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Shaped in Stone

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Published on: Oct. 2, 1999

Last revision: Nov. 3, 2010

grant you access, especially if you ask prior to the day of your trip and each time thereafter. A little consideration will ensure that you will be welcomed back.

However, the guidelines that a responsible arrowhead hunter follows go farther. Limit yourself to seeking artifacts exposed on the surface. Valuable information can be lost forever when even a well-meaning individual begins digging up an area. Should you encounter what seems to be a significant archeological site in the course of your hunt, you should report it to professional archaeologists at the University of Missouri for further investigation. Also, keep in mind that removing or digging for artifacts on public land is usually illegal, as is disturbing gravesites in Missouri, including Indian burial mounds.

There are those who feel that Native American artifacts, such as arrowheads or tools, belong with the land in which they rest, and that removing them is wrong. It is OK to seek traces of people from long ago, but do so in a manner that emphasizes respect and appreciation for the culture and craftsmanship and preserves the rich history and heritage of the original residents of our state. When done with respect for ancient cultures, artifact hunting is an ideal way to enjoy the outdoors with family and friends.

Before Missouri's Written History

Scientists believe humans first arrived in North America between 20,000 and 40,000 years ago, when hunters following the woolly mammoth, mastodon and giant sloth crossed the Bering Strait between Asia and Alaska. They have discovered mastodon bones and rare, early spear points called clovis fluted and folsom fluted left from hunts estimated to have taken place 10,000 years ago in Missouri along the Bourbeuse and Pomme de Terre rivers and in present-day Mastodon State Park, near Kimmswick.

As mastodons died out, the hunters, who roamed great distances in their pursuit, began to spend more time foraging, allowing them to fashion more sophisticated tools as they spent longer periods of time in one place. These people often sought protection from the elements in caves and other natural shelters, such as Graham Cave near Montgomery City, where bone and rock tools, fire pits and debris from food accumulated over the centuries have provided a bonanza for archaeologists.

This long period of transition from big game hunting to a more diversified way of life occurred gradually between 7000 and 1000 B.C. Hunting camps used during this time abound, especially in southeastern Missouri, along natural terraces and levees. Traces left behind by the inhabitants show that they pursued deer, squirrel and rabbit and made use of a variety of vegetables in their wanderings. These people created drills, knives, diggers and scrapers to help them skin and prepare meat, as sites near Sedalia show.

The next prominent phase of Native American culture in Missouri began approximately 1000 B.C. with the advent of pottery for processing and storing food and water. It was during this period that Native Americans fashioned earthworks in various forms for use in religious ceremonies or as burial mounds, including "The Old Fort," a series of ditches and embankments enclosing burial mounds in Van Meter State Park in Saline County. A general concentration of settlements by people of this era stretched along the Missouri River from the mouth of the Lamine all the way to the mouth of the Kansas River.

As technological advancements continued to improve life for these native peoples, they went from living in small, separated villages to forming large towns in the Mississippi Valley. These changes occurred between 500 and 1600 A.D., when the Mississippian Culture dominated. It was then that civilizations became more organized and created the large mound formations that dot the landscape around St. Louis. Native American culture in Missouri would be changed forever with the arrival of European explorers, around 1600 A.D

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