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Comanche County

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Comanche County, Oklahoma

The Gore Pit Site

Layers of sediment exposed at Gore Pit

Many Oklahomans have found arrowheads and pottery sherds from prehistoric sites as they walked over plowed fields or along creek banks. Wind and water erosion, farming, and construction activities all can expose sites and the artifacts left there by the people of the past. Over the thousands of years of Oklahoma's human prehistory, the oldest sites often have been buried under many feet of wind and waterborne sediments. This is one factor in later sites, like those of the Plains Village period shown in the chart below, being more commonly found than earlier sites.

Road construction in the 1960's near Lawton on East Cache Creek led the Highway Department to bulldoze a borrow pit, some 15 to 20 feet deep, exposing a prehistoric campsite buried under 6,000 years of sediments. Charcoal-stained, fire-cracked rock in circular patterns, Ogallala quartzite tools, and mussel shell concentrations caught the attention of archaeologists at the Museum of the Great Plains in Lawton. The Southwest Chapter of the Oklahoma Anthropological Society was called upon to help in the excavation of several of the over 30 burned rock features. These features were six to eight feet in diameter and were full of powdery charcoal, burned mussel shells and charred bone. Charcoal from the site returned a radiocarbon date of 6,000 years before present, a period of prehistory known as the Middle Archaic (see the Oklahoma Timeline for more information on the Archaic). Deer seems to have been the favored game animal. However, the amount of mussel shell recovered from the site leads archaeologists to believe that mussels from the creek were an important part of the diet of the Gore Pit people as well.

The circular, burned rock features have been interepreted by archaeologists as rock ovens. In this method of cooking, a shallow ditch was piled high with logs and branches which were set ablaze. Rocks were laid on the smoldering wood after the fire had burned for awhile and then the food was placed on top of the rocks. The whole mound was covered with more rocks and earth to hold in the heat. The food was cooked for many hours in this manner.

While the burned bone and mussel shells offer direct evidence of the diet of these Middle Archaic people, other foods were surely eaten and there is some indirect evidence for this as well. Metates (pronounced muh-ta-tay) or grinding basins and grinding stones were recovered from Gore Pit and seem to indicate that these people had begun to process plant foods (such as seeds) by grinding them into a meal.

An interesting change from the earlier Paleo-Indian people to the people of the Archaic period is illustrated at the Gore Pit site. All the chipped stone tools recovered at Gore Pit are made from locally available Ogallala quartzite. This material is very tough and fractures unpredictably. It would seemingly be a less desirable material than the Edwards chert of central Texas or the Alibates dolomite from the Texas Panhandle which were preferred materials for Paleo hunters. Whether the use of Ogallala was a matter of choice because its durability made it preferable or whether the Archaic people no longer had access to the finer materials used by Paleo people is a question that continuing research may someday answer.

For further information: The Gore Pit Site: An Archaic Occupation in Southwestern Oklahoma and a Review of the Archaic Stage in the Southern Plains by Hallett H. Hammatt in Plains Anthropologist, Vol. 21, No. 74, November 1976.

Number of Prehistoric Sites in Comanche County Identified to Time Period

Number of sites in Comanche County

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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