Winthrop Rockefeller Institute Research Station

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Cherokees in Arkansas
Historical Archeology
French Colonial
The Ashley Mansion
Old Washington
Moser Farmstead
Riverine Arkansas
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ATU Station to enlarge
UA-WRI (ATU) Station to enlarge

The Arkansas Archeological Survey'S UA-WRI Station is located in the heart of the Arkansas River Valley at Morrilton. The WRI Station maintains archeological records and research collections for 11 counties in west central Arkansas. Since 1989 the WRI Station has also included a focus on historical archeological resources state-wide.

The Station territory represents a diverse landscape that includes large sections of the Ozark and Ouachita Mountains and the Arkansas River Corridor passing between them. Much of the terrain is either hilly and wooded or covered by pasture. Tens of thousands of acres of forest lie in the Ozark-St. Francis National Forest and in the Ouachita National Forest. The only land being row-cropped is in the bottoms of the Arkansas River or in the broader river valleys of the uplands, but many of these bottoms have been permanently flooded by US Corps of Engineers lakes such as Lake Nimrod, Blue Mountain Lake, and Greers Ferry Lake. Much of the Arkansas River floodplain is itself permanently flooded behind the locks and dams of the lakes of the McClellan-Kerr Navigation System. By necessity there is thus much coordination with the National Forest Supervisor's offices in Russellville and Hot Springs, and with the Corps of Engineers District Office in Little Rock.

Looking north from Petit Jean
Looking north from Petit Jean Mountain

Cultural resources in the UA-WRI Station territory include prehistoric Native American sites dating back 12,000 years and more, bluff shelters with thousands of years of occupation, rock faces and shelter walls covered with painted and pecked rock art, occasional mounds in the floodplains of both the Arkansas and smaller streams even in the uplands, village locations along the Petit Jean and Fourche La Fave rivers with deep rich middens, and terrace edges with stone tools ranging all the way from the Dalton period through the Mississippian. Indeed, somewhere in the Station territory is the fluid boundary between the Mississippian cultures of the Mississippi Valley and the Southeast, and the Caddo and other native peoples.

Historic sites range from the elusive camps of the DeSoto Entrada of the 1540s and French voyageurs of the early 1700s, to Civil War battlefields, abandoned river towns, mining and timbering communities, hundreds of wrecks of riverine craft of all kinds and periods, and many hundreds of farmsteads established in the mountains but abandoned to forest after a few generations hard labor. Much of the historic cultural diversity of Arkansas can be found in the Station territory, from the Southern plantations of the bottoms to the Ozark smallholder, from the traditional Protestant uplander from Tennessee and Georgia to the Catholic German immigrants of the late 1800s, and from the farmer to the miner and riverman.

Station History

The ATU Station was established in 1968 by Kenneth W. Cole at what was then called Arkansas Polytechnic College. The territory was originally much larger, stretching from the Ouachitas in the south all the way to Missouri. Cole conducted the initial difficult work of organizing and equipping the Station, began recording sites, and undertook a variety of fieldwork projects in association with local amateur archeologists including at the Howell site (3PP17) in Pope County and at Spradley Cemetery (3NW101) in Newton Co. He also conducted initial cultural resource management projects for the Buffalo National River. Cole served as Station Archeologist from 1968 to 1974.

Lake Dardanelle
Lake Dardanelle

Daniel Wolfman served as Station Archeologist from 1974-1987, during which time the host campus changed its name to Arkansas Tech University. Wolfman carried out various field projects including much of the cultural resource work for the Buffalo National River. His principal concern was the development of innovative scientific dating techniques including fission track dating and archeomagnetic dating.

Since 1989 the Station Archeologist has been Leslie C. "Skip" Stewart-Abernathy. At that time the Station territory was reduced to the current size.

For more information on the WRI station, contact:

Dr. Leslie (Skip) Stewart-Abernathy, Station Archeologist
(501) 727-6250

Dr. Emily Beahm, Archeological Assistant
(501) 727-6284

Larry Porter, Archeological Assistant
(501) 727-6284

UA-WRI Research Station
Arkansas Archeological Survey
Winthrop Rockefeller Institute
Petit Jean Mountain
1 Rockefeller Drive
Morrilton, Ar 72110


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Copyright 2001, Arkansas Archeological Survey, Revised - August 2014
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