AUSTIN, Texas—Archeologists at The University of Texas at Austinare using a new technology, gradiometry, to map a large prehistoricCaddo Indian village at the Caddoan Mounds State Historic Site nearAlto in East Texas, revealing previously unknown structures andhouses.
This village has been the site of intensive archeological research,now conducted by the Texas Archeological Research Laboratory (TARL)and the Department of Anthropology in the College of Liberal Arts,since the late 1930s. Recently, the university has initiated aneffort to conduct a comprehensive survey of the entire site using acesium vapor gradiometer. This instrument generates high-qualityimages of large features such as pits and house outlines, helpingarcheologists determine the existence and location of prehistoricbuildings that are not visible on the surface. With the cart-mountedgradiometer, archeologists can conduct an intensive survey veryquickly and cheaply, covering the equivalent of a football field inabout an hour.
“Results so far have been spectacular,” said Darrell Creel, directorof TARL. “Particularly important is the fact that, for the firsttime, archeologists will have a nearly complete architectural planof what was a very large prehistoric community. Normally,archaeologists have to be satisfied with the glimpse of the smallpart of a site that they have revealed through excavation. Seeingthe whole community would be prohibitively expensive andtime-consuming via conventional techniques, but remote-sensingtechnologies such as gradiometry are revolutionizing archeologicalresearch. Until this project, no one had attempted a completeremote-sensing survey of such a large archeological site anywhere inthe world.”
This and similar remote-sensing geophysical technologies have beenused by archeologists before, but not on this scale. The universityteam will ultimately survey an area of about 48 acres, with nearlyhalf already completed. The remainder will be done in May and willbe followed by excavations targeting specific prehistoricarchitectural remains identified by the gradiometer.
Caddoan Mounds was a frontier settlement of the Early Caddos inabout 800 A.D. The settlement represented the westernmost group ofindigenous mound builders who inhabited the woodland in the eastpart of the United States for 2,500 years. The Caddoan people builtboth ceremonial burial mounds and temple mounds, and erectedbeehive-shaped dwellings of pole and thatch construction.
The site is the only public facility dedicated to commemorating theIndian tribe that gave Texas its name, Teysha, which is Caddoan for“friend.” The site was abandoned, for unknown reasons, in about 1300A.D.
Funding for this project comes from Texas Parks and WildlifeDepartment, the Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation, the Friendsof the Texas Archeological Research Laboratory and the Vander PoelFund at The University of Texas at Austin. For more information, visitthe TARL Web site.