‘Cliff Dwellers of the Ozarks’ Focus of Crisp Museum’s ‘Historic Tuesday Talk’ Feb. 4


“Cliff Dwellers of the Ozarks” will be the focus of the Feb. 4 installment in the “Historic Tuesday Talk” series in the Rosemary Berkel and Harry L. Crisp II Museum at Southeast Missouri State University’s River Campus.

Local historian Dr. R. Bruce McMillan will give the presentation at 7 p.m., which is free and open to the public.

McMillan will explore the White River basin in southwest Missouri and northwest Arkansas – a region noted for bluff shelters that contain remarkable preservation environments — one that preserves what are otherwise perishable artifacts. These “dry shelters” produce hafted tools and weapons, baskets, woven fabrics, clothing and footwear, and perishable food items along with ceramics and lithic artifacts.

McMillan will also discuss how Mark Harrington, an archaeologist trained at Columbia University in New York, first described what he called the “Ozark Bluff Dweller culture” in 1924, following two years of explorations in these bluff overhangs. Harrington’s collections ended up at the Museum of the American Indian in New York. A decade later, the University of Arkansas Museum under the direction of Samuel Dellinger, excavated 80 additional bluff shelters amassing a large collection of perishable artifacts that are today curated by the Arkansas Archaeological Survey. In 1957, as part of the work in the Table Rock Reservoir area, Carl H. Chapman of the University of Missouri excavated several dry shelters in Barry County, Missouri. McMillan will review the history of this work along with an explanation of how the concept of an “Ozark Bluff Dweller culture” has outlived its usefulness.

McMillan is a research associate with the University of Missouri’s Department of Anthropology; director emeritus and research associate at the Illinois State Museum; and adjunct professional scientist with the Illinois National History Survey at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He holds a doctoral degree in anthropology from the University of Colorado-Boulder; a Master of Arts in anthropology from the University of Missouri-Columbia; and a Bachelor of Science in education from Missouri State University in Springfield. His work has appeared in the University of Tennessee Press, “Missouri Archaeologist” and “Plains Anthropologist.”

The Crisp Museum’s “Historic Tuesday Talk” series consists of short, informational presentations and discussion sessions, and topics may include movements, the Civil War, World War I, riverboats, railroads, socio-cultural issues, space exploration, regional history, natural resources, fossils, geology and more. For more information, semo.edu/museum/education.html.

Crisp Museum is located in Southeast Missouri State University’s River Campus Cultural Arts Center at 518 S. Fountain St., Cape Girardeau, Missouri. For more information, email museum@semo.edu or call (573) 651-2260.