Some Problems and Prospects in Kansas Prehistory
by Waldo R Wedel
May 1938 (Vol. 7, No. 2), pages 114 to 132
Transcribed by lhn;
digitized with permission of the Kansas Historical Society.
DURING the past five or six years large portions of the eighty-odd thousand square miles included in the present political bounds of Kansas have attracted considerable attention as a result of their widely publicized droughts and recurrent dust storms. The immediate reactions to these whims of nature have been varied and interesting, if sometimes tragic. To the farmer and those directly or indirectly dependent upon his welfare they have spelled dire economic stress and often disaster. The politician, unless he has a direct stake in the area, foresees the distant day when the "dust bowl" will have become a desert of shifting sands, and so he urges abandonment of the very acres which in World War years poured a golden flood into the farmers' granaries. The student of climatology, more conservative and better informed, reminds us that Kansas, or at least its western part, is a borderland between arid and humid zones, and as such will probably always be liable to recurring fluctuations in rainfall. Instead of wholesale abandonment, he suggests development of a sane long-range plan of land utilization to replace the present haphazard methods.
It is not my purpose here to discuss the present habitability of the Great Plains, much less to suggest a cure for the farmer's economic ailments, but rather to call attention to certain possibilities which may lie in local studies of prehistoric man. Few persons today are aware that long before white explorers had reached this region and named it the "Great American Desert," it was already being exploited in different ways by various native tribes and peoples. Though still in its infancy in Kansas, archeological research has enabled us to partially draw aside the veil covering the past, so that we may catch fleeting glimpses of the ways by which these early Kansans adapted themselves to the conditions of their environment. Time alone will show whether or not such inquiries into the past can provide a practical lesson for the future.
Geographically, Kansas lies almost wholly within the Great Plains. About a third of the state, roughly that portion west of the 100th meridian, belongs to the High Plains, and so is characterized by extensive areas of phenomenal flatness, short sparse grass, and little
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water. Inhospitable as much of this seems today, from the viewpoint of aboriginal habitation it must be remembered that the grasslands which were destroyed by the plow within the past fifty or seventy-five years were once preeminently the habitat of the bison. On their eastern front, especially north of the Arkansas river, the High Plains have been extensively dissected by stream erosion, producing a broken north-south belt of high plateaus and prominent eastward-facing escarpments cut through by river valleys. The term Plains Border has been applied to this area, which during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries furnished hunting grounds for such tribes as the Pawnee and Kansa. East of the 97th meridian, roughly, and south of the Kansas river, are the undulating and fertile Osage Plains, formerly a true tall grass prairie region. These Plains give way north of the Kansas river and east of the Republican to a rough glaciated area cut into ridges and valleys by innumerable creeks. The northern half of the state drains eastward through the Kansas-Smoky Hill system into the Missouri at Kansas City, while in the south drainage is via the Arkansas and Neosho southeastward across Oklahoma and Arkansas into the Mississippi.
From east to west Kansas extends slightly over 400 miles. Along its eastern border, where the annual precipitation averages around thirty-five inches, the plant and animal associations show many eastern forms. True forests exist nowhere unless perhaps formerly in the immediate valley of the Missouri, but along nearly every watercourse of any consequence in the eastern half may be found fine stands of oak, walnut, elm, and ash, while cottonwood and willow fringed many of the western streams as well. Prior to modern agricultural development, upland areas throughout the state were universally dominated by grasses. The long, narrow, winding ribbons of hardwood forest, interfingering with the broader interfluvial grasslands, brought many eastern species of mammals and birds well into the Kansas plains. The twenty-inch isohyet, sometimes regarded as the limit for successful modern farming, corresponds roughly to the 100th meridian and the approximate eastern edge of the High Plains, although its location shifts considerably from time to time. Along the Colorado border precipitation averages under fifteen inches per year, and there is a corresponding sparseness of such requisites for aboriginal occupancy as game (bison excepted) and timber.
As almost everywhere throughout the Great Plains, stream valleys in Kansas were of prime importance to aboriginal man. To the
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present-day farmer with his mechanical appliances and large-scale methods the uplands are readily available and even desirable, so long as nature provides sufficient rainfall in proper season. But to the Indian, armed only with a bone hoe and a planting stick, the tough prairie sod was a well nigh insurmountable obstacle, and so he largely confined his gardening to patches of loose, mellow ground in the valley bottoms. Here, too, he could find abundance of potable water, of wood for fuel, building, and tool-making, and all of the other fundamental requisites for carrying on his domestic activities. In the timbered valleys were numerous game animals such as deer, bear, wolf, fox, wildcat, beaver, otter and others, all the more easily procured because cover was limited in extent. In every direction from the valleys were grasslands where bison, antelope, and elk could be taken. All in all, the environmental conditions throughout most of the state were such that a reasonably comfortable livelihood could be won with a moderate outlay of time and effort.
The varied nature of the area, topographically and otherwise, was in fact conducive to several different habits of life. The fertile valleys offered every inducement to horticulturally minded peoples, to whom a sessile mode of living would be most practicable. On the other hand, the broad prairies with their teeming herds of game must have been a perpetual temptation to groups less closely bound to the soil. Within the past century or two such highly mobile and warlike tribes as the Comanche, who lived in skin "tipis" and spent many of their waking hours in the saddle, illustrate the extreme degree to which tribes could be divorced from the routine of a strictly horticultural existence. There is evidence that in earlier times, even before the white man introduced the horse, considerable portions of the native population may already have been dependent on the products of the chase rather than on the cultivation of maize and beans. For those tribes which chose to combine in about equal proportions hunting and horticulture a still different orientation of society and interests might and often did result. The Pawnee in historic times admirably illustrate this hybrid habit, a compromise so to speak between two widely divergent basic economies. For Kansas our knowledge of the early horticulturists is at present more extensive than for the hunters, hence we shall be more directly concerned with their remains hereafter.
So far as topography is concerned, no part of Kansas can be said to have offered serious hindrances to the free movement of aboriginal man. Certain portions of the High Plains in the western-most
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part appear not to have been very generally traveled, but this was due mainly to lack of water. Largely for this reason perhaps Puebloan influences in Kansas appear to have been very slight, at least prior to about the time of the Pueblo revolt in 1680. Elsewhere, movements from one river or creek valley to another entailed no hardships, and intercourse between contemporaneous peoples with a resulting exchange of cultural traits and ideas, was doubtless frequent and extensive. At the same time we may point out that the principal rivers flow toward the east and southeast in broad, flat. floored valleys of comparatively easy gradient, and through their numerous lesser tributaries they reach virtually every section of Kansas. They provide easy avenues for travel by foot and to some extent by water, and hence suggest logical routes for populational or cultural movements into the Plains. To prehistoric man, unacquainted with the horse, they must have had a strong appeal for just, this reason. Since, moreover, the two principal river systems flow out of Kansas in divergent directions any possible upstream influences would in all probability derive from markedly dissimilar centers of culture development. To primitive peoples ascending the Missouri from its junction with the Mississippi at St. Louis, the valley of the Kansas offers a pleasant alternative route westward where the larger Missouri valley swings sharply toward the north. Once in the Kansas valley there would be nothing, barring preoccupation by a more powerful group, to hinder a general westward movement so long as the environment remained congenial or hostile pressure from the rear of sufficient intensity. Again, as is well clay pipes, and perhaps in certain bone artifacts. The relative unknown to archeologists, the lower Arkansas-Red river area is exceedingly rich in prehistoric remains and appears to have been the seat of one or more well advanced native civilizations. A high point of aboriginal achievement in this region, if not indeed its peak, is exhibited in such spectacular manifestations as the well-known Spiro mound group on the Arkansas river in eastern Oklahoma. It seems reasonable to expect that any ethnic movements or cultural waves emanating from that general area might have had recognizable repercussions in the upper Arkansas-Neosho-Verdigris basin in southern Kansas. As a matter of fact, the work of certain local enthusiasts in east central Kansas, notably near Salina, has already revealed traces of such southern influences in pottery, effigy importance of these impulses remains undetermined, but it is no longer in the realm of conjecture to suggest that along broad lines stream
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valleys probably played an important role in determining the course of prehistory in Kansas.
Perhaps no state in the midwest is so little known ethnologically and archeologically as Kansas. From historical documents we know that the Kansa tribe claimed northeastern Kansas, while their linguistic kindred, the Osage, ranged over the region now known as the Osage Plains. On the Arkansas river in central Kansas stood the grass houses of the Caddoan-speaking Wichita, and far to the north, where the Republican enters the state, there was at least one village of earth lodges belonging to their relatives, the Pawnee. Additional sites belonging to this typically Nebraska tribe may well be present, but if so, their location and characteristics remain unrecorded. The High Plains in western Kansas were a sort of "no man's land," where wandering Cheyenne and Arapaho disputed with Comanche, Kiowa, and Sioux the right to hunt bison. Most of these tribes had already passed from the Kansas scene when trained ethnologists began their studies. Such peoples as the Delaware, Wyandot, Kickapoo, Pottawatomie, and Shawnee were late comers from the east after about 1830, and owed their sojourn in the state entirely to the white man's heavy hand.
As for archeology, if we omit casual references to a few sites by early-day geologists, interested but untrained laymen, and others, the noteworthy descriptive papers dealing with the area can be counted on the fingers of one's two hands. As early as 1830 the Rev. Isaac McCoy briefly described mound explorations near Fort Leaven- worth. A half century later, from 1881-1890, Udden investigated a large protohistoric village site near Lindsborg. At about the same time Brower was endeavoring to re-locate Coronado's provinces of Quivira and Harahey in the lower Kansas valley, and shortly thereafter Williston and Martin excavated a historic but undated Pueblo ruin in Scott county. Since the turn of the century limited investigations have been made by Sterns, Fowke, and Zimmerman in northeastern Kansas, by Moorehead in the Arkansas valley, and by the Nebraska Historical Society along the Solomon and Smoky Hill rivers. In more recent years a few enthusiastic collectors have called to the attention of professional archeologists certain noteworthy discoveries made here and there. Meager as the published reports are they nevertheless indicate a rather surprising number of different cultures in the state. Yet in spite of the obvious abundance of sites and the apparent variety of types, no general systematic attack has been made on the broader problems of the region nor
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has there been any attempt to place the state in its proper position with respect to Plains prehistory on the one hand, and to the Mississippi valley cultures on the other. Obviously, in a region as extensive and as little known archeologically as Kansas, a vast amount of work remains to be done before we can hope to piece together the human story in detail. There are 105 counties in the state and it is doubtful whether a single one of these lacks altogether aboriginal remains of some sort. Many, in fact, are known to contain several distinct kinds of antiquities. It is true, of course, that the human history of adjoining counties may often prove to have been very similar. Even so, when the local diversity of environment and the area involved are borne in mind it will be readily seen that the problems are legion. In the long run an accurate reconstruction of Kansas prehistory will depend on the relative completeness of our information on the several regions and on the successful integration of these smaller units into a larger whole. Meanwhile, if we are willing to content. ourselves with painting a picture in broader strokes, a tentative bird's-eye view of the area may be gotten through carefully planned survey work.
During the past summer (1937) the United States National Museum undertook a survey of northeastern Kansas as the initial step in a projected state-wide study. Sampling excavations, in each case involving from two to five weeks' work, were carried out in strategic localities and at unusually promising village sites. Concurrently, the surrounding districts were reconnoitered and records made of all possible additional archeological remains. From these eventually can be selected sites for future more thoroughgoing investigations should time and funds permit. Local collections, while sometimes of doubtful scientific value because they lack accurate records, were also studied for possible leads. Because of the time consumed in excavation the area covered was necessarily less extensive than it would have been had efforts been limited to a purely surface reconnaissance. At the same time, since a substantial majority of the data recovered were the result of subsurface work, any interpretations derived therefrom would tend to be less open to the numerous doubts and uncertainties which too often surround surface finds. Actual excavation thus provided the backbone for the survey; surface reconnaissance furnished supplemental materials for consideration in distributional and preliminary comparative studies. Because of their obviously greater bearing on human problems, river drain-
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ages were selected as a basis for the work rather than such arbitrary and modern political units as the county.
Selection of northeastern Kansas for the initial step in a projected state-wide archeological survey was due to several factors. In the first place, the Missouri river, which forms the northeastern boundary, gives every evidence of having been, since time immemorial, an important artery of travel for trade and migration as well as the habitat of several successive peoples. Logically it might be expected that any significant incursions into Kansas from the east would leave some traces of their passage along this great waterway and on its westerly branch, the Kansas river, so that careful excavations might reveal the temporal order in which these several groups came. Secondly, there appeared to be a good chance for determining the distinguishing characteristics of early Kansa culture, inasmuch as this tribe, apparently since earliest recorded date, has been at home in the locality. It was believed that the identification and definition of this Kansa material might lead to the verification of a number of problematically documented sites, besides opening an avenue of approach into the prehistoric past through these documented historic sites. Lastly, Sterns had long ago indicated possible major trends in this region and northward so that our follow-up excavations would dovetail with his work, as well as with that currently under way in southeastern Nebraska.
Detailed studies have not yet been made of the specimens and data collected during the past season, hence their possible significance may not be fully realized at this time. However, a brief description of the sites worked may convey to the reader an understanding of the manifold possibilities in prehistory awaiting development in this portion of Kansas. Scattered along both banks of the Missouri above and below the mouth of the Kansas river for an unknown distance are a number of small but prolific sites which at once impress the trained observer as markedly dissimilar to anything heretofore regarded as characteristic of the Plains. Two of the largest and most promising of these are located on opposite sides of the Missouri just above Kansas City, one in Wyandotte county, Kansas, the other in Platte county, Missouri. Of the two, the latter was the more readily accessible; and because it was also threatened with early destruction as a result of highway construction and building activities it was selected for partial excavation. It lay on a small terrace of about six acres extent on the right bank of Line creek, where the stream
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issues from the bluffs to make its way southward across the Missouri bottoms.
Here were found abundant evidences of a village inhabited and abandoned long before the coming of white men. Broken pottery, burned limestone boulders, worked and unworked flints, and animal bones were mixed with dark soil to a depth varying from thirteen to thirty inches, being especially abundant in and near old cache or refuse pits. There were no traces of firepits, postholes, or other house features, from which it may be assumed that the habitations were entirely of perishable materials such as poles and thatch or mats. From the pits came charred maize and beans, indicating agriculture; pawpaw seeds and several species of wild nuts; and the bones of many animals which must have been used for food. Among the latter, remains of the deer were particularly numerous, bison much less so. Pottery included a great many fragments of several distinct kinds, but no whole vessels. Some of the jars were evidently large and thick-walled, with a more or less pointed bottom and a straight or slightly incurving rim. These were made of clay mixed with coarse gravel and the outer surfaces were covered with impressions from a cord-wrapped paddle. Just below the rim frequently may be found a row of bosses punched outward from the interior of the vessel. Cord-roughened potsherds of this description have been found at several deeply buried sites in Nebraska, where they seem to be the earliest (that is, the oldest) pottery type so far recognized. There is also a resemblance to pottery called "Woodland" by archeologists farther east. Similarly shaped, but differently decorated, are jars which lack the cord-roughening, but bear the impressions of a small curved tool which was evidently rocked back and forth across the surface. Here the neck below the rim was apparently left plain. Still different and greatly superior in quality and decorative technique are numerous sherds from smaller and thinner walled vessels. Rims of characteristic form were ornamented with incised crisscross lines, below which was placed a row of small punch marks. The neck was plain and smoothed while the body was covered with rocker impressions or, less commonly, roulette marks. Sometimes, the body decoration was separated into smoothed and roughened areas by incised, wide, shallow grooves. A few incomplete pieces indicate that square vessels with round corners were made. These characteristics are reminiscent of the so-called Hopewellian type of pottery, commonly associated in the Ohio and Mississippi valleys with the most elaborately developed mound cult-
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tures. So far as present evidence goes all of these pottery types were made and used by one and the same people in the Kansas City area.
Besides pottery these people also made and used such stone objects as heavy stemmed arrow or spear points, a variety of flint knives and scrapers, chipped and polished Celts or skinning tools, three-quarter grooved axes, large, finely chipped blades, and curious cone-shaped or mammiform objects of limestone and gypsum whose use is unknown; bone beaming or skin dressing tools used like a drawshave, awls, perforated bone ornaments in imitation of bear teeth, dressed deer toe bones pierced lengthwise for cup and pin game, eyed needles, weaving tools, and problematical forms; dressed antler arrowpoints, cylinders, and flakers; and a few bits of hematite and native copper. That very typical Plains implement, the hoe made from a bison shoulder blade, was conspicuously absent. Judging from the limited work of local collectors and others on the hills just above the village, burial of the dead appears to have been in or under mounds, rarely with some pottery, copper, or other mortuary accompaniments. It is possible that some of their burial mounds contained stone chambers. All in all, the picture presented is markedly unlike that so far developed for any of the various complexes in the western Plains, and relationships are clearly stronger with the east (or south?) than with the west. The remains found here show very little resemblance to any known protohistoric or historic materials in the region. Besides the Kansas City area, sherds of apparent Hopewellian type have been found as far west as Manhattan on the Kansas river, far beyond their hitherto known occurrence.
We may turn now to remains of very different character. In July, 1804, Lewis and Clark camped near the mouth of Independence creek, some 60 miles above the present Kansas City, where they briefly described the ruins of an old Kansa Indian village visited by M. De Bourgmont in 1724. This, if correctly identified, is the earliest village of that- tribe which has been certainly located. Kansa material culture is nowhere adequately described and since its relation to earlier archeological remains in the area is wholly problematic, we next undertook an examination of the site recorded by Lewis and Clark. Unfortunately for the archeologist, the most xxxxx cupied since 1854 by the town of Doniphan. From a pre-Civil War high of almost 2,000 persons the population has shrunk to a
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present figure of some 500 or slightly more, but the nearly obliterated ruins of old store buildings, hotels, wineries, and residences are still to be found on the fine creek terraces in and about Doniphan. On the hills east of the town two prehistoric circular pit- houses were opened; from them came only such strictly aboriginal remains as pottery, bent tubular clay pipes, polished Celts, etc. The material is assignable to the so-called Nebraska culture, which flourished before the coming of the whites along the Missouri from Kansas City to Omaha, Neb., and beyond. On the slopes immediately above Doniphan fourteen cache pits were opened, and from them were taken charred corn and beans, innumerable animal bones, copper, iron, glass beads, small lead crosses, catlinite, and a limited quantity of native bonework and potsherds. This material, showing clear evidence of contact with white traders, is later than the two house sites found nearby, and may be Kansa. To the same general early historic period probably belong a dozen slab- covered graves found on nearby hilltops, some of which contained metal objects and glass beads. Regrettably enough, in years gone by, much looting of these remains has taken place, so that the out- look for a really comprehensive study of an early historic Kansa site here is not especially reassuring.
Twenty miles north of Doniphan, on the bluffs overlooking Wolf creek valley about two miles southwest of the Missouri river, is a ten-acre site which has for several decades been a mecca for local relic hunters. Despite the discouraging comments of many local residents, who assured us that all worthwhile relics had long ago been carried off, we were able to open forty-six cache pits and one circular pithouse. Pottery of rather distinctive type was found in profusion. Almost without exception the clay of which it was made had been mixed with crushed shell. Vessels seem to have been fairly large with rounded bottoms, and decoration consisted of geometric incised line and dot patterns. Many, perhaps most, of the sherds appear to bear no decoration whatever. There are a few grit-tempered sherds indicating intercourse with the early historic Pawnee on the Loup river in Nebraska. Other artifacts include numerous small, triangular, unnotched arrowpoints, planoconvex (thumb-nail) end scrapers, drills, various kinds of knives, catlinite fragments, grooved mauls, ground Celts, and irregular quartzite mealing stones with flattened or depressed upper surfaces; bone awls, needles, and hoes; antler projectile points; and limited quantities of copper, iron, and glass beads. The material is closely related to
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the widespread so-called Oneota culture of the upper Mississippi valley, a protohistoric horizon believed by many to be early Siouan. A site yielding almost identical remains, but with pottery of superior quality, has already been partially excavated by the Nebraska Historical Society near Rule, Neb., some twenty miles north of Wolf creek, but there white trade material has not been dug up. Wolf creek thus appears to be a later phase of the Oneota, and no doubt its inhabitants were in direct contact with European traders. From Wolf creek our party moved to Manhattan on the Kansas river at the mouth of the Blue. This area has long been known to abound with aboriginal remains of several different types. About three miles below the town is the site of a Kansa village of 1819, visited by Maj. S. H. Long. Unfortunately, much of the village has gone down the Kansas river, but in the portion remaining one circular pithouse was excavated with an entrance passage to the east and four center posts. Others can still be found nearby. This house, as well as several cache pits and middens, contained quantities of iron, steel traps, copper, glass and old china, with small amounts of native work in stone and bone. Pottery was wholly absent, perhaps because by this late date it had been largely or entirely superseded by the kettles and pots of the white traders. From the surface of a nearby cemetery came bits of cloth, fragments of old army uniforms, and copper and brass buttons, but no excavation was practicable at the time.
A much older prewhite village on Wildcat creek, two miles west of Manhattan yielded a large rectangular house site with four center posts, a south entranceway, and several small internal caches. From this house and neighboring excavations came quantities of cord-roughened grit-tempered pottery, small notched arrowpoints, thumbnail scrapers, a cupstone, a mealing slab, and a few minor odds and ends. Some sort of relationship appears to be indicated between these remains and materials found on the upper Blue river in northern Kansas and southern Nebraska, but no detailed correlation is yet possible. Neither can we say what tribe left these materials. Cairns and small burial mounds in this area occasionally contain incised bone beads, shell disk beads, and other relics; the associated human remains are nearly always extremely fragmentary. Possibly these prehistoric burial sites will ultimately prove to be- long to the builders of the nearby rectangular earth lodges. The Manhattan locality in general, centering about the confluence of two rivers and a number of small, but exceedingly attractive creeks,
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is one of great promise for contributing a few chapters which will aid the archeologist in reconstructing the prehistory of Kansas.
While it is manifestly impossible as yet to fully evaluate the results of archeological work to date in Kansas, a few general conclusions may be ventured. In the first place, it is becoming increasingly evident that many of the creek and river valleys through-out the state were once the habitat of industrious farming peoples who lived in relatively permanent peaceable communities long be- fore as well as after the coming of the white man. As might be expected on environmental grounds, the eastern sections seem to have been particularly favored, but unmistakable traces of the early horticulturists have also been found more than 300 miles west of Kansas City in the dry High Plains region. Furthermore, it is ap- parent that the sites cover a fairly long period of time and were the products of several distinct cultural groups. For most of the state we are still in the dark as to the order in which these groups came, but the field work which has already been done in northeastern Kansas has resulted in the delineation there of at least two very different complexes and the tentative identification of two or three others.
It is even possible to arrange these in a preliminary local sequence, though it is by no means certain that this will hold for the state as a whole. The Hopewellian sites at and near Kansas City, the circular Nebraska culture houses at Doniphan, and the rectangular earth lodges excavated near Manhattan all present more or less distinct associations of traits, yet all are precontact as shown by the complete absence of European trade goods. On the strength of our general knowledge of the Plains area it is very probable that each of these sites is representative of a more or less widespread type of native culture. Their exact relationship to each other is not yet clear on the basis of work so far done in Kansas because there they have not been found in stratified sequence. That is to say, there are at present- no known sites where two or more of these cultural types occur together or one above the other so that we may say positively which is the earlier. However, in southeastern Nebraska, relationships for what are very probably the same or closely related types have been worked out.
Assuming a parallel succession in northeastern Kansas, we may suggest tentatively that the first named complex (the Hopewellian) probably preceded the other two in point of time. On the other hand, the Oneota site on Wolf creek is more recent, since there is
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direct archeological evidence that it dates from a time after the establishment of trade relations with the whites. From a still later period are the cache pits and stone-covered graves (but not the circular house sites) at Doniphan, where European material is yet more abundant. Finally, at Manhattan both archeology and history indicate the relatively very late occupation of the Kansa village. The validity of this proposed sequence hinges in part on more ex- tended work in certain of the cultures, and investigations on a much wider front are necessary before it can be brought into proper relation to the rest of the state.
In the foregoing paragraphs we have used such terms as Oneota, Hopewellian, etc., which are nothing more than labels for the convenience of the professional archeologist. Each name designates a particular group of associated cultural traits or man-made objects which differs in greater or less degree from all other groups of traits. If the nonspecialist finds their use confusing, we may restate our conclusions in another way. All of the successive sedentary pottery- making groups of prehistoric Indians so far recognized in north-eastern Kansas based their modes of life very largely on the cultivation of maize and beans. They may be distinguished from one another through their use of different types of habitations, baked clay vessels, artifacts of stone, bone, horn, and shell, and burial methods.
The earliest of these peoples apparently came in from the east or northeast, spreading westward up the Kansas river and its branches. Their villages of perishable thatch or bark huts were placed on small flood-free terraces in or at the mouth of creek valleys tributary to the main river valleys, less commonly on the higher second bottoms of the latter. Their material remains, so far as archeology is concerned, strongly reflect their former participation in native civilizations once widely distributed through the Ohio and upper (and lower?) Mississippi valleys. Just how long ago they came and how far west and south they spread we do not know. Ultimately, however, they were superseded by another group or groups, possibly with more southeasterly affinities.
These peoples lived in round or square earth-covered pithouses strung in desirable locations along the banks of the smaller creeks. In the immediate valley of the Missouri they chose the lofty narrow ridge tops. Their pottery vessels were very distinct in shape and otherwise from those of the earlier peoples, although certain characteristics such as the use of a cord-wrapped paddle in decorating vessel exteriors may have been carried over. Other artifact types
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were likewise markedly different as were their burial customs. The loose rambling character of the settlements is evidence of a peaceful occupation, and there are indications of a development of several regional variations.
The mode of life of certain of these groups was somewhat like that of the historic Pawnee, except that they lacked the horse and other traits introduced by Europeans. It cannot be said on present evidence that the Pawnee are their lineal descendants, but the re- semblances are thought by some to indicate a possible relationship. Further work may partially close the apparent time gap existing now between the first and these second peoples, but at present the dissimilarities appear so marked that the arrival of new and different ethnic groups is suggested. In very late prehistoric or early historic times came still another group introducing shell-tempered incised pottery vessels and other distinctive implement types. They made some use of the earthlodge which they may have borrowed from other earlier Plains dwellers. They almost certainly arrived in Kansas from the north or northeast, possibly as the ancestors of such Siouan tribes as the Oto, Missouri, Kansa or Osage. Just what transpired in the area subsequently we cannot yet say in detail, but one thing at least is indisputable, viz., the melting away of native culture before European civilization. With the introduction of the horse, firearms, steel traps, metal pots and pans, glass trinkets, and alcoholic stimulants, the old aboriginal way of life was doomed, so that after about 1700, the archeologist finds himself dealing less and less with the products of spontaneously inspired native arts and crafts, more and more with the relics of a warped and decadent culture profoundly influenced by the ways of the white man.
Several vexing problems are immediately suggested by the phenomena outlined above. The archeologist is, or properly should be, interested in cause as well as occurrence, therefore he would like to know what historical or environmental factors were responsible for the apparent successive waves of peoples into the Plains. Since the area is climatically a borderland subject to recurrent droughts and these groups all depended in large part on the successful cultivation of maize and beans, it would be tempting to attribute their alternate advance and retreat to corresponding pulsations of climate. Thus, a period of favorable years might have encouraged a west- ward spread of peoples from the Mississippi-Missouri valley into regions beyond the maize optimum where a succession of subnormal
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years might later compel a retraction of territory. Against this is the consideration that the Indian gardened intensively in the creek bottoms, possibly with specially developed drought-resistant plant varieties, where he would be much less affected by fluctuations in rainfall than is the upland farmer today.
In the present state of our knowledge a question could even be raised as to whether these waves actually are due to distinct cultural or ethnic incursions or merely represent different stages in a very incompletely known single line of cultural evolution. This is prob- ably mostly an academic argument since the accumulating evidence does not indicate that any of the different prehistoric peoples were a direct outgrowth from their predecessors in the area. It is not even certain yet to what extent ideas and customs were passed on from one to another of the successive groups, though further field- work will doubtless help to clear up this point. Perhaps the main cultural continuum or developmental stream is to be looked for to the east of our area where environmental conditions were more consistently favorable for native horticultural civilizations.
Other unanswered questions concern possible connections of these early Kansans with the highly developed Puebloan peoples of New Mexico and Colorado and with the various moundbuilding groups of the Mississippi valley, as well as the role of nonhorticultural hunting peoples in prehistoric days. That a very ancient hunting culture may have existed is hinted by the occasional discovery of projectile points reminiscent of the so-called Folsom type, which characterize the oldest known camp sites in the New World. These, however, preceded the introduction of maize cultivation by many hundreds or even thousands of years. What events were taking place in the Great Plains during this long interval? Were there tribes in the bison plains who lived only by the chase at the same time that the corn-growing peoples inhabited their villages in the creek valleys? If so, were their contacts with the village dwellers friendly or hostile, and how did their mode of life compare with that of such later hunter folk as the Comanche and Sioux? These are but samples of the host of questions and problems confronting the student of pre history in Kansas and the Great Plains. Whatever the answers, the point to be emphasized here is that problems do exist; moreover that very often the solution awaits only the serious attention of investigators trained not alone in archeology but also in related sciences, such as geography, geology, and biology.
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If archeology in Kansas is in its infancy then one of its most important potential allies here, physical anthropology, can best be described as yet unborn. Probably much of northeastern Kansas will remain for all time a "terra incognita" to the student of human physical types, since neither climatic conditions nor native burial methods were conducive to the preservation of human bones. In the majority of known burial sites scattered along the lower Kansas river and on the adjacent Missouri, the practice seems to have involved deposition of the corpse on a scaffold with the exposed and weather-softened bones later gathered up and placed in a mound. Today only tiny fragments of bone have survived, these often being partially destroyed by fire, and the original conformations and measurements can never be recovered. Elsewhere, and particularly in some of the later sites, the case is not so hopeless. At least one large prehistoric burial ground has been found in the Kansas valley where the skeletons, individually interred, are in condition suitable for study. As yet these have not been subject to expert examination, but there appear to be two fairly distinct types. This is the more intriguing because among the associated cultural remains, mostly typical of the immediate region, there are several items which almost certainly represent trade pieces from the lower Arkansas- Red river area far to the south. The possible importance of studies on the physical types of Kansas lies in the fact that the several waves of incoming peoples, while all Indians, may have been of different physical appearance in addition to possessing dissimilar cultural inventories. Herein may lie additional clues as to their original habitats, as well as their position in the general picture of prehistoric America.
The immediate objective of archeological investigations in Kansas should, then, be a determination of the distinguishing characteristics of the various early peoples whose remains are to be found throughout the state. Ultimately will come their arrangement in proper sequence relative to one another, and the fitting of this sequence into the larger Plains scheme. The steps already taken in this direction in northeastern Kansas augur well for the future. It is known that in other sections different remains occur so that other sequences will have to be set up and these in turn brought into conformity with one another. It is also likely that a thorough study of early historical documents will permit identification of additional sites known to have been inhabited by named tribes since the coming of Europeans. Use of this avenue of approach has already
WEDEL: PROBLEMS IN KANSAS PREHISTORY 131
amply justified itself in the Pueblo, Iroquois, and Pawnee areas, and there is no reason to doubt its applicability in Kansas. Prospects seem good for picking up traces of even that most elusive of all creatures, geologically ancient man, in western Kansas. Until con- crete facts along these and other lines which may suggest themselves as fieldwork progresses have been collected and arrayed systematic- ally, the proper interpretation of the prehistory of Kansas will be severely handicapped.
Here it may be well to insert a few words of caution. The collecting of Indian arrowheads and other relics as a hobby is attracting a steadily widening circle of devotees. Insofar as this reflects an increasing interest in the serious study of human prehistory it is an encouraging sign, since few other sciences present a greater opportunity for profitable cooperation between the specialist and the intelligent hobbyist. Unfortunately, where such collecting involves digging, it becomes a grave problem if the excavator lacks the requisite technical knowledge. For the enthusiastic but untrained amateur who looks beyond the artifact for the story it may tell there is hope, since with intelligent guidance he may be able eventually to make a very material contribution to scientific research. Too many persons, however, collect only in the hope of securing specimens finer than those found by their neighbors and competitors, or of such nature as to be offered for sale on the market. It should be remembered that the number of archeological sites is very definitely limited, and their excavation by such individuals leads quickly to the ultimate destruction of the very materials with which the prehistorian must work. Simple as the methods and techniques of archeology may appear to be they are nevertheless fundamental, and unless they are conscientiously observed irreparable loss of data will ensue. A specimen torn from its context without a record is like a single word or phrase taken from the written page; neither has meaning unless we know exactly where it belongs or with what it was originally associated. Similarly, a site dug out with no records is like a page taken out of a history book and destroyed; it can never be replaced. For this reason it cannot be too strongly urged upon the amateur that archeological excavations should be undertaken only under the guidance or with the advice of a trained and experienced archeologist.
How far we may eventually go in the matter of explaining observable phenomena and drawing general truths therefrom remains for the future to disclose. It is obvious that the geographical posi-
132 KANSAS HISTORICAL QUARTERLY
tion of Kansas has exposed it to cultural influences and ethnic movements from a number of directions and from several highly developed centers of cultural differentiation. This, combined with a certain climatic instability, offers a rare opportunity for those interested in culture growth and change or in the subject of human ecology in the Great Plains. From a practical point of view, it will be interesting to see whether the archeologist in his search for explanations may not find concrete evidence that prehistoric man in the Great Plains was in some measure influenced by such vagaries of climate as are today being experienced by the white man.
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