Spiro started upward spiral in 700 A.D.

This engraved conch shell was unearthed in Craig Mound at Spiro Mounds in Oklahoma.

LeFlore County, often referred to as “Little Dixie,” was once home to a thriving national center of commerce. This lively metropolis enjoyed its heyday not in recent memory, but between 700 and 1400 A.D.

According to Dennis Peterson, archaeologist and site manager of the Spiro Mounds Archaeological Center in Spiro, the Mississippian culture of the time had contact with over 60 tribes from coast to coast, involving 30 languages and over three million people.

Peterson presented “The Mississippian Culture from the East to the West: Spiro Mounds and Its National Connections” as part of the Cherokee Nation’s history presentation. The lecture focused on how leaders at Spiro Mounds overcame language barriers to forge alliances with tribes, including the Cherokee, to create a vast trade alliance.

The Mississippian culture at Spiro built its community on the south bank of the Arkansas River and its initial interest was to control trade along the river. But eventually, this trade expanded nationwide, said Peterson. The people at Spiro are credited with building boats as large as 60 feet in length and could transport up to 80 people.

The 12-mound site is the largest recorded west of the Mississippi, and is one of 20,000 such sites documented.

“Spiro has the largest number of fancy items – or burial items – found anywhere in the U.S.,” said Peterson. “Because of its location along the Arkansas River, the people at Spiro Mounds were able to develop trade routes via waterways all the way to the Gulf of California through natural systems.”

Peterson explained the vast majority of smaller mound sites across the country served as county seats, with larger sites, such as Spiro; Moundville, Ala.; Etowah, Ga.; and Cahokia, Ill., serving as state capitols. Read the rest of the story here.

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