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Adair County

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Adair County, Oklahoma

The Owl Cave Site

Mississippian-like pottery sherds

Woodward Engraved pottery sherds from Owl Cave (photo courtesy Oklahoma Anthropological Society)

Owl Cave, near Sallisaw Creek in Adair County, is a 70' x 20' cave which sheltered people for over a thousand years. The site came to the attention of archaeologists in 1963 when the cave's landowner discovered pothunters digging in the cave and disturbing human burials there. Current laws in the state of Oklahoma make this activity illegal, but at the time the only recourse was to run the diggers off the property.

Salvage excavations at the site by Oklahoma Anthropological Society volunteers revealed fairly extensive disturbance by pothunters. Signs of centuries of human habitation had been left in 18" - 22" of soil. Recovered artifacts included projectile points which may date as early as the Archaic period and pottery which may relate to the Mississippian period (for a Flash presentation of the time periods in Oklahoma's prehistory, click here). Pottery sherds like those shown above all appear to have come from one vessel and show design elements like the apparent bird claw in the sherd in the upper right hand part of the photograph.

Unfortunately, the pothunter's disturbance of the archaeological context resulted in the loss of most of the important information which could have been obtained from this intriguing site. A fuller history of the Owl Cave site will never be written because of the actions of those few trespassers. A Flash movie about archaeological context can be viewed by clicking here.

Projectile points from Owl Cave

Projectile points from Owl Cave (photo courtesy Oklahoma Anthropological Society)


For further reading:"Test Excavation in Owl Cave" by Sherman P. Lawton in Bulletin of the Oklahoma Anthropological Society, Vol. XII, 1963.

Number of Prehistoric Sites in Adair County Identified to Time Period



Paleo = ?-8,000 BP / Archaic = 8,000-2,000 BP / Woodland = 2,000-1,000 BP / Village 1000-500 BP
BP (before present)


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