Texas Almanac, 1984-1985 Page: 56
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56 TEXAS ALMANAC 1984-1985
The so-called "Leanderthal Lady" was discovered by archaeologists from the Texas Department of Highways and
Public Transportation in 1982 and is one of three complete 10,00-year-old human skeletons now being stucied in
Texas. (Photo courtesy of the state highway department.)
Ancient Skeletons Gain National Attention
Texas archaeology gained national attention in ear-
ly 1983 with the announcements of the discoveries of
three complete skeletons estimated to be 10,000 or more
years old. Only a very few complete skeletons of this
age have been found anywhere in North America, and
the Texas discoveries came at sites about 100 miles
Professional archaeologists working for the Texas
Department of Highways and Public Transportation first
uncovered the remains of a woman while excavating a
prehistoric site within a road right-of-way near Leander
north of Austin on Dec. 29, 1982. The skeleton was re-
moved from the excavation about 10 days later. A pub-
lic announcement of the discovery was made on Jan. 5,
On Feb. 10, 1983, amateur archaeologist AI Redder
of Waco made public the discovery of two skeletons - a
man and a child - at a site north of the Central Texas
city. The remains had been unearthed by Redder and
the late Frank Watt, a pioneer amateur Texas archae-
ologist, in August of 1970. But the find was kept from the
general public to protect the site from vandals.
Though public attention centered on the age of the
skeletons, the burial sites themselves may hold a wealth
of information about the life styles of the individuals
and the environment of Ice-Age Texas that will be im
portant in reconstructing this segment of the state's
Investigations indicate that the skeleton found near
Leander - and nicknamed "Leanderthal Lady" - was a
5-foot, 2-inch to 5-foot, 4-inch tall female who died be-
tween age 25 and 35. She was buried in a flexed posi-
tion-knees drawn to her chest - on her right side. Her
hands had been placed under her head, which was
pointing north. A grinding stone - a possible burial
offering-was found in the grave site, and a small lime-
stone slab, possibly a headstone, also was located near
Dr. Frank Weir, chief archaeologist for the highway
department, points out this is one of the few apparent
ritual burials found from this time period.
A minute piece of carbon - no larger than the head
of a match - from the burial stratum was radiocarbon
dated by a new process developed by the University of
Arizona. It indicated an age of 13,000 years, plus-or-mi-
nus 3,000 years. The wide latitude in age, Dr. Weir ex-
plains, is a result of the small amount of charcoal that
was dated. Larger samples, when available, more
closely pinpoint the age of the material dated.
To reconstruct the prehistoric environment, sever-
al studies will be made. The Radiocarbon Laboratory at
the University of Texas at Austin will date larger samples
of charcoal from the site. Archaeologists at Texas A&M
University will review the pollen samples to determine
what plant life existed. Scientists from the Dallas Muse-
um of Natural History and the Texas Parks and Wildlife
Department will study the snail shells in an effort to
determine climatic changes. A geologist will try to re-
construct the land forms that existed during the late
Pleistocene period in which the burial stratum was lo-
cated, and soil analyses will be made.
No projectile points were found with the Lean-
derthal Lady, but flint flakes, gougers and scrapers
found near the burial will be studied.
The site is thought to be a seasonal camp that was
used by hunter-gatherers for thousands of years. Thou-
sands of artifacts from the Paleo-lndian period, which
ended about 8,000 years ago, have been discovered and
will be incorporated into the overall study of the area.
Equally thorough studies will be made of the dual
burial site located in the Horn Rock Shelter north of
Waco. The two skeletons - a man of about 35 years of
age and a 12-year-old child of undetermined sex - ap-
parently were buried together. Each was in a flexed
position on its left side. The heads were resting on turtle
shells, and the burial site had been covered with stone
Several artifacts found in the burial site, including
sea shell beads, flint flaking billets, red ocher, two small
stone slabs and a flint biface, will be studied by Redder
and Dr. John Fox, director of anthropology at Baylor
University. The skeletons will be cleaned and preserved
at Texas A&M University, where scientists will make
morphological comparisons with skeletons from Eu-
rope and Asia from the same period.
Although the skeletal bones have not been radiocar-
bon dated, animal bone and shells from the burial site
have been. UT-Austin's radiocarbon lab determined
dates ranging from 10,300 years, plus-or-minus 150
years, to 9,500 years, plus-or-minus 200 years, from a
half dozen pieces of material. Pollen data from the site
do not appear to be very good, according to Dr. Fox, but
they will be reviewed by Texas A&M scientists.
Already the presence of sea shells from the Gulf of
Mexico, flint from the Alibates Quarries in the Panhan-
dle and projectile points that could be from the High
Plains indicate these prehistoric people who inhabited
the rock shelter had a wide-ranging trade network.
Information gathered from both sites will expand
archaeologists' limited knowledge of the Paleo-lndian
period. Already the apparent ritual burials indicate
that a form of religion had developed. Though the final
results of studies from both sites may not be available
for several years, the discoveries have earned Texas a
prominent place in the quest for knowledge about the
human beings who long ago called the Western Hemi-
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Texas Almanac, 1984-1985, book, 1983; Dallas, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth113817/m1/58/: accessed September 20, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.