Heritage, Volume 13, Number 1, Winter 1995 Page: 11
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T he Caddoan Indian peoples have
a long and rich cultural heritage.
The area that today is comprised
of northeast Texas, southeast Oklahoma,
southwest Arkansas, and northwest Louisiana
was once the homeland of the Caddo
Indians. The Caddo, as a recognizable cultural
tradition, had occupied this region
from about A.D. 800 until well into the
historic period when they were finally forced
to move to the Indian Territory in 1859. In
this time span of roughly 1,000 years the
Caddoan Indian groups left their mark in
the region in the form of hundreds, perhaps
thousands, of habitation and ceremonial
sites. These sites are often littered with
artifacts of stone and pottery. Unfortunately,
many of these sites have been destroyed by
agricultural plowing, urban spread, industrial
activities, and by looting and collecting
by "pot hunters" who rob us all of the
scientific and cultural knowledge that could
be obtained if the sites and objects were
excavated and recorded in the proper manner.
Some sites, however, have been preserved
and scientifically investigated. One
such site is the Oak Hill Village site
(41 RK214) located in central Rusk County.
In January of 1994, archaeologists with
Espey, Huston & Associates, Inc. of Austin
initiated archaeological excavations at the
Oak Hill Village site, a Caddoan settlement
dating to the 14th century A.D. The
project is sponsored by Texas Utilities Services
and Texas Utilities Mining Company
as the site is located within their Oak Hill
lignite mine, and they plan to mine the
lignite deposits that underlie the site once
the archaeological investigations are completed
in February 1995. It is with their
cooperation and support that the archaeological
work has been carried out.
The Oak Hill Village site occupies about
3.2 acres on a ridge top overlooking the
floodplain of Mill Creek, a tributary to the
Sabine River. The archaeological investigations
at the Oak Hill Village site are
providing information on the daily life,
material culture, and village organizations
of the Caddoan peoples. The excavations
to date have uncovered the remains of 14
structures, a burial, two "middens" or trash
dump areas, and numerous other features
such as pits and hearths. In addition, more
than 25,000 artifacts of stone, bone, and
ceramic have been recovered.
Archaeologists often rely on the disOpposite:
A reconstruction of the Oak Hill
Village site, A.D. 1350, by Jake Tate.
tinctive ceramics made in this area to distinguish
the Caddoan tradition from the
other cultures in the surrounding regions.
Indeed, the Caddoan peoples are perhaps
best known in anthropological circles for
their beautiful, well-made, and varied ceramics.
The ceramics, however, are only
one of the traits that distinguish the
Caddoan peoples. From a cultural perspective,
the Caddoan groups achieved a level
of cultural development unsurpassed by
other Texas Indians. In fact, they developed
very complex social and political systems
of authority, ritual, and ceremony.
Religious and political authority in
Caddoan society in historic times, and presumably
in the prehistoric Caddoan groups
as well, was comprised of a hierarchy of
positions. The key positions were xinesi
(pronounced SEE-neeh-tsi), the spiritual
leader; the caddi (pronounced CAH-de),
or village headman; and the canahas (pronounced
cah-NA-ha), the subordinate
headmen or village elders. The xinesi,
whose position was inherited, was both a
political and religious leader. The roles of
xinesi included maintaining the temples,
acting as the religious leader for the formally
allied villages, and leading certain
special rites and ceremonies. Subordinate
to the xinesi were the caddi. These men
were the tribal chiefs and, like the xinesi,
gained their office through inheritance. If
a caddi's tribe was a large one, there were a
number of sub tribal officials, the canahas,
who assisted the caddi by taking his place
when he had to be absent.
The Caddoan communities consisted of
small hamlets of one or only a few houses,
a few larger villages, and large civic or
ceremonial centers. The conspicuous feaFrom
perspective, the Caddoan
groups achieved a level of
unsurpassed by other
developing very complex
social and political
systems of authority,
ritual, and ceremony.
tures of the ceremonial centers were large
earthen mounds, some of which were constructed
as temples while others were used
as burial mounds for the social and political
elite of the society. Many of the mounds
served as platforms for special structures
used for civic or religious functions. No
mounds are located at the Oak Hill Village
site. Rather, this site appears to have been
one of the larger villages that would have
been occupied year round.
The settlement system of the prehistoric
Caddoan groups has not been adequately
documented archaeologically, but
the present evidence indicates that the
permanent habitation sites ranged in size
from villages to small hamlets to isolated
farmsteads. Since so few habitation sites
have been thoroughly investigated, the
relationships between functional areas,
such as houses, trash deposits, and outdoor
work areas within a village are essentially
unknown. The investigations at the Oak
Hill Village site, however, have provided
critical new details on these relationships
and have shed new light on the organization
and layout of a Caddoan village.
When the archaeological investigations
are complete, essentially the entire village
will be exposed. The investigations to date
have shown that there was a plan to the
way the village was organized. For example,
the houses at the site are spaced
from 50 feet to 80 feet apart and are arranged
in a circular fashion around an
open area or plaza. The entrances on most
of the structures appear to be located so
that they would open into the plaza. The
plaza would have been used as an area
where daily tasks were performed, for communal
activities, and where ceremonies
would have taken place.
Behind the structures is where the trash
middens were deposited. One extensive
midden at the Oak Hill Village site is
located adjacent to Structure 5. Other less
obvious trash deposits occur as "sheet"
middens where the refuse has washed down
the sides of the ridge behind the other
structures. From these trash middens a
wide array of artifacts and foodstuffs have
been recovered and are testimony to the
daily activities and lifeways of the Caddoan
peoples. By far the most common artifact
recovered from the middens are the nu
merous ceramic vessel fragments or sherds.
The fragments are the remains of pottery
vessels that were used to prepare, cook,
and store food. The vessel forms recovered
include jars, bowls, jugs, and bottles. Many
HERITAGE * WINTER 1995 11
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Texas Historical Foundation. Heritage, Volume 13, Number 1, Winter 1995, periodical, Winter 1995; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth45408/m1/11/: accessed March 20, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas Historical Foundation.