Stone Cairns of West-Central Texas

In searching for the people who may have constructed the seemingly artificial features in the buried walls of Rockwall, Texas I had been stymied by the absence of any stone working culture within the confines of the dating of the uppermost sections of the walls. Since the Holocene depositions of sediments covering the topmost portions placed them at the Terminal Pleistocene/very early Holocene, the logical conclusion was that the modifiers were at least Paleoindians. Historical testimony gathered by Dr. Glen, however, did indicate that low capped sections of the walls were exposed throughout Rockwall County when the first Angloamerican settlers arrived in the mid-19th century. These were soon scavenged to serve as foundations and footings for dwellings in a region notably devoid of surface stone suitable for such purposes. Brief mention had been made by Rafinesque around this time of a stone circle found in Northeastern Rockwall County by an early explorer around the time of intense interest surrounding the stone components of Fort Ancient and other Midwest earthen mounds. As Rafinesque was already held in low esteem along with Schoolcraft and other Moravian missionaries advocating an advanced unidentified culture which had preceded the contempory Indian groups such as the Lenai Lenape, this brief report was banished to obscurity in short order. Eventually, I located it online but as with so many of these 19th century observations it was difficult if not impossible to pinpoint an exact location to determine if it still existed or ever did for that matter. However, it is consistent with other sites including a stone circle with several skulls discovered by the late Dr. Griffiths in Fannin County in the ’80’s. (Dr. Griffiths died in a car accident before he could pinpoint the location for the late Tom Scot, curator of the Fannin County Museum of History.) The skulls which he had retrieved were apparently lost in the fire which destroyed his house subsequently. Based upon Tom Scot’s recollections, I vainly searched for the site several times and came to the conclusion that it had likely been destroyed in the construction of boat ramps and other improvements made on a local lake close to where I thought the discovery had been made.

At any rate, it became apparent that the various mound building cultures had used stone to a limited degree where it was available. At that time I was not particularly interested in such late cultures until it gradually became apparent that such cultures did comprise an element of the upper components of the buried walls. Archaeological investigations of associated sites such as the Upper and Lower Rockwall sites suggested even earlier occupations by distinctly different (physically) groups well into the Archaic. Still these seemed to be the well known nomadic hunter/gatherers who did not even possess ceramics or bows and arrows until the last stages of their occupation in the Late Prehistoric. There was no indication that they had any interest in stone building or even permanent settlements. It seemed that their sites were more like seasonal camps to which they returned over a period of hundreds if not thousands of years. This view changed for meĀ  somewhat when I found a report from King Harris, a well respected avocational turned semi-pro, in the ’30’s. Harris had found at a campsite one eighth mile from the main channel of the East Fork of the Trinity. Along with ceramics, kilns and projectile points there were the ruins of a sun fired brick structure. Questioning the oldest residents he found that they had not been built by the earliest settlers but had been there when they arrived and discovered them while clearing brush for farming and herding in the East Fork bottoms. In such a wet climate sun fired brick was not known to have been used by either Anglo settlers or previous Indian cultures of the region. Needless to say, Harris’s discovery now lies beneath the waters of Lake Ray Hubbard along with any number of other archaeological sites discovered by Harris, Stephenson and countless other avocationals in the hasty surveys done prior to the construction of Lake Lavon and Lake Dallas in the ’50’s. Harris’ “Indian Campsites of the Upper Trinity” and Stephenson’s survey of the Trinity drainage are still to be found in reprints of the old Texas Archeological Society bulletins but serve as much to tantalize as to illuminate.

Even more intriguing, within the pages of these old bulletins are articles and observations, such as E.A. Hooton’s “Notes on Five Texas Crania” which is an analysis of Ernest Adams’ discoveries on the Brazos in Somerville County of some atypical skulls;dolichocephalic with pronounced orbital ridges. Only decades later with the discoveries of the Horn Shelter remains, Spirit Cave remains and Leanne (Wilson-Leonard) was the significance of these earlier finds slowly recognized and accepted. With the debut of a new exhibit at Texas Beyond History recognition and acceptance should disperse more widely. I consider Texas Beyond History to be the most excellent site presently available in terms of solid factual educational material for the layman and avocational alike. In addition to photo material not previously seen by the general public, there is updated material from later archaeological investigations such as that done by Darrell Creel in the 1980’s. A map of the currently known stone cairns of Texas is also expanded from the days of Cyrus Ray, E.B. Sayles, King Harris and other pioneers of Texas archaeology.

I might also add that it connects more than a few dots for this particular anarchaeologist and confirms a great deal of what I had already dug out, fingernail by fingernail, in the last decade groping in the murky informational wasteland surrounding the Rockwall phenomenon. While I have never needed nor requested benediction of my arcane inquiries from any ordained minister of science, it is truly gratifying to see some of my sources and predesessors in the dissident mainstream community vindicated publicly. To my regret most of them never lived to enjoy the moment.

Despite this latest unveiling providing me with the stone using people capable of modifying the buried walls of Rockwall, it does not, as yet, provide a solid connection between these Archaic and Late Prehistoric people and those modifications. Moreover, despite signs of stone modifications and symbol sytems at Paleoindian sites such as Gault’s cobble pavement and inscribed limestone tablets and Levi Shelter’s boulder-improved overhang shelter, I have nothing Paleoindian directly in association with Rockwall. To assert that the suspected architectural and epigraphic features found as much as 30 feet or more beneath the Holocene sediments in Eocene formations are Paleoindian or even pre-Paleoindian would require extraodinarily old artifacts in direct undisputed context. A Heidlebergensis burial with hematite handaxes and gnawed gomphothere bones would be nice but I’m not even sure that would do the trick. For now, megalithic cyst burials on high ridges in West-Central Texas are very encouraging.


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