Descriptions of and Stabilization Strategies for 13 Archaeological Sites on Laughlin Air Force Base, Val Verde County, Texas




Kemp, Leonard

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Center for Archaeological Research, University of Texas at San Antonio


The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) Center for Archaeological Research (CAR), in response to a request from Argonne National Laboratory (Argonne), investigated 13 archaeological sites located on Laughlin Air Force Base (AFB), Val Verde County, Texas. The project was conducted in accordance with Section 110 of the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA; 54 U.S.C. §§ 306101‒306107, 306109‒306114), which mandates that Federal agencies are responsible for the preservation of historic properties owned or controlled by any given agency, in this case the United States Department of the Air Force (DAF). Argonne tasked the CAR with relocation of the 13 sites, documenting their boundaries, providing an assessment of their condition, and proposing site stabilization strategies. The field investigation was conducted in two phases. The primary goals of the first phase were to confirm the locations of the 13 archaeological sites and to establish photopoints at each site to document site conditions over time. From August 10 through 13, 2020, the CAR was able to relocate 11 sites (41VV1653, 41VV1654, 41VV1655, 41VV1683, 41VV1685, and 41VV1686‒41VV1691). Site 41VV1684, a lithic scatter, is believed to have been destroyed during the construction of a gym facility and parking lot. Site 41VV1682 was not located during this first phase. The second phase consisted of a Transect Recording Unit (TRU) survey that occurred from September 16 through 21, 2020 and on September 24, 2020. The location of site 41VV1682 was confirmed on September 24, 2020, and the site was surveyed on that date. Overall, the CAR surveyed 12 sites divided into 322 TRUs. Each TRU was 3 x 30 m, recording an area of 28,980 m2. The CAR documented 15 features, including a sheet midden, burned rock middens, fire-cracked rock (FCR) scatters, and historic features associated with site 41VV1682, an early twentieth-century ranch. Eight diagnostic projectile points ranging in age from Late Paleoindian to Late Archaic were also recorded. Based on the results of the survey, the CAR recommends the continued use of the photopoint system at least twice per year at all sites other than 41VV1684 to monitor site conditions. If approved, the CAR will assist in the implementation of the system and conducting training for Laughlin AFB personnel. In addition, the CAR recommends several on-the-ground site stabilization measures be undertaken by Laughlin AFB. These actions include the removal of a sign identifying the location of 41VV1653, the closure of specific roads within sites 41VV1654 and 41VV1655 to mitigate impacts to features and site assemblages, and fencing the southeastern portion of the base to enclose and protect sites 41VV1685‒41VV1691 from intrusive livestock and civilian personnel. Finally, the CAR recommends that base hunting instructions be updated to include warnings that collecting artifacts on federal properties is a violation of federal laws and military statutes (Laughlin AFB 2020; Appendix A). All records generated during the project were prepared in accordance with 36 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 79 and Texas Historical Commission (THC) requirements for State Held-in-Trust collections. All project-related materials, including the final report, will be permanently stored at the CAR curation facility, under accession #2352.



Laughlin AFB, Val Verde County, prehistoric archaeology, historic archaeology, Texas archaeology


Kemp, L. (2022). Descriptions of and Stabilization Strategies for 13 Archaeological Sites on Laughlin Air Force Base, Val Verde County, Texas. Archaeological Report, No. 497. Center for Archaeological Research, The University of Texas at San Antonio.