2004 List

Arkansas’s Bluff Shelter Archeological Sites

Endangered List: Back To Main Page
City/County/Congressional District: Arkansas State , (District 1 District 2 District 3 District 4 )
Location Class:
Year Built: N/A
Historic Designation: N/A
Status: Endangered

Numbering more than 1,000 and located throughout the Ozarks in Northwest Arkansas, the bluff shelters were used over thousands of years for habitation, storage, ritual, and burial. As a result, the shelters contain artifacts and discarded debris representing a very wide range of prehistoric and historic Native peoples, as well as white American settlers. In nominating the bluff shelters to the Most Endangered list, Dr. Ann Early, Arkansas State Archeologist, said this about them:

When they are left undisturbed for careful study, bluff shelters harbor a record of human and environmental history that can rarely be matched in quality anywhere in the world. This record can be used to explore questions and issues of local and regional history, but it can also contribute to investigations that are national and international in scale and interest.

In other words, the bluff shelters are resources that are of importance not only to Arkansas but also to the nation and the world. The major threats to the survival of the bluff shelters are looting and vandalism. Trading in antiquities is a highly lucrative endeavor. In fact, at the global level, the illegal trade in antiquities is third only to drugs and armaments in scale and value. Some of Arkansas’s bluff shelters already have been extensively defaced by digging groups searching for marketable relics. Presently, no program exists at the federal or state agency level in Arkansas to find and inventory the bluff shelter sites or to develop a plan to protect these fragile resources. Such a program is needed to prevent the loss of Arkansas’s Bluff Shelter Archeological Sites.