Kathy Cande, Jerry Hilliard, and Mary Beth Trubitt
The Arkansas Archeological Survey has collaborated with archeologists at the Ozark-St. Francis National Forests and the Ouachita National Forest on a number of successful research projects. These efforts continue in June, 2017 with the Mulberry River project.
1994 Arkansas Archeological Survey/Arkansas Archeological Society Training Program in the Buffalo Ranger District, Ozark-St. Francis National Forests
After the Survey successfully teamed up with Ouachita National Forest archeologists in 1993 for the Training Program at Shady Lake Recreation Area in southwest Arkansas, we received a request from the Ozark-St. Francis National Forests. In June 1994, excavations were conducted at four bluff shelters (3NW623–3NW626) and a historic homestead site (3NW919) near Nail, within the Buffalo Ranger District in Newton County.
With over 200 people in attendance, the 31st Annual “Society Dig” was the largest ever. Staff from the Arkansas Archeological Survey and the Ozark National Forest contributed 1,390 hours supervising excavations and teaching seminars. Fifteen Newton County residents from Deer, Nail, Jasper, and Vendor also participated.
Some looting had occurred at the bluff shelters in the past, and Forest Service archeologists wanted to better understand the extent of the looting and whether or not intact archeological deposits remained. They also were interested in developing strategies for understanding the structure of early twentieth-century homesteads where subsistence-level farming took place.
Artifacts dating from the Archaic through Mississippian periods were found at all four bluff shelters. A variety of activities were carried out at the shelters, including food preparation, stone tool manufacture and maintenance, nut processing, and use of hematite as pigment. Analysis of flotation samples from the Open Shelter included seeds from wild goosefoot and maygrass. Domesticated versions of these plants are part of the Eastern North American Crop Complex.
Two of the shelters revealed evidence of use during the early twentieth century as a still location and an animal pen/watering area, respectively. Remains of the house foundation and mostly kitchen-related artifacts were excavated from Beckham Homestead. The number and types of artifacts found (and archival research) indicate that the Beckham family were subsistence farmers who eventually lost their land due to non-payment of taxes.