Published on July 1, 2011 by Amy
Although it is know that Caddo culture stems back to approximately A.D. 800, anthropologists are just beginning to learn details about its history. There are several reasons why more is not known. First, only a few Caddo archelogical sites have been researched, and these have emphasized the burial rites rather than the everyday lives of the Caddo. The second problem is that scientists have very few radiocarbon dates from the Caddo sites. Thus, there are questions regarding the different Caddo time periods. Third, there were two main groups of Caddo, and both of them were divided into smaller tribes. Therefore, there is not consistency among all the groups. Also, it must be kept in mind that the Caddo culture did not have a written history. It was not until the explorers and settlers arrived, much later in Caddo history, that there is anything in writing about them.
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The Caddo lived in the forested area of eastern Texas to Louisiana, Arkansas and Oklahoma. Since this area received a lot of rain and had a moderate temperature, it offered excellent farmland. The Caddo people lived near the forests, so they used wood to make many of their tools. They used stone axes with wooden handles to cut down trees. These axes were not extremely sharp, so it took a great deal of time and effort to fell a tree. Archaeologists have also found what they call ceremonial axes, which are made from finer materials and have not been used for actual work. One of these is called the long-handled spud, or rat-tailed spud, due to its long and thin handle. Some of these axes have been found in the burial sites in southwest Arkansas. Maybe they were made just to symbolize the power of the community chiefs. These spuds ranged from 5 to 12 inches in length.
The Caddo made some of the most advanced and beautiful pottery of their times. Much of this pottery was unusually shaped and found in bottles and bowls with acutely slanted rims. They also experimented with firing, so some of the pieces ended up black or dark red. They were then polished to increase their glossy exteriors. The simpler pottery was for daily use and the more ornate ones were saved for special events. The pottery was handmade from local clay deposits along rivers and streams and fired at lower temperatures in an open pit, not a kiln. The clays varied in their amount of impurities, and the best results came from those that were higher grade. Because archaeologists have found so much pottery, it is believed that the Caddo could tell which deposits would bring more successful results.
After the pottery was fired, the Caddo artists would often engrave the pots with a sharp flint tool. This would result in somewhat jagged marks that cut through the outer layer of the pottery. On the other hand, when incisions are made on a damp clay pot, there are very small ridges made from the clay that is pushed up. From the artifacts that have been found, it appears that the Caddo potters greatly liked both engraving and incising. They used both of these techniques to produce creative effects, such as tick marks, rounded or parallel lines and cross-hatching. Different mineral dyes were then applied to these designed areas to create red, white or green coloring.
Archeolologists have found a variety of different types of hand tools that were used by the Caddo for hunting and farming. When they went on a hunt for larger animals, the Caddo normally used bows and arrows. The Caddo fishermen instead used basket traps to catch fish and shellfish. Caddo warriors carried bows that were fired like pottery, lances or tomahawks. To produce their crops, the farmers relied on such tools as hoes and spades made from wood, bone and seashells.
About five centuries ago, the Caddo population increased to its highest numbers. Villages and hamlets with ritual centers and farms were found in nearly all of the Caddo area. Some of these locations had been farmed earlier, but had been abandoned when the climate changed and soil became less fertile. Excavations in a mound from this period that were completed in the early 1930s by crews from the University of Texas under the direction of A. T. Jackson offer a great deal of information on this period of Caddo ritual life. Near the mound was area with the remains of materials from that period. It included fragments from about 1,290 pieces of pottery, such as bowls and jars, ceramic pipes, arrowheads, shellfish digging tools, bone tools and beads. Large quantities of deer bones were in the remains as well.