Last Updated
May 9, 2016

Fort Polk Cultural Resources

Photo of artifacts

Archaeological Timeline

Block Chart of Archaeological timeline

FORT POLK ARCHAEOLOGICAL SITES

Fort Polk is rich in prehistoric and historic cultural resources. Level I, archeological site survey work, has been conducted since 1972 to support the military training, construction, and timber management.Currently, over 168,903 acres have been surveyed. 3,332 sites have been recorded. Of the total sites recorded, 18 sites are identified as historic cemeteries and 3,314 are identified as archeological sites. These archaeological sites include: 2,944 sites with prehistoric components, 185 sites with historic components and 203 sites with both prehistoric and historic components.

Level II, site testing, was conducted on 600 sites that were found to be potentially eligible for the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP). As a result of the Level II site testing program, 129 of those sites were determined eligible for the NRHP and are protected in situ with mission restrictions.

127 archeological sites remain potentially eligible with further Level II, site testing, needed to conclude their eligibility status to the NRHP; thereby requiring mission restrictions on the environmentally sensitive site area. A total of 256 archeological sites are considered environmentally sensitive areas and are posted to avoid adverse impact to the site areas.

Level III, data recovery, was conducted on five sites due to the inability to avoid adverse impact. Data recovery removed all cultural resources data from the site area and permanent storage of records and artifacts is maintained in the Fort Polk Archeological Collection. Therefore, no further site protection or field mission restrictions are required for the five data recovery sites.

FORT POLK ARCHAEOLOGICAL COLLECTION

The Fort Polk Archaeological Collection is a time capsule for present and future generations to study and research the people that once occupied the area that the Joint Readiness Training Center and Fort Polk now utilizes. Fort Polk houses archeological artifacts and records for over 30 years of archaeological work. This collection is inventoried and curated in accordance with 36 CFR 79. It is considered to have one of the most significant collections for Woodland Period research. It also holds significant resource information for the San Patrice Culture and contributes to the understanding of the Louisiana Upland Settlement Patterns during the Western Expansion Period.

The archaeological collection has over 1,218 cubic feet of artifacts and associated records. It also houses various historic reference maps and one large mural that was removed from the old Service Club – building 1733. One other mural was removed from the old Post Field house – building 1411 and erected in the Warrior Brigade Fitness Center to give Soldiers the opportunity to enjoy the art from the predecessors.

It is estimated that 90 percent of the Fort Polk Collection consist of pre-historic artifacts. Eighty percent of the prehistoric artifacts are chipped stone tools and the debris from making stone tools. These artifacts come from various different pre-historic time periods and cannot be directly linked to a specific tribal group of today. They are only linked to a specific cultural life-way of populations or groups that existed through time in specific geographical areas.

Archaeological Time Periods

Prehistoric Times

Prehistoric is normally defined as the time before the written language recorded and documented the life-ways of a population. However, in the Americas, prehistoric is usually referring to the time prior to European contact. In most cases, prehistoric archaeological sites in the Americas are relating to the time prior to written documents.

The only evidence that we have on these past cultures, and the people, is through the archeological records. Archeological sites are our unwritten history books. To alter or destroy these sites without proper documentation is like tearing the pages out of our history books, leaving our children clueless of that history, and the past incapable of being fully or completely understood. Archeological resources are irreplaceable and each artifact is a part of the complex puzzle piece from the past. That is why the U.S. Congress and Presidents passed protective and enforceable laws to preserve sites and the information retrieved from them.

Paleoindian Periods

This period is divided into three eras: Early, Middle and Late Paleoindians. Only stone tools are evident for these people. There is no evidence of ground stone tools, pottery or basketry for this time period. The time span for paleoindians dates from around 12,000 to 6,100 years ago. These people were nomadic hunters and gathers who travel in small bans or groups. Tools for utilizing animal hides and starting fires are evident throughout this period.

The oldest evidence of human occupation on the military reservation comes from the Early Paleoindian Period. This is the time of the Clovis Point. These people relied on larger lancelet points to hunt big game like mammoths. Exotic raw lithic materials (rocks from another area) were utilized.

The Middle Paleoindian Period consists of the San Patrice Culture in the Fort Polk area. These people produced San Patrice spear points that were smaller then those found in the Early Paleoindian Period. Some evidence indicates that the hunting game may have shifted to bison and possibly deer. Also, there is evidence in an increase in population and expansion of territorial use during this time.

San Patrice Procectile Point San Patrice Projectile Point

The Late Paleoindian Period is consistent with the Middle Paleoindian Period. However, the spear points are slightly larger and more local lithic material from this area is utilized to make their points and other formal tools. Biface knives (cutting implements chipped on both sides to form a symmetric shape) appear.

Archaic Periods

This period is divided into four eras: Early, Early/Middle, Middle and Late Archaic. There is no evidence of pottery or basketry for this time period. However, there is evidence of a more organized complex society on the rise. There is also evidence of a climatic strain on populations and tools become more diversified. Ground stone tools appear during this period as: manos hand held grinding implement), metates (surface grinding stone), and abraders (tool used to sharpen edges of another tool). Multiple stone hand tools are found for cutting, piercing, and scraping. This period dates from around 6,100 to 3,100 years ago.

Evans Point Evans Point

The Early Archaic Culture is a transitional period from the Late Paleoindian life-ways into the Archaic life-ways. These archaeological sites have evidence of a people utilizing the ways from their past and moving into a new direction, from living nomadic to living semi-nomadic to sedentary life. These cultural traditions are parallel to those found in the southeastern United States archaeological sites dating the same time period.

The Early/Middle Archaic Culture is separate for Fort Polk because it seems to have the same cultural influence found in east Texas. The spear points are similar to those found in east Texas rather then those found east of Fort Polk. The Middle Archaic has points that are related to those found east of Fort Polk. The cultural significance in east and west influence comes from the different life-ways necessitated for adaptation and survival that equates to different tribal groups in competition for resources.

The first cultural use of clay materials comes during the Middle Archaic Period with heated lumps of clay. These heating elements were probably used mostly as an indirect heat source for cooking. This is one of the oldest evidence of clay material usage in the Southeastern Archeological records.

The Late Archaic people leave evidence of the rise of a complex trade networks and society with semi-nomadic life-styles. We see evidence of both east Texas and east Louisiana point types continue, yet the stone resources are coming from local material. Further research has determined that the local gravel chert resources appear to be the predominate reason for occupation and the semi-nomadic groups are mining stones to transport elsewhere from the area of competition.

Woodland Period

This period marks the beginning of pottery in Southeastern Archaeological research. This time span is estimated to include from 3,100 to 1,100 years ago. Some evidence of basketry is also found in the archeological records during this period. A more sedentary lifestyle is evident through these household items. This period is broken into three eras: Early, Middle and Late; mainly due to the change in pottery technology. Evidence of lineal distribution and cultural associations are theorized through the similar and differences in pottery decorations and paste types. This is the beginning of larger populist groups and the indication of a time of plenty.

Birds Creek Point Birds Creek Point

Dart points are reduced to arrow point in the Late Woodland Period. Numerous tools are utilized, including various ground stone and digging tools common for both building dug-out canoes and horticultural societies. Other locations indicate complex trade networks are in operation between various complex governments throughout the Americas during this time period. In the Fort Polk area, most groups are traveling into the area on seasonal hunting and gathering trips and to quarry lithic material, as well as trade goods

Mississippian/Caddoan Period

This period is marked by the small arrow points, evidence of: well made pottery, various styles of basketry, various types of houses and villages, and contains secondary informant information of the life-ways that existed during this period. Lifestyle is primarily sedentary with some seasonal migration, chiefdoms, and extensive trade networks continued. This time span is from around 1,100 to 500 years ago. The people of this period are denoted to share many cultural traits with those found during the first documented European contacts; and so, this period is denoted by known tribal groups as the Mississippians and Caddoans. This is a time of plenty that turns into illness of epidemic proportion and continues into the Protohistoric Period.

Hayes Point Hayes Point
Friley Point Friley Point
Pottery Shards
Pottery Shards

HISTORIC TIMES

Protohistoric Period

This is the period that Europeans arrived and wrote about their views of the people in the Americas. This time spans from around 500 to 200 years ago, depending on the geographical area. Around 1527, Cabeza deVaca, a member of the Panfilo de Narvaez Spanish exploration, traveled into the surrounding area and wrote of his enslavement by the natives. Around 1541, Hernandez DeSoto, a Spanish explorer, traveled through the area in search for gold for the Spanish monarchy. At Fort Polk, little is written for this heavily utilized area. However, in Natchitoches and Sabine Parishes, Caddoan related tribal groups are described to utilize territories just north of the Peason Ridge Training area; while south of them, in Vernon Parish, Choctaw related tribal groups are said to occupy the area, probably as migrant groups from previous European contact east of the Mississippi River. Other evidence indicates that Attakapa speaking tribal groups utilized the territory now known as Main Fort.

Down town Hornbeck

Historic Period

Fort Polk has two popular volumes published. One book, “A Good Home for a Poor Man”, by Steven Smith, describes the historic time of subsistence farming up to the development of Camp Polk. This book is an excellent resource to understand the hardships of the local families and their genealogy. The other book, “A Soldier’s Place in History” describes the military history at Fort Polk from the Louisiana Maneuvers up to and through Desert Storm. It is filled with historic photographs and has been a favorite for veterans, including former Louisiana National Guards.

The Fort Polk area history includes topics on Native American Indian migration, the country’s western expansion, the independence of Mexico and Texas, settlement patterns of the uplands, the Neutral Strip, the Civil War, the United States Western Frontier, the logging and turpentine boom, the Great Depression, the Civilian Conservation Corp, the Work Progress Act, the Louisiana Maneuvers and World War II.

Most of these research topics were not recognized by archaeologist during the early years of survey. However, more data has been collected, archaeologists are recognizing the historical sites and the local citizenry is beginning to share the family stories and memories for documentation.

Paleontology – Miocene Epoch

Prestoric animals
Prestoric animals
Elephants, camels, rhinos, giraffes roamed the Fort Polk area

A rendition of the Miocene Epoch
A rendition of the Miocene Epoch