(LITTLE ROCK, ARK.) – Once, our human forbears ate only what they could kill, trap or gather from the wild. Over time, though, they learned to “domesticate” both animals and plants, laying the foundations of modern agriculture. This process appeared in ten zones scattered around the world; the land that became Arkansas was at the heart of one of these.
Gathering, Gardening and Agriculture, the Capitol’s Spring 2017 exhibit, is based on decades of research by the Arkansas Archeological Survey and colleagues across the nation into paleoethnobotany, the fascinating history of plant domestication by and agricultural practices of ancient Arkansas Natives.
Gathering, Gardening and Agriculture explores concepts of Native American and early European- and African-American plant use in the southeastern United States, highlighting specific sites in Arkansas: Rockhouse Cave on Petit Jean Mountain, Toltec Mounds State Archeological Park and Parkin State Archeological Park. It highlights ongoing collaboration between the Survey and other state agencies and partners, the creation of a network of educational and research gardens and of a fifth-grade social sciences curriculum created by the Survey to align with Arkansas state standards.
The exhibit offers examples of early Arkansas agricultural technology: shell and stone tools, storage and cooking vessels, and botanical specimens of species such as goosefoot, sumpweed, little barley and maygrass, all domesticated by Pre-Contact Arkansas native farmers. Also displayed are precious samples of early textile work: fragments of hunting or fishing net and a basketwork seed storage bag nearly two millennia old.
Gathering, Gardening and Agriculture has been created in collaboration with the Arkansas Archeological Survey, with assistance from the University of Arkansas Museum and Plantation Agriculture Museum State Park. The exhibit is located in the Capitol’s First-floor exhibit cases and will remain on view through mid-May.