A Little Archeology Trip

Today our Master Naturalist group got to do something I’d been wanting to do since I moved here, which was visit the Gault Site, a really significant place only an hour away from Cameron. I’m so glad we got this arranged, and that it didn’t rain us out today.

the intrepid Master Naturalists, and our host

I just about didn’t get there, since I almost forgot to feed Granny, then couldn’t load my map software, so I had no idea how to get there. Next, I read the transcript of my voicemail from my friend Pamela, and it said the trip was off (in reality that is not what she said). So I went home, re-listened to the message, and loaded the OTHER map software and made it to the place only a minute late.

We enjoyed the benches that meant we didn’t have to stand for four hours.

The Gault Site is private property, so you have to arrange for a visit. But the cool part is that the executive director of the Gault School of Archeological Research, Clark Wernecke, gave the tour. He is one of the best tour guides I ever heard, full of information, humor, and fun. I’m sure he’s done the spiel dozens and dozens of times, but he is so enthusiastic that you’d never know it. I sure learned a lot from him.

Telling us about the layers of soil beneath us.

The site is between Florence and Salado, in a beautiful area that borders a lot of limestone quarries. That’s the key. The area is perfectly sited for human occupation, and apparently has been for at least 16,000 years. That’s right. They found evidence of people living here before the Clovis age, which was previously thought to be the earliest humans lived in the Americas. Wrong!

I just found it beautiful.

So, yes, this is a very important place. It is full, and I mean full, of tools and weapons made from chert, of which flint is one type. It’s the rocks that were all over my old neighborhood in Brushy Creek. They are a kind of natural glass, and wow, are they hard and can be very sharp! The scientists know exactly how each piece they found was used, because they do all sorts of sophisticated tests on them. What looks like a little shard to me could be a part of something interesting, or more likely, things they carved off when making tools, like adl-adls, scraping tools, axes, digging tools and cutting tools.

They area has big mounds in it, called middens, that are where people cooked in rock ovens, threw away trash, etc. That’s where lots and lots of implements were found, as well.

The tools Dr. Wernecke shared

And there is a site of a mammoth kill, which there are only four of in this continent. Dr. Wernecke explained that people didn’t actually go around chasing mammoths. They caught less dangerous and easier things, and ate them for the most part (deer, the horses that used to live here, rabbits, turtles, fish and such). He kept reminding us that people back then were just like us, and would choose what was easier and less dangerous when they could. That made sense.

big trees like to grow in middens

One more fascinating find at the Gault Site was the first evidence of a “building” – a rock foundation in the shape of a rectangle. They knew people used it, because they found different kinds of debris on each side.

The cattle belong to the property owner.

I was disappointed to realize that they are no longer digging for artifacts here and have filled in all the places where they dug. But, they have four million or so things to look at, and that will take a long, long time to analyze as it is. Some of our chapter members got to see the site when it was active, and I envy them! But, I’m glad they put things back to their original state, mostly.

Fern growing on a cliff. It’s a cliffbrake.

Also while we were there, we enjoyed hiking through the beautiful woodland valley. You could see how ancient peoples would have enjoyed it, even through the changes it’s gone through. They even found evidence of where the little creek used to go ages ago, which means it’s been there a long time!

There are all kinds of trees, including many kinds of oaks, such as the delicious bur oak, whose acorns could feed people. There were also walnuts, bois d’Arc, cedar elms, and more. I saw lots of butterflies, especially Queen butterflies and honey bees on the frostweed that’s blooming right now.

This place was magical and awe inspiring. To think that humans have lived in this area for so long is really humbling. If you ever get offered a chance to visit this important archeological site, please do. I’m not able to share all the fascinating facts we learned…there are just too many. But wow, it’s only an hour from my house that they found evidence of human settlement so long ago. Wow.

Author: Sue Ann (Suna) Kendall

The person behind The Hermits' Rest blog and many others. I'm a certified Texas Master Naturalist and love the nature of Milam County. I manage technical writers in Austin, help with Hearts Homes and Hands, a personal assistance service, in Cameron, and serve on three nonprofit boards. You may know me from La Leche League, knitting, iNaturalist, or Facebook. I'm interested in ALL of you!

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