If you're going down to Murfreesboro to dig for diamonds at Crater of Diamonds State Park, you might want to take in the Ka-Do-Ha Indian village, a private attraction and museum. Find the turnoff on highway 26/27 just west of the town square and follow the signs.
The story goes like this. Ka-Do-Ha Indian Village began as an attraction here thirty years ago when an amateur archaeologist excavated Indian mounds that he found on his land. He left the bones and grave goods in place and built sheds over the excavations to protect the site from the weather. Twenty years ago, the present owner bought the attraction and has preserved the site in its original condition. Also on hand are reconstructions of mud huts with thatched roofs similar to those built by Arkansas' ancient inhabitants.
So you pay your money and enter a museum filled with pottery, projectial points and other artifacts. A recording explains case-by-case what you're looking at. When the recording ends, you are directed to go outside and visit the sheds, where you peer into deep circular pits at the revealed skeletons of the ancient ones, left exactly as they were found thirty years ago and illuminated by low-wattage utility lights.
But if you take photographs, you can reveal even more. On the left is an enlargement of the ancient skull at the bottom of one of the pits. On the right is the same photograph with the contrast cranked up and the color spectrum shifted toward blue. I suppose it could be my imagination, but that looks a lot like a straight seam running clear 'round the cranium. As I said, it may just be my imagination--a trick of the light. Yeah, that's got to be it.
These ancient ones, for a bunch of precolumbian aborigines, also had remarkable dental hygiene and enviable orthodonture. Many of the skulls still have all of their teeth and they're lined up like piano keys.
A reader writes: "FYI the "bones" in the mounds are replicas. The origionals were reburied several years ago. The line on your skull picture is really a seam...."
Seams I get a note to this effect once in a while, and I guess there's something to it. The skeletons look to me like the plastic bones you can get from a medical supply house, so that's what I've always assumed they are. The seams are in the same places. The teeth are all present and are all straight. Even if they're not casts of Indian bones recovered from the spot I guess they would count as replicas.
I emailed Ann Early, the Arkansas State Archaeologist, and asked her what she knew about this site. Is it an actual precolumbian site? Do the reconstructions represent authentic archaeology?
According to Ms. Early it is a precolumbian site, specifically Late Caddo. That's around the 1400's and that's based on pottery recovered from the site by pot hunters. The site has been mined for artifacts but has never been professionally excavated. When she was last there thirty years ago, there had been two owners of the attraction. Both had done a lot of digging to create the attraction. The deep pit burials depicted on the site are typical of early Caddo culture, and Ms. Early saw nothing to suggest that this site was occupied in the early period. My guess is that the displays are in deep pits to discourage visitors from hopping down there.
As for the bones being replicas, Ms. Early said it would be illegal to display real bones as part of a for-profit tourist attraction. As to whether they are casts of actual artifacts found there or just generic plastic bones bought off the rack, she does not know.
I surmise that KaDoHa holds in common with Disneyworld's Pirates of the Caribbean a mix of fact and fantasy. The owner of the attraction wants to fulfill certain expectations. As long as you know that you're not to expect rigorous professional scientific archaeology, then it's a diverting little side trip while you visit the Crater of Diamonds.