Mississippian celt production and resource extraction in the Upper Big River Valley of St. Francois County, Missouri

Brad H. Koldehoff, Gregory D. Wilson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The Missouri Ozarks are known for their rich and varied mineral resources, such as chert, hematite, galena, flint clay, igneous rock, and salt. Over the past few decades researchers have come to realize the full importance of these resources to the inhabitants of the sprawling Mississippian center of Cahokia and surrounding American Bottom region (e.g., Emerson and Hughes 2000;Koldehoff 1987; Pauketat and Alt 2004; Walthall 1981). Igneous resources in particular have received little attention until recently, specifically the extraction of basalt and related materials for the manufacture of groundstone celts(ungrooved axe heads). The St. Francois Mountains, centered in St. Francois, Iron, Reynolds, and Madison counties, are the ancient volcanic core of the Ozarks. Unlike elsewhere in the Midwest, the St. Francois Mountains have vast exposures of igneous rock, including seams (sills and dikes) of basaltic materials (Tolman and Robertson 1969) well-suited for celt production. While geologists have long studied the unique qualities and economic importance of the St. Francois Mountains, archaeologists have been slow to conduct similarly detailed studies. In fact, little is known about the locations and processes involved in igneous raw material selection, extraction, and reduction. With this article, we make an important step towards filling this information gap.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)217--248
JournalMissouri Archaeologist
StatePublished - 2010


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