Skip to Content

History of Investigations

The initial site survey of Zatopec was done in June 1983, and subsequent excavations of the site were conducted during the summers of 1983-1986 under the direction of Dr. James Garber, Katherine Brown, and David Driver, all sponsored by Texas State University (then Southwest Texas State University). In 2002, the site was briefly assessed (by Hicks & Co. in Austin) by shovel tests during the initial reconnaissance of the area that would become the extension of Wonder World Drive. In 2007, CAS began data recovery excavations at the site. Each of these projects employed slightly different approaches to understanding the site, its stratigraphic components, and the record of Native American occupation that it contains.

An example of a completed shovel test excavation. Field School

In the field school's first two years, 1983 and 1984, test units were distributed relatively evenly across the site. Most of these were trench-like units excavated to explore large features. The remainder of the field school's units, excavated in 1985 and 1986, were located in the northern portion of the site, in the vicinity of a large burned rock midden associated with much domestic debris. Over these years, some of which are recorded in the photographs and illustrations above, approximately 173 meters-squared of sediment were excavated.

Research goals underwent a gradual change through the course of the field schools, but the theme of investigating prehistoric settlement patterns and subsistence strategies of the San Marcos area remained constant. Broad horizontal exposures were used to investigate the organization of this hunter-gatherer camp, and trench-like units were used to reveal profiles and vertical distribution of features. When the focus of excavations shifted to the northern portion of the site following the discovery of large burned rock middens, a large stone-tool working area, and postholes from a possible structure, research goals focused on investigating the cultural lifeways of the Late Archaic inhabitants of the region. The presence of postholes makes this site an uncommon one in the archaeology of central Texas, and Zatopec has been revisited by two other entities (below and present) for this reason.

2001 Survey

In February 2002, archaeologists from Hicks & Co.  (in Austin, Texas) revisited the site as part of an intensive pedestrian survey for the proposed Wonder World Drive Extension Project. These investigations were sponsored by the City of San Marcos and they focused on assessing the level of overall site integrity and degree of disturbance that may have occurred since the earlier field school excavations. During this brief project, seven shovel tests were excavated. Results of this investigation revealed that, although the western portion of the site was impacted by the construction of a large dam and spillway control feature, a significant portion of the site remained intact and potentially contained significant cultural data. The data recovery work carried out by CAS was carried out based largely on their recommendations.