Patterns in the Use of the Rockshelters of Eagle Nest Canyon, Langtry, Texas
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The cultural deposits in rockshelter sites in the Lower Pecos Canyonlands contain evidence for occupation behaviors over at least 10,000 years. The use of a multifaceted approach analyses provides new insights to site formation processes and shelter use patterns. The results of small scale excavations in 2013-2014 in the adjacent Skiles Shelter (41VV165) and Kelley Cave (41VV164) were analyzed using geoarchaeological, zooarchaeological, and archaeobotanical approaches. The two shelter sites were investigated as a single occupational locus within Eagle Nest Canyon. Results of these analyses suggest differential shelter use between the two sites by hunter-gatherers. Kelley Cave deposits dating from the Early Archaic to the Late Prehistoric periods show occupation evidence of broad habitation behavior patterns including hot rock cooking, artistic expression, and lithic and bone tool manufacture. Skiles Shelter deposits, all dated to the Late Prehistoric period, suggests occupational activities more narrowly focused to the processing and cooking of botanical and faunal resources. Both shelters contain evidence of a catastrophic mid-14th century flood event which sealed intact cultural deposits. X-Ray Diffraction analysis also indicates that much of the shelter deposits are derived from Rio Grande alluvium, either by reworked flood deposits or by human transport into the shelter. The deposits excavated in both shelters found evidence of historic looter disturbance as well as earlier intrusions and disturbances. In Skiles Shelter the deposits in the back of the shelter were truncated during the Late Prehistoric period by a large pit, possibly a borrow pit for earth oven construction toward the dripline. An intact earth oven heating element in Kelley Cave was radiocarbon dated to ca. 7350 cal B.P. suggesting the baking of semi-succulents in the region intensified during the mid-Early Archaic period. A stone-lined storage cyst also dated to the mid-Early Archaic. Underground storage features and resource bundles found in other shelters in the Lower Pecos Canyonlands reinforce the hypothesis of planned shelter revisits during seasonal rounds. Statistical analysis of the frequencies of animal dung and several artifact classes suggests that Kelley Cave was intensely or frequently utilized the Early Archaic period. This thesis provides testable data and hypotheses as the first phase in ongoing investigations by the Ancient Southwest Texas Project at Texas State University. More robust datasets will be needed to fully test these interpretations.