The Spiro Mounds
by Lin Stone
|The eleven Spiro Mounds are Oklahoma's only
state archeological park. The mounds now sitting at the Spiro state
park are mere 20th Century recreations of the 700 year-old Mississippian
mounds. Not much remains of this community of 10,000
that was occupied from CE 850 to CE 1450. Their influence was felt
from the Gulf of Mexico to the Great Lakes Region. The inhabitants
were artists in pottery, stoneware, and the use of copper plates. They
raised corn, but had many other staples to supplement their diets, and
consequently kept more of their teeth than did the neighboring community.
The site is located on the Arkansas River near the WD Mayo Lock and Dam. If you are coming through Oklahoma on I-40 get off at the Sallisaw exit. Drive 16 miles south on Highway 59 to Highway 9 and then 8 miles east. The sign will be on your left. It is small, inadequate, and hard to spot so keep an eye on your speedometer.
Signs at the actual complex are hard to see too The complex is composed of two large buildings with a smaller building connecting both these. There are several tall trees outside, parking enough for about thirty vehicles. There are three shaded picnic tables outside. Inside the opportunity to sit down is supplied with shaky chairs made of cheap plastic.
This is the ONLY well lit exhibit
you will be able to photograph at the center.
Be sure to click the pic for a larger version.
|Exhibits in the main room you enter first are
largely missing, or made by Euromericans. On the wall to your right as
you enter is the mural shown above. If someone told you that Batman's
Joker had posed for the Native American figure on the right you would
automatically believe it. The one on the left bears the unmistakable
imprint of The Devil, right down to horns and cloven tongue. We are
told not to believe such heresies.
Since this is Oklahoma's only state archeological park there is an archeologist here and he does manage the station. The man is a gifted speaker and he does provide a thirty minute talk on the importance of this site in pre-columbian times. "If this were the United States back then the spot where you are now standing would be Washington D.C. the very hub of cultural and spiritual activity."
He then hastens to explain why there are so few artifacts available, and tells where they are known to have evaporated off to, such as Russia, China, Germany, England, and many places in the United States, not to mention private collections.
Following this you are treated to what demographic facts are known about this community. After that comes an interesting diatribe about the manner in which Euromericans disposed of the Native Americans standing in the way of the Euromerican's Manifest Destiny. I had known about the practice of giving Native American's disease padded blankets but was shocked to learn this was a Government publicly endowed policy and officials felt justified in purchasing blankets and such from smallpox victims in Europe to be spread among the "savages" in our land. The practice did not officially stop until 1870.
The manager then volunteered to take anyone up to the long trip on a interpretive tour of the mounds at no charge. Or, you could wander at will through the maze of paved footpaths among the mounds.
|The pottery exhibits in the other room are
quite detailed and smoothly beautiful to the naked eye, but being behind
glass, they are hard to photograph. On the outside I noticed that the
clay here is a very fine white powder. The points collection, although
meager, was at least informative. There are "interpretive
pictures" on the wall but these seem to be deliberately vague or rendered by
Outside the grounds are almost immaculate, although chemical protection from insects is advised most of the year. The paved trails are smooth and comfortable. The signs posted are informative, but the fact remains that what we have here is a gutted ruin and the entire project is very much underfunded.
That is a shame. With proper support this could become a major tourist attraction. The current manager obviously has the expertise required to recreate buildings, natives in native garb, crop harvesting implements and usage, and probable spiritual ceremonies.
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Bio: Lin Stone is an author, writer and photographer living in Noble, Oklahoma.
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