Heritage, Volume 6, Number 2, Summer 1988 Page: 10
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^<~ ~ NAI
~ \- Canac
>^^s^ Cimarron River \
* _ e - - e
.-,OPTIMA RESERVOIR =
j--, r-, OKLAHOMA
Beaver River T adian River
[ 3 ---- STUDY AREA VdlfCaRee
Pl SITEr I COURSON RANCH
Palo Duro Creek .\
LAKE CREEK \ D
ALIBATES / MIAMI \1
ian River SITE ROBERTS SITE _
3 LITTLE SUNDAY
ARCHAEOLOGICAL SITES, TEXAS PANHANDLE REGION
The same cutbanks that exposed the archaeological record
of the creek also revealed a mush of pond sediments, laid
down when the creek shifted course and stranded lagoons in
its older course. These black organic mucks are rich environments
for preserved plant and animal remains. Bark from
cottonwood trees were even found in one sediment that dated
to 3,000 years ago. Fossil pollen grains from streamside plants
have lasted as long as 10,000 years in some of these strata.
Pollen from cattail has been found along with the grasses and
cottonwood, hackberry and plum that must have lined the
creek. Juniper from the breaks along the caprock, and pine
that blew in from farther west also contributed a rain of
seasonal pollen that has been preserved here. Analysis of the
hundreds of samples that have been dug from collection
columns around the valley may give us a glimpse of the
ancient environment and perhaps even regional climate.
We know there have been dramatic changes-from the
glacial climates that fostered mastodon and giant sloths and
saber-toothed tigers to the stark aridity of the dust bowl days,
local environments have adapted to the changing climate. As
drier, hotter weather began to smother the Plains 10,000 to
12,000 years ago, the great Pleistocene mammals moved on,
died off, or were killed off. Early man was here for probably the
first time, and left his distinctive Clovis Paleoindian points
behind. Later, Folsom hunters followed the herds of giant
bison. Man and bison evolved together in the Southern
Plains, and formed a lifeway that persisted for thousands of
years, and reappeared as various cultures throughout prehistory.
The last of the Plains Indians, the Apache and the
Comanche, were as thick with the bison as their ancient
counterparts 10,000 years earlier had been.
Archaeology is a fickle science. There usually isn't enough
left at any site to tell the complete story. But the soils and the
plant and animal life in a locality can help provide clues,
along with other subtle but important resources like pollen
grains and diatoms. As for the people, their record is preserved
in the elegant tools made from Alibates flint, testimony to a
prairie aesthetic that has spanned centuries. You can still feel
it, if you walk the hills along Palo Duro Creek, and sense the
power of the Plains landscape.
John Peterson is the Book Review Editor for Heritage.
[Photographs and drawings in this article are courtesy of the Palo Duro
River Authority. -Ed.]
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Texas Historical Foundation. Heritage, Volume 6, Number 2, Summer 1988, periodical, Summer 1988; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth45434/m1/10/: accessed September 20, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas Historical Foundation.