New Excavations of Late Pleistocene Deposits at Bonfire Shelter: A Geoarchaeological Approach to Determining the Origins of Bone Bed 1

dc.contributor.advisorKilby, David
dc.contributor.authorFarrell, Sean P.
dc.contributor.committeeMemberBlack, Stephen L.
dc.contributor.committeeMemberFrederick, Charles D.
dc.description.abstractBonfire Shelter is a stratified rockshelter site in Val Verde County, Texas with multiple archaeological components spanning the Paleoindian through Late Prehistoric Periods. The shelter is primarily known as the site of two well-documented bison kills: one in the Archaic (Bone Bed 3) and one in the Late Pleistocene (Bone Bed 2). Excavators in the 1960s and 1980s argued that a third bone bed, designated Bone Bed 1, comprised entirely of extinct Pleistocene megafauna, is also the result of human activity. If unambiguous evidence of human of human activity is identified, Bone Bed 1 may predate the appearance of Clovis or related Early Paleoindian traditions in the region. This thesis presents the results of new excavations and geoarchaeological analyses conducted to evaluate the formation processes associated with Bone Bed 1 and their implications for potential archaeological deposits. In the summer of 2017, Texas State University’s Ancient Southwest Texas Project initiated new excavations of Bone Bed 1. Intact portions of the Bone Bed 1 substrata with in situ faunal remains were identified at the base of test units dating to the 1960s and 1980s. A series of 11 test units and one column sample excavated in this area reidentified and confirmed the Bone Bed 1 stratigraphy and faunal assemblage reported by Bement (1986). Sediment from each column sample strata, including three strata related to Bone Bed 2, was evaluated with a suite of geoarchaeological analyses to better understand the formation processes contributing to the Late Pleistocene deposits at Bonfire Shelter. Targeted microartifact sampling was conducted to identify ephemeral traces of human activity potentially overlooked by previous investigators. A functional model exploring plausible scenarios that could account for the presence of the Pleistocene faunal assemblage at Bonfire Shelter was developed based ethnoarchaeological accounts, modern proxy studies, and known archaeological sites of similar antiquity. Geological, faunal, and potentially cultural evidence was synthesized using this model to identify the “best fit” scenario for each Bone Bed 1 stratum. While no conclusive evidence of human activity was identified, this thesis provides valuable insight into the dynamic conditions at Bonfire Shelter in the Late Pleistocene and refines the chronology of Bone Bed 1 by over 1,000 years, providing critical context for newly identified Early Paleoindian activity elsewhere in Mile Canyon.
dc.format.extent425 pages
dc.format.medium1 file (.pdf)
dc.identifier.citationFarrell, S. (2020). <i>New excavations of Late Pleistocene deposits at Bonfire Shelter: A geoarchaeological approach to determining the origins of Bone Bed 1</i> (Unpublished thesis). Texas State University, San Marcos, Texas.
dc.subjectNorth America
dc.subjectLower Pecos Canyonlands
dc.subjectVal Verde County
dc.subjectEagle Nest Canyon
dc.subjectBonfire Shelter
dc.subjectLate Pleistocene
dc.subjectFormation processes
dc.subject.lcshPaleo-Indians--Texas--Val Verde County
dc.subject.lcshAmerican bison hunting--Texas--Val Verde County
dc.titleNew Excavations of Late Pleistocene Deposits at Bonfire Shelter: A Geoarchaeological Approach to Determining the Origins of Bone Bed 1
dc.typeThesis State University of Arts


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