Texas Archeology – At a Glance

Did you know …

  • Archeology is not the study of dinosaurs, or rocks, or fossils-archeology is the study of past human cultures.
  • People came to North America over an Arctic land bridge across the Bering Strait, and they came to Texas thousands of years before Columbus arrived in the New World.
  • American Indians did not use the bow and arrow until about 1500 years ago-earlier hunters used spears.
  • Some stone points that people call arrowheads are really spear points.
  • The horse was introduced to American Indians by the Spaniards after A.D. 1500.
  • Bison (or American Buffalo) were hunted by American Indians afoot-long before the horse was introduced to the New World.
  • Changes in climate caused the extinction or many large mammals-such as a large bison (much larger than the bison of historic times) and mammoth-and this caused changes in the lifeways of prehistoric people for thousands of years.
  • The Karankawa of the Texas coast spoke a language related to Indian languages of the Caribbean region, and the Karankawa may have come to Texas by boat in prehistoric times.
  • Prehistoric Texas Indians were trading for turquoise and obsidian from New Mexico, shell from the Pacific and the Atlantic coasts, and exotic stone from as far away as Minnesota.
  • A stone quarry in Texas was used by many Indians of the southern Great Plains and is now a national monument-Alibates National Monument, in the Amarillo area.
  • In addition to the projectile points (stone points for arrows and spears), Indians made many other tools of stone, bone, and shell-including knives, drills, axes, awls, hoes, and grinding implements.
  • Prehistoric people in Texas used plant fibers to make baskets, mats, sandals, and many other useful objects.
  • Well-preserved woven sandals have been found by archeologists in the dry rock shelters of southwestern Texas.
  • Some of the most impressive prehistoric rock art in North America is found in Texas- visitors can see excellent examples at Hueco Tanks and Seminole Canyon state parks.
  • Not all Indians lived in Tipis-many Texas Indian villagers lived in thatched or adobe houses, and many nomadic groups lived in brush or hide covered shelters or rock shelters.
  • Corn has been cultivated in Texas for at least 2,000 years. Beans and squash were other staple foods of the early Texas agriculturalists.
  • Many Texas Indians made ceramic pots for cooking and storage, and the Caddo of Northeast Texas and the farmer-villagers along the upper Rio Grande made elaborately decorated vessels or many shapes and sizes.
  • The accounts of early explorers can help archeologists understand many sites. Much that we know about the historic Indians of southern Texas comes from the accounts of Cabeza de Vaca, who was shipwrecked on the Texas coast and traveled through southern Texas and northern Mexico for eight years, from 1528 until 1536.
  • The first black explorer in Texas was Estevanico, a Moor who traveled with Cabeza de Vaca.
  • The Tigua Indians came to the El Paso are from New Mexico in the 1680s, and some of their fields have been in continuous cultivation since that time.
  • The Alamo is a Spanish mission and was the first mission established in San Antonio, in 1718.
  • The first ranches in Texas were 18th-century Spanish mission ranches along the San Antonio River, where mission Indians tended in the livestock.
  • Archeological studies at historic sites (such as early settlements, forts, and homesteads) also fill gaps in Texas history, from the Spanish Colonial period to the present.
  • As many as 90% of the recorded archeological sites in some areas of Texas have already been destroyed.
  • By participating in local, regional, and state archeological societies and preservation groups, by participating in and supporting Texas Archeology Awareness Month, and by learning more about archeology in Texas, you can make a difference. Please help us preserve your archeological heritage.

– Archeology Division
Texas Historical Commission