18154 First Street
Spiro, OK 74959
Director: Dennis Peterson
N35 degrees, 18.696 minutes, W94 degrees, 34.164 minutes
|Wed - Sat||9am to 5pm|
|Sun||12pm to 5pm|
Due to staffing limitations we recommend calling in advance prior to planning a visit, since illness and other unexpected events occasionally result in an unplanned closing.
Prehistoric Gateway...Present-day Enigma
The mounds site, located seven miles outside of Spiro, Oklahoma, is the only prehistoric, Native American archaeological site in Oklahoma open to the public. The mounds are one of the most important Native American sites in the nation. The prehistoric Spiro people created a sophisticated culture which influenced the entire Southeast. Artifacts indicate an extensive trade network, a highly developed religious center, and a political system, which controlled the entire region. Located on a bend of the Arkansas River, the site was a natural gateway from which the Spiro people exerted their influence. Yet much of the Spiro culture is still a mystery, as well as the reasons for the decline and abandonment of the site.
Today, the Spiro Mounds site and artifacts are among Oklahoma's richest cultural resources. The protected site included 150 acres of land that encompass twelve mounds, the elite village area and part of the support city. Although various groups of people camped on or near the Spiro area over the previous 8000 years, the location did not become a permanent settlement until A.D. 800 and was used until about A.D. 1450. During this time period, known as the Mississippian period, Spiro leaders were developing political, religious and economic ties with people from the Gulf of California to the Gulf of Mexico and from the coast of Virginia to the Great Lakes. They shared horticulture, elaborate ceremonies, mound building and an iconographic (picture) writing system with over 60 different tribes. From A.D. 900 to 1300, the leaders at Spiro Mounds thrived. The mound center declined and was eventually abandoned by A.D. 1450, although the city continued to be occupied for another 150 years. The people of the Spiro Mounds are believed to have been Caddoan speakers, like the modern Wichita, Kichai, Caddo, Pawnee, and Arikara. The site remained unoccupied from A.D. 1600 until 1832. While Choctaw and Choctaw Freedmen cleared the mound site for farming late in the 1800s, they did not allow any major disturbance of the site until the Great Depression.
During the 1930s, commercial, and later academic, excavations revealed one of the greatest collections of artistic and utilitarian prehistoric Native American artifacts in the United States. Early looting of the site lead to laws making Oklahoma one the first states in the U.S. to preserve and scientifically research archaeological sites. The Spiro Mounds Archaeological Center opened to the public on May 9, 1978. Today the site is owned and operated by the Oklahoma Historical Society.
The Spiro Mounds Archaeological Center preserves 150 acres of the site, along the Arkansas River. The Center offers interpretive exhibits, an introductory slide program and a small gift shop. There are nearly two miles of interpreted trails, including a one-half mile nature trail. An archaeologist is on staff to answer questions and lead tours. Schools and large groups can arrange for guided tours of the site by contacting the staff by phone or email at least a week ahead of time. Special tours of the site, available to everyone, are offered during the Solstices and Equinoxes. The Spiro Mounds Archaeological Center features an annual Family Kite Flite Day on the third Saturday of March, Archaeology Day/Birthday Bash in May and periodic temporary exhibits sponsored by the Spiro Mounds Development Association.
The Spiro Mounds Archaeological Center is located three miles east of Spiro, Oklahoma, on Highway 271 and four miles north on Spiro Mounds Road. The Center is open Wednesday through Saturday from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. and Sunday from noon until 5 p.m. throughout the year. The site is closed for state holidays.