Old Fort - Van Meter State Park - Missouri
Posted by: BruceS
N 39° 16.363 W 093° 15.823
15S E 477252 N 4347074
Quick Description: Historic Indian fort located at Van Meter State Park near Marshall, Missouri.
Location: Missouri, United States
Date Posted: 4/15/2007 7:33:03 PM
Waymark Code: WM1DYQ
"The Old Fort has been known to archaeologists for more than a century. It was first described by G.C. Broadhead on a visit in 1872. The earthwork was built 300-500 years ago by the prehistoric Missouri Indians, whose village was located on the next ridge to the east.
The scale of the Old Fort is hard to see today. It measures 1,000 feet long and 420 feet wide and is built around the slopes of the crest of this narrow ridge. The ditches and embankments enclose 6.2 acres. There are 3,990 feet of ditches, 2,660 feet of embankment, and 3,120 feet of terraced slopes. It would have taken many years for people to build such a complex structure using only bison scapula tools.
The Old Fort was built at the edge of a large prairie area stretching far to the east. The soils indicate that the area had been prairie for a long time, and that the trees that we see today have grown within the last two centuries.
The Old Fort was originally believed to date to the Middle Woodland period (A.D.100-400), based on its similarity to other earthworks in the eastern United Sates. In 1970, W. Raymond Wood, Ph.D. of the University of Missouri, dug a trench across the northern ditches and embankments to determine the sequence of prehistoric events on the site. These excavations produced surprising results. They discovered that the Old Fort was built much later by the Oneota (A.D. 1400-1670), the prehistoric Missouri Indians. The sequence of events was now clear. A Middle Woodland occupation occurred in the area. Two ditches were later cut into the hilltop by Oneota construction workers. The inner ditch was originally narrower and was enlarged after the initial construction. Dirt from the excavation was thrown inward resulting in inner and outer embankments. In the centuries since the Oneota left the area, nature began to smooth the slopes. This was accelerated in the last century by plowing.
Archaeologists still do not know why the Old Fort was built. The ditches were six feet deep and the embankments three to four feet high. While it is tempting to say that it was built for defense, no post palisade was discovered in the excavations, and most defensive structures have palisades. The Old Fort still retains its mysteries."
~ markers on site
Van Meter State Park
County / Borough / Parish: Saline County
Year listed: 1972
Historic (Areas of) Significance: Information Potential - Prehistoric
Periods of significance: 1499-1000 AD
Historic function: Religion - Ceremonial Site
Current function: Landscape - Park
Primary Web Site: [Web Link]
Secondary Website 1: [Web Link]
Privately owned?: Not Listed
Season start / Season finish: Not listed
Hours of operation: Not listed
Secondary Website 2: Not listed
National Historic Landmark Link: Not listed
Please give the date and brief account of your visit. Include any additional observations or information that you may have, particularly about the current condition of the site. Additional photos are highly encouraged, but not mandatory.
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