Prehistoric American Indians

in the Metro St. Louis Area

The St. Louis area has an abundance of prehistoric tools and weapons that are scattered across the metro area. These ancient artifacts were either lost (such as the above knife blade or cast away as garbage when they were broken). The above knife, magnified at 150% was found by the author spotted beneath ice on a frozen creek in Ferguson (northern St. Louis county). It is a lanceolate blade similar to those found from the Dalton or Rice sites in Missouri dating to the early Archaic, 8500 to 7000 B.C.

The artifacts displayed on this site were surface collected, exposed by natural erosion.

Dalton points and Clovis point (far right). The Clovis was used by Paleo-Indians in hunting prehistoric animals such as the Mastodon or Mammoth. After those creatures went extinct, the indians adapted their points to hunt animals like elk and deer (notice the three points on left are slightly serrated so the point would stay inside the animal. While the Dalton was thrown using a spear thrower, the Clovis was made for a spear used in thrusting into big game. St. Louis County has one of the highest densities of Clovis points found anywhere in the country, although they are still very rare. A Clovis point was found with the remains of a Mastodon in Mastodon State Park in adjacent Jefferson County, Mo.  Dalton points, dating to  8500 to 7000 B.C., are believed to have been made by the direct descendants of the Clovis people. Left to Right: Dalton, off Mason Road, west St. Louis County; Dalton, Florissant, north St. Louis County; Dalton, Ellisville, west St. Louis County; Dalton, Florissant, north St. Louis County; Clovis, replica of one found near Silver Creek in Madison Co., Illinois (Pete Bostrum Collection). All the above Daltons were found by the author.

The last prehistoric Indian mound left standing in the City of St. Louis. This small temple mound, known as "sugar loaf", was either a ceremonial structure or home of a high ranking official stood. Because a modern home was built to one side, it was spared from being leveled by some other development. This mound is located on the bluff overlooking the Mississippi river at northern terminus of Ohio ave. in south St. Louis. It is visible from interstate 55. [Note:  Small mounds were common on the bluffs overlooking the Missouri River but most have been graded away over the years.] See T. R. Peal's drawing of St. Louis mounds as they appeared in 1819.

Stone-age Knives and Projectiles collected by author and Don Mckinnis in the Ferguson-Florissant vicinity of northern St. Louis County. The largest is about 5 1/2 inches in length. The spear points date anywhere from
5000 B.C. to 900 A.D. and knives 7000 B.C. to 1600 A.D. (Don McKinnis Collection)

Pottery Sherds found on the grounds of Ferguson Junior High (January Ave., on the site of an ancient village site) and  a projectile point (found in January Wabash Park). The pottery is the grit tempered, cord-roughened variety common to the Late Woodland period circa 400-900 A.D.


More Artifacts:

Styles of projectile points changed over time in a similar way styles of clothes or automobiles change from year to year. By studying the styles of artifacts and how they changed over thousands of years, it is often possible to obtain a rough date. As time passed new technologies were obtained. For example, the atlatl (spear thrower) appeared in the Early Archaic tradition; the manufacture of pottery was first used in the Early Woodland; the use of the bow/arrow appeared in the tradition of the Late Woodland; complex societies with "temple" mounds, large scale agriculture, and shell tempered pottery marked the Mississippian period. 

Although Paleo-Indian thru Mississippian are found in the St. Louis area, the tribes (i.e. Illini, Osage, or Missouris) living in the area when Europeans arrived were living in societies not more complex than that of the late Woodland period. Either these tribes regressed to that level as the result of collapse of the Mississippian civilization or they never achieved that development. 

[Note: the descriptive names below, used by Anthropologists can be a bit misleading. For example, the "Forager" not only foraged but also hunted for subsistence; the "Prairie-Forest Potter" not only made pottery but also hunted-foraged and did limited farming; and the Mississippians were not the only ones that resided in villages or farmed.]


History's Time Portal to Old St.Louis

This page authored by Scott K. Williams, Florissant, Missouri. Copyright 2002.