Week 6 Update

Archaeology Update for the Week of November 14

It sure got cold this week, didn’t it!?! It takes a little bit for the ol’ fingers to warm up in the morning to start digging. I suppose some – myself included – might say it’s better than working in the summer heat. Despite the cold snap, the excavation crew has been making good headway out at the Headwaters over the past week. But our precious wedding tent collapsed in the heavy winds from earlier this week. We all cried a little, but we’re recovering and moving on.

Over in Block A, the crews were able to move through 54 10-centimeter unit levels of soil (just under 6 tons). The potential Late Prehistoric-age occupation zone that was just being exposed within Block A was opened up more this week with the crews recovering three more small ceramic sherds identified as Leon Plain and/or Doss Redware varieties. As we discussed last week, since ceramics weren’t adopted in this part of the state until roughly 1,000 years ago, finding more ceramic sherds in this zone helps us more comfortably conclude its age. We have collected some fragments of charcoal within this block that we plan to send off for radiocarbon dating to shore up our interpretations from the temporal diagnostics (for a refresher on temporal diagnostics, refer to last week’s post). There still is some mixing between the deposits, though, as the crews have also recovered three Early and Middle Archaic projectile points from these same zones that are 4,000 to 6,000 years older than the ceramics. Crews digging away under the wedding tent in Block A. When this photo was taken, the crew was making their way to the bottom of the apparent Late Prehistoric lens.The pedestalled central test unit (Unit 6) within Block A.Within the block, as we have dug down farther, we appear to be entering an older occupational lens with a large cooking feature just coming into view in a couple of the test units. I expect that we will be highlighting this feature in this week’s live video update from the site, so be sure to check it out!

Speaking of the live videos, last week we started out our live update in front of the burned rock midden feature in Block DIt was being cleaned up for more detailed photographs and analysis. Here are some nice, images after the feature was cleaned up. Once the detailed recording is done in the coming few days, we will begin work bisecting the feature (cutting it down the middle), so that we can see what it looks like from the side. We can tell how this feature was formed over time by examining the patterning of the rocks and the stains in detail. That should be good! Crews meticulously cleaning between the rocks of this large burned rock midden in Block D.A previously-dug water pipe unfortunately cut through a small portion of the midden. This happens on occasion and luckily very little of the feature was damaged as a result. Remember, this site has been an active water supply for the City for quite some time and pipes like these are EVERYWHERE out there…Tomorrow night, we are going to be hosting the first of three evening tours and talks out at the Headwaters Site. There are still spaces available if you’d like to attend. Since it’s heading into the holiday season, we tend to start thinking a bit about food. Entitled, “Yum! Pemmican! Prehistoric Feasting & Food in Texas”, tomorrow’s evening tour explores that very theme of food in prehistoric Texas. What sorts of information do we know about ancient foods from this site? As we discussed last week, the presence of burned rock middens shows that for at least some portion of this site’s use, people used large, communal ovens to bake foods. This baking was often used to prepare plant foods that were otherwise too tough to eat raw. One such plant is agave (or its cousins yucca and sotol). The hearts of these common plants (often seen in xeriscaping here in central Texas), when roasted over a long period, are edible and their fibers are very commonly recovered from midden sites like these.  Check out this short summary trailer for an excellent movie on the history of man and agave produced here in Texas called “Agave is Life” to see a little bit more.  We haven’t completed an exhaustive analysis of the plant remains that have been recovered from this site, but the analysis that we have completed produced varieties of bulbs from the plants and examples below. All of this was cooked over a live oak fire (the apparent preferred cooking fuel from our data). Wild Onion/Wild GarlicFalse GarlicCamas (a member of the asparagus family)Edible seeds from the hedgehog cactusWalnut ShellsWe’ll talk a little bit more about the foods that swim, fly, and run that were eaten in the coming weeks so be sure to check back!

Finally, last week we posted an interactive 3d model of one of the hearth features we excavated within Block C. In order to get it onto Sketchfab, we had to reduce the resolution and detail a good bit but if you’d like to view the model in greater detail, you can download it here and open it in your own 3d graphics platform like Meshlab, Maya, or Blender. Go ahead and download it and let us know what you’ve been able to see by exploring! Post a comment to the Headwaters’ social media feed (with a picture if you’d like!).

Anyway, thanks for checking in. We will be off next week to celebrate Thanksgiving, but I’ll probably be sure to put together a short update for everyone while the crew is out digging (into their second helping of cranberry sauce!).

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