Frog Bayou Shelter

Not all archeological sites are dug by academic archeologists. Some are excavated by private professional firms that specialize in digging sites when federally funded projects impact cultural resources. The idea is not to stop the building of the road or other project but to document the historic or prehistoric resources before they are destroyed. These private companies are contracted to dig, document and report on what they find.

Frog Bayou Shelter was dug by the firm Burns & McDonnell as part of the building of Lake Ft. Smith. The site is now under water but before the area was flooded this site, along with several others, was excavated and documented. This preserves the data that would otherwise be destroyed forever.


The Frog Bayou Shelter seems to have had two periods of occupation—the Late Archaic and the Late Woodland/Early Mississippian periods.

Archeologists know this because two types of dating techniques were used on the site. First the presence of pottery and arrow points in one component of the site indicate a Late Woodland or Mississippian component. Arrow points, as the name implies, are used on arrows shot form bows, a technology only in use after the Late Woodland, around 800 AD or so. Also, pottery is only found starting in the Woodland Period in the Ozarks, and shell-tempered pottery, present on this site, is usually only found in the Late Woodland or Mississippian.

The earlier component is represented by the larger dart or spear points found in the Archaic and Early Woodland periods. In addition, radiocarbon dates were taken from three hearths and one pit on the site. The samples were found to date from the Late Archaic period.


Like The Narrows this site shows evidence of processing nuts for food. Archeologists found hickory nuts, walnuts, and acorns. The nuts, along with persimmon seeds, suggest that the shelter was being used in the fall for harvesting and processing these foods. Nutting stones and manos and metates were also found in the shelter. These would have been used to crush and grind the nuts into useful food products such as meal, mush, and paste.

Plants found on the site suggest a fall occupation. However, animal remains tell a different story. Based on the variety and condition of the deer bones discovered in the excavations, the project zooarcheologist determined that the deer carcasses were brought back from the kill sites to be butchered in the shelter. The age of deer can tell us when in the year they were hunted. The large percentage of relatively young deer found at Frog Bayou tells archeologists that the majority of hunting was done between April and August.

This contrasts with the plant evidence mentioned above, so what does that imply? Possibly the shelter was being used year round and the summer plant remains have not survived. This could be due to the fact that the shelter is not as dry as some and therefore contains fewer fragile perishables such as plant remains other than nuts. Alternatively, the seasonal use of the site might have changed over time. This is a question still to be answered.