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Canadian County

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Canadian County, Oklahoma

Cn-46, Canadian County Canyon Site

Inspecting walls of the canyon.

A canyon eroding near Buggy Creek in western Canadian County formed the basis for an archaeological study which added to our understanding of the use of plants by the prehistoric people of Oklahoma.

A collection of stone tools and pottery from the eroding banks of the canyon was catalogued and studied by a University of Oklahoma student, Mr. James Taylor. Taylor wrote a master's thesis on the soils revealed in the canyon walls and the collection of prehistoric tools he discovered in the canyon. His exploration of the canyon area uncovered an ashy, charcoal-filled lens of soil in a canyon wall buried at a depth of around seven feet. This material proved to be a hearth area where a thousand years ago, three small fires were built. In addition to a scraper and the flakes left over from toolmaking, charred seeds were recovered.

The seeds included sunflower, wild plum and a weed seed called marsh elder (also known as sumpweed). Marsh elder grows in damp, lowlying areas and produces an oily seed akin to the sunflower seed. Marsh elder is of interest to archaeologists because it is a crop that was domesticated in North America prehistorically. This domestication occurred long before the introduction of maize to North America. In fact, domesticated marsh elder dates back some 4,000 years ago to west-central Illinois. Domestication by prehistoric people increased the seed size 10 times the original weed seed size. This domesticated variety of marsh elder is now extinct although it was likely in use when Europeans entered North America.

The charred marsh elder seeds recovered from the Canadian County hearth probably date to around 1,000 AD.


Salvage of hearths exposed by erosion in the canyon walls.

For further reading:

A Canyon in Western Canadian County: Archaeological and Geomorphological Clues from Non-Destructive Testing, James Taylor, University of Oklahoma thesis, 1984.

Number of Prehistoric Sites in Canadian County Identified to Time Period

Chart showing prehistoric sites in Canadian 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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