Tahlequah Daily Press

October 2, 2013

Archaeologist gives presentation on area history

By JEAN HAVENS
Special Writer

TAHLEQUAH — Roughly the time period of 1,000 to 1,500 AD, the Mississippian Society was at the height of its complexity. In this area, most people think of the mounds at Spiro. Although that was a major communal society of that era, there were three other, smaller villages with their own richness in diversity similar to the Spiro mounds. Those were Harlan, Norman and Reed, all of which are now under water.

The artifacts derived from each of these excavations are studied so experts are still gathering information in order to understand the history of these Caddoan-speaking people who lived at these Mississippian societies.

Saturday, Dr. Scott W. Hammerstedt, archeological professor at the University of Oklahoma, spoke on the topic of “The Reed Site: Ceremonialism in the Neosho Valley of Northeastern Oklahoma” at the Spring Creek Coalition’s fall outing held at the Peggs Community Building.

According to Hammerstedt, the city closest to the Reed site is Locust Grove. The Caddoan-speaking people were an offshoot of the Mississippian Society that covered the area of Southeastern United States.

The Caddoans had different traits that define them and separates them from the other Mississippian Society.

Hammerstedt said the Reed site was first excavated in the 1910s.

“A lot of these sites are now underwater, and those who excavated were regular workers, not archeologists, so the record-keeping is minimal,” said Hammerstedt.

He also said there were looters before official excavations began.

There are two types of mounds from those civilizations, according to Hammerstedt.

Platform mounds that occurred gradually and burial mounds.

“We think the mound at the Reed site was created for communal burial, not a single burial, like for a chief,” Hammerstedt said.

There are several examples in the various collections of artifacts.

Some examples are pottery vessels varying from bottles, to jars, to bowls. There are also ceramic objects like clay beads.

“We have 30-40 pieces of copper from the Reed site,” said Hammerstedt.

“No one knows for sure where the copper came from, but archeologists believe the copper came from the Great Lakes area.”

This is the largest source of copper artifacts next to the Spiro mounds.

According to Hammerstedt, the experts are still trying to figure out the meaning of some of the materials that made up the objects, as well as the colors used. The falcon is a common motif of the Mississippian Society.

Describing the artifacts, Hammerstedt said, “there is a combination of local and exotic items. There had to be some participation in an exchange system because of certain items found.”

The mythology known about these people occurred when scientists interviewed the elders from the 1920s to the 1940s.

“These people were part of the same ritual belief system,” said Hammerstedt. They had a “long-nosed god.”

Along with a lecture on the Reed site excavation, Hammerstedt looked over artifacts brought by local residents who had found them in the area.