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Texas Tropical Trail Region

Participant in the Texas Historical Commission's
Texas Heritage Trails Program

Prehistory


Two archaeologists examining rock art
Rock art at Seminole Canyon State Historic Site

HUNTING, EXCAVATING, AND GATHERING

Although humans began littering the ground with their castoffs and remains (tools, flint weapons, bones, and camping and hunting debris) over ten thousand years ago across the region we now call Texas, we would only begin to examine what they left behind after the turn of the 19th century. Prehistoric Texas, as far as we know, hosted a series of human populations moving across our landscape for thousands of years as they hunted, camped, fought, farmed, and died. We first took an interest in them in the early 1900s when academics began excavating in Ochiltree County. Early Texas archeologist James E. Pearce, from the University of Texas, began his excavations in Central Texas around the same time. In the early 1930’s the Witte Museum of San Antonio sponsored archeological investigations of the lower Pecos region and, with the establishment of the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum in 1932, Panhandle researchers found a sponsor and repository for their artifacts. In the beginning, excavations and surveys were relatively unorganized and poorly documented, thus rendering information about any artifacts recovered questionable. Today, archeological excavations in Texas are conducted using scientific techniques designed to collect data in a systematic way, providing a context for anything discovered. Without understanding how a given artifact relates to its surroundings and where, exactly, it was located (depth, strata, etc.) the artifact adds no real value to our knowledge of prehistoric Texas. Although interesting as an object of prehistory, an arrowhead, flint tool, or other artifact removed from its location without a clear and concise analysis loses its context, thus its value in helping us understand the world before history began.

Map of Theme

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Read more about prehistory in the Handbook of Texas Online.