Archaeological Fieldwork: 2015

Lubbock Lake Landmark
Lubbock County, Texas

Session: July 6th - August 16th


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.

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.

Previous Investigation
The diverse topographic setting of the Landmark and the consistent presence of water within the valley has attracted human populations to this location since the late Pleistocene. Gradual infilling of the valley since that time has resulted in the excellent preservation of deeply buried and well-stratified activity areas. The Landmark has a long history of archaeological investigations that were initiated in the 1930s.

The current program of research, initiated in the early 1970s, represents a long-term commitment to investigating hunter-gatherer adaptations to ecological change on the North American grasslands. The most recent investigations within this program have focused on the dynamic archaeological record evident during the late Holocene. Beginning in 2007, Area 6 has been reopened for excavation for the first time since 1983. Area 6 at the Landmark holds a significant stratified Paleoindian record. Alternating bands of organic deposits formed at the edges of a former series of ponds changing to a fresh water marsh document a climate that was more moist than today, and these deposits also preserve the activities of hunter-gatherer groups through time.

These excavations have revealed evidence of bison consumption from three different Paleoindian time periods. The largest bison bone pile includes several connected complete vertebrae and ribs. Found in a level dating to 10,800 years ago, it is associated with the Paleoindian Folsom culture. Folsom peoples are hunter-gatherer groups who moved considerable distances across the Plains in pursuit of bison and made exquisite stone tools, particularly the finely crafted fluted Folsom spear point. Removing the bone pile in a plaster jacket enables the careful excavation and preservation of the bone in a more controlled environment in the lab.

2015 Fieldwork
For the 2015 field season, excavation will continue within the Plainview-age (circa 10,000 yrs B.P.) bison kill/butchering feature.  The current area of investigation is an extension of an established feature.  Materials previously recovered include ancient bison remains, other faunal remains, lithic tools, and lithic debitage.  In this feature, individual bison generally were butchered in place, and the remaining bones were left in piles throughout the area.  Excavation work will aim to expose, map, jacket, and recover material within the feature.


Field. Primary components of the fieldwork consist of:

- Hand excavation of 1m X 1m units in 10cm levels and 2.5cm sublevels;
- Recording, mapping, and photographing of material found in situ;
- Recovery of micromaterials from provenienced sediments by water washing through nested fine-mesh screen;
- Fragile bone stabilized initially in the field with conservation grade resin solution prior to removal;
- Plaster jacketing employed for very fragile large specimens;
- Use of standardized Museum forms to record all information.

Laboratory. The Landmark's on-site lab in the Quaternary Research Center (QRC) involves all crew members on a daily basis checking in objects, cross-checking field forms, and sorting all resultant concentrates from the water washing of excavated sediments. These acitivities support the processing practices. Processing entails accessioning, cleaning, identifiying, stabilizing as necessary, cataloging, bar-coding, data inputting, inventorying, and packaging.