sisters, Ella and Lillian, both of whom married Swedish aristocrats. As a child, he was educated in Philadelphia, France, and Switzerland. He entered …

Native American Pottery

Indians in Arkansas began making pottery containers about 2,500 years ago, during the Woodland Period, and they continued this craft until their handmade containers were replaced by industrial counterparts made in metal, glass, and clay in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Broken pieces of Indian pottery, called sherds or potsherds, are among the most common artifacts remaining at abandoned settlements, and they provide a wide range of information today about the cultural traditions of the people who made them. Complete pottery vessels display both sophisticated craftsmanship and the complex aesthetics of their makers. Southeastern Indian pottery-making began in the area of eastern Georgia, South Carolina, and Florida about 4,000 years ago and spread gradually from there to cultures across eastern …

Nodena Site

The Nodena Site in Mississippi County is an archaeological site representing Native American life in Arkansas during the centuries before European contact. The twelve-to-fifteen-acre pallisaded village was inhabited from approximately AD 1400 to 1650. The name Nodena comes from a later plantation that encompassed the area, while the names Upper Nodena and Middle Nodena represent separate archaeological sites, as well as separate sectors of the later Nodena plantation. The Upper Nodena Site, the larger of the two, is on the National Register of Historic Places and has been listed as a National Historic Landmark. A vast collection of Nodena materials are held at the University of Alabama Museum and its regional repository, the Arkansas Archeological Survey, as well as at …

Paleoindian Period

The term “Paleoindian” refers to a time 13,500 years ago (11,500 BC) at the end of the last ice age when the first traces of humans appeared in the archaeological record in North America. One of the first groups to enter the New World was the Clovis culture. They encountered many species of now extinct, large terrestrial animals and hunted them with spears tipped with stone points; these animals, dubbed “megafauna” because of their larger size when compared to modern forms, included the mastodon, mammoth, horse, tapir, ground sloth, giant bison, giant beaver, giant tortoise, American lion, short-faced bear, and saber-toothed tiger. The fossilized remains of many of these now extinct animals have been found in Arkansas. Early Paleoindian stone …

Palmer, Edward

Edward Palmer conducted most of the fieldwork for the first major study of Indian mounds in Arkansas. His research helped dispel myths about who built the mounds. Edward Palmer was born in England, near Hockwold-cum-Wilton in southwestern County Norfolk, into a family of gardeners. The year of his birth is uncertain, but it was probably 1830; the date was definitely January 12. His father’s name is listed variously as William or Robert, and his mother’s maiden name was Mary Ann Armiger; Palmer’s own middle name is unknown. Little is known about Palmer’s early life. He came to America in 1849 and moved to Cleveland, Ohio, where he was strongly influenced by the eminent naturalist Jared Kirtland. He worked as a …

Parkin Archeological State Park

Parkin Archeological State Park in northeast Arkansas preserves and interprets a Mississippian-period Native American village that existed from approximately AD 1000 to 1550. European-made trade items from the era of Hernando de Soto’s expedition recovered at the park and written descriptions of the village support theories that the Spanish visited the Parkin Site in 1541. Many archeologists believe the site may be Casqui, mentioned prominently in the de Soto journals. Remnants of Indian villages similar to the Parkin Site were once numerous in eastern Arkansas, but soil erosion, careless digging, and farming destroyed virtually all of them during the nineteenth century. The prehistoric village on the eastern bank of the St. Francis River covered about seventeen acres and was enclosed …

Parkin Historic Site

The Parkin Historic Site is a seventeen-acre Native American village site along the St. Francis River in Cross County. Archaeological and geographical information indicates that it is probably the location of the town of Casqui mentioned in the narratives of the Hernando de Soto expedition, which passed through northeast Arkansas in the summer of 1541. In recognition of its national significance, the Parkin site was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1964 and has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1966. The site is at the north end of Parkin and is the main focus of Parkin Archeological State Park. The Arkansas Archeological Survey established a research station at the site in 1990, and research on the …

Peeler Bend Canoe

The Peeler Bend Canoe is an extremely rare and well-preserved relic of Arkansas’s Native American heritage. Found by chance in 1999, the canoe is believed to have been made by members of the Caddo tribe. Radiocarbon dating places the canoe’s creation sometime between AD 1160 and 1300. After spending several years at the Historic Arkansas Museum (HAM) in Little Rock (Pulaski County), the Peeler Bend Canoe was placed on display in Riverside Park in Benton (Saline County). The canoe has been loaned to the City of Benton by the Department of Arkansas Heritage for exhibition until March 15, 2020. In August 1999, Benton resident Charles Greene was fishing in the Saline River near the Peeler Bend access located just outside …

Petit Jean Rock Art Sites

Petit Jean Mountain in west-central Arkansas boasts a large concentration of ancient Native American rock art that includes, as of late 2018, seventy known individual sites with more than 700 pictographs (rock paintings) executed in red or black pigments, as well as petroglyphs (rock engravings). The study of this cultural resource began in 1914 when the wife and son of Dr. T. W. Hardison, the founder of the Arkansas state park system, found rock paintings in a cave near their home on the mountain. The pictographs received national attention after 1923 with the establishment of Petit Jean State Park. Discoveries continue to this day, as most of the paintings have been documented just since 2006 with the advent of new …

Rock Art, Native American

Rock art is a term archaeologists use to describe images on rock surfaces created both prehistorically and historically. Arkansas has one of the richest concentrations of rock art in eastern North America, primarily in the Ozark and Ouachita mountain areas of the state, with a concentration in the central Arkansas River Valley. Rock art has also been discovered along the Mississippi River escarpment toward the eastern part of the state. Most rock art is found in bluff shelters, but it also occurs on exposed boulders, bedrock outcrops, and in caves. Along with the other archaeological resources in the state, rock art is important to understanding the lives of Native Americans living within the region during the pre-colonial era. Rock art …

Sloan Site

The Sloan site is located on an ice age sand dune in the lowlands of Greene County. People of the Dalton culture buried their dead in ceremonial fashion here about 10,500 years ago. Dalton people were mobile foragers who made and used a distinctive suite of stone tools. These tools have been found at sites across the mid-continental United States. Their material culture that has survived consists primarily of tools made from chert—a highly resistant silica-rich stone that is abundant in the Ozark Mountains, west of the Sloan Site—and in the gravel deposits of Crowley’s Ridge, just east of the Sloan Site. The Sloan Site is one of the oldest, if not the oldest, documented cemeteries in the New World. …

Toltec Mounds Archeological State Park

Toltec Mounds Archeological State Park near Scott (Pulaski and Lonoke counties) is one of Arkansas’s most significant pre-European archaeological sites. Toltec, site of the state’s tallest Indian mounds, is also a National Historic Landmark. In 1812, Louis Bringier, a French explorer from New Orleans, Louisiana, traveled to present-day Arkansas and became the first European to discover the Toltec mounds. His description of the site’s “tolerably regular” alignment of mounds and the height of the two tallest mounds in contrast to the surrounding alluvial flatlands, the first such description, was reported in newspapers in 1821. William Peay Officer and his wife, Mary Eliza, purchased the area in 1849. There they maintained a residence, which they called Lake Mound Plantation and used …

Toltec Mounds Site

The 100-acre Toltec Mounds site in Lonoke County between Scott (Pulaski and Lonoke Counties) and Keo (Lonoke County) is one of the largest archaeological sites in Arkansas and in the lower Mississippi River Valley. It was designated a National Historic Landmark by the Heritage Conservation and Recreation Service of the United States Department of the Interior in 1978 in recognition of its significance in the history of America. It opened as a state park in 1980. Native Americans occupied the Toltec Mounds site and built the mounds between the years 650 and 1050 AD. Archaeologists use the name Plum Bayou Culture to refer to their way of life. This culture cannot be identified with any of the tribes living in …

University of Arkansas Museum

The University of Arkansas Museum at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville (Washington County) developed from a geology teaching collection begun in 1873 for university students. Housed in Old Main, the collection grew to include not only rocks, minerals, and fossils, but also zoological specimens, cultural and historical objects, and archaeological artifacts, with a particular emphasis on objects and specimens from Arkansas. The collections were then made available to students, researchers, and exhibit designers for use in university classes, for study by researchers, and for exhibit loans. The collections were once on public display at UA but are now only open to researchers and available to loan for other institutions for exhibition and research. Professor Francis L. Harvey was the …

Woodland Period

The Woodland period is a label used by archaeologists to designate pre-Columbian Native American occupations dating between roughly 600 BC and AD 1000 in eastern North America. This time period traditionally is divided into Early, Middle, and Late subperiods, which refer to intervals characterized in very general terms by the first widespread use of pottery across the region, the rise and then decline of a vast exchange network throughout eastern North America,and finally, a period of increasing agricultural intensification and population growth in many areas. During the Woodland period, sedentism, population, and organizational complexity dramatically increased. Around 600 BC, Native Americans in Arkansas were probably living in small groups tied together by collective ritual, including burial that sometimes involved the …