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Big Bend Data Recovery at Site 41BS611, Brewster County, Texas

CLIENT: Department of the Interior, National Park Service

Investigations at Site 41BS611 within Big Bend National Park were focused on the excavation of 20 surface hearths--concentrated piles of fire-affected rock with associated artifact scatters. During the course of the work, several of the investigated hearths were found to be extremely well preserved, from which the method of construction and food processing operation could be defined. Radiocarbon samples recovered from 10 features provided a consistent range of use, from A.D. 1420 to 1680, equating to the latter part of the Late Prehistoric period into the Post-Contact period. Small projectile points recovered from the site suggest groups engaged in expedient tool production, resulting in arrow-size points produced from flakes. Based on this range of dates and on the ethnohistory of the area, groups to have used this site were probably the Jumano; Apache groups arrived in this area by the end of the range of occupation suggested by the radiocarbon date intervals. Additionally, an assortment of Middle through Late Prehistoric period projectile points were recovered, many exhibiting extensive reuse.

The lack of radiocarbon intervals that dated to the Middle Archaic to Late Prehistoric period has led investigators to conclude that the later groups were collecting tools of earlier manufacture and reusing them rather than producing new forms other than expedient examples. Site occupations consisted of repeated, short-term visits, where resources were processed during brief visits. Large slabs/boulders were commonly discovered at the edge of the thermal features, upon which limited grinding and pounding had been conducted. These stones were considered to represent processing tools, upon which foods were prepared following the cooking process by separating the food product from the plant fibers. Agave, yucca, lechuguilla, sotol, and mesquite were probably all processed in these hearths and upon these stones.

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