Lubbock Lake Landmark
Lubbock County, Texas
Session: July 7th - August 17th
Lubbock Lake is located on the Southern High Plains
in a meander of an ancient valley (Yellowhouse Draw)
near ancient springs. For thousands of years, people
used the water resources in the draw 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.
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.
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 moister than today, and these deposits also preserve the activities of hunter-gatherer groups through time.
These excavation 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.
For the 2014 field season, excavation continues in the upper two Paleoindian bison bone beds. The uppermost one dates to 8,600 years ago. It is common to recover stone debris around the bones left from resharpening the butchering tools. The middle (2nd) bone bed dates to 10,000 years ago. Previously recovered resharpening flakes are from Alibates, a high quality stone material that outcrops near Amarillo, Texas at the northern edge of the Southern High Plains.
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, identification,
stabilization as necessary, cataloging, bar-coding, data inputting,
inventory, and packaging.