panoramic view of the landscape in Post

2023 Field Research Program

Field Season 2023 Volunteer Schedule

  • First Session: June 4th - July 16th
    - Post research areas or Roland Springs
    Sunday, 4 June: Volunteers Arrive
    Monday, 5 June: Volunteer Orientation
    Sunday, 16 July: Volunteers Depart

  • Second Session: July 9th - August 20th
    - Post research areas or Lubbock Lake Landmark
    Sunday, 9 July: Volunteers Arrive
    Monday, 10 July: Volunteer Orientation
    Sunday, 20 August: Volunteers Depart

Apply early to ensure a placement.

Work with the professional staff of the Lubbock Lake Landmark Regional Research Program. Meet our staff here. Join an ongoing field research program of international volunteer crews and conduct surveys, geoarchaeological prospecting, mapping, and excavations at the Roland Springs Ranch and Post research areas as well as at the Lubbock Lake Landmark.

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.

Interested? Read the Landmark Volunteer Information Guide here.
Then, fill out a Volunteer Application Form here.

Upon review of the application form and two letters of recommendation, volunteers are provisionally accepted into the Landmark's regional research program. Following provisional acceptance, volunteers must email the Landmark's medical history form filled out by a licensed physician, proof of current tetanus vaccination, proof of covid-19 vaccination, and proof of adequate and appropriate health insurance during their stay at Lubbock Lake Landmark to Dr. Johnson at .

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 4th - July 16th

Overhead view of excavation units

Investigations at Roland Springs Ranch represent an aspect of the Lubbock Lake Landmark's regional research program. Roland Springs Ranch Locality 1 (RSR-1) is a paleontological locality that contains abundant skeletal remains from a variety of ancient animals. Annual excavations at RSR-1 seek to document that past biodiversity as well as associated depositional settings and paleoenvironments. Research has so far recognized over 50 different species of vertebrate animals from among over 10,000 individual specimens collected at RSR-1. Those animal species indicate that RSR-1 is between 3.7 and 2.0 million years old, placing it in the late Pliocene or early Pleistocene. That time period included major shifts in global climate, environments, and fauna. Those changes set the stage for the “Ice Age” fauna and climate, an important transition toward the animals and environments that exist in North America today. Research at RSR-1, then, contributes to our understanding of the origins of the modern fauna as well as the response of vertebrate animals to changes in climate.

Fieldwork at RSR-1 is based out of a small camp provided by the landowners. 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. Faunal remains recovered from RSR-1 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 genera and species. Notable among the taxa identified from the locality are the remains of giant tortoises (Hesperotestudo), three-toed gazelle-horses (Nannippus peninsulatus), rabbits (Hypolagus, Notolagus, Nekrolagus), ancestral coyote (Canis lepophagus), small carnivores (Procyon, Buisnictis breviramus), and large birds such as the extinct turkey (Meleagris), an extinct eagle (Accipitridae), and a stilt (Himantopus).

Closeup of excavation block at Roland Springs

2023 Fieldwork

Faunal remains at RSR-1 are preserved within a buried drainage channel. Fieldwork in 2023 seeks to complete a cross-section through that ancient drainage. The focus will be on relating the distribution of the faunal remains to the form and orientation of the drainage channel. That evidence should contribute to understanding the processes that created the remarkable sample of past life preserved at RSR-1. Faunal remains will also continue to be recovered. Overall, excavation in 2023 seeks to investigate the taphonomic processes involved in the deposition of the RSR-1 fauna, 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 9th-August 20th

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.

2023 Fieldwork

For the 2023 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 4th-July 16th,
Session 2: July 9th-August 20th

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 2023 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.

An article based on our work at the Post Research area was published in Archaeology Magazine.

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 2023 Fieldwork

In Session 1 (June 4th - July 16th), field work is focused on excavation at 4JK Locality 13, a historical buffalo hunters dugout ~1877 and other Bufalo Hunter sites.

In Session 2 (July 9th - August 20th), the focus is on paleontological research at Macy Locality 100 and excavating cultural hearth features and survey Macy Locality 359.

Session 1: Excavation at 4JK Locality 13 — a ~1877 historical buffalo hunters dugout

4JK Locality 13

In Spring 2022, Doug Cunningham, in charge of the reconnaissance survey at the Post research area, discovered a buffalo hunter's dugout (~12 x 11 feet) along Salt Creek with two courses of sandstone visible above the surface. An initial three-day metal detector survey of the site uncovered 54 objects, including large-caliber cartridges and bullets, a Dutch oven, wagon hardware, and horse-related gear. Archival research revealed that the dugout might have been occupied by William Marshall Sewell, a buffalo hunter who was killed in a Comanche raid in February 1877.

In 2023, excavation of the dugout and a metal detector survey of the Salt Creek drainage are planned to find evidence that links Marshall Sewell and his crew with the dugout. The survey will also focus on locating the remnants of the wagon left behind by Sewell's skinners and the location of his death. The research results will provide new insights into the daily lives of buffalo hunters in the 1870s, as well as further document the historical account of Marshall Sewell and his buffalo hunting crew.

Remains of historic sandstone dugout
Research crew using metal detectors

Session 2: Paleontological excavation at Macy Locality 100 and other archaeological sites

Macy Locality 100

The research crew has excavated at Macy Locality 100 over the past 11 years. Significant finds in the past few years include horse, camel (Camelops hesternus), extinct box turtle (Terrapene carolina putnami), giant tortoise (family Testudinidae), the meadow jumping mouse (Zapus hudsonius), and American lion (Panthera atrox). 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.

The primary focus of excavations at Macy 100 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 potential to form a detailed, comprehensive view of this time period.

The research team in 2023 will focus on reaching sediments that may contain additional remnants of American lion (Pathera atrox).

Macy Locality 359

In the 2022 field season, the Landmark research team conducted a survey of Macy Locality 359, a multi-occupational hunter-gatherer campsite located on a terrace overlooking the South Fork of the Double Mountain Fork of the Brazos River. During the survey, over 4,000 objects were mapped and collected, and diagnostic projectile points indicated the terrace had been occupied from the Middle Archaic to the Protohistoric period (~6,000 to 250 years ago). A drone was used to map the boundary of the site and to further study the stratigraphy, which revealed wind-blown sediments deposited on the Triassic-age red beds, as well as channel deposits from the nearby South Fork River, likely laid down during the late Pleistocene.

The research team plans to excavate hearth features and surrounding areas in the upcoming 2023 field season to further document the stratigraphy at the site and cultural objects in situ. This research will provide a significant opportunity to document how hunter-gatherers used the Southern High Plains’ eastern escarpment landscape over the last 6,000 years.

GPS Survey