Entries - Time Period: Pre-European Exploration (Prehistory - 1540) - Starting with P

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 …

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 …

Plum Bayou Culture

Plum Bayou culture was a people who built religious centers with a formal arrangement of earthen platforms or mounds that bordered a rectangular open area used for religious and social activities. The Toltec Mounds site in central Arkansas was the primary center. Plum Bayou culture, dating about AD 650 to 1050, was one of the first cultures to have such centers in Arkansas. Most of the Plum Bayou people lived in small villages and hunted, fished, gathered wild plant foods, and farmed. Villages were present primarily on the floodplains of the Arkansas and White rivers, but they were also in the adjacent uplands. Plum Bayou developed out of the earlier (300 BC to AD 650) Baytown culture, in which people …

Pre-European Exploration, Prehistory through 1540

The pre-European history of Arkansas begins 13,500 years ago in the Pleistocene epoch, when cold weather prevailed over most of North America. Our understanding of life in Arkansas since then will never be complete because many archaeological sites have been lost through erosion, human development, and vandalism, and most ancient fragile and perishable objects have decomposed over the centuries. It is possible, however, to describe the general characteristics of life in Arkansas over the last 12,000 years based on discoveries made here, similar finds made elsewhere in North America, and lifestyles of modern nonindustrial hunters who lived in remote areas of the earth in recent times. Archeologists divide this time into five periods, each having distinctive lifestyles, cultural practices, and …

Prehistoric Caddo

aka: Caddo, Prehistoric
Prehistoric Caddo culture developed as a regional variant of the Mississippian tradition in southwest Arkansas and in parts of Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Texas between AD 800 and 1100. The characteristics that archaeologists use to identify this prehistoric culture include pottery containers with new shapes and decorations, flat-topped mounds used as platforms for buildings, conical mounds erected over dismantled buildings that occasionally were used as burial sites, new burial practices, new settlement practices, and new subsistence practices. Parallels between some of these features and European descriptions of the historic Caddo who lived in the same large region in the 1600s and 1700s indicate that the prehistoric Caddo were ancestors of the modern Caddo Nation. In Arkansas, Caddo culture developed among local …