Archaeological investigation of Caddo Indians nears end

An archaeological project begun in Upshur County two decades ago is nearing completion.

Caddo Indian artifacts excavated from several sites west of Gilmer in the 1990s to make way for Lake Gilmer have been analyzed, photographed and cataloged and are being prepared for display at Stephen F. Austin University in Nacogdoches, the archaeologist in charge of the project said Friday.

“There are several tens of thousands of items,” said Mark Parsons, who oversaw the excavations in the reservoir basin. Parsons has been in charge of the project as it was transferred from a private company contracted by the City of Gilmer to the Texas Historical Commission.

Studying the finds, which range from small fragments of pottery to arrowheads, tools and pipes to house remains and burial sites, Parsons has spent the past 20 years gaining rare insight into the lives of the Caddos who lived in what is now Upshur County, between approximately 700 A.D. and the mid-15th century.

“These are pre-Spaniards,” Parsons said. “They were the most advanced pre-historic culture that lived in that area. In some senses they were more advanced than we are. They lived in harmony with the environment. They supported themselves and didn’t worry about the world coming to an end the next day. They had very sophisticated religious beliefs. The Caddos were great potters and they made a wide variety of wares,” he said.

“Their engraved pottery is perhaps most beautiful.”

The dispersed village uncovered by Parsons and his team was located in what is now known as Kelsey Creek Valley, near where the Lake Gilmer dam was constructed. The building of the lake was the reason for the archaeological survey, which Parsons was involved in from the start.

“The sites we dug were all probably part of a large extended dispersed village where people would live close enough to be in communication but scattered out up and down what’s now called Kelsey Creek,” he said.

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