Category Archives: Collections Highlights

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.

 

Current Research on Painted Pebble Styles

Elton R. Prewitt

Texas Archeological Research Laboratory

The University of Texas at Austin

Archeologists have known of the painted pebbles in southwest Texas for about 100 years. Extensive excavation of dry rockshelters in the eastern and central Trans-Pecos region began in the 1920s. Initial digging by local collectors was followed in the 1930s by over half-dozen institutions that mounted multiple museum-stuffing expeditions.

Davenport and Chelf (1941) compiled 281 pebble designs observed in various collections from Val Verde county made during the 1920s and 1930s. The Amistad Reservoir salvage program carried out by UT Austin’s Texas Archeological Salvage Project (TASP) from 1958 to 1969 provided numerous additional samples that were recovered from various rockshelters in the Lower Pecos River portion of the eastern Trans-Pecos. As a result, the greatest number of known painted pebbles are from Val Verde county.

UT Austin student and TASP employee Mark Parsons (1967) studied painted pebbles intensively during the early 1960s. His full research paper, in which he worked with a sample of roughly 400 specimens (interpolated from his 1967 references), was never published, but a summary of it appeared later (Parsons 1986). Parsons’ work provides a foundation for continuing study of these fascinating artifacts. He demonstrated that the narrow end of most pebbles is the top portion of the design, but importantly he also defined a Core Motif comprised of 3 elements, and he described six proposed styles of pebbles.

The three elements of the Core Motif defined by Parsons include a Bisecting Element consisting of one or more vertical lines, a Central Element that is horizontal and located toward the lower portion of the pebble, and Flanking Elements positioned on either side of the bisecting element (Fig. 1). Each of these elements may comprise a variety of motifs.

Figure 1: Core Motif showing a) Bisecting Element; b) Central Element; c) Flanking Element (SID00411).-

The six painted pebble styles proposed by Parsons are currently being reviewed as part of a long-term study initiated by Shumla in 2009. The research team that includes Dr. Jean Clottes (Foix, France), Dr. Carolyn E. Boyd (Texas State University), and Elton R. Prewitt (TARL) currently works with a sample of roughly 750 painted pebbles. Although modifications to Parsons’ styles appear warranted, the basic structure he presented is sound and requires tweaking only in light of specimens excavated subsequent to his study.

Mock (1987, 2011, 2012, 2013) employs a different method of grouping painted pebbles based upon individual motifs rather than overall style. Her work has contributed significantly to possible pebble motif interpretations. However, we choose to follow the earlier work by Parsons that was based upon analysis techniques used in art history studies.

Pebbles may be painted in red, black or both, and sometimes yellow or white may be observed. Color is not used as a factor in the present examination of style. The illustrations that follow are enhanced either by pencil shading or digital overlay in order to make the sometimes very dim designs visible. Specimens are identified by their Shumla identification number (SID).

Parsons’ Style 1 exhibits geometric patterns. The Bisecting Element generally is three vertical lines while the Central Element has concentric circles and the Flanking Elements contain “X”s or diagonal lines.  Designs often wrap around the lateral edges and most frequently are executed by fine lines. However, some pebbles of this style are executed by broader lines, prompting a suggestion that two substyles might be defined (Fig. 2).

Figure 2: Style 1, Early Geometrics; a) Style 1A (SID00775); b) Style 1B (SID00715).

In Parsons’ Style 2 the Bisecting Element usually is three lines, but the Central Element may be rectangular or circular with linear or spatulate forms radiating from it. The Flanking Elements include horizontal crescent lines or “flags.” While not overtly so, this style has elements of anthropomorphic representation. The Central Element circle is very suggestive of female genitalia. Two substyles are distinguished, the first of which includes horizontal crescents as originally defined by Parsons. The second includes straight lines (flags) that may be horizontal or diagonal and usually intersect a vertical line (Fig. 3).

Figure 3: Style 2, Flag Design showing obverse and reverse patterns; a) Style 2A (SID00154); b) Style 2B (SID00155).

Style 3 pebbles are overtly anthropomorphic with female genitalia apparent in the Central Element. The key features that identify this style are vertically-oriented chevrons positioned to suggest eyes in the Flanking Elements. Sometimes there are multiple chevrons, and some may be joined into a heart shape (Fig. 4).

Figure 4: Style 3, Chevron Eyes oriented vertically; a) SID00148; b) SID00500.

Parsons’ Style 4 is problematical. He defined this style based upon only three specimens, all of which are anthropomorphic exhibiting eyes similar to Style 5. The key motif he proposed is a “V” shape suggestive of projectiles. While this motif appears on several pebbles other than the original three, none of them are anthropomorphic with identifiable eyes. Tentatively, Style 4 may be redefined to include pebbles that have anthropomorphic qualities, especially female genitalia in the Central Element, but that lack eye representations in the Flanking Elements. The three pebbles Parsons used to define this style are now included in Style 5. Five substyles of Style 4 may be recognized (Fig. 5).  In Style 4A the Bisecting Element includes a vee shape or a zigzag. Style 4B has anthropomorphic elements but no eyes while Style 4C is defined by fine-line application and the Central Element exhibits open circle or brackets. Style 4D comprises most examples not assignable to Styles 4A, 4B or 4C. Style 4E includes examples where apparent hair (or head) only is depicted either in red or black monochrome.

Figure 5: Style 4, Anthropomorphic, lacking eyes; a) Style 4A (SID00630); b) Style 4B (SID00626); c) Style 4C (SID00181); d) Style 4D (SID00611); e) Style 4E (SID00256).

Parsons’ Style 5 includes clearly anthropomorphic representations that he divided into two substyles. However, considering the observable variation in the currently available examples it appears four substyles might be appropriate for this group. Basic to the style is the presence of open brackets or circles in the Central Element and depictions of eyes in the upper Flanking Elements (Style 5A). Some examples exhibit downward diagonal lines or bands that converge toward the open brackets or circles (Style 5B). Others appear to have subtle shading on the upper portions of the pebbles suggestive of hair or possibly skull caps (Style 5C). Some anthropomorphic pebbles (Style 5D) are simply not assignable to a specific substyle (Fig. 6).

Figure 6: Style 5, Anthropomorphic, eyes depicted; a) Style 5A (SID00632); b) Style 5B (SID00022); c) Style 5C (SID00535); d) Style 5D (SID00285).

Style 6 also is anthropomorphic, but hair is clearly depicted both on obverse and reverse faces of the pebble. The Central Element is positioned higher on the pebbles than in other styles; it usually includes a rectangle or oval suggestive of a mouth. Eyes are most frequently depicted by short horizontal bars, but sometimes are depicted by vertical chevrons. No revisions are proposed for Style 6 (Fig. 7).

Figure 7: Style 6, Anthropomorphic, hair clearly depicted; a) SID00397; b) SID00701.

Newly proposed Style 7 includes a variety of geometric designs that differ markedly from those included in Style 1. Divided into three substyles, Style 7 pebbles may exhibit designs that depict “butterfly” motifs (Style 7A) while others comprise vertical lines only (Style 7B). Still others (Style 7C) contain various geometrics such as chevrons that may be nested or sometimes interlocking (Fig. 8).

 

Figure 8: Style 7, Late Geometrics; a) Style 7A (SID00382); b) Style 7B (SID00733); c) Style 7c (SID00189).

Parsons (1967, 1986) thought the various styles of painted pebbles formed a continuous artistic tradition that extended from the Early Archaic period through the Late Prehistoric period. That notion, however, was based on an outdated concept of Lower Pecos River regional chronology wherein the Late Archaic began at about 3000 B.P. As currently understood, the Late Archaic begins at about 4000 B.P. (Black and Dial 2005; Castaneda et al. 2018).

As originally proposed by Parsons, Style 1 pebbles indeed date to the Early Archaic (9000 – 6000 B.P.) as is confirmed by stratigraphic position and radiocarbon assays obtained from Eagle Cave (41VV167) near Langtry (Koenig and Black 2017). None of the styles are found in contexts suggesting a Middle Archaic (6000 – 4000 B.P.) age affiliation, contrary to assertions by some researchers (Mock 2012; Turpin and Middleton 1998). Styles 2, 3, 4, 5, and 7 are all Late Archaic (4000 – 1200 B.P.) in age although some may extend into the early part of the Late Prehistoric. While Parsons postulated a temporal seriation among those styles, this suggestion cannot be confidently supported at this time. That Style 6 dates to the Late Prehistoric (1200 – 400 B.P.) as Parsons proposed seems quite reasonable although no examples have been found in clear unmixed context.

Acknowledgements:  Thank you to the numerous people who have assisted in this ongoing study. The staff at TARL, the Witte Memorial Museum in San Antonio, the Amistad National Recreation Area of the National Park Service and the Jack Skiles family generously allowed access to their collections.

This summary is revised and condensed from a paper entitled “A Review of Parsons’ Painted Pebble Styles” presented at the 89th Annual Meeting of the Texas Archeological Society, San Antonio TX 26-28 October 2018.

 

 

References Cited

Black, S. L. and S. W. Dial, 2005. Electronic document, https://www.texasbeyondhistory.net/plateaus/prehistory, (accessed 19 December 2018).

Castañeda, A. M., C. W. Koenig, M. W. Rowe and K. L. Steelman, 2018. Portable X-ray Fluorescence of Lower Pecos Painted Pebbles: New Insights Regarding Chaîne Opératoire, Context, and Chronology. Manuscript on file, Shumla, Comstock TX (submitted to Journal of Archaeological Science).

Davenport, J.W. and C. Chelf, 1941. Painted Pebbles from the Lower Pecos and Big Bend Regions of Texas. Bulletin V, Witte Memorial Museum, San Antonio, TX.

Koenig, C.W. and S.L. Black, 2017. Low Impact, High Resolution: Unraveling and Learning from 10,000 Years of Hunter-Gatherer Use of Eagle Cave. Paper presented at Society for American Archaeology 82nd Annual Meeting, March 29th-April 2nd, Vancouver BC, Canada.

Mock, S.B., 1987. The Painted Pebbles of the Lower Pecos: A Study of Medium, Form and Content. M.A. Thesis, Department of Anthropology, University of Texas at San Antonio.

Mock, S.B., 2011. Portable Rock Art of the Lower Pecos Canyonlands: The Symbolic Work of Women. American Indian Rock Art 37:115-132.

Mock, S.B., 2012. 41VV2079 – A Rock Shelter Excavated by Ted Sayles in 1932. Bulletin of the Texas Archeological Society 83:191-213.

Mock, S.B., 2013. Painted Pebbles: Lower Pecos Women Take Charge. In: Shafer, H.J. (Ed.), Painters in Prehistory: Archaeology and Art of the Lower Pecos Canyonlands. Trinity University Press, San Antonio, TX, pp. 223-240.

Parsons, M.L., 1967. Painted Pebbles: A Stylistic and Chronological Analysis. Manuscript on file at Texas Archeological Research Laboratory, Austin TX.

Parsons, M.L., 1986. Painted Pebbles: Styles and Chronology. In: Shafer, H.J. (Ed.), Ancient Texans: Rock Art and Lifeways along the Lower Pecos. Texas Monthly Press, Austin, TX, pp. 180-185.

Turpin, S.A., and L. Middleton, 1998. Painted Pebbles from Archaic Contexts in 41VV156, A Rockshelter in the Lower Pecos Region, Val Verde County, Texas. La Tierra 25(3):51-54.

 

McKinney Falls Artifacts for Interpretive Site Visits, by Marni Francell, Texas Parks and Wildlife

Marni Francell is an archaeologist with Texas Parks and Wildlife. This article is part of the September 2018 TARL Newsletter.


McKinney Falls State Park is a hidden gem just 20-minutes from downtown Austin. The sparkling waters of Onion Creek provide relief to park visitors from the hot Texas sun and offer recreational opportunities such as swimming and fishing. Prehistorically, people depended upon the creek and its many resources to survive. Evidence of their occupation can be seen through artifacts left behind at the Smith Rockshelter (41TV42). Excavated by Dee Ann (Suhm) Story in the 1950s, the Smith Rockshelter at McKinney Falls State Park gives park visitors a glimpse of how early inhabitants of Central Texas lived. In an effort to provide a hands-on learning experience, Park Interpreter Kristen Williams and TPWD Regional Archeologist Luis Alvarado plan to have replicas of several diagnostic artifacts cast. These artifact replicas will be used for outreach activities related to the shelter and Central Texas Archeology in general. Kristen and Luis, along with TPWD Archeologist Marni Francell and AmeriCorps member Jamie Gillis, visited TARL to see the Smith Rockshelter collection and to discuss loan options for replication.

Kristen Williams and Luis Alvarado from Texas Parks and Wildlife examine artifacts from the 41TV42 collection at TARL.

Most archeological collections from Texas State Parks are curated at the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) Archeology Lab, a state certified curatorial facility. However, the 1950s Smith Rockshelter collection is housed at the Texas Archeological Research Lab because the shelter, at the time, was on private property. McKinney Falls was not acquired by the State of Texas until the early 1970s. It was opened to the public on April 15, 1976.

Upcoming programs at McKinney Falls can be found here. While
it may be some time before the replicas are ready, park staff look forward to providing the public with the opportunity to hold history in their hands.

A group of students visits Smith Rockshelter in McKinney Falls State Park in Austin to learn about prehistoric life in the area.
A Pedernales point from the 41TV42 collection at TARL, one of the artifacts that may be replicated so park employees can use it as they give tours and educate park visitors.

Marine Shell Gorgets from Ancestral Caddo Sites in the Southern Caddo Area by Timothy K. Perttula

Timothy K. Perttula is a visiting researcher at TARL. This article is part of the June 2018 TARL Newsletter.   


Plain and engraved gorgets are rare occurrences on ancestral Caddo sites in the southern Caddo area, as they have been found in burial features at only 13 sites in Southwest Arkansas, Northwest Louisiana, southeastern Oklahoma, and East Texas (Table 1). These include 12 plain and 28 engraved gorgets, and the engraved gorgets have a number of different styles as defined by Brain and Phillips (1996). A number of these gorgets are in the collections of the Texas Archeological Research Laboratory at The University of Texas at Austin, and I have documented them as part of the recent study of a 15th-16th century engraved gorget from the Pipe site (41AN67) in the holdings of the Gregg County Historical Museum in Longview, Texas.

Fifty-five percent of the gorgets (and 57 percent of the engraved gorgets) from southern Caddo sites are from Middle Caddo period Sanders phase burial features in the East Mound at the T. M. Sanders site (Figure 1), and no other site has more than three gorgets (see Table 1). The gorgets occur in Middle Caddo (ca. A.D. 1200-1400, n=22) (Figure 2), Late Caddo (ca. A.D. 1400-1680, n=16) (Figure 3), and Historic Caddo (ca. A.D. 1680-1800, n=2) burial features (see Table 1).

Figure 1. Engraved turkey gorget in Burial 20 at the T. M. Sanders site (41LR2) in the Red River basin.
Figure 2. Plain gorget from the Jess
Alford site (41HP5) in the South Sulphur River basin.

More than 77 percent of the plain and engraved gorgets from the southern Caddo area are from burial features in Middle and Late Caddo period mound centers on the Red River, and approximately 83 percent of the southern Caddo area sample come from burial features on Red River valley sites. The remainder of the gorgets are from sites in the Ouachita (n=1), Little (n=1), Sulphur (n=1), Sabine (n=2), and Neches (n=2) river basins in southwest Arkansas, southeastern Oklahoma, and East Texas. The gorgets in sites in the Sulphur, Sabine, and Neches river basins in East Texas are from non-mound burial features.

Figure 3. Triskele style engraved gorget in Burial 19 at the Paul Mitchell site (41BW4) in the Red River basin.

Although rare, the clear association of marine shell gorgets with ancestral Caddo burial features (typically the burials of adult
males) found at mound centers is indicative of the display of marine shell jewelry as a prestige good (Deter-Wolf and Peres
2015:179). Such goods were restricted to the use (in life and at death) of the Caddo social elite living at these mound centers,
as they (a) signified and enabled access to supernatural powers and ritual knowledge by the wearer of the gorget, (b)
legitimized political power in communities both local and regional through the acquiring and display of symbolic materials
with high value social currency, and (c) sanctified claims to ancestral Caddo origins, landscapes, and landmarks (cf. Deter-Wolf
and Peres 2015:170; Marquardt and Kozuch 2016:23). The iconography present on marine shell gorgets on Caddo sites
warrants detailed consideration, therefore, because it reflects belief systems of different Caddo groups, as well as the social
relationships between different Caddo groups as well as more far-flung Mississippian groups (see Brain and Phillips 1996).


References Cited

Bell, R. E. and D. A. Baerreis
1951 A Survey of Oklahoma Archaeology. Bulletin of the Texas Archeological and Paleontological Society 22:7-100.

Brain, J. P. and P. Phillips
1996 Shell Gorgets: Styles of the Late Prehistoric and Protohistoric Southeast. Peabody Museum Press, Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, Harvard University, Cambridge.

Deter-Wolf, A. and T. M. Peres
2015 Embedded: Five Thousand Years of Shell Symbolism in the Southeast. In Trends and Traditions in Southeastern Zooarchaeology, edited by T. M. Peres, pp. 161-185. University Press of Florida, Gainesville.

Etchieson, M.
1981 A Shell Gorget from the Kirkham Site. The Arkansas Archeologist 22:1-3.

Harris, R. K., I. M. Harris, J. C. Blaine, and J. Blaine
1965 A Preliminary Archeological and Documentary Study of the Womack Site, Lamar County, Texas. Bulletin of the Texas Archeological Society 36:287-365.

Jackson, A. T.
1934 Jess Alford Plantation on old channel of South Sulphur River 2 ½ miles North of Nelta and 18 ½ Miles Northeast of Sulphur Springs, Hopkins Co., Trenched July 16, 1934 to July 17, 1934. MS on file, Texas Archeological Research Laboratory, The University of Texas at Austin.

Jackson, A. T., M. S. Goldstein, and A. D. Krieger
2000 The 1931 Excavations at the Sanders Site, Lamar County, Texas: Notes on the Fieldwork, Human Osteology, and Ceramics. Archival Series 2. Texas Archeological Research Laboratory, The University of Texas at Austin.

Krieger, A. D.
1946 Culture Complexes and Chronology in Northern Texas, with Extensions of Puebloan Datings to the Mississippi Valley. Publication No. 4640. The University of Texas, Austin.

Marquardt, W. H. and L. Kozuch
2016 The Lightning Whelk: An Enduring Icon of Southeastern Native American Spirituality. Journal of Anthropological Archaeology 42:1-26.

Moore, C. B.
1912 Some Aboriginal Sites on Red River. Journal of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia 14(4):526-636.

Perino, G.
1981 Archeological Investigations at the Roden Site (MC-215), McCurtain County, Oklahoma. Potsherd Press No. 1. Museum of the Red River, Idabel.

Perttula, T. K.
2011 The Pipe Site, a Late Caddo Site at Lake Palestine in Anderson County, Texas. Journal of Northeast Texas Archaeology 35:47-80.
2014 The Mitchell Site (41BW4): An Ancestral Caddo Settlement and Cemetery on McKinney Bayou, Bowie County, Texas. Special Publication No. 32. Friends of Northeast Texas Archaeology, Austin and Pittsburg.

Skinner, S. A., R. K. Harris, and K. M. Anderson (editors)
1969 Archaeological Investigations at the Sam Kaufman Site, Red River County, Texas. Contributions in Anthropology No. 5. Department of Anthropology, Southern Methodist University, Dallas.

Todd, J.
2011 An Unique Shell Gorget from Wood County, Texas. Journal of Northeast Texas Archaeology 35:1-4.

Webb, C. H.
1959 The Belcher Mound, a Stratified Caddoan Site in Caddo Parish, Louisiana. Memoirs No. 16. Society for American Archaeology, Salt Lake City.

The Photographic Collections at TARL

TARL has thousands and thousands of photographic prints, slides and negatives in our collection, dating from the early 1920s through present day. Currently we receive digital photographs almost exclusively, but the collection includes a variety of older formats—even glass plate and silver nitrate negatives. The nitrate negatives in particular are a challenge to maintain, as they are somewhat volatile and must be stored in freezing temperatures. The photos are (mostly) project and site specific and in many cases are a glimpse of not only sites found during the early years of Texas Archeology, but also the archeological methods used through time and Texans’ life in general. The photographs taken during the WPA archeological projects, for example, show distinctive methods such as the stair-step type of excavations done at deeply buried sites and raised platforms for mapping and taking photos. These photographs also show the local people hired during the Depression to work on archeological sites, adding an element of human interest and historical documentation.

TARL’s photographic collection is available for students, professional and avocational researchers to use. Please let TARL staff know ahead of time so we can assist with identifying and retrieving the photographs you have requested. Professional archeologists doing contract projects are charged for using TARL’s records, photographs, and maps. Any photos to be used in a for-profit publication will also incur a fee. TARL does not charge for pro bono or student work.

Photo from TARL photographic archive: Site 41TV41 Step excavation—west wall (1938-1939).
Photo from TARL photographic archive: Site 41BW3 Datum station—taken from camera tower to the north (1938).
Photo from TARL photographic archive: Site 41BW3—Staff in front of office tent (1938).
Photo from TARL photographic archive: Site 41BW3, Men using wagon and team to haul excavated earth (1938).

The Map Collection at TARL

This article is part of the March 2018 TARL Newsletter.


TARL’s map collection is quite extensive. Besides curating maps from present day projects, TARL’s map collection includes those from WPA work around the State of Texas during the 1930s and early 1940s, maps from the archeological work done during the primary Reservoir building era and later, and maps done during the extensive George C. Davis site (41CE19) excavations. Those project maps you may have seen or at least heard about. TARL also has copies of many historic maps as well (many of these maps are white on black copies). Some of the interesting and unique maps in our collection are:

  • A Geographical Map to Show the Viceroy of New Spain the Results of a Reconnaissance, 1717
  • A Replica Chart of the Galveston-Houston Area ca. 1836
    New Map of the Western Part of the Province of Louisiana, based on the Observations and Reports of Bernard de la Harpe, 1720
  • A Map of the Red River in Louisiana from the Spanish Camp where the exploring part of the U.S. was met by the Spanish troops to where it enters the Mississippi. Reduced from protracted courses & corrected to the latitude by NS King 1806
  • Abstract of Title to the Manchester Subdivision: City of Houston and Township of Harrisburg, Harris Co., Tx., Sept 1921
  • Outline Maps of South America by Alex Krieger, 1961

This map collection is available for both professional and avocational researchers to use. Please let TARL staff know ahead of  time, so that we can retrieve the maps you have requested to view.

WPA-Era Maps of the Rob Roy Site, 41TV41

One example of the use of the TARL map collection in current research comes from the work of Dan Prikryl, a well-known Texas archeologist. Dan has been doing research on the Rob Roy site (41TV41), using maps from the 1938-1939 WPA excavations at that site and has prepared this write-up for the Friends of TARL Newsletter:

The map file for the Rob Roy Site, 41TV41, contains the original stratigraphic profile drawings of various parts of the excavation blocks. These profiles are very helpful since the professional archeologists did not provide a thorough discussion of the soil stratigraphy for all the different parts of the site in their field notes summary. The map file also contains the original contour map drawn of the site and surrounding vicinity on a large Mylar sheet. This map is invaluable since the site and surrounding river valley are currently partially inundated by Lake Austin. It has sufficient detail for usage in scientific publications.

Figure 1. Plan view of excavated area of the Rob Roy site.
Figure 2. 3D depiction of the geologic strata at the Rob Roy site. Both of these diagrams were
made by archeologists employed by the WPA, and have been helpful in reconstructing the work done by the WPA teams.

The A.E. Anderson Collection By Nadya Prociuk

Nadya Prociuk is an Affiliated Researcher at TARL. This article is part of the March 2018 TARL Newsletter. 


For the past several months, TARL’s own Lauren Bussiere and I have been working with the A. E. Anderson Collection, which has been housed at TARL for more than 65 years. A. E. Anderson was a civil engineer based in Brownsville, and over the course of his career he surveyed and collected from around 200 sites in the Rio Grande Delta, both in Texas and Tamaulipas. Anderson’s collection contains over 2, 000 prehistoric artifacts such as shell ornaments and tools, chipped stone tools, bone, groundstone, and ceramics. Thanks to his lifetime of work, Anderson’s collection is the most significant resource currently available for the study of the cultural prehistory of the Rio Grande Delta.

Figure 1. Vessels of Huastecan origin in the A.E. Anderson collection housed at TARL. These vessels were first identified by Gordon Eckholm as demonstrating a connection between the prehistoric inhabitants of the Rio Grande Delta and the Huastecan groups further south along the coast.

Several researchers have worked with the Anderson Collection over the years, though none have completely inventoried or analyzed the collection up to this point. T. N. Campbell studied the collection when it first arrived at the University of Texas in the 1940s, and Richard MacNeish also used the collection as a starting point for his definitions of the Brownsville and Barril Complexes. In the 1970s Elton Prewitt re-surveyed the Anderson sites located in Cameron County, and compiled an inventory of the artifacts from those sites. Multiple salvage and cultural resource management projects have been undertaken in the Rio Grande Valley that have added to our understanding of the archaeology of the area. Unfortunately, work with Anderson’s collection stalled until the late 1990s when William J. Wagner III completed a Master’s thesis on the ceramics in the collection. With his research Wagner confirmed Gordon Eckholm’s early assessment that a number of the ceramics in the Anderson Collection actually came from the Huastecan region of the Mexican Gulf Coast, suggesting significant long-distance trade ties with that area. Though other research has been done in the Rio Grande Delta area since that time, such as Tiffany Terneny’s Doctoral dissertation analyzing local burials, Wagner’s ceramic analysis was the last substantive work done with the Anderson Collection until now.

Nearly a year ago Lauren approached me about an opportunity to contribute to an upcoming edited volume on trade and cultural interaction in North America, and suggested using the Anderson Collection to look at potential interactions between the Rio Grande Delta area and the Huastecan region. We decided to collaborate on the paper, which has proven to be an unexpectedly rich undertaking. Our goal in writing the paper has been to understand the nature of the interaction between the cultures of the Rio Grande Delta and the Huasteca, including what types of items they may have been trading. We have also sought to provide an example of how cultures which may be considered marginal, such as those of the Rio Grande Delta, can be active participants in wider economies of trade and exchange. An added benefit of our research is also to raise the profile of this archaeological region both within Texas and farther afield, since it is often ignored in favor of other areas. We have submitted the first draft of our chapter to the editors, and publication is expected sometime in 2019. In addition to our book chapter, we will be presenting our research at the Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology in Washington D.C. this April, and are looking forward to spreading the word about this fascinating region and getting feedback on our research.

While conducting the research for these projects it became clear to us that though the Anderson Collection is an invaluable resource for the study of the archaeology of the Rio Grande Delta, no comprehensive inventory has been completed since Anderson was in possession of the collection. Such an inventory, with up-to-date classifications, artifact counts, locations, and site information, is a necessary step towards TARL’s goal of making this collection accessible to future researchers. To that end I have been working with the collection since January, and have been fascinated particularly with the abundant use of shell both as ornament and also for tools. It is clear that the people of the Rio Grande Delta were adept at utilizing the abundant marine resources at their disposal to craft a variety of utilitarian and decorative items, and that this shell industry was likely a key element in their interaction with outside groups. It is our hope that through this work the Anderson Collection will become a productive and useful resource for future study of the Rio Grande Delta area, and that others will begin to take a more active interest in pursuing research in this intriguing area.

The Lighter Side of Dr. E. Mott Davis

TARL’s staff is working hard to digitize many of our old records, including the many hundreds of pages of professional and personal correspondence from some of the greatest minds in the history of Texas archeology.

Dr. E. Mott Davis was a professor in the UT Anthropology Department from 1956 into the 1990s, and was a well-known face in the Texas Archeological Society. He was a major figure in Plains archeology and is fondly remembered by many of his students.

We thought we’d share the following delightful exchange between Dr. E. Mott Davis and Dr. Alfred E. Dittert, Jr., of New Mexico State University.

Dr. Dittert’s message to Dr. Davis:

And Dr. Davis’ reply:

More entirely serious messages from Mott can be found at the Nebraska University Library’s website.

The Library Collections at TARL

The publications and manuscripts housed at TARL are a great resource for all types of researchers. The TARL library is one of the Texas Historical Commission’s repositories for cultural resource management reports completed under an Antiquities Permit. At TARL, reports and manuscripts are for in-house use only from Monday through Friday, 8AM to 5PM. Please call or email before you come to use the library at TARL, so that staff may better help you. There is no fee for library use.

Many of the older reports and manuscripts held by TARL are difficult to locate elsewhere, but are available at TARL to researchers once they have been vetted by TARL staff. Although the library collections’ focus is Texas Archeology, a somewhat more limited collection of archeological reports from other areas of North America is available.

Examples of older Texas manuscripts and reports in the TARL library are those by George C. Martin, Edwin B. Sayles, James E. Pearce, Arthur M. Woolsey, and Alvin T. Jackson. TARL holds archeologically-related thesis and dissertations dating as far back as 1919; most but not all of these are from The University of Texas at Austin. TARL’s library collections has many of the early reports from universities, museums, state and federal agencies, archeological contracting firms, and archeological societies as well as several archeological and anthropological journal series. The library houses reference materials concerning archeological field and laboratory methodology, historic architecture, biology, geology, and geography.

Several of the older Texas Archeological Survey (TASP/TAS) and TARL reports are still available to be purchased and some reports have been scanned. The scanning of these reports is a continuing process and reports are scanned by TARL staff as time permits. Please check with the staff about the reports available if you need a report from one of these series.

Rare books in TARL’s library collection.

TARL Visits Downtown Austin

This month, TARL students, donors, and volunteers had a chance to visit downtown Austin and see the historic buildings and excavation areas uncovered during excavations of Austin’s Guy Town district in the 1990s. TARL Associate Director Jonathan Jarvis led the tour and talked about his experiences working on this project and the challenges of doing archeology in an urban environment. The massive archeological project covered four city blocks under what is now Austin’s City Hall and Second Street district–a part of town that in the 1870s–1910s was full of boarding houses, brothels, saloons, and gambling halls mixed in with the homes of working-class families and everyday business ventures. The tour group started the day with a look at some of the many artifacts recovered by archeologists, which included telltale signs of the lively atmosphere–beer and liquor bottles, poker chips, and dice–as well as the items lost or left behind in the course of everyday activities, such as sewing needles, children’s toys, and dishes. The artifacts recovered by this project are curated at TARL.

A huge number and variety of glass bottles were recovered from the Guytown excavations, including many beer and liquor bottles, patent medicine bottles, and perfume bottles.

We then visited the downtown site, where we learned a bit about the geomorphology of the Colorado River and the terrace where downtown Austin sits. Finally, we got to check out the few remaining historic structures in the area. A highlight of the field trip was a visit to the Schneider Beer Vaults, built by German immigrant J.P. Schneider, who dreamed of starting a brewery. The historic building across the street was also owned by the Schneider family and operated as a general store. We also learned a bit about another downtown historic site, the Susanna Dickinson Hannig House, where Alamo survivor Susanna Dickinson lived out her last days. The Dickinson-Hannig House was also excavated during downtown construction in the 1990s, and is now a small museum near the Austin Convention Center.

TARL students, staff, volunteers, and friends in front of the J.P. Schneider General Store building in downtown Austin.
One of the barrel-vaulted underground chambers built by the Schneider family sometime in the 1870s. The structure is in the style of “beer vaults” built by many German immigrants, but Schneider died before it was ever used for brewing beer. The structure was re-discovered by archeologists in the 1990s.

Special thanks to Josh Prewitt, General Manager of La Condesa, and the La Condesa staff for welcoming us into their space so we could see the underground beer vaults, a unique gem of Austin’s history.

Field trips like this one are a special perk of membership in the Friends of TARL! Join the Friends of TARL to receive invitations to special events in 2018.