Parkin Arche­o­log­i­cal State Park con­stantly evolv­ing with new in­for­ma­tion, ar­ti­facts

The Sentinel-Record - HER - Hot Springs - - Short hops -

P arkin Arche­o­log­i­cal State Park, lo­cated in Cross County in east Arkansas, is one of the best links to past hu­man ex­is­tence in the area.

The in­for­ma­tion it of­fers is ob­tained both from the arche­ol­ogy work be­ing done on the site, as well as re­view­ing records made by Her­nando DeSoto when he came to the area and met the Na­tive Amer­i­can tribe in their Vil­lage along the banks of the St. Fran­cis River.

The leader of the tribe was named Casqui, and his name was later adopted for the en­tire tribe by DeSoto and his band of ex­plor­ers. It was one of the few peace­ful en­coun­ters DeSoto made with the area peo­ples, known col­lec­tively as Mis­sis­sip­pi­ans.

The Vil­lage ex­isted from 1000 to 1550 A.D., and be­fore it was made into a park in the 1980s, its dom­i­nant fea­ture was the chief’s mound.

Jef­frey Mitcham has been the on-site arche­ol­o­gist for nearly 25 years, doc­u­ment­ing ev­ery ar­ti­fact dis­cov­ered and re-cre­at­ing the vil­lage with a huge dis­play in the vis­i­tor’s cen­ter. The park has been la­beled one of the most sig­nif­i­cant in Arkansas be­cause of its link to the past, with new dis­cov­er­ies be­ing made ev­ery day.

Much of the park was lost in the early 1900s when a saw- mill, school house and Parkin’s orig­i­nal ceme­tery were placed on the site. All of that his­tory is pro­fi­ciently noted in the vis­i­tor cen­ter. The ceme­tery is pre­served, as well as a one-room school house on the grounds.

Vis­i­tors can take a leisurely self-guided tour free of charge or have a guide give an arche­o­log­i­cal tour for a nom­i­nal fee. The en­tire park is on a 17-acre site with in­ter­pre­tive signs at key points. One of the signs recre­ates an in­ci­dent in­volv­ing DeSoto’s men and the Casqui. A long drought had af­fected the tribe’s corn crop, and a cer­e­mony was held on the chief’s mound over­look­ing the St. Fran­cis River where a cross was erected.

DeSoto’s records show that the rains came shortly af­ter the cer­e­mony. Por­tions of the old cross that were buried in the ground were ex­ca­vated by Mitcham and his staff and are on dis­play in the mu­seum.

Parkin Arche­o­log­i­cal State Park is on the north­ern edge of Parkin at the junc­tion of High­way 64 and High­way 184 north. It is open Tues­day through Satur­day, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., and from 1-5 p.m. Sun­day.

Step into the past and see how the Casqui In­di­ans lived more than 500 years ago, thanks to dili­gent arche­o­log­i­cal work and DeSoto’s records of his visit to the vil­lage.

Sev­eral ar­ti­facts, in­clud­ing th­ese three ex­am­ples of pot­tery, have been ex­ca­vated from the site and are now pre­served in the mu­seum por­tion of the vis­i­tor cen­ter. The chief’s mound, the tallest point in Parkin Arche­o­log­i­cal State Park, was the site of a his­toric cer­e­mony when DeSoto’s men raised a cross over­look­ing the St. Fran­cis River in an at­tempt to bring rain­fall. DeSoto’s records showed the act was suc­cess­ful.

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