Archaeological Investigations at the Icehouse Site, 41HY161: A Revaluation of Early Archaic Technology, Subsistence and Settlement along the Balcones Escarpment and Central Texas




Oksanen, Eric R.

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On behalf of the Texas State University-San Marcos, the Center for Archaeological Studies (CAS) conducted data recovery excavations at the Icehouse site, a State Archeological Landmark (SAL), 41HY161, from May to September 2004. The excavations were a partial mitigation for the installation of flood control structures on Sessom Creek on property owned by the Texas State University-San Marcos. Investigative trenching discovered potentially significant cultural deposits within the proposed project area and the mitigation excavations were targeted to within the area of direct impact. As a state agency as defined by Section 61.003, Texas Education Code, Texas State University-San Marcos is required under the Chapter 13 Section 191.002 of Antiquities Code of Texas to protect and preserve archeological and historical sites on and under properties under its control. Investigations were conducted under Texas Antiquities Permit No. 3438 with Dr. C. Britt Bousman, Director of CAS, serving as Principal Investigator. An excavation block 3-x-4 meters was excavated 260 cm below current grade. This was the area and depth of impact from the construction project. Machinery was used to remove the upper 180 cm of modem overburden, and then hand excavations continued to the terminal depth. Approximately 5.2 cubic meters were excavated from eight 1-x-l meter units in undisturbed prehistoric deposits. A significant result of the excavations was the discovery of a series of Early Archaic occupations dating from approximately 7700-6500 B.P. This period is poorly understood and lacks a chronometric basis, in part because of the difficulty in finding preserved deposits. Using soil magnetic susceptibility, artifact distribution and radiocarbon dates, three occupation zones (OZs) were detected in the Early Archaic age strata. A fourth OZ contained Late Archaic material. Only Gower or Gower-like projectile points, a form that has been rarely dated and usually is recovered from mixed deposits, were recovered from the Early Archaic deposits. A small faunal assemblage was also recovered, and was used to obtain the radiocarbon dates for the site. Through the thousand years of Early Archaic occupations, the faunal assemblage and lithic assemblage reflect a shift in hunting emphasis from large game, such as bison and deer in OZ1 to small game such as hare and rabbit by the later OZ3. The intensified use of smaller game is examined in the context of optimal foraging theory and comparisons are made to local and regional Early Archaic components. During OZ1 and OZ2, the Icehouse site functioned as a hunting camp, where projectile points were refitted and new lithic supplies were procured, possibly before forays into chert- poor regions to the east of the site. By the later OZ3, a decrease in overall mobility may have led to decreased ranges, and depleted local stocks of big game , thereby intensifying hunting pressure on smaller resources such as rabbits, rodents and birds. Throughout the occupation of the Icehouse site, there is little variation in the type and size of the lithic materials being worked. The lithic assemblage appears to vary in function along with the use of the site, rather then manufacturing technique or technology.



Industries, Hunting and gathering societies, Excavations, Archaeology


Oksanen, E. R. (2008). <i>Archaeological investigations at the Icehouse site, 41HY161: A revaluation of early archaic technology, subsistence and settlement along the Balcones Escarpment and Central Texas</i> (Unpublished thesis). Texas State University-San Marcos, San Marcos, Texas.


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