AASHSU Archeology: 3MN298

From Domestication to De Soto: New Excavations in the Ouachita National Forest

Recent archeological investigation in the Ouachita National Forest is revealing new information about Indian history in Arkansas.

A cooperative project brings together people from the Arkansas Archeological Society, the U.S.D.A. Forest Service, and the Arkansas Archeological Survey.

Excavations at a site in Montgomery County were co-directed by Meeks Etchieson (U.S.D.A. Forest Service) and Mary Beth Trubitt (Arkansas Archeological Survey).

Our excavations in June and September, 2013, showed that site 3MN298 was used during the Middle Archaic (circa 6000-5000 B.C.), Woodland (circa 1000-0 B.C.), and Mississippian (circa 1500-1600 A.D.) periods.

Our research questions center on four themes. One goal is to learn more about the production and exchange of chipped stone tools made of Arkansas Novaculite and other Ouachita Mountains stone during the Archaic period. Another goal is to investigate the origins of plant domestication and farming during the Late Archaic and Woodland periods.

A third aspect of the research is to investigate Mississippian period lifeways and Caddo Indian identity in the Ouachita Mountains during the A.D. 1500s. Fourth, we seek information on the consequences of Indian-Spanish interaction following the expedition of Hernando De Soto that passed through this part of Arkansas in the sixteenth century.  

Our field work at the site uncovered cultural features such as clusters of fire-cracked rock, a large refuse pit, and stains from wall posts of several buildings. In one area, a large pit filled with trash – including shell-tempered ceramic sherds and charred plant material – was excavated. Samples were taken for radiocarbon dating and for botanical analysis.

The team uncovered several burned rock scatters, likely the residues of cooking pits or hearths. Many of the “diagnostic” artifacts indicate these dated to the Woodland period. We are hoping to identify charred plant materials from soil samples that will reveal details about the development of farming in the Ouachita Mountains.

In another area of the site, we uncovered a line of small dark stains. These are the residues of wall posts of a Caddo structure. Additional posts and a central hearth were discovered during our work at the site in September.

Record-keeping is an important part of field work. Photos, maps, and notes made during excavations allow us to interpret our finds later on.

Bob Scott (AASurvey) sports the 2013 Society Dig t-shirt, created for us by Caddo artist and graphic designer Chad "Nish" Earles. Earles' designs can be seen at nishology.com. Coming soon ... Earles is designing a new t-shirt for our 2014 Society Dig!

Thanks to an Archeological Research Fund grant from the Arkansas Archeological Society and funds from a Participating Agreement between the Forest Service, the Survey, and the Society, we will be able to get specialized analyses from the site, including radiocarbon dating, archaeobotanical analysis, and ceramic paste chemical characterization.

Since finishing our work in the “field,” we have been active in the lab and office. Society volunteers and Forest Service and Survey staff are processing artifacts and other samples in the ONF lab in Hot Springs and the Survey lab in Arkadelphia. If you would like to volunteer in the Archeology Lab at the Arkansas Archeological Survey’s HSU Research Station, contact me. And stay tuned as we learn from our analyses of this important site.


Mary Beth Trubitt, Ph.D.

Arkansas Archeological Survey

HSU Research Station

October, 2013

Go back to main HSU Research Station page.

For more pictures from this and other AAS/HSU projects, go to the station Facebook page:
 https://www.facebook.com/AASHSU .

NEWSFLASH: The March-April 2014 issue of Field Notes (Newsletter of the Arkansas Archeological Society) has just been published, with an article by Trubitt, Etchieson, and Bush giving new AMS dates on maize from two areas of the site. It has been linked to the Society's website, along with our plans for the June 2014 Society Dig! Check it out at http://www.arkarch.org/2014_dig_info.pdf.

Vanessa Hanvey's article on the September 2013 excavations at the Caddo house in Area V has been published in the 2014 volume of Caddo Archeology Journal, published by the Caddo Conference Organization. The CCO has a new facebook page too!

Web page last updated 18 May 2014. Web page contact M.B. Trubitt, trubitm@hsu.edu .



The Ouachita Chapter of the Arkansas Archeological Society has created a book as part of Arkansas Heritage Month this May. What's for Supper? Native American Foods in the Ouachita Mountains was written for second-grade readers, and has been distributed to elementary schools in the region. It is based on the information about Caddo Indian foodways we have learned from our 2013 Society Dig excavations in Montgomery County. The Ouachita Chapter also created show-and-tell boxes with baskets of native foods that are available for loan to schools, museums, parks, or libraries. This program was made possible in part by a grant from the Department of Arkansas Heritage, funded by your 1/8 cent conservation tax, Amendment 75.

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