Little Sotol Unearthed: the Excavation of a Long-Term Earth Oven Facility in the Lower Pecos Canyonlands of Texas
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The Little Sotol Site (41VV2037) is a long-term earth oven facility used to bake desert succulents in the Lower Pecos Canyonlands of Texas. The site consists of a twometer deep burned rock midden on a slowly aggrading terrace in front of two lowhanging caves within a small tributary canyon to Dead Man’s Creek, a tributary of the Devils River. Macrobotanical remains of lechuguilla and sotol, prickly pear microfossils, heating elements of earth ovens, and plant processing tools were identified in burned rock midden and cave components. Radiocarbon assays range from approximately 5000 B.C. to A.D. 1200, spanning a considerable length of time from the end of the Early Archaic to Late Prehistoric period. The 6000-year record of burned rock discard preserved at the Little Sotol site allows for the examination of change in earth oven construction and use over time. It is argued that the higher degree of fracture in burned rock relates to the increased intensity of plant processing in earth ovens. Methods of burned rock quantification show evidence of landuse intensification through the increasing reuse of burned rocks through time, especially into the Late Archaic and Late Prehistoric periods. The Little Sotol site demonstrates the dynamic relationship between past populations and the landscape, and the changing role of earth ovens at a single location – an earth oven facility.