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Discussion: What Does It All Mean?


The analysis of excavated materials from Zatopec provides a great deal of insight into hunter-gatherer technological organization, prey-choice behavior, and residential patterning from the Late Archaic I period through Toyah times along the Balcones Escarpment. The data compiled here can be used to propose three fundamental concluding hypotheses. First, though, it is important to consider what investigations at Zatopec revealed concerning our initial Research Domains


Research Domain 1 was addressed in the Sediments, Soils, and Stratigraphy section. Recall that the site did not have very good preservation of archaeological components. This fact played an important role in the way that the artifacts were analyzed. Research Domain 2 aimed at understanding the residential character of hunter-gatherer camps and settlement patterning. Zatopec showed repeated domestic use in several ways: 1) establishment of rock-lined cooking features, a process that generated the fire-cracked rock littered across the site, 2) later, establishing a location for burying group members, 3) continuing to use other parts of the site for midden-forming activities while keeping the burial location relatively free of litter, 4) returning to reopen the burial area in order to inter another individual, and 5) returning again to continue activities resulting in more midden accumulation and disturbance. The cemetery patterning--returning to a location to bury the dead and keeping this location free of debris--is not a common component of excavated archaeological sites in the region. This long sequence of events spanned Late Archaic I through Austin periods, but Toyah times were markedly more mysterious in nature. This change with Toyah could possibly have been due to prey-choice and resource exploitation, Research Domain 3.

An initial goal of Research Domain 3 was to examine past environments of Zatopec in terms of plants and animals present. Pollen, phytoliths, and freshwater sponge fragments were identified and are characteristic of the site's proximity to Purgatory Creek. Other insights were gained from plant and animal remains: from Late Archaic I to Late Archaic II periods, frequency of deer and antelope decreased while small animals and bison increased, and from Austin to Toyah times, bison increased, small animals decreased, and deer and antelope remained relatively constant. Additionally, from the type of bones present, it appears that during periods of increased bison hunting, deer and antelope meat was not shared equally. Research Domain 4 also deals with periods of bison hunting, and was focused on understanding variability within a group of individuals. Archaeologists deduced that during periods of bison hunting (Toyah is the best example), tools associated with hunting on the one hand and processing on the other became distinctly different from one another in terms of how they were made and used. Also, in each group of artifacts, there was an increased variability in the skill with which they were made. These trends indicate that hunting and processing overlapped less than in previous times, and therefore hunters and processors became more focused on their respective tasks.


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Top image: Burned rock midden painting by Charles Shaw, Texas Beyond History
Bottom image: George Catlin, 1832, "Buffalo Chase over Prairie Bluffs," Smithsonian Institute