For the past month and a half I have been reading several books about sites in northeastern Arkansas known as the Sloan and Brand sites, and a separate site is southwestern Missouri called Big Eddy. Each site has had a large portion excavated and the resulting information gained from the excavations has added a lot of new knowledge about a number of different cultures, especially the Dalton Culture.

The original Dalton site was discovered many years ago in Missouri by an avocationalist archeologist named Dalton who was also a judge. At the time of his discovery a number of projectile points were found at the site which looked similar to yet different from other parallel-sided points. This was back in the years where Paleo points were not recognized for their great antiquity and in turn the assumed dates for the Dalton points was considered to be about 2,000 years old.

Through time the archeological community has successfully excavated many sites which contained Paleo points of different styles and at the same time acquired Carbon 14 dates telling us exactly how old these projectile points were. However, no site had been excavated containing Dalton materials until in the 1970s.

There are several river valleys located between the Ozark Plateau and the Mississippi River. Each river runs more or less parallel with the Mississippi and the tilt of the land allows each river to flow to the south.

Located between several of these river valleys is a relatively flat plain which we now realize was heavily utilized by the Dalton people and we refer to this area as the Dalton heartland. Both the Sloan site and the Brand site are located near each other in this region.

Around this area the first thing we think of when we try to reason where a site might be located is the presence of water. Needless to say, water is what sustains life and any Native American people would be certain they stayed near a dependable water source.

Also at the same time, game both small and large needed drinking water on a daily basis and with this in mind, the Native American cultures knew this fact and in turn hunted for animals near the same water sources.

From what I have read about the Sloan and Brand sites, I noted water was not located near either site. However, water could be found within a reasonable distance.

Most of my readers may not know what a pimple mound is. If you should ever make a trip northward from Bonham to the Red River, you will see a number of pimple mounds in the area north of Monkstown. A pimple mound is a very small round or oval mound of soil rising a few feet above the surrounding area. Many may look to be manmade but they were created by nature.

The general consensus by most soil scientists says the pimple mounds actually represent where a gas bubble formed underground causing the ground to rise slightly. When you see a whole field full of pimple mounds, it is an unusual site.

The Sloan and Brand sites in northeastern Arkansas look very similar to pimple mounds due to the fact each occurs in a relatively flat area and each rises only a few feet above its surroundings.

However, the geomorphologists (soils scientists) analyzed the soils and determined each site was located on an ancient sand dune. They know the fact that during the last ice age retreat, several areas suffered a large drought and wind-blown sand was deposited in many areas west of the Mississippi River. In fact, they have also determined the Mississippi River once flowed much farther to the west very close to the Ozark Plateau and through time, the river changed channels and migrated eastward leaving the flat plain referred to above.

Both the Sloan and Brand sites were excavated back in the 1970s and the Brand site report was generated not long after the excavations were completed. However, the Sloan report was not completed until 1997 for a variety of reasons.

At the Brand site, a number of Dalton points were recovered and for the first time, we knew exactly how much change came about each time one of the Dalton points was resharpened. This is what I was referring to last week when I was writing about various stages a projectile point goes through during its life span.

But more important was the Dalton tool kit discovered during the excavations. Please keep in mind I am not talking about a metal tool box which contained all types of tools yet the Dalton people most likely had a pouch in which they kept certain specific tools needed for special uses.

The Dalton people manufactured a stone tool we refer to as an adze. Most everyone knows what a wood plane looks like and its function. A wood plane peels away wooden slivers every time it is passed back and forth on a piece of wood until the desired shape is acquired. A Dalton adze is basically the same as a wood plane but it differs somewhat due to the fact it was utilized not only to “plane wood away” but also could be used for light chopping. The general shape of a Dalton adze is triangular with the wide base of the triangle serving as the bit. The Dalton people would bevel the edge of the bit until they had an angle of around 55 to 65 degrees vertically from the base. The opposite end of the adze is either tapered, rounded or may be somewhat pointed. This end opposite the bit is referred to as the poll end. Once they had manufactured the adze, they would cut a parallel slit near the center into a nice strong round piece of wood. Then they would stick the polled end up into the slit and tie it securely to the wooden shaft. There is good evidence many of the adzes had a piece of leather wrapped around the poll end just before it was hafted to help cushion the constant hammering of the poll against the back of the wooden slit. Evidence of wear along the lateral sides of the adze can easily be detected just by feeling with your hand.

Next week: What we think the Dalton people did with their adze

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