Geoarchaeological investigation of natural formation processes to evaluate context of the clovis component at the Gault site (41BL323), Bell County, Texas



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Texas A&M University


Texas A&M University completed excavations at the Gault site (41BL323) in Bell County, Texas, in the spring season of 2000. Located at the head of Buttermilk Creek, past inhabitants have enjoyed perennial springs and a variety of natural resources available in the immediate area, including high quality chert from the Balcones Escarpment of the Edwards Plateau. Chipped stone material diagnostic of the Clovis period was recovered during the TAMU block excavation, informally referred to as the "Lindsey Pit," from clay deposits approximately 35 cm thick. Natural agents that may have impacted contextual integrity of the Clovis cultural deposits include stream action, pedoturbation, and bioturbation. Artifact spatial analyses examined long axis orientations and artifact degree of dip to identify non-random patterns that would result from stream action. Vertical and horizontal relationships of refitting artifacts were examined to evaluate post-depositional displacement. Orientations of chipped stone artifact long axes and inclination were found to be statistically random, with minor patterns that reflect the paleotopography. Thirty-three groups of refitting artifacts were identified, none of which contained elements recovered from deposits more recent than the Clovis clays. Five groups have elements that appear to come from both of the Clovis clay deposits, indicating a small degree of vertical displacement. The results of this research indicate the clays bearing Clovis materials retained a high degree of integrity such that the spatial patterns preserved in the archaeological record at this location are the result of cultural activities and not natural processes. Though time-consuming in the field and laboratory, additional fine-grained analyses such as artifact orientation and refit studies provide separate lines of evidence to account for natural processes that may have acted to obscure the original patterns of the archaeological record, and our understanding of past human cultures.