Heritage, Volume 9, Number 2, Spring 1991 Page: 15
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records of Spanish and French explorers,
notably La Salle, Mazenet, Teran, De Leon
and De Mezieres. As well as the more
traditional methods of excavation and
lithic analysis; radiocarbon dating, stable
isotope analysis, plant phytolith studies,
pollen analysis, and other emerging technologies
have permitted archaeologists
better means to study the relationship between
bison and the prehistoric people
who hunted them.
At the Burris site in Victoria County, a
fairly large amount of bone was unearthed.
Parts of four bison were discovered, as well
as deer and numerous other species. Study
of these bones, especially cut marks on
them and their breakage patterns, revealed
clues as to how the animals were butchered.
The evidence shows that bison were
partially butchered in the field, whereas
deer were brought back whole and
butchered in the camp. We know this
because a higher percentage of bison front
leg bones as opposed to ear leg bones and
other skeletal elements have been recovered
in the excavations. Deer bones, by
contrast, showed equal numbers of forelimbs
and hindquarters. Both bison and
deer leg bones were generally fractured and
fragmented, a sure indicator of extraction
of the nutrient-rich, fatty marrow. These
findings, and similar ones from the 41 RF21
site and La Jita in Uvalde County, also
indicate a pattern of butchering efficiency,
whereby only the most desired parts of
bison were returned to the campsite, but
whole deer carcasses were brought back,
perhaps simply because they were light
enough to carry.
This picture of efficiency is mirrored in
the stone tool kit of the hunters. Appearing
repeatedly in archaeological sites with
bison bone was the bison hunter's chipped
stone tool kit. This consisted of Perdiz arrow
points, beveled bifaces, end scrapers
and drills. The Perdiz point is a narrow
triangular point distinguished by its long,
tapering hafting stem. The point was sharp
and could be flaked to shape in a few minutes.
It was easily hafted and quickly removed
from the arrow shaft when the blade
was broken off. Likewise, the beveled
bifaces with their thick, strong edges were
fit for heavy, initial butchering, and separating
or disarticulating joints. Nevertheless,
they were resharpened by a few
quick flaking strokes of an antler billet.
Lighter butchering was accomplished with
quickly produced expedient flake tools
(chipped out on the spot) that were used
until dull and then discarded. End scrapers
were efficient at cleaning and scraping
large hides; wear studies show that the
steep scraping bit of this type of tool can be
resharpened many times before the shape
of the tool is altered beyond usefulness.
Minor elements of the artifact inventory
reflect bison hunting as a primary economic
emphasis. Many tools are manufactured
of bison bone, not the least of
which is the spatulate bone tool, used in
skinning, and found exclusively in sites of
this period. Beads, awls, and stone flaking
tools were made of other animal bones and
antler. Bone tempered Leon Plain pottery
also appeared at this time. This ceramic
ware is often undecorated but occasionally
is found with incised lines or applications
of asphaltum. Asphaltum, which washes
ashore in the form of tar balls from natural
seeps in the Gulf of Mexico, was also used
as a glue to mend broken pottery. Grinding
stones for processing plant foods complete
the artifact inventory. Altogether, the artifacts
show a great contrast with the artifact
assemblages of earlier, pre-bison-hunting
cultures of Southern Texas.
The hunting and gathering culture that
used these tools is known to archaeologists
as the Toyah Horizon. These people were
nomadic in their effort to exploit the bison
herds, and their camps reflect mobility.
Within their campsites are found the remains
of stone hearths used for cooking
and warmth in winter. Otherwise, they
co o I
HERITAGE * SPRING 199115
Interpretation of Toyah bison hunting practices, A.D. 1200-1400. Bone studies
in campsites indicate that only parts of the bison were taken to a residential site,
and most of the butchering took place where the animal fell, as pictured here.
W r l-s -.i,- He -At in I l
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Texas Historical Foundation. Heritage, Volume 9, Number 2, Spring 1991, periodical, Spring 1991; Austin, Texas. (https://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth45424/m1/15/: accessed March 19, 2019), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, https://texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas Historical Foundation.