The Merriam Collection

Artifact Infotainment Department


Harry T. & Robert E. Bell Collection before being sold to Robert Townsend in 1956

Some of these photos were recently featured in the Central States Archaeological Journal, July 2017, in an article written by Steven Cooper.

These photos were taken in July 1952















Locksburg Cache finest unbroken blade,
the thinness and craftsmanship equal the Sweetwater Biface.




From the Spiro Mound, featured in our book, The Spiro Mound: A Photo Essay
(All photos in the book are in B&W)

Caption taken from our book.

Figure 63: Eubanks effigy pot

This pot was purchased by Harry T. Bell of Marion, Ohio (Dr. Robert E. Bell’s father) on April 9, 1936, from Columbus Eubanks, who worked for the Pocola Mining Company. He is shown in Figure 61 holding this pot. This is one of two human effigy pots of this style found at the Spiro Mound and both are documented in Dr. Robert E. Bell’s photograph collection. This pot was probably used as a water bottle or a seed pot. This is a female figure kneeling on her shins with the calf of the leg showing underneath the thigh while the knees are slightly separated. The arms fall straight on the sides of the body with the forearms bent under the breasts. In this example, the fingers are indicated by incised lines. The face has indented areas for the eyes and mouth and another indentation is obvious in the center of the forehead. The earlobes are pierced and there is a topknot on the head. This piece is shown in Figures 61, 62 and 64.

This pot is currently in the Indianapolis Museum of Art



From the Spiro Mound, featured in our book, The Spiro Mound: A Photo Essay

(All photos in the book are in B&W)

Caption taken from our book.

Figure 1: The Bell-Townsend-Onken Blade
Many people consider this to be the finest example of Native American flintwork.
This artifact was recovered from The Spiro Mound, reportedly by Bill Heydon
Vandagriff, and purchased for $15.00 on the spot by Robert E. Bell for his father’s
collection. The blade was broken in one place and was glued together as shown in
the photograph taken April 15, 1935. This break can be identified by a small shadow
in the middle of the blade, about one-fourth of the way up from the base.
According to Dr. Robert E. Bell, the blade is made of colorful Kay County chert
from northern Oklahoma. (Proper name is Florence “B” Chert). It is pictured in color
in Who’s Who in Indian Relics, #5 (1980), where it is said; “this 13 1/8 inch flint lance
has a maximum thickness at one spot of only 3/8 inch.” It was item # 103 in the
Harry T. Bell collection at Marion, Ohio, until July 30, 1956, when Earl C. Townsend,
Jr. purchased the Bell collection. It is currently in the collection of Bobby Onken.
Mr. Onken has put this piece on display on several occasions to allow interested
parties, including the authors, to view it. He has also published pictures of it. The
blade is shown in the Townsend collection in Mr. Onken’s Legends of Prehistoric Art,
Volume 1, page 97 and will also be featured in Masterpieces of Prehistoric Art -
Volume 1. It was also shown in color on the cover of the “Prehistoric American”
Volume XXXVII Number 3, 2003. Mr. Onken and others believe it is made of Kaolin
flint. Whatever material it is made from, it is one beautiful artifact.
This blade was found in April 1935. This would be around the time when Dr.
Bell took photographs of the diggers at work in the minor cones. Photograph 7 shows
them digging in the third cone from the north. W. Guinn Cooper is shown in this
picture. In his interview with Dr. James Cherry, Cooper discusses the discovery of
what probably is this blade: “and there was a fellow, I was trying to think of his
name. I had his picture . . . he was a professor . . . . He used to come down here all
the time . . . . He’s interested in this stuff and he bought one of those long thin, well
you’d call it a knife probably . . . . Yeh, it wasn’t flint, I don’t know what it was . . .
but anyhow the old preacher broke it, I remember when he broke it and I pulled it
out.” This would account for the fact the piece was broken. Although Dr. Bell said
the diggers wouldn’t let outsiders know exactly where items were found, it is safe to
assume that this piece came from the third cone from the north in the area shown in
Photographs 7 and 11.


From the Spiro Mound, featured in our book, The Spiro Mound: A Photo Essay

(All photos in the book are in B&W)

Caption taken from our book.

Figure 96: Engraved shell gorget
A rare complete shell gorget with two suspension holes. Dr. Bell states this
piece was found in May 1935. This gorget was in the Harry T. Bell collection of
Marion, Ohio, until 1956 when the collection was sold to Earl Townsend, Jr. of
Indianapolis, Indiana. A line drawing of the design is shown in Hamilton (1952), Plate
88c, where it is described as a two-headed human effigy, 4 3/4” in height. Hamilton
said this gorget appears to represent a single individual with two bodies from the
waist up. Phillips and Brown (1984,Pl.132) show a rubbing of the piece as well as a
line drawing of the design. They include it with what they call “paired figure”
gorgets, although stating that this example is unique.
Dr. Bell pointed out that the figures are actually mirror images of each other.
The figure is wearing a large, almost skirt-like, breechcloth decorated with diagonal
lines in a triangular pattern at the top. The center of the breechcloth is decorated
with three dotted circles. Below that are what could represent the slits of a fringe
pattern with six vertical pairs of beads decorating the “fringe.” At either side are
the mirror image bent legs going upward to the knee and then downward to the
moccasined foot, in a dancing pose. The legs are banded below the knee. Above the
waist, a central shaft separates the two torsos with two dotted circles connected by
diagonal stripes going from upper right to lower left, like striping on a barber pole.
The mirror image bodies are decorated with a wavy, serpent-like design on the center
of the torso up to the neck. The mirror image heads have headdresses and forelocks
and are looking inward, facing each other in the “mirror.” Each wears an earspool
and has a face design of two parallel lines from the bridge of the nose to the earspool.
Each body shows one arm going down from the shoulder and bending up at the elbow
with an open hand pointing upward, as if in greeting or waving at itself in the “mirror.”
The wrists are banded in the same pattern as found on the bands on the legs. There
is some deterioration on the edges but four encircling lines remain.
What is the significance of this piece? What does it represent? It is interesting
to speculate. Is it a single individual split at the waist, as described by Hamilton
(1952), as if representing Siamese Twins? Does it represent a transformation from
one individual to two by some spiritual cloning process? Or is it just one individual
looking at his reflection? The author’s wife, despite being told that there have been
no forms identified as female on shell pieces, thinks the forms are female, contrasting
torso outlines representing breasts and curved waists to the squared chests and
thick waists of male figures.
It is a sophisticated piece of artwork, to be sure. Phillips and Brown (1984) go
into a more detailed discussion of some artistic possibilities. They list it as being in
the collection of the Museum of the American Indian.


From the Spiro Mound, featured in our book, The Spiro Mound: A Photo Essay

(All photos in the book are in B&W)

Caption taken from our book.

Figure 36: Bird effigy earspool
This is a unique set of bird effigy earspools. They are wooden with shell inset
eyes. They are not perforated. They feature a large carved raptorial bird head.
There is possibly another set of wooden effigy earspools in the form of dogs’ heads
but they are not confirmed to be earspools. Brown (1996) shows this pair in his book
in Figure 2-121d. This set was in the collection of Harry T. Bell of Marion, Ohio,
which sold to Earl C. Townsend, Jr. in 1956.


From the Spiro Mound, featured in our book, The Spiro Mound: A Photo Essay

(All photos in the book are in B&W)

Caption taken from our book.

(This caption is from a different photo most of the same points but in a different arrangement)

Figure 9: Arrowpoints from Spiro
These arrowpoints were in the collection of Harry T. Bell, Dr. Robert E. Bell’s
father, when this photograph was taken. Harry T. Bell sold his collection to Earl C.
Townsend, Jr., in 1956. This group includes typical Spiro “birdpoints,” also called
“war points.” Interesting examples include the two quartz crystal points, the unusual
double-barbed Ashley Chocoville point and the two (Only one in this photo)Tribute (Craig) points. (Tribute
points have been named Craig points after the Craig Mound by Gregory Perino in
Volume 3 (2002) of his Projectile Points and Preforms hardback books. We like the
old name Tribute points and will continue to use it in this text.) The Tribute points in
this picture are located at the left in the second row from the bottom. These two
points were not included in the R.K. Meyer frame, shown in Figure 12, which included
21 Tribute points. The smaller Tribute point was added to the authors’ collection in
2003(This one is not in this photo). There are also two Perdiz points at the lower left, as well as Scallorn, Holman,
Hayes, Agee, Keota, Sequoyah, and Morris type points. Of special note is the fine
large Scallorn at the lower right. This point and several others in this picture are
currently in the Peter Bostrum collection and can be seen in the “Prehistoric American”
Volume XXXVII Number 3, 2003, page 9.

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