by Joseph Luther, Ph.D.
Published in the Kerrville Daily Times 3.24.2010
Just when did humans first begin to inhabit the Upper Guadalupe River in Kerr County? The Spanish came here in the 17th century. They found Jumano Indians living here. Joshua Brown came in the 19th century, finding the place already occupied by Lipan Apaches and Penateka Comanches. The Europeans were not the first peoples on the river — by a very long shot — nor were the Jumanos.
T.R. Fehrenbach, in his book Lone Star: a History of Texas and the Texans, states, “No human beings were native to the New World; every race of men entered as invaders. The date of the first intrusion is not known. But it came tens of thousands of years before the dawn of recorded history, during the last ice Age.”
Archeological artifacts reveal that people were here in Kerr County approximately 12,000 years ago – at the end of the Pleistocene ice age. These Paleoindian hunters left Clovis projectile points that have been found on the Upper Guadalupe River. These natives hunted megafauna such as the Columbian elephant, the mammoth, the mastodon, the ground sloth and the ancient giant bison with horns that spread seven feet from tip to tip. Fossils of these prehistoric beasts have been discovered in gravel pits along the river. These people hunted with spears featuring flint points hand crafted from the superior Hill Country chert so unique to this area.
Nearby to Kerr County, in northwest San Antonio, the Pavo Real Site is on the east bank of Leon Creek near Loop 1604. Archeological excavation revealed Paleoindian occupations at the site. Seven Folsom points, two Clovis points, and one probable fragment from the base of a Clovis point were recovered.
The Gatlin Site in Kerrville represents one of the largest excavated samples of Early Archaic (8,000 – 6,000 B.C.) deposits in the Central Texas archeological region. A Gower point found in nearby Saddlewood dates to roughly 7,000 B.C.
There may have been others here before the Clovis people. At the Gault Site deep in the heart of central Texas, the possibility of pre-Clovis peoples is being explored by Dr. Michael B. Collins, who heads up the project. Research at the Gault School for Archeological Research indicates that Clovis peoples may not have been the pioneers who first settled North America. Another archeological site, at Cactus Hill in Virginia, features non-Clovis artifacts ca. 15,000 years old underlying a Clovis component. Burned and cut bones at the Cueva Quebrada site in the Lower Pecos Canyonlands of Texas feature wood charcoal dated between 14,000 and 12,800 radio carbon years ago (RCYA).
If there are artifacts pre-dating the Clovis culture, then who were these peoples? Here controversy raises its head. The “Solutrean Hypothesis” proposes that stone tool technology of the Solutrean culture in prehistoric Europe may have later influenced the development of the Clovis tool-making culture in the Americas, and that peoples from Europe may have been among the earliest settlers in the Americas. Solutrean culture flourished approximately 17,000 to 21,000 years ago in southwestern France.
In this contentious hypothesis, peoples associated with the Solutrean culture migrated from Ice Age Europe to North America, bringing their methods of making stone tools with them and providing the basis for later Clovis technology found throughout North America. Solutrean and Clovis points share common characteristics: points are thin and bifacial, and they share the intentional use of the overshot flaking technique, which quickly reduces the thickness of a biface. Clovis tool-making technology seems to appear in the archaeological record in North America roughly 13,500 years ago and similar predecessors in Asia or Alaska, if they exist, have not been discovered.
DNA analysis has revealed some unexpected associations between Europe and North America. Mitochondrial DNA analysis lends conditional support to the Solutrean hypothesis to the extent that some members of some native North American tribes share a common yet distant maternal ancestry with some present-day individuals in Europe identified by mtDNA Haplogroup X. It has been suggested that the relative concentration in northeastern North America indicates an early North Atlantic route for bearers of this haplotype, an assertion hotly debated among archeologists.
Who were the early peoples on the Upper Guadalupe River? Fehrenbach is very strong in his assertion that these First Peoples were not Indians. He states, “Another and very different race took possession of Texas soil.” He calls them “The Old Americans.”
Dr. Luther may be reached at: http://www.linkedin.com/in/josephluther
• “Clovis Reconsidered” – Texas Beyond History. http://www.texasbeyondhistory.net/gault/clovis.html Accessed 3.4.2010
• Collins, Michael B. “Clovis, Folsom, and Late Paleoindian Cultures: Some Basic Traits” in Athena Review, Vol.3, no.2: Peopling of the Americas. http://www.athenapub.com/clovnote.htm Accessed 3.4.2010.
• Fehrenbach, T.R. Lone Star: A History of Texas and the Texans. De Capo Press. 2000.
• Gault School for Archaeological Research http://www.gaultschool.org/Home.aspx
• Handbook of Texas Online, s.v. “Pavo Real Site” http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/PP/bbp2.html Accessed March 4, 2010.
• Houck, Brett A., Kevin A. Miller, and Eric R. Oksanen. “The Gatlin Site and the Early-to-Middle Archaic Chronology of the Southern Edwards Plateau, Texas.” Bulletin of the Texas Archeological Society 80(2009).
• Jablonski, Nina G. The First Americans: the Pleistocene Colonization of the New World. California Academy of Sciences. University of California Press. 2002
• Priour, Donald J. “A Clovis Point from Kerr County.” Journal of the Southern Texas Archaeological Association – La Tierra. 1985 12(2):28-31