Home > PublicationsEncyclopedia >  Wister Phase

WISTER PHASE.

The Wister Phase is a Late Archaic construct introduced by Robert E. Bell (1980) and subsequently expanded by Jerry Galm (1981, 1984), following a reexamination of "midden mound" sites in the Arkoma Basin of east-central Oklahoma. Dates on site components from the Wister Valley establish an age range for the phase of circa 1500 to 300 B.C. The upper age limit corresponds to the appearance of pottery in this portion of the Arkansas River watershed. The introduction of pottery and ceramic technology marked the beginning of the Fourche Maline Phase and a Woodland adaptive pattern. Contracting-stemmed projectile point/knife forms (principally the Gary type) dominated but co-occurred with a variety of expanding-stemmed and corner-notched point styles. Bone, shell (particularly marine shell), and ground-stone artifacts were common, and a high degree of technological sophistication was attained in working these raw materials.

Trade and exchange networks were extensive and connected Late Archaic peoples of this region to other contemporary centers of development in the trans-Mississippi South and beyond. Burials, typically containing individuals in flexed positions, were the most commonly occurring feature. An increase in grave goods during later segments of this phase implied the growth of a mortuary complex, perhaps associated with the expanding influence of the Poverty Point culture. Other features included small pits, ash lenses or concentrations, and burned/unburned rock concentrations. Evidence of housing was virtually absent in Wister Phase components. Preliminary data on settlement patterning indicated the emergence of a highly efficient riverine adaptation in this time frame.

In the Wister Valley and adjoining areas the hallmark site type was the midden mound, an accretional deposit formed by repeated waste disposal within a spatially bounded area. Cultural deposits in midden mounds were characteristically deep, stratified, and span time intervals minimally from the Archaic into the Woodland period. The appearance of Mississippian Tradition materials in the uppermost levels of these sites is also a common occurrence, at least among the Wister Valley site sample. Like their counterparts in the succeeding Fourche Maline Phase, the Late Archaic Wister components were overwhelmingly represented in midden mound contexts, as other site types and locations in this riverine-based adaptive strategy remain to be defined.

Subsistence pursuits included a heavy dependence on nuts, particularly of the genus Carya, as well as lesser amounts of acorns. Deer dominated meat supplies in faunal samples from this time frame but were supplemented by a variety of small game and aquatic resources (fish, turtles, and freshwater mussels). So dominant was the role of nut harvesting in the Wister subsistence strategy that nutshells comprised the principal component of organic refuse that in time transformed these site areas into human-created landforms. Available evidence suggested a pattern of intermittent, year-round occupation of midden mound sites. The Late Archaic population base, fueled by an abundance of regional resources and an increasingly efficient adaptation, expanded significantly over preceding group sizes in the Middle Archaic. At the end of the twentieth century archaeologists did not fully understand the broader cultural connections to other regional Late Archaic manifestations, such as the Poverty Point culture.

Jerry Galm

See also: PALEOENVIRONMENT, PRECONTACT HUNTING PATTERNS, PRECONTACT TRADE PATTERNS, PREHISTORIC NATIVE PEOPLES

Bibliography

Robert E. Bell, "Fourche Maline: An Archaeological Manifestation in Eastern Oklahoma," in Caddoan and Poverty Point Archaeology, Essays in Honor of C. H. Webb (Lafayette: Louisiana Archaeological Society, 1980).

Robert E. Bell, ed., Prehistory of Oklahoma (Orlando, Fla.: Academic Press, 1984).

Jerry R. Galm, "Prehistoric Cultural Adaptations in the Wister Valley, East-Central Oklahoma" (Ph.D. diss., Washington State University, 1981).

Copyright and Terms of Use

No part of this site may be construed as in the public domain.

Copyright to all articles and other content in the online and print Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History is held by the Oklahoma Historical Society. This includes individual articles (copyright to OHS by author assignment) and corporately (as a complete body of work), including web design, graphics, searching functions, and listing/browsing methods. Copyright to all of these materials is protected under United States and International law.

Users agree not to download, copy, modify, sell, lease, rent, reprint, or otherwise distribute these materials, or to link to these materials on another web site, without authorization of the Oklahoma Historical Society. Individual users must determine if their use of the Materials falls under United States copyright law's "Fair Use" guidelines and does not infringe on the proprietary rights of the Oklahoma Historical Society as the legal copyright holder of The Encyclopedia and part or in whole.

Photo credits: All photographs presented in the published and online versions of The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture are the property of the Oklahoma Historical Society and are held in the agency's Research Division Photograph Archives (unless otherwise stated).


Citation

The following (as per The Chicago Manual of Style, 16th edition) is the preferred citation for articles:
Jerry Galm, "Wister Phase," The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture, www.okhistory.org (accessed November 20, 2017).

About the Encyclopedia | Terms of Use | Using the Encyclopedia