May 3, 2023
45th Anniversary, Reopening Celebration Planned at Spiro Mounds Archaeological Center
SPIRO, Okla. — The public is invited to Spiro Mounds Archaeological Center on Saturday, May 13, for a 45th anniversary and reopening celebration of the site.
Spiro Mounds opened to the public 45 years ago, on May 9, 1978. The site opened with the help of the Oklahoma Archeological Survey, which remains a strong partner. It is the first and still the only Oklahoma prehistoric American Indian archaeological site open to the public.
The celebration will start at 1 p.m. with refreshments, including cake, and the opportunity to purchase a new book from Arcadia Publishing, “Spiro Mounds and WPA Archaeology in Oklahoma.” Scott Hammerstedt, one of the authors, with the Oklahoma Archeological Survey will be in attendance to autograph the books.
The anniversary celebration is also the perfect time to meet Anna Vincent, the new site director. Vincent is only the second director at Spiro Mounds since its opening. Dennis Peterson, the first director, retired in the fall of 2022.
Vincent grew up a few miles from Spiro Mounds and graduated from Spiro High School. She graduated from the University of Arkansas - Fort Smith (UAFS) with the goal of finding a job related to Oklahoma history. While at UAFS, Vincent previously worked for the Arkansas Archeological Survey. She spent time in the lab on campus and assisting with excavations at the Drennen-Scott House in Van Buren, Ark.
“It still feels a bit surreal to work here, especially at a site so close to where I grew up,” said Vincent. “It is an honor to oversee one of the most important archaeological sites in the county, and I hope to do justice to the original Spiro people and their descendants.”
The Spiro Mounds Archaeological Center is operated by the Oklahoma Historical Society. The regular hours of operation are Tuesday-Saturday from 9 a.m.-noon and 1-4 p.m. On May 13, the Center will be open from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. without a midday break. For more information, please call 918-962-2062 or visit www.okhistory.org/spiro. The Spiro Mounds Archaeological Center is located at 18154 1st St. in Spiro.
The Spiro Mounds site is world renowned for the incredible amount of art and artifacts dug from the Craig Mound, the site’s only burial mound. From the 1870s, Choctaw and Chickasaw Freedmen farmed the land within the complex, but the mounds remained undisturbed until 1917. At that time, Joseph Thoburn, who had taken photographs of the site in 1914, tested Ward Mound One, a buried house mound. The landowners discouraged further work until 1933, when commercial diggers calling themselves the Pocola Mining Company acquired the lease for the Craig Mound. From 1933 until 1935, Pocola employees dug haphazardly into the burial mound. For two years, the commercial diggers destroyed about one-third of the mound and sold thousands of artifacts made of stone, copper, shell, basketry and fabric to collectors worldwide. Dubbed the “King Tut of the Arkansas Valley” by the Kansas City Star in 1935, the site yielded artifacts in greater numbers, in better preservation and showed more elaborate, artistic, sophisticated decoration than any other Mississippian site. Continuing destruction convinced the Oklahoma Legislature to pass a licensing requirement to protect the site. In November 1935, the Pocola Mining Company was finally shut down.
The Spiro Mounds Archaeological Center is a division of the Oklahoma Historical Society. The mission of the Oklahoma Historical Society is to collect, preserve and share the history and culture of the state of Oklahoma and its people. Founded in 1893 by members of the Territorial Press Association, the OHS maintains museums, historic sites and affiliates across the state. Through its research archives, exhibits, educational programs and publications the OHS chronicles the rich history of Oklahoma. For more information about the OHS, please visit www.okhistory.org.
Editor’s Note: Photos of the Spiro Mounds Archaeological Center are available upon request.