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Spiro Mounds excavations visits to resume in eastern Oklahoma

The public is invited to visit the Spiro Mounds Archaeological Center in eastern Oklahoma for a chance to see archaeology in action.
By Max Nichols Published: February 23, 2014

For the first time since 1982, major excavations at the Spiro Mounds Archaeological Center in eastern Oklahoma will begin May 19 and continue each weekday through June 20, and the public is invited.

“We will welcome the public to visit the excavations, and archaeologists will be willing to answer questions,” said Dennis Peterson, Spiro Mounds Archaeological Center historic property manager for the Oklahoma Historical Society. Archaeologist Scott Hammerstedt of the Oklahoma Archeological Survey and the University of Oklahoma will lead the excavations.

This will be a rare opportunity for Oklahomans to see archaeology in action, said Bob Blackburn, OHS executive director. The excavation will follow Phase One preliminary excavations that were conducted in October.

“The focus of the work will be several remote sensing anomalies that may be possible structures,” Blackburn said. “One of the anomalies was revealed during the short excavation in October 2013, and researchers uncovered the first round structure ever seen at the site. The 2014 work will be focused on three other anomalies, which are being eroded by a stream in the area of the October dig.

“The Spiro Mounds culture goes back to about A.D. 850 near what is now the town of Spiro. More than 25,000 prehistoric sites have been recorded in Oklahoma, but the Spiro Mounts Archaeological Center is the only one open to the public.”

Seeking more artifacts

In 2012 and 2013, Phase One of a remote sensing survey was conducted by researchers from the Oklahoma Archeological Survey and the Arkansas Archeological Survey in association with researchers from OU, the University of Arkansas-Fayetteville and the University of Arkansas-Fort Smith.

Remote sensing, Peterson said, uses various technologies, such as ground penetrating radar, gradiometer and magnetometers, that allow for patterns beneath the soil to be seen before any digging.

“Preliminary data shows at least 50 possible house patterns,” Peterson said, “and a lot of patterns that archaeologists are not sure what they are yet. There are several of these house patterns that are being impacted by a drainage ditch. The excavations during October were focusing on one of those possible house patterns.

“The October excavations included very few artifacts and almost nothing that tells researchers about the time of use. It is hoped that more artifacts will be found in the 2014 research, and a better understanding of the structures will be gleaned.”

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