Texas Heritage, Volume 18, Number 4, Fall 2000 Page: 30
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In The Dirt
BY STEVE BLACK
AND CAROLYN SPOCK
The photograph above was taken in
December 1940 during massive archeological
excavations at the George C. Davis site
by a Works Progress Administration
(WPA) project designed to put the nation's
unemployed men back to work. The WPA
work camp can be seen in the background.
In the foreground is "Feature 31," the remains
of an extraordinarily large Caddo
"house" built much like the modern replica
of an ancient Caddo house shown in
the photograph on the right (TARL Cat. #
41CE19-C9267; photographer Jerry
Sullivan). Archeologists have traced the
ancestry of the modern Caddo peoples,
many of whom live in Oklahoma today,
back to at least 1,200 years ago, when the
first identifiably Caddoan villages were established
in Northeast Texas as well as adjacent
parts of Louisiana, Arkansas, and
Oklahoma. The Davis site was a major village
and ceremonial center between A.D.
800-1300, one of the earliest and most important
Caddoan communities of its day.
Today much of the Davis site is preserved
by Caddoan Mounds State Historic Park
in Cherokee County.
In the WPA photograph at the top
(TARL Cat. # 41CE19-210) the small
holes outlining the raised circular area
mark the location of some 80 posts (pine
logs) that formed the framework of a very
large beehive-shaped structure. The circular
raised area marks the approximate level
of the original earthen floor. The smaller
squares are centered on two large central
fireplaces. At 50 feet across, Feature 31 is
too large to be an ordinary house, although
the basic design is based on the traditional
circular house pattern. Because of its size
and its location within the "inner" village
area of the site where other large and unusual
structures once stood, Feature 31 is
thought to have served as some sort of special
building where larger groups of people
gathered for ceremonial reasons.
While archeologists have been known
to call something "ceremonial" without
much evidence of such, in this case there
is little doubt. Beneath the large circular
structure shown in the top photograph, archeologists
traced the outlines of two
smaller and earlier buildings, each centered
on the exact same spot. In other words, the
original structure was rebuilt and enlarged
twice. Soon after the last building (Feature
31) was abandoned, this part of the site was
intentionally covered by a large earthen
platform mound (visible on the right in top
HERITAGE * 30 * FALL 2000
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Texas Historical Foundation. Texas Heritage, Volume 18, Number 4, Fall 2000, periodical, Autumn 2000; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth45391/m1/30/: accessed September 23, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas Historical Foundation.