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.
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.