MoDOT archaeologists investigated the Crabtree Site as part of the design process for the relocation of Highway 210 in Clay County. The site is located at the edge of the Missouri River bottoms at the base of a hill slope. The artifact scatter extends for about eight acres over a terrace. This prehistoric site is affiliated with the Steed-Kisker phase of the Mississippian period, about 500 to 1100 years ago. The 1-sigma calibrated results of two radiocarbon dates indicate occupation at the Crabtree site was between A.D. 1050 and A.D. 1215. The site was occupied to a lesser extent during the Early Woodland period (between 2000 to 2600 years ago) based on diagnostic artifacts.
Excavation of the site resulted in the identification of a large Mississippian house basin. This domestic structure had 74 postmolds in a square pattern with 9.5 m (31 ft) walls and a living area of 90.3 m2 (972 ft2). The pattern also included five large interior posts, seven small interior posts, ten external posts and a hearth. The Crabtree house represented the second largest Steed-Kisker structure that had been identified.
Analysis of recovered plant remains revealed that the occupants grew maize as well as sunflower, common bean, little barley, gourd, squash, tobacco, marshelder, maygrass and goosefoot. The occupants also made shell-tempered pottery and fashioned stone tools from Burlington chert. Interestingly, the nearest source for this chert is 90 km (55 mi) to the east.
The Mississippian occupation continued up the hill slope to the west, and this area is referred to as the Katz site (23CL163). Although artifacts on the hill slope were generally similar to those found on the lowland, a unique artifact from the Katz site is an engraved piece of hematite.
The site was the focus of several public presentations. The investigations at the Crabtree site shed significant light on the ongoing debate of the origins of the Steed-Kisker phase—does it represent the migrations of Mississippian farmers from areas to the east such as Cahokia? The Crabtree Site analysis found that the attributes of the houses and the types of plants cultivated are similar to Plains groups to the west and north.
A technical report on the results of the investigation, The Crabtree Site: Archaeological Investigations of Site 23CL164, Route 210, Clay County, Missouri (1999),has been completed. These investigation results were detailed in an article, “Crabtree and Katz: Steed-Kisker Sites in Southeastern Clay County, Missouri,” in The Missouri Archaeologist (2001, Vol. 61, pp. 1-106). The analysis and report on the Katz site is in progress.