Heritage, Summer 2004 Page: 14
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lies, hamlets and villages are found, some
with 60 adjoining rooms.
Along with farming, Southern Plains
villagers were successful bison hunters,
miners, and merchants. Alibates Flint
Quarries, the only national monument in
Texas, interpret as many as 500 pits excavated
by prehistoric people 550-850 years
ago to recover the high-quality flint used
for making tools. At Alibates Flint, the
crops (corn, beans, and squash) and bisonbone
tools were widely traded to the east
and west. Interestingly, the houses exhibit
some characteristics borrowed from the
Southwest and others from Plains groups
to the north and east.
Two groups of prehistoric people were
tipi-dwelling bison hunters. They were living
in the Panhandle-Plains by the 1400s
and are probably described by Coronado in
1541. Their residential sites seem to have
short-lived, tipi-like structures.
Perhaps as early as AD 1300, Apaches
wandered into the Southern plains following
the bison herds. They moved their pos
sessions with dog travois and initially,
probably traded with the villagers. But as
resources became scarce, Apaches may
have raided the more sedentary farmers,
ultimately driving them farther out into
the Plains toward the north and east.
By the early 1700s, a second group of
Indians moved south across the Plains. The
difference is that these bison-hunting
nomads came on horseback. Comanches
were expert horsemen and displaced the
Apaches to the south and west. The
Comanches raided and traded well into
Mexico using horses descended from those
lost or captured from the Spanish after
1541. Comanche tipis were remarkably stable
in the wind, and poles tied to horses
provided travois for carrying possessions.
Finally, by the late 1700s, Spanish,
Mexican, and New Mexican groups
entered the Panhandle-Plains as traders,
bison hunters, and sheepherders. When
these comancheros, ciboleros, and pastores
made decisions to stay, they built dugouts
and, if material was available, Spanish
style compounds. The dugouts were excavated
into terraces and the compounds
usually had stone foundations for adobe
brick walls with stick and earth roofs.
Housing technology evolved slowly in
the Panhandle, and meeting the basic
need for shelter was not an easy task. As a
result, ingenuity and resourcefulness
became essential elements of survival in
this remote area, where building materials
were limited. Interestingly, thousands of
years later, when building materials and
technology are easily accessible, some
modern-day residents of the Panhandle
have elected to construct and live in
underground homes. Recognizing the wisdom
of our ancestors, these owners have
realized that underground houses continue
to provide energy-efficient living with little
threat from hail damage and strong
winds, a testament to the effectiveness of
centuries-old technology. *
Indeck is chief curator and curator of archeology
at the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum.
H SUMMER 2004
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H E R I TA G E
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Texas Historical Foundation. Heritage, Summer 2004, periodical, Summer 2004; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth45373/m1/14/: accessed June 18, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas Historical Foundation.