panoramic view of the landscape in Post

2019 Field Research Program

The Lubbock Lake Landmark will offer 2 sessions this year:

  • Session 1: June 2nd through July 14th, 2019 (Post or Roland Springs)
  • Session 2: July 7th through August 18th, 2019 (Post or Lubbock Lake Landmark)

Join an ongoing field research program of international volunteer crews working with professional staffs to conduct surveys, geoarchaeological prospecting, mapping, and excavations at the Lubbock Lake Landmark, Roland Springs Ranch and Post research areas.

Although not a field school, volunteers for the Lubbock Lake Landmark regional research program gain practical experience in field methodologies using the latest in field recording technology, proper field conservation of materials, and laboratory experience in processing materials from the field.

To participate, applicants must complete and return the Field Research Program Application (PDF) and be able to make a full-time 6-week commitment.

Community and Youth Volunteers

Lubbock Lake Landmark also welcomes youth and community volunteers to participate in its Summer Field Season. The requirements and applications for these volunteers vary. Additional information for community and youth volunteers.

excavating in Post and closeup of an excavation unit

Site Information

Roland Springs Ranch - June 2nd-July 14th

Overhead view of excavation units

Investigations at Roland Springs Ranch represent an aspect of the Lubbock Lake Landmark's regional research program. The regional goal is to understand the dynamics of the interface of grassland faunas and climate reflected in adaptive responses and climate change detected in the paleontological record. Annual excavations at Roland Springs Ranch Locality 1 (RSR-1) have produced a record of the rich diversity of ancient life that existed on the Southern Plains from a time period currently estimated to be earliest Pleistocene (2.0 - 2.6 million years ago).

Fieldwork is based out of a small camp located on the ranch, from which excavations and laboratory work is carried out. Volunteers are trained in field and laboratory methodology, use of surveying equipment, and bone stabilization/conservation. Volunteers are included as members of the research field crew and participate in every aspect of the daily discovery of a wide range of extinct animal remains. Regular trips to Lubbock are made for days off where volunteers stay at the Lubbock Lake Landmark camp and interact with volunteers from the other research stations.

Physiographic Setting

The Roland Springs Ranch is located on the western Rolling Plains, just east of Snyder, Texas. This ranch is relatively undeveloped and has preserved a number of paleontological as well as archaeological localities. The most prominent features of the landscape are the numerous tributaries of the Brazos River, including the local Clear Fork tributary. Turtle Creek, an ephemeral tributary to the Clear Fork of the Brazos River, has exposed multiple paleontological localities, including RSR-1. The stratigraphy present in Turtle Creek records a dynamic history of several cross-cutting erosional channels and subsequent episodes of deposition. The excavated deposits are contained within an ancestor of the modern drainage channel.

excavation units at a distance

Previous Investigations

Exploration on the ranch began in 2005 with the discovery of RSR-1 by the landowners and have continued annually since. The investigations have resulted in the identification of more than 50 taxa from a collection of well over 10,000 individual specimens. These faunal remains include representatives of all vertebrate classes (amphibians, birds, reptiles, mammals, and fish) ranging in size from Proboscideans (elephants and their relatives) to the smallest frogs, songbirds, and mice. The abundance, diversity, and quality of these animal remains make RSR-1 an excellent and important locality for understanding the fauna and environment of the region broadly and, more specifically, the taxonomy and ecology of individual species.

The overwhelming majority of animals documented are extinct species and genera. Notable among the taxa identified from the locality are the remains of giant tortoises (Hesperotestudo), gazelle-horses (Nannippus peninsulatus), rabbits (Leporidae), ancestral coyote (Canis lepophagus), North American cheetah-like cat (Miracinonyx cf. trumani), small carnivores (Procyon, Buisnictis breviramus), and large birds such as the extinct turkey (Meleagris), an extinct eagle (Accipitridae), and a heron/crane (Ardeidae). This diverse fauna, combined with geomorphologic evidence, indicates a riparian setting within a grassland environment, likely lacking seasonal extremes and perhaps with an increased moisture regime relative to today's continental climate. The assemblage of taxa identitifed suggests an approximate age for the locality of earliest Pleistocene, 2.0 million to perhaps as old as 2.6 million years ago, within the Blancan Land Mammal Age.

Closeup of excavation block at Roland Springs

2019 Fieldwork

Fieldwork for the 2019 season at RSR-1 focuses on both excavation and geological exploration. The broad current objective is to establish the past Pleistocene animals, environment, and climate of the region and secure a better age estimate of the locality. Excavation continues to recover faunal material and trace the eroded contact of the underlying sedimentary unit. Distinctive in color, this unit, apparently Pliocene in age, represents the eroded, oxidized surface of an ancient stream bed within which the faunal material was deposited by later fluvial actions. Excavation seeks to understand the taphonomic processes involved in the deposition, the geomorphology of the deposits, and the identity and paleoecology of the faunal remains.

Excavation units, woman taking elevation measurements
Close up of exavation block at Roland Springs

Lubbock Lake Landmark - July 7th-August 18th

exposed bones in an excavation unit

Lubbock Lake is located on the Southern High Plains in a meander of an ancient valley (Yellowhouse Draw) near ancient springs. People used the water resources in the draw for thousands of years until those resources went dry in the early 1930s. In 1936, the city of Lubbock dredged the meander in an effort to revitalize the underground springs. That activity revealed the long-occupied site.

The first explorations of the site were conducted in 1939 by the West Texas Museum (now the Museum of Texas Tech University). By the late 1940s, several Folsom Period (10,800-10,300 years ago) bison kills were discovered. Charred bison bones from an ancient bison kill from a then unidentified Paleoindian group produced the first ever radiocarbon date (currently the most accurate form of dating) for Paleoindian material (9,800 years old). The Landmark currently serves as a field laboratory for geology, soils, and radiocarbon dating studies, as well as being an active archaeological and natural history preserve.

landscape view of the Landmark showing a dirt road and field

Physiographic Setting

The Lubbock Lake Landmark is located on the southeastern portion of the Southern High Plains (Llano Estacado) of western Texas. The ca. 300 acre (121 hectare) site encompasses both upland and lowland settings. The Southern High Plains today has a continental climate. The region experiences a large temperature range. Rainfall occurs throughout the year, but highs are in the spring and fall. Summer droughts are common due to high pressure that dominates the region during this time.

2019 Fieldwork

For the 2019 Field Season, the Landmark research team will renew investigations of Protohistoric-age (1450-1650) Apache hunter-gatherers. Excavation will focus on exposing more of the Protohistoric living surface and features preserved at Area 8.

The Landmark is developing research to examine the territorial identity of these hunter-gatherers. Information learned from this field work will help to address the following research questions: 1. What is the relationship between material culture, identity, and territories? 2. Did the Apache develop a territorial identity on the landscape that distinguished themselves from other hunter-gatherer groups?

A territory is defined as a landscape spatial unit controlled by a society that share a social identity and tie to the landscape and distinguish themselves from other societies in adjacent territories. From this perspective, identity is equivalent to a territory. Territories are defined and infused with multiple layers of socially constructed meaning through daily interactions with the landscape.

The Protohistoric on the Southern High Plains is a culturally dynamic period marked by the migration of the Apache into the region, and the development of an intensive Southwest Puebloan trade network. Pedro de Castañeda, the chronicler of the Coronado expedition (1540-1542 AD), documented two culturally distinct nomadic bison hunting groups. This research will explore the formation of Apache territorial identity in relationship to other hunter-gatherer groups in the region.

crew member pointing at open excavation units
crew member filling out paperwork while excavating

Post - Session 1: June 2nd-July 14th, Session 2: July 7th-August 18th

view of the landscape at Post

The Post research area is a ca. 83,000 acre ranch near Post, Texas. This ranch is part of a vast turn of the century ranchland that has remained within the same family, having been used continuously for cattle ranching since the 1880s. The landscape generally is pristine and sites undisturbed due to the highly limited access to and minimal development of the ranchland. This situation has resulted in a unprecedented preserved surface expression of the cultural landscape. The research value indicated at targeted sites suggests that they hold significant potential to inform regional models of aboriginal behavior and decision-making during thousands of years of occupation. Understanding the relationship of the material remains recovered from these sites within a wider landscape perspective represents one of the primary research objectives of the ongoing program of investigations.

Current research began in 2005 and the fieldwork for the 2019 season takes place in several localities. Lab work is carried out in the on-site camp facilities as well as at the Lubbock Lake National Historic Landmark.

soil profile and surrounding landscape

Physiographic Setting

Garza County is located in western Texas with part of the county on the eastern Llano Estacado and the other part below the Caprock on the Rolling Plains. The landscape below the Caprock consists of rough broken land that is drained by numerous tributaries of the Brazos River system. The South Fork of the Double Mountain Fork of the Brazos River runs through the property trending from the northwest to the southeast. The targeted sites are located just above and below the escarpment.

Landscape view of Post

Planned 2019 Fieldwork

Fieldwork for this summer focuses on both ends of the archaeological record – the Historic (1875-1879) period in Session 1 (June 2nd – July 14th) and the Paleoindian (11,500-8,500 B.P.) period in Session 2 (July 8th – August 18th). In Session 1, the Lubbock Lake Landmark research team continues the excavation of a buffalo hunters’ camp (4JK5) situated along the escarpment of the Southern High Plains. In Session 2, the field crew continues the excavation of late Pleistocene faunal remains and search for Paleoindian sites along Spring Creek.

Session 1: Work at the Buffalo Hunters’ camp

The removal of the Comanche to a reservation in Oklahoma by the mid-1870s opened up the Southern High Plains for the first time to Anglo-Americans in search of new land and wealth. The buffalo hunters were in search of bison hides made profitable by their high demand as buffalo robes in Europe. A buffalo hunting team consisted of hunters and skinners. It was the responsibility of the hunters to drop a herd of bison without spooking them, and then the skinners would begin the laborious task of removing all of the hides before sundown. The teams were drawn to this area at this time because it was home to the last large remnants of the Great Southern Herd and presented a final opportunity for large-scale buffalo hunting.

The research team has worked at the buffalo hunters’ camp (4JK5) for two field seasons. The site includes two half-dugouts, structures that were made by stacking sandstone rock to form a temporary shelter. The focus for this field season is to reach the floor of one dugout to determine if any objects can provide clues to what life was like for a buffalo hunter in the late 1870s. Notable finds to date at the camp included .50 caliber cartridges, and a cattle branding iron. The .50 caliber rifles referred to as “big 50s” were popular among buffalo hunters. The branding iron was used by the first open-range cattle ranchers that moved into the region after the buffalo hunters decimated the bison herds. The presence of the branding iron suggested the first cattle ranchers in the area also used the dugouts constructed by the buffalo hunters.

Excavating in Post

Session 2: Spring Creek

Spring Creek has extensive exposures of late Pleistocene (12,000-11,000 B.P.) and early Holocene (11,000-8,000 B.P.) sediments that contain a rich faunal and potential Paleoindian record. For the past seven years, the research team has been excavating at Macy Locality 100.

Macy 100 is one of the only locations in the region to produce a diverse record of late Pleistocene animal life (fauna). Members of all vertebrate classes (mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and fish) are represented, providing an accurate record of the animal community from the past. This faunal record is enhanced by the associated large sequence of intact deposits. These sediments document the transition from a rapidly flowing stream system to a succession of slower moving bodies of water through the terminal Pleistocene and into the earliest Holocene.

The primary focus of Macy 100 excavations is to understand the environment and ecosystems of the Southern High Plains during a critical transition from the Pleistocene to the Holocene. The wealth of evidence contained within the locality creates the potential to form a detailed, comprehensive view of this time period.

Significant finds in the past few years include horse, camel (Camelops hesternus), extinct box turtle (Terrapene carolina putnami), giant tortoise (family Testudinidae), and the meadow jumping mouse (Zapus hudsonius). The camel find consists of post-cranial elements and a rare intact skull. The meadow jumping mouse is not found in Texas today, and this discovery provides the only evidence for this distinctive mouse in the region.

A Clovis projectile point made from Alibates, a stone tool source located over 250 kilometers (155 miles) north near Amarillo, Texas, has been found at Macy Locality 10 during the past field season. Macy 10 is located 400 meters downstream from Macy Locality 100 at the confluence of the Macy tributary with Spring Creek. A sequence of diatomaceous sediment found near the Clovis point and at other nearby exposures indicates this area was a former pond during the late Pleistocene. Diatomaceous sediment is formed from the deposition of microscopic pond algae that are enriched with silica.

Fieldwork at Spring Creek (Session 2) focuses on continued excavation at Macy 100, and testing at Macy 10 to find a potential Paleoindian site. Another objective is to define the geochronology of Spring Creek in order to relate the Spring Creek pond’s diatomaceous sediments at Macy Locality 10 with the alluvial sediments at Macy Locality 100.

Excavating at Spring Creek