Background to the Archaeology of Chaparrosa Ranch, Southern Texas




Hester, Thomas R.

Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title


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


The Chaparrosa Ranch, located in Zavala County, southern Texas constitutes an ideal area for long-range archaeological research. Flowing through the ranch are Chaparrosa and Turkey Creeks, two major tributaries in the Nueces River system. These creeks and subsidiary drainages have cut pronounced valleys and terrace systems. As of this writing, nearly 200 prehistoric and historic archaeological sites have been documented in these valleys and in the adjacent uplands. Late in the summer of 1969, Mr. Wayne Hamilton (former business manager for the ranch) showed me several of the known sites at Chaparrosa Ranch. I was impressed by the potential for long-term studies which would hopefully con-trtbute to a better understanding of southern Texas prehistory. In early 1970, I prepared a research plan, which was submitted to the ranch owner, Mr. Belton K. Johnson, and to the Texas State Historical Committee (now the Texas Historical Commission). Mr. Johnson approved of the planned research and the Texas State Historical Committee, through Mr. Curtis Tunnell (state archaeologist), provided funding for the first season's work. Additional funding came from the Graduate Division of the University of California, Berkeley, and from the American Philosophical Society (Grant No. 6313, Penrose Fund). Logistical support was made available by the Texas Archeological Research Laboratory, the Texas Archeological Salvage Project and the Texas Memorial Museum. Fieldwork was conducted in August and September 1970, and the results are found in the first paper in this volume. Since that initial season in 1970, two other major field sessions, and several brief investigations, have been conducted at the ranch. The 1974 and the 1975 sessions of the graduate Field Course in Archaeology of The University of Texas at San Antonio were held there. During the six-week session in summer 1974, there were extensive excavations at 41 ZV 83 (Mariposa Site), and the results of this work have been compiled by John Montgomery in his Master's Thesis at Texas Tech University. His monograph appears as Volume 2 in the Center's Chaparrosa Ranch series. A preliminary statement on the 1974 fieldwork is reprinted in the present volume. An initial account of the six weeks of research carried out in 1975 is also presented here. This program of investigations has included site survey, controlled surface collecting, testing, excavation and a series of other research endeavors. The studies have resulted in a mass of data, in terms of artifacts, notes and the results of special analyses. With this volume, in which a variety of background information is provided, we are initiating the final publication of the materials from Chaparrosa Ranch. It will take several volumes for the publication program to be completed. Some artifacts still await analysis, and there are data yet to be interpreted, but much has already been accomplished and drafts of a number of reports have been prepared. These await editing and revision before they can be published. Vegetational studies, radiocarbon results, faunal analyses and related research data must also be collated and integrated into forthcoming publications. I am grateful to many people for assistance during the project, and I trust that all have been acknowledged in the various papers reprinted here. I want to again extend my appreciation to Mr. Belton K. Johnson, owner of the Chaparrosa Ranch, for his cooperation and support, and to Mr. Wayne Hamilton for his sustained interest in, and encouragement of, our research. Thomas R. Hester, November 1978



archaeological investigation, archaeology, Texas archaeology