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Spiro Mounds site shell engraving



First Horse Documented from Oklahoma Wichita SiteTwo horse bone awls from Bryson Paddock

Horse bone awls from the Bryson-Paddock site

The first direct evidence of use of the horse by the Wichita in Oklahoma has been documented at the Bryson-Paddock site in Kay County. The Wichita obtained Spanish horses from Comanche middlemen and probably through raids on the Apache. However, horse paraphernalia and horse bone have not been previously noted at a known Oklahoma Wichita site. Use of the horse by the Wichita ushered in dramatic changes in Wichita culture. Harvesting bison for the French fur and meat trade became a significant part of the Wichita economy in the 1700s. Horses are believed to have made the pursuit and transport of vast numbers of bison possible for Wichita traders.

The French were also interested in Spanish horses and sought to trade European goods such as guns, scissors, axes, cloth, mirrors and beads to the Wichita for both horses and bison products.

The horse bone awls shown in the photographs were collected during the 1926 Oklahoma Historical Society sponsored excavations at the Bryson-Paddock site. Placed on exhibit at the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History, the awls were recently examined by Sheila Bobalik Savage and Richard Drass and definitively identified as the 4th right metatarsal bones on two individual horses (see diagram below). The longer awl constitutes nearly the full length of the metatarsal. It appears just the tip of the bone was broken off and the end sharpened.

Thank you to the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History, Dr. Don Wyckoff, Associate Curator for Archeology, and Peggy Rubenstein, Collection Manager for Archeology, for assistance in the examination of these bones. These awls are on exhibit in the the People of Oklahoma Gallery of the museum.

Diagram of horse skeleton

Arrow points to 4th metatarsal bone. The metatarsal corresponds to the ankle bone in humans. In the horse, this bone is dramatically elongated. (Horse skeletal element images from The Anatomy of the Domestic Animals by Septimus Sisson (revised by James D. Grossman), W. B. Saunders Company, Philadelphia, 1953.

graphic decoration

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