Cn-46, Canadian County Canyon Site
Inspecting walls of the canyon.
A canyon eroding near Buggy Creek in western Canadian
County formed the basis for an archaeological study which added
to our understanding of the use of plants by the prehistoric people
A collection of stone tools and pottery from the eroding
banks of the canyon was catalogued and studied by a University of
Oklahoma student, Mr. James Taylor. Taylor wrote a master's thesis
on the soils revealed in the canyon walls and the collection of
prehistoric tools he discovered in the canyon. His exploration of
the canyon area uncovered an ashy, charcoal-filled lens of soil
in a canyon wall buried at a depth of around seven feet. This material
proved to be a hearth area where a thousand years ago, three small
fires were built. In addition to a scraper and the flakes left over
from toolmaking, charred seeds were recovered.
The seeds included sunflower, wild plum and a weed
seed called marsh elder (also known as sumpweed).
Marsh elder grows in damp, lowlying areas and produces an oily seed
akin to the sunflower seed. Marsh elder is of interest to archaeologists
because it is a crop that was domesticated in North America prehistorically.
This domestication occurred long before the introduction of maize
to North America. In fact, domesticated marsh elder dates back some
4,000 years ago to west-central Illinois. Domestication by prehistoric
people increased the seed size 10 times the original weed seed size.
This domesticated variety of marsh elder is now extinct although
it was likely in use when Europeans entered North America.
The charred marsh elder seeds recovered from the Canadian
County hearth probably date to around 1,000 AD.
Salvage of hearths exposed by erosion
in the canyon walls.
For further reading:
A Canyon in Western Canadian County: Archaeological
and Geomorphological Clues from Non-Destructive Testing, James Taylor,
University of Oklahoma thesis, 1984.
Number of Prehistoric Sites in Canadian
County Identified to Time Period