Archaeological Fieldwork: 2017

Garza County, Texas

Session 1: May 29th - July 9th
Session 2: July 10th - August 20th

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 2017 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.

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.

Planned 2017 Fieldwork
Fieldwork for this summer focuses on both ends of the archaeological record – the Historic (1875-1879) period in Session 1 (May 29 – July 9) and the Paleoindian (11,500-8,500 B.P.) period in Session 2 (July 10 – August 20). 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.


Excavation at Macy 100 locality


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.



Field. Primary components of the fieldwork consist of:

- Systematic recording of the archaeological materials to examine spatial, temporal, and cultural relationships;
- Pedestrian survey of the areas to be investigated;
- Hand excavation of 1m X 1m units in 10cm levels and 2.5cm sublevels within the defined stratigraphy;
- Recording, mapping, and photographing of material found in situ;
- Recovery of micromaterials from 2.5cm provenienced sediments by water washing through nested fine-mesh screen;
- Use of standardized Museum forms to record all information.

Laboratory. The on-site lab involves all crew members checking in objects, cross-checking of field forms, organizing collections, and sorting of all resultant concentrates from the water washing of excavated sediments. All recovered objects and documentation are transported to the Landmark's Quaternary Research Center (QRC) for additional processing and analysis. Processing entails accessioning, cleaning, identifiying, stabilizing as necessary, cataloging, bar-coding, inputting data, inventorying, and packaging.