One of the pleasures of being an "archaeological tourist" is stumbling across state parks with neat stuff. We visited Parkin today, and found
knowledgeable and friendly staff and a peaceful, understated site (you might think it was just a park for picnics) with a rich and fascinating
Best of all (woohoo!) they had for sale the archaeological report on the site. Dated 1999, it had all sorts of intriguing tidbits and our drive
towards the next site (Ka-ho-ka and Toltec Mounds (no, there weren't any Toltecs there. It was named by a farmer in the 1800's who thought it might
belong to Toltecs)) was filled with "Hey... listen to this!" moments.
This is the site of a village apparently named Casqui (after the chief), who was one of the very few friendly villages that welcomed deSoto and his
men. Built on the banks of the St. Francis river, it had a moat (yes, moat) around the village, palisaded walls of wood logs, a high mound for the
chief's house, and extensive fields. The Mississipian peoples had no written language, but deSoto brought along scribes with him to write about his
"famous adventures" and we have three accounts of what the village was like and how it functioned.
The Spaniards also brought something deadly with them -- European diseases. By the time the Europeans came back, the Mississipian culture had
collapsed from disease and the survivors were scattered, leaving no tales or legends behind them.
The story of the site really says a lot about the impact of rivers on places where people chose to live. The Mississippi is not a static river and
it's changed channels at least 4 times in the past ten thousand years. This village exists on land between "Meander 3 and Meander 4" before the
Mississippi moved towards Memphis (its current location.) There's no rock in the area (it's all flood plains), so stone for spear points and
arrowheads and so forth came in through the trade networks.
The people (as was the custom) buried their dead under the floors of their houses or beside their houses. Houses were fairly fragile, and there's
evidence that they frequently burned down.
One thing I found interesting was that they had some sort of guide to "how to build a house" because the houses were generally 13 feet by 13 feet in
A few miles away (at what may be a burial site), they constructed a tiny replica village with palisades and chief's mound and all...but the buildings
were only seven feet long and seven feet wide... half size. You couldn't live in one (you might sleep in one if you went there for a religous
They apparently had a unifying religion, but I don't know anything about it yet. I'm still reading the archaeological survey!
Tomorrow we go diamond hunting and then to the Ka Ho Ka mounds and Toltec Mounds!
If YOU get a chance, look for state parks near you that have historical recreations -- or better yet, that are archaeologically based. It makes for a
We totally missed the stuff on the European settlers (but made up for it with a delightful trip to Lower White River State Park).