Arkansas Archeological Survey Director George Sabo watches as archeologist Jeff Mitchem cleans mud from the remnant of a cypress log thought to be a remnant of a cross erected by DeSoto at Casqui, now Parkin Archeological State Park.
A portion of a post unearthed last week by Parkin Archeological State Park
archeologist Dr. Jeff Mitchem was taken to the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville over the weekend for studies to determine whether it is actually the remains of a cross erected by DeSoto in the 16th century.
Dr. David Stahle, distinguished professor of geosciences at the University, who is known nationally for his analysis of tree rings to determine the age of ancient forests, will date the remnant. Chroniclers of DeSoto's travels say he erected the cross atop a mound at the Indian village of Casqui (now Parkin State Park) in 1542. Carbon dates will also be taken to determine its provenance.
Mitchem, using a grant from the Elfrieda Frank Foundation of New York, last week reexcavated an area that in 1966 produced a portion of a timber;
the old field notes noted that there appeared to be more wood underneath. A post mold 35 inches in diameter indicated that the post was substantial; chroniclers said it took 100 men to raise the cross.
An important clue to the origin of the post will be if researchers can determine metal tools were used to shape it, which would indicate Spanish manufacture. Other 16th century Spanish artifacts have been found at Parkin, which is why archeologists have concluded that the site is indeed Casqui. If it is the cross, it would be the earliest Christian artifact uncovered in the United States.
Archeologist Jamie Lockhart, director of remote sensing for the Arkansas Archeological Survey, and Stahle examine remants of the post while Mitchem works to clean mud from the larger piece.