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Agency

TxDOT

DOI

https://doi.org/10.21112/ita.2013.1.7

Abstract

This archeological data recovery investigation in Roberts County in the northeastern panhandle of Texas was necessitated by the proposed widening of State Highway 70 (CSJ: 0490-04-037) by the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT), Amarillo District. This proposed highway rehabilitation program will directly impact a roughly 10 meter (m, 30 ft.) wide north-south section of prehistoric site 41RB112, the Long View site. This site consists of two horizontally distinct Plains Village period occupations shallowly buried along a linear interfluvial ridge between two small tributary creeks to the Canadian River in the midslope of this broad, dissected valley.

This site was initially discovered by TxDOT archeologist, Dennis Price in June 2004 during an archeological inventory of the proposed 9.7 kilometer (6 mile) section north of the Canadian River in response to the planned highway rehabilitation program. Based on Mr. Price’s discovery of multiple artifact classes in buried context he recommended this site be assessed for its eligibility for listing on the National Register of Historic Places under criterion d and possible designation as a State Archeological Landmark (SAL) per the requirements of Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) and other related legislation.

Following the Texas Historical Commissions concurrence with that recommendation, TxDOT through the Environmental (ENV) Affairs Division, contracted to TRC Environmental Corporation (TRC) under an existing Scientific Services Contract No. 57XXSA006 and issued a Work Authorization to TRC of Austin to conduct the site eligibility assessment. During a site visit by TxDOT geoarcheologist James Abbott and TRC archeologist Mike Quigg in February 2005, the site boundaries were expanded to nearly 300 meters (m) along the proposed area of potential effect (APE). Investigative strategies were devised to assess the Long View site.

In May 2005, TRC’s archeologists from Austin conducted archeological testing for a NRHP and SAL eligibility assessment investigation at 41RB112. The assessment along the 10-m-wide by 300-m-long APE was accomplished by hand-excavating 28 1-by-1 m units (totaling 16.8 m3), hand-excavating four narrow ca. 30 centimeter (cm) wide trenches (two in each area totaling nearly 32 linear meters), as well as cleaning and inspecting 28 m of existing road cut exposures. These investigations determined that cultural materials clustered at the northern and southern ends (Areas A and C respectively) of the site with nearly 120 m of noncultural bearing deposits (Area B) between the two concentrations. A 4-m-wide mechanically bladed fireguard paralleled the existing fenceline throughout the length of the APE and disturbed much of the near surface materials in that zone. The opposite, eastern side of the highway was investigated through the excavation of six 50-by-50 cm shovel tests, surface, and road cut inspection.

Based on the results from the hand-excavations and various collections conducted during the site assessment, it became apparent that the two ends (Areas A and C) of the Long View site in TxDOT’s proposed APE contained well-defined cultural components in the top 50 cmbs. Each end appeared to represent habitation remains from single occupation episodes with potential structures, restricted to a narrow time period of less than 100 years between uncalibrated 630 and 710 B.P. of the Plains Village period. Rodent and natural disturbances had vertically displaced some small cultural objects within the sandy deposits, but the restricted period of occupation to roughly a 100 year period reduces this impact. TRC recommended the site was eligible for listing on the National Register and as a State Landmark.

The Texas Historical Commissions concurred with that recommendation, and subsequently the ENV Affairs Division of TxDOT, again contracted to TRC under an existing Scientific Services Contract No. 575XXSA008 and issued a Work Authorization to TRC Austin to perform the mitigation of the proposed impacts.

Data recovery investigations were conducted during August through November 2006 along the western side of the existing highway. The previously identified northern-Area A and southern–Area C areas with high concentrations of cultural materials were targeted. These investigations began with a thorough geophysical survey that employed three noninvasive electrical detective instruments across Areas A and C anticipating to detect the locations of subsurface cultural features to target by hand-excavations. Some excavations targeted the detected anomalies, whereas others targeted previously identified features. In the end, hand-excavated blocks were completed in Areas A and C. The excavations totaled 128 m2 in Area A and 93 m2 in Area C for a grand total of 221 m2 or 103.4 m3.

In conjunction with the archeological excavations, geoarcheological investigations focused on defining the age and development of the natural Holocene sediments that contained the cultural materials. The geoarcheological assessment included detailed stratigraphic documentation of site and near site deposits, sediment texture characterization, soil thin sections, magnetic susceptibility, multiple chemical analyses (organic, calcium, and phosphorus). Detailed stratigraphic data was also collected at two rare pithouse structures to pursue construction and filling episodes.

The excavations yielded significant and diverse cultural assemblages from the two occupations assigned Component A and C. Both components are attributed to the Plains Village period with two discrete occupations dating to uncalibrated 460 to 535 B.P. (cal A.D. 1398 to 1447) in Component A and 530 to 700 B.P. (cal A.D. 1280 to 1437) in Component C. The two assemblages are significant not only in their diversity and quality of materials but also in the information they yielded. This report represents one of the first complete documents to present the entire cultural assemblage from a single site for this time period and region. The total recovered assemblage includes 157 formal chipped and ground stone tools, 226 informal tools, 3,414 pieces of lithic debitage, over 6,400 faunal fragments (1.4 kg), some 1,541 ceramic sherds, 1,790 burned rocks, at least 116 macrobotanical samples that includes 16 maize cobs, two human burials, and remains of a third, juvenile scattered along a previously bladed fireguard, 32 intact cultural features that include two rare pithouses, and other cultural debris related to these two campsites. The human remains and associated artifacts will be repatriated in accord with the requirements of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA). A suite of 10 technical analyses directed at mostly the cultural assemblages included; use-wear, phytolith, diatom, petrography, macrobotanical, starch grain, instrumental neutron activation, bison bone isotopes, obsidian sourcing, radiocarbon and optical stimulated dating. This data was used to address 11 specific research questions concerning these Plains Village period occupations.

Not only does the cultural debris contribute to our understanding of the time period but the geoarcheological information obtained explains the conditions and how the materials were preserved, and inform us concerning the past depositional environment in this immediate area. The combined information contributes to a significant understanding to a specific part of the Plains Village cultures in the Texas panhandle.

Following the acceptance of the final report by the TxDOT and the Texas Historical Commission these cultural materials and all the documentation from the combined investigations will be permanently curated at Texas State University in San Marcos, Texas. The curated materials will provide important data that can be researched by interested parties in the future.

Licensing Statement

This is a work for hire produced for the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT), which owns all rights, title, and interest in and to all data and other information developed for this project under its contract with the report producer. The report may be cited and brief passages from this publication may be reproduced without permission provided that credit is given to TxDOT and the firm that produced it. Permission to reprint an entire chapter, section, figures or tables must be obtained in advance from the Supervisor of the Archeological Studies Branch, Environmental Affairs Division, Texas Department of Transportation, 125 East 11th Street, Austin, Texas, 78701

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