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Roger Mills County

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Roger Mills County, Oklahoma

The Zimms Site

Five sites in Roger Mills County represent the only known remains of an enigmatic group of people who lived in western Oklahoma from around A.D. 1250 to perhaps as late as A.D. 1450. This group of sites is known to archeologists as the Zimms complex after the best-known of the sites, the Zimms site.

When archeologists and volunteers from the Oklahoma Anthropological Society excavated at the Zimms site, they uncovered the remains of a structure, probably a house, which differed in many ways from the houses of other Oklahoma villagers of the same period. The house was roughly square in outline and about 20 feet by 20 feet with two large interior posts supporting a thatch roof. Forty-eight smaller posts set in the ground and covered with clay and thatch formed the walls. The most striking difference, though, was a central channel, 6 inches deep and 9 feet wide, running right through the middle of the house. A raised clay platform lay at one end of the channel, opposite the entryway into the house.

House pattern excavated at the Zimms site.

Only a limited number of the kind of farming tools used by Native American villagers in Oklahoma were found although groups to both the east and west (in the Texas panhandle) were farming extensively at the time. The pottery used by Zimms people was usually undecorated with rounded bases and flared rims. It is known as Quartermaster Plain after nearby Quartermaster Creek. It, too, is different from the pottery found to the east and to the west at the same time period.

Quartermaster Plain pottery sherds from the Zimms site.

Because of the differences in the pottery and house styles, archaeologists believe the people of the Zimms complex were independent of the farming groups to the east and the west. Some archaeologists believe they lived an older lifestyle of hunting and gathering while other archaeologists believe they were farmers as were other Plains Villagers of the time.

There are many intriguing questions about the Zimms complex that remain unanswered. One such question regards the architecture of the structure excavated at the Zimms site.

A stylized diagram of the floor pattern excavated at Zimms is shown to the left while an artist's conception of a typical house in eastern Oklahoma is shown below with a cutaway so that the interior of the house can be viewed. Archaeologists are uncertain why the central channel was placed in the Zimms' house or what the purpose of the platform at the west edge of the channel was.

If you have an idea what purpose these features might serve, send us an email and we'll post your ideas at the bottom of this page.

With further research and educated guesses, we hope to eventually better understand the Roger Mills county people of the Zimms complex.




For more information about the archaeology of Roger Mills county, visit:

Dempsey Divide website

For more information about the Zimms complex, visit:

Southern Plains Villagers website


Number of Sites Identified to Time Period in Roger Mills County

Chart of Sites Classified to Period in Roger Mills 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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