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Tulsa County

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Tulsa County, Oklahoma

The Lasley Vore Site

View of the Arkansas River from the Lasley-Vore Site
(photos on this page courtesy Dr. George Odell, University of Tulsa)

In 1988, the Kimberly-Clark Corporation initiated an archaeological survey of land along the Arkansas River in Tulsa County where they intended to build a tissue factory. University of Tulsa archaeologist George Odell, while surveying this area, found a site from the early historic period with both Native American artifacts and European trade goods from the 18th century. Since this site seemed likely to be important to our understanding of a little-known period, archaeologists began a two-month salvage excavation at the site.

Dr. Odell used a Ditch-Witch, a pipe-trenching tool, to determine the extent of the site, the types of artifacts and their distribution and concentrations on the site. Because of time constraints, the upper, plowed portion of the site was removed with a belly loader. This work revealed soil stains or smears where storage and trash pits and hearths had been dug into the subsoil. Eventually 81 such features were excavated.

Screening soil from the Ditch-Witch trench
The site after the plowzone had been removed by a bellyloader.


Hide scrapers, projectile points, bison scapulae hoes, and pottery -- all the typical artifacts of Wichita occupations in the late prehistoric in Oklahoma -- showed up in the excavations. Additionally, the materials associated with French traders of the 18th century also were found. Trade beads, axe heads, metal knives and gun parts all were found at the site. Dr. Odell identified five areas of the site which were used for different activities including two central concentrations devoted to domestic chores like cooking and hide scraping and three peripheral areas where projectile points were reworked and wood working occurred. Analysis of pottery sherds from these peripheral areas shows that the clay used in the pottery's manufacture was from areas different from the pottery in the central areas. He concludes that the people living in the peripheral areas may have been from groups different from the central area peoples. This is significant in his consideration of just when the Lasley Vore site was occupied and who the people, native and European, were who met on this terrace overlooking the Arkansas River.

Reconstructed pot from the Lasley-Vore site

The first European to contact the native people of eastern Oklahoma was a Frenchman by the name of Jean-Baptiste, Sieur de la Harpe in 1719. LaHarpe traveled north from a Caddo village along the Red River with a handful of men to a stream he called the Alcansas. There he met a young Tawakoni chief in an encampment of 6,000 people. Over the course of LaHarpe's ten day visit, another 1,000 native people from other groups came to meet the trader (perhaps they camped at those "peripheral areas" discovered during the Lasley Vore excavation?)..

The course he took to reach this village has been debated for decades, but many scholars put his destination close to the area where the Lasley-Vore site is located. While excavation of the Lasley Vore site may not have settled the issue conclusively, Dr. Odell notes that the site has all the attributes that would be expected at the site where the Tawakoni welcomed LaHarpe in 1719.

For further reading:

LaHarpe's Post A Tale of French-Wichita Contact on the Eastern Plains by George H. Odell, University of Alabama Press, 2002.

Number of Prehistoric Sites in Tulsa 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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