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Spiro Mounds site shell engravingOklahoma's Past

Wagoner County

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Wagoner County, Oklahoma

The Norman Mound Site

Mound at the Norman site

Mound at the Norman Site

The Norman site is a ceremonial mound complex, along with the Harlan site and Spiro site, in eastern Oklahoma linked to a broad group of sites across the Southeast with apparent similarities in rituals, ceremonial artifacts and lifestyle. These were ranked societies with outlying farming villages supporting the priest/chief classes based at the mound center. Trading between these centers and other parts of the continent was widespread.

The Norman site is largely under the Ft. Gibson reservoir today. It consisted of three large, and several smaller, mounds on a terrace of the Neosho River less than four miles west of the Harlan mound center. Archaeological work at the Norman site consisted of WPA excavations in the 1930s and salvage excavations during the late 1940s as the reservoir was being completed.

Limited analysis of the materials recovered from these excavations seems to show that the Norman site became a center of power as the Harlan site was being abandoned. Burials placed in the Norman mounds contained grave goods of later styles than those found at the Harlan site.

The chiefs at the Norman site relied on villagers in outlying communities to build the mounds. The mounds were built in stages and often had structures on them which were burned and buried under baskets of earth. The structures may have been mortuary houses where the honored dead were kept until they were reburied under another stage of the mound.

Grave goods found with the burials marked the status of the dead. Stone earspools, covered in copper, finely-worked chert blades and points, pots, baskets of corn, and elaborate pipes were buried along with the bodies of the chiefs.

The Norman site may have been ascendant in the area for a century from around AD 1250-1350. It is believed that the Spiro site supplanted the Norman site after this period.

copper plate from Norman site

Crumpled copper plate from the Norman site

For further reading:

Caddoan Archeology, Vol. 11, No. 1-2. Series of articles on the Norman site.

Number of Prehistoric Sites in Wagoner 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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