Hampson Archeological Museum State Park in northeast Arkansas is the repository for a nationally acclaimed collection of artifacts from the late Mississippian period, approximately 1400 – 1650 A.D.. Collected from what is now known as the Upper Nodena Cultural Site, the fifteen-acre village and its artifacts give a crucial look into how Native Americans from this period lived. Located in what is now Mississippi County in Arkansas at a bend in the Mississippi River, these people lived a relatively sophisticated life given the time period. Besides being an active trading site, Native Americans used the prevalent backswamp clays to create elaborately detailed pottery vessels that are often referred to as Nodena Red and White.
Dr. James K. Hampson was the first to discover the Nodena site and he meticulously documented his findings. The James K. Hampson Collection includes many notable pieces that are on display in the museum, including the famous Nodena Red and White pottery and a varied collection of effigy vessels. Without a doubt, the most prized artifact and centerpiece is a unique human head effigy with refined detailing. Realistically sculptured, the head reveals a hairline, multi-pierced ears, and decorative tattooing on the face. It is one of only three that have been discovered at 1,000 year old prehistoric American Indian village sites.
The Nodena village of an estimated 1,100 to 1,650 people, surrounded a ceremonial plaza. Their homes used cane for the thatched roofs, building materials, and fishing traps while hardwoods were used for constructing canoes and larger weapons. They lived on cultivated corn, beans, and squash – what most Native Americans refer to as the holy trinity of foods. The Nodena village also supplemented their diet with white-tailed deer, raccoon, muskrat, squirrel, and rabbit while using the skin and bones for making tools, jewelry, and games. Through trade they acquired coveted stone from the north to make tools and weapons. They also traded for shells from the Gulf of Mexico and salt from Missouri.
Though the museum may seem small, be sure to take advantage of a guided tour to explain the various artifacts, as staff are extremely knowledgeable. There is more in this museum than meets the eye. Scheduled times are 10:00 a.m.-10:30 a.m. and 2:00 p.m.-2:30 p.m.; however, guided tours for drop-in visitors can be made available most of the time. Bring a picnic to enjoy at the picnic area and playground, located in the park near the museum. The museum is at the junction of U.S. 61 and Lake Drive in Wilson.
Hampson Archeological Museum State Park
2 Lake Drive
Wilson, AR 72395
Phone: (870) 655-8622