Fourche Maline culture

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Map of the Fourche Maline, Mill Creek, Marksville, and Mossy Grove cultures

The Fourche Maline culture (pronounced foosh-ma-lean) was a Woodland Period Native American culture that existed from 300 BCE to 800 CE, in southeastern Oklahoma, southwestern Arkansas, northwestern Louisiana, and northeastern Texas. They are considered to be one of the main ancestral groups of the Caddoan Mississippian culture, along with the contemporaneous Mill Creek culture of eastern Texas. It was named for the Fourche Maline Creek, a tributuary of the Poteau River. Their modern descendants are the Caddo Nation of Oklahoma.


Fourche Maline culture gorgets and bannerstones

In the late 1930s archeologists with the Work Projects Administration excavated a series of sites in the Wister Valley of southeastern Oklahoma. The middens at these sites had an unusual thick, dark middens, and were called "black mounds" by the excavators. They contained a blend of Archaic, Woodland, and Mississippian artifacts.[1] These sites became the type sites for the Fourche Maline culture. Early during this time period ceramic pottery had been introduced into the area,[2] probably from Tchefuncte culture peoples to the southeast in Louisiana. The population also became more sedentary and began to establish semi-permanent villages and to practice agriculture,[1] planting various cultigens of the Eastern Agricultural Complex. The populations began to expand, and trade with various nonlocal peoples also began to increase. Trade with peoples to the southwest brought the bow and arrow,[2] and trade with the Marksville culture and other Hopewellian peoples brought exotic goods such as fresh water pearls, sea shells, sharks' teeth, and copper. An increase in the hierarchical structuring of their society, whether indigenously developed or through borrowing from the Hopewell is not certain, also began during this time period. The dead were treated in increasingly elaborate ways, as the first burial mounds are built at this time.[1] Political power begins to be consolidated as the first platform mounds at ritual centers are constructed for the developing hereditary political and religious leadership.[1]

Archeological excavations at McCutchan-McLaughlin site in Latimer County, Oklahoma in the mid 1970s revealed many interesting details about the lives and deaths of the Fourche Maline people. The nuts, seeds, tubers, fish and game they ate provided a healthy life, with none of the diseases that their later maize dependant descendants suffered from. Also, degenerative diseases such as arthritis were less frequent.[2] Less heartening though is the most often identified cause of death among the burial excavated, warfare. Several mass graves were found, with projectile points found in the bodies. One specific group of nine mostly women and children was found with a type of chert projectile points foreign to the area. The foreign material, from the Springfield plateau of southwest Missouri and northern Arkansas was not available to the Fourche Maline people for their own points. It is believed by archaeologists that a raiding party may have surprised the Fourche Maline group when their warriors were away, and afterward the survivors buried their dead in a single mass grave.[2]


Fourche Maline pottery was grog, bone, grit, and sand tempered, and is known for its distinct shape, mainly flat-based vessels with thick walls, similar to flower pots. Common varieties found in archaeological sites are Williams plain, Cooper Boneware and Ouachita plain.[1]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e "Tejas-Caddo Ancestors-Woodland Cultures". Retrieved 2010-02-06. 
  2. ^ a b c d "OAS-Oklahomas Past". Retrieved 2010-02-06. 

External links[edit]

Media related to Fourche Maline culture at Wikimedia Commons