Michael Fuller

Mix of wild seeds from Phillips Spring including wild grape, lambs quarter seed (Chenopodium sp.), etc. Seeds in the collection of the Illinois State Museum.


Excavation of unit 172N116E during 1974 contained feature 2 - a concentration of freshwater mussel shells and fire cracked rock. Kay et al. (1980:807) describes the squash seeds as within a rock-lined feature. Two C-14 dates were obtained on charred wood from this feature: 2360 BC +/- 70 and 2290 BC +/- 80 with an average of 2330 BC +/- 50. A single diagnostic projectile point from this feature was an expanding stem point. The feature also contained a large ovate biface, a unifacially worked flake, 2 utilized flakes and a piece of utilized shatter. 

Kay (1982:26, 27) fully exposed the squash feature and demonstrated that is an oval basin measuring 7.0 meter by 2.4 meters with a depth of 40 cm. Kay (1982:29) obtained more C-14 dates from Feature 2/1173; the average of all of these dates is 2307 BC +/- 39. 

5 rim sherds and 61 pottery body sherds were excavated by Chomko from the Middle/Late Woodland features at Phillips Spring. Sherds a and c are limestone tempered. Sherds d, e, f, g, and h are grit tempered. Sherd b is tempered with large fragments of hydrated hematite. 

Two radiocarbon dates from Stratum E belong to the Middle Woodland. Sample SMU-234 dates 40 BC +/- 50 and sample SMU-236 dates 390 BC +/- 80 (Chomko 1976: 23).

An additional Woodland Period C-14 dates have been published by Kay (1982:Table 1) and Kay et al (1980:812): 295 BC +/- 103, 86 BC +/- 58, and AD 52 +/- 84. The most recent date from the site is SMU-237 dates AD 1680 +/- 50 is from a pit feature (with charcoal lens) in Unit H. Two small Mississippian flake points discovered by Chomko would fit nicely with the late date.


Black walnut (Juglans nigra) from Phillips Spring in the collection of the Illinois State Museum,

Phillips Spring prior to dewatering, view to the south. Photograph provided by Dr. Stephen Chomko.


Squash seed (Cucurbita pepo) from Phillips Spring in the collection of the Illinois State Museum.

Chomko (1978:Table 4) recovered significant botanical remains from theWoodland components at Phillips Spring; he recovered wood samples of red mulberry (Horus rubra), sycamore (Platenus occidentalis), oak (Quercus sp.), elm (Ulmus sp.), hickory (Carya sp.), and blackberry (Rubus sp.). Seeds and nuts from the Woodland features include 23 grape seeds (Vitis sp.), 60 Solomon Seal seeds (Polygonatum sp.), 2 Bullrush seed (Scripus sp.), 8 stick tight seeds (Bidens sp.), 1 touch-me-not seed (Impatiens sp.), 3 pokeberry seeds (Phytolacca americana), 3 sunflower seeds (Helianthus sp.), 7 giant ragweed seeds (Ambrosia trifida), 1 virginia creeper seed (Parthenocissus guinquefolia), 35 sedge seeds (Cyperus sp.), 2 grass seed (Setaria), 51 Knotweed seeds (Polygonum sp.), 1 wild carrot seed (Daucus sp), 8 bur oak acorns (Quercus macrocarpa), 7 oak acorns fragments (Quercus sp.), 6 walnut seed fragments (Juglans nigra),  7 hickory shell fragment (Carya sp), and 1 grass seeds (Gramineae).


Chomko (1978:Table 4) recovered significant botanical remains from the Late Archaic components deposited after Feature 2; he recovered wood samples of Sycamore (Platenus occidentalis), Oak (Quercus sp.), Elm (Ulmus sp.), Honey Locust (Gleditsia tricanthos), Walnut (Juglans nigra), and Blackberry (Rubus sp.). Seeds and nuts from the "post Feature 2" Late Archaic deposits include 1 Grape seed (Vitis sp.), 4 Solomon Seal seeds (Polygonatum sp.), 1 Bullrush seed (Scripus sp.), 12 Pokeberry seeds (Phytolacca americana), 2 Sunflower seeds (Helianthus sp.), 12 Giant Ragweed seeds (Ambrosia trifida), 351 Sedge seeds (Cyperus sp. and Carex sp.), 1 Grass seed (Setaria), 163 Knotweed seeds (Polygonum sp.), 7 elderberry seeds (Sambacus canadensis), 7 blackberry seeds (Rubus sp.), 3 tick clover seeds (Desmodium sp.), 1 amaranth seed (Amaranthus sp.), 1 avens seed (Geum canadense), 1 violet seed (Voila sp.), 1 wild plum (Prunus americana), 18 bur oak acorns (Quercus macrocarpa), 42 oak and white oak group acorns fragments (Quercus sp.), 7 walnut seed fragments (Juglans nigra), 1 hazelnut shell fragment (Corcylus americana), 1 hickory shell fragment (Carya sp). 2 seeds from the Sunflower family (Composite), 10 grass seeds (Gramineae), and 1 parsley family seed (Umbelliferae). Kay et al. (1980:Table 2) records 1 squash seed (Cucurbits pepo), 34 grape seeds (Vitis sp.), 1 plume seed (Prunus sp.),  1 lambs quarter seed (Chenopodium sp.), 2 grass seeds (Gramineae sp.), 4 knotweed seeds (Polygnum sp.), 11 blackberry or raspberry seeds (Rubus sp.), 34 elderberry seeds (Sambucus canadensis), 9 blue vervain seeds (Verbena hastata), 1 bedstraw seed (Galium sp.), 11 Ragweed seeds (Ambrosia trifida), hickory nut (Carya sp.), walnut (Juglans nigra), oak acorns (Quercus sp.), and hazelnut (Corylus americana).


Mat of plants and ferns at Phillips Spring prior to dewatering. Photograph provided by Dr. Stephen Chomko. 


Chomko (1976:Figure 19c) discovered a bone tool in one of the additional Late Archaic components at Phillips Spring - not directly associated with Feature 2. The tool was manufactured from a deer (Odocoilius sp.) metatarsal that was split longitudinally leaving the distal epiphysis and anterior aspect of the diaphysis intact. The tool measures 19.0 cm in length and width of modified diaphysis is 1.8 cm.  It is very plausible that this tool was used as a digging stick to unearth roots and tubers as well as to plant the squash and gourd seeds. Dr. Terrence Martin (Illinois State Museum) examined the tool in 2023 and identified it as the metatarsal of the adult, while tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus); he observed that the damage along the mid-shaft was caused by rodent gnawing before it was buried.


Acknowledgments: A thousand thanks to Dr. Stephen Chomko, Dr. Marvin Kay, Dr. Gina Powell (USACE), Timothy Meade (USACE),  DeeAnn Watt (Illinois State Museum), Jessica Boldt (UMC-Anthropology Museum), Candace Sall (UMC-Anthropology Museum), Neathery Fuller, and Eric Fuller.

Excavation unit 170N114E contained Feature 3 - a roughly oval dark stain extending into Stratum C2; it may represent a compound pit feature. The feature fill contained an abundance of charcoal flecks. Associated artifacts included 1 medial biface segment, 1 utilized flake, 22 waste flakes, 11 pieces of chert shatter, 11 pieces of fire cracked rock (limestone and sandstone), and 8 chert pebbles. Floral remains included carbonized hickory (Carya sp.). Fauna remains included turtle (Terrapin), prairie vole (Microtus cs. ochrogaster), squirrel (Sciurus sp.), rabbit (Sylvilagus sp.), and unidentified small mammals. Photograph provided by Dr. Stephe Chomko.

Mississippian arrow points (a - e) and Woodland projectile points (f-n) published in Chomko (1976: Figure 16). a = reg. no.  9-1 was broken in manufacture with width = 15 mm and thickness = 6 mm., b = reg. no. 122-4 was broken in manufacture with length = 19 mm and thickness = 2 mm., c = reg. no. 122-8 was broken in manufacture with length = 16 mm and thickness = 2 mm, d = reg. no. 16-14 has probable impact fracture width = 10 mm and thickness = 2 mm, e = reg. no. 122-5 side notched point length = 15 mm, width = 5 mm, thickness = 2 mm, f = reg. no. 87-1 hinge fractured contracting stemmed point thickness = 8 mm,

Stratum D, 172N116E. Photograph provided by Dr. Stephen Chomko.


Three artifacts photographed by Chomko (1978:Figure 18). Artifact i is classified as a gouge, h as a small triangular biface, and k as a large triangular biface. The gouge (specimen 51-2) is extremely interesting as it shows significant use in terms of polishing of the tool surface. Sometimes this is called silica sheen (for which the layman's term is corn gloss) and could be the result of the tool being used to dig/cultivate soil. It could also be the result of polishing from cutting into bark and wood.  Note: the photograph shows the letter "I" while Chomko's narrative and Table 2 measurements give his as artifact "J". Length = 105 mm, width = 38 mm, thickness = 18 mm, Length of working element = 18 mm, Edge angle = 75 degrees, and weight = 76.8 grams.

The gouge definitely resembles the Clear Fork Gouges documented from sites in Texas. The function of the tool is for woodworking. Some archaeologists see it as chisel-like tool, while others see it as an adze-like tool.

Phillips Spring (23HI216)

Chomko (1978: Table 4) lists the floral remains in Feature 2 as including 19 seeds of grape (Vitis sp.), 2 seeds of bulrush (Scripus sp.), 1 seed of pokeberry (Phytolacca americana), 29 seeds of elderberry (Sambacus canadensis), 1 seed of blackberry (Rubus sp.), 1 seeds of amaranth (Amaranthus sp.), 1 seed of bedstraw (Galium sp.), 11 seeds of squash (Cucurbits pepo), 1 oak acorn (Quercus sp.), 3 walnut shell fragments (Juglans nigra), 3 hickory shell fragments (Carya sp.), 3 grass seeds (Gramineae), and 1 buckwheat family seed (Polygonaceae). Chomko (1978:Table 3) lists the faunal remains from Feature 2 as including Gar (Lepisosteus sp.), unidentified large and small mammals, and freshwater mussel (Naiad). Kay (1982:55) adds bottle gourd (Lagenaria siceraria) to the list of cultigens found at Phillips Spring.


Gourd seed (Lagenaria siceraria) from Phillips Spring in the collection of the Illinois State Museum.

Left, Squash (Cucurbita pepo) and Right, Bottle Gourd (Lagenaria siceraria) recovered from the Squash/Gourd zone at 23HI126 by Marvin Kay. Published by Kay et al. (1980: Figure 5).


Hickory nut (Carya sp.) from Phillips Spring in the collection of the Illinois State Museum.


Chomko, Stephen A.
1976 Phillips Spring, 23H1216: Harry S. Truman Reservoir, Missouri. National Park Service, Midwest Region, U. S. Department of the Interior, Denver.

1978 Phillips Spring, 23HI216: a multicomponent site in the western Missouri Ozarks. Plains Anthropologist 23-81:235-255.

Chomko, Stephen A. and G. W. Crawford
1978 Plant husbandry in prehistoric eastern North America: new evidence for its development. American Antiquity 43(3):405- 408.

Kay, Marvin

1982 Phillips Spring, Missouri: Report of the 1978 Investigations. Illinois State Museum, Springfield.

Kay, Marvin, Frances B. King, and Christine K. Robinson

1980 Cucurbits from Phillips Spring: New Evidence and Interpretations. American Antiquity 45(4):806 - 822.

King, Frances B.

n.d. Rough draft of Preliminary Analysis of Botanical Remains from Phillips Spring. Manuscript kept with the Phillips Spring collection at the Illinois State Museum.

1982 Preliminary Analysis of Botanical Remains from Phillips Spring. in Holocene Adaptations within the Lower Pomme de Terre River Valley Missouri, Volume III. Illinois State Museum.

Robinson, Christine K. and Marvin Kay

1982 Phillips Spring Excavation and Archaeology. in Holocene Adaptations within the Lower Pomme de Terre River Valley Missouri, Volume III. Illinois State Museum. 


Stratum D, 172N116E feature patterns and stone-for-stone drawing.


Wild sunflower (Helianthus sp.) seed in the collection of the Illinois State Museum.

The Phillips Spring site was cultivated during the field season. Surface survey of the site indicated to Chomko (1976:10) that the site covers 4 hectares. Photograph provided by Dr. Stephan Chomko.


Kay (1982:i) noted that the basal archaeological component, the Squash Gourd Zone, was succeed by 5 additional Late Archaic components that all have diagnostic Sedalia phase artifacts. He noted the presence of a Middle Woodland component in the spring deposits; Chomko (1976) preferred to identify this as Late Woodland/Mississippian; the lithics and pottery sherds can fit into both time frames. 


Phillips Spring Site area; view to the west. This portion of the Pomme de Terre River valley was flooded by the construction of Truman Reservoir in 1979. This was an artesian spring. 

Color slides digitized by Dr. Stephen Chomko and prints originally published in black-and-white in the report prepared for the National Park Service (Chomko 1976: Figure 2).

Additional fieldwork was conducted at Phillips Spring by Marvin Kay in 1976, 1977, and 1978 in order to supplement information gained by the 1974 field season.  Kay (1980) assigned Feature no. 1173 to the feature that Chomko designated as Feature 2. 

The Phillips Spring site (23HI216) was discovered in 1973 by R. Bruce McMillan, James E. King, and C. Vance Haynes during the survey of the area that was scheduled to be flooded by the construction of a large lake. Highly significant archaeological discoveries were made at Phillips Spring (23HI216) during June to August of 1974 by an archaeological team field directed by Stephen Chomko and under the direction of W. Raymond Wood. The first season of field was sponsored by the National Park Service in 1974 ; the fieldwork was sponsored by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Kansas City District. Soil samples were processed by flotation contained seeds and rind samples of domesticated squash dating to the Late Archaic period as well as a variety of wild seeds. Additional field work at the site during 1976 and 1977 was supervised by Marvin Kay under the direction of R. Bruce McMillan (Robinson and Kay 1982: 623, Table 13.1). The uncarbonized seeds and botanical remains were preserved because of the anerobic spring environment. Botanical analysis for the seeds recovered in 1974 and subsequent fieldwork was conducted by Frances B. King of the Illinois State Museum. This webpage is made possible by the kind cooperation of Stephen Chomko, the United States Army Corps of Engineers - Kansas City District and the Illinois State Museum.

Digitized slide of the whole and fragmentary squash seeds excavated by Chomko from the Phillips Spring Site. Chomko and Crawford (1978:406) recovered four intact seeds that range in length from 8.9 to 10.6 mm; width ranged from 6.7 to 7.6 mm. Hugh Cutler of the Missouri Botanical Garden correlated the seeds in 1975 with Mandan Squash cultivar (Chomko 1976:89).

Kay et al. (1980:814) reported that the squash seeds his team recovered from Phillips Spring ranged in length from 8.1 to 12.8 mm with a mean of 9.7 mm; width ranged from 5.4 to 8.7 mm with a mean of 6.5 mm. The dimensions correlate with Mandan Squash grown in St. Louis by Professor Fuller.

Dewatering Phillips Spring was essential to being able to excavate the water soaked soil surrounding the spring. Photograph provided by Dr. Stephen Chomko.

Kay et al. (1980:811) noted that the 1976 and 1977 research in the Squash and Gourd Zone recovered seeds, wood implements, and chipped stone artifacts. One wood tool was a digging stick sharpened at one end. King (n.d) notes that the digging stick measured 32 cm in length and averaged 3 cm in diameter; she believed that the "hand" end had been used to stir a fire and/or had been intentionally fire hardened. King's measurements agree with the preserved artifact in the Illinois State museum collection. The digging stick was found in one piece, but inadvertently broken into 3 segments before reaching the museum. Robinson and Kay (1982: 674) report that a second wood tool was also recovered: a  "spatulate" tool (for scooping?). The digging stick was originally published by Robinson and Kay (1982:Figure 13.20). The conserved digging stick currently weighs 140 grams.


Black-and-white photograph of the diagnostic stone tool/projectile point found in Feature 2 by Chomko. The style of the base and blade edge fits the Etley Point typology. A total of 11 Etley points were discovered after fieldwork was continued at the site by Kay (1982:49).  Kay (1982:Table 2) recovery 3 projectile points (1176, 1283, 3129), 2 Adzes (1177, 3123), 2 bifaces (3112 and 3127), 1 core (3420) and 1 ground stone tool (3270) during his excavation of the Feature 1173 (same as Chomko's Feature 2).

Etley point 1777 published by Kay (1982: Figure 24m) from the Squash and Gourd zone as a result of his excavation of feature 1173 (same as Chomko's feature 2). Kay notes that it was manufactured out of heat treated Jefferson City chert; the tip of the projectile point is missing and shows evidence of projectile point is missing and shows evidence of an impact fracture.