Ancient Prehistoric Ruins? Yeah, Oklahoma Has Those Too
You know what really grinds my gears? When people talk about Oklahoma, they only speak about the last hundred and fifty years. Topics are limited in general knowledge to events like the Comanche Wars, Indian Territory and the Indian Removal Act, the seven land runs prior to statehood, and the Dust Bowl.
While those topics are incredibly interesting and culturally fascinating, the real history of Oklahoma is truly deep.
Before you confuse Oklahoma ruins with our state's runestone, that's a different story. This is the tale of a massive, prehistoric civilization that existed here in the first millennia, the Mississippian people.
Long before the relatively modern history of our state, before our land belonged to France, before our lands were squabbled over between Mexico and Texas, even before Spanish conquistadors left behind their treasures here in search of the City of Gold, there was a real civilization of a powerful people that left behind Spiro.
The Mississippians were a people that developed a sprawling civilization across this country as adept to modern times as any other, they just did it in a period of time long thought impossible. Our area's history starts around 800 CE and existed for around 800 years across Eastern Oklahoma, Western Arkansas, and portions of Missouri, NE Texas, and Northern Louisiana.
Before you confuse "modern" with smartphones and mass communications, that's not what made this culture modern. It was the organization of cities and trade routes these people amassed alongside modern dwellings and their incredible art. Much of which is on display now.
While there are hundreds of prehistoric Mississippian cities all over what would become the United States, Oklahoma's Caddoan people created their existence near modern-day Spiro, Oklahoma.
While not grand like the Aztec or Mayan temples of Central America, the Spiro Mounds are the only things left untouched to trace the lineage and history of this once-great civilization. They stand roughly ten feet tall, are fifteen-or-so feet wide, and served as burial mounds appropriately named now to represent such. The Great Mortuary was named as an example.
Surrounding these ancient mounds was a massive city of Caddoan culture. Thatched roof mud huts as far as you could see. A veritable metropolis of ancient people long forgotten to time.
As archaeologists continue to dig and discover more about this once-great civilization, more and more artifacts have been identified, offering clarity to understanding their history. Some of the more confusing items are the carved shells of ocean-dwelling conch, a sea snail whose shell is most often seen used as a horn of sorts in sea-themed movies. How did they end up in prehistoric Oklahoma?
Fortunately for all of us, as more and more questions arise in learning about this culture, there are places you can visit to learn everything we've discovered so far, including the ridiculously intricate and beautiful art.
Obviously, the Spiro Mounds have their own dedicated museum near the discovery site in Eastern Oklahoma, but you can also experience this people in a gallery at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in OKC.
If you need a larger sneak peek to fuel the fire of curiosity, check out this short documentary.