The Gore Pit Site
Layers of sediment exposed at Gore Pit
Many Oklahomans have found arrowheads and pottery sherds
from prehistoric sites as they walked over plowed fields or
along creek banks. Wind and water erosion, farming, and construction
activities all can expose sites and the artifacts left there
by the people of the past. Over the thousands of years of
Oklahoma's human prehistory, the oldest sites often have been
buried under many feet of wind and waterborne sediments. This
is one factor in later sites, like those of the Plains Village
period shown in the chart below, being more commonly found
than earlier sites.
Road construction in the 1960's near Lawton on East Cache
Creek led the Highway Department to bulldoze a borrow pit,
some 15 to 20 feet deep, exposing a prehistoric campsite buried
under 6,000 years of sediments. Charcoal-stained, fire-cracked
rock in circular patterns, Ogallala quartzite tools, and mussel
shell concentrations caught the attention of archaeologists
at the Museum of the Great Plains in Lawton. The Southwest
Chapter of the Oklahoma
Anthropological Society was called upon to help in the
excavation of several of the over 30 burned rock features.
These features were six to eight feet in diameter and were
full of powdery charcoal, burned mussel shells and charred
bone. Charcoal from the site returned a radiocarbon date of
6,000 years before present, a period of prehistory known as
the Middle Archaic (see the Oklahoma
Timeline for more information on the Archaic). Deer seems
to have been the favored game animal. However, the amount
of mussel shell recovered from the site leads archaeologists
to believe that mussels from the creek were an important part
of the diet of the Gore Pit people as well.
The circular, burned rock features have been interepreted by archaeologists
as rock ovens. In this method of cooking, a shallow ditch was piled
high with logs and branches which were set ablaze. Rocks were laid
on the smoldering wood after the fire had burned for awhile and
then the food was placed on top of the rocks. The whole mound was
covered with more rocks and earth to hold in the heat. The food
was cooked for many hours in this manner.
While the burned bone and mussel shells offer direct evidence of
the diet of these Middle Archaic people, other foods were surely
eaten and there is some indirect evidence for this as well. Metates
(pronounced muh-ta-tay) or grinding basins and grinding stones
were recovered from Gore Pit and seem to indicate that these people
had begun to process plant foods (such as seeds) by grinding them
into a meal.
An interesting change from the earlier Paleo-Indian people to the
people of the Archaic period is illustrated at the Gore Pit site.
All the chipped stone tools recovered at Gore Pit are made from
locally available Ogallala quartzite. This material is very tough
and fractures unpredictably. It would seemingly be a less desirable
material than the Edwards chert of central Texas or the Alibates
dolomite from the Texas Panhandle which were preferred materials
for Paleo hunters. Whether the use of Ogallala was a matter of choice
because its durability made it preferable or whether the Archaic
people no longer had access to the finer materials used by Paleo
people is a question that continuing research may someday answer.
For further information: The Gore Pit Site: An Archaic Occupation
in Southwestern Oklahoma and a Review of the Archaic Stage in the
Southern Plains by Hallett H. Hammatt in Plains Anthropologist,
Vol. 21, No. 74, November 1976.
Number of Prehistoric Sites in Comanche
County Identified to Time Period