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Archaeological Survey and Testing at Camp Swift, Bastrop County, Texas

Camp Swift

In June through August 2002, the Center for Archaeological Studies (CAS) excavated 20 prehistoric archaeological sites and conducted geoarchaeological studies at Camp Swift in Bastrop County for the Texas Army National Guard. During this project CAS archaeologists excavated a total of 120 test units.

In December 2002 and January 2003, CAS conducted an intensive cultural resources inventory of another 20 archaeological sites at Camp Swift. Eighteen of the sites were occupied by prehistoric Native Americans, while three were occupied in historic times.

In September through November 2003, CAS conducted an archaeological survey of 307 acres at Camp Swift. A total of 11 new archaeological sites were documented. Seven had prehistoric components exclusively, two sites had only a historic component, and two had both prehistoric and historic components. A total of 668 shovel tests and nine backhoe trenches were excavated within the project area during this third phase of investigations.

Among the historic sites at Camp Swift, a winery and a mine were documented. The winery was operated by a Frenchman named Antoine Aussilloux. He settled in northern Bastrop County in 1875 where he cultivated two vineyards and prospered in the winemaking business for 34 years before Prohibition forced the closure of all wineries in 1919. The remains of the Sayers Mine consisted of a railroad bed, spoil piles, artifact scatters representing a company store and residences, a cemetery, roads, and presumably many abandoned shafts. Originally, miners recruited from Mexico worked the lignite deposits as a slope mine; that is, they simply followed the slope of the lignite deposits into the ground. After a fire closed the slope mine in 1924, workers excavated a shaft to new lignite deposits and built an upright tipple to vertically hoist lignite from below. This apparently worked well until another mine fire in 1928 forced the mine to close again.

Eight of the prehistoric sites were open campsites with burned rocks from campfires and chipped stone tools, and one was a lithic procurement site where Native Americans gathered chert cobbles and fashioned them into tools. Using multiple lines of evidence, CAS archaeologists found that portions of some sites contained intact soils, artifacts, and cooking hearths. Floatation and macrobotanical samples revealed charred hickory nut fragments, acorn nutmeat, oak and hickory wood, and bulb fragments. Diagnostic artifacts included a possible Clovis perform, Late Archaic projectile points, and Late Prehistoric projectile points. Archaeomagnetic analysis of fire-cracked rocks corroborated the existence of intact hearths. Magnetic soil susceptibility and quantifying unburned rocks also supported formation process models. The comparative data provided evidence of intact cultural deposits, and of landscape stability/instability and depositional sequences.

Pictured above: a crew member screening sediment during survey.