Archeomalacology in Texas: Western Sites

Ken Brown

In the June, 2018 issue of this newsletter, I reviewed some of the reasoning and methods that underpin paleoenvironmental research involving snails, and I pointed out that the southwestern quadrant of Texas (basically, west of longitude 100º W and south of latitude 32ºN) is almost a blank slate for archeomalacologists. We know that the better-watered eastern half of the state often produces abundant and informative snail faunas from sites in alluvial deposits, but what about sites in dryland alluvial settings? Dryland floodplains often lack fringing gallery forests and are essentially open habitats with high insolation, constant exposure to wind, and a conspicuous lack of leaf litter from deciduous tree canopy. Trees, if present at all, are likely to be represented only by scrub brush. Woody species in desert settings tend to be small-leaved, because high insolation makes photosynthesis very efficient, so leaf litter is often scarce or absent. Ground cover may be sparse, unless there is good grass cover in wet years, or rock rubble in sloping areas. Conditions like these are challenging for snails, which are highly moisture-sensitive.

One of the earliest studies in the state was done by Cheatum (1966) as part of the Amistad paleoecological project at Eagle Cave, Bonfire Shelter, Devil’s Mouth, and Devil’s Rockshelter, but the  number of samples, volumetric size of samples, and number of specimens are not disclosed and  intrasite provenience is reported only by stratum. In the entire vast area of the Big Bend (more than 12,300 square miles, not counting parts of Culberson, Hudspeth, and Reeves counties), no formal archeomalacological studies have been done until recently, as far as I know.

The Genevieve Lykes Duncan site (41 BS 2615, Early Holocene to present, Brewster County)

Figure 1. Looking north at dawn, up Green Valley on the O2 Ranch. The Genevieve Lykes Duncan site sits at the foot of the ridge system (andesite and basalt) in the distance.

This site lies 54 km south of Alpine, toward the western side of the sprawling O2 Ranch, a 272,000-acre ranch that actually sprawls over into Presidio County (Fig. 1). This is the eastern part of the Basin and Range province, and the site sits at the north end of Green Valley, on an interfluve between Terlingua Creek and Davenport Draw. Both streams have contributed sediment in the past, and the deepest component consists of stratified Late Paleoindian (Early Holocene) occupations: sparse artifact scatters associated with rock-lined hearths or small earth ovens.  An earlier occupation at about 10,400-11,080 cal BP lies about 2.3 to 2.5 m below the ground surface, with two rock-lined features, and five smaller rock-lined features dating about 8630-9535 cal BP are somewhat later. There are also two undated (but presumably Late Paleoindian) features that lack charcoal. As of 2016, at least 11 features had been found exposed in the walls of the recent arroyo that revealed the site, over a distance of about 24 meters (since then, three more have been found). There are also a few Middle and Late Holocene features exposed in more distant parts of the arroyo (Cloud et al. 2016:Fig. 6).

An extensive series of radiocarbon assays (chiefly on saltbush, mesquite, and creosote charcoal) ranging from 7934±25 to 9545±25 RCYBP places these Late Paleoindian occupations in the Early Holocene; Cloud et al. 2016:Table 2). These early occupations are buried by Allostratigraphic Unit 1, a thick deposit of clay loam that began accumulating sometime before 10,730 RCYBP and continued until the Middle Holocene. The Paleoindian deposits lie in a dark paleosol bracketed by two sheet gravel deposits (the lower one probably laid down by Terlingua Creek and the upper one by Davenport Draw; Cloud et al 2016:27). Allostratigraphic Units 2 (Middle to Late Holocene) and 3 (Late Holocene) overlie this unit. There is a series of global post-Younger Dryas cold events that punctuate the Early Holocene, but for the most part they do not seem to correspond to the Paleoindian occupations here, which follow the Preboreal Oscillation and precede the well-known 8200 cal cold event.

In July, 2013, I visited the site for several days with the auspices of the Center for Big Bend Studies, and with the assistance of Sam Cason (who did most of the work), collected a continuous column of matrix samples 60 cm wide and 2.74 m high from the southeast wall of the arroyo, immediately adjacent to the main excavation block (Fig. 2). The original plan was to collect samples in 5 cm increments, but the clay and silt-rich alluvium was so thoroughly indurated that this proved impossible, so the sampling interval was increased to 10 cm. Altogether 30 samples were collected (there are two extra samples because intervals were subdivided where stratigraphic breaks were crossed). The lowest sample cut only 10 cm into the lower gravel deposit (Fig. 2). This level is unassayed, but Andy Cloud (personal communication) estimates it dates to about 10,200 RCYBP, based on assays from the adjacent excavation block. Thus, the sample column documents the entire span of the Holocene (including the Late Paleoindian component), but presumably includes no Younger Dryas sediments.

Figure 2. Looking southeast at the completed snail sample column. The top portion looks dark simply because it is recessed farther into the arroyo wall. The tag to the right of the “paleosol” label marks an artifact. The sample column penetrated the lower gravel only partway. The main excavation block is out of view to the right.

In all, 465.6 kg (about half a ton) of sediment was collected. For the entire column, the mean sample size processed was 14.3 liters (range, 13-15 liters) and the mean analyzed weight was 15.05 kg; the total weight of sediment used in the analysis was 451 kg (a few samples had excess amounts). Samples were soaked overnight in tapwater, then passed through nested 18-inch geologic sieves with mesh sizes of 2 mm, 1 mm, and 0.5 mm. Residue from each grade was dried and bagged for picking. All snails, snail shell fragments, charcoal, seeds, animal bones, and possible microdebitage were saved and counted or weighed. After picking, the remaining residue was turned over to Brittney Gregory for heavy mineral separation studies at LSU.

Despite the fact that nearly half a ton of sediment was processed, only 843 specimens (many of them damaged or fragmentary) were recovered. This amounts to a density of only about two specimens per liter of sediment, compared to about 10-130 per liter from other sites in the eastern half of Texas where the same methods have been used. There are only four kinds of terrestrial snails: Succineidae, Gastrocopta pellucida, Helicodiscus singleyanus (= Lucilla singleyana), and Pupoides albilabris. The Succineidae are unidentified. Although succineids are usually considered to be wetland fringe inhabitants, there are perhaps a couple of borderland species (Succinea luteola and S. solastra) that are found in arid upland areas. Thus, it is not clear whether the succineids indicate wet or dry conditions (but perhaps the latter). There are only two kinds of aquatic snails: a planorbid, believed to be juvenile Planorbella trivolvis, and Physa sp., probably Physa acuta. A few examples of a third aquatic species, Gyraulus parvus, was not found in the sample column but was recovered in wet-screening by the field crew.

All of these snails are resilient habitat generalists, and all appear to be very arid-tolerant species (although the identity of the succineids is uncertain). Almost all the Succineidae, the Helicodiscus, and the aquatic snails are juveniles, hinting at high juvenile mortality. Generally speaking, the aquatic taxa are tolerant of sluggish, poorly oxygenated, warm water with high solute levels. All of the aquatic snails are confined to the bottom half of the column, disappearing in the upper gravel, just before the midpoint of the Holocene; otherwise, the same kinds of snails are found throughout the column, although fluctuating in abundance.

The Genevieve Lykes Duncan snail assemblage is characterized by low specimen density, low taxonomic diversity, apparently high juvenile mortality for many taxa, and a preponderance of arid-tolerant, resilient habitat generalists. When I began sampling this site, I expected to find lingering evidence of greater moisture conditions from the Younger Dryas at the base of the column. My expectation was that despite mounting aridification in the Early Holocene, one or two samples at the base of the column would yield greater numbers of snails, more diversity, and perhaps some taxa that are more moisture-dependant. This proved not to be the case. Instead, the snail assemblage suggests local conditions were already arid by the start of the Holocene. This is consistent with the saltbush, mesquite, and cholla identified in charcoal, and the Cheno-Ams, Artemisia, thistle, Asteraceae, and Ephedra identified in a pollen sample overlying Feature 1 (Cloud et al. 2016:55-56). My sampling stopped in the top of the lower gravel (a depositional event that might signal significant climatic reorganization), and if there is an assemblage adapted to wetter conditions, it must lie in the unsampled sediments under that gravel bed.

 

The Sayles Adobe site (41 VV 2239, Late Holocene, Val Verde County)

Figure 3. Looking down Eagle nest Canyon toward the Rio Grande. Steve Davis, Erwin Roemer, and Steve Black stand in Horse Trail Shelter contemplating my toolbox. Sayles Adobe lies hidden in green brush on the opposite side of the canyon, indicated by the arrow. This view shows the confined nature of the canyon.

In May, 2016, I visited the Sayles Adobe site in Eagle Nest Canyon (Fig. 3) near Langtry. Eagle Nest Canyon is a narrow, deep, rock-floored canyon that drains southward into the Rio Grande, and two famous sites, Eagle Cave and Bonfire Shelter, lie farther upstream in the canyon. Sayles Adobe is a sandy terrace site that sits perched high (about 11 meters) above the canyon floor not far from the confluence with the Rio Grande. It sits at the foot of the talus slope descending from Skiles Shelter (41 VV 165) and may have served as an adjunct area during the occupation of that site. Tori Pagano, a Texas State University graduate student, has been excavating Sayles Adobe for her MA thesis in geoarcheology, and my report on the snails is to appear as an appendix in her thesis. Tori collected a discontinuous series of eight pilot samples for me from two separate excavation blocks, representing about a 2500-year span of the Late Holocene. Here, instead of a continuous column, the goal was simply to find out if microsnails were present in these sediments, and if so, what kind and in what quantity.

The thick package of alluvium at this site consists of sandy sediments derived from limestone terrain in the canyon watershed, along with some fine-grained sediments (including mud drapes) contributed by backflooding from the nearby Rio Grande. Two of the samples were box-shaped removals 20 cm thick (“borrow pit” block), and six were 22-42 cm in thickness (“sandbox” block; Fig. 4). The samples come from two separate excavation blocks and represent a maximum elevation difference of about 2.9 m. These samples cover about a 2500-year span of the Late Holocene, from about 3167 cal BP at the lowest sample to a point somewhat later than 675 cal BP for the uppermost sample (Tori Pagano, personal communication 2018). This uppermost sample, at about 1275 AD, occurs well into the Medieval Climatic Anomaly. Sedimentation rates were high at this site. An Early Holocene radiocarbon assay of 8236±34 RCYBP was obtained on guajillo charcoal from an auger test at a depth of 5.7 m, so there are sediments equivalent in age to the Lykes Duncan site, but no excavation or snail sampling has been done at this depth. Late Holocene sedimentation rates were evidently high at this site, so the unusually thick samples obtained (up to 42 cm) probably do not imply much time-averaging.

Figure 4. Looking south at profile wall of the “sandbox” excavation area at Sayles Adobe. Three of the eight snail samples are shown. Rapid Late Holocene deposition produced these sediments.

For the 8 pilot samples, average volume was 12.7 liters (range, 11.3-15.0). The processing methods used were the same as those at the Lykes Duncan site. From the 101.35 liters of sediment processed, only 559 specimens were recovered; almost 81% of these came from the 0.5 mm mesh sieve. Specimen density is fairly low, about 5.51 specimens per liter. This is much lower than the 15.7 specimens per liter at Bonfire Shelter, doubtless reflecting the much higher depositional rates at Sayles Adobe. Low specimen density could be a result of poor habitat quality, the diluting effect of rapid sediment deposition, or both.

The samples produced one adult Rabdotus (species indeterminate), three juveniles, and some spires of indeterminate age. Other than this, the snail fauna is very similar to that from Genevieve Lykes Duncan. The assemblage includes Gastrocopta pellucida adults and juveniles, Succineidae adults and (mostly) juveniles, Helicodiscus singleyanus (Lucilla singleyana) of indeterminate age, a few Pupoides albilabris adults, and perhaps two aquatic species: small, mostly juvenile snails tentatively identified as Gyraulus parvus (but with a somewhat anomalous shape), and two small planorbids that look different from Gyraulus (an embryo and a columellar fragment) and suggest the possibility of one or more different species.

Except for the presence of a few Rabdotus and the absence of Physa, this assemblage is much the same as that at Genevieve Lykes Duncan. The succineids are mostly very tiny embryos, and I suspect represent one of the two upland, arid-adapted species in the Succineidae family.

 

Overview: Snails in Dryland Alluvium

These two sites differ in many ways. Genevieve Lykes Duncan lies in an open, lowland basin at about 1180 meters, in sediments generated from igneous and metamorphic bedrock, and spans the entire Holocene, at the confluence of two meandering, unconstrained streams. Sayles Adobe lies in a narrow, rock-floored limestone canyon at 350 meters, partially sheltered from wind and insolation, with samples that are limited to the Late Holocene (although older but unsampled sediments are at the base), with sediments produced both by limestone bedrock terrain and by Rio Grande backflooding (although the there seems to be no particular evidence of a Rio Grande influence in the snail assemblage).

Annual precipitation is similar in the two areas, but it is distributed differently. At Langtry under the current climatic regime, it  is about 37.26 cm/year (based on 1981-200 normals) with 32% occurring in the summer. There is no permanent weather station on the O2 Ranch, but average annual precipitation was about 36 cm in 1914-1928, and 42 cm in 2015-2016. May to October are the wettest months, with August the peak, and 44% of precipitation occurring in the summer months (June to August).  Insolation rates are very high here and evapotranspiration exceeds precipitation for 11 out of every 12 months. Although the antiquity of the North American Monsoon system is not entirely certain, Genevieve Lykes Duncan participates in this system today, receiving Pacific moisture, often from convectional thunderstorms, mostly in the summer, when plant growth and snail activity are enhanced, but evaporation rates are higher. Sayles Adobe lies farther east and receives more moisture from the Gulf of Mexico, so its precipitation pattern is a hybrid of the West Texas monsoon pattern and the bimodal eastern Texas pattern of rainfall peaks in May and September. At Langtry, April-May and September-October are the rainiest months, but significant rainfall also occurs in June-August (Fig. 5).

Figure 5. Average annual precipitation (expressed as proportions of the annual total) on the O2 Ranch and at Langtry. The O2 data are limited and mostly not recent, but the influence of the North American Monsoon system can be seen here. Notice also the greater month to month variability.

Despite these differences, both sites have similar snail assemblages, characterized by low specimen density, a very limited range of resilient, arid-adapted taxa, and apparent high juvenile mortality in some of the species. Both assemblages seem to indicate  arid, drought-prone (and probably variable) conditions that only resilient habitat generalists can tolerate. These findings raise an interesting question: if the fauna consists entirely of resilient habitat generalists, can we rely on it to register small-scale fluctuations in past climates? In faunal studies, it is often the rare, infrequent species with specialized habitat preferences that carry the most paleoenvironmental information payload. If none of these are present, can we rely on fluctuating specimen counts to indicate changing environmental conditions?

We probably need to apply the FRIN principle (Further Research Is Needed).

 

References

Cheatum, E. P.

1966        Report on Mollusk Shells Recovered From Four Archeological Sites in the Amistad  Reservoir. Pages 227-243 in Dee Ann Story and Vaughn M. Bryant, Jr. (assemblers), A   Preliminary Study of the Paleoecology of the Amistad Reservoir Area. Final Report of  Research Under the Auspices of the National Science Foundation (GS-667).

Cloud, William A., Richard W. Walter, Charles D. Frederick and Robert Mallouf

2016        Late Paleoindian Occupations at the Genevieve Lykes Duncan Site, Brewster County,       Texas. The Journal of Big Bend Studies 28:1-82. Center for Big Bend Studies, Alpine.

 

Manuscripts Resulting from This Research

 

Brown, Kenneth M.

n.d.a        Analysis of a Column of Snail Samples from the Genevieve Lykes Duncan Site.   Manuscript in progress, estimated length about 80 pages, to be published by the Center    for Big Bend Studies.

 

n.d.b        Appendix G: Pilot Sampling of the Snail Fauna at Sayles Adobe. Appendix to appear in

MA thesis (2019) by Victoria Pagano, Texas State University, estimated length about 25  pages.

Re-examination of the Ceramic Vessel Sherds and Pipe Sherds from the A. C. Saunders Site (41AN19), Anderson County, Texas

Timothy K. Perttula

Introduction

 

            The A. C. Saunders site (41AN19) is an important ancestral Caddo settlement in the upper Neches River basin in East Texas (Figure 1a). The site is one of only a few ancestral Caddo sites with mound features in the upper Neches River basin, particularly those that are known to date after ca. A.D. 1400, but this part of the upper Neches River basin, including its many tributaries, such as Caddo Creek just to the south and west (see Perttula and Walters 2016), was widely settled by Caddo farmers after that time. These Caddo groups left behind evidence of year-round occupied settlements with house structures, middens, and outdoor activity areas, impressive artifact assemblages, as well as the creation of numerous cemeteries (Figure 1b), most apparently the product of use by families or lineage groups.

 

Figure 1. The A. C. Saunders site in the upper Neches River basin: a, important excavated Caddo sites in the Caddo Creek valley and surrounding drainages in Anderson and Henderson counties, Texas; b, known Caddo cemetery and domestic sites.

 

What makes the A. C. Saunders site unique in upper Neches River basin Caddo archaeology are the two mound features there, situated on a broad upland landform less than a mile west of the Neches River and a comparable distance north of the confluence of Caddo Creek with the Neches River. The first mound (Feature 1) is an ash mound that has been linked with the use of fire temples and perpetual fires by the xinesi of Hasinai Caddo groups in historic times (Jackson 1936; Kleinschmidt 1982, 1984; Perttula 1992; Wyckoff and Baugh 1980). The second mound, not far to the southeast (Figure 2a), is a thick midden mound (Feature 2) that was deliberately accumulated over a large structure (Feature 3, Figure 2b). The concentrated midden accumulation near the ash mound suggests it may represent the remains of multiple feasting events and other ritual activities where large amounts of food were consumed, clay pipes were smoked, and cooking and serving vessels were used, and thus the discarded fragments of these activities creating the midden deposits. These items constitute a discrete and substantial corpus of material culture remains that have played a large role in defining and framing the archaeological character of what has come to be known as the Late Caddo period Frankston phase (ca. A.D. 1400-1680); the A. C. Saunders site is the quintessential Frankston phase site in East Texas. As such, these material culture remains curated at the Texas Archeological Research Laboratory at The University of Texas at Austin—in particular the large number of ceramic vessel sherds and ceramic pipe sherds from Feature 2 at the A. C. Saunders site—warrant continued archaeological study as a means to better understand the stylistic and technological character of the ceramic vessels and pipes made and used by ancestral Caddo peoples in the upper Neches River basin (Perttula 2011, 2013, 2019). The remainder of the material culture assemblage included Perdiz arrow points, stone drills, mussel shell digging tools, an assortment of bone tools (awls, needles, and beamers), and shell columnella beads.

a.

 

 

b

Figure 2b

Figure 2. A. C. Saunders site: a, plan map of the site; b, plan map of Feature 3 underneath the midden mound.

 

Ceramic Vessel Sherds

            A total of 7344 ceramic sherds have been recovered from Feature 2 at the A. C. Saunders site from plain ware, utility ware, and fine ware vessels; of these, approximately 82 percent (n=6001) are from a known arbitrary level in Feature 2. The plain rim, body, and base sherds comprise approximately 21 percent of the vessel sherd assemblage, and the fine ware sherds account for another 8.8 percent of the assemblage. Utility ware sherds are by far the most common in Feature 2 at the site, representing approximately 70 percent of the ceramic wares. The plain to decorated sherd ratio for the Feature 2 assemblage is a low 0.27.

Defined utility ware types identified in the ceramic vessel sherds (from jars) include Bullard Brushed, Killough Pinched, La Rue Neck Banded, Lindsey Grooved, and Maydelle Incised, as well as sherds from two new types: Mann Punctated (with tool punctated elements on the rim and /or body), and Saunders Punctated (with fingernail punctated elements on the rim and/or body). Based on the number of rim sherds, the most common utility wares are Maydelle Incised (n=64, Figure 3a), Bullard Brushed (n=56, Figure 3b), Saunders Punctated (n=38, Figure 3c), and Mann Punctated (n=26, Figure 3d).

Figure 3a,
Figure 3b
Figure 3c
Figure 3d

Figure 3. Common utility ware types at the A. C. Saunders site: a, Maydelle Incised; b, Bullard Brushed; c, Saunders Punctated; d, Mann Punctated.

 

The fine ware sherds are from carinated bowls primarily from a number of varieties of Poynor Engraved (n=68 rim sherds), particularly var. Cook (n=32 rim sherds) (Figure 4a) and var. Hood (n=13 rim sherds) (Figure 4b), as well as Hood Engraved and Hume Engraved vessels. The predominance of var. Cook and var. Hood vessels suggests that Feature 2 at the A. C. Saunders site accumulated between the early 15th century and the mid-late 16th century (see Perttula 2011:Table 6-37). Hood Engraved effigy bowls were also most commonly manufactured by Caddo potters during that era in the upper Neches River basin.

Figure 4a
Figure 4b

Figure 4. Most common Poynor Engraved varieties at the A. C. Saunders site: a, var. Cook; b, var. Hood.

 

The sherds from the A. C. Saunders site are from vessels tempered almost exclusively with grog (i.e., fired clay and/or crushed sherds). Between 98.3-98.6 percent of the sherds by ware have grog temper inclusions. Other temper inclusions, such as burned bone and hematite, were commonly added to the grog-tempered paste, and with regularity in the case of hematite in all three wares (11.7-21.1 percent). The few sherds in the different wares that have crushed and burned bone range from 9.1 percent in the plain wares, 9.9 percent in the utility wares, and 9.0 percent in the fine wares.

 

In addition to the 7300+ sherds from plain ware, utility ware, and fine ware vessels, there are other distinctive characteristics of the Frankston phase assemblage at the A. C. Saunders site. These include strap and lug handles (n=85) on utility ware jars, pedestal legs and bases (n=13) from Killough Pinched jars, spindle whorls (n=29), and one ceramic bead.

 

Ceramic Pipe Sherds

           

            The A. C. Saunders artifact assemblage from Feature 2 has one complete ceramic pipe and 89 stem and bowl sherds. These pipes are from several defined pipe varieties in the upper Neches River basin (see Perttula 2011). Two of the pipe sherds in the assemblage are part of two different circular platform pipes that have either a series of upper and lower large excised pendant triangles or hatched engraved triangles on either side of the platform.

 

The remainder of the ceramic pipes and pipe sherds are from elbow pipes, including sherds from Var. A (n=7), Var. B (n=16), Var. C (n=5), Var. D (n=1), and Var. G (n=14), the Neches pipe (Jackson 1933). Another 45 sherds cannot be assigned to a defined Upper Neches River basin elbow pipe variety.

 

The Var. A elbow pipe sherds have plain stems and bowls. They range from at least 64-76.0 mm in length, have smoothed exterior surfaces, and have rounded lips; one Var. A pipe has a flat distal knob. Var. B elbow pipes have between two to six horizontal incised or engraved lines on the stem (Figure 5a), and several examples also have horizontal incised lines on the lower bowl and stem or the distal stem knob, or engraved lines on the pipe bowl.

Figure 5a
Figure 5b
Figure 5c

Figure 5. Selected ceramic pipe sherds and pipes from the A. C. Saunders site: a, Var. B. pipe sherd (No. 62); b, Var. C pipe sherd (No. 14); c, Var. G pipe (No. 50) with punctated rows on the collared bowl rim, at the stem, and at the lower stem.

 

Four of the Var. C pipe sherds have two to five horizontal incised lines on the stem as well as vertical incised lines on the lower stem (see Figure 5b). One pipe sherd has both horizontal and vertical incised lines on the stem as well as a row of tool punctations adjacent to the vertical incised lines. The one Var. D elbow pipe sherd in the A. C. Saunders assemblage is grog-bone-tempered and smoothed on its exterior surface. The stem is decorated with five horizontal incised lines while the lower stem has at least two vertical rows of tool punctations.

The Var. G elbow pipes and pipe sherds have several different decorative element combinations, including incised or engraved lines on the stem between punctated rows beneath the lip or with rows of circular punctations on the lower stem. Other Var. G pipes have punctated rows on the stem or on the lower stem, or have tool punctated rows on both the stem and lower stem. The one complete Var. G elbow pipe (see Figure 5c) is decorated on the bowl, the stem, and the lower stem. There are small circular punctated rows on the bowl lip, five rows of circular punctations at the base of the stem and bowl, and five rows of circular punctations on the stem below the lip. Several of these circular punctations have a kaolin-rich clay pigment rubbed in the punctations.

 

References Cited

Jackson, A. T.

1933    Some Pipes of East Texas. Bulletin of the Texas Archeological and Paleontological Society 5:69-86.

1936    A Perpetual Fire Site. Bulletin of the Texas Archeological and Paleontological Society 8:134-174.

Kleinschmidt, U.

1982    Review and Analysis of the A. C. Saunders Site, 41AN19, Anderson County, Texas. Master’s thesis, Department of Anthropology, The University of Texas at Austin.

1984    The A. C. Saunders Site Revisited: A Hasinai Fire Temple? Paper presented at the 26th Caddo Conference, Nacogdoches.

Perttula, T. K.

1992    “The Caddo Nation”: Archaeological & Ethnohistoric Perspectives. University of Texas Press, Austin.

2011    The Ceramic Artifacts from the Lang Pasture Site (41AN38) and the Place of the Site within an Upper Neches River Basin Caddo Ceramic Tradition. In Archeological Investigations at the Lang Pasture Site (41AN38) in the Upper Neches River Basin of East Texas, assembled and edited by Timothy K. Perttula, David B. Kelley, and Robert A. Ricklis, pp. 145-320. Archeological Studies Program Report No. 129, Texas Department of Transportation, Environmental Affairs Division, Austin.

2013    Caddo Ceramics in East Texas. Bulletin of the Texas Archeological Society 84:181-212.

2019    East Texas Caddo Ceramic Traditions. In Ancestral Caddo Ceramic Traditions, edited by D. P. McKinnon, J. S. Girard, and T. K. Perttula. Louisiana State University Press, Baton Rouge, in press.

Perttula, T. K. and M. Walters

2016    Caddo Archaeology in the Caddo Creek Valley of the Upper Neches River basin, Anderson and Henderson Counties, Texas. Special Publication No. 43. Friends of Northeast Texas Archaeology, Austin and Pittsburg.

Wyckoff, D. G. and T. G. Baugh

1980    Early Historic Hasinai Elites: A Model for the Material Culture of Governing Elites. Midcontinental Journal of Archaeology 5:225-283.

TARL Student Updates: Information School Highlight!

Erin Shook

Erin is a Master of Science in Information Studies student working on a data management project in the human osteology collection. Erin’s undergraduate degree in anthropology sparked an interest in forensic science and she was eager to engage with a physical collection that touched on her information studies coursework, specifically records management and conservation. In an effort to help fulfill the federal law NAGPRA (the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act), she is assisting in processing
the original records from the burial excavations as well as subsequent skeletal analyses to promote research access and to facilitate the repatriation of the human remains to extant Native tribes. A portion of the paper records will be digitized and linked so that original data can be accessed and viewed by researchers through a searchable database interface. We congratulate Erin on her pending graduation at the end of the summer!

Megan Steele and Sam Lowrance

Congratulations to our two recent Masters graduates from the Master of Science in Information Studies program! TARL has had the pleasure of working with Megan Steele and Sam Lowrance as they both complete their Capstone professional experience and project focused on the digitization of records and photographs from the 1930’s excavations and surveys conducted under the Works Program Administration. We are further pleased to announce that Megan Steele will continue to work with us here at TARL as our new archival Curatorial Assistant! We are excited to see what wonderful work both Sam and Megan go on to do!

 

TARL Workshop: Methods in Dental Pathological Data Collection!

Our wonderful participants and instructors all gloved and masked up per TARL protocol.

This past weekend, TARL had the pleasure of hosting instructors from Texas State University, Caroline Znachko and Lauren Koutlias, for our methods in dental pathological data collection. The studies received a series of lectures where the instructors presented on tooth identification in the morning and dental pathology in the afternoon.

Instructor Caroline Znachko aiding students in tooth identification. 

Each lecture was followed by hands on tooth identification and pathology identification with case studies from TARL. These case studies allowed participants to observe a series of individuals marked by supernumerary teeth, abscesses affecting the alveolar process around dentition, linear enamel hypoplasias, and caries. Participants learned methods for recording both dental presence and all of the unique characteristics of each dental arcade.

Instructor Lauren Koutlias aiding in participants in dental pathology identification. 

We are grateful to our expert instructors for sharing their knowledge with our participants and thank you to all of our wonderful participants for taking part of your weekend to participate in this TARL workshop! TARL looks forward to having more successful workshops in the near future!

To suggest future workshops or to aid in providing a workshop please contact TARL staff in the comments section or through email.

TARL Internship Program Update for the 2019-2020 Long Session!

 

We are delighted to announce that all TARL internship spots are taken for the 2019-2020 long session! Our interns are integral in achieving our mission here at TARL and we are thrilled that the UT students have eagerly sought out these positions. The internship program provides students with the opportunity to explore their interests in archaeology and best practices in curation. If you are an interested student please reach out about our open internship spots for the 2020-2021 sessions.

 

 

TAS Curation Task Force: Training and Curation Days

TARL has been delighted to host a series of curation workshops in conjunction with the Texas Archeological Society. Two three-day workshops focused on collections management, curation ethics, proper curation techniques and  aiding in the repackaging of artifacts from TAS field schools including Musk Hog, Oblate, and data entry for the Columbus field school. Attendees received hands-on experience in processing artifacts, creating condition
assessments for field and lab reports, database systems inventorying and artifact tag creation along with box tag creation. We are delighted to be continuing this series of curation workshops by supporting the regular TAS  curation day over the weekend once a month.

TAS participants inventorying artifacts.

To all of our wonderful attendees and TAS members, thank you for your support of Texas Archaeology!

Microwear Analysis of Experimental and Artifactual Burin Tools from the Edd Melton Site, 41BL1138, Bell County, Texas.

David G. Robinson and Marilyn Shoberg

 

The analysis and write-up of the 2002 TAS Field School excavations at the Edd Melton Site in Bell County, Texas, yielded surprising finds. After excavation and inventorying, the Edd Melton Site assemblage showed an interesting co-occurrence of burin spalls and the unusual finds of 24 perforated freshwater mussel shells.  Burin spalls are tools struck deliberately at an approximate ninety-degree angle to the face of the flake or core. A working hypothesis that burin spalls were tools used for working the mussel shells was formulated after Prof. Fred Valdez of UT-Austin alerted the authors to the meaningful correlation of burin spalls and carved shell.  In Valdez’s work in the Mayan culture area of Belize, long burin spalls are associated with carved shell (Valdez, pers. Com.).  It is accepted generally in Mayan archeology that specialized burins are tools for working shell artifacts.

The hypothesis derived from this correlation is direct: the site burins were tools to carve, perforate, and drill the perforated mussel shell on the site.  It was decided to test the hypothesis by conducting an experiment of high magnification examination of site burins and comparing them to burins worked experimentally on modern shell.

The conduct of the experiment proceeded timewise in two phases. The first phase involved the production of chert burin spalls and their application to modern shell surfaces to identify actual shell wear on tools.  The second phase was the high magnification use-wear analysis of both the experimental burins and the archeologic burins recovered from the Edd Melton site.  Relevant patterns could then be compared with reliability.  Christopher W. Ringstaff of The Texas Department of Transportation kindly donated expert skill and Bell County chert material to produce the experimental burin spalls. Marilyn Shoberg of TARL and Texas State University conducted the second phase of the experiment.  All the microscope work was conducted at the Microscopy Laboratory, the Texas Archeological Research Laboratory, UT-Austin. This study of the combination of experimental archeology and microwear analysis is reported in great detail in the report on 41BL1138 forthcoming in the Bulletin of the Texas Archeological Society in the fall of 2019.

The analytical method for microwear analysis is patterned after the work of Semenov (1964) comparing a complex of wear traces including edge damage, micropolishes, and striations to those attributes on experimental tool analogs at magnifications greater than 100x.  Keeley (1980) improved the “high-power approach” to include kinematics of use or angle of attack to describe more clearly how striations in micropolish reflect the action used in specific tasks.  The microscope at TARL used for this analysis is a reflected-light differential-interference Olympus BH2 microscope with Nomarski optics.  The interpretation of wear traces is based on comparison with experimental tool analogs used in a broad range of experiments.  In conjunction with the analysis of this sample of four small tools from 41BL1138, experimental burins were used individually cutting, drilling, slicing, and graving fresh water mollusk shell; and analyzed for reference.

The analysis indicates that three of the small tools from the site were used in manufacturing tasks on shell; two used as drills, one used cutting.  One tool was used cutting soft animal tissue.  One of the drills has additional use of one edge in scraping shell.

The photomicrograph shows the wear on one of the two archaeological tools used drilling shell.

Burin spall 123, lateral  facet @ 500x;  overlapping groups of subparallel troughs in bright platy micropolish originate at the edge of a flake scar at the utilized end of the burin.  The tip of the tool is beyond the bottom of the photomicrograph.  The orientation of the striations (arrows) to the edge of the tool reflect the kinematics of use or angle of attack, i.e. sequential actions parallel and oblique to the tip as in piercing and twisting motions.

Experimental burin spall used drilling shell @ 500x.  Smooth subparallel troughs of variable width in micropolish reflect the angle of attack when the drill bit was inserted into the shell.  Sharp single striations across the long sleeks are from grit particles dragged across the edge in a subsequent action.  Patches of very bright angular debris are embedded in the polish.

The diagnostic wear traces observed in this study of experimental burins used on fresh water mollusk shell are bright patches of platy micropolish with long subparallel troughs of variable width, and with angular particles or bright debris of considerable variability in size embedded in the micropolish.

 

References Cited

Keeley, L.

1980   Experimental Determination of Stone Tool Uses: A Microwear Analysis.  University of Chicago Press, Chicago.

Semenov, S.

1964   Prehistoric Technology.  Cory, Adams & Mackay, London.

1970s Archaeological Investigations along Bayou Loco in Nacogdoches County, Texas

By Timothy K. Perttula and Paul Marceaux

In 1972 and 1975, University of Texas (UT) archaeologists conducted investigations on sites located within the proposed Bayou Loco Reservoir or Lake Nacogdoches project area in Nacogdoches County, Texas; the Nacogdoches Archeological Society also completed archaeological investigations on the project. Bayou Loco is a southward-flowing tributary of the Angelina River. During that work, extensive excavations were conducted at the Mayhew (41NA21) and Deshazo (41NA13/27) sites, and the results of work at those sites has been published by Kenmotsu (1992) and Story (1982, 1995). Much more moderate archaeological investigations were conducted in 1975 by UT at four other sites: Pleasant Hill (41NA19), Riser (41NA20), Iron Rock (41NA22), and Loco Bottom (41NA23) (Figure 1). Without detailed analysis in 2018 of the project records and recovered artifacts curated at the Texas Archeological Research Laboratory at The University of Texas at Austin, the results of the archaeological work at these sites had not been made available before now.

 

Figure 1. The general locations of the four sites tested by UT at Lake Nacogdoches. Figure prepared by Lance Trask.

 

What the UT archaeologists found out was that the valley was occupied as early as the Middle Archaic (ca. 8000-5000 years ago) and Late Archaic (ca. 5000-2500 years ago) periods, but the first evidence of a substantial use of the land only took place during the Woodland period (ca. 2500-1150 years ago) by Mossy Grove peoples. Each of the four sites have evidence for settlement by Woodland period hunters and gatherers. Ancestral Caddo peoples that may be descendants of Mossy Grove groups lived and occupied the Bayou Loco valley from as early as ca. A.D. 900, but the most intensive settlement of the valley was after ca. A.D. 1400-1450 (during the Late Caddo period), and particularly after ca. A.D. 1680 and as late as ca. A.D. 1720 or so during the Historic Caddo Allen phase. There is a very high proportion of brushed sherds in the utility wares at the Iron Rock and Loco Bottom sites, as well as at the Mayhew and Deshazo sites in the reservoir project area. Taken together with substantial amounts of Patton Engraved fine ware ceramics, as well as the recovery or reporting of early 18th century European glass beads from the two sites (Figure 2), and substantial numbers of European goods at the nearby Mayhew and Deshazo sites, this indicates that they were occupied by Caddo peoples during the Historic Caddo period, and that they were a part of the community of Caddo peoples that lived along Bayou Loco during the period of early European contact and settlement (cf. Jackson et al. 2012; Prewitt 2019). These Caddo peoples appear to be affiliated with the Hainai Caddo, the preeminent ancestral Caddo group in East Texas at that time.

 

Figure 2. White oval-shaped glass bead from the Iron Rock site. Figure prepared by Paul Marceaux.

 

These Caddo peoples were farmers that lived year-round in farmsteads, hamlets, and villages dispersed across the Bayou Loco valley, and in a number of other drainages in the Angelina River basin. As best as can be determined from the archaeological investigations, the four sites tested by UT in 1975 were places of one to several ancestral Caddo houses that had associated trash midden deposits, and were likely surrounded by fields and maintained landscapes with available wild plant foods, wood for fires, and wood and grass for construction purposes. These settlements were probably occupied for at most 1-2 generations of Caddo families, before they were abandoned or the farmsteads moved to another location in the valley.

 

The most abundant artifact category at the Bayou Loco sites are sherds from ceramic vessels made, used, broken, then discarded at the ancestral Caddo settlements. Most of the sherds are from vessels tempered with grog or crushed sherds, with the regular use of burned bone or crushed pieces of hematite as additional temper inclusions. The sites are dominated by brushed utility wares from Bullard Brushed and Spradley Brushed-Incised jars, likely used primarily as cooking and storage vessels (Figure 3). Brushed pottery comprises 72.3-84.2 percent of the decorated sherds from the Bayou Loco sites occupied after ca. A.D. 1680. Incised, punctated, and incised-punctated decorative classes are relatively abundant among the vessel sherds not decorated with brushed marks, as are Lindsey Grooved sherds, and sherds with neck banded and appliqued-punctated decorative elements.

 

Figure 3. Brushed-incised, brushed-lip notched, and brushed-appliqued rim and body sherds from the iron Rock site: top row, Spradley Brushed-Incised; lower left, brushed-lip notched rim sherd; lower right, brushed-appliqued rim sherd. Figure prepared by Paul Marceaux.

 

Fine ware vessel sherds with engraved, engraved-punctated, and engraved-brushed decorative elements only comprise between 6.6-13.8 percent of the decorated sherds at the Bayou Loco sites. The principal fine ware type is Patton Engraved, a diagnostic element of Allen phase sites in the Neches and Angelina river basins (Figure 4), but there are also sherds from Poynor Engraved and Hume Engraved vessels; most fine ware sherds are from carinated bowls, but there are also bottles and compound bowls in the assemblages. Fine wares used for serving foods and holding liquids appear to have been regularly used by the inhabitants at each of these Historic Caddo sites.

Figure 4. Patton Engraved and Hume Engraved rim and body sherds from the Loco Bottom site: b, e-l, Patton Engraved; a, c-d, Hume Engraved. Figure prepared by Paul Marceaux.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

References Cited

 

Jackson, M. K., T. Middlebrook, G. Avery, H. Shafer, and B. Meissner

2012    Trade and Cultural Interaction along El Camino Real de los Tejas During the Spanish Colonial and Republic Periods in Nacogdoches County, Texas. 2 Vols. Nine Flags Museum, Nacogdoches.

 

Kenmotsu, N. A

1992    The Mayhew Site: A Possible Hasinai Farmstead, Nacogdoches County, Texas. Bulletin of the Texas Archeological Society 63:135-174.

 

Prewitt, E. R.

2019    Bayou Loco: Investigations and Speculations. Journal of Northeast Texas Archaeology 80:1-16.

 

Story, D. A. (editor)

1982    The Deshazo Site, Nacogdoches County, Texas, Vol. 1: The Site, Its Setting, Investigations, Cultural Features, Artifacts of Non-Native Manufacture, and Subsistence Remains. Texas Antiquities Permit Series No. 7. Texas Antiquities Committee, Austin.

 

1995    The Deshazo Site, Nacogdoches County, Texas, Vol. 2: Artifacts of Native Manufacture. Studies in Archeology 21. Texas Archeological Research Laboratory, The University of Texas at Austin.

 

The Prehistory Research Project is moving (back) to TARL

Nancy Velchoff and Thomas J. Williams

 

We are delighted to announce that The Prehistory Research Project (formerly known as The Gault Project) will be returning to its roots: Starting early summer 2019 the PRP staff will move the project from its current home at Texas State University in San Marcos to Building 5C at TARL.

Some of you (indeed many of you) are long-familiar with the old Gault Project but for those who might not be, it was a research project that was formed under the auspices of the TARL family and operated out of TARL Building 5A from 1999 to 2009. The Gault Project was created to help manage cultural materials that were being excavated from the Gault Archaeological Site which is located 40 miles north of Austin. The Prehistory Research Project (PRP) expanded its research from the Gault Project to dedicate research efforts beyond the Gault Site to exploring the early human occupations of the Americas.

Volunteers and professional Archaeologists hard at work in Area 15 of the Gault Site

Background in Brief

The Gault Archaeological Site is named for the original owner, Henry Gault whose farm had a colorful past; attracting unwanted collectors, as well as professional and avocational archaeologists for over a century. Thankfully, science and education prevailed and helped stop the damage being done from pay-to-dig operations by the late 1990s.  Archaeologists were eventually allowed unrestricted access to the property to conduct excavations when the owners, Ricky and Howard Lindsey granted a 3-year access – 1999 to 2002 – for Dr. Mike Collins to investigate the site. These excavations revealed a prolific, multi-component, well-stratified site representing almost every stone-age culture known in Central Texas.

As is often the case when conducting large-scale archaeological excavations (and as many an avocational and professional can attest), it was the final few days of that 3-year excavation lease that last minute testing revealed artifacts well-below the known Clovis zone. These findings were convincing evidence of older occupations at the site and led to renewed negotiations with the landowners for several years. In early 2007 Gault was purchased by Dr. Collins and the deed ownership donated to The Archaeological Conservancy.

Excavations resumed by 2007, however in the summer of 2009, a generous invitation to move the project to San Marcos from the Anthropology Department at Texas State University was accepted by Dr. Collins and Dr. Clark Wernecke. The relocation of such a high-profile group of researchers would prove beneficial in Texas State’s quest for recognition as an emerging research institution.  It was clear that the Gault Site had mounting evidence that would eventually re-write prehistory of the earliest peoples in the Americas. Thus, The Gault Project grew and expanded to become The Prehistory Research Project.

Artifacts from the deepest stratigraphic levels at the Gault Site, named the Gault Assemblage. These artifacts are dated to between 16,000 and 21,000 years old.

Today, the PRP is an active, vibrant project that supports research across the globe with a special interest in all early archaeological evidence, from North, Central, and South America, where sites much older than 13,500 years ago are being discovered or rediscovered on a consistent basis.

A tour group from the Society for American Archaeology explore the Gault Site with Dr. Michael Collins

Moving to TARL

As of August 31, 2019, our 10-year arrangement with Texas State University will end on a high note as some of our biggest and most prominent accomplishments have occurred under the auspices of Texas State University. But we are more than ready to move back home to TARL. We will be bringing with us a dedicated team of researchers and, in conjunction with the Gault School of Archaeological Research (GSAR).

Our move to TARL is very much a homecoming for the Gault Archaeological Site and the Prehistory Research Project.  We are thrilled to re-unite with our colleagues and begin a new collaborative partnership with the great folks at TARL and the University of Texas at Austin that we believe will create exciting new opportunities and make archaeology accessible to all!

In the meantime, look for additional details as we get closer to making this endeavor happen, and would like to extend our thanks and gratitude to Texas State University for hosting the project over the past decade and thank all of our friends, colleagues, volunteers, and students who have supported us throughout our time there.

Heartfelt Gratitude and Thanks to TARL for a much-anticipated homecoming!

Sincerely

The Staff of the Prehistory Research Project

Mike Collins

Clark Wernecke

Nancy Velchoff

Sergio Ayala

Tom Williams

Jennifer Gandy

Robert Lassen

Mike Quigg

Alan Slade

 

 

TARL Accepts Gift of Jeri Redcorn Ceramic Vessels

The Texas Archeological Research Laboratory at The University of Texas (TARL) recently accepted a gift from an anonymous donor of 13 ceramic vessels made by Jeri Redcorn, a noted modern Caddo ceramic artist (Redcorn 2019). Jeri began to make Caddo ceramics in 1992 (Figure 1), successfully reviving the tradition of Caddo ceramics. In 2009, President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama selected one of her engraved bottles for display in the White House Oval Office.

Figure 1. Jeri Redcorn preparing clay coils for the manufacture of a ceramic vessel.

The ceramic vessels (Figure 2) were made by Jeri between 1995-2007, and had been purchased by the anonymous donor either at one of the annual Caddo Conferences, or by special request. They include both reduced fired black vessels—engraved bottles (n=3), an engraved bulbous-necked engraved bottle (n=1), engraved neckless bottles (n=1), engraved seed jars (n=2), engraved bowls (n=1), and plain effigy bottles (n=1)—and vessels fired to a reddish-brown or red color. These include an engraved carinated bowl, an effigy bowl with a turkey head and a tail rider, and a neckless engraved bottle. Finally, there is a large reconstructed trailed-incised jar. These vessels feel right at home amidst the impressive collection of ancestral Caddo ceramic vessels at TARL from sites investigated throughout East Texas.

Figure 2. A selection of the ceramic vessels donated to TARL includes the seed jar, engraved bottles including the bulbous-necked engraved bottle, engraved bowl,  and effigy bowl.

References Cited

Redcorn, Jeri

2019    Caddo Pottery: Connecting with my Ancestors. In Ancestral Caddo Ceramic Traditions, edited by Duncan P. McKinnon, Jeffrey S. Girard, and Timothy K. Perttula. Louisiana State University Press, Baton Rouge, in preparation.

 

The Texas Archeological Research Laboratory