Washita River Phase
A.D. 1250-1450

Washita River Pit

"Mega Pit" (dark soil) eroding from a Washita River Village site near the Washita River

The Washita River phase brought larger villages to the same area where the earlier, Paoli Phase people lived. Corn, beans and squash were still important crops. However, some earlier crops like marshelder were no longer raised.

Washita River villages consisted of as many as 20 houses. These houses were generally smaller than Paoli Phase houses and had only two center posts. They had an interior storage pit dug into the floor, usually in the southeast corner.

  Through time, mussel shell becomes the tempering agent preferred in Washita River pottery. You can see the flecks of white shell in this pot. The surface is often smoothed rather than cordmarked and small, outward turned rims appear. Flat bases are common at this time. A variety of pot forms appear, but this small jar is a common type.
A diverse diet still included deer, fish, rabbits, turkey, and mussels. Bison became more important to the Washita River phase people. Many bison bones are found at Washita River digs including bones made into tools like hoes and digging sticks.

Bison leg bone digging tools

Arrow points change through time. Side-notched and unnotched points replace corner-notched types.

A dramatic increase in trade goods indicates that the Washita River people developed trade ties with Caddoan groups to the east and Puebloan groups to the west.

Shell gorget from Washita River site probably traded from Spiro site in eastern Oklahoma

Artist rendition of shell gorget
(Artist: Mary Goodman)

By 1500, many of the Washita River Phase sites had been abandoned for reasons that are still unclear. Some archeologists believe that a large migration of the Washita River people occurred to southcentral Kansas. Undoubtedly, small groups continued in the area.