Heritage, Summer 2004 Page: 12
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living in the texas
Architecture of a Different Kind
By Jeff Indeck, Ph.D.
Survival in the Texas Panhandle requires solvine
the nrohlems of oettino water_ acrnirino
.... ---o-- ri . ...... .. -" ......
~3 t t food, making clothing, and finding shelter.
_B . Today, as in the past, those on the Southern
Plains must solve these problems if they intend
'II~'I I 1 11 4 . .
to stay for any extended length ot time.
he area's semi-arid climate, with temperature
extremes from below zero to above
100 degrees Fahrenheit, with rain, snow, sleet,
and hail, gale force winds, and often with a lack
of precipitation for months at a time is inhospitable
at best. To the inexperienced, the elements
of weather may be dangerous or fatal. In
spite of this, researchers believe Native
Americans have occupied the Texas Panhandle
for at least 14,000 years.
There is good evidence indicating that biggame
hunters were in the region more than
12,000 years ago, even though that the proof
does not include what would be recognized
today as buildings. These early foragers hunted
mostly large animals such as mammoth and
bison, but probably also relied on deer and
small game as well as plant food for at least
some of their subsistence. Concentrations of
artifacts in the vicinity of hearths are the best
indication of habitation, but sites probably
reflect repeat, short-term use rather than
extended periods of occupation. Later Archaic
hunters and gatherers utilized a wide variety of
resources in the region, surviving in relatively
harsh conditions as the climate deteriorated.
Yet structural remains indicate only passing or
temporary use. The common occurrence of
grinding stones for processing vegetal remains
and repeated reoccupation at sites probably
indicates mobility limited by access to water,
with activities scheduled around seasonallyavailable
Sites attributed to foragers, such as camps
and food processing areas, are identified by the
presence of prehistoric tools, food storage pits,
and hearths, as opposed to habitation structures.
Earliest people probably occupied rock
shelters or other forms of natural protection
from the weather.
Traditionally, materials for constructed housing
might include bricks or boards. However, in
the Texas Panhandle, there is little wood, and
access to bricks and lumber via railroads did not
happen until the 1880s. Consequently, early
housing was not of the constructed variety, but
instead was restricted to available resources
such as stone, mud, sticks, or natural formations
like overhangs or shelter provided by an erosion-resistant
caliche caprock or sandstone.
Types of constructed houses fall into two
main classes, permanent and portable. In the
Texas Panhandle and Southern Plains, permanent
prehistoric structures are often referred to
as pit houses and were occupied by semi-sedentary
people living along the major river
HERITAGE f SUMMER 2004
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Texas Historical Foundation. Heritage, Summer 2004, periodical, Summer 2004; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth45373/m1/12/: accessed November 19, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas Historical Foundation.