Texas Historical Commission
On behalf of the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT), SWCA Environmental Consultants (SWCA) conducted testing investigations on seven prehistoric sites located within the Cuatro Vientos roadway project right-of-way in Webb County, Texas. The test excavations, conducted in June 2005, were performed in compliance with the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA), National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA), and the Texas Antiquities Code. The work was designed to assess each site’s potential for listing on the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) and for designation as State Archeological Landmarks (SAL). The work was performed under Texas Antiquities Permit No. 3755 with Kevin A. Miller serving as Principal Investigator. Field investigations were performed under TxDOT Work Authorization No. 573 26 SA007 of the SWCA/ TxDOT General Services Contract 573 XX SA007.
The seven tested sites are distributed primarily within the drainage basin of San Idelfonso Creek, a tributary of the Rio Grande in south Texas. The sites, including 41WB441, 41WB572, 41WB577, 41WB578, 41WB621, 41WB622, and 41WB623, are all prehistoric open sites situated in both buried and surficial contexts on terraces and adjacent uplands. The sites principally consist of various prehistoric features and artifacts associated with lithic procurement locales and open occupations. According to the temporal data, the sites contain occupational components from the Middle Archaic through Late Prehistoric, though Late Archaic components are the most prevalent throughout the project area.
Because of poor preservation and the lack of integrity, SWCA did not recommend any of the sites as eligible for the NRHP or as SALs. TxDOT, however, did not concur and recommended three as eligible, though all were effectively mitigated by the testing investigations. This difference of opinion formed the basis for developing a different approach to the assessment of the south Texas archaeological record. In essence, this project is a reconsideration of evaluations of significance and research potential of seven sites, specifically addressing the well-known problems with the regional archaeological record, namely erosional or stable settings that create mixed or incomplete assemblages. The proposed solution is the development of a contextual frame of reference, utilization of specific point-plotted data in addition to the site construct, and variable temporal scales.
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