Salvaging archeological features at
the Jewett site as oil pad is cleared.
The Jewett site first came to the attention of
the Oklahoma Archeological Survey in 1977 when property owners Robert
and Helen Jewett reported that an irrigation pipeline excavation
had uncovered human bone and some evidently prehistoric artifacts.
Survey archeologists examined the site and determined that, based
on surface indications, it appeared to be quite extensive. Though
the site had been disturbed by both the pipeline and an earlier
railroad bed and road surface, the Jewett site represented the remains
of an important Plains
Village site of the Washita River phase. Since the site still
appeared to be largely intact, archeologists decided to nominate
the Jewett site to the National
Register of Historic Places. The National Register was created
by the 1966 National Historic Preservation Act and is the nation's
list of places meriting special treatment due to their historic
and cultural significance.
In 1992, the Jewett family notified the Archeological Survey
that an oil well pad was going to be constructed on a portion
of the site. The oil company agreed to allow archeologists
to monitor the bulldozing of the northeast corner of the
site. This disturbance revealed (and largely destroyed)
features including burials, pits and two midden (trash or
refuse) deposits. Salvage excavations were undertaken and
the materials recovered have helped expand our understanding
of the lives of the people who lived along the Washita River
in the period from A.D. 1250-1400.
The Washita River phase of the Plains Village period in
Oklahoma describes a time when Native American people who
were the ancestors of today's Wichita farmed the fertile
terraces of the Washita River growing corn, beans, squash,
tobacco and probably other crops as well. The river itself,
home to ducks, catfish, gar and bass provided food while
the lands around the Washita were home to deer, turkey,
small game like rabbits and squirrels, and, of course, the
large herds of bison that provided the bulk of the meat
in the villagers' diet.
There were villages like this one at the Jewett site all
along the river during this time -- perhaps as many as a
village every mile or so with perhaps ten or more houses
in each village.
Arrow points (top) and
dart point from the Jewett site.
There were four human burials recovered from the site at this time. These burials
were subject to Oklahoma's laws regarding unmarked graves
known as the Burial Desecration Act
. The Wichita and Affiliated Tribes allowed archeologists
to study the recovered bones to learn as much as possible
about the lives of the people who lived at the Jewett site.
The skeletal material was poorly preserved both because of
the age of the burials and the the destruction at the site
by the bulldozer. The human remains were returned to the Wichita
For more information about the first people of Oklahoma,
visit the Wichita
and Affiliated Tribes website.
Archeology, "The Jewett Site: A Washita River Phase Village
in South-Central Oklahoma," by David F. Morgan and Richard
R. Drass with a contribution by Vickie L. Wedel, Vol. 52, No. 2,
Number of Prehistoric Sites in Grady
County Identified to Time Period