Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture

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During the administration of Gov. Dewey Bartlett the Oklahoma Archaeological Survey (OAS) was established in 1970(Oklahoma State Statute 74:241). Enabling legislation mandated three fundamental responsibilities: To conduct basic research on the prehistoric and early historic archaeological record; to work with the citizens of the state to preserve sites valued for cultural heritage; and to promote public awareness of prehistory and early history by publishing and lecturing on research findings. The Archaeological Survey was placed at the University of Oklahoma because of the university's prominent role in previous archaeological research.

During approximately thirty years of service, OAS staff have conducted excavations at numerous sites, gaining new critical new insights. Some of the more noteworthy undertakings have been investigation of the Burnham Site (at circa 30,000 years old, potentially one of North America's oldest sites, located in Woods County), discovery of the earliest known prehistoric artwork (found at the 10,000-year-old Folsom Culture's Cooper Bison Kill in Harper County), excavation of a 3,500-year-old fish trap in Pushmataha County, a three-year investigation at Spiro Mounds (one of the premier ceremonial centers of Mississippian culture), and the study of ancestral Wichita Plains Village settlements throughout central and western Oklahoma.

The Archaeological Survey plays a key role in management and preservation of archaeological sites in Oklahoma. As a regulatory agency OAS annually evaluates the land-disturbing activities of some twenty-five federal and state agencies to ensure that their actions do not destroy significant archaeological sites. The agency serves as the central repository for information on some eighteen thousand prehistoric and historic archaeological records for the Sooner State. OAS also works with other federal and state agencies and private citizens to protect archaeological sites from indiscriminate looting and vandalism.

The Oklahoma Archaeological Survey fulfills its educational mandate by teaching classes at the University of Oklahoma, lecturing at other universities, presenting programs in the public schools, and lecturing to numerous civic groups across the state. More broad-based efforts occur at the State Fair of Oklahoma and through the World Wide Web.


BIBLIOGRAPHY: Robert E. Bell, ed., Prehistory of Oklahoma (Orlando, Fla.: Academic Press, 1984). Leland C. Bement, Bison Hunting at Cooper Site: Where Lightning Bolts Drew Thundering Herds (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1999). James A. Brown, The Spiro Ceremonial Center, Memoirs of the Museum of Anthropology , University of Michigan, No. 29, 2 Vols. (Ann Arbor, Mich.: Museum of Anthropology Publications, 1996). 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).

Robert L. Brooks

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