Spiro Mounds State Historic Site - Spiro OK
Posted by: Groundspeak Premium Member Benchmark Blasterz
N 35° 18.715 W 094° 34.170
15S E 357320 N 3908764
Quick Description: The amazing prehistoric Mississippian-era civilization of the people who lived here for 8000 years is on display at the Spiro Mounds Historic Site near Spiro OK
Location: Oklahoma, United States
Date Posted: 1/19/2015 12:36:47 PM
Waymark Code: WMN8JF
Published By: Groundspeak Premium Member fisnjack
Views: 1

Long Description:
A prehistoric Native American tribe (we do not even know their name) built a vast civilization and impressive art culture here that lasted for 8000 years. The site was abandoned around 1450 AD. Todaym interpretive trails wind past the mounds and explain the traces of the prehistoric native people who lived here.

From the Spiro Mounds SHS website: (visit link)

"Prehistoric Gateway...Present-day Enigma

The mounds site, located seven miles outside of Spiro, Oklahoma, is the only prehistoric, Native American archaeological site in Oklahoma open to the public. The mounds are one of the most important Native American sites in the nation. The prehistoric Spiro people created a sophisticated culture which influenced the entire Southeast. Artifacts indicate an extensive trade network, a highly developed religious center, and a political system, which controlled the entire region. Located on a bend of the Arkansas River, the site was a natural gateway from which the Spiro people exerted their influence. Yet much of the Spiro culture is still a mystery, as well as the reasons for the decline and abandonment of the site.

Today, the Spiro Mounds site and artifacts are among Oklahoma's richest cultural resources. The protected site included 150 acres of land that encompass twelve mounds, the elite village area and part of the support city. Although various groups of people camped on or near the Spiro area over the previous 8000 years, the location did not become a permanent settlement until A.D. 800 and was used until about A.D. 1450. During this time period, known as the Mississippian period, Spiro leaders were developing political, religious and economic ties with people from the Gulf of California to the Gulf of Mexico and from the coast of Virginia to the Great Lakes. They shared horticulture, elaborate ceremonies, mound building and an iconographic (picture) writing system with over 60 different tribes. From A.D. 900 to 1300, the leaders at Spiro Mounds thrived. The mound center declined and was eventually abandoned by A.D. 1450, although the city continued to be occupied for another 150 years. The people of the Spiro Mounds are believed to have been Caddoan speakers, like the modern Wichita, Kichai, Caddo, Pawnee, and Arikara. The site remained unoccupied from A.D. 1600 until 1832. While Choctaw and Choctaw Freedmen cleared the mound site for farming late in the 1800s, they did not allow any major disturbance of the site until the Great Depression.

During the 1930s, commercial, and later academic, excavations revealed one of the greatest collections of artistic and utilitarian prehistoric Native American artifacts in the United States. Early looting of the site lead to laws making Oklahoma one the first states in the U.S. to preserve and scientifically research archaeological sites. The Spiro Mounds Archaeological Center opened to the public on May 9, 1978. Today the site is owned and operated by the Oklahoma Historical Society.

The Spiro Mounds Archaeological Center preserves 150 acres of the site, along the Arkansas River. The Center offers interpretive exhibits, an introductory slide program and a small gift shop. There are nearly two miles of interpreted trails, including a one-half mile nature trail. An archaeologist is on staff to answer questions and lead tours. Schools and large groups can arrange for guided tours of the site by contacting the staff by phone or email at least a week ahead of time. Special tours of the site, available to everyone, are offered during the Solstices and Equinoxes. The Spiro Mounds Archaeological Center features an annual Family Kite Flite Day on the third Saturday of March, Archaeology Day/Birthday Bash in May and periodic temporary exhibits sponsored by the Spiro Mounds Development Association.

The Spiro Mounds Archaeological Center is located three miles east of Spiro, Oklahoma, on Highway 271 and four miles north on Spiro Mounds Road. The Center is open Wednesday through Saturday from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. and Sunday from noon until 5 p.m. throughout the year. The site is closed for state holidays."

From the Texas Beyond History website some detailed information about this prehistoric Native people: (visit link)

"Just to the north of the main Caddo Homeland lies the mound center of Spiro in the Arkansas River valley in extreme eastern Oklahoma. Spiro was the westernmost of the primate (main) centers in the Mississippian world during the 12th through mid-15th centuries (A.D. 1100-1450). Spiro was certainly not anywhere near as large or powerful as Cahokia, the largest town and political capital in prehistoric America north of Mexico. But Spiro is famous for the unprecedented amount of wealth that was accumulated by its leaders and buried with them.

In 1933, local entrepreneurs formed the "Pocola Mining Company" to loot Craig Mound, the site's largest mound. Craig Mound was actually four connected mounds, a large cone-shaped one and three smaller ones. Digging by hand with no real idea of what they were digging into, the looters made relatively slow progress for the first year. They did encountered many graves and offerings in the smaller mounds and these began to appear on the market. This eventually provoked a public outcry and Oklahoma passed one of the first state laws protecting antiquities in 1935. Unfortunately, the looters were able to continue digging secretly and finally struck upon an effective way of getting what they wanted: they hired coal miners to tunnel into the largest cone.

The main tunnel into the center of the mound encountered a gaping hollow, the shell of a purposefully buried mortuary building. Inside were elaborate special burials and jumbled human bones accompanied by unbelievable quantities of unusual artifacts made of marine shell, exotic stone, bone, copper, feathers, fabrics, fur, and all manner of materials. Many of these items represent ritual paraphernalia linked to the Southern Cult (Southeastern Ceremonial Complex).

As their lease expired and as state authorities moved to shut down the operation, the Pocola miners tried to blow up the rest of the mound in a fit of pique. Although they failed, the damage they had already wrought is one of the greatest tragedies in American archeology. The whole and partial artifacts were quickly sold off and wound up in dozens of museums and private collections around the country. The 1936-1941 WPA archeological excavations by the University of Oklahoma salvaged many pieces and much information. More recent work at the site and thorough analyses of the spectacular collections have made Spiro one of the most important archeological sites in North America.

Spiro was not an isolated place, but was instead at the top of a hierarchy of settlements within the Arkansas Basin—west and north up the Arkansas River and its tributaries draining the southwestern Ozark Plateau and adjacent tall-prairies to the west. Related sites are said to occur within the White River drainage in southernmost Missouri. During the Harlan phase (A.D. 1000-1250), Spiro was a ceremonial and population center. After A.D. 1250, the residential population moved to other sites in the area and Spiro was used only as ceremonial and mortuary center. The site's role as a mortuary center peaked in the Norman and Spiro phases (A.D. 1250-1350 and 1350-1450, respectively). After A.D. 1450, the site ceased to play an important role in the region, possibly because east-west trade routes shifted southward through the Red River valley.

Spiro's wealth is almost certainly a consequence of its strategic position as a gateway community and trading center between the Mississippian world to the east and the Great Plains to the west. Spiro is thought to have served in much the same way as did St Louis, Missouri in the 18th and 19th centuries: as a crucial hub through which most east-west commerce and traffic had to pass. In Spiro's case, the nature and substance of the trade is debated. Some argue that Spiro was at the center of a trade system that moved relatively large quantities of economically useful materials including food, clothing, and weapons. In contrast, other scholars think that Spiro trade amounted mainly to exchanges between leaders of ritual items related to the Southern Cult. The view here is that Spiro trade almost certainly had both economic and ritual importance. . . "
Trailhead: N 35° 18.715 W 094° 34.170

Type: Burial Mounds

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