Timothy K. Perttula is a visiting researcher at TARL. This article was part of the September 2017 TARL newsletter.
In the summer of 2017, 21 ancestral Caddo ceramic vessels held since 1933 by the Gila Pueblo Museum and then by the Arizona State Museum were returned to the Texas Archeological Research Laboratory at The University of Texas at Austin (TARL). These vessels had not been properly or fully studied and documented when the University of Texas exchanged these vessels, so the purpose in documenting these vessels now is primarily to determine the stylistic (i.e., decorative methods, motifs, and decorative elements) and technological (i.e., vessel form, temper, and vessel size) character of the vessels that are in the collection, and assessing their cultural relationships and stylistic associations, along with their likely age. In 1933, little was known about the cultural and temporal associations of ancestral Caddo ceramic vessels from East Texas, but that has changed considerably since that time (e.g., Perttula 2013).
Ceramic Vessel Exchange
Harold Gladwin of the Gila Pueblo Museum (GPM) in Globe, Arizona, first proposed to The University of Texas (UT) an exchange of ceramic materials in November 1931 with Dr. J. E. Pearce of UT. Pearce was not prepared to exchange any ceramic vessels or sherd collections then because the ceramic materials in his possession had not been studied because they had only recently been recovered from excavations at East Texas Caddo sites.
However, by November 1933, Pearce felt an exchange of Southwestern vessels with ancestral Caddo vessels between the GPM and UT was worth doing, and 20 Caddo vessels from eight East Texas sites were selected by E. B. Sayles of the GPM. After Pearce obtained permission from UT President H. Y. Benedict and the Board of Regents, the vessels were shipped to the GPM. The eight ancestral Caddo sites that had vessels selected for the exchange included the Richard Patton Farm (41AN26, 2 vessels); Goode Hunt Farm (41CS23, 2 vessels); Mrs. H. L. Culpepper Farm (41HP1, 1 vessel); H. R. Taylor (41HS3, 7 vessels); T. M. Sanders Farm (41LR2, 2 vessels); Hooper Glover Farm (41MX4, 1 vessel); Russell Bros. Farm (41TT7, 1 vessel); and the J. M. Riley Farm (41UR2, 4 vessels). The vessels remained in Arizona museums until the summer of 2017.
The exchanged vessels from the T. M. Sanders site are from burial features in a Middle Caddo period (ca. A.D. 1200-1400) Sanders phase mound on the Red River. They include a Maxey Noded Redware bottle (Figure 1) and an East Incised bowl.
The fine ware and utility ware vessels from the Culpepper Farm, H. R. Taylor, Hooper Glover, Russell Brothers, and J. M. Riley sites are from Late Caddo period Titus phase sites (dating broadly from ca. A.D. 1430-1680) in the Big Cypress and Sulphur River basins in East Texas. The fine ware vessels include Ripley Engraved (Figure 2) and Taylor Engraved carinated bowls, a Wilder Engraved, var. Wilder
bottle, a Bailey Engraved olla, a red-slipped bowl, and Ripley Engraved compound bowls, while the utility wares are Bullard Brushed, Harleton Appliqued (Figure 3), and Karnack Brushed-Incised jars.
Finally, the ceramic vessels from the Richard Patton and Goode Hunt sites are from late 17th to early 18th century Historic Caddo burial features in the upper Neches River and Big Cypress Creek drainage basins, respectively. These burial features were in cemeteries created and used by Hasinai and Nasoni Caddo peoples. The historic Caddo ceramics from the Richard Patton site include two different varieties of Patton Engraved (Figure 4), while both vessels from the Goode Hunt site are Simms Engraved carinated bowls (Figure 5).
Thanks to Lauren Bussiere and Marybeth Tomka at TARL for facilitating access to the study of these vessels, and for providing photographs of the vessels taken by the Arizona State Museum. Kevin Stingley kindly assisted with the vessel documentation. All photos courtesy Arizona State Museum.
Perttula, T. K.
2013 Caddo Ceramics in East Texas. Bulletin of the Texas Archeological Society 84:181-212.
Timothy K. Perttula and Kevin Stingley are visiting researchers at TARL. This article is part of the September 2017 TARL newsletter.
During the summer of 1969 while doing fieldwork at the George C. Davis site (41CE19), Dr. Dee Ann Story sent out two of her students, Dan Witter and George Kegley, to survey sites in areas to the north of the Davis site (Story 1997). One of the sites recorded by Kegley and Witter was 41CE47. In the spring of 2017 Stingley revisited the site and recorded two new adjacent sites. This article will describe the work conducted at the sites and the range of artifacts found there.
During Stingley’s initial survey of the site area the landowner was able to point out the location of two shovel tests excavated by Kegley when he recorded the site; four ceramic sherds were found in these two shovel tests. Also pointed out was a section of Walnut Branch, a small tributary stream of Box’s Creek, where Kegley found 70 Caddo ceramic sherds; these sherds are now housed at the Texas Archeological Research Laboratory. Kegley noted in his site report that 41CE47 was in danger of eroding into the creek bed. However, around 1990 the creek changed course bypassing an oxbow that was dangerously close to that site.
The landowner noted several areas in the Walnut Branch floodplain where he had found a few surface artifacts, but said he did not know of any shovel testing ever having been done there. Before starting any shovel testing Stingley walked a 400-meter section of this east-west flowing creek immediately south of 41CE47. In the gravel bed he found 136 Caddo ceramic sherds; 55 plain and 81 decorated vessel sherds. A few lithic artifacts included pieces of petrified wood lithic debris and part of the polished bit from a greenish-gray siliceous shale celt.
Stingley began shovel testing at the westernmost end of a large field and floodplain that stretched 700 meters east-west and between 60-250 meters north-south. The western area was recorded as 41CE485. A total of 31 positive shovel tests were completed there that had 217 ceramic sherds, split almost evenly between plain and decorated sherds. Seven of the shovel tests in three spatial clusters contained between 10-30 sherds and one had a lens of ash and charcoal indicating a possible pit/hearth feature. Other artifacts recovered from this area included 13 pieces of burned clay, a pipe sherd, four charred nutshells, animal bone, and wood charcoal. A high water table limited the depth of shovel tests with most only reaching 40-50 cmbs.
Next, intensive shovel testing was done at the Walnut Branch site (41CE47), the original location recorded by Kegley. This work determined that the site was ca. 110 x 100 m in size. Seventy-two shovel tests returned cultural materials in the fine sandy loam of the Walnut Branch floodplain; again, a high water table limited the depth of shovel tests and the clay B-horizon was never reached in this area. A total of 480 ceramic sherds were found in the shovel tests, ranging from 1-26 sherds. Two different spatial clusters at the Walnut Branch site contained high sherd concentrations. These spatial artifact clusters likely represent at least 2-3 Caddo household compounds. Found in these areas were burned clay, wood charcoal, nutshell, animal bone, a chipped stone tool, a grinding stone, red ochre, a polished pebble, and a small lead ball (Figure 1a).
Immediately northeast of the Walnut Branch site was a slight elevated area of ca. 2.0 acres where site 41CE486 was identified and recorded. A total of 36 shovel tests contained cultural materials. Because of its slight elevation above the floodplain several shovel tests reached the clay B-horizon. The A-horizon sediments were strong brown to dark brown fine sandy loam. The shovel tests at 41CE486 recovered 237 ceramic sherds, again almost evenly split between plain and decorated sherds. The density of sherds from these 36 shovel tests point to two areas within the site that likely represent one or two household compounds and a plaza between them. Also found in these areas were an elbow pipe sherd, burned clay, wood charcoal, animal bone, lithic debris, a ground stone tool, and another small lead ball (see Figure 1b) similar in size to the lead ball found approximately 125 meters away at the Walnut Branch site.
A wide range of archeological material was found at the three sites in the shovel testing. Of the 177 total shovel tests excavated by Stingley, 79% were positive. More than 205 ceramic vessel sherds were found in the gravel bed of Walnut Branch by Kegley and Stingley combined. In total 1068 ceramic vessel sherds, five ceramic elbow pipe sherds, two clay coils, 30 pieces of burned clay, two chipped stone tools (including a Turney arrow point), 21 pieces of lithic debris, seven ground stone tools, two early 18th century lead balls, 21 pieces of wood charcoal, five charred nutshells, and 13 small pieces of animal bone were recovered. The ceramic sherds were from vessels that were predominately grog-tempered followed by sherds from vessels with hematite temper, and 19% or less had bone temper. Wood charcoal, nutshell, and animal bone are not abundant at any of the three sites indicating the poor preservation of organic remains in the moist fine sandy loam of the sites. Caddo ceramic vessel sherds from the following types were found at one or more of the sites: Patton Engraved (Figure 2) is the most common fine ware; along with only a very few Poynor Engraved and Mayhew Rectilinear sherds, Bullard Brushed and Maydelle Incised jars and sherds of Lindsey Grooved and Killough Pinched are in the assemblages at each site.
The artifacts from the sites indicate they were occupied mainly during the Historic Caddo Allen phase (post A.D.1680), with some limited use during the Late Caddo Frankston phase particularly at 41CE485. The archeological evidence also suggests that these sites were part of a Caddo Neche cluster that includes sites from the
Bowles Creek area, along the middle Neches River, and from a late occupation at the George C. Davis site. The two 18th century lead balls found at 41CE47 and 41CE486 suggest that Caddo peoples were in contact with Europeans in the area. Further work at the sites is planned, including remote sensing and the excavation of 1 x 1 m units in the areas of the different artifact clusters, hoping to identify cultural features from Caddo houses and pit features in outdoor activity areas.
1997 1968-1970 Archeological Investigations at the George C. Davis Site, Cherokee County, Texas. Bulletin of the Texas Archeological Society 68:1-113.
Dr. David Robinson is a visiting researcher at TARL. This article is part of TARL’s September 2017 newsletter.
Work at TARL’s microscopy lab in 2017 has focused on Caddo sites, particularly the George C. Davis site (41CE19). Imagery in
the microscope has been captured for sharing with scholars with an interest in ceramics and Caddo culture. Digital
photography with a dedicated computer setup (although still a part of the TARL-UT network) makes capturing, sharing, and
distributing the imagery easy. The hard part is still identifying unknown minerals in thin section and centering them in front
of the camera’s shutter.
The assistance of Marilyn Shoberg in operating the digital system is gratefully acknowledged.
All thin section images in this article are from the George C. Davis Site (41CE19).
Feldspar particle in Paste Group E. Feldspar is a telltale sign of nonlocal wares at the George C. Davis site.
Paste Group C. This paste group is an unusual hematite-tempered group. The small brown (medium silt-sized) particles may be hematite. The actual hematite temper particles are coarse sand-sized (not visible in this view).
Grog temper particle. Note color difference, high angularity, and much smaller interior particles in the grog particle.
Large mass of bone tempering. Bone material almost fills the image. Bone particles may take almost any shape.
Ilmenite is titanium oxide; it appears as a fractured mass with white speckles, which are small masses of elemental titanium. It could
well be a specific telltale sign in Caddo country, but research has not yet determined this.
Bug eggs in blue void. Invertebrates lay eggs in ceramic voids. Sometimes they are preserved by carbonization in the ceramic firing. Species unknown.
Void with woody burnout. Some sections from George C. Davis have up to 2.5% of such voids. Note the black interior particle and jagged
or feathery black interior rim of the void. The void was originally filled with a woody organic material, and firing burned out all
the material around the interior rim.
Hex void. Some sections from George C. Davis have numerous voids of irregular hexagonal shapes. Many are more elongated than this one. Some interpretations speculate that these are the shapes left by seeds being added to the ceramic paste. The material burns out, leaving the hexagonal shape. Black masses inside the void may be remnant material.
Special thanks to the Texas Historical Commission for their funding of this project, and to Tim Perttula (PI).
Wilson W. Crook, III, is a visiting researcher at TARL. This article is part of TARL’s September 2017 newsletter.
The Sam Houston Regional Library and Research Center in Liberty, Texas is currently in the process of renovating its entire museum display. A major component of their future exhibits will be the prehistory of Southeast Texas utilizing the extensive Andy Kyle Artifact Collection. The collection of prehistoric artifacts was a gift to the museum by the late Mr. Andy Kyle, long-time resident of Liberty County and avid avocational archeologist. The collection comprises well over 30,000 artifacts from 95 archeological sites from nine counties in Southeast Texas. These include sites in Liberty, Polk, Jasper, Sabine, Tyler, Hardin, Angelina, San Augustine, and Newton Counties. In early 2017, members of the Houston Archeological Society (HAS) were asked to assist the Sam Houston Regional Library’s project by going through the entire Andy Kyle Artifact Collection and identifying distinctive artifacts from each chronological period for the new display. A number of hitherto unrecorded discoveries were made during this process which will be the subject of a several future publications from the HAS. One of the more spectacular finds was the discovery of several diagnostic Clovis artifacts from the Wood Springs site (41LB15). The artifacts mark the first reported occurrence of Clovis people in Liberty County (Beaver and Meltzer 2007) and push the date for the first occupation of the area back to at least 13,000 years ago.
The Wood Springs Site (41LB15)
The Wood Springs site is located approximately 3 kilometers northwest of Liberty, Texas on the west side of a small stream known as Wood Springs Creek or Atascosito Springs. This stream is fed by several perennial springs and is a minor tributary of the Trinity River, which is located 0.8 km to the west. Occupational material at Wood Springs covers at least 0.2 Ha (0.5 acres) and possibly as much as 2 Ha (5 acres). Based on artifacts collected by Mr. Kyle, the Wood Springs site represents a long-term occupation which extends from the earliest Paleo-Indian period (Clovis) through the Late Prehistoric.
Clovis Occupation at the Wood Springs Site
A total of 9 artifacts of probable Clovis affinity were identified in the Kyle Collection from the Wood Springs site. These include the bases of two fluted points (Figure 1), two large blades, two overshot flakes, two small (<50 mm) prismatic blades, and a side-scraper / perforator made from a broken blade. The artifacts have been studied in detail including physical measurements, high power microscopic examination, and trace element geochemical analysis using X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF). In addition, two fragments of proboscidean enamel were found in the collection which are believed to be part of a mastodon molar (Mammut sp.).
All nine of the lithic artifacts of probable Clovis affinity are made from high quality chert that is not native to the Southeast Texas area. The artifacts also display a strong yellow to yellow-orange fluorescence under both short and long-wave UV radiation which is characteristic of Edwards Plateau chert (Hofman et al. 1991; Hillsman 1992).
Measurement of the two blades using the comparative methodology developed by Collins (1999) and Collins and Lohse (2004) for the Gault project show the blades to be similar in terms of length, width, and thickness ratios to Clovis blades from the Timber Fawn site in Harris County (Crook et al. 2015) as well as blades from the Gault (41BL323) and Keven Davis (41NV659) sites.
Ongoing research is investigating the trace element geochemistry of the artifacts in an attempt to source the chert material. These efforts will also try and determine if there is a relationship between the Clovis occupation at Wood Springs and other Clovis sites in southeast Texas, notably the Timber Fawn site located 28 miles to the west in Harris County. The Wood Springs site, which is located only 0.4 miles from the Sam Houston Regional Library, is also being reinvestigated by the HAS to see if further artifacts of Clovis affinity can be recovered.
Beaver, Michael R. and David J. Meltzer
2007 Exploring Variation in Paleoindian Life Ways: The Third Revised Edition of the Texas Clovis Fluted Point Survey. Bulletin of the Texas
Archeological Society, 78:65-100.
Collins, Michael B.
1999 Clovis Blade Technology. The University of Texas Press, Austin.
Collins, M. B. and J. C. Lohse
2004 The Nature of Clovis Blades and Blade Cores. In Entering North America, edited by D. B. Madsen, pp. 159-83. University of Utah Press, Salt Lake City.
Crook, Wilson W., III, Lenore A. Psencik, Linda C. Gorski and Thomas L. Nuckols
2016 The Timber Fawn Clovis Site (41HR1165): An Early Paleoamerican Occupation In Kingwood, Harris County, Texas. Report of the Houston Archeological Society No. 26, Houston.
Hillsman, Mathew J.
1992 Evaluation of Visible and Ultraviolet Excited Attributes of Some Texas and Macroscopically Similar New Mexico Cherts. Unpublished Masters’ Thesis, Eastern New Mexico University.
Hofman, Jack L., Lawrence C. Todd and Michael B. Collins
1991 Identification of Central Texas Edwards Chert at the Folsom and Lindenmeier Sites. Plains Anthropologist 36(137):281-395.
Dr. D. Clark Wernecke is the Executive Director of the Gault School of Archeological Research. This article appeared in TARL’s newsletter in two parts. Part I was published in the July 2017 issue and Part II was published in the September 2017 issue.
James Edwin Pearce was a true renaissance man. Born in Roxboro, North Carolina in October of 1868, Pearce moved with his family to Hunt County, Texas in 1871 (Denton 2016). He graduated from the University of Texas (there was only one then) with a B.A. in Literature in 1894 and an M. A. the following year. He began doctoral studies at the University of Chicago, then switched his studies from history and sociology to anthropology, continuing to study intermittently while he began a 22-year long career as principal of Austin High School in Austin. He also studied for a year at the School of Anthropology in Paris in 1900. Pearce began teaching at the University of Texas in 1912 and became a full-time professor in 1917, and in 1919 became the department chair, changing the name of the department from Institutional History to
Anthropology (Denton 2016). He conducted some of the first professional archeological excavations in the state, fostered some of Texas’ up-and-coming archeologists, and was a champion for the discipline of anthropology and archeological research. Pearce was also the instigator and pushed for a State Museum in Austin in the late 1920s and did establish the first anthropology museum at UT (Tunnel 2000), contributed to the Bulletin of the Texas Archeological and Paleontological Society (Pearce 1932), patented a new kind of plow (patent #1,111,613), and was known as a grower of improved varieties of pecans (Bedichek 1928). One of J. E. Pearce’s most famous publications was Tales that Dead Men Tell, published in 1935 (Tunnell 2000).
Mr. Pearce was interested in the burned rock middens of central Texas and in October of 1929 he sent Henry Ramseur, his field foreman, and three laborers to the Gault farm to excavate the large midden there. He later described it in a nomination for National Park status as:
“One of the largest mounds of its kind in Texas. A portion of the mound has been excavated yielding an abundance of beautiful flint artifacts. Funds available do not permit complete excavation. The site is being destroyed by haphazard digging of landowner and others who dig the specimens for sale.” (Pearce 1934).
Pearce’s excavations lasted eight weeks in the fall of 1929 and it is possible Mr. Ramseur returned alone in March of 1930 (Barnard 1939). The crew excavated about a third of the midden by their account and recovered over 3,000 artifacts and two fragmentary human burials. The midden was hand-excavated by broadcast archaeological methods employing shovels as the primary excavation tool. This excavation strategy included a base line incorporating a “zero point” (site datum) laid out parallel to the long axis of the site. Along this baseline five to ten foot square units were established in a continuous row with workmen assigned to each square. They hand dug the trench in each square along the baseline running the length of the site where possible. The trench is estimated to between 1 and 1.5 meters (m) deep based on photographs of the work (Figure 2). The initial trench was just wide enough to allow an individual in the trench to carefully examine the contents of the wall opposite from the baseline. Cultural artifacts were handpicked from the one wall, and following that, the collected wall was knocked down into the bottom of the trench and those sediments were shoveled up and out and spread across the ground, where they would again be searched for artifacts.
The excavators worked away from the baseline and the digging progressed through the midden deposits. The in-situ artifacts removed from the walls were recorded as “low”, “medium”, or “high” according to their vertical position in the wall. Pearce described his methodology in detail in a “Handbook for Field Work in Archaeology” (Pearce Collection, n.d., Pearce Papers, Texas Archeological Research Laboratory, The University of Texas at Austin). Following Pearce’s excavations, the trench evidently remained open for some time as attested to by the correspondence between James Pearce and Henry Gault held in TARL archives regarding backfilling. Mr. Gault filled the trenches for Professor Pearce in February of 1931.
In 1932 Mr. Pearce described the archaeology of the mounds he was excavating at the Gault site. He was convinced the “burnt rock mounds” of central Texas were “kitchen middens” that sometimes also held human burials. He thought he recognized three stratified cultures: “the lowest a crude pure hunter type, the middle a higher hunter type with a great multiplicity of flint implements but without the bow and with little if any horticulture, and the upper layer culture is essentially a hunter type.” (Pearce 1932:49). Mr. Pearce felt the highest strata, with flint tools, potsherds, and grinding stones, represented a cultural adaptation of people moving into central Texas from east Texas and gradually reverting to nomad
hunters. The Pearce excavations revealed a broad, dense burned rock midden that was at least 2 m thick and yielded mostly Archaic artifacts.
The only records of this work are a few photographs and two short reports to Dr. E. T. Miller, Director of the Fund for Research in the Social Sciences at the UT (Pearce 1930a, b). Although some artifacts were traded by Mr. Pearce during ensuing years, the remainder of the artifacts, numbering 3,332, and two human burials are housed today at the Texas Archeological Research Laboratory (TARL) at UT in Austin. The artifacts recovered from the Gault site were identified by Mr. Pearce using one of 15 terms, with roughly two-thirds of the total identified as either spear or arrow heads. Some of the more unusual terms assigned to the recognized artifacts were “war club spikes” along with “hoe,” a “bone crusher,” and a “limestone ornament.” The Pearce collection was reexamined in 2004 for the first time since 1930 and reclassified and identified using modern terms and categories by Elton Prewitt, a renowned Texas projectile point analyst and longtime Texas archaeologist. This updated analysis identified 37 diagnostic projectile point types from Paleoindian Wilson points to Late Prehistoric Darl/Zephyr types with representative artifacts from all known cultural time periods in between. Statistically the Archaic point types clearly dominate the Pearce collections. In contrast, only one Wilson and no Clovis types were represented. Except for the projectile points, very few other specimens are time diagnostic although a Clovis blade was recognized. Other tool classes represented include bifaces, scrapers, unifaces, drills, gouges, choppers, adzes, modified flakes, and a few bone specimens that include awls, billets, and hammerstones. Ground stone is minimally represented by 10 manos and one metate.
As was the custom at the time J. E. Pearce traded artifacts collected from the Gault site as typical central Texas artifacts to other archaeologists and researchers in return for artifacts from their area. A small collection, for example, is in the Huntington Library in
California. He also traded 22 projectile points from the Gault site for some Caddoan pottery. J. Alden Mason of the University of Pennsylvania Museum visited Pearce during his “Texas and Southwest Expedition” (also known as the Hering Expedition). In a letter from October of 1929, Mason wrote he was “from Tuesday night until yesterday (Saturday) with Dr. Pearce at the University there. He took me to several of his excavations where I collected a few things and he promises us a good selection from his material in return for some of our publications” (A. Mason to H.H.F. Jayne, letter, 12 October 1929, Museum Texas Expedition papers, University Penn Museum). Seventy-eight lithic artifacts from Florence, Texas listed as coming from the “Dr. Pearce Mound” and “Henry Gault Mound” are in the University Penn Museum (curation lots 29-27-817 to 894) (Allessandro Pezzati, personal communication 2014).
In a 1934 preliminary survey that led to the National Park Service (NPS) Park, Parkway, and Recreational Area Study Act of 1936 the NPS asked for information on recreational and historical resources. Pearce was quick to write a recommendation for the “Gault Burnt Rock Mound” and noted that he regretted that funds were not available to completely excavate the site. We don’t know if he intended to revisit the Gault site as his dream of building a first class museum in Texas, the Texas Memorial Museum, finally came to fruition and in June of 1938 he was appointed the first director. James Edwin Pearce died on October 22, 1938.
Barnard, Helen, D.
1939 Early History of Research in Texas Archeology by the Department of Anthropology, and the history of the Anthropology Museum of the University
of Texas. Unpublished M.A. Thesis, Department of Anthropology, The University of Texas at Austin.
2016 “They are Hauling off Bits of Texas”: James E. Pearce and the Effort to Establish a State Museum. Southwestern Historical Quarterly 120(2):146-161.
1928 Off-Sides. Interscholastic Leaguer. 12(4): 2. Austin, TX
Pearce, James E.
1930a Report to Director E.T. Miller, Fund for the Research in the Social Sciences, February 2, Manuscript on file, Pearce Collection, Texas Archeological Research Laboratory, The University of Texas at Austin.
1930b Report to Director E.T. Miller, Fund for the Research in the Social Sciences, November10, Manuscript on file, Pearce Collection, Texas Archeological Research Laboratory, The University of Texas at Austin.
1932 The Present Status of Texas Archeology. Bulletin of the Texas Archeological and Paleontological Society, 4:44-54.
1934 Response to National Park Service Archeological Survey. Manuscript on file, Pearce Collection, Texas Archeological Research Laboratory, The University of Texas at Austin.
2000 In Their Own Words: Stories from Some Pioneer Texas Archaeologists. Bulletin of the Texas Archeological Society 71:1-146.
On September 23, TARL hosted another great free workshop for students, professional archeologists, and others who wanted to
learn more about sediments in archeology. The workshop focused on both the geological and ethnobotanical aspects of
sedimentation, soil sampling, and sample processing. We were fortunate to have expert instructors Dr. Leslie Bush and Dr.
Charles Frederick, along with graduate student instructor Sam Krause, volunteer their time and effort to share their knowledge
with more than 20 attendees. Throughout the workshop, we learned about Texas geology and ecology, taphonomic processes,
archeological sampling strategies, and post-field sample processing.
Workshop participants came from all quarters: undergraduate and graduate students from UT and other universities, professional archeologists, and folks with an interest in archeology who wanted to build their knowledge and skills. We are glad to offer this kind of opportunity for our community to come together and get some in-depth instruction on topics that will aid them in their professional endeavors. The soils and flotation workshop was a great chance for participants to increase their understanding of both important practical skills and underlying principles that can be enormously helpful as archeologists work to understand and interpret archeological sites. Thank you to our wonderful instructors for putting so much time and effort into making this a great workshop!
If you have suggestions for future workshops that would benefit you as a student or archeological professional, please let us know! If you are a professional with a specialty you’d like to share in a workshop, we want to hear from you, too. TARL hopes to continue providing useful and fun opportunities to the community. Follow our social media and join our email list for information on upcoming workshops. Our next workshop will be a discussion of issues surrounding the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA), set for Saturday, November 18, 2017.
Eric Schroeder is a UT graduate student and archeological researcher. This article appeared in the September 2017 TARL newsletter.
One aspect of my current research is examining the ethnohistoric and archeological evidence for social complexity during the Toyah interval. Inspired by the ethnohistoric accounts of native Jumano leaders including Juan Sabeata, Tuerto, and the Catqueza leader Don Nicholas, where these special status individuals are portrayed as organizers of large Native coalitions, as well as being widely traveled diplomats and traders, I am looking into the Toyah material record for evidence of socially complex phenomena such as ceremony, ritual, violence, exchange, and aspects of labor organization.
In addition to synthesizing the available mortuary data in an attempt to identify regional patterns related to social inequality, I am particularly interested in sites that contain evidence of communal activities such as organized hunting, feasting, and commodity production. Items associated with ritual and ceremonial significance such as rock art, large food processing features, and smoking pipes play a large part in my analysis of the intersite data, as well as evidence of long-distance exchange and craft production. This investigation into craft production has directed me toward a study of Toyah blade and ceramic technologies. In this regard, I am investigating whether blade technology functioned as an efficient means of mass-producing a stone tool kit focused around the production of hide commodities.
In reference to ceramic technology, I hope to provide information on the variability expressed among Classic Toyah pottery to evaluate whether there existed a standardized production process that may have been organized and controlled under a certain set of cultural/ideological parameters. The intended outcome of this study is to systematically identify present data gaps and future research trajectories under a more humanistic model, one that goes beyond purely environmental determinants and has the power to add new understanding into the origin and spread of the Toyah cultural phenomenon.
TARL wants to say a huge thank you to staff writer Michael Barnes of the Austin-American Statesman, who wrote a wonderful piece highlighting our history and collections for our local paper.
Anyone interested in seeing artifacts from TARL’s collections should check out current exhibits at the LBJ Museum, the Witte Museum, and the Texas State History Museum. TARL is not open for public tours; due to the fragile and irreplaceable nature of our collections, access is restricted to credentialed researchers only. But, we do offer various events and volunteer opportunities throughout the year!
Folks interested in getting involved with TARL can follow us on Facebook. Our Facebook page also has a link to sign up for our email list, which we use to send out news about events and research.
Additionally, everyone interested in archeology, history, or science in general should come out to the 2017 Texas Archeology Month Fair, which will take place October 14 here at TARL. The Fair is a collaborative event between TARL, the Texas Historical Commission, and other local agencies, and will feature fun and educational activities for kids and adults.
TARL is pleased to announce the publication of a new volume entitled Navajo Weavings with Ceremonial Themes: A Historical Overview of a Secular Art Form, by Rebecca M. Valette and Jean-Paul Valette, now available from Schiffer Publishing.
Although this volume is focused on woven textiles, the book also features images of several of the historic Navajo sandpaintings held in the TARL collections. These beautiful, high-resolution images show the detail and craftsmanship of the incredible sandpaintings, and can help readers understand the symbolism and history of this unique art form.
About the Book:
Featuring more than 500 photos and maps, this is the first comprehensive, research-based history of Navajo weavings with imagery inspired by tribal sacred practices. These Yei, Yeibichai, and sandpainting textiles have been the most sought after by collectors and the least studied by scholars. In spite of their iconography, they never served a ceremonial function. They were created by Navajo women at the instigation of traders, for sale to wealthy collectors willing to pay premium prices for their perceived spiritual symbolism. This book describes the historical and artistic development of the genre from its controversial emergence around 1900, to the 1920-1940 period of intense creativity, and concluding with the contemporary search for innovative patterns. Never-before-published weavings, detailed annotations, and an extensive bibliography make this an invaluable reference for scholars and collectors, and a fascinating exploration for all who are interested in the Southwest and its native cultures.
As part of our efforts to engage students and community members in Texas archeology, TARL tries to offer learning opportunities for our interns and volunteers outside of the lab. This week, we brought a great group of students and volunteers to the Gault site in southern Bell County.
The Gault site (41BL323) first caught the attention of archeologists over 100 years ago. Although some parts of the site were damaged by looting and pay-to-dig operations throughout the 20th century, more recent scientific excavations have uncovered massive, intact Clovis deposits dating as far back as 13,500 BCE and even evidence for older-than-Clovis habitation at the site. No new excavations are going on at Gault right now–the project staff have lots of data to write up and publish before opening up new excavations–but our excellent tour guide, Dr. Tom Williams, was able to show us previous excavation areas and teach us a ton about the site.
As much as we love looking at artifacts in the lab, it’s important to get out and see the sites themselves, so that we can gain a deeper understanding of the role of the landscape in prehistoric lifeways. At the Gault site, our group was able to see how a location like this one is an ideal spot for habitation: it’s close to water and on the border of different ecological zones, meaning that many different types of resources are available nearby. We also got to try our hand at throwing darts using an atlatl, just as Paleoindian hunters may have done!
Another fascinating part of our visit was learning about the various hypotheses for the early peopling of the Americas, and how research at Gault is contributing to our understanding of the earliest inhabitants of our continent. Increasingly, evidence is suggesting that the people all over North America and beyond who used Clovis tool technology were not the first immigrants to these areas. We look forward to seeing all the exciting research coming out of the Gault site!
Thank you to Dr. Tom Williams of the Gault School of Archeological Research for sharing all your time, effort, and expertise–you made this a trip to remember!