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Dismal River culture

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Subject: Prehistory of Colorado, Arapaho, Timeline of Kansas history, Waldo Rudolph Wedel, Southern Ute Indian Reservation
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Dismal River culture

Dismal River culture
Geographical range Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota.
Period Post-Archaic
Dates AD 1650-1750
Type site Lovitt Site in Dismal River area of Nebraska
Major sites Scott County State Park (Kansas)
Preceded by Archaic

The Dismal River culture refers to a set of cultural attributes first seen in the Dismal River area of Nebraska in the 1930s by archaeologists William Duncan Strong, Waldo Rudolph Wedel and A. T. Hill. Also known as Dismal River aspect and Dismal River complex, dated between 1650-1750 A.D., is different from other prehistoric Central Plains and Woodland traditions of the western Plains.[1][2][3][4]

Western Plains

Dismal River culture sites have been found in Nebraska, Kansas, Colorado and South Dakota.[3] 18 sites were located in Hayes, Hooker, Cherry, Thomas and Lincoln counties in the Sand Hills of Nebraska.[5]

Notable sites include:

Other village cultures of the Western Plains include the Apishapa Phase, Purgatoire Phase and Upper Purgatoire complex.[7]


Pre-contact distribution of Athapascan, including the Apache and Navajo, after they migrated further south from the Plains

The Apache evolved from the Athapascan who migrated onto the North American continent through the current state of Alaska and northwestern Canada. There are two theories about how the Apache ancestors migrated into the Plains and southwestern United States. They may have traveled through the mountains, staying in a climate that they were accustomed to, or they may have migrated along the plains.[6] Their descendents, the Navajo and Apache, speak Athabaskan languages.[2]

The Apache bands generally attributed to the Dismal River culture are the Paloma and Quartelejo (also Cuartelejo) Apache people. Jicarilla Apache pottery has also been found in some of the Dismal River complex sites.[8]

Some of the people joined the Kiowa in the Black Hills of South Dakota. Due to pressure from the Comanche from the west and Pawnee and French from the east, the remaining people of Dismal River culture migrated south where they later joined the Lipan Apache and Jicarilla Apache nations.[8]

There have been no sites found to date of the period in which the Southern Athabaskans were nomadic, starting about 1500 A.D.[8]


Dismal River villages generally had 15-20 structures and were located near streams.[3] Round houses, shaped like hogans, were built slightly underground or on level ground, about 25 feet (7.6 m) in diameter.[6] The structures were supported by wooden posts and covered with hides or other materials.[2] In the center of their homes were hearths. Bell-shaped baking pits were found in the villages, which sometimes contained remains of human burial.[3]


The people of the Dismal River culture hunted, primarily bison,[2] using small side-notched, triangular or unnotched projectile points made of stone.[3]

They supplemented their diet with cultivated corn and squash and gathered nuts and berries. Stones and bones were used for tools and they made pottery, called Dismal River pottery, which was distinctly gray-black.[2] Much of the pottery were plain bowls, but there were also ollas, or jars, that were stamped with simple designs and had lips that were punctuated or incised.[8]

See also


  1. ^ Cassells, E. Steve. (1997). The Archeology of Colorado, Revised Edition. Boulder, Colorado: Johnson Books. pp. 234. ISBN 1-55566-193-9.
  2. ^ a b c d e The Dismal River Culture.. Nebraska Studies. Retrieved November 26, 2011.
  3. ^ a b c d e f Gibbon, Guy E.; Ames, Kenneth M. (1998) .Archaeology of Prehistoric Native America: An Encyclopedia p. 212. ISBN 0-8153-0725-X.
  4. ^ Gibbon, Guy E.; Ames, Kenneth M. (1998) .Archaeology of Prehistoric Native America: An Encyclopedia pp. 213, 768. ISBN 0-8153-0725-X.
  5. ^ Koch, Amy. (1999).Sand Hills Archaeology Nebraska History. Joint effort by the State Historic Preservation Office and the Archeology Division of the Nebraska State Historical Society. p.13. Retrieved November 26, 2011.
  6. ^ a b c Cassells, E. Steve. (1997). The Archeology of Colorado, Revised Edition. Boulder, Colorado: Johnson Books. pp. 236. ISBN 1-55566-193-9.
  7. ^ Gibbon, Guy E.; Ames, Kenneth M. (1998) .Archaeology of Prehistoric Native America: An Encyclopedia p. xlix. ISBN 0-8153-0725-X.
  8. ^ a b c d Gibbon, Guy E.; Ames, Kenneth M. (1998) .Archaeology of Prehistoric Native America: An Encyclopedia p. 213. ISBN 0-8153-0725-X.

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