Test excavations at the Culebra Creek site, 41BX126, Bexar County, Texas
Abstract Archaeological test excavations were undertaken at 41BX126 on Culebra Creek to offset the impact from a proposed Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) highway improvement project on Loop 1604 in north-west Bexar County. Archaeological investigations were conducted in three field seasons: the first two seasons were conducted by TxDOT archaeologists and the third was directed by personnel from the Center for Archaeo-logical Research (CAR) of The University of Texas at San Antonio. During the three projects, 55 hand-dug units, 29 backhoe trenches, 36 shovel tests, and eight Gradall trenches were excavated. Seventeen features were recorded; 25 radiocarbon assays were conducted; over 59,000 lithic artifacts were recovered and analyzed; 1,655 liters of sediment float samples were processed; 3,337 kg of burned rock were analyzed; and nearly 300 g of faunal material and 25 archaeomagnetic samples were analyzed. The testing revealed utilization of the site in the Early, Middle, and Late Archaic periods. The analysis of materials and results of all three field efforts are presented in this single volume. Geoarchaeological investigations show that four terraces (TO, Tl, T2, and T3) in the immediate site area accumulated from the Late Pleistocene through the Holocene. Five Stratigraphic Units (I-V) make up these terraces and overlap one another. The T2 terrace is composed of Stratigraphic Units II, III, and IV, while the T1 terrace consists mostly of Stratigraphic Units IV and V. Archaeological materials were discovered in situ within the T1 and T3 terraces and primarily within Stratigraphic Units III and IV. Radiocarbon assays indicate that Stratigraphic Unit IV formed between at least 4000-2000 B.P., Stratigraphic Unit ill accumulated between approximately 11,500-4000 B.P., and Stratigraphic Unit II was accreting at least 17,500 years ago. Too little evidence exists to determine the full time ranges of sediment accumulation, and whether significant temporal gaps exist between the sedimentation of these geological units. Archaeological excavations focused on three separate areas: A, B, and C. Area A is a new right-of-way east of the existing right-of-way. Excavations in this area defined a Late Archaic Nolan component dating to approximately 2700 B.P. These materials include two burned rock features in situ within Unit IV on the scarp of the T2 terrace. This area probably was occupied by a small residential group during the Late Archaic period. Area B is east of Loop 1604 in the existing right-of-way and on the T2 terrace. Area B contains a Middle Archaic Nolan component in the upper portion of Stratigraphic Unit III, below a Late Archaic burned rock midden with a central subsurface oven in Unit IV. Area C is in the existing right-of-way west of Loop 1604. Excavations in this area investigated the possibility of an intact Early Archaic occupation; however, no evidence of one was found. In Area B, the Nolan component consisted of lithic artifacts scattered among small burned rock features that probably served as hearths. This component is radiocarbon dated to approximately 4600 B.P. The Late Archaic burned rock midden was apparently used between 4000 B.P. and 2000 B.P. Subfeatures within the central oven indicate multiple cooking events. Ethnographic evidence suggests earth ovens contained food wrapped with insulating material over a layer of hot rocks heated by a coal bed. This was capped with dirt to seal the oven. When cooking was complete, the earth cap is removed to reach the food. CAR conducted earth-oven hot-rock experiments which indicated that local limestone could be used once or at the most twice. Local hot-rock cooking should generate a great deal of burned limestone debris. The framework of the feature at 41BX126 repre-sents the cap and rock heating-element dumpings from separate cooking events as well as a few small intact burned rock features that served as ovens or hearths. At the base of the midden were a few depressions that may represent borrow pits used to obtain sediment for the central oven cap. Mixing of temporally distinct artifacts from the Nolan and later occupations occurs in and beyond the midden due to sediment excavation and transportation across the site, and redeposition of materials through erosion of materials off the framework.