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The Archaeology of Rockwall County, Texas

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PostPosted: Fri Jun 09, 2006 9:29 am    Post subject: The Archaeology of Rockwall County, Texas Reply with quote

In an effort to present a solid background of accepted archaeological data for the area which comprises the context of the buried walls there, I am beginning this section taken from the most recent excavations done by Alan Skinner of AR Consultants of Dallas, Texas. I have had the privilege of meeting and talking to Dr. Skinner at the TAS fieldschool of 2005 and at meetings of the Valley of the Caddo Archeological Society in Paris, Texas. As an archaeologist with extensive experience in Northeast Texas surveying ahead of various road and pipeline projects for archaeological sites of all periods, Alan ranks at the top of the list along with Reid Ferring of the University of North Texas, for hands on knowledge of the archaeology of the Trinity drainage of North Texas.

A definitive chronological framework for the Upper
Trinity River Basin and North
Central Texas has been difficult to establish for
several reasons. Many sites are not
vertically stratified, bioturbation has impacted
stratified deposits and plowing has mixed
artifacts in shallowly buried deposits. However, deep
Holocene alluviation preserves
buried occupation surfaces, both in the Holocene as at
the Rough Green site and in the
Pleistocene such as at the Aubrey site. Without
alluviation, these once surface deposits
would still be on the surface and mixed with bottles,
nails and other historic trash as well
as the occupations in between. Another problem is
plowing. Plowing usually mixes
together artifacts that exist within 15 centimeters of
the surface (Lorrain and Hoffrichter

Prehistoric Native American settlement in North
Central Texas began at least 10,000
years ago as attested to by the presence of
distinctively shaped dart points at the
Lewisville site (Crook and Harris 1957) and the Aubrey
Clovis site (Ferring 2001).
Moreover, artifact collectors report the presence of
Clovis, Folsom, Scottsbluff and other
Paleo-Indian points from the surface of sites in the
region (Meltzer and Bever 1995). The
presence of exotic, i.e., non-local, lithic resources
indicates that these early people
traveled a territory where higher quality lithics were
available or were involved in a
system of raw material trading. These early people
hunted now-extinct large game, but
probably also foraged off the land.

The subsequent period, the Archaic, lasted from as
early as 7,000 or 6,000 B.C. to
possibly as late as A.D. 700 to 800. The Archaic
peoples lived throughout the counties
but particularly along the major and minor stream
valleys where they were able to hunt
and gather native foods. Dart points, grinding stones,
fire-cracked rock, and scrapers are
common artifacts found on Archaic sites. The earliest
Archaic peoples continued making
and using exotic cherts for dart points, but as time
passed, there was a shift toward the
use of local lithics for chipped stone tools. These
local materials are described as Uvalde
Gravels (Menzer and Slaughter 1971). Large Archaic
sites are generally located on
terraces or ridges that overlook the Elm Fork of the
Trinity. Smaller lithic scatters have
been recorded in upland areas throughout the counties.
These sites appear to be Archaic
in age, but none have been thoroughly studied (Prikryl

The definition of the Late Prehistoric which ranges
from approximately A.D. 700 to 1750
has been problematical. Krieger (1946:137-141)
attempted a chronological framework for
North Central Texas when he defined the Henrietta
Focus. The type site was the Harrell
Site along the Brazos River in Young County, Texas.
Among the traits for the Henrietta
Focus, Krieger listed small, triangular points,
Alba-barbed points, Harrell and Washita
points, contracting Perdiz points, Nocona Plain
pottery, antler tines with blunt tips, bone
awls, and trade pottery from the Southwest and
Southeast. Prikryl (1990:12) states that
the artifacts and features from the Henrietta Focus
bear strong similarities to those at Plains Village
sites in the Southern Plains area. However, Peter and
(1988:367) believe that further research should be
done on defining the Henrietta Focus.
Stephenson (1952:305-312) tried to create a
chronological sequence for the Upper Trinity
River Basin when he defined the Wylie Focus, which was
dated to A.D. 1300 to 1600,
based on shell and clay-grit tempered pottery which,
he believed, was Caddoan in origin.
The Wylie Focus was characterized by large circular
pits, no indigenous pottery, flexed
burials (both single and multiple and in poorly
defined burial pits), maize agriculture and
villages. The Wylie Focus was discarded when Bruseth
and Martin (1987:280) dated pits
at the Bird Point Island and the Adams Ranch sites to
the Late Archaic period.
Lynott (1977:99-100) renamed the Late Prehistoric of
North Central Texas the Neo-American
Stage and divided it into two phases, the Early (A.D.
800 to 1200) and Late
(A.D. 1200 to 1600). Lynott's (1977:99) Early
Neo-American phase was equivalent to the
Gibson Aspect of East Texas and the Austin Focus of
Central Texas. However, the
chronology for the Late Prehistoric today is Prikryl
(1990) who surveyed the Lower Elm
Fork Branch of the Trinity River and created a
chronology based on the projectile points
from mostly surface collections. Influenced by
Lynott's earlier work, Prikryl (1990:62)
divided the Late Prehistoric into two phases, the Late
Prehistoric I, dating from 1250 to
750 B.P. and Late Prehistoric II, dating from 750 B.P
to 250 B.P. Late Prehistoric I
diagnostic traits consisted of maize horticulture,
house remains, grog-tempered and sand-tempered pottery
and Scallorn, Alba, Steiner and Catahoula arrow
points. Prikryl implied
a subdivision of the Late Prehistoric I phase because
the Steiner, Alba-Bonham, Scallorn
and Catahoula arrow points are more common in the
earlier portion of the Late
Prehistoric I than the later. Late Prehistoric II
seems to occur about the time that the
climate of northern Texas became drier. Diagnostic
traits include an emphasis on bison
hunting, Washita, Fresno and Harrel arrow points,
bison scapula hoes, "Plains-like" lithic
artifacts, and settlements on sandy terraces above the
floodplains (Late Prehistoric I
people had lived on floodplains). It is important to
note that Prikryl suggested that site
placement is suitable for agriculture, even though
there appears to be no evidence of
agriculture except for the bison scapula hoes. Todd
(1999) believes that some form of
agriculture existed in the Upper Trinity River basin
drainage based upon the presence of
shell hoes. Experiments proved the shell hoes would
have worked to till sandy and loamy
At the end of the Late Prehistoric period, there
appears to have been a general
abandonment of the North Central Texas area based on
an absence of sites with trade
goods that might have been obtained from French,
Spanish or English traders (Skinner
1988). This simplistic interpretation is tied to a
general drying trend and attempts to
factor in negative information generated by
professional and avocational archaeologists
who have conducted numerous site surveys throughout
the region. There is very little
evidence of historic era Native American occupation
anywhere in the counties although
historic accounts indicate that groups were present in
the early 1800s.

There is tantalizing evidence found on the Trinity
River in Dallas County of a possible
visit by Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto (Bruseth
1992). Artifacts found consist of a
chain-mail gauntlet, a halberd and a spur. Current
research, however, seems to indicate
that Anglo settlers were the first non-Indians to
settle in North Central Texas.
Beginning in the 1830s and continuing into the 1840s,
the aboriginal inhabitants
continued to play a role in the history of the region.
Garrett (1972:24) states “Indian
hostilities almost depopulated North Texas (of Anglo
dwellers) after 1839. It dwindled to
less than half.” Hostilities continued until the
Treaty of 1843 was signed by the State of
Texas and ten Native American tribes. This treaty
provided the impetus for settlement of
several North Central Texas counties.
Today North Central Texas is a growing area. The
expansion of Dallas and Fort Worth
due to the ever increasing amount of industries coming
into the area has extended the
suburbs and it appears that retirement communities are
also on the rise.
Previous Investigations
Archaeological surveys and excavations were conducted
at Lake Lavon and Lake Ray
Hubbard [formerly Forney Reservoir]. The surveys were
not systematic or
comprehensive as would be required by the Corps of
Engineers and the Texas Historical
Commission today, as they focused on prehistoric sites
and on areas which had high
probability for containing preserved site deposits.
Nevertheless, 25 sites were recorded at
Lake Lavon (Stephenson 1949b and c) and subsequent
excavation defined the Wylie
Focus (Stephenson 1949a and 1952). This work built on
earlier investigations by
members of the Dallas Archeological Society (Harris
1948 and 1960; Wilson 1946). In
the 1960s and 1970s, further survey and excavation was
done which added to our
understanding of the local archaeology (Lorrain 1965;
Lynott 1975, 1977). In 1963, the
Dallas Archeological Society (DAS) surveyed the area
of Lake Ray Hubbard and
recorded 33 archaeological sites (Harris and Suhm
1963). This survey described 20 sites
already known to the DAS membership (Hannah 1941;
Hannah and Harris 1948), and
located 13 previously unrecorded sites. Only limited
excavations were subsequently
conducted (Ross 1966), but along with the previous DAS
excavations, they did provide
evidence of the way of life practiced by the
prehistoric peoples who occupied this part of
the East Fork valley.
Since the 1970s, numerous small-scale cultural
resources surveys were conducted of
transmission corridors, pipelines, and Soil
Conservation Service floodwater retarding
structures throughout Kaufman County (Ferring 1975;
Lynott and Banks 1977). The
overall impression from these studies is that historic
and prehistoric cultural resources are
present, but are widely scattered and sites are small
in size and frequently are surface
deposits in the upland. Of note is the fact that
lithic procurement sites are found in upland
areas where metaquartzite gravels occur. Habitation
sites are reported to be near available
water sources.

Very limited work has been done in the East Fork of
the Trinity River downstream from
the Lake Ray Hubbard dam. R.K. Harris surveyed the
area in 1936 and recorded a
number of sites. A survey of the river channel was
done as part of planning for
channelization (Richner 1976). This survey was limited
in scope due to reliance on
surface exposure of sites in areas where flooding,
plowing, and erosion had removed
vegetation or sediment. No shovel tests were excavated
and it is likely that sites along the
banks of the East Fork and within its floodplain were
overlooked. Several surveys have
been done in conjunction with electric transmission
and distribution lines for Kaufman
County Electric Cooperative, Inc. One of these surveys
recorded a shell lens site in the
channel of the East Fork, and a historic house site on
a low ridge at the eastern edge of
the East Fork valley (Skinner 1992).
In 1998, a reconnaissance of a section of the Clements
property north of US 80 and west
of FM 460 was conducted and one previously unrecorded
prehistoric site was recorded
(Skinner 1998). The recent survey of the Cobisa-Forney
Electric Power Plant Site
recorded no historic or prehistoric sites in the
floodplain of Buffalo Creek just west of the
study area (Price 2001). Southwest of the study area
and US 80, AR Consultants, Inc.
(ARC) conducted a survey of a pipeline right-of-way
and discovered a prehistoric site
(41KF128) consisting of lithics, fire-cracked rock and
mussel shells and a historic site
(41KF129) consisting of a barn and a well. ARC also
reinvestigated a prehistoric site
(41KF45) recorded by R. Harris in the 1930s. Harris
discovered human bone, mussel
shell, animal bone, pottery sherds, projectile points,
drills and scrapers at the site. The site
had subsequently been destroyed and only a few lithics
and projectile points were found
and no buried deposit was located (Trask and Skinner
2001a). A pipeline route and
associated bore holes in the East Fork was monitored
by AR Consultants, Inc. (Skinner et
al 2002) that would provide natural gas to the Forney
Electric Power Plant. An interesting
result of this monitoring was that a bois d’arc tree
trunk located approximately a meter
below the floodplain surface was radiocarbon dated to
120 + 50 B.P. (Beta-170374). This
indicates that a meter of alluvium has been laid down
since the late 1800s.
AR Consultants, Inc. (Todd 2003) conducted an
archaeological survey of approximately
16.5 acres consisting of a proposed wastewater
treatment plant and buffer zone and a
1600 foot long flow line for Travis Ranch Development,
LP and located approximately
1.5 miles north of Forney. The study area is located
at the edge of the East Fork of the
Trinity River Valley just downstream from Lake Ray
Hubbard. No cultural materials
were found during the survey or in 13 shovel tests
which were supplemented by augering
to approximately 150 cm. below the surface.
Along the pipeline route, several surveys have been
conducted. AR Consultants (Skinner
1999a) conducted an archaeological survey of three
tracts, totaling 30 acres, for parks for
the City of Heath which is located west of the
proposed pipeline route. No archaeological
sites were discovered. Two areas were studied adjacent
to Collin County Road 543 where
it crosses Jacob Branch and east floodplain of Price
Creek (Skinner 1999b). No cultural
materials were found. A survey of an unnamed drainage
of an approximate 600-acre
development site was conducted east of FM 741 and
north of Crandall which is east of
the proposed pipeline route in the uplands (Todd
2004a). No archaeological sites were found. An
intensive pedestrian survey of a proposed 10-acre
wastewater treatment plant
which is to be placed east of Ranch Road and northeast
of Forney and adjacent to the
proposed pipeline route found no cultural materials
(Todd 2004b).

According to the Texas Archeological Sites Atlas
(2005), one site, 41KF5, is located
approximately one-forth mile east of the East Fork and
the proposed pipeline route and
north of FM 3039. The site is located on a knoll and
was recorded by C. K. Chandler. He
reported that dart points, a gouge, a sinker stone and
mussel shells were present. A revisit
on January 25, 2005 discovered several pieces of
mussel shell and a few flakes.
David Campbell
"The going's getting weird, so I'm turning pro."
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