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The Balcones Escarpment :

Early Human Populations along the Balcones Escarpment, p.55-62

by Thomas R. Hester

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Evidence of prehistoric human habitation of the Balcones Escarpment region of Texas can be traced to at least 11,000 years ago. The cultural chronology of the Balcones Escarpment is divided into three major prehistoric periods: Paleo-Indian, Archaic, and Late Prehistoric. A brief overview of this cultural sequence is provided. However, the paper focuses on the early occupations of Paleo-Indian times. Some paleontological sites, such as Friesenhahn Cave, have yielded chipped chert flakes suggestive of even earlier occupation, but the situation is certainly not resolved at this time. Other sites have associated human artifacts and late Pleistocene fauna; at others, fluted points, such as Clovis and Folsom, are indicative of great antiquity. The latter part of the Paleo-Indian period, in the early Holocene, presents some interpretative problems that are discussed here.

Continuing archaeological investigations in this region, particularly large survey and excavation programs, need the participation of geomorphologists. Through interdisciplinary collaborative research, a better job can be done of locating deeply buried Archaic and Paleo-Indian sites. Geomorphologists can contribute to the interpretation of site deposit formation and can address the problem of ancient climatic patterns that may be revealed in gravel deposits at some sites.

Figure 1 : Location of Selected Archaelogical Sites Along the Balcones Escarpment. 1, Friesenhahn Cave; 2, Panther Springs site (41BX228); 3, St. Mary's Hall (41BX229), and Granberg II (41BX271); 4, Orchard site (41BX1); 5, 41BX2; 6, La Jita site (41UV29); 7, Kincaid rockshelter; 8, Leona Watershed; 9, Montell rockshelter; 10, 41BN63; 11, Schulze Cave; 12, Baker Cave; 13, Bonfire rockshelter; 14, 41VV162A; 15, Devil's Mouth site; 16, Gamenthaler site; 17, Wheatley Site; 18, Canyon Reservoir (Wunderlich site); 19, Spring Lake site; 20, Levi rockshelter; 21, Wilson-Leonard site; 22, John Ischy site; 23, Rowe Valley site.

Figure 2 : Paleo-Indian Point Types. a, Clovis; b, Folsom; c, Plainview; d, Angostura; e, Golondrina. Dots indicate extent of edge dulling (related to hafting techniques). Length of a, 126 mm. Drawings from Turner and Hester, 1985.

Figure 3 : Archaic Artifacts. a, Early Corner Notched; b, Bell; c, Gower; d, Pedernales; e, Guadalupe tool. a-c,e, are from the Early Archaic; d, dates to Middle Archaic times. Length of e, 93 mm. Drawings from Turner and Hester, 1985.

Figure 4 : Late Prehistoric Artifacts. a, Perdiz arrow point; b, end scraper (cross-section is shown); c, perforator; d, beveled knife. Length of d, 113 mm. Drawing from Turner and Hester 1985.

Figure 5: Artifacts from the Plainview Occupation at St. Mary's Hall Site. a,b, both sides of Plainview point; c,d, Plainview point basal fragments; e, preform (unfinished Plainview point); f, bifacial Clear Fork tool (cross-section is shown). Length of e, 107 mm. Drawing of a-d by Margaret Greco; e, f, were drawn by Dennis Knepper.


The focus of this paper is on the archaeology of the Balcones Escarpment area of south-central Texas, and especially on those sites that can be dated to late Pleistocene-early Holocene times. First, a summary is provided of the prehistoric cultural chronology that has been established for this area, and then the earliest sites found in this chronology are reviewed. For purposes of geographic control, most of this discussion is confined to those counties along the southern and southwestern edge of the Edwards Plateau--the area traversed by the Balcones Escarpment (Fig. 1). These include the counties of (from west to east) Kinney, Uvalde, Medina, Bexar, Comal, Hays, Travis, and Williamson. It is fortunate that a considerable amount of archaeological research has been done in several of the counties, both on the escarpment and below it.


Archaeologists have defined four broad periods of prehistoric human occupation in this area: Paleo-Indian, Archaic, Late Prehistoric, and Historic. These span some 11,000 years.


Texas archaeologists use this term to refer to the earliest human occupation of the state, roughly 9200-6000 B.C. The initial part of the period encompasses the late Pleistocene. Both occupation and kill-sites, with associated human artifacts and Pleistocene fauna, have been identified along the Balcones Escarpment. While the dating of the onset of the Holocene remains somewhat ambiguous in the evaluation of many of these sites, it is clear that stylistic and technological traits of the projectile points of the early phase of the Paleo-Indian continue into late Paleo-Indian times. We assume that population size, settlement patterns, and a highly mobile lifeway likewise characterize the Paleo-Indian cultural pattern as late as ca. 6000 B.C.

While Paleo-Indian sites with clear evidence of Pleistocene faunal associations are few, the projectile points that characterize the early part of this period (9200-8000 B.C.) are widespread; these include Clovis, Folsom, and Plainview points (Fig. 2). Similarly, the later phase diagnostics are quite common, even though in situ, stratified components are infrequent. These diagnostic point types are: Golondrina, Scottsbluff, Angostura (Fig. 2), and some highly localized styles still under analysis (e.g., Barber points; see Turner and Hester, 1985, for further illustrations and discussions of all of these types).


The term "Archaic" is used to denote a long time span of hunting and gathering cultural patterns that began around 6000 B.C. and continued until 800 A.D. The period is broken up into several subperiods, largely on the basis of changes in projectile point styles, along with shifts in settlement patterns, other lithic tool forms, use of cetrain plant and animal resources, and the like. Some areas of the Edwards Plateau are better known than others due to intensive archaeological research in those areas. For example, Prewitt (1981) has defined a tightly controlled chronological sequence for the Travis, Williamson, and Bell Counties area (see also Sorrow and others, 1967), but it cannot be applied in all areas of the Edwards Plateau--the "central Texas archaeological area." It is clear that other sections of this vast region share some similaritites to Prewitt's sequence, but manifest--as we would expect from human cultures--localized differences (e.g., Black and McGraw, 1985).

A recent overview of the Archaic chronology of the region has been written by Black (n.d.). It is based in part on chronological data from the Balcones Escarpment zone, from sites such as 41BX228 (Panther Springs; Black and McGraw, 1985), La Jita (Hester, 1971), and the Canyon Reservoir sites (Johnson and others, 1962), and builds on other summaries of local chronology (e.g. McKinney, 1981; Story, 1985).

The Early Archaic (6000-3000 B.C.) is typified by specific diagnostic dart point types (Bell, Gower, Early Corner-Notched, etc.; Fig. 3) and tool forms (Guadalupe and Clear Fork implements). It is suggested that population densities were low and groups were organized into small, highly mobile bands. Interestingly, many of the key sites of this era are clustered along the edge of the Balcones Escarpment. Both McKinney (1981) and Story (1985) have speculated that this phenomenon might be related to a greater availability of water resources in this physiographic area, during a hypothesized arid climatic episode in the Early Archaic times.

An important Early Archaic site is Granberg II (41BX271) along Salado Creek in northern Bexar County (Hester, 1980). Excavations were directed there in 1979 by this author. In a 3-meter excavation profile exposed at the site, Glen L. Evans (Markey, n.d.) noted that the lower 2.4 meters consisted of alternating gravel strata attributable to flood deposits, point-bar formation, and heavy erosion. Early Archaic materials are mixed within these deposits. Further studies of the Salado Creek gravels may one day give us a better idea of climatic fluctuations on the edge of the Balcones Escarpment (see Black and McGraw, 1985).

The Middle Archaic (3000-1000 B.C.) is clearly a period of population increase, with the native peoples developing specialized adaptations to the hunting and gathering of abundant regional food resources, especially acorns and white-tailed deer. The Pedernales dart point type is a diagnostic of the period (Fig. 3), as are large accumulations of fire-cracked rock known as "burned rock middens." These apparently represent intensive utilization of acorns, with the burned rock deposits indicative of certain kinds of processing (e.g. removing tannic acids from the acorns) and food preparation (perhaps stoneboiling in baskets of acorn mush, and roasting platforms of stone for cooking acorn bread and deer meat). These sites are very common throughout the Balcones Escarpment. Among the published burned rock midden sites of the Middle Archaic along the escarpment are La Jita (Hester 1971; see also Hester, 1970) and the Leona Watershed site, all in Uvalde County (Lukowski, in press), 41BN63 in Bandera County (Hester, 1985), Panther Springs in Bexar County (Black and McGraw, 1985), Wunderlich in Comal County (Johnson and others, 1962), and John Ischy in Williamson County (Sorrow, 1968).

The Late to Terminal Archaic (1000 B.C.-A.D.800) represents a continuation of the hunting and gathering patterns of the Archaic, with some researchers seeing less specialization but others noting evidence of bison-hunting in certain areas and the presence of cemetery sites (Black, n.d.). Clearly, in some areas of Central Texas, there may have been a trend toward territoriality and the development of wide-ranging trade contacts. Just south of the escarpment, in northern Bexar County, site 41BXl (the Orchard site; Lukowski, 1986) represents one of these cemetery sites containing Gulf Coast marine shell artifacts as grave goods.

Late Prehistoric

Between ca. 800 A.D. and the advent of Europeans in the region, archaeologists see some distinctive changes in material culture and other facets of the long-lived Archaic hunting and gathering lifeway, and have termed this part of the chronological framework the "Late Prehistoric" (Hester, 1971, 1980; earlier researchers used the term "Neo-American" [cf. Johnson and others, 1962], and the term "Neoarchaic" has also been proposed [Prewitt, 1981]).

The early part of this period is the Austin Phase, from ca. 800 A.D. to ca. 1200 A.D. It is at this time that the bow and arrow is first introduced into Central Texas to replace the spearthrower or atlatl of Archaic and Paleo-Indian times. Along the Balcones Escarpment, there appears to have been a heavier use of rockshelters as occupation sites during this period (Harris, 1985); elsewhere, another trait of the Austin Phase seems to have been the use of cemeteries for disposal of the dead (Prewitt, 1974).

The later part of the Late Prehistoric is termed the Toyah phase. Beginning around 1200 A.D. and apparently lasting up to about the time of historic contact, this cultural pattern emphasized bison-hunting. Dillehay (1974) has postulated a period of peak bison population in the southern Plains at this time. The herds spread into central and southern Texas (as far south as Alice, Texas, around 1400 A.D.; Black, 1986) and we see a distinctive archaeological assemblage left behind by the peoples who hunted these animals. Thus far, no large kill-sites are known from this period, but there is a lot of bison bone in the campsites. Diagnostic artifacts include Perdiz arrow points, diamond-shaped beveled knives, a plainware pottery, and scrapers and perforators related to the processing and preparation of bison hides

Friesenhahn Cave is located in northern Bexar County (Fig. 1). It is one of the most important late Pleistocene vertebrate fossil localities in Texas. First excavated in 1949 and 1951 (Evans, 1961), it was re-opened in the early 1970s (Graham, 1976). It is a site with a vertical entrance opening into an underground chamber (about 30 feet below the surface) that is 60 feet long and 30 feet wide. The cavern formed in limestone, and small stalactites and dripstone have developed in the chamber; stalagmites fallen from the roof, are found buried in the fill. The deposits in the chamber are more than 10 feet thick, and contain abundant faunal remains which first began accumulating around 20,000 B.P., with the latest fauna incorporated in sediments 8,000 to 9,000 years old.

In the paleontological excavations first conducted by the Texas Memorial Museum under the direction of Glen L. Evans, and later carried out by Russel I. Graham of the Department of Geology at The University of Texas at Austin, a number of pieces of chert (flint), shell, and bone were found that bear some suggestion of human modification. Most attention has focused on the lithics. Most of these are small pieces of chert, and a few have chipping along the edges. Opinions vary widely as to whether or not these are indeed artifacts. Evans, the original excavator, felt they were not. This opinion was shared by Irwin (1971) in a review of early human cultures in the western United States. Taking opposite positions were Sellards (1952, Fig. 43), Wormington (1957), Jennings (1974) and others, who consider at least a few of the chert pieces to be stone tools.

Graham's more recent work at the cave has shed light on the problem. More pieces of chert were unearthed and could be sorted into two main phases of sediment accumulation. Those from the earliest phase, between 20,000 and 17,000 years ago, remain enigmatic. Some have chipped edges, but it is impossible to tell whether these are artifacts or the result of natural modification. The uplands of northern Bexar County contain extensive chert exposures and naturally modified chert flakes abound. Taken out of context, some of them could be misidentified as artifacts. The only definite artifact identified from Friesenhahn Cave as a result of Graham's work comes from the late sediments (his "modern sediments") dating to 8,000-9,000 years ago. This is well within the known range of distinctive human occupations in the region. A modified mussel shell fragment also comes from this context, along with bones that were apparently butchered or altered by man. It is still unclear if these few items represent human use of the cave or whether these are objects washed into the cave from the surrounding area.

It is my opinion, and one that is shared by the excavators, that "pre-Clovis" artifacts are absent from the early deposits at Friesenhahn. Later human cultural materials, possibly referable to late Paleo-Indian times (or at least that general time frame), are found in the later sediments.

At Schulze Cave in Edwards County, Walter Dalquest and others (1969) report three human teeth associated with Pleistocene mammalian fauna, which they dated at about 20,000 years B.P. The site was dug by paleontologists, and the finds have not been studied either by physical anthropologists or archaeologists, and thus we must await further data in order to properly evaluate it.

Montell Rockshelter, in Uvalde County (Fig. 1), has Pleistocene fauna at the base of its deposits, and when excavated by Glen Evans in 1947, some human artifacts including a Lorma point were found in a stratum overlying the fauna. Evans (pers. comm., 1978) is of the opinion that no artifacts were associated with the extinct mammals.

Levi Rockshelter, a stratified site near Austin, Texas, was excavated in the early 1960s by H. L. Alexander, Jr. Additional work was undertaken by Alexander and his students in Fall, 1977. In the earlier work (Alexander, 1963), an occupation zone was reportedly found below a stratum containing a "possible Clovis point and a Plainview point ... associated with bones of Equus sp and Platygonus sp." (p. 510); it was dated at 10,000 years ago. Found in the lower zone were a scraper, two utilized flakes, and a chopper, along with the remains of dire wolf and tapir. Since the culturally mixed overlying zone is radiocarbon dated at ca. 8000 B.C., well after the end of the Clovis horizon, it is debatable as to whether or not these earlier materials represent primary associations.

Alexander (1982) has briefly described the results of the 1974 and 1977 excavations at the Levi site. He ascribes a number of stone tools and flakes to his Zone I ("pre-Clovis"), along with bone tools (Alexander, 1982, Fig. 6.5). Extinct tapir, dire wolf and bison species are reported, along with a variety of fauna (small mammals, rodents, reptiles, birds) still present in the area today. Efforts to obtain absolute dates on Zone I have thus far not yielded any results that the excavators consider satisfactory. Further publication of the 1974 and 1977 data is awaited before a full evaluation can be made of the Levi materials.

In Uvalde County in south-central Texas, along the edge of the escarpment, the Kincaid Rockshelter has yielded Pleistocene fauna (horse, elephant, bison, large cat) from beneath a man-laid cobble pavement probably of Folsom horizon times. Atop the pavement, in Zone 4, were chipped stone artifacts, along with late Pleistocene vertebrate fossils, especilly bison. The tools included lanceolate bifaces, flakes with utilized edges, a graver tool, several flake cores, and 52 pieces of flake debris. Also found was the basal fragment of an obsidian projectile point. This specimen has been linked by trace-element analysis (neutron-activation analysis) to geologic sources near Queretaro, Mexico, about 1000 km from Kincaid Rockshelter (Hester and others, 1985). This artifact and the other materials in Zone 4 are thought to date prior to 10,000 years ago. The excavator, Glen L. Evans, along with T. N. Campbell, has prepared a lengthy manuscript on the site, but this has not yet been published. Three Folsom points were found by relic-collectors at the site, and while no in situ specimens of this type were found in the 1948 and 1953 excavations, Evans (pers. comm. 1978) believes they were likely from Zone 4.

Folsom points, and possibly those of the Clovis type, were found in excavations at site 41BX52 in northern Bexar County in 1979. The investigations, conducted by archaeologists from the State Department of Highways and Public Transportation, recovered fluted points, scrapers, and other materials from this open campsite. No Pleistocene faunal remains were found. At present, the archaeologist in charge of report preparation, Jerry Henderson (pers. comm., 1986), indicates that there may have been a Clovis occupation at the site, with an overlying and much larger Folsom habitation area. Analysis is still in the early stages.

At San Marcos, on the edge of the escarpment, Shiner (1983) has reported Clovis and other Paleo-Indian points from underwater investigations at the Spring Lake site. This site, inundated by a 19th-century dam on the San Marcos Rivers, was apparently situated at or near ancient springs. This has led Shiner (1983) to suggest that Clovis and later Paleo-Indian occupations found near other springs in the Edwards Plateau area may have been semi-sedentary in their settlement activities. This hypothesis has been strongly contested by Johnson and Holliday (1984).

It should be noted here, as an aside, that numerous occurrences of elephant remains and other Pleistocene fauna have been found below the Balcones Escarpment. These include finds near Fort Inge in Uvalde County, on the Cain Ranch in Zavala County, in gravel-mining operations in northern Bexar County and on Congress Avenue in Austin. Most of the elephant species represented have not been identified or dated; no associated artifacts have been found.

Although west of the escarpment, in Val Verde County, site 41VV162A near the Rio Grande contains loose, ashy deposits in which late Pleistocene fauna were found. Most of the bones were burned and broken. The lowest of three zones discerned in the deposits contained flakes, a uniface, and the cut bone of a small, extinct antelope (cf. Caromeryx). Two radiocarbon assays on charcoal place the age of this lower zone at 13,200-14,300 B.P. In the overlying, intermediate zone, several more flakes, a Clear Fork tool, and many burned and broken animal bones were discovered; a radiocarbon date of 12,280 B.P. was obtained. This highly important site has not yet been fully published, but a brief description can be found in Collins (1976).

Also in Val Verde County is Bonfire Shelter (Dibble and Lorrain, 1968; Bement, 1986), one of the most significant Paleo-Indian sites in the state. It contains several bone bed deposits, with the most recent, Bone Bed 3, dated at ca. 2500 years ago and containing the remains of modern bison (Bison bison). However, Bone Bed 2 dates to ca. 10,230 years ago, and represents bison-jump episodes in Paleo-Indian times. Folsom and Plainview points are found in this bone bed, associated with the remains of extinct bison (Bison antiiquus or occidentalis). As many as eight Late Pleistocene bone deposits underlie Bone Bed 2, as first recognized by Dibble and Lorrain (1968) and recently studied by Bement (1986). It is not clear whether the fauna in these deposits represent human procurement activities (jumps or use of the shelter as an animal trap) or those of carnivores. A Rancholabrean faunal assemblage comes from these deposits, containing the remains of elephant (Mammuthus sp.), bison, camel (Camelops hesternus), horse (Equus francisci), and small antelope (Capromeryx sp.); in addition, the gray fox (Urocyon cinereoargenteus), which still lives in the area today, is also represented. A radiocarbon date of 12,460 + 490 was obtained from charcoal flecks found in one of the bone concentrations, with a horse-camel-mammoth association.

Late Paleo-Indian Sites

Sites of Late Paleo-Indian times, with nonfluted lanceolate points, have been reported from many parts of the Balcones Escarpment. Many of these are surface assemblages, although some, like the Gamenthaler Creek site (in Gillespie County; Thomas C. Kelly, pers. comm., 1985), likely have buried components. Vance T. Holliday (University of Wisconsin) is currently preparing a geomorphological analysis of the Gamenthaler deposits, and his research may point the way to the study of other possible buried sites in the area.

The Wilson-Leonard site (41WM235) in Williamson County, excavated by the State Department of Highways and Public Transportation, is undoubtedly the most significant Paleo-Indian site excavated in the region. While there are no fluted points, the basal part of the deposits may well date into the Early Paleo-Indian era. However, regional archaeologists expect the Late Paleo-Indian deposits at Wilson-Leonard to provide new data on chronological sequence, absolute dating, and associated tool sets. This open campsite has been reported in very preliminary fashion by Weir (1985). Below stratified Archaic occupations, Weir reports a sequence of Angostura, Scottsbluff, and Plainview habitations, with the "Wilson" component (with expanding stern and lanceolate points) at the bottom. Of special note was the discovery of a well-preserved, semiflexed female burial dating to the early part of the Wilson-Leonard Paleo-Indian sequence. A tandem accelerator date of 1 mg of charcoal from the burial pit yielded a radiocarbon assay of 13,000 + 3000 years (Weir 1985); two other carbon-14 dates from soil humates are 9470 + 170 and 9650 + 120 years B.P. Weir believes the latter dates to be most applicable to the burial.

A small, in situ occupation of Plainview age (ca. 8200 B.C.) has been excavated at the St. Mary's Hall site, along Salado Creek in northern Bexar County. Two preliminary reports have been published (Hester, 1978, 1979) and work on a final manuscript is underway. The site is located on a colluvial downslope overlooking Salado Creek, a major tributary of the San Antonio River. The site is situated atop one of the highest points in the Salado valley, at an elevation of approximately 760 feet above sea level, about 35 meters west of the present stream channel.

In this paper, only the materials from area A are discussed. It was within this area that a Plainview occupation was found. The typical stratigraphy is as follows: the upper unit is a brownish-gray midden with scattered burned rock, hearths, and one extensive accumulation of large burned rock; this stratum extends to a depth of 40-50 cm, and contains Late Prehistoric artifacts in the upper part, with Late Archaic (and occasional Middle Archaic) materials in the lower portion; at 60 to 75 cm, there is a stratigraphic unit composed of brownish soil and caliche gravels and within this stratum Early Archaic artifacts were found; below this is a stratum referred to as the "gravels," composed of caliche nodules or gravels with interstices of weathered limestone clasts. Geomorphologists Dr. Charles M. Woodruff and Glen L. Evans (pers. com., 1977) describe the unit as having been formed by colluvial slopewash. On top of the gravel unit, Late Paleo-Indian specimens such as Golondrina and Angostura were found, with Golondrina at a lower stratigraphic position.

Part of the gravel unit has been badly disturbed by the formation of caliche "balls" or conglomerates. The mechanisms that caused the formation of these very disruptive features are poorly known. Woodruff offered two possible explanations: (1) they are a local soil phenomenon caused by underground water flow or percolation; or (2) a local ephemeral stream once coursed through a portion of the site leaving limey deposits. The possibility of an erosional or streamlike area is supported by our excavations. Fortunately, a large part of area A had been spared the presence of caliche "balls," and this was where we concentrated our excavation efforts. In the gravel units, an occupation tentatively identified as the Plainview period was found about 15-20 cm into the stratum. Cultural materials were extensive and were precisely documented. This occupation will be focused on below.

The occupation is considered in situ by our geological consultants and is sealed within the gravel unit. Except on the northern margins, where the caliche conglomerates occur, it is undisturbed. The best measurements available at this time indicate that the area utilized by the Plainview peoples is 8 meters long, north to south and about 6 meters wide (48 square meters or about 157 square feet). Diagnostic projectile points were clustered near the central part of this area (Fig. 5). Several hundred pieces of chert-chipping debris were scattered throughout the occupation area.

Other stone tool forms include trimmed or edge-modified flakes, steep bitted unifaces in the form of end scrapers, a large bifacial Clear Fork tool, a heavily worn chopper, thinned bifaces perhaps used as knives, numerous preforms (representing unfinished points), and a number of cores (Fig. 5). The set of points, trimmed flakes, formal unifacial and bifacial tools, some scattered animal bones (deer- and bison-sized), and burned hearthstones are indicative of campsite activities. The numerous preforms and cores and the substantial amount of debitage suggest lithic workshop activities associated with the campsite. That is, there was considerable emphasis on chert-working, over and above that necessary for maintenance purposes.

The caliche gravels in which the materials are buried do not, apparently, indicate any particular climatic and environmental situation. Both Woodruff and Evans believe the "calichefication" is a normal soil process in the site area; Evans believes that the occupation was probably originally buried In clay-loam soils of the type that constitute the uppermost soil horizon in the valley today.

Two Val Verde County sites have also yielded distinctive Late Paleo-Indian materials. The Devil's Mouth site (Johnson, 1964) is a deeply buried terrace site. In area C of the site, a number of Paleo-Indian projectile points were found, and a radiocarbon date of ca. 8700 B.P. was obtained (Sorrow, 1968). This date is related to the Golondrina Complex, a Late Paleo-Indian cultural pattern that was later also recognized at Baker Cave (Word and Douglas, 1970). At that site, the Golondrina materials were stratified near the base of a deep rock-shelter deposit and dated by several radiocarbon assays at ca. 9000 B.P. A hearth excavated in the Golondrina stratum in 1976 (Chadderdon, 1983; Hester, 1983) contained an abundance of plant and animal remains. All of these materials are clearly post-Pleistocene. The absence of certain desert plant species from this hearth and elsewhere in the Golondrina occupation suggests that the area was somewhat more moist than in modern times. The array of faunal species included small mammals and rodents, reptiles, and fish; most intriguing is the presence of bones from 16 different snake species, many of them charred from cooking (Hester, 1980, 1983).

The Golondrina Complex, characterized by the distinctive Golondrina projectile point type (Fig. 2), is a widespread pattern at ca. 9000 B.P. It extends from central Texas and along the Balcones Escarpment into southern Texas and Nuevo Leon, Mexico (the San Isidro site; Epstein 1969).


In this paper, it has been possible to briefly review the prehistoric cultural chronology of the Balcones Escarpment area, focusing on those sites attributable to late Pleistocene-early Holocene times. It is obvious that many problems exist, especially when looking at the early sites. There are few excavated components and some of the potentially most significant sites have not yet been published. There is a paucity of radiocarbon dates and only vague temporal parameters can be drawn at present. The earliest diagnostic remains are recognized in the form of Clovis and Folsom fluted points found at occupation sites in the region. Other distinctive diagnostics, such as Plainview and Golondrina points, represent Paleo-Indian activities between 8200 and 7000 B.C. The close of the Paleo-Indian period can be but dimly discerned. The Scottsbluff point type, dated on the Plains at ca. 6500 B.C., is found in stratified contexts only at the Wilson-Leonard site in Travis County (Weir, 1985, p. 3). Interestingly, the Angostura point type--subject of considerable typological debate among Texas archaeologists--is stratified just above Scottsbluff, and just below Early Archaic occupations, at Wilson-Leonard. Though few pertinent radiocarbon dates are yet available, it is likely that Angostura dates in the general 6000 B.C. time frame (Hester and others, 1985).

However, chronology is only one problem in regional Paleo-Indian research. More important issues dealing with subsistence, technology, and settlement remain to be addressed. Again, the Wilson-Leonard data will doubtless provide new insights, but they will represent a single site and we need information from a broad spectrum of sites to delimit meaningful patterns. Despite all of the intensive research of recent years, new Paleo-Indian sites are still found only occasionally. Part of the problem is that archaeologists do not know where to look for such sites or how to evaluate the potential of these sites when buried materials are found. The help of geologists especially in the area of geomorphology, is badly needed. Presently, there are but a few trained specialists of this sort who have interests that relate to archaeological deposits. Geomorphological research is needed not just for the Paleo-Indian era, but for interdisciplinary studies at prehistoric sites throughout the time range. For example, studies of alluvial gravel deposits may be instructive in terms of ancient climatic trends. Additionally, in some situations, even Archaic sites are deeply buried and would be missed by standard archaeological surveys. A case in point is in the area of the proposed Applewhite Reservoir along the Medina River in Bexar County. Archaic sites are so deeply buried in terrace deposits that their presence can be noted only in deep gully exposures. Or, in situations where it was predicted that such sites might be found, only deep testing with a backhoe brought them to light. Clearly, major research projects need the involvement and advice of geomorphologists, if the quality of archaeology in the Balcones Escarpment area is to improve.


Alexanderp H. L., 1982, The pro-Clovis and Clovis occupations at the Levi site, in Peopling of the new world, ed. by J. E. Ericson, R. E. Taylor, and R. Berger: Ballena Press, Los Altos, CA, p. 133-146.

Alexander, H. L., 1961, The Levi site: a Paleo-Indian campsite in central Texas: American Antiquity, v.28, p. 510-528.

Bement, L. C., 1986, Excavation of the Late Pleistocene deposits of Bonfire Shelter, Val Verde County, Texas: Archeology Series 1: Texas Archeological Survey, Austin, 69 p.

Black, S. L., n.d., An overview of central Texas archaeology. Cultural Resources Overview of Region 3, Southwest Division, Corps of Engineers, ed. by T. R. Hester. In preparation.

Black, S. L. and McGraw A. J., 1985, The Panther Springs Creek site: cultural change and continuity within the upper Salado Creek watershed, south-central Texas: Archaeological Survey Report 100, University of Texas at San Antonio, Center for Archaeological Research, 413 p.

Chadderdon, M. F., 1983, Baker Cave, Val Verde County, Texas: The 1976 excavations: Special Report 13, University of Texas at San Antonio, Center for Archaeological Research, 101 p.

Collins, M. B., 1976, Terminal Pleistocene cultural adaptation in southern Texas. Paper presented at the IX Congress of the International Union of Prehistoric and Protohistoric Sciences, Nice, France, 39 p.

Dalquest, W. W., Roth, E., and Judd, F., 1969, The mammal fauna of Schulze Cave, Edwards County, Texas: Florida State Museum Bulletin, v. 13, no. 4, p. 205-276.

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in Abbott, Patrick L. and Woodruff, C. M., Jr., eds., 1986,
The Balmnes Escarpment, Central Texas.- Geological Society of America, P. 55-62