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Mayes County

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The Packard Site

In 1962, with the impending construction of the Robert S. Kerr Dam, the National Park Service funded excavations at the Packard site to recover as much information as possible about the people who had lived along Saline Creek over the millenia before the area was flooded by Lake Hudson. The excavations over two seasons revealed some 9,500 years of human occupation.

Though it's common to recount history from most ancient to most recent times, the Packard site history was revealed to archeologists from youngest to oldest. This is because a site occupied for thousands of years, as the Packard site was, undergoes many changes over time including the accumulation of soils and sediment on the surface on which people live. The first artifacts archeologists excavated at the Packard site related to the relatively recent farming peoples who lived in the valley some time within the last 1,000 years. The deepest artifacts, more than 12 feet down, were left there by hunters some 9,500 years into the past.

 

Although this may seem obvious, in fact the concept of the more recent living surfaces at a site overlying the older living surfaces, known as the law of superposition to archeologists, revolutionized the understanding of human history. Thomas Jefferson, in excavations on his Virginia farm, was one of the first scientists to apply this principle.

In the first 30 inches of deposit, archeologists found evidence of the pottery-making farmers and earlier hunter-gatherers who used bow and arrows to bring down deer on this western edge of the Ozark forests. The Packard site probably functioned as a camp for hunters sent out from farming villages where corn, beans and squash were grown to bring back game from the salt springs found a half mile from the site. That 30 inches represents about 2,000 years of history.

 

The nine feet of deposit below this held the 7,500 year record of the hunting-gathering people who used spears and darts rather than bows and arrows and who gathered wild plants rather than tending crops. The first hunters came to visit the Packard site nearly 5,000 years before the first Egyptian pyramid was built.

They made the spearpoints at the right from flint gathered from the bed of Saline Creek or nearby outcrops. Archeologists excavated a firepit built by these people. Flakes of their flintworking were left around the fireplace, probably just as they fell from the hand of the toolmaker. The charcoal in the fire was carefully collected, mailed to a laboratory and radiocarbon-dated to 9,500 BP (before present).

Today, the location of the Packard site is covered by the waters of Lake Hudson. Thanks to the efforts of many people, the story of this remarkable Oklahoma site has not been lost forever.

For further reading, consult:

"The Packard Complex: Early Archaic, Pre-Dalton Occupations on the Prairie-Woodlands Border" by Don G. Wyckoff in Southeastern Archaeology, 4(1) Summer 1985.

Prehistoric Sites in Mayes 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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