US Forest Service Collections/East Texas

The US Forest Service (Sabine NF, Angelina NF and Davy Crockett NF, specifically) collections from East Texas have long been in the top five collections that Tim and I have wanted to delve into the most. Lucky for us, the USFS–Juanita Garcia, USFS Archaeologist, in particular–has been very receptive to our requests to study the artifact from this ill-understood region in the Southern Caddo Area. Following the most recent Caddo Conference in Tyler, we began the task of analysis. As of today, that analysis has come to an end. What is left; however, is a large-scale/significant effort to round up all of the reports and field records to explore how the occupations at these sites might relate to sites that lie beyond the boundaries of USFS property, and what the larger regional patterns (now inclusive of the USFS data) might tell us about the use of these lands by our prehistoric predecessors.

USFS - Texas

Location of USFS properties mentioned – from http://www.fs.usda.gov/main/texas/about-forest/about-area.

While the results of our analyses will be presented in a series of forthcoming reports and articles, we thought that a brief–and very preliminary–overview of our findings might be of interest to the broader archaeological community.

Figure 0

Selected decorated and plain (rim) sandy paste sherds from the USFS collections.

In short, lands owned by the USFS in East Texas harbor an extensive archaeological record of sites occupied by Native Americans as early as ca. 10,000 B.C.  to as late as the 1680s (or later). Our assessment of the artifact assemblages recovered from work since the mid-1980s at these prehistoric sites points to a very dynamic use of the prehistoric landscape.

Figure 1

Selected projectile points from the USFS collections.

In all, there are more than 150 sites with temporally diagnostic artifacts (projectile points and ceramic sherds) on Forest lands, and a number of the sites have evidence of multiple temporal components. Approximately 3.8% of the components yielded evidence of Paleoindian habitation demonstrated by the presence of Dalton and San Patrice points. Archaic sites (ca. 10,000 – 2500 B.P.) are more common with 10.8% of the components having a variety of stemmed and notched Archaic dart points and other chipped stone artifacts. Woodland period (ca. 2500 – 1150 B.P.) sites are widely dispersed across Forest lands, as almost 56% of the components on the three National Forests appear to date to this period. These sites also have sandy past pottery (Goose Creek Plain, var. unspecified) as well as Kent, Gary, and Godley dart points and/or early Friley (ca. A.D. 700) and Steiner arrow points. Three Woodland period sites on the Sabine National Forest also have Marksville Incised or Marksville Stamped vessel sherds.

Figure 2

 Selected decorated sherds from the USFS collections.

The ancestral Caddo sites on East Texas National Forest lands comprise approximately 30% of the known components. Those sites are marked by later arrow point styles (Alba, Bassett, Bonham and Perdiz types) as well as plain and decorated grog or bone-tempered ceramic vessel sherds. About 15% of the sites have Caddo arrow points and almost 38% of the USFS sites contain Caddo vessel sherds. These artifact classes indicate that Caddo peoples continuously used these parts of East Texas from as early as ca. A.D. 800 to at least the 17th century. One site on the Sabine National Forest (41SY280) also has a very thin piece of cut and shaped metal that may be part of a European trade good.

Figure 3

Examples of lithic raw material from the USFS collections.

Where do we go from here?

Data from this analysis will be used to complement the larger regional datasets that we have been working with of late. A number of the assemblages analyzed will be added to the ever-growing sherd database.

More importantly, we plan to use these data to make some substantive recommendations to the USFS regarding the further evaluation of these important cultural resources, and help them to prioritize–and address–their current condition, archaeological research potential, and the management of archaeological resources on USFS lands in East Texas.

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Written by zselden

Selden (PhD, Texas A&M University, 2013) is a husband, father, US Marine Corps veteran, cyclist, kayaker, backpacker, hiker, climber, fisherman and general all-around outdoor enthusiast. His research is focused at the confluence of archaeological methods and digital technology, and he is particularly interested in the application of 3D technologies to archaeological problems, geometric morphometrics, network analyses, predictive modeling, archaeological theory, and archaeological science.