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Murray County

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The Primrose and Stillman Pit Sites

Along the north side of a sandy terrace of the Washita River, sand quarrying exposed two important archeological sites just north of the Arbuckle Mountains. In these two sites lay evidence of a group of hunter/gatherers known to archeologists as the Calf Creek culture. Calf Creek is a style of chipped stone tool, probably used as both a spear point and a knife, which is beautifully crafted and very distinctive. The hunters who lived at the Primrose and Stillman Pit sites moved from camp to camp following the migratory movements of the bison they hunted some 5,000 - 6,000 years ago. This was a period when Oklahoma's climate was much drier. Areas that are now wooded were grasslands.

Calf Creek point manufacturing stages.

Among the most interesting finds at the Primrose and Stillman Pit sites were stockpiled groups of triangular-shaped chert pieces. The chert is from a rocky outcrop 30 miles to the east near Ada. It is called Frisco chert and is a white, very durable rock that fractures in clean, sharp breaks when struck. This chert makes a very fine stone tool in the hands of a craftsman skilled in the demanding work of knapping (the chipping of stone to make tools).

A question of interest to archeologists is why the Calf Creek people went to all the trouble of carrying a lot of heavy rock back to these terraces along the Washita. Why not make their Calf Creek points at the Frisco outcrops? They believe that there are several possible reasons.

First of these is that manufacture of the Calf Creek points requires careful and time-consuming preparation of the chert itself by firing it in a hearth for a long period at very high heat. The white chert takes on a pinkish or bluish cast and becomes very lustrous. Additionally, the heat treatment seems to change the structure of the rock so that it requires less pressure to flake and shape.

The second factor in the caching of the Frisco chert is related to the first. Heating of the Frisco chert required lots of wood which could only be found in sufficient quantities in stream bottoms like the Washita because of the arid climate. So, rather than carry lots of bulky wood to the Frisco chert outcrops, the Calf Creek people carried the heavier, but more portable, chert to the wood source.

The archeological work at the Primrose and Stillman Pit sites depended heavily on the help of interested collectors. People who lived nearby the site and monitored the sand quarrying operation loaned their collections for study by archeologists. Without the help of such people, the historic and prehistoric heritage of all Oklahomans might be lost forever without being recorded. So, while the sand quarrying destroyed the original context of the artifacts left behind by the Calf Creek people, some information about their culture was preserved.

For further reading, consult:

"The Primrose Site, 34MR65, Murray County, Oklahoma" by D.G. Wyckoff, W.L Neal, and M. Duncan in Bulletin of the Oklahoma Anthropological Society, Vol. XL, 1994.
"The Calf Creek Component at the Stillman Pit Site (34MR71) and Its Relation to Calf Creek Caching Strategy" by R. Bartlett in Bulletin of the Oklahoma Anthropological Society, Vol. XL, 1994.

Calf Creek points from the Primrose site.

Prehistoric Sites in Murray 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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