Caddoan Archaeology

In the northeastern portion of Texas, the Late Prehistoric period (dating from ca. AD 700 - 1700) is associated with the Caddoan cultural area. At this time, the Caddoan culture is characterized by sedentary villages located along waterways, ceremonial earth mound constructions, and maize horticulture. The Caddoan culture is also noted for a well developed artistic tradition, which can be seen in the carved effigy pipes from Oklahoma shown here.

The Caddoan culture in northeastern Texas is believed to have developed in situ and to have become a discrete entity by around AD 800. A population increase after AD 800 is indicated by an increase in the number and size of sites. 

The Caddoan archaeological sequence has been divided into Formative Caddoan (AD 800-1000), Early Caddoan (AD 1000-1200), Middle Caddoan (AD 1200-1400), Late Caddoan (AD 1400-1680), and Historic Caddoan (AD 1680-1860). Prior to the Formative Caddoan period, groups from northeast Texas began to live in larger and more permanent settlements. A sedentary settlement system was present in some parts of the Caddoan archaeological region of Texas by AD 800.

Maize is present in the archaeological record from AD 780. Although maize was an important crop, seasonal resources including nuts, deer, and occasionally bison were also exploited by the Caddo.

The cultivation of maize, squash, and local seeds is evident in the Formative Caddoan period, but intensification and dependence on maize appears only after AD 1200, during the Middle Caddoan period. For example, stable isotope analysis indicates that maize was a significant portion of the Early-Middle Caddoan diet at the Sanders site on the Red River.  

It has been suggested that after the Middle Caddoan period increases in nonspecific skeletal pathology and evidence nutritional stress are indicative of diets based on significant contribution of maize.

With intensive reliance on maize, the Caddo would be susceptible to crop failure, especially in regions such as northeastern Texas where erratic weather patterns result in frequent flooding and drought.


Dental Anthropology

Analysis of dental remains can provide much information about diet. An individual's lifestyle and eating habits affect his/her teeth thoughout his/her life. Dental caries (cavities), attrition (tooth wear), abscess and antemortem tooth loss provide evidence of food preparation techniques and the type of food consumed.

Dental attrition is the natural result of a diet high in unprocessed vegetal materials and grit. Grit is introduced into the diet by a variety of means, including the use of stone grinding tools used to make flour from grains such as maize. The amount of attrition is specified by wear scores. For molars, wear scores are estimated by dividing an individual tooth into quadrants and examining each quadrant for attrition. Based on the degree of attrition, each quadrant is given a value from 0-10, where zero equals no dental wear and 10 equals a total loss of enamel. The quadrant scores are then added together for a value ranging from 0-40 per tooth.

Age and diet are the two basic components to consider in examining the frequency of caries.  A diet rich in sticky carbohydrates and sucrose, such as a maize-based diet, is likely to produce a relatively high rate of caries.  The caries rate is equal to the number of caries divided by the number of individuals in the population.  A caries rate of 2.0 is generally used to differentiate between high and low carbohydrate diets.



1. You are studying skeletal remains from the Sanders site and the Mitchell site, two Caddoan sites on the Red River in northeastern Texas. The two sites are located in very different environments, and you want to determine whether the two populations ate different foods and utilized different food preparation techniques. Based on the data in the table below, determine which population used stone grinding tools and which used wood.

Maxillary Molars
Sanders Mean Wear
Mitchell Mean Wear
RM3 11.6 20.5
RM2 17.9 24.3
RM1 22.2 36.0
LM1 19.3 38.2
LM2 16.0 22.5
LM3 11.0 20.6
2. There were 51 individuals from the Sanders site and 33 from the Mitchell site. The total number of caries in the Sanders population was 168, and the total number in the Mitchell population was 149. Calculate the caries rate for each site. Do these rates represent high or low carbohydrate diets?
3. The table below illustrates how the Caddoan carries rate changed through time.  Based on this table, what time periods do the Sanders and Mitchell sites fit into?
Time Period
Carries Rate
Old Martin Place Formative Caddoan 1.8
Bowman Formative Caddoan 1.5
Tigert Early Caddoan 2.0
George C. Davis Early Caddoan 2.2
Roden Middle Caddoan 2.7
Roitsch Late Caddoan 2.8
Kaufman-Williams Late Caddoan 3.5
* All images on this page modified from Brown, J.A. 1996. The Spiro Ceremonial Center: The Archaeology of Arkansas Valley Caddoan Culture in Eastern Oklahoma, Vol. 2. Memoirs of the Museum of Anthropology No. 29, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.