News

11
Sep

Volunteer Call-Out for Ground-Truthing GPR Results

Verifying Targets & Features in the Clovis Field Survey

For the past six years archeologists, and a small army of volunteers from the Gault School of Archeological Research (GSAR), and various local archeology societies have been working in western Mills County about 10 miles west of Goldthwaite, TX. Situated near the Pecan Bayou, a tributary to the nearby Colorado River, the project site is a 14-acre oat field planted yearly for deer food and has been prolific and has provided evidence of Clovis occupation. For many years, the site has been known for an abundance of projectile points and other artifacts.

During the 1991 Texas Tech Field School at the Barnett Ranch, led by Dr. Grant Hall, 23 archeological sites were recorded plus 3 others added shortly thereafter. Later, the rancher formed diversion ditches in the oat field to decrease erosion. After a rain, atop one of the new berms, landowner Del Barnett discovered Clovis era artifacts including a Clovis point, polyhedral core and a utilized flake. 

The world- famous Gault Site near Florence TX, thoroughly investigated by the Gault School of Archeological Research (GSAR), is only about 50 miles from the Barnett Ranch, as the crow flies.  To corroborate evidence found there, GSAR has extended its public outreach work to other areas of Texas. If our TASN-centric project finds evidence of early paleo occupation, it will be handed off to the GSAR to pursue further.

Dr. Steve Howard, GSAR Field Director, has been field testing potential sites all over central Texas for 6 years, and includes extensive review of the Barnett Ranch. Numerous ranches in Mills and surrounding counties have been explored with the assistance of several Texas Archeology Stewards led by Del Barnett, Steve Davis, Chris Meis, and Buddy Whitley. Many others have given countless hours to Dr. Howard’s efforts in the area and he has agreed to serve as Principal Investigator on this all-volunteer project. 

Dr. Howard, Steve Davis, Chris Meise, Del Barnett and Wolfe Patrick

The site in Western Mills County that has been named the “Clovis Field” encompasses 41MI91, 41MI92 and 41Mi93. Shovel tests and several 1×1 meter excavations have been conducted over the past several years and the sites have revealed several hearths, middens and scattered artifacts as expected. This field is composed primarily of sandy loam with a moderate clay content which was deemed acceptable for Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) investigation of subsurface conditions. 

During the Spring of 2021 an intrepid group of TASN Stewards, Del Barnett, Chris Meis, and Steve Davis, banded together to find a way to have four areas of the Meis and Barnett ranches surveyed with GPR equipment. Another Steward, Bruce Grethen, was recruited to provide professional advice on all things GPR and eventually the full analysis of the data collected. Please note this project is not an officially sponsored Texas Historical Commission project; merely heavily staffed by Stewards. 

After two expeditions to the ranches to test the soil conditions with the equipment, with Grethen present for oversight, we discovered that the “Clovis Field” was suitable for a full survey. A total of eight survey grids were set up for the crew of volunteers that also included Stewards Art Tawater and Kathleen Hughes, to survey. Eventually, 5 grids of 40m x 40m totaling 86,040 s.f. of area were successfully surveyed in one day. In addition, Brian and Art successfully excavated a 1×2 test unit to ground-truth a potential target where an ancient creek-bed was found. Thanks to Bruce Grethen’s generous labor, we have identified approximately 100 subsurface targets and landforms to be investigated.

During the site tests and subsequent full survey, six individuals from the TASN were trained in the use of the field equipment and procedures for accurately laying out a survey grid pattern and geo-referencing grid locations. This crew may be called upon by other projects needing such testing.

THE VOLUNTEER CALL-OUT

We plan to explore the targets with an organized and regularly scheduled excavation. Weather permitting, we will be starting our work the last weekend in September(25th and 26th) and in October (9th and 10th). Additional dates and times will be added and continue until all targets have been explored and possibly beyond.

The Clovis Field project is for everyone regardless of experience level. First-timers will receive “Archeology 101” type instruction, styled after the Texas Archeological Society’s program but streamlined and will be assigned to an experienced crew chief for hands-on instruction. A regular “Progress Update” will be sent out to everyone who has asked to be on our volunteer callout list. Contact Del Barnett, Chris Meis, or Steve Davis to sign up or get more information. Tell us what you’d like to do: first-timer, experienced excavator, crew chief, area paperwork chief, site secretary, lab work, etc.

There will be a campground available by the Barnett cabin for anyone wishing to campout and participate the full weekend. The cabin facilities will be available for food storage and for lunch time together. There is a 25 acre lake at the cabin for evening fishing, swimming and watching the 4 beaver in the lake. Additionally, a cabin is available for overnighters on the Meis Ranch about 45 minutes away. This Meis cabin is available to 6 occupants on a first-come/first-served basis. A porta potty will be on-site by the campout area at the Barnett Ranch and lunch each day will be at the cabin on site.  Our COVID-19 plan is to be flexible with the changing conditions. The goal will be to ensure the safety and health of ALL participants which may require masking where/when appropriate, social distancing, or even vaccination proof, etc. 

Past experiences have shown that everyone learns a lot about archeology from the archeologist on site and we all tend to have a really good time. We hope you can join us for this important endeavor.