Kevin Hanselka is a regional archeologist with TxDOT. This article is part of the September 2017 TARL newsletter.
Firecracker Pueblo is a well-known archeological site and State
Archeological Landmark located within the proposed right of way for the Northeast Parkway, a new-location highway northeast of El Paso planned to ease heavy traffic along Interstate 10. Excavations here in the 1980s found that early in the 15th century, desert farmers established a small village or hamlet on the Firecracker site, probably with their corn and bean fields planted somewhere nearby. Early on these farmers built at least 17 “pit houses” (roughly circular or oval houses built over shallow pits) on the site, but later constructed an above-ground adobe-walled structure with about 16 rooms on top of the former pit houses.
In 2016 archeologists working on behalf of TxDOT surveyed the right of way in preparation for the Northeast Parkway project. Although the adobe walls and pit house foundations are not visible on the surface, the survey crew found a dense concentration of chipped stone artifacts and fragments of decorated ceramic pots near the location of the previous excavations. In addition to Firecracker, the crew also explored three other similar sites along the project corridor with dense surface scatters of prehistoric artifacts. These artifact concentrations suggest that unknown pit houses or adobe-walled rooms may yet await discovery under the surrounding sand dunes. Therefore additional investigations must happen on Firecracker and these nearby sites before construction on Northeast Parkway can start.
Testing and excavations on the four sites are planned for the upcoming year or two. These new TxDOT investigations will complement previous findings from Firecracker Pueblo (much of which remains unpublished) and enhance our knowledge about the lives of El Paso phase (ca. AD 1300 – 1450) Jornada Mogollon farmers. As this ongoing project develops, TxDOT continues to work closely with the Tigua Tribe of Ysleta del Sur Pueblo in El Paso as we weigh potential impacts to these and other cultural resources along the Northeast Parkway.
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.
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.
Elton R. Prewitt is a visiting researcher at TARL. This article is part of TARL’s June 2017 newsletter.
The current work at the site of Infierno Village in Val Verde county is a continuation of that begun by Dave Dibble and a crew of volunteers, myself included, in 1974 through 1976. At that time, Dibble identified three areas where clusters of circularor semi-circular stone alignments were present, ostensibly representing the locations of prehistoric wikiup-style structures. After laying out a large survey grid, the team identified about 75 to 80 stone alignments, establishing the basic shape and size of the village. It stretches roughly 800m NNE to SSW, and reaches widths of 150m–unique in this area and potentially extremely significant for understanding prehistoric lifeways. A few selected artifacts were collected during this survey, and included a small number of untyped arrow points and end scrapers, and a couple of brownware potsherds. Occasional burned rocks and small thermal features were noted in the survey.
Work at Infierno stopped until 1999, when another crew of volunteers and I began re-mapping the stone features with the assistance of a total station. Between 1999 and 2001, we took transit readings near the center of each identified stone alignment in addition to topographic readings. For ease of reference, the three groups of stone alignments identified by Dibble were formally designated as the North, Middle, and South clusters. Scale drawings were made of six of the stone alignments. As in the 1970s, we stopped work at the site after access was denied.
After a number of casual visits in the interim, I again resumed work at Infierno Village in 2016 with assistance from a few select volunteers. The original grid points were relocated and readings were taken at each using a hand-held GPS unit. GPS readings were also taken near the center of as many of the stone alignments and thermal features as could be located. Volunteers Dave Gage and Mark Willis took digital images of the site and many of its features using drones and hand-held cameras. This was followed by collection of high-resolution drone imagery in December 2016. Work done by Willis and by Sandy Hannum has allowed us to combine the original grid, the drone imagery, GPS data, and Google Earth layers into a precise, layered map of all the known features of the site, with the majority of the features clearly or partly visible.
In sum, 150 stone alignment features at Infierno Village have been verified by visual means using the drone imagery overlain on Google Earth. Another 66 potential stone features await revisit and verification. Analysis of the drone imagery allowed us to identify 28 visible possible stone features that were not included in the 216 locations identified in person by our teams at the site.
Further study of Infierno Village has potential to greatly deepen our understanding of local populations’ movement on the landscape in prehistoric times, as well as methods for resource procurement and social cohesion. I suspect that the site was used over a very long period of time, from the Late Prehistoric back into the Archaic period and perhaps even earlier. Building this precise map of the many features at the site is just the first step to investigating the long history of occupation at Infierno Village.
Dr. Tim Perttula and Drew Sitters are visiting researchers at TARL. This article is part of the June 2017 TARL newsletter.
The Snipes site (41CS8) is a multi-component prehistoric site on the Sulphur River in Cass County, Texas (Figure 1). The site was found and investigated as part of a River Basin Survey project done in 1952 directed by Edward B. Jelks (1961). We recently had the opportunity to take another look at the collections from the site (held by TARL) to better understand the native history of the site, and to clarify the character of the material culture remains that are associated with the different periods of use at the Snipes site since the Late Paleoindian period.
The main feature of the Snipes site is a cemetery with nine burials; two of the burial features had multiple individuals (two or three persons). The burials had been placed in pits in either flexed or extended positions. Funerary offerings with the burials included a few grog-tempered ceramic vessels, including one Coles Creek Incised, var. Stoner bowl (Figure 2a-b) dating from ca. A.D. 550-700 (Brown 1998:8, 53) and several small plain bowls and jars of the Williams Plain type, as well as lithic artifacts (primarily pieces of lithic debris) in Burial 1 (Jelks 1961:44). These funerary offerings indicate that the cemetery was used almost exclusively during the Late Woodland period. There is one ancestral Caddo vessel from a burial excavated by I. B. Price at the Snipes site that may be associated with the Early Caddo period use of the site.
The lithic and/or ceramic artifacts recovered in the burial features as well as habitation contexts at the Snipes site indicate a very limited use of the site during the Late Paleoindian and Late Archaic periods, based on finds of a single possible Plainview lanceolate and late Archaic Wells and Yarbrough types. The principal occupation of the site took place from ca. A.D. 400-800 by a Fourche Maline culture group, and is marked by Gary, var. Camden dart points, ca. A.D. 700-800 arrow points (Friley and Steiner types), grog-, grog-bone-, and bone-tempered Williams Plain and Cooper Boneware sherds and vessels, and Coles Creek Incised, var. Stoner and var. Ely vessels and/or sherds.
There were also ancestral Caddo settlements at the Snipes site. The first dates from ca. A.D. 800-1200, in the Formative and Early Caddo periods. The ceramics from this component include sherds from Davis Incised, Dunkin Incised, Kiam Incised, Crockett Curvilinear Incised, Pennington Punctated-Incised, and Holly Fine Engraved/ Spiro Engraved vessels; one Alba arrow point is part of this component. A single Haley Engraved sherd indicates a very limited use of the site by Caddo peoples between ca. A.D. 1200-1400. The last use of the Snipes site by ancestral Caddo peoples took place after ca. A.D. 1500, and this component is associated with the Texarkana phase, defined on the basis of sites in both the Red River and lower Sulphur River basins. This component includes sherds from Barkman Engraved, Cass Appliqued, Keno Trailed, Simms Engraved, and Pease Brushed-Incised vessels as well as a single Maud arrow point.
Brown, I. W.
1998 Decorated Pottery of the Lower Mississippi Valley: A Sorting Manual. Mississippi Archaeological Association and Mississippi Department of Archives and History, Jackson.
Jelks, E. B.
1961 Excavations at Texarkana Reservoir, Sulphur River, Texas. River Basin Surveys Papers No. 21, Bureau of Ethnology Bulletin 179. Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.
Dr. Bryon Schroeder is a Research Associate at the Center for Big Bend Studies at Sul Ross University. This article is a part of TARL’s June 2017 newsletter.
Spirit Eye (41PS25) is a prehistorically occupied cave system located in Presidio County, Texas just north of the Chinati Mountains (Fig. 1). The cave system is situated on the lowest level of a North/South trending limestone cliff. Access is possible via two entrances, lower and upper entrances that lead to a central U-shaped main chamber that connects with a smaller internal horizontal and vertical shaft system. Extensive prehistoric use of the cave is evident on the well-developed cultural talus deposit laden with thousands of pieces of debitage, various ground and chipped stone tools, and a distinct black anthropogenic soil. There are also historic food and beverage containers on this talus slope, remnants of years of looting into the rich and well-preserved prehistoric deposits.
The deposits within Spirit Eye are not pristine. Evidence of looting is clear: outside both entrances mounds almost three meters tall of screened cave fill are the first indicators of the destruction. As you move into the internal chamber, the portion near the lower entrance resembles a mineshaft from untold looting exploits, and near the upper entrance from the back wall of the cave to the opening is a large stratified mound over a meter tall comprised of looted cave fill. The persons that mined Spirit Eye were all after the same thing–the unique perishable artifacts that this cave preserved (Fig. 2).
The artifact assemblage from Spirit Eye offers a unique and holistic view into technologies that made prehistoric adaptation to the Chihuahuan Desert possible. In an effort to salvage some of this valuable information, the Center for Big Bend Studies of Sul Ross State University began the first systematic excavations in the cave in early May of this year. In operationalizing the excavation, we knew it would be important to understand the periods of looting, and what has emerged is a complex and storied history. By the 1960s, artifact collectors at Spirit Eye conducted intense periods of excavation fueled by both black market values and personal curiosity. Understanding this history has enabled us to relocate and claim orphaned collections in curational facilities like TARL and private collections, all of which contain unrivaled artifact assemblages. These looted collections, including many artifacts and a mummified set of human remains recovered from a private collector in the 1990s and now housed at TARL, will be one aspect of our investigations.
Our goal is to understand how the years of unsystematic excavation progressed and to develop research methods that can be used to salvage data from this and other extensively looted archaeology sites. Although our work is still ongoing, we have already recovered thousands of artifacts discarded by collectors, most of them perishable. Not surprisingly, these include domestic artifacts like quids, human coprolites, cordage, various kinds of processed plant fiber, faunal artifacts, foodstuffs, and carved wooden artifacts (Fig. 3). The site, while severely impacted, holds far-reaching research potential that requires an unconventional research design. We are very much at the beginning stages of this research, but it is obvious that we can use Spirit Eye as a laboratory to push the possibilities of research in perishable artifact analysis.
Tawnya Waggle is a visiting researcher from Eastern New Mexico State University. This article is part of TARL’s December 2016 newsletter.
I am a graduate student at Eastern New Mexico University studying collections from the Blackwater Draw Site excavated by the Texas Memorial Museum. I recently visited TARL to collect lithic attribute data in order to understand the mobility of Folsom and Late Paleoindian occupations represented at the Blackwater Draw Site. I successfully collected metric and qualitative data, and took photographs of the artifacts critical to my research. Thanks to the generous support of TARL, I was granted access to the collections, a research space, and a photo set-up area. The collected data will be analyzed to compare the mobility of the Folsom and Late Paleoindian occupations. I hope to contribute to the existing knowledge of Paleoindian mobility on the Southern Plains with the completion of my research.
Dan Prikryl is a visiting researcher at TARL who has conducted extensive archeological projects across Texas. This article is part of TARL’s December 2016 newsletter.
The Rob Roy Site, 41TV41, is a prehistoric campsite located on Lake Austin in Travis County, Texas. A large-scale excavation project was conducted December 1938 to April 1939 by the University of Texas (UT) at Austin with funds provided by a federal agency called the Works Progress Administration (WPA). The purpose of the project was to help salvage materials from important archaeological sites that were to be inundated by the construction of a chain of reservoirs on the Colorado River known today as the Highland Lakes.
The UT-WPA excavation block extended for a length of 185 feet on the terrace edge adjacent to the river channel and the maximum width of the excavation block was 45 feet. The site was excavated by the step profile method and the maximum depth of excavations of the terraced profile was 27.5 feet below ground surface (see attached photograph). Excavation methods and data recording were crude in comparison to current standards. However, in areas where burned rock features or dense accumulations of lithic artifacts and faunal materials were present, the majority of the burned rock features and artifacts being recorded by their exact depths below a datum marker established at the top of the terrace.
A full report of the excavation project was not ever published because the WPA program was terminated about the time that the overall excavation projects on Lake Austin and Lake Travis were completed. Since August of this year, I have been studying the notes and artifacts at TARL related to the Rob Roy excavations. My review indicates that some portions of the excavation block appear to contain stratified prehistoric deposits. In other areas of the excavation block, erosion and redeposition have led to mixing of deposits. The Late Archaic component which contains some burned rock features, lithic tools and faunal materials has received the majority of my attention. I hope to complete an analysis of the site materials and then publish a journal article on the Rob Roy excavation project.