Sarah Trabert recently joined a team of archaeologists from the Oklahoma Archaeological Survey, University of Oklahoma, and Oklahoma State University in the investigation of the Deer Creek Site, a fortified ancestral Wichita site.
Deer Creek dates to the mid-18th century when many Native peoples, such as Wichita, had very complex relationships with French and Spanish explorers as well as other neighboring tribes. Deer Creek is one of only a few fortified sites on the Southern Plains where Native peoples built a series of ditches, ramparts, and possibly wooden walls to protect their villages.
The Deer Creek site had not been previously excavated by professional archaeologists and had been covered in a dense forest for the past three decades. Our team worked with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (land owners), the Wichita and Affiliated Tribes, and the Oklahoma Anthropological Society to decide how best to test the site.
The dense forest on the site presents challenges to archaeological investigation and at the same time could be damaging the cultural deposits under the surface. A primary goal of our 2016 work was to determine whether the tree roots were harming the integrity of the site. We chose to test several areas of the site including part of one fortification ditch and trash mounds to see how deeply buried the materials were and if they were being harmed.
We discovered a number of very interesting artifacts including bone tools (bison scapula hoes), projectile points and hide scrapers, pottery sherds, pipes, beads, and an iron hoe.
We also found that roots were impacting the site—roots have moved artifacts, they’ve grown through bone artifacts, and disturbed underground features such the trash pits.
We only excavated a very small portion of the site and have not completed our analysis. We’ll be posting more updates as the analysis continues.
Exciting news! We have received permission to hold the next University of Oklahoma Archaeological Field School at Deer Creek—more information will be coming. Stay tuned!