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Chronicles of Oklahoma
Volume 13, No. 2
June, 1935
REPORT OF AN ARCHAEOLOGICAL SITE

By H. R. Antle, B. S.

Page 191

A mile south and a mile and one-half west of the Oklahoma Portland Cement plant of Ada, an archaeological site was discovered on the farm of T. H. George, March 31, 1935. The existence of this site had long been suspected by the author because of the abundance of flint objects picked up on the surface. Thirty-five years of plowing had obliterated all traces of contours that would outline a former habitation site. Of recent date, however, the area was stripped on the surface and sand pits opened. It was while examining the sand pit that attention was attracted to several pockets of blackened soil apparent along the edge of the pit. The writer identified these at once as caches formerly dug beneath the floor of a habitation. A few moments digging into one of them confirmed the fact.

Next day permission was secured from the owner to excavate the area. He willing cooperated and ceased any activities that would interfere with the work. Excavations began and continued for a month. The area was mapped and all material carefully preserved.

The site is located atop the first rise of the flood-plain of Little Sandy Creek and fifty yards from its course. The area is one of fossil sand dunes and ancient river terraces. At one time the village was possibly a hundred yards in length and fifty yards wide because in an isolated bit of ground one hundred yards removed from the site investigated, two caches were found that contained large potsherds and a number of broken bone needles or awls.

Excavations began on the caches exposed along the edge of the pit. These were six in number; two of the most widely separated were eighty feet apart.

Connected with the undisturbed ground and running out into the sand pit was a "peninsula" twenty-four feet long and twenty wide. It had been so left because of the inferior quality of the sand contained in it. Between its southern edge and the rim

Page 192

of the sand pit a ditch had been dug twelve feet wide. From later studies it was ascertained that this ditch had destroyed the center of the habitation.

Two caches were exposed along the southwestern edge of the "peninsula." When excavated they gave up half a bushel basket of bones, mussel shells, flint chips and a number of smooth round stones. These latter were about the size of the fist.

In size, the caches were three feet in diameter and two feet deep. Being wider at the bottom than at the top, they gave a bell-like appearance that was found typical of all the caches studied.

Opposite these two caches and in the bank of the pit two others were found. In the first and most easterly, in the bottom of the cache, eight flint arrows and two so-called knives were removed. Intermittent through the contained charred earth, were bone fragments and charcoal. The cache nearby yielded only bones. Of these mostly they were deer. A few were rodent and several pieces were of a turtle's carapace.

The two caches were three feet in diameter and three and four feet deep. West thirty-eight feet a cache, two and one-half feet in diameter and eighteen inches deep, yielded a celt. The celt was flat and poorly polished.

Along the eastern rim of the pit and sixteen feet from the base of the "peninsula," a cache was found buried beneath a two-foot deposit of refuse that filled a basin twenty feet across.

In this cache, besides the bone and shell fragments, a piece of pottery and an interment were found. The skeleton was drawn into such a position that it occupied only a space thirty-five inches long by seventeen and one-half inches wide. It lay on the left side, facing the east. Examination of the skeleton by Dr. John Morey of Ada, showed it to be that of a male, near sixty years of age, formerly about six feet tall, heavily muscled and in a fair state of health. This was the only burial found. Ordinarily burials are made on the flood plain of a creek where the soil is easily removed; occasionally they are made in a cache within the habitation and the place deserted. This may have been an interment in the early days of the village,

Plate I

Plate II

Page 193

such a conjecture being made because of the refuse atop the cache. The cache was four feet in diameter and five feet deep from the surface, through the refuse.

Having removed the contents of the caches, attention was next turned to the few inches of black earth that covered the surface for a distance of eighteen to thirty feet from the edge of the sand pit and over the entire area of the "peninsula."

With a small trowel this soil was removed down to the natural reddish soil beneath. The dirt was carefully examined as the work progressed so that any potsherd or artifact present would be recovered. When all the blackened soil present was removed three more caches, two large post holes and two small ones, and the collapsed supports of the former habitation were exposed.

The caches were three feet in diameter, and from ten inches to two feet deep. Their contents were similar to the others with one exception. In one cache, eight feet from the southern rim of the pit, a piece of deer antler was found together with an oval-shaped rock. This latter was fifteen inches long, ten inches wide and convex on one side and with a flat polished surface on the other. The greatest thickness was three inches. What use could be ascribed to it cannot be stated; a guess would be that it served as a base for the modeling of pottery.

Two large post holes, one on the "peninsula" and the other across the ditch, separated by fourteen feet, were found. Judging from their position and relation to the collapsed supports, they are part of the central post holes where the main roof supports are placed. The smaller holes were possibly for the bracing of the slanting walls.

Five feet back from the south rim of the sand pit and over the entire area of the "peninsula," parallel black streaks, separated almost without fail a distance of eighteen inches to the other, ran in an east-west position. The longest measured was forty feet. The ends of all were eaten into by erosion. On the edge of the most southward, a series ran parallel and at right angles to the former group. At a point sixteen feet south they turned and went at an angle of sixty degrees. On both groups

Page 194

there were occasional streaks running at odds with the general direction.

A cross-section of the natural soil showed this blackening had stained deeply into the sub soil. That these are stains produced by the collapse of the supports and rafters which later burned cannot be doubted. As an experiment, a small log was burned on top the red sand and later examination showed it to have stained the sand deeply.

The habitation was formerly a grass-lodge, constructed by making a circle whose diameter may have been forty to fifty feet. In a smaller inner circle four upright, forked posts were set. Near the outer edge of the circle ten or twelve small upright, forked posts were set. Within the forks slender poles were laid from one post to the next. Long slender poles were then laid against the horizontal supports and lashed. Their tops were drawn to the center in such a manner as to leave an opening in the very top for smoke to escape. Over the frame work, twigs and grass were woven to produce a thatching that would turn rain. A door opened to the east.

Within the interior, several families would take occupation. The caches that pit the floor were probably for the storage of food or family possessions. Sometimes camp refuse was dumped into them which accounts for the presence of bone and pottery fragments. As stated before, on rare occasions they were used for burial.

During removal of the surface, flint artifacts, potsherds, bones and smooth stones were encountered. Two stone hammers were found having a small concave depression on each flat surface. A few of the arrows were so superior to the remainder found as to lead one to suspect they were of a different culture. It is not uncommon to find these ancient camp sites had been used by other tribes as temporary camps.

The potsherds collected were either smooth or possessed with one type of decoration, cord-markings. Although fragments were collected a hundred yards apart, on the surface and in the caches, this was the only type of decoration. This effect is produced by wrapping a cord about a paddle and impressing the clay while the latter is still pliable. No bases were collected.

Page 195

The type of base is an important point in an identification of culture. However, from a comparative study of known types, a conical or curved base is associated with sandy, uneven floors as this habitation has proved to be. The curved base is also an indication of antiquity.

A positive statement as to what culture existed at this site can not yet be made. That they are not Caddoan is expressed because only five miles farther west an extensive Caddoan village was excavated by the author during the past three years. The Caddoes usually constructed earth-lodges with hard-packed floors. Their pottery was decorated with paint and incised markings and possessed flat bases. Their flint objects showed remarkable workmanship. Many other factors, show up, contrasting with the culture at the site just excavated. That this is not the only site of this particular culture is borne out by the finding of two similar locations within a mile of the present location. At one of these sites, ground has been broken for the first time this year. In the field the writer found one mound three feet high and sixty feet in diameter. Should conditions permit, excavations will be made upon it. Perhaps more light will be thrown upon the identity of the culture responsible for it.

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