Buddy Calvin Jones amassed a collection of more than 3,000 Caddo Indian artifacts during the 1950s and 1960s. His entire collection, including 450 bowls, jars and vessels, was dug in East Texas and historians say it may be the largest anywhere.
“Certainly in the region,” said Gregg County Historical Museum Director Bill Hansen.
Jones’ collection landed in the Gregg County Historical Museum in 2003, where the artifacts filled hundreds of boxes, bags, plastic bins and glass cases.
And now, in a room at the top of the museum, those boxes, bags, bins and cases are taking a group of researchers on a tour through tribal history.
Zac Selden, a Ph.D. candidate at Texas A&M University, is part of the group working to sort and catalog the artifacts that date back to 1700 A.D.
Selden spent a recent Wednesday creating 3-D renderings of bowls and jars using a high-tech imaging device.
“It’s our first attempt at doing a three-dimensional analysis,” he said. “The next step is to complete a geochemical and petrographic analysis to determine the interaction between and among Caddo groups as well as neighboring tribes.”
Selden said he hoped the catalog would begin to shed light on how the Caddo lived.
There were several Caddo groups during the same time, he said, and cataloging Jones’ finds can help archaeologists examine designs and motifs to determine which group made each item.
“This will tell a hopefully significant story of who was here,” Selden said.
“It’s important that people in Gregg County realize that archaeology is not just something overseas in Egypt,” he said. “It’s here, right underfoot.”
Jones, who died in 1998, didn’t make the task an easy one.
“Buddy wasn’t the greatest note taker that ever lived, and he had his own note-taking system,” said Tim Perttula, an Austin-based tribal archaeological consultant who is assisting in the sorting process. “So a lot of what Patti’s been doing is playing detective to figure out what goes with what.”
Patti Haskins, the museum’s volunteer archaeological steward, said breaking Jones’ code has been a daily chore since 2005. The task got easier in 2010 when she received more detailed notes.
“From those notes, I was able to put everything together,” Haskins said.
All of Haskins’ work with the collection has been on a volunteer basis, and she said it’s been a joy to be part of bringing the artifacts to life.
“These artifacts are extremely valuable, but the value is not monetary — it’s cultural,” she said.
“We’re bringing to life the history of the Caddo and all the people and places that until now we’ve only known they existed,” he said. “But until someone studies it and puts it on record, it is out there as kind of lost history.”
And although studying history everywhere is important, the Caddo Indians have a special connection to Texas, Perttula said.
“The Caddo had a huge role in the early history of the state,” he said. “They were recognized as diplomats that moderated between Texas and other Indian groups.”
The reassembled bowls, vessels and jars will be on display in about three months at the Gregg County Historical Museum, Hansen said.