robert z selden jr, caddo, archaeology, biface, george c davis, caddo mounds state historic site, nagpra, museum studies, lithic, stone tool, archaeology, culture heritage, cultural heritage, history

3D Puzzle of the Large Biface from the George C. Davis Site

During a recent trip to the Texas Archeological Research Laboratory (TARL), I was able to scan an artifact that once caught my eye while researching another site in East Texas. When we think of Caddo artifacts, lithics are not usually the first class of artifacts that come to mind; as the Caddo are quite famous for their skill with ceramics.

This specimen (4078-63) comes from Feature 134 at the Davis site, and was associated with Skeleton 5. There is something adhering to the biface; according to Shafer (1973), this may be the remains of a leather sheath. He noted that edge smoothing and some polishing occurs almost around the full perimeter of the biface, which may have resulted from being carried in (and lightly abrading against) a loose sheath of bark or leather (Shafer 1973). This material is still adhered to the biface, and is also present on several of the Gahagan bifaces from the George C. Davis site. You can see it in the photo below, and it is also plainly evident in the 3D model. The biface is an impressive 480 mm (48 cm) in length.


I did end up making a 3D puzzle of the large biface, using those data from the 3D model–you can download the plans here ( There are 37 puzzle pieces that can be cut out from five sheets of 8.5×11″ paper; so there is no need for a 3D printer. This puzzle is a bit more challenging than the ceramic puzzles. There are 754 triangles and 380 vertices–to put that in perspective, the full size 3D model has over 2,400,000 triangles and 1,200,000 vertices. As you build the puzzle, take some time to ponder the skill, care and craftsmanship that the original Caddo maker took to create such an incredible tool.


Whether simply a rainy day activity with the family, or an engaging way to get students involved in thinking about local prehistory, these puzzles offer a creative, elegant and challenging alternative to all things digital. Having the 3D scans available for analysts to use is great; however, as archaeologists, we need to do more to raise awareness of these finite and important resources. Prehistory is underfoot–take some time to learn about local prehistory in your neck of the woods.



Written by zselden

My research is focused at the confluence of archaeology, engineering, computer science, and the humanities. I am particularly interested in the application of 3D technologies to archaeological problems, geometric morphometrics, network analyses, archaeological theory, and archaeological science.

One comment

Comments are closed.