Central Texas dig yields evidence of ancient Texans

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by DAVID SCHECHTER

Bio | Email | Follow: @davidschechter

WFAA

Posted on July 19, 2011 at 10:14 PM

Updated Thursday, Jul 21 at 1:20 AM

Buttermilk Creek excavation

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BELL COUNTY — As if Texas didn't have enough to be proud of, how about adding this: The site of the oldest archeological dig in North America.

It's located outside the town of Salado, about 125 miles south of Fort Worth. The site has new evidence of people who lived 15,500 years ago.

The passage of time, in this peaceful valley, is not recorded in the movements of the sky but in the careful scraping back of a story buried beneath.

"It looks like people first arrived in this valley around 15,000, 15,500 years ago," said Texas A&M archaeologist Dr. Mike Waters, who is leading the research project. "And once they found this valley, they kept coming back to it."

"For thousands of years, this site was an ideal place to make camp. There's a spring-fed creek that never runs dry and the kind of stone that's perfect for making tools.

Every time the creek flooded, it buried the site in mud — preserving a record of how people lived and worked thousands of years ago.

"So you almost end up with this occupation, one occupation being on top of the other, as the flood plain builds upwards," Waters explained.

What got left behind are the discarded flecks of stone created in the making of tools, along with some of the crude tools themselves.

In the world of archeology, these finds are incredibly significant.

Prior to the discovery of 16,000 artifacts here, it was believed that humans — called "Clovis people" — arrived in North America 2,500 years later than the evidence this site provides.

"What really makes this exciting is — because we have such an abundance of material from the pre-Clovis levels — we can start looking at what their technology was like, what kind of artifacts they made," Waters said.

It's the kind of find that puts Waters and Texas on the archeological map. "It's something I've been chasing for a long time," he said.

The discovery has scientists wondering how exactly people got to what is now Texas. At the same time, it has the rest of us realizing we were not the first to walk here... not by a long shot.

E-mail dschechter@wfaa.com

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