Tuesday, October 31, 2017
Ancient Ozarks Natural History Museum
TOP OF THE ROCK--NATIVE AMERICANS
A statue at the entrance of the Ancient Ozarks Natural History Museum in Branson, Missouri
At the Ancient Ozarks Natural History Museum at the Top of the Rock in Branson, MO, many of the artifacts are the result of taking advantage of the creation of the Table Rock Reservoir. Hundreds of thousands of acres were to be flooded over an area that included hundreds of prehistoric Native American sites.
Dr. Carl Chapman, from the University of Missouri, set himself the task of locating, digging out as many of the artifacts as possible and recording them. Starting in 1950 he had seven years before the dam was built and the sites were flooded.
He found almost 900 prehistoric sites, most of them rock shelters along with thousands of stone artifacts. While many of them were projectile points, and are on display, I was familiar with them from many of the other Native American museums I have visited. What made this exhibition different was the emphasis on some other stone items that gave a feel for the introduction of agriculture and a more settled life that was established after 10,000 years of being hunter-gatherers.
Michael O'Brien, professor of anthropology, at the University of Missouri, is also credited with finding and organizing the artifacts in this museum.
Maize (corn) quickly spread from Mexico about 800 A.D. bringing about a major lifestyle shift that required the development of new tools for the new way of life. If I hadn't been told, I would not have recognized that the large, flat pieces of flint filling numerous display cases was "the tool that make agriculture possible--the spade."
With wooden handles they could dig the ground for planting, cut the weeds, and harvest the new food supply. The sign on one of the cases says, "mastering the spade production and the cultivation of maize was one of the single most important events over man's 14,000 year prehistory in America."
The invention of the hoe (spade) allowed Native Americans to develop field crops like corn
These early spades allowed the digging and planting of crops
The spade became one of the most traded items over the central part of the country including what are now Wisconsin, Illinois and Alabama. Being a trader in those days would have required a very strong person since these spades are not light-weight trading goods.
Even heavier was another tool that needed to be used to process the corn--large mortars (metates). A large variety line the walls of several of the exhibition areas along with the pestles to grind the various foods. Many of the mortars here show wear that indicates decades of usage. The display case notes suggest that the village usually had one main mortar for everyone in the village to use.
Stone mortars were used for processing food
Native American clothing has been acquired from other collections and plays a colorful role in the museum. Galley 21 is the War Shirt Galley and a quote from Wooden Leg, a Northern Cheyenne, introduced me to a new concept. "The idea of full dress in preparation for a battle comes not from a belief that it will add to the fighting ability. The preparation is for death, in case that should be the result of the conflict. Every Indian wants to look his best when he goes o meet the Great Spirit, so dressing up is done whether in imminent danger in an oncoming battle, or a sickness or injury at times of peace."
The shirts in the Galley are highly individualized and much thought has been taken in their design. The warrior would fast and contemplate the design, then consult a female bead worker to help create the design he imagined. Numerous women's dresses are also on display.
Galley 27 focuses on the Battle of Little Big Horn and includes the account of the battle by Black Elk, who was twelve when he witnessed the decimated Custer's army. It also includes Galleys on Buffalo Bill's Wild West, the Civil War and a Hall of Presidents.
Johnny Morris, owner of the Bass Pro Shop, some years ago placed his collection of Indian artifacts with the museum. He had based his work on the outstanding collection of the Native American artifacts in the Field Museum in Chicago,. The Ancient Ozarks Natural History Museum has one of the finest collection of Indian artifacts I have seen.
A shirt for a Native American warrior to die in