New York archeologists study "Indian Villages" in Greene County

By Don Fletcher

(Donated by Sharon Davis, she found it in her mothers scrapbook)
Transcribed by Sandy Hardin

Thousands of years ago and long before the white man in Europe had begun to build an organized society, Greene County had a sizeable number of citizens enjoying the fruits of community living.

These mysterious citizens who lived in the deep and almost impregnable fog of the past, allegedly had a high degree of culture and earned their existence by farming and hunting.

In the wilderness that was from Greene County from 4,000 to 8,000 years ago the earth was made to give up such crops as corn, beans and melons through careful cultivation.

The vegetable crops, supplemented by the meat of the wild game and pure drinking water, provided the country's original citizens with food aplenty.

And, when the white man entered the virgin valleys of the great Mississippi Delta several hundred years ago, they saw descendants of these citizens living in communities that boasted a much higher standard of living than the white man was able to match for many years.

Who Were They?

Who were these citizens? Where did they come from? And, where did they go? Archeologists who have studied the remains of Indian Villages in Greene County say these red men probably migrated to the Mississippi Delta via Mexico, or they could have drifted south from Canada or Alaska.

Anyway, despite the fact that their origin is lost in the history of long ago, a few of these settlers made their way to Greene County and lived here for many hundreds of years.

These people are called Archaic Indians and preceeded the Mound Builder Indians by some 4,000 to 6,000 years. The only traces of their culture to be found in modern times are arrowheads and bits of stone.

Representatives of the American Museum of Natural History in New York have visited various sites in the country over a period of years and have just completed a mapping survey of

Indian settlement sites they will revisit this year to collect arrowheads and chips off stone implements.

The stone samples they expect to find here will be carefully catalogued and classified by scientists at the museum. At least one full set of samples will be returned to the University of Arkansas when study is complete.

Purpose Of Search

Purpose of the time-consuming and expensive stone collecting expeditions under the direction of Dr. James A. Ford , Museum Curator who has been searching the Mississippi Valley for Indian artifacts for over 30 years, is to determine where the early Indians came from and how they moved across the continent. After all the information obtainable has been amassed, a complete story Archaic Indian's culture will be presented to the public in book form.

Although Greene County farmlands have not produced an abundance of stone material for scientist to study, enough of the stones used for arrows and other stones used to fashion weapons and hand tools remain for scientists to draw an accurate picture of their culture.  

Two fledgling archaeologists do mapping work in Arkansas for the museum were in Greene County this week selecting the best sites for future exploratory work. They estimated they were at least 200 Indian village sites scattered all over the county.

Mound Builder Indians who perfected the art of pottery making from 500 to 2,000 years ago left many of their reminders of their culture in Greene County. Prominent mounds of dirt, sometimes resembling  20 to 30 feet high hills were built by these Indians for ceremonial purposes. Only one-half miles east of Shugtown are two such mounds still in existence today and are relatively untouched by souvenir hunters.

Indian Mounds

Generally, according to the museum  field men, the Indians built the mounds in or around their villages. mounds that are 

comparatively flat on top were probably used as the foundation for temples. Other mounds may have been used for ceremonies and burial grounds. 

At any rates these mounds still exits in modern day times and provide a host of information for scientific studies. Occasionally skeletons or partial skeletons  of Indians are found in the mounds, but this is rare because of the soil conditions here are such that the bone structures of the body will not be preserved over a long period of time.

Alden Redfield and Vincent, who are mapping Greene County, pointed out the Indians who were here before the white man did not access to metal - hence they did not have the gold. The myth that the Indians had great quantities of precious metals has prompted many treasure hunters to make mole hills out of mounds, thereby destroying rich deposits of history.

White Settlers

When the first white settlers made their way into Arkansas several of hundreds of years ago, according to Fasano and Redfield, they were amazed at the culture the Indians had developed. The young men went on to say the Indians had better doctors, more food and were better hunters than the white man who sometimes envied their standard of living.

The Mound Builders were excellent pottery makers and highly skilled in the art of fashioning simple tools. At many sites in Greene County farmers still pick up arrowheads that are intact and in some cases, where the plow breaks into virgin soil, still unearth tools and pottery that are still intact.

The Indians tools he used to make a living are of particular interest to the museum and the scientific world. Archaeologists have asked that farmers who find the remains of arrows, pottery to put them in a safe place, note where they were found and notify the museum of their discovery. A local representative of the museum can be contacted by writing to the Daily Press. All communications will be forwarded to the museums  representatives.

Finding needles in the haystack

Alden Redfield and Vincent Fasano, part of a field survey team sent out by the American Museum of Natural History to locate sites of ancient Indians, examine an arrowhead on the Lura Carpenter farm, eight miles southeast of Paragould. Many clues to the origin of the Indians who lived thousands of years ago have been found in the general vicinity. (Daily Press Photo)

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