Native Americans from the Archaic, beginning about 8500 B.C., lived in small family groups. They were known as Bluff Dwellers because they often sheltered in caves or under bluffs by streams. They were gradually shifting from a nomadic lifestyle to one more settled as they learned the art of agriculture. They gathered greens, seeds, fruits, nuts, roots, and mushrooms. They hunted eggs, insects, small animals, and fish, as well as big game. These were the people who originally explored Bluff Dwellers Cave thousands of years prior to Arthur Browning’s discovery in 1925. During the excavation at Bluff Dwellers Cave it was discovered that the cave was sealed shut from a landslide about 2000-3000 years ago. Artifacts from Archaic Native American culture were found in the landslide debris, indicating that prior to the landslide the cave was used as occasional shelter and storage. Among the artifacts found in Bluff Dwellers Cave were grinding stones, arrowheads, a bed of ashes and a few skeletal remains.
The recognition and naming of the “Ozark Bluff-Dwellers Culture” was first attributed to Mark Harrington, a representative of The Museum of The American Indian, Heye Foundation,. New York. In the early twenties Mr. Harrington, with a crew from the museum, and often assisted by local residents, conducted a series of trial explorations in the Ozarks. He subsequently centered most of his activity in Benton and Carroll Counties of Northwest Arkansas, where several dry shelters were found with the aid of native guides. Materials salvaged from these shelters, especially the Bushwhack site, were in a good state of preservation.
Later archaeological work was accomplished in the general Bluff Dweller area of northwest Arkansas, northeast Oklahoma, and southwest Missouri by field crews from the state universities. A note of urgency was injected into the archaeological picture when plans were announced for the building of Table Rock Dam, which would put valuable archaeological sites under water. Quick action preceding the construction of the big dams resulted in significant discoveris of artifacts by the University of Missouri in the Table Rock basin; and by the University of Arkansas to the south.
Bluff Dwellers Cave is open for tours year-round. Guided tours take approximately one hour and are limited in size due to the nature of some passageways. All tours are first come, first serve.
Last tour is 1 hour before closing.
Age 12 and older – $17
Ages 4 to 11 – $8
3 yrs and younger – free
RESERVATIONS ARE NOT REQUIRED
Due to safety concerns, tours will not go with less than 2 guests.
Group rates are available for organized nonprofit groups of 10 or more. Must pay together as a group to receive discount (one ticket, one payment). Advance reservations are required to receive group rates. Call or e-mail for details.
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