panoramic view of the landscape in Post

2020 Field Research Program

The Lubbock Lake Landmark will offer 2 sessions this year:

  • Session 1: May 31st through July 12th, 2020 (Post or Roland Springs)
  • Session 2: July 5th through August 16th, 2020 (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 - May 31st-July 12th

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

2020 Fieldwork

Fieldwork for the 2020 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 5th-August 16th

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.

2020 Fieldwork

For the 2020 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 CastaƱeda, 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: May 31st-July 12th, Session 2: July 5th-August 16th

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 2020 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.

Landscape view of Post

Planned 2020 Fieldwork

In Session I (May 31st - July 12th), field work is focused on excavation of a Protohistoric (1450-1650) hunter-gatherer campsite. In Session 2 (July 5th - August 16th), the crew will continue to excavate at a Folsom-age (~10,500) bison kill, and other Pleistocene faunal localities along Spring Creek.

Session 1: Excavation at Macy Locality 126 - a Protohistoric (1450-1650) Apache campsite

Macy Locality 126 is located on a terrace overlooking the South Fork of the Double Mountain Fork of the Brazos River. Previous surveys and excavations at Macy Locality 126 have taken place between 2008-2012 and 2018-2019.

Excavating in Post

The locality was regularly used as a campsite. Multiple hearths have been found and excavated. Two hearths superimposed on top of each other indicate the same hearth was used in different years. Stone tools recovered surrounding the hearth features indicate they were being used for processing animal remains. Also, stone tool manufacturing debris suggests the manufacture of new stone tools and maintenance of transported stone tools occurred at the site.

Apache hunter-gatherers at this locality were regular traders with Puebloan agricultural peoples of the Southwest and possibly the Caddoan people of East Texas. Southwest trade items include obsidian flaked stone, Apache Micaceous and El Paso Brownware ceramic sherds, and a turquoise bead. The turquoise bead is a disk shape typical for aboriginal beads originating in the Southwest. The Apache micaceous sherds originate from the Taos/northwestern New Mexico area. El Paso Brownware has its center of production in the El Paso area. Obsidian is often gathered from gravel deposits along New Mexico's Rio Grande River. Ceramic sherds with fingernail impressions suggest that these hunter-gatherers also may have been trading with the Caddoan prople of East Texas. Further work, however, is needed to confirm the source of these pottery sherds.

Apache sherd in situ

Excavation of a new area at Macy Locality 126, located north of the previous work, was the focus of the 2019 field season. In 2018, a survey revealed a new hearth feature and associated stone material that had eroded out of the terrace edge. Excavation of the new eroding hearth and surrounding areas revealed numerous stone tools and associated manufacturing debris. Several large Apache micaceous ceramic sherds were found. Results of the 2019 excavation showed that the occupations at Macy Locality 126 were much more extensive than previously thought.

The excavation of these new additional units indicates that the occupations at Macy Locality 126 extend much father to the north of the site. The objects within the northern portion of the locality were more buried than in the southern part of the site. This realization is exciting and suggests that much more remains to be discovered at Macy Locality 126.

The Landmark team will continue excavation at Macy Locality 126 during the 2020 field season. A particular focus will be excavating some of the units deeper into the 1300 year old sediments in search of the first Proto-Apache peoples that initially migrated into the region.

Session 2: Excavations at Spring Creek and Macy Locality 358

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 Paleoindian record. The research team has conducted survey and excavation at Spring Creek over the last 11 years.

Macy Locality 349

Volunteers in the second session will have the opportunity to excavate at Macy 349 - a Folsom-age bison kill. First identified in 2012, excavation at Macy Locality 349 has taken place during the 2012, 2015-2017, and 2019 field seasons. The site is located on a knoll between two active erosional gullies.

Researchers

Ancient bison (Bison antiquus) bone was found in a pile along the west gully in 2012. Bison petrosals (ear bone) found adjacent to the bone pile were radiocarbon dated to 10,450-10,390 years ago. Excavation of the bone pile also uncovered a total of 73 Edwards Formation chert resharpening flakes.

In 2019, the research team encountered more of the bison bone bed. Highlights from the excavation included finding semi-articulated bison leg bones and a mandible with intact teeth. The crew also found the partial remains of a crushed bison skull near the articulate leg bones. The team ran out of time to complete the excavation, because excavating bison bone beds is like deconstructing a jigsaw puzzle. Many of the bones overlapped one another, and many of the bones were extending into the excavation walls.

Ancient bison mandible

This summer, the current excavation block will be expanded to uncover more of the bison bone bed so that the crew can get to the bison skull to plaster jacket it for safe removal to the lab for more careful excavation. Additional cultural remains may have been left behind by Folsom hunter-gatherers and perhaps a Folsom projectile point.

Macy Locality 100 and 370 - Pleistocene faunal localities along Spring Creek

The research crew has excavated at Macy Locality 100 over the past 10 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.

Macy Locality 370 was a new discovery in 2019. The remains of mammoth (Mammuthus columbi), extinct horse (Equus spp.), and a canid have been recovered so far.

Crew looking at layers of sediment

These localities have a diverse record of late Pleistocene animal life. Members of all vertebrate classes (mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and fish) are represented, providing an extensive 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 excavations at Macy 100 and Macy 370 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 2020 will focus on uncovering additional canid bones at Macy 370, and begin work at Macy 100 to explore sediments that may contain additional remnants of American lion (Pathera atrox).

Excavation at Macy Locality 358

Macy Locality 358 is an early-middle Pleistocene-age faunal locality located in the breaks just below the rim of the Southern High Plains near the research field camp.

Archaeologists working

The research team has worked at this locality over the past two summers. The goal for the 2020 field season is to uncover more diagnostic bone to determine a better age range for this locality, and to discover how this place correlates with ash deposits that have been found in the research area.