Keota Projectile Point

Projectile Point – 34Lf40/519 (written by Laurel Lamb)

These artifacts are small projectile points.  They are classified as Keota type points.  According to James Brown (1996:431), forty types of projectile points have been excavated and identified from the Spiro site.  Other point types include Agee, Reed, Morris, and Washita.


This particular Keota point (one of those pictured above) is one inch long from the tip to its opposite end – the base.  It is half an inch at its widest point – the shoulders.  Two characteristics that sets this artifact apart as a Keota point are its characteristic narrow side notches and convex base (Sievert 2011:85).  The side notches are the chipped out spaces between the shoulders and the base, while the base protrudes outwards in an elegant curve.

While it is unclear exactly what type of stone material this point is made from, two common materials identified in Spiro points are chert and novaculite (Brown 1996:437).  This Keota point is most likely made from a type of chert.  More specifically, Dr. Elsbeth Dowd, believes it is John’s Valley chert from the Ouachita Mountains.



Ground Stone Pipe – 34Lf40/1112 (written by Alyxandra Stanco)

The Spiro site produced a number of pipes that were made of various materials. According to Merriam (2004:228)., the most prominent material classes of T-pipes found at the Spiro Mounds site were fine-grained stone including sandstone, slate, limestone and hematite. T-pipes get their name from their obvious shape.


This particular groundstone T-pipe is 25 cm in length and the bowl is 7 cm in length. It is known as a cylindrical bowl t-shaped pipe. This pipe is reconstructed and made of fine-grained sandstone. One fine line curves around the bowl of the pipe. One side of the pipe is drilled open. One arm of the pipe is longer than the other arm. According to Hamilton (1952:38) the size and shape of the available stone at the time could have influenced the finished product.

T-pipes were constructed by first roughing out the edges into the T shape. According to Brown (1996: 507), the craftsperson would take a hollow cylindrical drill and make a hole in the side that would leave circular grooves. From there they would drill the hole for the bowl.

It is suggested by Brown (1996:511) that the inhabitants of Spiro created these pipes locally sometime around 1000 A.D. until 1100 A.D.  During the latter part of this period, known as the Harlan phase, the site saw significant development of the major mound structures.

Wood-Shell-Copper Earspool

Earspool (perforated pulley-shaped) – 34Lf40/1297 D#7 (written by Louisa Nash)

This earspool is shaped like a pulley and has a hole, or perforation, in its center. It can also be classified as a composite earspool because it is composed of more than one material (Sievert 2011:111). The earspool is made of cedar wood and has a white shell inlay that is slightly encrusted with oxidized copper. It is round, 4.5 centimeters in diameter, and has a perforation of 0.5 centimeter in the shell inlay. The perforation does not extend into the wood. Around the center of the earspool is an incised circular line and inside this line, covering the shell inlay, is the remnant of what was probably a decorative copper foil.  The Works Project Administration (WPA) uncovered this earspool at Craig Mound during their excavations in 1936-37 at the Spiro Mounds site.

34Lf40/1297 front
34Lf40/1297 front

Archaeological evidence suggests that earspools were worn by individuals as a decorative ear ornament. They are found at a number of sites dating to the Mississippian Period (800-1500 A.D.). Artifacts from Spiro, such as engraved shell cups and gorgets, human effigy pipes, and copper plates, portray human figures wearing earspools in their earlobes (Brown 1996:561). At Spiro, matching earspools have been found in burials on either side of the skull, further indicating that earspools were actually worn (Merriam 2004:136).

Earspools often contained multiple decorative elements. The marine shell that was used as an inlay in this earspool originated from the Gulf of Mexico, likely from the coast of Florida (Bell 1947). The copper remnants encrusted on top of the shell inlay were thought to have derived from Michigan, but now scholars have determined that the copper came from Illinois and from the southern Appalachian Mountains (Wyckoff 2001). These imported components indicate that distant trading networks were used to attain important resources that carried religious connotations.

Spiro, as part of the Mississippian cultural system that extended through the Southeastern, Mid-Atlantic, and Midwestern United States, would have been included in a region-wide religious system called the Southeast Ceremonial Complex (Rogers 2011:2). The materials of shell and copper that make up this earspool had cosmological significance to the people at Spiro. Based on historic and ethnographic accounts, it is probable that shell and copper were both understood to be gifts given to humans from the Great Serpent, who acted as the guardian of bodies of water and as ruler of the Beneath World, a realm largely comprised of water located under the Earth’s surface (Reilly 2007:29).

34Lf40/1297 back
34Lf40/1297 back

Many prominent scholars of Spiro, such as James A. Brown (1996), traditionally interpreted the site of Spiro and Craig Mound as a center of a chiefdom and a place for elaborate elite burials. If this interpretation is correct, then this earspool might have been worn by an elite member of society. However, Brown now argues that the purpose of mound construction at Spiro was not to honor elite chiefs, but to create a sacred monument that contained prestige goods and sacred objects (Brown 2012). This monument was constructed with the intention of bringing together and unifying a scattered population. Objects such as this earspool, which carries religious and cosmological associations, fit into Brown’s interpretations of Craig Mound as a sacred monument.