First Friday Lecture Series Features Archeologist Mary Beth Trubitt

Hot Springs, Arkansas – National Park College (NPC) Math and Sciences division hosted the First Friday Lunch and Lecture series Friday. Guest speaker Dr. Mary Beth Trubitt presented Archeology of the Ouachita Mountains.

Dr. Mary Beth Trubitt speaks about Archeology of the Ouichita MountainsPictured is guest speaker Dr. mary Beth Trubitt presenting Archeology of the Ouachita Mountains.

Dr. Trubitt discussed recent archeological projects at two local sites near Jones Mill and Mount Ida that are providing new details on American Indian lifeways in the Ouachita Mountains. Both sites are near the Ouachita River and were occupied by Caddo tribes during the Archaic period. She explained that pottery began showing up during the Woodland period around 1000 B.C. She noted pottery evolved as changes in food use and preparation evolved. The earliest pottery was made of clay and tempered with additives to help strengthen the material. Some tribes used crushed rock, animal bone, crushed pottery or mussel shell. The Jones Mill site inhabitants used magnetite, a locally sourced iron ore. The site near Mount Ida did not have access to magnetite and used shale pebbles instead.

Pottery from the excavations shows changing technologies and styles through time, but there are also local variations that make each area distinctive. “Pottery can tell us more than just when people were here. It tells us who was here and what they were doing,” said Trubitt. She noted that family, social status and community identity can all be found through examination of pottery. Residue on the interior can be analyzed to determine how the vessel was used. Caddo pottery is well known for being highly decorated. Tribes often followed rules for decorations that help identify their use. For example, cooking containers typically have rough surfaces, while bowls and containers were often engraved. “A lot of archeology is training the eye to recognize what you are looking at,” said Trubitt.

Dr. Trubitt is the station archeologist at the Arkansas Archeological Survey Henderson State University research station in Arkadelphia, where she teaches anthropology courses, conducts research on American Indian archeology and history, and works with agencies, tribes, and local residents interested in historic preservation.

Dr. Trubitt is co-author of Caddo Connections: Cultural Interactions within and beyond the Caddo World (Rowman & Littlefield, 2014), and editor of Research, Preservation, and Communication: Honoring Thomas J. Green on his Retirement from the Arkansas Archeological Survey (Arkansas Archeological Survey, 2016). She developed the Arkansas Archeological Survey’s “Arkansas Novaculite: A Virtual Comparative Collection” website, supported in part by a grant from the Arkansas Humanities Council and the National Endowment for the Humanities. Trubitt earned a Ph.D. in Anthropology from Northwestern University in 1996.