Buffalo Indian Village
Land inhabited by humans more than some 12,000 years ago was overturned here by archaeologists in the 1960s to reveal something remarkable. A site that encompasses at least four time periods of Indian activity, 4000 B.C. to 1600 A.D., on the banks of the Kanawha river in West Virginia. Excavations conducted revealed at least two overlapping oval stockades with more than 40 houses surrounding the central plaza. Along with 562 bodies, tens of thousands of ceramic, stone, shell and bone artifacts. In these burials was where the well known "Buffalo Mask" was found along with copper artifacts and glass trade beads. The latest known time of the village being occupied is up to the 1680's.
Backstory and Context
When the site was excavated in 1963 to 1965 by Edward V. McMichael, no one could have imagined the size and complexity of what lay deep beneath their feet. Only around 15 percent of the site was uncovered in the excavation. In a farmer's field, they had uncovered large structures that had once been a thriving community for Native American Indians. Three prehistoric villages had been found that expand at least four time periods. The Late Archaic Village dated between 4000 to 1000 B.C. revealed the remains of a temporary campsite that consisted of several shallow fire pits, refuse pits, and flint processing areas. The discovery of this site resulted in two new projectile point types, the Buffalo Expanding Stem and Buffalo Straight Stem arrowheads. The Middle Woodland Village was dated in the time 390 to 530 A.D. and contained findings like the earlier dated structure.
The largest of the structures excavated revealed at least two overlapping oval stockades that surrounded more than forty houses surrounding a central plaza. These structures are dated to the Fort Ancient Period 1300 to 1600 A.D. but evidence shows the area being used up until the 1680s. Found in the two fort structures were 562 burials, tens of thousands of ceramic, stone, shell and bone artifacts. The copper artifacts and glass trade beads place some parts of the village to the Protohistoric period about 1600 A.D. and beyond.
The burials that were unearthed revealed that 84 percent of burial orientation was with the head pointing to the east. Additionally, 53 percent were buried on laying on their backs, and 71 percent were buried within houses. Food items found in the excavation of the two overlapping fort villages projects that between 500 to 1000 people lived and even farmed corn up to the 1680s.
Spencer, Darla S. "Buffalo Mask." e-WV: The West Virginia Encyclopedia. 11 January 2011. Web. 10 March 2017.
Spencer, Darla S. "Buffalo Archaeological Site." e-WV: The West Virginia Encyclopedia. 10 January 2011. Web. 10 March 2017.
Buffalo Archeological Site, West Virginia Encylopedia. Accessed December 17th 2019. https://www.wvencyclopedia.org/articles/693.
Buffalo Indian Village, WV Cyclopedia. April 28th 2011. Accessed December 17th 2019. http://www.wvexp.com/index.php/Buffalo_Indian_Village.