Wilson W. Crook, III
Over the past two years, the Houston Archeological Society (HAS) has been working with the Sam Houston Regional Library and Research Center in Liberty, Texas to assess the contents of the extensive Andy Kyle Archeological Collection currently curated at the Center. The collection was donated to the Center by the late Mr. Andy Kyle and consists of well over 30,000 artifacts collected from 95 sites in 9 Southeast Texas counties. One of the more prolific sites represented in the collection is the Savoy site (41LB27) located in northeastern Liberty County. Artifacts from the Savoy site range from Middle Archaic to Late Prehistoric, with an extensive collection from the Woodland period (Crook et al. 2017).
A number of exotic items are present in the site collections including two broken bannerstones made from lithic material not native to Texas, a broken boatstone, and a large partial bowl of the rare Lower Mississippian ceramic type Mabin Stamped, var. Joe’s Bayou. Recently, several previously unknown boxes of material from the Savoy site were located by Ms. Alana Inman, Director of the Sam Houston Regional Library. In these boxes was a small, cone-shaped ceramic artifact which could not be readily identified. The artifact has been shown to a number of colleagues both from Texas and Louisiana without any success in identification. It is hoped that this short paper will prompt someone to contact the author and assist in the artifact’s identification and functional use.
The Savoy Site (41LB27)
The Savoy site is located approximately 4.2 km southwest of the community of Moss Hill in northeastern Liberty County. The site is bisected by County Road 2099 and hand written notes left by Mr. Kyle in the boxes of artifacts in the collection indicate that the unknown ceramic artifact described herein was found on the part of the site that occurs south of CR 2099, known locally as the “Stone Field” after the property’s original owner. The Savoy site is part of a series of four sites that occur parallel to one another along a 600 meter southeast-to-northwest stretch of land. Site 41LB26 lies 215 meters to the southeast; site 41LB28 is 225 meters to the northwest; and site 41LB29 is 400 meters to the northwest. All four sites contain similar cultural material ranging from the Middle Archaic to the Woodland period and into the Late Prehistoric period as well (Kindall and Patterson 1987; Crook et al. 2017). The nearest source of permanent water to the Savoy site is Knight’s Bayou, which is located 1.2 km to the west. Knight’s Bayou is a tributary of the Trinity River which currently lies 2.5 km to the west of the site.
The Savoy site was originally recorded in 1973 by the University of Texas during the Louisiana Loop Survey (Elton R. Prewitt, personal communication, 2019). A second survey was conducted in the mid-1980s by members of the HAS in conjunction with Mr. Andy Kyle who showed them where his artifacts were found (Kindall and Patterson 1987; Sheldon Kindall, personal communication, 2017). A third exploration of the area was conducted in 2014 by TRC Environmental Corporation as part of a pipeline right-of-way survey. TRC conducted 21 shovel tests over both the north and southern portions of the site. Nine of the 21 shovel tests contained cultural materials including a Gary point, an Alba point, and numerous ceramic sherds (TRC notes on file with the Texas Archeological Research Laboratory).
Occupational material at the Savoy site covers at least 0.7 acres today, however, based on information given to the HAS by Mr. Kyle, this area represents only about 20 percent of the original site size. Much of the site was destroyed by the construction of CR 2099 coupled with farming and house construction in the area (Sheldon Kindall, personal communication, 2017). Soils covering the area of the Savoy site belong to the Spurger-Bienville-Kennefick complex, specifically a mix of Bienville and Kennefick soils (Griffen 1996). The typical soil profile at the site consists of about 13 cm of a dark brown loamy fine sand underlain by 200+ cm of a very fine-grain dark yellowish-brown loamy sand (Griffen 1996). The artifact horizon extends to at least one meter or more in depth.
Artifacts from the site generally represent the following archeological periods: (1) Archaic – 6000-2000 B.P. (marked by Ellis, Yarbrough, Kent, Ensor, and Gary points), (2) Woodland phase – 2000-1400 B.P. (marked by Gary and Kent points and both plain and decorated sandy paste ceramics), and (3) Late Prehistoric 1400-500 B.P. (marked by Alba, Catahoula, Friley, and Perdiz points, and both locally manufactured and imported Caddo ceramics) (Crook et al. 2017; Suhm et al. 1954; Suhm and Jelks 1962; Turner and Hester 1985, 1993, 1999; Turner et al. 2011).
The Mystery Artifact
As mentioned above, the artifact in question is a cone-shaped ceramic made from a sandy clay paste. It appears that the object is intentionally made and has not been repurposed from a broken sherd. It has been well-fired and is not friable, unlike most of the Goose Creek type ceramics from the site. Color varies from very pale brown (10YR 7/3-7/4) to pale brown (10YR 6/3). Length of the cone is 36.0 mm (Figure 1). Width is 15.0 mm at the wide end tapering to 6.1 mm at the pointed end. A small perforation approximately 1.5 mm in diameter transits through the entire length of the artifact (Figure 2).
At the wide end of the cone, the end is recessed to a depth of about 8 mm. Examination under a under high power (20-80x) Dino-Lite AM4111-T digital microscope shows the walls of the recessed end are slightly darkened and there is some unknown black residue on one side (Figure 3). No other wear was observed. To date, none of the darkened material has been removed for potential chemical analysis.
The cone-shaped ceramic artifact described herein is not only unique among all the artifacts recovered from the Savoy site, it is also completely unique among the entire Andy Kyle Archeological collection. Most of the artifacts collected by Mr. Kyle from the Savoy site were found on the surface so any artifact association with the object is unknown. However, given the composition of the ceramic and the fact that similar sandy paste ceramics have been recovered from the site, it is likely that the cone-shaped object is Woodland in age. Elton Prewitt (personal communication, 2019) postulated that the object was of Mississippian origin which is certainly possible given the presence of bannerstones made from exotic materials and the Mabin Stamped, var. Joe’s Bayou bowl from the same area of the site.
As to function, this remains problematical. The most common suggestions given to the author by colleagues is that it is either a perforated ornament of some type or a type of tubular pipe. Neither explanation is convincing, especially give the very small diameter (1.5 mm) of the perforation. If anyone from the Texas archeological community has seen something similar, please contact the author at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The author is grateful to Ms. Alana Inman, Manager of the Sam Houston Regional Library and Research Center in Liberty, Texas for inviting the Houston Archeological Society to participate in the development of the new prehistory exhibit at the Center and thus affording us the opportunity to study in detail all the artifacts contained in the Andy Kyle Archeological Collection. Alana not only provided open access to study the collection but also allowed for the study of artifacts outside the Center. I am also grateful to HAS colleague, Robert Sewell, who helped me take the high resolution digital photomicrograph which appears in this paper.
Crook, Wilson W., III, Robert J. Sewell, Linda C. Gorski and Louis F. Aulbach
2017 The Andy Kyle Archeological Collection. Report of the Houston Archeological Society, 29:13-56. Houston.
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