Archaeological Investigations at Choke Canyon Reservoir, South Texas: The Phase I Findings




Hall, Grant D.
Black, Stephen L.
Graves, Carol

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Center for Archaeological Research, The University of Texas at San Antonio


Findings resulting from archaeological investigations at 116 prehistoric sites located in Live Oak and McMullen Counties, southern Texas, are reported. All of the sites occur within or alongside the basin of Choke Canyon Reservoir, an impoundment formed by damming the Frio River. Sponsored by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, the research effort constitutes Phase I of a two phase program intended to partially compensate for adverse alterations and/or destruction of cultural resources resulting from dam construction and subsequent filling of Choke Canyon Reservoir. Data collection methods applied during the Phase I archaeological investigations at Choke Canyon included extensive excavations, intensive and minimal testing, and provenienced and unprovenienced surface collections. Information obtained as these various procedures were carried out provides evidence for the presence of humans in the area from Paleo-Indian through Late Prehistoric times. Remains of human activity dating to the Paleo-Indian and Early Archaic periods were found only along the valley margins and on old, high terrace remnants down in the Frio River valley. Beginning about 3400 B.C., settlement patterns shifted to include sites along sloughs and channels in the deeper reaches of the valley. In later Archaic times and during the Late Prehistoric, primary habitational activity took place at sites beside the sloughs and channels, but peripheral terrace, valley margin, and upland edge sites also bear signs of specialized and/or short-term activities during these same periods. Through all periods of Choke Canyon's prehistory, humans subsisted by hunting and gathering natural food resources available in the area, although presumed food residues are scarce at the majority of the sites. Mussel shells and shells of large land snails were the subsistence remains most commonly recovered. Vertebrate faunal remains were recovered in appreciable amounts at only a few of the sites investigated. These limited remains suggest that Archaic populations placed a great emphasis on small animals, fish, mussels, and snails as meat sources. In the Late Prehistoric, a greater variety of animals was consumed, including bison, antelope, javelina, and deer. Grinding slabs and manos found in all areas of Choke Canyon indicate that plant foods, probably seeds, beans, and nuts, were relied upon by people during all periods of local prehistory. Floral species identified from carbonized wood specimens include mesquite, acacia, spiny hackberry, oak, juniper, ash, and willow, indicating all were present at Choke Canyon at various times in prehistory. The recognition of mesquite remains in deposits radiocarbon dated to 1300 B.C. is considered especially significant. These findings will be used to formulate plans for the Phase II archaeological research effort at Choke Canyon Reservoir.



Texas History, Choke Canyon Reservoir (Tex.)--Antiquities, Live Oak County (Tex.)--Antiquities, McMullen County (Tex.)--Antiquities, Texas--Antiquities, Archaic, Late Prehistoric