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Agency

TxDOT

DOI

https://doi.org/10.21112/ita.2014.1.7

Abstract

The Bryan District of Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) proposes to replace the existing bridge at the San Gabriel River along a farm-to-market road and expand the width of the existing two-lane roadway in Milam County (CSJ: 0590-05-027). In response to that proposed development, TxDOT staff archeologists from the Archeological Studies Program in Austin reviewed the Texas Historical Commission (THC) Archeological Sites Atlas, a database which contains previously documented cultural resource sites, and conducted an intensive archeological field survey with mechanical trenching along the proposed area of potential effect (APE) in February 2012. During that survey a buried prehistoric site (41MM382), named the Barrett site, was discovered in Backhoe Trench 7 at the northern end of the APE and on the western edge of the existing roadway. The 1.75 meter (m) deep trench revealed multiple levels/zones of cultural material, which included chipped stone debitage and tools, freshwater mussel shells, and burned rocks. These same types of cultural materials were also observed on the disturbed surface in the spoil from the right-of-way fence posts and a recently installed waterline through the length of the site.

Subsequently, TxDOT, through the Environmental Affairs Division, Archeological Studies Program, contracted with TRC Environmental Corporation (TRC) (Scientific Services Contract No. 57- 1XXSA003) to conduct site eligibility assessment to determine if this prehistoric site was eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) and designation as a State Antiquities Landmark (SAL). TxDOT issued Work Authorization 57-111SA003 to TRC to conduct the fieldwork, subsequent analysis, report the findings, and make recommendations concerning the site’s eligibility for the NRHP and for designation as a SAL.

The TRC fieldwork was conducted in May 2012 under Texas Antiquities Committee Permit No. 6244 issued to J. M. Quigg (Principal Investigator). Site eligibility/assessment investigations, directed by P. M. Matchen (Project Archeologist), consisted of excavation of 4 mechanical trenches (ca. 42 linear meters) plus 11.4 m3 of hand-excavations in 9 test units (1.00-by-0.5 m) to a depth of roughly 1.6 m below surface across the APE as defined by TxDOT, plus initial geoarcheological assessment of the deposits in the APE. The excavations yielded a sample of 3,123 artifacts, dominated by lithic debitage (49 percent), burned rocks (38 percent) and fragments of freshwater mussel shells (8 percent), as well as 8 formal chipped stone tools that include 3 diagnostic projectile points. Twelve radiocarbon dates from noncultural materials (humates and Rabdotus shells) indicate that the cultural materials represent a roughly 1,500-year period from about 2500 to 3900 B.P. Culturally, this relates to the general Late Archaic I period within the cultural chronology proposed by Johnson and Goode (1994) and supported by Collins (2004). The vertical distribution of materials in the 1.6 m thick target zone revealed three primary peaks that likely represent different occupational episodes. The horizontal distribution of multiple material classes indicates unique task areas were in use across the APE at different periods. This supports the conclusion that the peaks represent separate episodes of occupation rather than the operation of some sort of post-abandonment site formation process.

Based on the results of the geoarcheology, the results of the hand-excavations combined with the analyses of materials, it is apparent the cultural deposits within the APE contain a rare opportunity to investigate a site dated to the Late Archaic period in alluvial deposits on the Blackland Prairie. Based on the projected yield, the Barrett site has the potential to contribute to a greater understanding of the population movements, paleoenvironment, technology, land use, and a number of other important issues centered on the use of the Blackland Prairie region of Texas. Therefore, TRC recommends the Barrett site (41MM382) eligible for listing on the NRHP under Criterion D and for designation as a SAL.

The following report documents the 2012 eligibility investigations and geoarcheological observations at the Barrett site (41MM382), reports the findings and analyses of the materials, and suggests a research design for data recovery. The final reporting of the assessment of the Barrett site was conducted under Work Authorization 57- 306SA004 issued by TxDOT in November 2013 (Scientific Services Contract No. 57-3XXSA004).

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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