Exploring Mastodons in Missouri Tourists Are Welcome to See History Unearthed at the State's Archaeology Sites

Article excerpt

AT THE BASE of a limestone bluff, some 13,000 years ago, a young man plunged a crude spear into an elephant-sized beast.

There's no way to know whether the hunter survived the hunt, but his stone spear point was found beneath the mastodon's bones.

The excavated bone beds, skeletons and stuffed likenesses of animals that roamed Missouri as far back as the last ice age - some 300,000 years ago - are part of the Mastodon State Historic Site in Imperial, about 20 miles south of St. Louis off Interstate 55. The site is only a small part of what archaeologists have unearthed in Missouri. "The state is rich in human history dating back to that Paleoindian period some 11,000 years B.C.," says Larry Grantham, an archaeologist who works for the state. Tourists are welcome to dig into Missouri's early history by visiting some of the archaeological sites managed by the Division of State Parks and groups such as the Missouri Archaeological Society. Graham Cave State Park, about 75 miles southwest of St. Louis, has an interpretive center and a display of artifacts of the people who lived in the area between 8000 and 7000 B.C. Evidence of the Archaic period, from 7000 to 1000 B.C., is found at several sites, including Graham Cave State Park and Bothwell Lodge State Historic Site about 50 miles west of Jefferson City. The Woodlands period, from 1000 B.C. to A.D. 900, is represented by artifacts found at Van Meter State Park northeast of Independence and the petroglyphs at Thousand Hills State Park near Kirksville. The best evidence of the later Mississippian cultures can be found in the mounds at Towosahgyin in the southeast corner of the state near the Mississippi River, and the petroglyphs at Washington State Park southwest of St. Louis. The petroglyphs, most now protected by a roof, are weathered, but the thunderbirds, snakes, birds and ritual markings are easily discernible, especially with the aid of labeled posters that show their outlines. …


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