Ricketts Mountain Bluff Shelter PIT
Ozark–St. Francis National Forest, Arkansas, 2003
by Greg Polus, FS Archaeological Technician
The Buffalo Ranger District and Ozark NF hosted the Ricketts Mountain Bluff Shelter Testing and Stabilization project from February 15 to 23, 2003, to identify and assess looter damage to rockshelters in the area. Ricketts Mountain occurs in a distinctive ecosystem, with remnants of resistant sandstones of the Ozark Dome. The fissured and broken rock pedestals are home to xeric stands of pine, cedar, and scrub hardwoods. From the shelter, one can see up to 30 miles to the east, north, and west. It is possible that this area served as a lookout and communication point for American Indians in the past.
(Photo: Volunteer Bobby Braley (left center) surveys the scene on a frosty morning in February)
Thirty-eight enthusiastic volunteers braved cold winds, rain, and snow while helping FS archaeologists and archaeological technicians document looter damage to Ricketts Mountain. We conducted limited subsurface excavations to determine the extent of the damage and whether undisturbed areas of cultural deposits still remained. Volunteers participated in mapping, excavation, and laboratory analysis. The results of these excavations indicate that Ricketts Mountain served as semipermanent habitation for Native Americans for several thousand years.
Several rock faces and some shelters in the area had been spray painted, and we used a variety of techniques to remove the graffiti. We visited other shelters in the area as part of a forest-wide bluff shelter assessment, and discovered and documented some previously unknown pictographs.
(Photo: FS Heritage Resource Technician Larry Faught and volunteers Diane Edger-Opper and Roger Bergstrom take measurements inside the bluff shelter)
The district and forest would like to extend their appreciation to the 38 hardy volunteers who helped document and preserve a portion of our heritage by participating in this project. We hope to see all of you again soon on another PIT project.