Monday, April 23, 2012

Excavation Ends

With nice cool weather returning for a brief spell, the opportunity to finish the dig couldn't be passed up!  The trench around the central stone is now complete, yielding no artifacts.  The image below is looking Northeast, w/ the central stone and a trench around it to a depth of approximately 1 foot.

The question posed in my last posting, regarding the presence of chert in the dig was resolved with a message from Jack Ray, Center of Archaeological Research, Missouri State University.  An extract of his kind assistance is shown below:

...chert occurs as redeposited cobbles in the Pennsylvanian sandstone.
Most of the chert is Burlington chert that was eroded from the older
Burlington-Keokuk Formation (345-310 million years ago) and redeposited by
the ancient river system during Pennsylvanian times (310-280 m.y.a.). In
some locations, the redeposited chert pebbles and cobbles (ancient gravel
bar deposits) may be abundant.

When still locked in place in the bedrock, the chert cobbles comprise a
conglomerate, but when the encompassing sandstone bedrock erodes away, it
releases the chert cobbles which become part of the surrounding regolith (or

I don't know if you have a copy of my chert book (see attached), but I
discuss this type of redeposited chert (I call Warner chert) on pages
295-299. Pictures of redeposited Burlington chert cobbles up to head-size
are pictured in Figures 9.8-9.11. Thus, it is not at all unusual to find
remnant fragments of insoluble Burlington chert in areas where the
Pennsylvanian sandstone has been eroded away, releasing some of the
inclusive chert cobbles.
 The book referred to in his message is Ozarks Chipped-Stone Resources: A Guide to the
Identification, Distribution, and Prehistoric Use of Cherts and Other Siliceous Raw Materials, Jack H. Ray, Missouri State University.

Pictures of the two pieces of chert in question are shown below.  Although the pictures are not definitive, an examination with a magnifier did not reveal any flaking on either sample.

So my last gasp at finding something Native American connected to Cairn #5 has proven to be futile.  The rational conclusion of the research and field work to this point is that our array of cairns was likely created in historic times.  The purpose(s) and builders is still a total mystery.  However, since the probable builders were of a culture with written history, it is reasonable that a dedicated search will reveal some answers.

The search continues...


  1. I do not think you have proven this is historical any more than that it is Native American. How about some pictures of the chert? Is it flakes or original conglomerate?

    1. I would agree that there is no "proof" one way or the other. However, the preponderance of the evidence argues for a historical origin.

      The chert found was two pieces of gravel, which show no signs of having been worked. The larger piece is about 1x1.5" and the other less than 1/4 of that. I can post pictures on the blog, but don't know how to get them into this comment box.

      The argument against a Native American origin rests on the dissimilarities of cairns that have associated artifacts. Those cairns are not found in collections nearly as large as our site. They are nearly all equal in size, whereas ours range to 20X differences in volume. The site is atypical also, being on a 15-20% slope, when proven cairns are sited on almost level bluffs with water views. At least one of our cairns is built with a stacked wall construction, unknown in other Native American structures in the Ozarks. And finally, the lack of any artifacts in the excavated cairn is very significant.

      In hopes of establishing the origin and builders, I have initiated a plan of local news articles and presentations to local historic groups. Perhaps someone has similar cairns or genealogical references from early settlers that might lead to a rational answer.