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Spiro Mounds site shell engraving



Bryson-Paddock Site (34KA5) Research Project

Archaeologists in Oklahoma have identified a small number of 17th and 18th-century villages in the state where they believe intensive contact occurred between European and Native American peoples. To date, however, none of these sites have been thoroughly examined. The Bryson-Paddock (34KA5) site is located on a bluff overlooking the Arkansas River near Newkirk, Oklahoma. An earlier generation of archaeologists and historians determined that Bryson-Paddock served as one of 3 or 4 major ports-of-trade where Wichita Indians met French trappers/traders from the Arkansas Post near the junction of the Arkansas and Mississippi rivers. For a number of years in the early to mid-18th century, French entrepreneurs traded with the Wichita bringing European trade goods to Oklahoma and moving large quantities of meat and hides to New Orleans with some eventually shipped to Europe. Reports of French traders among the Wichita also spurred Spanish expeditions into the region, since the latter saw their own colonial ambitions threatened. French and Spanish explorers documented their encounters with the Wichita: The Bryson-Paddock site and its sister-site, Deer Creek (34KA3), came to be called "Ferdinandina" in Spanish and French documents (Wedel 1988). These converging events propelled the Wichita into central players in the European struggle for the Southern Plains. Excavations at Bryson-Paddock together with archival research will help us to better understand these complex historical relations.

In June 2004, OU and OSU conducted an archaeological field school at the Bryson-Paddock site. The site is in north-central Oklahoma along the Arkansas River near Kaw Lake. Bryson-Paddock is an 18th-century Wichita village visited by French traders. It is one of the earliest Wichita sites with extensive contact with Europeans. Previous excavations at this village and a nearby, sister village (the Deer Creek site) were conducted in 1926 and 1974/1975. The site is noted for mounds containing trash that includes metal and glass trade materials as well as native artifacts and features such as house patterns, hearths, and pits.

Bryson Paddock dig overlooking Arkansas River

Looking east at Bryson-Paddock 2003 excavations and across Arkansas River area.

Additional salvage excavations of the site were undertaken in the summer of 2003. Excavation of a large block of 1 meter squares and remote sensing (magnetometer and electrical resistivity) of other areas have identified promising intra-site locations for further investigation. These findings were used to target specific locations for intensive excavation during the June 2004 field school. Students conducted excavations to test a number of features discovered during remote sensing including pits, hearths, and one of the remaining mounds.


Arrowpoints, scrapers, European trade goods

Sample of artifacts from 2003 testing at the Bryson-Paddock Site

While the importance of the Bryson-Paddock site has long been recognized (e.g., Thoburn and Wright 1929; Wedel 1988; Bell 1984), prior work there did little in terms of addressing many important issues. Was Bryson-Paddock a Wichita encampment visited by the French or a fortified French trading post where Wichita brought bison and deer hides to trade? For how long was it inhabited? In terms of chronology, how did its occupation relate to similar Wichita occupations in Oklahoma, Kansas and Texas? Finally, and perhaps most importantly, how did this trading partnership impact the culture and society of the Wichita? The current ongoin project thus represents a special opportunity to address many of the longstanding questions about early Wichita-French-Spanish interaction and to make a significant contribution to the early history of Oklahoma. The research is designed to evaluate the activities that occurred at this large site and identify the extent of French residence at the village as well as the impact of extensive European contact on 18th-century Wichita culture.


Bell, Robert E.
1984 "Protohistoric Wichita." In Prehistory of Oklahoma, edited by Robert E. Bell, pp. 363-378. Academic Press, Orlando.

Drass, Richard, Susan Vehik, Stephen Perkins, and Dave Maki.
2003 "Archeological Investigations at Bryson-Paddock, 34KA5: An 18th-Century Wichita/French Contact Village." Paper presented at the 61st Plains Anthropological Conference, Fayetteville, AR.

Hartley, John D. and A. Francie Miller
1977 Archaeological Investigations at the Bryson-Paddock Site; An Early Contact Period Site on the Southern Plains. University of Oklahoma, Oklahoma River Basin Survey, Archaeological Site Report 42.

Thoburn, J.B. and M.H. Wright
1929 Oklahoma, A History of the State and Its People, 2 vols. Lewis Historical Publishing Co.

Wedel, Mildred M.
1988 "The Deer Creek Site, Oklahoma: A Wichita Village Sometimes Called Ferdinandina, An Ethnohistorians View." In The Wichita Indians 1541-1750: Ethnohistorical Essays. Reprints in Anthropology, Vol. 38:164-176.

Glass Trade Beads from Bryon-Paddock

New Remote Sensing Results from Bryson-Paddock

Horse bone from Bryson-Paddock

Flash presentation of Plains Anthropological Society paper on Bryson-Paddock

The Bryson-Paddock/Deer Creek sites


University of Oklahoma
Oklahoma State University
Dr. Richard Drass
Oklahoma Archeological Survey,
University of Oklahoma,
111 E. Chesapeake,
Norman, OK 73019
Dr. Susan Vehik
Anthropology Department
University of Oklahoma
Dale Hall Tower Rm 521
Norman, OK 73019
Dr. Stephen Perkins
Sociology Department
006 CLB
Oklahoma State University
Stillwater, OK 74078-4062


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Oklahoma Archeological Survey 111 E. Chesapeake Norman OK 73019-5111 (405)325-7211 Contact Webmaster: archsurvey@ou.edu

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