Zach and Austin's Cave!

Our survey of an archaeologically rich area of a piece of private property in Burnet County detected a small overhanging rock formation that could have served as a shelter. The falling ceiling is barely 36 inches high and the room area would only have been about 120 square feet, if that large. It's not real dry inside either, so it's far from being the perfect type of shelter.

After some speculation, We set out in the Summer of 2002 to see to what extent, if any, the rock formation was utilized as a campsite by the early Texans who lived in the area.

The front of the "rock shelter"... located half way up a small bluff 100 yards from
the creek. We know the area at the base of the hill was an ancient camp site since there was
a very fine quartz mano found laying on the surface very near the bottom of this photo!
Zach, the mano finder, and Austin are checking out the front of the cave here.

It's pretty tight quarters inside... but it is about 15 degrees cooler than the
scorching summer sun just outside! Careful guys, it sure looks snakey in there.

Zach and Austin keep a close eye on the dirt coming out of the test hole.
These boys have eyes like an eagle!

Zach finds the only perfect "arrowhead" from the test hole. A whole dart point
that was approx 16 inches below the surface. And it's the first point he's ever found!

After a little cleaning it appears to be a middle Archaic point, which indicates an
approx age of 4000 years! The importance of lithic typology is obvious in this case.

I'd be proud to! These guys may be future
Archaeologist, if not at least they have an appreciation for the past!

It just doesn't get any better than this, does it boys? OK, I meant besides
fishin' and swimmin' down in the creek, it just doesn't get any better!

After a couple of afternoons of careful investigation, we are fairly sure there were people living in the cave during a couple of different time periods! At the very least, we know for sure that they were making use of it for temporary shelter.

We found some other artifacts, a very small amount of charcoal and some mussel or clam shells. We also found lots of snail shells from a couple of snails species, which I think were on the menu also, but the jury is still out on that one. Of course, having a personal taste for eating escargot may have influenced my interpretation of that.

In addition to the more common lithic tools made of flint, there was a very interesting Clear quartz tool, a small hand held knife found in the top 3 inches of the test hole. Over all there was not a lot of sign of continuous occupation, our interpretation of what we've found so far indicates only brief use for immediate shelter. The small size lends itself best to that usage as well.

Our test hole is now about 2 x 4 foot in size and is 18 inches deep. The point type recovered tells us that we are only about a third of the way through possible habitation time with our test hole.

By a test hole I simply mean that we excavated a very small area, in order to see what, if anything is there. If we were to find something significant, for example since this is a rock shelter it is possible that some normally biodegradeable artifacts might have survived, we would ask for professional assistance in completeing the excavation. As it is there hasn't been anything found that is extraordanary, but by looking at the layers of sediment we were able to tell that the rockshelter area had not been dug before and by comparing the artifacts, charcoal, small bones and shells found we can tell it was actually used for a shelter. Anytime we dig anything we need to learn as much as we can from it, of course that's the reason for digging a site.

We plan to go back and excavate our test hole to the next level. I will try to get some more photos taken of any artifacts we recover. We are still hoping to find something worth reporting for further study, since the small area we've tested leaves plenty of room for further, more careful investigation.

Meanwhile, anyone for a plate full of baked snails?

UPDATED Jan. 2006, see the New Years day RETURN TO THE ROCKSHELTER.

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