Sam Dellinger

Sam Dellinger

Sam Dellinger

Download the PDF

Download Individual Chapters with Endnotes

Read the full story below

Sam Dellinger Bio

Samuel Claudius Dellinger was born on January 14, 1892, in Iron Station (later Lincolntown), North Carolina, to Robert H. and Laura Loftin Dellinger1 . After graduating from high school in the town of his birth, Dellinger attended Trinity College (later Duke University), where he was a “very good varsity wrestler and swimmer”2 . During the summers of 1913 and 1914, Dellinger served as assistant to Dr. Lewis Radcliffe, learning oceanography aboard the U.S.S.S. Fish Hawk during a survey of the Gulf Stream and the fishing grounds off the Carolina coast. Dellinger earned his BA degree with honors in 1915 and later was elected to Phi Beta Kappa at Duke3 . Two years after graduating from Duke, he was awarded a Master’s degree in zoology from Columbia University4 .

Dellinger served as assistant professor of science at Hendrix College in Conway, Arkansas, in 1915 and1916, and as professor of science at same in1917and1918.While at Hendrix, he married Elsie Adkisson, daughter of G.W. Adkisson, a “well known business man of Conway”5. In 1918, Dellinger returned to Columbia for additional graduate study, but left soon thereafter to escape the devastating flu epidemic the swept the country that year. His training in biology allowed him to secure a job with the Florida Citrus Exchange in the orange groves, and later with the U. S. Bureau of Fisheries6.
Dellinger’s research specialty was fish, and after spending the summer conducting research at the renowned Marine Biological Laboratory at Woods Hole, Massachusetts, he began his long career with the University of Arkansas in the fall of 1921 as an assistant professor of zoology7. In 1924, Dellinger was granted a one year leave of absence “to take graduate work leading to his Ph.D. at Columbia University”8. He completed coursework for doctoral degree in 1925, with the Ph.D. “to be conferred at subsequent convocation when thesis is published”9, but for unknown reasons Dellinger never finished his degree. Perhaps this was partly because “Talking, not writing, was his forte”10. Presumably shortly after completing his studies at Columbia and conducting additional doctoral research at Woods Hole, in 1925 Dellinger returned to the University of Arkansas and was appointed curator of the museum11. Around the same time, he was named chairman of the Department of Zoology12 (Arkansas Traveler, 5/28/26, p. 3; “Geology Club Elects Next Year’s Officers”), and he held both titles for over 30 years.
Dellinger recollected to Dr. Charles R. McGimsey (hired as Dellinger’s successor in 1957) that one afternoon while he was walking across campus, President Futrall stopped him and asked Dellinger if he would be willing to assume responsibility for the museum, with no additional pay or reduction in his other responsibilities. Dellinger had some interest museums and agreed on the spot to Futrall’s proposition13. The rest is history.
Dellinger organized “Introduction to Anthropology,” which focused on physical anthropology and evolution, in 1922-23, but due to his other commitments (a heavy teaching load, plus his leave of absence to finish his dissertation), the first anthropology course taught at the University of Arkansas actually was taught in the geology department (Geology 231) by Carey Croneis (later Chancellor of Rice University), using Dellinger’s notes, in 1923 and 1924. Dellinger himself first taught Zoology 333 (Anthropology) during the 1925-1926 academic year14 . Dellinger was an excellent public speaker15 , which undoubtedly contributed to his popularity among University of Arkansas students. During his first semester on campus, 30 students were enrolled in general zoology, but by 1926 the enrollment had reached 150. It is likely that his anthropology course contributed to the popularity of zoology courses in general.

Shortly after the infamous Scopes trial in Tennessee, in 1928 Arkansas voters passed an act that prohibited teaching evolution in state schools. A man who stood by his convictions, Dellinger was one of five University of Arkansas faculty who signed an American Association of University Professors resolution calling the anti-evolution bill unconstitutional, and saying that it interfered with free speech16. Dellinger did not stop teaching his anthropology class, which focused on human evolution, nor his zoology classes, and in 1968, the U. S. Supreme Court declared the law unconstitutional17.
It is not entirely clear how Dellinger developed his passion for archaeology, so evident in the objects selected for this exhibit. In 1968, he told a reporter with the Arkansas Gazette that he became interested in the “Ozark Bluff Dwellers” while pursuing his graduate studies at Columbia University in New York City18. As someone interested in human evolution, it was natural that Dellinger would be interested in the Ozark bluff shelters because they resemble some of the famous fossil hominid sites of France. His early University of Arkansas colleague, geologist Carey Croneis, however, correctly realized that “man is younger in North America than he is in Europe”19 . Indeed, the archaeological remains in the Ozark bluff shelters date to the relatively recent past (i.e., the last 10,000 years), while some of those in France are tens of thousands of years older.

Dellinger’s first excavations, however, were not in the bluff shelters, but in the Arkansas River Valley20 and along the Ouachita River.
Unlike today, in the 1920s there was little or no concern about the effects of major construction projects on archaeological sites. Yet, in 1929 Dellinger was able to persuade Harvey Couch, head of Arkansas Power and Light, to donate a substantial sum of money to fund excavation of several important archaeological sites along the Ouachita River in Garland County that would be inundated upon completion of the Carpenter Dam21. This work represents one of the earliest examples of “salvage archaeology” in the eastern United States. Also unlike today, Dellinger gave some of the excavated pottery vessels to Couch and Couch’s friend Senator Caraway22.

Beginning in the 1920s and continuing throughout his career, Dellinger maintained an active schedule of public lectures, as well documented in the Arkansas Traveler , Arkansas Alumnus, and the Fayetteville Daily Democrat. S. D. Dickinson, recalled that Dellinger “could hold the attention of large audiences as well as single persons with accounts of his experiences. It is not surprising that so gifted a raconteur got the notice of state newspapers and attracted much publicity for his museum, much to the chagrin of other faculty members whose activities were ignored by the press”23. Nor were public lectures Dellinger’s only public service. He was one of the original appointees to the state Basic Science Board in 193124, and continued to serve in the capacity until his retirement. Dellinger also remained active in zoology and in 1937was named an ex-officio member of the Game and Fish Commission25, another position he held until he retired.

A large portion of the museum’s archaeological collection, including many of the complete pottery vessels and material from the Ozark bluff shelters, was obtained by Dellinger’s archaeological field crews during the period 1931-1934. Funding for this work was provided by grants Dellinger received from the Carnegie Corporation, whose foundation supported a number of archaeology programs in the late 1920s and early 1930s. The first Carnegie grant, for $15,000 payable over three years, was awarded in 1931 “for the furtherance of the University’s educational program in connection with the museum”26. This money was used primarily to

conduct excavations in the bluff shelters and in northeast Arkansas. A $5000 grant in 1934 was used to study “camp sites on the Ouachita and Arkansas rivers”27. While the sums seem relatively small today, the total value of the Carnegie grants in today’s dollars would be roughly $250,000! Dellinger’s busy schedule did not permit him to spend much time “in the field,” and the work was supervised by a cadre of his students, who hired local laborers for assistance. Dellinger also was very successful in obtaining financial contributions for the museum from private individuals. Perhaps most noteworthy among these was Colonel T. H. Barton of El Dorado. During the mid-1930s, archaeological excavations by the museum were curtailed, but it was during this period that Dellinger obtained and catalogued a number of important artifacts that had been looted from the Craig Mound at Spiro, Oklahoma. Some of these objects must be numbered among the most important in the museum collections. Much of the funding for this was donated by Col. Barton, president of the Lion Oil Refinery Company of El Dorado, Arkansas28. During the 1937-38 academic year, Barton provided $1200 to the university to pay Dellinger’s salary (the university used Dellinger’s salary money to hire a temporary instructor), as well as over $500 for a graphic artist and a photographer to record the Spiro collections29 . Over time, Col. and Mrs. Barton donated over $2,000,000 to the university30, including additional funds for the museum.

Certainly from a modern museum ethics perspective, but even within accepted ethical principles of museums in the 1930s, Dellinger’s decision to accept objects that had been purchased from looters was questionable. Carl Guthe, from whom Dellinger had long obtained help for his fledgling archaeology program, was sharply critical: “I fail to understand how individuals really interested in developing a university museum [presumably Col. Barton] can justify their requirement that you undertake a project which is unethical and outside of your state in order to obtain their aid”31. At the very least, it is ironic that Dellinger, who decried the activities of out- of-state archaeologists in Arkansas, accepted and studied important collections from Oklahoma. In any event, Dellinger’s acquisition of the Spiro material insured that it would be available to later researchers.

Other important financial donors to the museum included Mrs. Rufus Garrett of El Dorado, and Raymond Rebsamen, Winthrop Rockefeller, and ex-governor George Donaghey of Little Rock32.
During the 1930s, in addition to teaching, managing the museum, and supervising archaeological projects, Dellinger also was active in the archaeological profession, presenting papers at conferences and, in 1934, serving as chairman of the Conference on Southern Prehistory33. The same year, Dellinger was appointed to a Department of Interior committee to create parks to preserve archaeological sites in Arkansas, Missouri, and Tennessee34. It would take several decades, but today there are archaeological parks in all three states, though none are managed by the National Park Service. Despite his many responsibilities, Dellinger found time to pursue his other many and varied interests. In 1928 Dellinger, with Sam Leath and Vance Randolph, organized the first folklore meeting in Arkansas at Eureka Springs. In 1940 he was responsible for the first azaleas and rhododendrons grown in Fayetteville, to the surprise of local nursery owners35. Dellinger also worked hard on behalf of conservation efforts in Arkansas, and it was on his dining room table that the first map for what would become the Buffalo National Scenic River was drawn36.

The Depression era was economically disastrous to many institutions and individuals. In an effort to offset massive unemployment, the Federal government initiated a number of public

works projects that provided employment opportunities. During the 1930s, the government funded a considerable amount of archaeological fieldwork and other archaeology-related projects37. Dellinger made certain that the Museum would receive some of the available Federal funds and was awarded at least three Federally-funded projects. Two of these (including one involving $15,150, the other an unknown amount) focused specifically on the Museum as an institution. The project that started on Christmas Day in 1935 included “preparing charts for teaching and diagrams for display cases,” as well as construction of “storage cases, work tables, cases for fumigating, tanks for frogs, etc.”38. The second (Project No. 5209-4), which started on June 16, 1936, was for “rendering additional services and enlarging activities of the University of Arkansas Museum”39 .

Dellinger also directed a roughly $115,000 (including both Federal and University matching funds) archaeological excavation project involving several prehistoric village and mound sites along the Ouachita River from mid-1939 into 194040. Due to various administrative and personnel problems, as well as the onset of World War II, his more ambitious goal of a state- wide archaeological survey was not realized, but the excavations produced information of lasting importance41.

Although Dellinger was very interested in archaeology, as attested to by this exhibit, by no means did he neglect building the museum’s collections in other areas. A biologist by training, it was only natural that he should continue to acquire plant and animal specimens, but Dellinger also increased the mineral and fossil collection and broadened the collections to include such areas as Greek and Roman antiquities, American glassware, bird’s eggs, and Arkansas folk pottery.

Dellinger was a large, powerful man and a tireless worker, but the stress of his many activities and responsibilities may have contributed to his 1935 diagnosis of high blood pressure42. Shortly after World War II, Dellinger suffered a heart attack, which undoubtedly slowed his activities to some extent43.

In 1960, Dellinger formally retired from the University of Arkansas, after working several years in a half-time capacity. He remained active in retirement. Dellinger did not sever his ties to the museum, and always was available to answer questions about objects in the collections. Continuing his interest in biology, Dellinger began growing ornamental gourds and corresponded with gourd growers around the world44. As chairman of Fayetteville’s City Beautification Committee, Dellinger had more than 1000 red and white dogwoods brought in and planted around town45. He served as the first president of the Arkansas Chapter of the Nature Conservancy and during 1960, and 1961 Dellinger became the first president of the newly formed Arkansas Archeological Society46.

Dellinger’s wife passed away in 1969, and during his final years, his own health was poor. He suffered from glaucoma and Parkinson’s disease, but his mind retained a keen edge47. Samuel Dellinger died August 12, 1973, in Fayetteville. He was survived by his daughter Martha Ellen, a brother and four sisters. He is buried in Fairview Memorial Gardens in Fayetteville48. Sam Dellinger was remembered fondly and respectfully by those who were privileged to work with him. James Durham, who moved to Fayetteville in June 1931 to work on archaeological projects for Dellinger and continued to do so into 1935, stated simply that “Professor Dellinger was a

man who got things done”49. Another of Dellinger’s archaeological “field foremen” during the early 1930s, Charles Finger, Jr., observed that Dellinger was “a large man, physically and in perspective” and that “He commanded respect by his intelligence and actions”50 .
S. D. Dickinson assisted Dellinger with archaeological investigations during the WPA era and remained in contact with Dellinger for many years thereafter. Dickinson (1973) revealed yet another aspect of Dellinger’s personality: “In the late 1920’s and early 1930’s there was some anti-Semitic feeling at the University of Arkansas. Mr. Dellinger took a firm stand against it and was not afraid to express himself; as a matter of fact, he became sponsor of a Jewish fraternity.” Dickinson went on to say:” During Mr. Dellinger’s time, the University of Arkansas did not have the strong state-wide support it enjoys today. Actually, the school had unfortunate public relations too often, and not many of the faculty were known to Arkansas outside the northwestern counties. Everywhere Mr. Dellinger went he endeavored to generate interest in the school. He was one of the best known and best liked members of the faculty outside Washington County.” “It is unfortunate, indeed, that the University of Arkansas failed to grant Mr. Dellinger an honorary degree. He certainly was deserving of it”51. I could not agree more.

Perhaps Dellinger’s greatest professional disappointment was that he never completed a detailed monograph on the bluff shelter excavations in northwest Arkansas52. Indeed, if there is one major criticism that could be leveled against Professor Dellinger, it would be that he wrote very little about the wealth of archaeological material that was excavated under his supervision. While this certainly is the case, it also is fair to wonder if anyone else in his situation could have accomplished more. Throughout virtually his entire career, Dellinger had a full teaching load. He also served as chair of the zoology department for over 30 years, which saddled him with considerable administrative responsibilities. He was also curator of the museum, which involved fundraising and building the collections in other areas in addition to archaeology, and lacked a regular paid assistant until his last decade of service. Thus it is perhaps more appropriate to be amazed at how much Sam Dellinger was able to accomplish. He left a remarkable, enduring legacy that can be appreciated by the people of Arkansas and beyond for many, many years.

1. “S. C. Dellinger, Museum Founder, Dies at Age 81,” Northwest Arkansas Times, 13 August 1973, p. 2.

  1. Charles J. Finger, (untitled), Field Notes 108 (1973), p. 10.
  2. Arkansas Alumnus 10(7):7.
  3. Hester A. Davis, “Being some notes from memory and from the museum records on Sam

Dellinger, the university museum, and Arkansas archeology,” Field Notes 108 (1973), p. 12.

  1. Arkansas Alumnus 3(7):13.
  2. Davis, “Dellinger,” p. 12.
  1. Arkansas Traveler, 6 October 1921, p. 1; Davis, “Dellinger,” p. 12.
  2. Arkansas Alumnus 1(3) (1924), p. 7.
  3. “S. C. Dellinger,” Arkansas Alumnus 3(7) (1926), p. 13.
  4. Samuel D. Dickinson, “A Relic Looks Back,” Arkansas Archeologist 30 (1991), p. 4.
  5. “University of Arkansas Museum,” Arkansas Alumnus 3(7) (1926), p. 7; “S. C.

Dellinger,” Arkansas Alumnus 3(7) (1926), p. 13; University of Arkansas, Annual Catalog of the University of Arkansas (Fayetteville, 1925), p. 8.

12. “Geology Club Elects Next Year’s Officers,” Arkansas Traveler, 28 May 1926, p. 3.

13. Charles R. McGimsey, “Museum anecdotes,” Office of the Registrar, Arkansas Archeological Survey.

14. (University of Arkansas 1923:72, 1924:74; 1925:108; see also Dellinger to Dean G. D. Nichols, 10 May 1957, MC 204, Box 8, folder 9, Mullins Library, University of Arkansas.

  1. Dickinson, “Relic.”
  2. (Arkansas Alumnus 4(8):15;“Faculty and Students at the Front in Early Anti-Evolution


  1. Robert A. Leflar, The First 100 Years(Fayetteville, 1972), p. 152.
  2. “UA Zoologist May Have ‘Retired,’ But ...,” Arkansas Gazette, 9 June 1968,

p. 5E.

19. “Geologists to Explore Newton County Caves,” Harrison Weekly Times, 26 December 1924, p. 3.

20. “Find of Rare Relics Made by Zoologist in Old Cotton Field,” Arkansas Traveler, 20 January 28, p. 4.

21. “Dellinger’s Efforts to Preserve Indian Remains in Arkansas Recognized,” Arkansas Alumnus 7(4) (1930), p. 12; “Arkansas Caveman Relics Dug Up by Prof. Dellinger for Museum,” Arkansas Traveler, 31 January 1930, pp. 1, 3.

22. Dellinger to Couch, 11 December 1929, MC 204, Box 8, folder 4, Mullins Library, University of Arkansas.

  1. Dickinson, “Relic,” p. 4.
  2. Arkansas Alumnus 8(7) (1931), p. 14; “S. C. Dellinger, Member of U.A. Faculty Since

1921, Active in Several Fields,” Northwest Arkansas Times, 6 June 1957, p. 8.

  1. Arkansas Alumnus 14(6) (1937), p. 2.
  2. Arkansas Alumnus 8(5) (1931), p. 5.
  3. Dellinger to Guthe, 17 March 1934, Carl E. Guthe correspondence file, University of

Arkansas Museum.

  1. Arkansas Alumnus 14(5) (1937), p. 2.
  2. Haun to Dellinger, 21 July 1937 and Haun to Dellinger, 20 October 1938, Walter R.

Haun correspondence file, University of Arkansas Museum.

  1. Leflar, First 100 Years, p. 206.
  2. Guthe to Dellinger, 13 January 1937, Carl Guthe correspondence file, University of

Arkansas Museum.

32. “UA Zoologist May Have ‘Retired,’ But . . .,” Arkansas Gazette, 9 June 1968, p. 5E.

  1. Davis, “Dellinger,” p. 12.
  2. “Zoology Staff Is Increased Through Fund,” Arkansas Traveler, 18 October 1934, p. 1.
  3. “S. C. Dellinger, Member of U. A. Faculty Since 1921, Active in Several Fields,”

Northwest Arkansas Times, 6 June 1957, p. 8.

  1. Neil Compton, “Prof. S. C. Dellinger,” Ozark Society Bulletin 7(3) (1973), p. 11.
  2. Edwin A. Lyon, A New Deal for Southeastern Archaeology (Tuscaloosa, 1996).
  3. Dellinger to Futrall, 30 September 1936, Univ. Affairs Misc. Correspondence file,

University of Arkansas Museum.

39. Patterson to Dellinger, 15 June 1936; Works Progress Administration Data & Information file, University of Arkansas Museum.

40. “Archaeological Survey” Arkansas Alumnus 16(7) (1939), pp. 7, 13.

41. Frank F. Schambach, Pre-Caddoan Cultures in the Trans-Mississippi South (Fayetteville, 1998).

42. Guthe to Dellinger, 14 October 1935; Carl E. Guthe correspondence file, University of Arkansas Museum.

  1. Compton, “Dellinger.”
  2. Davis, “Dellinger,” pp. 2, 12.
  3. “UA Zoologist May Have ‘Retired,’ But . . .,”Arkansas Gazette, 9 June 1968,

p. 5E.

  1. Davis, “Dellinger,” pp. 2, 12.
  2. Davis, “Dellinger,” p. 2.
  3. “S. C. Dellinger, Museum Founder, Dies at Age 81,” Northwest Arkansas Times, 13

August 1973, p. 2.

  1. Durham, untitled.
  2. Finger, untitled.
  3. Samuel D. Dickinson, untitled, Field Notes 108 (1973), p. 7.
  4. Davis, “Dellinger,” p. 2.


    The first published reference to the University of Arkansas Museum appears in the First

Report of the Arkansas Industrial University 1, published in 1873. In extolling the building we now know as Old Main, scheduled for completion by September 1875, the structure is described as containing “five large halls for library, cabinets and museums ...”2. Further: “The institution being yet in its infancy, the collection of mineralogical specimens in the museum of the University is as yet rather small, but is being increased as rapidly as possible, and gives earnest of being not only very interesting but also highly instructive ere long” 3. Insofar as the university at this time consisted of only two wooden frame buildings, use of the term “museum” might have been a bit overstated, but the quoted passage makes clear that the need for a museum was

recognized at the founding of the university. The 1876 catalog notes that: “The collections in these (i.e., the “Cabinet and Museum”) are as yet inconsiderable, but are slowly increasing,” and that the State Geologist “has kindly consented to forward to the University duplicates of the specimens obtained by him ...”4.

In his history commissioned for the 100th anniversary of the university, Robert Leflar stated that: “Professor Francis L. Harvey, who taught biology and geology at the University from 1875 to 1885 and did a tremendous amount of original scientific investigation and reporting on the state’s natural history during that period, was actually the founder of the museum. His specimens, carefully labeled, gave the little collection a professional character”5 . Leflar’s statement is confirmed by information in the University catalogs of the time period.

The 1877 University catalog records that Professor Harvey offered a prize of $10 for the best biology collection (of birds, insects, or plants) and a $10 prize for the best “set of chemical compounds used in the arts and manufactured from native minerals found in the State ...” and that the specimens were “to be left as an accession to the museum of the University” 6. In year 2004 dollars, Harvey’s prizes would be worth roughly $125 each! The following year Harvey offered a copy of Sach’s Text Book of Botany, valued at $12.50, for the best pressed and mounted collection of plants; “a ‘Wire Drying Press’ for best unmounted collection of Graminae (grasses) and Compositae (various flowering plants with composite heads, including goldenrod, ragweed, and sunflower);” a copy of Jordan’s Manual of Vertebrates for best collection of reptiles; and a copy of Dana’s Manual of Geology for the “best consideration of the Geology of Washington County” 7.

Harvey continued offering prizes in 1879, and the catalog for that year notes that contributions to the “Museum and Cabinets during the year” included minerals, birds, and plants

to the herbarium8. Harvey also “distributed at his own expense one hundred thousand native plants to schools and colleges of the State9.

The 1880 catalog reveals that local railroads provided passes “by means of which the Professors can visit other portions of the State, and collect material for the Museum” 10. In 1881, “The Harvey Botany Prize,” a copy of LaMaout & Descaisne’s Descriptive Botany, was awarded to Mr. F. W. Ellis of Fayetteville11. The 1881 catalog makes clear Professor Harvey’s key role with the museum: “Any one desiring information about plants, animals or fossils, which they have procured in the State, are solicited to send specimens to Prof. F. L. Harvey, Fayetteville, Arkansas. Desirable specimens will be placed to the credit of the donor in the University museum, and due acknowledgment made in the
catalogue” 12.

The same catalog also supplies, for the first time, considerable information about the museum and it’s collection. At that time, Professor Cuthbert P. Conrad (adjunct professor of chemistry and natural science) was making a collection of “State Minerals for the University” 13. Contributions to the “General Cabinet” during the previous year included minerals and ores, while contributions to the “Biology Department” included Indian relics, fossils, wood specimens, a rattlesnake, and a human fetus14. Further: “The private collections of the Professors, amounting to several hundred specimens, are at the disposal of students for study;” “The University has but few specimens from outside the State;” “The College has no Herbarium. The collection of the Professor, amounting to 1200 specimens, is used to illustrate Botany;” “There are about 500 species of Animal Specimens, to illustrate the various departments of Zoology;” “The collections for illustrating the subject of Geology, are meagre;” “Collections in all the departments are slowly accumulating” 15. This rather lengthy discussion of the museum in the

University catalog indicates that it was playing an increasingly important and visible role within the young university.

The 1882 catalog specifically identifies Professor Harvey as the individual “who has charge of the General Cabinet and Museum” 16, confirming his role as “founder” of the museum. By 1882, there had “been constructed an herbarium case large enough to hold the indigenous plants of North America” 17. Importantly, 1882 marked the first year of a formal appropriation by the Board of Trustees to “enable the Professor to make many valuable collections during the coming year” 18.

In 1884, Harvey donated 750 species of botanical specimens from his private collection to the University19. Unfortunately, Harvey’s hard work and donations did not protect him from the blanket dismissal of the entire University faculty in 188520. His remaining personal collection of plant specimens, “embracing more than 2,500
specimens “21, was purchased by the University shortly after his termination22.

Reynolds and Thomas state that Professor Harvey “was zealous in the work of collecting specimens. The botanical and mineralogical collections of Professor Harvey were especially good ... the specimens remain part of the permanent equipments of the university”23 . This remains true today, as there are a number of mineral specimens in the museum’s collections with an accession number preceded by “Harvey” and numerous historically important “Harvey” specimens in the University herbarium24. It is worth noting that Harvey’s The Minerals and Rocks of Arkansas was published in 1886.

By 1891, the museum collections had grown appreciably: “The cabinet of minerals consists chiefly of a collection of State minerals, contributed by various parties of the State, and by the professors; but it has been recently enlarged by purchase, and embraces also specimens of

value from other States. There has been constructed an herbarium case large enough to hold the indigenous plants of North America and such exotics as are of economic value. It will be the work of years to complete a collection of the plants of North America, but the work is progressing; and the collection is large and valuable. There are about 500 specimens of animals, illustrating the various parts of zoology. Mr. C. W. Wentworth’s donation of his collection furnishes us the nucleus for an entomological collection. Collections in all departments are slowly accumulating. Contributions of minerals, fossils, Indian relics and rare curiosities are solicited”25.

The first mention of the actual space occupied by the museum appears in the 1892 University catalogue, which notes that “... on the fourth floor [of Old Main] are the commodious and well-furnished halls of the literary societies and the Museums”26. Two pages later, the catalogue states that University’s “aim is to make the Museum of more practical and educational value ...”27.

The remarkably spacious exhibit hall of “The Museum of Natural History” was photographed for the 1894 university catalogue28. The exhibit hall was located in the south wing of the fourth floor of University Hall. “Adjoining [the exhibit hall] are two rooms, one being used for the storage of alcoholic specimens, the other for taxidermy”29. With the completion of University Hall (Old Main), space for the museum could have been available as early as 1875, the year Professor Harvey was hired, and it seems likely that the museum occupied a portion of the fourth floor beginning that year or soon thereafter.

An untitled 1894 note in the Fayetteville Weekly Democrat specifically identifies Professor Seth Eugene Meek as “Curator of the Museum”30 , marking the first known published use of that title. The article goes on to state that: “The A. I. U. [Arkansas Industrial University]

museum is being rapidly enlarged under the management of Prof. Meek and it is now a very interesting feature of the University. Geological specimens, historical relics, reptiles, birds, mammals &c are desired and those who can make donations of this kind will be gratefully remembered.” Meek was an adjunct and associate professor of biology and geology31 from 1891 until 1896. His A List of Fishes and Mollusks Collected in Arkansas and Indian Territory was published in 1894, and he donated his private collections of about 250 species, mostly lower invertebrates, to the museum32. Into the 1890s, “Through the kindness of the ‘Frisco and Eureka Springs Railroad the curator [i.e., Meek] has been much aided in making collections in northwestern Arkansas, these roads having furnished him with free transportation over their lines in Arkansas”33.

In 1896, Meek was succeeded as curator by Professor Albert Homer Purdue, who was elected associate professor of geology and curator of the museum that year and was promoted to full professor two years later34. Also the de facto State Geologist of Arkansas, Purdue remained at the University of Arkansas until 1912, when he left to become State Geologist of Tennessee. Around 1900, his office was on the 4th floor of University Hall (Old Main)—also the location of the museum35 (This refers to a label with a photo of Purdue in his office; may want to use for catalog).

Growth of the museum continued under Purdue’s direction, and in 1898 “Several new sloping-top cases with drawers beneath have recently been added”36. These are shown in a circa 1900 photograph of the exhibit hall (Figure ; photo in museum files).

The 1902 University catalogue notes that the museum “occupies the fourth floor of the south wing of the main building,” and that some “large additions” were recently made to equipment “to facilitate instruction in geology and biology, and also to make it of increased

interest to the visiting public”37. At the time, the museum collections included minerals, a petrographic collection, a paleontology collection, the Major Earle collection (minerals and fossils), as well as zoology and botanical collections (University of Arkansas38.

By 1912, the museum’s zoological collections had grown to include 200 birds and mammals, 200 reptiles and amphibians, 1500 fishes, 1000 insects and other invertebrates, and several skeletons39. The growth of the zoological collections may account for Dellinger’s statement decades later that the museum was started through the Department of Zoology (i.e., Professor Harvey), and that many fine specimens were collected. Dellinger also said that during the time that Geology “had control” of the museum (probably referring to the time of Professor Purdue onward), the zoological specimens were in such a bad state of preservation that they had to be discarded40.

Noah Fields Drake, professor of geology, succeeded Purdue as curator of the museum41, holding these titles until he left the University of Arkansas in 1920 after eight years of service42. Drake collected some archaeological specimens and a human skull from Denny Cave, northeast of Huntsville, in 191543.

Following the departure of Professor Drake, geologist George Haven Cady was appointed curator, but seems to have served in that capacity for only one year44. For several years, the museum lacked a titled curator until Dellinger’s appointment in 1925, as mentioned earlier. In the interim, responsibility for the museum probably rested with the geology department, and that it was during this period that the zoological specimens suffered such neglect that they had to be discarded45.Nonetheless, the museum clearly was not forgotten, as the 50th anniversary issue of the yearbook included a several photographs of the museum exhibits, including a “mineralogy exhibit,” an elephant skull with tusks, a “baby hippo,” and a glyptodon46.

Although Samuel C. Dellinger came to the University of Arkansas in 1921, he was not appointed curator of the museum until 1925, following completion of his Ph.D. coursework and research at Columbia University and Woods Hole, Massachusetts47.

In the same issue that introduced Dellinger as the new curator of the museum to university alumni, Arkansas Alumnus (1926:6) also published an overview of the museum, an excerpt from which appears below:

“No mention had been made of any special appropriations for the museum by the state legislature previous to 1895, when $500.00 was appropriated. In 1897 this amount was increased to $1000.00, but dropped in 1901, according to data in the History of Arkansas [i.e., History of the University of Arkansas; 1910] by Thomas and Reynolds. The appropriations have been made since then as follows: 1903, $1000.00; 1905, $700.00; 1907, $500.00; 1909, $500.00.

For years through the loyalty of professors in charge of the department of geology and biology, through gifts from University of Arkansas alumni, purchase and exchange the museum contains some valuable collections.
In one of the display cases is a set of the original specifications for the main building, University Hall, which were drawn up by W. Z. Mayes, builder and contractor. This was presented to the University by Mrs. Ida Mayes Carlisle, daughter of the contractor.

The mineral collections on display are very fine. The collection of rocks, which were given by H. D. Miser, an alumnus, now state geologist of Tennessee, is good, but a larger one is needed.

An unusual and valuable collection of swords and guns was lent to the University recently by Mr. B. H. Stone.

One of the largest collections of Indian relics in the museum is the one given by Lt. C. H. Metcalf of the U. S. Marines, a graduate of the University. The material of this collection came from an old Indian mound just south of the city of Vera Cruz, Mexico. The collection consists of several fine images of Toltec or Aztec workmanship.

Another good collection was given to the University by Miss Carrie Pace. The collection includes pieces of pottery, arrow heads and other stone tools, and bones. This material was found in a mound in St. Francis county”48.

Not only did Dellinger’s appointment as curator mark the beginning of a major research program at the museum, but also increased interest in the museum by the university community and the general public. During the 1926-27 academic year, only a year after Dellinger became curator, there were 2,841 visitors to the museum , a number “larger by far” than in any year since the museum was established in the “early
seventies” 49.

In April 1930, the museum still was located on the fourth floor of Old Main, occupying the hall and rooms 401 and 407. Room 401 housed various vertebrate skeletons of vertebrates. The exhibits also included a collection of Australian mammals including a duckbilled platypus and a spiny anteater50.

In the fall of 1930, the most valuable material in the museum collections was moved to the fireproof Agriculture building51, and additional exhibit space was provided in Room 301 of the new Agriculture Building, where big game animals (including some shot by a party led by President Futrall in Wyoming), prehistoric Native American pottery vessels, and fossils were displayed52. Items of historical interest also were added to the exhibits, and Dellinger specifically

asked alumni to donate such items, especially articles made of corn shucks during reconstruction and a genuine Bowie knife53.

With the completion of the new library (Vol Walker Hall) in 1935, the museum exhibits were moved to the basement, where they remained for over three decades54. Figure reproduces a period photograph of the exhibits. The museum also was given workrooms and storage space in the library55.

The spacious new exhibit hall, which permitted display of more of the outstanding archaeological collections, attracted a record number of visitors during the 1939-40 academic year— total of 8,882, up from 7,868 the previous year56.

Five years after the museum moved to the new library, Old Main suffered a serious fire. At that time, all that remained of the museum exhibits was an “old pelican” and a “disreputable buffalo’s head” on the fourth floor of Old Main57.

In 1955, increasing demands for space in Vol Walker Hall caused the museum exhibits to be moved back to the renovated 4th floor of Old Main58. Now the museum allocated the entire floor comprising about 18,000 square feet. Much of this space was devoted to exhibits, but there also were offices, workrooms, and storage areas. With the completion of Mullins Library in 1969, most of the museum collections were moved back to Vol Walker Hall. At this time, the Arkansas Archeological Survey was allocated six rooms in the same building59.

In the mid-1970s both the Survey and the museum exhibits were moved to Hotz Hall60. This was especially unfortunate for the museum, as not only did exhibit space have to be created out of former dormitory rooms, but especially because the museum was removed from the main part of campus. In 1983, Survey moved out of Hotz Hall to West Avenue Annex61 and museum exhibits were moved into the old Men’s Gymnasium on Garland, with the collections remaining

at Vol Walker Hall. Today the Survey occupies a new building north of campus that includes a state-of-the-art curation facility in which the museum collections are curated.

1. Contra John H. Reynolds and David Y. Thomas, History of the University of Arkansas (Fayetteville, 1910), p. 317.

2. Arkansas Industrial University, First Report of the Arkansas Industrial University. (Little Rock, 1873), p. 16.

  1. First Report, p. 45
  2. Arkansas Industrial University, Fourth Report and Catalogue of the Arkansas Industrial

University (Little Rock, 1876), p. 38.

  1. Robert A. Leflar, The First 100 Years(Fayetteville, 1972), p. 328
  2. Arkansas Industrial University, Fifth Report and Catalogue of the Arkansas Industrial

University(Little Rock, 1877), p. 41.

7. Arkansas Industrial University, Sixth Catalogue of the Arkansas Industrial University(Little Rock, 1878), p. 41.

8. Arkansas Industrial University, Seventh Catalogue of the Arkansas Industrial University (Little Rock, 1879), p. 63.

  1. Reynolds and Thomas, History, p. 469.
  2. Arkansas Industrial University, Eighth Catalogue of the Arkansas Industrial

University(Little Rock, 1880), p. 64.
11. Arkansas Industrial University, Ninth Catalogue of the Arkansas Industrial University

(Little Rock, 1881), p. 56.

  1. Ninth Catalogue, p. 58.
  2. Ninth Catalogue, p. 63.
  3. Ninth Catalogue, p. 64.
  4. Ninth Catalogue, p. 66.
  5. Arkansas Industrial University, Tenth Catalogue of the Arkansas Industrial University

(Little Rock, 1882), p. 60.

  1. Tenth Catalogue, p. 58
  2. Tenth Catalogue, p. 59

19. Arkansas Industrial University, Twelfth Catalogue of the Arkansas Industrial University(Little Rock, 1884), p. 57.

  1. Reynolds and Thomas, History, pp. 130-132
  2. Arkansas Industrial University, Seventeenth Catalogue of the Arkansas Industrial

University (Little Rock, 1889), p. 96.
22. Arkansas Industrial University, Fourteenth Catalogue of the Arkansas Industrial

University (Little Rock, 1886), p. 65.

  1. Reynolds and Thomas, History, p. 113.
  2. Johnnie Gentry (Curator, University Herbarium), personal communication 2004
  3. Arkansas Industrial University, Nineteenth Catalogue of the Arkansas Industrial

University (Little Rock, 1891), pp. 97-98.

26. Arkansas Industrial University, Twentieth Catalogue of the Arkansas Industrial University (Little Rock, 1892), p. 19.

  1. ibid, p. 21.
  2. Arkansas Industrial University, Twenty-Second Catalogue of the Arkansas Industrial

University (Little Rock, 1894), p. 19.

  1. ibid, p. 17.
  2. Fayetteville Weekly Democrat, 8 March 1894, p. 3.
  3. Twentieth Catalogue; Twenty-Second Catalogue.
  4. Twenty-Second Catalogue, p. 17.
  5. ibid, p. 18.
  6. Reynolds and Thomas, History, p. 244; University of Arkansas, Catalogue of the

University of Arkansas, Thirteenth Edition (1902-1903) (Fayetteville 1902), p. 29.

35. Label for photograph 17, MC 214, Manuscript Oversize Box 1, Mullins Library, University of Arkansas.

36. Arkansas Industrial University, Catalogue of the Arkansas Industrial University (Fayetteville, 1898), p. 17.

37. University of Arkansas, Catalogue of the University of Arkansas, Thirteenth Edition (1902-1903) (Fayetteville, 1902), p. 29.

  1. ibid, pp. 29-30.
  2. University of Arkansas, The University of Arkansas Catalogue 1912-1913 (Fort

1912), p. 16

40. Dellinger to Dean G. D. Nichols, 10 May 1957, MC 204, Box 8, folder 9, Mullins Library, University of Arkansas.



41. University of Arkansas Catalogue 1912-1913; University of Arkansas, University of Arkansas Catalog 1919-1920 (Fayetteville, 1920); “Interesting Relics at University Museum,” Fayetteville Daily Democrat, 12 April 1919, p. 1.

  1. Leflar, First 100 Years, p. 218.
  2. “Pottery Found by Students in Huntsville Cave” Fayetteville Daily Democrat, 5


    January 1925, p. 1.

  3. Annual Catalog 1920-1921 (Fayetteville, 1921); Annual Catalog 1921-1922

(Fayetteville, 1922).

  1. Dellinger to Dean G. D. Nichols, op. cit.
  2. Junior Class, University of Arkansas, The “Golden” Razorback (Jefferson City, 1922).
  3. “University of Arkansas Museum,” Arkansas Alumnus 3(7) (1926), pp. 7, 13.
  4. “University of Arkansas Museum,” p. 6.
  5. (untitled), Arkansas Alumnus 4(5) (1927), p. 15.
  6. “Rare Collection of the University Greatly Enlarged,” Fayetteville Daily Democrat, 7 April 1930, p. 8.
  7. “Museum Valuables to be Moved to Fireproof Building,” Fayetteville Daily Democrat, 17 August 1930, p. 2.
  8. “Museum Enlarged,” Arkansas Alumnus 8(3) (1930), p. 7.
  9. “Growth in Museum,” Arkansas Alumnus 10(2) (1932), p. 5.
  10. “Ozark Bluff Dwelling Relics to Be Put in New Museum,” Arkansas Traveler, 23 May

1935, p. 2.

  1. Leflar, First 100 Years, p. 328
  2. “Museum Visitors,” Arkansas Alumnus 18(2) (1940), p. 9.
  3. “Old Main’s Fire,” Arkansas Alumnus 18(3) (1940), pp. 7-8.
  4. Hester A. Davis, “Being Some Notes from Memory and from the Museum Records on

Sam Dellinger, the University Museum, and Arkansas Archeology,” Field Notes 108 (1973), pp. 2-6, 8, 11-13.

  1. Leflar, First 100 Years, p. 329.
  2. Charles R. McGimsey (Director Emeritus, Arkansas Archeological Survey), personal

communication 2004
61. Charles R. McGimsey, III, and Hester A Davis, Annual Report of the Arkansas

Archeological Survey, Fiscal Year 1983-1984 (Fayetteville, 1984),p. 58

The Spiro Mound Group

The Spiro Mound Group is one of the most famous archaeological sites in North America because an unprecedented number of truly remarkable artifacts have been found there1. Unfortunately, most of these were found when the site, and the largest mound in particular, was looted in the early 1930s. The magnitude of the discoveries was captured, if a bit overstated, by a December 1935 story in The Kansas City Star bearing the headline “A ‘King Tut’ Tomb in the Arkansas Valley”2.

The mound group is located within the Arkansas River valley in eastern Oklahoma, about nine miles southwest of Fort Smith, Arkansas, and northeast of the town of Spiro. This archaeological site includes 11 constructed earthen mounds within an area of about 80 acres. It is now an archaeological park managed by the State of Oklahoma.

Uncontrolled digging at the Spiro site began in the summer of 1933, but the actual mining of the site for relics began in November 1933 and continued for two years by a group of six men calling themselves the “Pocola Mining Co.” These individuals leased the portion of the site containing a large burial mound (the Craig Mound). They tunneled into the earthwork and set off a charge of dynamite upon termination of their lease. Professional excavations began soon thereafter, but much had already been totally destroyed by the looters. The looting of the Spiro site is one of the greatest tragedies in the history of North American archaeology.

Many of the most remarkable artifacts were located within a small area known as the “Great Mortuary” beneath the tallest portion of the Craig Mound. Among these were several beautifully carved stone pipes (including the resting warrior figure known as “Big Boy”— possibly the most famous example of prehistoric Native American art from North America), numerous large, engraved conch shells, large ceremonial stone maces and celts, a variety of embossed copper plates, thousands of shell and freshwater pearl beads, as well as well-preserved textiles and basketry. The excavators made little effort to preserve the latter, as these perishables were viewed as being less valuable to buyers.

As stories of the finds at Spiro began to circulate, several archaeologists visited the site. Among these was Samuel Dellinger, who was present during the looting of the “Great Mortuary” in the largest mound. Dellinger actually witnessed some of the objects and human remains being carried out of a tunnel cut into the mound3, later providing the most authoritative account of some of the findings. He also purchased artifacts and human remains for the Museum from the looters on several occasions. A number of the Museum’s Spiro artifacts apparently were purchase from Col. T. H. Barton of El Dorado4, who also donated money for analysis, drawing,

and photography of this material5. Other Spiro artifacts, including “Big Boy,” were obtained by Dellinger for the Museum as part of a large purchase from Fain W. and Blanche B. King6.

Most of the funerary objects from the Spiro site date between about 1100 and 1350 A.D. Such objects were reserved for the use of elite social status, such as political and religious leaders. These individuals received special burial treatment that included placement in a mortuary, sometimes on litters of sacred cedar poles. The objects buried with these individuals include some of the most exquisitely decorated examples of prehistoric Native American art in North America7.

1. James A. Brown, The Spiro Ceremonial Center. Memoirs of the Museum of Anthropology, University of Michigan, Number 29. Ann Arbor (1996). This definitive two volume set covers all aspects of the site.
2. “A ‘King Tut’ Tomb in the Arkansas Valley,” The Kansas City Star, 15 December 1935, pp. 1C-2C. the story was republished by Brown, Spiro, pp. 43-45.

3. Henry W. Hamilton, “The Spiro Mound,” Missouri Archaeologist 14 (1952), pp. 32-34. Neither Dellinger, nor any professional archaeologist, was permitted the actual excavations.
4. Accession Records, 1933-1939, University of Arkansas Museum; “University to Study Famed Indian Mound,” Arkansas Gazette, 1 January 1937, p. 2.

5. Haun to Dellinger, 21 July 1937 and Haun to Dellinger, 20 October 1938, Walter R. Haun correspondence file, University of Arkansas Museum.

  1. King 1947 file, University of Arkansas Museum.
  2. An exhaustive discussion of the engraved shell is found in: Philip Phillips and James A.

Brown, Pre-Columbian Shell Engravings, Peabody Museum Press, Cambridge (1978). The entire artifact assemblage is treated in: Brown, Spiro.”

Dellinger’s Vision for the University of Arkansas Museum

Dellinger’s long-term vision of what the University of Arkansas Museum should be also was well formulated by 1926—only a year after he was appointed curator:

“To a state, a museum is not merely a place for study. Here in the University we

have specialists who can make a study of the natural history specimens of the state and at the same time instill in our own boys and girls not only a love for their state and its worth, but also give them some idea of her wonderful possibilities. We are

training future teachers of Arkansas, who in turn will instill into their students the state’s opportunities”1.
In a1933 article about the Museum’s ongoing archaeological fieldwork, Dellinger

reiterated his strong sentiments:
“Exhibition is only one phase, and only a small side, of a museum according to

Prof. Dellinger. Most states are issuing books on their cultures and natural resources that have been derived from the study of the historical and scientific sides of their states that have been in their museums. The University of Arkansas wants to publish such material for this state, and the information would be available to schools and residents of the state.

“The value of the objects from the standpoint of the teaching of history, anthropology and art is important. With her wonderful supplies of clays suitable for making pottery, Arkansas will someday have a school of ceramic engineering, and at that time the specimens in the museum will be invaluable for the study of clays, tempering materials and designs”2.
What stands out clearly is that Dellinger was not concerned with collecting specimens

simply for the sake of collecting them and placing them on shelves. First and foremost, Dellinger viewed the University of Arkansas Museum as an educational resource for the people of Arkansas, and especially students. Importantly, he did not consider research and publications to be ends in themselves, but rather means to further education.

  1. “University of Arkansas Museum,” Arkansas Alumnus 3(7) (1926), p. 7.
  2. “New Finds Added to Museum,” Arkansas Alumnus 10(6) (1933), pp. 5-6.

Human Burials and the Law

Many of the archaeological specimens obtained under Dellinger’s direction, including most of those included in this exhibit, were found in the graves of pre-Columbian Native Americans. During the 1930s, when most of the University of Arkansas Museum excavations were conducted, professional archaeologists throughout the United States routinely excavated the graves of pre-Columbian Native Americans as simply another kind of archaeological feature. Thus, the Museum excavations were by no means unusual and, in fact, the records kept by the excavators were better than those kept by other institutions.

Until the 1970s, the graves of Native American graves were treated as another kind of archaeological feature; the human remains and associated artifacts were considered to be scientific specimens and stored in museums. In contrast, when graves of Euroamericans were excavated, this usually was done by a funeral home and the individuals were reburied. This double standard caused considerable resentment among Native Americans.

Today, professional archaeologists recognize that modern Native Americans have rightful and appropriate interests in the buried remains of their ancestors, including those that were excavated many years ago. Moreover, the interests of Native Americans have been recognized by Federal and State legislation. At the Federal level, the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) requires consultation with Native American tribes prior to the excavation of graves located on Federal lands. NAGPRA also provides a process for museums and Federal agencies to return certain Native American cultural items—human remains, funerary objects, sacred objects, and objects of cultural patrimony—to lineal descendants, culturally affiliated Indian tribes, and Native Hawaiian organizations.

The State of Arkansas has enacted strong legislation that protects human remains in unregistered cemeteries, as well as prohibiting the trade or commercial display of human skeletal remains and associated funerary objects. Act 1533 of 1999, which amends Act 753 of 1991, is presented below, along with the actual criminal penalties for violations.

Act 1533 of 1999


Be it Enacted by the General Assembly of the State of Arkansas:

SECTION 1. Arkansas Code Annotated 13-6-406 is amended to read as follows:
“13-6-406. Trade or collecting of remains.
(a) Anyone who knowingly buys, sells, or barters human skeletal burial remains or their associated burial furniture is committing a Class D felony for the first offense and a Class C felony on the second and subsequent offenses.
(b) Artifacts as defined in this subchapter and private collections legally acquired prior to July 15, 1991, are exempted from this section.
(c) Nothing in this subchapter prohibits the collecting of such artifacts by landowners or others who do so with the landowner's permission.”

SECTION 2. Arkansas Code Annotated 13-6-407 is amended to read as follows:
“13-6-407. Display of remains.
Anyone who knowingly displays human skeletal burial remains for profit or to aid and abet a commercial enterprise is committing a Class C felony with each day of display being a separate offense.”
SECTION 3. Arkansas Code Annotated 13-6-408 is amended to read as follows:
“13-6-408. Desecration of burial grounds and burial furniture.
(a) Anyone who intentionally or knowingly desecrates or permits desecration of a burial ground and associated burial furniture is committing on the first offense a Class D felony and on the second or subsequent offenses, a Class C felony.
(b) The presence in the ground of grave markers, caskets, or casket hardware creates a rebuttable presumption that these are burial furniture and of the existence or presence of a human burial ground.
(c) Exempted from this section is disturbance of human skeletal burial remains or burial furniture by landowners or agricultural tenants as a consequence of agricultural activity.”
SECTION 4. All provisions of the Act of a general and permanent nature are amendatory to the Arkansas Code of 1987 Annotated and the Arkansas Code Revision Commission shall incorporate the same in the Code.
SECTION 5. If any provision of this Act or the application thereof to any person or circumstance is held invalid, such invalidity shall not affect other provisions or applications of the Act which can be given effect without the invalid provision or application, and to this end the provisions of this Act are declared to be severable.
SECTION 6. All laws and parts of laws in conflict with this Act are hereby repealed.



* The penalty for a Class D felony is no more than 6 years in a State prison. The minimum penalty could be as light as probation.
* The penalty for a Class C felony is a prison term of no less than 3 years nor more than 10 years.

Northeast Arkansas

The rich late prehistoric and protohistoric (between about 1400 and 1600 A.D.) archaeological record of northeast Arkansas has been recognized for many years1. Ceramic vessels from archaeological sites in northeast Arkansas provide the core of several major museum collections, as well as numerous private collections, and many vessels have appeared in publications, both scholarly and popular. The density of large archaeological sites dating to this time period suggests that around 1500 A.D., northeast Arkansas supported one of the largest Native American populations in eastern North America, perhaps numbering in the tens of thousands2. It is likely that the expedition of Hernando de Soto passed through northeastern Arkansas in 15413.

Along with the Ozark bluff shelters, late prehistoric archaeological sites in northeast Arkansas were a major focus of the University of Arkansas Museum investigations carried out using grant money from the Carnegie Corporation. Between February 1932 and September 1933, the Museum conducted large-scale excavations at 11 important archaeological sites in Mississippi, Crittenden, Cross, and Poinsett Counties. The purpose of the excavations was primarily to obtain artifacts for the Museum’s collections and focused primarily, but not

exclusively, and human burials. James Durham and Charles Finger, Jr., supervised the fieldwork, which resulted in the excavation of approximately 1265 individuals.

The excavators located human burials using a thin steel probe. Once a burial was completely exposed, basic information about it was recorded on a standard 3 x 5 inch “burial card,” which included a space for sketching the skeleton and associated objects. The locations of all burials were mapped onto large sheets of paper using a transit or alidade and plane table. Some burials were photographed, and there are some general views, as well. Although far below modern archaeological standards, these field records, which are preserved in the Museum’s files, have provided the basis for several Master’s theses and a Ph.D. dissertation4, while the excavated ceramic vessels have been the subject of other theses5.

During late Mississippian times, ceramic vessels were the most common funerary objects placed with the dead. Between about 1400 and 1600 A.D., Native American ceramic artistry reached its peak in northeast Arkansas and adjacent regions. Decoration became more common and complex, including incising, punctation, painting, and modeling. A number of vessels portray various animals, birds, fish and humans. It is therefore no surprise that ceramics from northeast Arkansas have been eagerly sought by museums and collectors. Most of the archaeological sites in the region are located on prime agricultural lands, and many have suffered considerable damage from plowing.

Most Native Americans of the time period lived in moderately large towns of perhaps 500 individuals. These towns typically included at least one rectangular, flat-topped mound that served as a platform for a shrine/temple and the house of the priest-chief. The houses of other important individuals were located on smaller mounds nearby. Houses generally were rectangular in shape and constructed by setting a series of large upright posts into an excavated

trench packed with clay. Small saplings and cane were woven between the posts, and the walls were then covered with moist clay. A hearth was located in the center of the interior, with sleeping and sitting platforms along the walls. Corn, beans, and squash were grown in fields near the town. The Mississippi River bottomlands supported large herds of deer and stands of nut-bearing trees; fish and waterfowl were plentiful in oxbow lakes. For Native Americans, the alluvial valley of northeast Arkansas truly was a “land of plenty.”

In northeast Arkansas, around 1500 A.D., Native Americans did not bury most of their dead in mounds, but rather throughout their towns—sometimes even under the floors of houses. There is only one example of an area within a town that was specifically set aside for burial of the dead. Almost all individuals were buried on their back in an extended position. Roughly half of the excavated burials at these towns contain no preserved funerary objects. Pottery vessels were the most common object placed with the dead, often near the head. Other kinds of funerary objects are relatively rare; these include arrow points, shell beads and ear ornaments, bone tools, and ground stone items.

Parkin Archeological State Park is managed by the Department of Parks and Tourism. The park includes a large mound (dating to around 1500 A.D.), trails, and an interpretive center housing exhibits and a research station of the Arkansas Archeological Survey. The Henry Clay Hampson II Memorial Museum, also managed by State Parks, exhibits many interesting artifacts from northeast Arkansas.

1. William H. Holmes, “Illustrated Catalogue of a Portion of the Collections Made by the Bureau of Ethnology during the Field Season of 1881.” In Bureau of American Ethnology, Third Annual Report for 1881-1882, pp. 427-510. Washington: Government Printing Office (1884); Robert C. Mainfort, Jr. and Sarah R. Demb, “Edwin Curtiss’ Archaeological Explorations Along the St. Francis River, Northeast Arkansas,” Arkansas Archeologist 41, pp. 1-28 (2001); Clarence B. Moore, “Antiquities of the St. Francis, White, and Black Rivers, Arkansas,” Journal of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia 14, pp. 255-364 (1910); Philip Phillips, Archaeological Survey in the Lower Yazoo Basin, Mississippi, 1949-1955. Papers of the Peabody Museum of American Archaeology and Ethnology, Volume 60, Cambridge (1970); Philip Phillips, James A. Ford, and James B. Griffin, Archaeological Survey in the Lower Mississippi Alluvial Valley, 1940-1947. Papers of the Peabody Museum of American Archaeology and Ethnology, Volume 25, Cambridge (1951).

2. Dan F. Morse, “On the Possible Origin of the Quapaws in Northeast Arkansas.” In Arkansas Before the Americans, edited by H.A. Davis, pp. 40-54. Research Series No. 40, Arkansas Archeological Survey, Fayetteville (1991); Dan F. Morse and Phyllis A. Morse, “Changes in Interpretation in the Archaeology of the Central Mississippi Valley Since 1983.” North American Archaeologist 17(1), pp. 1-35 (1996).

3. Dan F. Morse and Phyllis A. Morse, Archaeology of the Central Mississippi Valley. Academic Press, San Diego (1983), pp. 305-315.
4. Jamie C. Brandon, “Death and the Parkin Phase: Mortuary Patterning in the Archeological Data Recovered in the Durham Excavations in Northeastern Arkansas, 1932- 1933,” M.A. thesis, Department of Anthropology, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville (1999); Rita Fisher-Carroll, “Sociopolitical Organization at Upper Nodena (3MS4) from a Mortuary

Perspective,” M.A. thesis, Department of Anthropology, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville (1997); Thomas N. Gannon, “A Mortuary Analysis of the Vernon Paul Site (3CS25): Sociopolitical Organization at a Late Mississippian Site in Cross County, Arkansas,” M.A. thesis, Department of Anthropology, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville (1999); Rita Fisher- Carroll, “Environmental Dynamics of Drought and its Impact on Sixteenth Century Indigenous Populations in the Central Mississippi Valley,” Ph.D. dissertation, Environmental Dynamics Program, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville (2001).

5. Teresa L. Brown, “Ceramic Variability within the Parkin Phase: A Whole Vessel Metric Analysis,” M.A. thesis, Department of Anthropology, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville (2002); Maria M. Tavaszi, “Stylistic Variation in Ceramic Mortuary Vessels from Upper Nodena (3MS4) and Middle Nodena (3MS3),” M.A. thesis, Department of Anthropology, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville (2004); Marjorie L. Zinke, “An Analysis of Mississippian Burial Components from the Hazel Site, Poinsett County, Arkansas,” M. A. thesis, Department of Anthropology, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville (1975).

The Central Arkansas River Valley

Throughout his career at the University of Arkansas, Samuel Dellinger was very outspoken about keeping archaeological material from Arkansas within the state1. It is not clear precisely how he came to this opinion, nor why he felt so strongly about it, but events in the central Arkansas River valley shortly after Dellinger began working at the university probably helped to shape his attitude.

Commercial “pothunters” began working in the Arkansas River valley in 1923. These individuals excavated and purchased pottery vessels and sold the objects to private collectors

and museums in the United States and Europe. In January 1924, archaeologist Mark R. Harrington (representing the Heye Foundation in New York City) went to Arkansas after learning of the situation and soon thereafter published a description of the situation he found:

“Somehow the poor ‘renters’—the tenant farmers—of the neighborhood had discovered the art of probing with a steel rod in the plowed fields for these unmarked graves, had learned that they frequently contained pottery, and had found that this pottery could be sold. A miniature gold-rush resulted, and before long nearly everyone in Carden Bottoms, from small boys of eight upwards, had become a ‘pot-digger.’ As we approached the ridges the little groups of diggers made a weird picture as they toiled in the mud, unmindful of drizzling rain and flurries of snow. Crops had been poor last year, money was scarce, and so they were improving every moment of daylight. But it was sickening to an archaeologist to see the skeletons chopped to pieces with hoes and dragged ruthlessly forth to be crushed under foot by the vandals—who were interested only in finding something to sell, caring nothing for the history of a vanished people. Of course, no record was kept of the burials, information that might have resulted from careful work has been lost forever. Unskilled hands probably ruined a large part of the pottery while trying to remove it from the graves, and untrained eyes have doubtless overlooked a great proportion of the smaller article laid away with the dead”2.

Harrington’s visit was noticed by the local press:
“M. R. Harrington, of New York City, representing the Heye Foundation, Museum of the American Indian, spent several days here the past week inspecting the superb collection of Indian relics owned by our local collector, G. E. Pilquist. He purchased a collection of choice pieces from Mr. Pilquist. Mr. Harrington, himself part Indian, is one of the

greatest living authorities on Indian customs and relics. He speaks five Indian languages. He also purchased choice relics from Overton and Bailey, of Atkins and Carden Bottom. According to Mr. Harrington, Arkansas is the riches State in the Union in Indian relics”3. Harrington purchased no more than 57 vessels4.

The Carden Bottom, east of Russellville and near the mouth of the Petit Jean River, is the best known, but was by no means the only, locality of extensive pot hunting in the Arkansas River valley. An excerpt from the Dardanelle Post-Dispatch provides a local perspective on the activities:

“The old Indian burying ground on the river below Fowler is now the center of activity in our community. Many can be seen here each day with probing rod and spade prospecting for Indian relics. Many beautiful pieces have been found. Tradition tells us that the property of each Indian was placed in his grave. So we find pipes, beads, arrows, bowls and water bottles in their graves. The water bottles are made in many forms. Some are in the shape of gourds, others are made in the form of terrapins, frogs and the human head. The water bottle seems to have been the Indian’s most prized piece for on them he displayed most of his art and skill. Some are very beautiful and very valuable. Buyers come from distant places to purchase these old relics. It is very fascinating to some to dig for this pottery, while others find it profitable also, there frequently being as much as $50.00 worth of relics in one grave”5.

Unfortunately, Harrington’s purchase of artifacts in the area could only have
served to exacerbate the situation. The initial peak of pothunting in Carden Bottom and other localities along the Arkansas River, as well as along the Petit Jean River, occurred while Dellinger was completing his graduate studies at Columbia University in New York City. It

seems likely that he learned about the situation via letters and newspaper accounts from home, and it is quite possible that he viewed some of Harrington’s collection at the Heye Museum.

While despoiling human graves in order to remove artifacts placed with the dead is quite shocking by today’s standards, it is important to consider the context of the activities. In the first decades of the 1900s, most of the families living along the Arkansas River in the Carden Bottom area were tenant farmers or sharecroppers who grew cotton on tracts of 40 acres or less. In short, they were very poor. The collapse of cotton prices after 1920 drove many families into considerable debt. This dismal state of affairs was compounded in the 1920s, when a series of floods devastated the area. In addition to washing away crops and fields, the high water exposed a number of Native American graves and pottery vessels placed with the dead6. It is not clear precisely when rampant pothunting began, the accounts cited above suggest that one peak of activity occurred in late 1923 and early 1924, following several floods7. Thus, the widespread, uncontrolled digging and despoiling of human graves was a product of both opportunity and economics. Another major flood, in 1927, apparently prompted another peak in digging, and the practice appears to have continued at least into the 1930s8.

From newspaper accounts and anecdotal evidence, it is clear that the Arkansas and Petit Jean River valleys between Russellville and Little Rock supported a substantial population of Native Americans between approximately A.D. 1500 and 1700. Unfortunately, the size and nature of this occupation likely will remain unknown because of the scale and intensity of pothunting in the 1920s and 30s. Virtually our only source of information about the people who once lived in the region comes from collections of ceramic vessels curated by various museums. One of the larger collections is housed by the University of Arkansas Museum, thanks to the

efforts of Samuel Dellinger, who raised sufficient money to purchase a number of pottery vessels from local relic dealers such as J. W. Bailey9.

Dellinger undoubtedly was aware of the ethical dilemma he faced in the Arkansas River valley. An enormous number of important archaeological specimens was being ripped from the ground without proper recording. These artifacts represented and important archaeological legacy of the State of Arkansas, yet many were being sold to out of state museums and private collectors. Clearly Dellinger wanted to preserve as many of the artifacts as possible for the University of Arkansas Museum, but by purchasing specimens from the relic dealers, Dellinger was increasing “demand” for artifacts and therefore in effect encouraging the uncontrolled digging. Yet, had he not acted as he did, it is likely that most of the Arkansas River valley artifacts curated by the museum would not be available for study and appreciation today.The Collections

Although the Arkansas River valley, like all of Arkansas, had been inhabited by humans since around 10,000 B.C., most of the Museum’s collections from the region date between approximately A.D. 1450 and 1700. We know that the region was inhabited by Native Americans until at least 1700 based on finds of European beads and metal (brass) objects.

The Museum’s collections from the Arkansas River valley consist primarily of pottery vessels. Numbering about 270 complete specimens10, this is the largest museum collection of ceramic vessels from the central Arkansas River valley. Many other kinds of objects probably were places with the dead, such as stone and bone tools, but the early relic hunters were interested primarily in pottery. The pottery vessels from the region are distinctive to the area; for instance, they are clearly different than the vessels from northeast Arkansas in the exhibit. Especially characteristic of the Arkansas River collections are large bowls with red-painted rims

and geometric designs on the interiors of vessels. Bottles typically have necks that resemble an hourglass and often feature interlocking red and white swirls. Carinated bowls, similar to late prehistoric Caddoan forms also occur. Some bowls and bottles are incised with intricate geometric designs similar to those used by Caddoan potters.

1. “Indian Remains in Arkansas Should Be Preserved in State Museum,” Arkansas Alumnus 7(5):5-6 (1930).
2. Mark R. Harrington, “A Pot-Hunter’s Paradise,” Indian Notes and Monographs I (April 1924):85.

  1. “The Local Field,” Dardanelle Post-Dispatch, 24 January 1924, p. 5.
  2. Leslie Walker, “Carden Bottom Revisited: An Analytical Comparison of Archeological

Ceramics in Museum Collections and Ceramic Data Excavated from Sites 3YE347 & 3YE25,” unpublished senior honors thesis, Honors College, University of Central Arkansas (2001), p. 22. 5. “The Local Field—Carden Bottom,” Dardanelle Post-Dispatch, 24 January 1924,
p. 7.

  1. Walker, “Carden Bottom Revisited.”
  2. “River Damaging Crops,” Dardanelle Post-Dispatch, 24 May 1923; “Floods in

Oklahoma Cause Big River Here,” Dardanelle Post-Dispatch, 18 October 1923.
8. Phyllis A. Clancy, “The Carden’s Bottom Puzzle Elucidated,” unpublished M.A. thesis, Department of Anthropology, University of Arkansas (1985).
9. “University Gets Bailey Relics,” Atkins Chronicle, 26 November 1926, p. 1; Untitled, Arkansas Alumnus 4(4):7 (1926).
10. Walker, “Carden Bottom Revisited,” p. 23.

“Arkansas for Arkansans”

Almost no sooner had Dellinger been appointed curator of the University museum in 1925 than he began to denounce what he viewed as the pillaging of Arkansas by out-of-state museums:

“’Imagine my chagrin,’ said Mr. Dellinger, ‘when I visited such museums as Peabody at Harvard, the National Museum at Washington, D.C., the one at the University of Michigan, the Heye Museum of the American Indian at New York and found there that their finest and most valuable Indian displays had been sent from Arkansas. Specimens are there that can never be found again in our state. They were sold to the big museums for a nominal sum. They are not like a crop of cotton or corn that can be grown again but when these go out of the state they are lost forever. In many instances they were simply collected by expeditions of the sort that are sent into more backward states or countries. Do we want to send our University students to another university in order to learn something of the first inhabitants of Arkansas?’”1

His concerns were not off the mark. For example in late 1879 through the spring of 1880, a team employed by the Peabody Museum at Harvard University excavated at a number of late prehistoric sites along the St. Francis River and procured over 900 complete pottery vessels; the entire collections was displayed prominently for a number of years2. During the early 1900s, Clarence Bloomfield Moore, of the Philadelphia Academy of Science, excavated over 1000 human burials (many with associated pottery vessels) at late prehistoric sites in northeast and southern Arkansas3. In the early 1920s, Mark R. Harrington, an archaeologist with the Heye Foundation in New York City, excavated in several Arkansas Ozarks bluff shelters and also obtained a number of pottery vessels from the Carden Bottom area in the Arkansas River valley4.

There was nothing unethical or underhanded about any of the excavations, and at the time they were conducted, there was no State-sponsored archaeology program in Arkansas. In fact, much of the material collected by the eastern institutions might never have been available for study and to the public if not for these early excavations. Arkansas clearly was, however, one of the favorite destinations for archaeological projects conducted by the well established museums in the east, and this fact clearly was not lost on Dellinger.

Particularly galling to Dellinger, who was working furiously to develop an archaeological research program at the University of Arkansas Museum, were the 1926 excavations by the Oklahoma Historical Society at several caves and/or bluff shelters in Boone County5. In fairness, it should be noted that the Historical Society may have been unaware of Dellinger and his new- found interest in archaeology, though a representative could have contacted the university as a matter of courtesy.

In 1926, Dellinger was catapulted to some degree of national prominence for his views regarding Arkansas’s archaeological heritage when the prestigious Christian Science Monitor published an moderately long article based on an interview with him. The article noted that Dellinger was “making an effort to keep Arkansas’ historic antiques within the State at a place where they can be studied. Dr. Dellinger is now endeavoring to raise funds to buy a valuable collection of antiques from J. W. Bailey of Atkins, Ark. He is appealing principally to alumni of the University of Arkansas who are interested in archeology to contribute money toward making the purchase possible.” Further, “As a further effort to preserve the historic treasures of the State, Dr. Dellinger is considering methods of preventing the lamentable effects of excavating by inexperienced relic seekers. Careless digging into historic mounds is destroying many valuable archeological specimens of the State, he says.” Quoting Dellinger, “The State of Arkansas is rich

in archeological material, but many owners of relics value their findings as curios and prefer to keep them rather than let them be taken to the university museum or some other suitable place for valuable study. We wish to preserve as many antiques [sic; antiquities] as possible in the university museum, where they will not be retained solely for exhibition purposes, but can be used for studying prehistoric inhabitants”6.

Dellinger received some high-profile support for his efforts to preserve Arkansas’s archaeological heritage within the state from the flamboyant and controversial adventurer/archaeologist Count Byron Khun de Prorok, who presented public lectures at the University of Arkansas in 1926 and 1929. Dellinger almost certainly met de Prorok at the time of his first visit to Fayetteville7 because when he returned in 1929, the Count donated “about 100 objects,” “which is almost priceless as it contains specimens of the Chellean, Mousterian, Solutrean and Magdalean [sic] periods.” Moreover, de Prorok told the local press that “Arkansas has the most interesting and promising pre-historic mounds in America. She should take steps in her wealth of previous civilizations within her own borders for her students and visitors for all time”8. It seems quite likely that Dellinger persuaded to de Prorok to speak out on his (Dellinger’s) behalf.

In a 1930 article in Arkansas Alumnus, Dellinger railed about the Peabody Museum, Oklahoma Historical Society, and other institutions excavating in Arkansas and removing artifacts, going so far as to state that“... the [Ozark bluff] shelters we are studying were robbed by the Heye Foundation”9 . Dellinger used the occasion to ask university alumni for assistance in getting permission to excavate on private land and also to donate objects to the museum.

In the early 1930s, Dellinger had further and perhaps more justified cause for annoyance when the Alabama Museum of Natural History (AMNH) conducted excavations at several late

prehistoric sites in northeast Arkansas in the early 1930s. These included the well-known Upper and Middle Nodena sites, at which the University of Arkansas Museum also excavated10. The Museum’s correspondence files contain some rather pointed letters between Dellinger, Walter B. Jones (Director, AMNH), and Dellinger’s archaeological mentor, Carl Guthe (head of the Committee on State Archaeological Surveys). By this time, Dellinger had begun an active excavation program in the same region, and this was well known to Walter Jones. Moreover, the Alabama Museum of Natural History was involved concurrently in proprietary excavations at the magnificent Moundville archaeological site near Tuscaloosa. After discussions that lasted several years, Guthe came to sympathize with Dellinger about the Alabama excavations11. In all, the AMNH field crews excavated over 1000 human burials and a large number of associated artifacts in northeast Arkansas.

Dellinger also was sharply critical of excavations and collections by untrained individuals, as illustrated in a 1933 article:

“Remaining prehistoric sites in Arkansas that will assist in interpreting past civilizations should be explored by trained archaeologists, according to Prof. S.C. Dellinger, curator of the University museum in a plea to Arkansans to discontinue the practice of removing and selling archaeological specimens to dealers in these objects. The tangible remains of past civilizations have no value in themselves.

“’Individual collections are valueless,’ said Prof. Dellinger. ‘The owners of two of the largest private collections are now trying to dispose of their wares, which cost them thousands of dollars to collect. The collection of artifacts destroyed volumes of our richest pre-history, yet these treasures of our ancient races are now worthless from a scientific and historical viewpoint.’”

“Prof. Dellinger suggests to those wanting to make a collection of some sort to collect postage stamps or old coins. These have all the data stamped on them so their value cannot be destroyed.

“’One cannot over-estimate the importance of leaving the few remaining Indian sites in Arkansas for competent hands to explore. This point was forcibly brought out at the Plains Conference of Archaeology at Lincoln, Nebraska, last September, at which I was informed that my work here in Arkansas would indicate that the roaming plains tribes were once peaceful agriculturalists in this region. Later they migrated into the leas favorable agricultural areas of the plains and gave up their agricultural life, becoming nomads, and depending for their food on the buffalo rather than corn crops. The statement made at the Southern Conference on Pre-history in Birmingham, Alabama, in December that the archaeology of Arkansas was the very keystone for the whole Mississippi region, because the evidence pointed to this area as the most probable for the highest culture on the North American continent’”12.
Among many archaeologists, Dellinger is perhaps best remembered as an individual who

opposed what is arguably the most famous archaeological project ever conducted in eastern North America13. This was the landmark archaeological survey of the lower Mississippi alluvial valley conducted during the 1940s by Philip Phillips (Harvard University), James B. Griffin (University of Michigan), and James A. Ford (Louisiana State University) with funding from the National Park Service. The survey was an extraordinarily ambitious attempt to record and make collections at archaeological sites throughout the lower Mississippi River valley, from the confluence of the Ohio River to the Gulf of Mexico, and the resulting publication14 is one of the

true classics of American archaeology. The artifact collections almost exclusively were obtained from the ground surface; the few excavations were very limited in extent.

Of course, the researchers wanted and needed to include eastern Arkansas as part of the area to be surveyed. Dellinger opposed their work, stating in a letter to the Acting Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution that: “On February 22, I wrote to [James] Ford, in Louisiana, and protested his coming. My reason being the fact that they could skim over in a hasty survey and take the cream off what I had been doing for a number of years’15. This letter (and perhaps others) led Phillips et al. to remark that: “We have been accused of coming in as outsiders and ‘skimming the cream’ off the archaeology of the region. The metaphor is imprecise. The cream, in the sense of the topmost layer, had long ago been skimmed and safely removed to the collectors’ shelves. It was the less attractive material that lay underneath that we were after”16 In his letter to Wetmore, Dellinger forcefully stated that: “Under no condition will we cooperate with Phillips, Ford, or Griffin.”

Taken at face value, the above would suggest that Dellinger was simply a proprietary (“Arkansas for Arkansans”) obstructionist. The actual situation, which has not been reported heretofore, was a bit more complicated and, while not completely exonerating Dellinger, at least provides a better context for his feelings. First, it is important to appreciate that Dellinger had been extraordinarily generous to Philip Phillips in 1938-1939 by allowing him to photograph and make drawings of many of the pottery vessels in the University of Arkansas Museum collections. Further, Dellinger assisted Phillips when the latter wanted to conduct an archaeological survey of the Ouachita River drainage—an area in which Dellinger had conducted his own excavations a decade earlier17.

As to the proposed archaeological survey in eastern Arkansas, Dellinger was legitimately annoyed that he had not been consulted during the planning stage. But what especially upset Dellinger stemmed from difficulties he was experiencing in obtaining money for and implementing his own archaeological survey in Arkansas using funds from the Works Progress Administration (WPA). After over a year of wrangling, Dellinger’s proposed survey was approved for funding in February 1939. The total amount of funding was $115,383, including matching funds provided by the University of Arkansas18.

Once the project got underway, problems arose with several on-site field supervisors, resulting in their dismissals. The situation probably was viewed dimly by WPA administrators, and Dellinger’s efforts to hire a new field supervisor for the project were rebuffed by the WPA for over half a year19.

Thus, news of the impending archaeological survey by Phillips, Ford, and Griffin arrived at a time that Dellinger’s WPA project , including his own survey efforts, was essentially on hold, pending approval of a new field supervisor. Dellinger’s reaction to Phillips et al., therefore, was to some degree borne of frustration. But Dellinger would receive a major insult in June 1940 when Acting Secretary Wetmore recommended to WPA officials that Dellinger hire Phillips, Ford, or Griffin “to supervise an archaeological survey in the state of Arkansas20. Needless to say, Dellinger did not hire any of these individuals. His plans for a state-wide archaeological survey never did materialize, but the overall project was reactivated, resulting in extensive excavations at several village sites along the Ouachita River. Nearly three decades later, the records and collections from two of these sites provided the basis for an important doctoral dissertation on cultures that existing between about 2000 B.C. and 1000 A.D.21

Phillips et al. were, in fact, correct that much of the “cream” had been “skimmed” many years earlier, though to this day there are exciting finds being made in eastern Arkansas. But Phillips and company limited their Arkansas investigations almost exclusively to surface collections, with a very limited excavation at a single archaeological site22. The bags of broken pottery that they collected certainly did not detract from past of future efforts by the University of Arkansas. Dellinger seems not to have held a grudge, however, as he permitted Phillip, Ford, and Griffin to publish photographs of a number of pottery vessels in the University Museum collections, and some years later he was to ask Phillips to recommend promising Harvard graduate students as candidates to become the new curator of the University of Arkansas Museum.

With the benefit of hindsight, it is possible to appreciate Dellinger’s desire to keep archaeological material from Arkansas in the state. He was appointed curator of the University of Arkansas Museum at a time when the collections were quite small and included virtually no archaeological specimens. His appointment also coincided with rampant looting of human graves in the Arkansas River valley, with an enormous amount of the artifacts being sold to out-of-state parties. Moreover, several outside institutions—notably the Heye Foundation and the Oklahoma Historical Society—were conducting excavations at some of Arkansas’s remarkable bluff shelters. All this at the time when he had only begun to build an archaeology program at the University Museum. Nor was Dellinger alone in his desire to “protect” his own state23. Trained as a zoologist, Dellinger recognized his insufficient knowledge of archaeology and museum management and sought help from one of the most prominent archaeologists in the eastern United States, Carl Guthe.

Though protective, Dellinger nonetheless permitted outside researchers to photograph unpublished pottery vessels in the museum collection and helped a doctoral student at Harvard University with an archaeology project in southern Arkansas. Dellinger’s protective attitude certainly never detracted from our understanding of Arkansas archaeology. Far from it, in fact, as it was this attitude that spurred Dellinger to obtain the research grants that built the archaeology collections of the University of Arkansas Museum into one of the finest in the nation.

1. “University of Arkansas Museum,” Arkansas Alumnus 3(7), pp. 7, 12. [pages for entire article are 6-7, 12]
2. Robert C. Mainfort, Jr. and Sarah R. Demb, Edwin Curtiss’ Archaeological Explorations Along the St. Francis River, Northeast Arkansas. Arkansas Archeologist 41, pp. 1-28 (2001).

3. E.g., Clarence B. Moore, Antiquities of the St. Francis, White and Black Rivers, Arkansas, Journal of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia 14:255-364 (1910); Some Aboriginal Sites on Mississippi River, Journal of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia 14:367-478 (1911).
4. Mark R. Harrington, “A Pot-Hunter’s Paradise,” Indian Notes and Monographs, Volume 1(2), p. 85, New York, Heye Foundation (April 1924); The Ozark Bluff-Dwellers, Museum of the American Indian Notes and Monographs No. 12, Heye Foundation, New York (1960).
5. “Boone County Caves Yield Relics of Bluff Dwellers: Expedition Sent By Historical Society of Oklahoma Carrying on Extensive Study in Habitat of Ancient Race,” Arkansas Gazette, 3 March 1926.
6. “Making Archeological Relics Available for Study,” Christian Science Monitor, 24 November 1926, p. ?.
7. “Noted Archeologist Gives Vivid Lecture,” Arkansas Traveler, 28 January 1926,
p. 1.
8. “Priceless Objects of Ancient World Given to UA Museum by Count DeProrock: Explorer Interested in Ark. Mounds,” Fayetteville Daily Democrat, 29 January 1929, p. 1.
9. “Indian Remains in Arkansas Should Be Preserved in State Museum,” Arkansas Alumnus 7(5):5-6 (1930)

10. Rita Fisher-Carroll, Mortuary Behavior at Upper Nodena, Research Series 59, Arkansas Archeological Survey, Fayetteville (2001).
11. Guthe to Dellinger, 24 February 1934; Carl E. Guthe correspondence file, University of Arkansas Museum

  1. “Dellinger Makes Plea for Prehistoric Sites,” Arkansas Alumnus 10(7), p. 4 (1933).
  2. Edwin A. Lyon, A New Deal for Southeastern Archaeology, pp. 177-178, University of

Alabama Press, Tuscaloosa (1996).
14. Philip Phillips, James A. Ford, and James B. Griffin, Archaeological Survey in the Lower Mississippi Alluvial Valley, 1940-1947, Papers of the Peabody Museum of American Archaeology and Ethnology, Harvard University, Volume 25, Cambridge (1951).
15. Dellinger to Alexander Wetmore , 31 July 1940, Dellinger correspondence file, University of Arkansas Museum

  1. Phillips et al., Archaeological Survey, p. 40.
  2. Dellinger to Alexander Wetmore , op cit.
  3. “Archeological Survey Soon,” Northwest Arkansas Times, 13 February 1939, p. 1;

“Archaeological Survey,” Arkansas Alumnus 16(7), pp. 7, 13 (1939).
19. Dellinger to Florence Kerr (National Director, Professional and Service Division, WPA, Washington), 31 July 1940.
20. Wetmore to Bevens, 18 June 1940, May Blevins (sic) correspondence file, University of Arkansas Museum
21. Frank F. Schambach, Pre-Caddoan Cultures in the Trans-Mississippi South, Research Series 53, Arkansas Archeological Survey, Fayetteville (1998).
22. Phillips et al., Archaeological Survey.

23. Lyon, New Deal.

BIBLIOGRAPHY OF S. C. DELLINGER Compiled by James A. Scholtz
University of Arkansas Museum, 1973

  1. 1930 Archaeological Field Work in North America during 1929: Arkansas. American Anthropologist 32(2):348.
  2. 1931 Archaeological Field Work in North America during 1930: Arkansas. American Anthropologist 33(3):465.
  3. 1932 Archaeological Field Work in North America during 1931: Arkansas. American Anthropologist 34(3):485-486.


    The Bluff Shelters of Arkansas. National Research Council, Birmingham

Conference on Southern Prehistory, Committee on State Archaeological Surveys, pp. 31-34.

W ashington. (mimeographed).
1933 Archaeological Field Work in North America during 1932: Arkansas. American

Anthropologist 35(3):490.
1936 Baby Cradles of the Ozark Bluff Dwellers. American Antiquity1(3):197-214.

Obstetric Effigies of the Mound Builders of Eastern Arkansas. American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology 31(4):683-684.

(with Elmer G. Wakefield) A Report of Identical Albino Twins of Negro Parents. Annals of Internal Medicine 9(8):1149-1153.

The Probable Adaptation of Utilitarian Implements for Surgical Procedures by the “Mound Builders” of Eastern Arkansas. Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery 18(2):434-438.

Diet of the Bluff-Dwellers of the Ozark Mountains and its Skeletal Effects. Annals of Internal Medicine 9(10):1412-1418.

1937 (with Elmer G. Wakefield, and J. D. Camp) Study of the Osseous Remains of a Primitive Race Who Once Inhabited the Shelters of the Bluffs of the Ozark Mountains. American Journal of the Medical Sciences 193(2):223-231.

(with Elmer G. Wakefield, and J. D. Camp) A Study of the Osseous Remains of the

“Mound Builders” of Eastern Arkansas. American Journal of the Medical Sciences 193(4):488-496.

(with Elmer G. Wakefield) Artifacts Found Among the Remains of the “Mound Builders.” Bulletin of the Institute of the History of Medicine 5(5):452-460.

  1. 1938 (with J. D. Black) Herpetology of Arkansas, Part One: The Reptiles. University of Arkansas Museum, Occasional Papers, No. 1. Fayetteville.


    Herpetology of Arkansas, Part Two: The Amphibians. University of Arkansas Museum, Occasional Papers, No. 2. Fayetteville.

  2. 1939 (with Elmer G. Wakefield) Possible Reasons for Trephining the Skull in the Past. Ciba Symposia 1(6):166-169.


    (with S. D. Dickinson) Possible Antecedents of the Middle Mississippian Ceramic Complex in Northeastern Arkansas. American Antiquity 6(2):133-147.

    A Survey of the Historic Earthenware of the Lower Arkansas Valley. Texas

Archeological and Paleontological Society Bulletin 12:76-97.

(with J. D. Black) Notes on Arkansas Mammals. Journal of Mammalogy 21(2):187-191.

1942 Conservation of Wild Animal Life in Arkansas. Chapter VII in Arkansas’ Natural Resources—Their Conservation and Use, edited by R. W. Roberts et al., pp. 289-350. The Source Book Committee, Fayetteville, Arkansas.

(with S. D. Dickinson) Pottery from the Ozark Bluff Shelters. American Antiquity 7(3):276-289, 311-318.

1948 A Cache of Batons from Northeast Arkansas. Tennessee Archaeologist 5(1):10. The Museum. In University of Arkansas, 1871-1949, by H. Hale, pp. 210-211.

University of Arkansas Alumni Association, Fayetteville.

Ozark Bluff Shelters

Archaeologists study the material remains of past peoples. But over a period of hundreds or thousands of years, a great deal of material culture—especially items made from organic materials—will decompose under normal conditions. Thus, at the vast majority of archaeological sites objects of wood, bark, vegetable fibers, skins, furs, and feathers have long since vanished. The only items remaining are those that happened to be made of durable materials, such as stone,

fired clay, and perhaps bone. Only rarely do archaeologists find items such as clothing, footwear, baskets, nets, and cordage because these will be preserved only under certain rare conditions. Therefore, the discovery of a prehistoric archaeological site at which these materials are preserved is of enormous interest. Amazingly, a number of such sites—bluff shelters and caves—have been discovered throughout the Arkansas and Missouri Ozarks.

A bluff shelter is essentially an overhang along a cliff face. Overhangs are formed by differential weathering and erosion at the level of less resistant zones of rock. Deposits build up in bluff shelters as a result of rock falls (due to weathering) and wind-blown sediments. In addition to covering archaeological deposits and helping to preserve them, the wind-blown sediments contain pollen from plants, thus allowing reconstructions of the environment around a shelter over a long period of time.

Within some of these shelters, the soils and cultural deposits are very dry for several reasons. One obvious reason is that the overhangs normally protect the shelters from the rain except for instances where moisture can seep into the shelter. Further, the upper levels of many of the deposits within bluff shelters are high enough that they are not affected by groundwater. In shelters where both of these conditions are found, the upper levels of the deposits have remained exceedingly dry, probably from the time of their deposition. Thus, many perishable objects and materials—those made of plant fibers, wood, cane, or animal hide—are preserved in some shelters.

People have used the sheltered areas along the faces of cliffs for thousands of years in North America (and around the world) because of the same qualities that make these localities unique archaeological sites. These “bluff shelters” offer protection from the weather, making

them attractive places to live and work. The dry conditions also made shelters desirable locations for storing food and other materials, as well as places to bury the dead.

The archaeological remains found in the Ozark bluff shelters do not represent a single ethnic group, nor a single time period. Rather, Native Americans used the various shelters over a period spanning at least 10,000 years.

Dellinger’s attention probably was drawn to the bluff shelters due to several factors. Among these undoubtedly was the excavations conducted by his geology colleague Carey Croneis at caves in Madison and Newton counties while Dellinger was completing his graduate studies at Columbia University1. Less than a year later, the Oklahoma Historical Society sponsored excavations at bluff shelters in caves in Boone County2, much to Dellinger’s displeasure3 . By Dellinger’s own account, he became interested in the “Ozark Bluff Dwellers” while pursuing his graduate studies at Columbia University in New York City, perhaps during his leave of absence during the 1924-25 academic year4. It seems likely that during this time he viewed some of the bluff shelter artifacts excavated a few years earlier by Mark Harrington of the New York-based Heye Foundation. Several years later, Dellinger would accuse the Heye Foundation of “robbing” some of the bluff shelters he was studying5.

The majority of the shelters excavated under Dellinger’s general supervision are located along the main branch of the upper White River. Others are located on the Kings River, Buffalo River, and other tributaries of the White, and a few were excavated on small tributaries of the Arkansas River in the southwestern portion of the Arkansas Ozarks.

As mentioned earlier, the Arkansas Ozarks bluff shelters were chosen for intensive study by Dellinger using the grant funds from the Carnegie Corporation. In fact, the first sites investigated using the Carnegie funds, in 1931, were some bluff shelters in the headwaters of the

Buffalo River, such as Cob Cave, where well-preserved cultivated plants, bags, cordage, and baskets were found. The excavators also recorded important pictographs and petroglyphs at Cob Cave, Indian Rock House, and other shelters. Aware of the importance of these finds, Dellinger presented a paper on the first bluff shelter finds at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in New Orleans over the 1931 Christmas holidays. The same dry conditions that contributed to the preservation of so many perishables and the fine silty soils presented a potential health hazard, so the excavators wore respirators during the excavations6.

The local citizens were friendly and helpful. Find Dellinger’s account of Masonic rite – newspaper account in Spec Colls

In all, Dellinger’s field crews excavated in over 80 bluff shelters in the Ozarks from 1931 through 1934. Wayne Henbest and Charles Finger, Jr. were the students who supervised most of the bluff shelter surveys and excavations, with James Durham and Tom Millard also having brief supervisory roles. Two other students, Jim Gore and Eugene Cypert, also assisted with the bluff shelter investigations7, but seem not to have served as supervisors. As with the excavations in northeast Arkansas, the field supervisors hired local men to assist with the excavations, typically paying them 15 cents per hour8.

Although he published several articles on the Ozark bluff shelters, Dellinger never published a synthetic account of the 1930s excavations conducted under his direction. Dellinger was extremely disappointed by the publication in 1960 of Mark Harrington’s The Ozark Bluff Dwellers9, which covered the same area and some of the same sites where Dellinger’s crews worked . Apparently Dellinger felt that he would not be able to contribute anything beyond Harrington’s volume10 . In fact, this was not the case at all, as shown by Sandra Scholtz’s

outstanding Prehistoric Plies11, which presented a detailed analysis of many of the perishable artifacts from University of Arkansas Museum excavations.

Another important study of the Museum’s bluff shelter collections contributed important new information about early Native American agriculture. Many people are aware that, at the time of their initial encounters with Europeans, many Native American societies cultivated corn, beans, and squash. Archaeologist Gayle Fritz carefully examined a large number of seeds found in bags within a bluff shelter in Searcy County, Arkansas. The seeds included sunflower and gourd/squash, as well as those of plants that today we regard as weeds—lambs quarters and marsh elder. All of the seeds were considerably larger than those seen in the wild, and the seed coats of the lambs quarters seeds were unusually thin. These characteristics indicate that the various plants had been cultivated and domesticated by Native Americans for many generations. Remarkably, radiocarbon dates obtained from some of the seeds indicates that plant domestication was well-established in the Arkansas Ozarks around 3000 years ago12.

As is the case for virtually all archaeological excavations conducted in the early 1930s in the United States, the field records from the Dellinger’s work in the bluff shelters fall considerably short of today’s standards. Nonetheless, an extraordinary amount of well-preserved perishables was excavated. These have been well cared for over the years and remain some of the most important collections in the University of Arkansas Museum.

1. “Geology Students Find Old Relics,” Arkansas Traveler, 8 January 1925, p. 1; (untitled), Fayetteville Daily Democrat, 8 April 1925, p. 8.
2. “Boone County Caves Yield Relics of Bluff Dwellers: Expedition Sent by Historical Society of Oklahoma Carrying on Extensive Study in Habitat of Ancient Race,” Arkansas Gazette, 3 March 1926.

3. “Indian Remains in Arkansas Should Be Preserved in State Museum,” Arkansas Alumnus 7(5), pp. 5-6 (1930).

“UA Zoologist May Have ‘Retired,’ But ...,” Arkansas Gazette, 9 June 1968,

p. 5E.
10 December 1931, p. 1.

  1. Report Book No. 20, University of Arkansas Museum.
  2. Mark. R. Harrington, The Ozark Bluff-Dwellers. Museum of the American Indian, Indian

Notes and Monographs No. 10. Heye Foundation, New York (1960).
10. Hester A. Davis, “Being some notes from memory and from the museum records on Sam Dellinger, the university museum, and Arkansas archeology”, Field Notes 108, pp. 2-6, 8, 11-13, Arkansas Archeological Society (1973).

11. Sandra Clements Scholtz, Prehistoric Plies, Research Series No. 9, Arkansas Archeological Survey, Fayetteville (1975).

“Indian Remains in Arkansas.”
“Dellinger Continues Archaeological Survey,” Arkansas Alumnus 9(2), pp. 9-10 (1931). “Millard to Tell of Adventures on Archeology Trip,” Arkansas Traveler,

12. Gayle J. Fritz, “A Three-Thousand-Year-Old Cache of Crop Seeds from Marble Bluff, Arkansas.” In People, Plants, and Landscapes, edited by Kristen J. Gremillion, pp. 42-62. University of Alabama Press, Tuscaloosa (1997).