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ANTELOPE CREEK PHASE

The Antelope Creek Phase is a provisional extension of a prehistoric culture named for a series of archaeological sites centered on the Canadian River Valley in the Texas Panhandle and extending north along the North Canadian River and its tributaries in the Oklahoma Panhandle. More than a dozen house sites in the Oklahoma Panhandle are known to represent this American Indian society that flourished during a period of repetitive droughts between A.D. 1200 and 1500. In the past seventy years professional archaeologists have only excavated four residential sites (Stamper, Roy Smith, Two Sisters, and McGrath) in Oklahoma, but collectors have damaged most other sites.

These semisedentary people lived in scattered homesteads or small hamlets clustered near rivers. Unlike other contemporaneous Plains Village complexes, the Antelope Creek Phase people imitated architectural styles of the New Mexican Pueblos and erected both one-room and multiroom contiguous buildings of masonry and adobe. The rectangular houses measured more than twenty feet on a side and had an entryway extending to the east. Smaller storage and workrooms were built on both sides of the entrance. The walls were lined with vertically set stone foundations, and sometimes the upper walls had layers of horizontal masonry. Four interior posts set around a central hearth supported the roof. A unique architectural innovation involved a lower floor surface along the central third of the room that was about one foot deeper than the floor surfaces near the north and south walls. They used deep interior and exterior pits for storage. Burials often occurred in cemeteries away from villages or isolated near houses and in crevasses. The graves were sometimes stone-covered and contained a meager amount of utilitarian grave goods.

The people lived primarily by gathering wild plants, by hunting bison, and also by growing small amounts of domesticated beans and corn. Wild plant foods included various grass seeds, fruits, forbs, greens, and perhaps bulbs and roots. Bison contributed more than 80 percent of the meat protein, supplemented by deer, antelope, elk, rabbits, prairie dogs, waterfowl, turtles, snakes, and river mussels. Most bones were broken to extract marrow and grease, possibly mixed with dried meat to make pemmican.

Diagnostic tools included arrows tipped with small, side-notched and unnotched arrow points, oval and diamond-shaped stone knives, scrapers, and drills. These people made most of their stone tools from Alibates agate from outcrops one hundred miles to the south. Ground-stone tools included milling slabs, trough metates, manos, and abrading stones. Bones were shaped into awls, pipes, shoulder blade hoes, tibia digging-stick tips, "squash knives," pegs, and pins. Large, globe-shaped pots with cord-impressed surfaces were made of clay. Trade goods included marine shell and turquoise jewelry and painted pots.

Archaeologists attributed the demise of the Antelope Creek people to intrusions by Apachean-related people and to subsistence stress caused by intensifying droughts. This precontact group abandoned the region just before the earliest Spanish explorers arrived. Connections with modern American Indian groups are tenuous, but Antelope Creek people may be related to bands of the Pawnee or Wichita.

SEE ALSO: PALEOENVIRONMENT, PRECONTACT AGRICULTURE, PRECONTACT HUNTING PATTERNS, PRECONTACT TRADE PATTERNS, PREHISTORIC NATIVE PEOPLES.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: Claudette Marie Gilbert and Robert L. Brooks, From Mounds to Mammoths: A Field Guide to Oklahoma Prehistory (2d ed.; Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2000). Christopher Lintz, "McGrath Site of the Panhandle Aspect," Bulletin of the Oklahoma Anthropological Society 25 (1976). Christopher Lintz, "Radiocarbon and Archaeomagnetic Dates From the Two Sisters Site, 34Tx-32, Texas County, Oklahoma," Oklahoma Anthropological Society Newsletter 27 (September 1979).

Chris Lintz

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