Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Gault Site Tour, Part 1

Last weekend Tomas and I drove to a fairly remote area well north of Austin for a tour of the Gault Site, home of the Gault School of Archaeological Research. Initially I was not so excited at the notion of tromping around in the heat of our current drought, days often over 100 degress Fahrenheit. However I AM a major fan of mammoths and I knew that mammoth remains had been excavated there.
      Turned out to still be fairly pleasant (at least in the shade!) around 10 AM when we got there, temp rising fast though. Thank goodness before too long our guide led the pack of 30 or 40 folks downhill into a ravine shaded by towering broadleaf trees where the temp dropped significantly. Plus, this was the site of the actual dig itself.
      Gosh! On the way to the current excavation site under a canvas roof, we were shown an image cut into a mossy rock surface, believed to be made by an 18th century Native American artist, of a church! See?

      This didn't seem entirely thrilling considering the decimation of aboriginal peoples and cultures ever since the first Missions were established ihereabouts. Still interesting. Far more amazing to me, the next stop brought us to a marker where the remains of a baby mammoth were found.
      Whoah! Just as I did at Fort Robinson, Nebraska, when I stood on the spot where Chief Crazy Horse was assassinated, I felt a tingle all over my entire body. It seemed as if timelines radiated from my matter in every direction to/from the Universe simultaneously. The place has a memory! Or is it merely in my cells? No diff, probably… "As Within, So Without," you know?
      Turns out this meadow with some magnificent big trees, holds phenomenal amounts of midden material--that is prehistoric garbage dumps going back at least 13.5 millennia, maybe even 15 thousand years or more. Includes remains of the oldest known architecture in North America, in the form of a square "floor" of stones.
      OK, I'm ready to find a bit of shade:

      So before we adjourned for a picnic lunch under one of those fantastic big trees, we got a glimpse of the dig proper… these dedicated diggers have unbelievable patience, removing the dirt crumb-by-crumb like ants! Over 2 million artifacts have been removed from here, including the oldest artworks in the Americas in the form of engraved stones.
     You can see these folks at work, as we did, and I almost felt like a voyeur peeping in on some sacred ritual:

      Amazing stuff, as the Folsom culture that produced such beautiful flaked blades flourished here, and we got some cutting edge info (pun fully intended!) on dates for humans in the Americas--could be 15,000 to 25,000 before present.
      Unless of course you count those Atlantean tourists--ahem!
      (More next time, in Part 2… meanwhile you can look at

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