The Woodward News

March 4, 2014

Dr. Bement returning for museum program

Cathy Johnston
Woodward News

Woodward, Okla. — Imagine large villages of Native Americans situated along local river banks and major streams in northwestern Oklahoma.  As early horticultural groups, they have plots of corn, beans and squash.  The men hunt buffalo with bow and arrow to provide meat for the village.

According to Dr. Leland Bement, research faculty member at the Oklahoma Archaeological Survey, this could have been a scene in northwestern Oklahoma 10,000 years ago.

The people have long since disappeared, but what they have left behind are clues as to who they were and how they lived.  Bits and pieces of their history in the form of camp debris, village trash and pottery pieces, carefully preserved by archaeologists like Dr. Bement, can give us a mental picture of their daily lives.

If you would like to have an opportunity to peek into the ancient world of Native America, Dr. Bement, who has been an archaeologist for 22 years, will be at the Plains Indians and Pioneers Museum in Woodward, at 1 p.m. Saturday, March 8 for Ask the Archaeologist .  The community is invited, free of charge, to bring in any arrowheads, bones, beadwork, pottery shards or other artifacts for examination by Dr. Bement.  He will attempt to identify and date the objects and answer related questions.

According to Museum Director Rob Roberson, many people attend this annual event to see what others have brought, and to hear Dr. Bement speak about the artifacts and the historical significance of archaeological findings in northwestern Oklahoma.   

Roberson said one of the most unusual objects brought in, was a human skull, many years old.  It was discovered to be the skull of a Native American.  Although it was not possible to determine from which tribe the skull originated, it was turned over to the Native American community.  

Volunteers are sometimes permitted to join Dr. Bement in helping with excavations of sites in our local area, Roberson said. Some get involved as part of an internship, but others just do it for the experience.

“I’m interested in any Native American artifacts that people have found around the area," Dr. Bement said.  "We typically see anything from 12,000 year old Clovis points up to 500 year old arrow points.”  

A Clovis point is a style of projectile point that would have been on the head of a spear and used to hunt mammoths, Dr. Bement said.

 “That is the oldest that we have people here in Oklahoma,” Dr. Bement said  “Then it comes forward in time up till 300 years ago the Europeans are trading with the Indians.  We have people in the Woodward area sometimes finding metal arrowheads that indicate that. Then anything and everything in between.”

He is also interested in looking at bones, which he will attempt to identify.  He said he has had people bring in unusual rocks and also unusual knives they have picked up in their world travels.

“I don’t guarantee it.  I don’t know everything, but I try to help out wherever I can,” Dr. Bement said.

Dr. Leland Bement is a research faculty member at the Oklahoma Archaeological Survey, where he has been for 19 years.  He is also an adjunct associate professor in the Department of Anthropology as well as a member of the graduate faculty. He is also an adjunct full professor in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences at Oklahoma State University, a member of the graduate faculty there, and a research associate at the Museum of Texas Tech University.