Custer Phase
A.D. 800-1250

Custer Phase Trash Pit

Bison Bone in Custer Phase Trash Pit Excavation

The Redbed Variant consists of the Paoli and Washita River phases in the east and Custer and Turkey Creek phases in the west. The people who occupied this area in the late prehistoric period are ancestral to the modern-day Wichita.

Custer Phase people occupied west-central Oklahoma along the tributaries to the Washita and Canadian Rivers from A.D. 800-1250 (the Paoli Phase people to the east were more likely to build along the main river course). They lived in small villages and farmed corn, beans, and squash.

A diverse diet also included bison, deer, rabbits, and turkey. These animals were abundant in the mixed-grass prairies near Custer Phase villages. Bison were probably more important to the Custer Phase people than the Paoli Phase people to the east. Bison preferred the short and mixed-grass prairies of western Oklahoma and were more abundant. The trend of increased bison usage through time is apparent in this more western setting, just as it is in Paoli/Washita River to the east.

Only one house site has been excavated for the Custer Phase. It had a rock lined central hearth and was about 12' X 18' and rectangular.


Custer Phase pottery is cordmarked and tempered with crushed shale. This large jar may have been used for cooking. Custer Phase potters occasionally made cylindrical "paint jars" with corn cob impressions. These small pots contain red pigments and are presumed to have held decorative paints.


Dart points were common in the early Custer Phase along with side-notched and corner-notched arrow points.Custer Phase people crafted stone tools from local cherts which could be picked up in stream beds.    

Through time, the success of the Custer Phase people allowed a population increase. It is believed that the climate in the area was becoming drier which caused an increase in short-grass prairie and brought more bison. The Custer Phase people adapted to these changing conditions; their culture developed into the Turkey Creek Phase.

Turkey Creek Phase