The year 2007 marks the 100th anniversary of the first archaeological excavation at a Plains Village site in the Texas Panhandle. Despite nearly a century of research, we still know very little about these people. We know that they were bison hunters and farmers, but some researchers have suggested that farming was of minimal importance to the Antelope Creek villagers of the Panhandle. This notion is based on limited data and warrants reexamination. Recent work at Hank's site and other sites on the M-Cross Ranch in Roberts County provides new archaeological evidence of prehistoric agriculture in the eastern Panhandle. The relatively short, spring-fed tributary canyons along the north side of the Canadian River valley were an attractive setting for the Plains Village people. They probably practiced dryland farming in naturally wet areas on alluvial terraces but also may have employed simple water management techniques that left little or no archaeological signature.
Keywords: Antelope Creek, Plains Village, Texas Panhandle, agriculture, corn
Most of the prehistoric peoples in the southem Plains followed a similar pattern of cultural development during last 2,000 years. A "Plains Woodland" cultural tradition emerged in the first millennium A.D. under substantial influence from eastern Woodland groups. The hunter-gatherer peoples of the Texas Panhandle may have experimented with tending native plants as they gradually adopted horticultural practices and crop raising from other groups, perhaps as early as A.D. 750. Sometime around A.D. 1000 to 1200, a region-wide climatic shift allowed for rapid expansion of bison populations in the southern Plains. With agricultural knowledge in hand, the Plains Woodland tradition evolved from a hunter-gatherer society into a Plains Village society with a more sedentary lifestyle based on a dual economy of bison hunting and intensive maize agriculture supplemented by foraging.
This is a nice, tidy little story explaining prehistoric life in the Texas Panhandle. The only problem is that many of the important details are not well supported by archaeological data and are open to debate. There is little doubt that Plains Villagers utilized a dual economy based to a large degree on bison hunting and maize agriculture and that their lives were organized in large part by the seasonality of these pursuits. However, a scholarly debate that has emerged in recent years is centered on the role of agriculture within Plains Village societies. To sum up this debate as questions: "Were the Plains Villagers of the Texas Panhandle bison-hunting and gathering farmers who practiced intensive agriculture...or, were they bison-hunting foragers who only dabbled in agriculture to supplement their foraging economy?"
My purpose here is to examine, or more precisely reexamine, the role that agriculture played among the peoples who lived along the Canadian River and its tributaries in the Texas Panhandle. In 1934, Floyd Studer (1934:89) observed that "Corn was grown in the Panhandle of Texas somewhat extensively, for numerous charred cobs are found with the Texas Panhandle Culture ruins." Seventy years later, some researchers propose that agriculture was of minimal importance to the Antelope Creek phase peoples (Brosowske 2005a:98; Duncan 2002:292, 297, 316, 328; HabichtMauche et al. 1994:300-301; Hard et al. 1996:299-300). This notion of minimal agricultural importance is reconsidered here for a variety of reasons, but primarily because it is based on very limited data that may be interpreted in very different ways. In addition, new agricultural evidence is coming to light from recent investigations in the West Pasture at the M-Cross Ranch. Multiple lines of evidence suggest that agriculture was indeed important to the prehistoric inhabitants of the M-Cross Ranch, which is located in the eastern part of the Canadian River valley, to the east of the Antelope Creek core area and south of the Buried City. A preliminary landscape analysis indicates that suitable farmland was abundant in the West Pasture valley and that the prehistoric farmers could have employed a variety of different farming techniques.
PLAINS VILLAGE CULTURES IN THE TEXAS PANHANDLE
Figure 1 shows the geographic distribution of Plains Village cultures currently recognized by archaeologists working in the southern Plains. This study will not attempt to analyze or redefine the cultural taxonomy, but a few important points are necessary for our purposes here. First, all of the Plains Village cultures share some basic similarities such as the presence of sites containing habitation structures and economic pursuits that included bison hunting and farming, particularly growing maize or corn. Cora farming appeared sometime around A.D. 650-870 in the southern Plains (Campbell 1969; Carmichael 2004; Drass, this volume) and is archaeologically well represented in all of the cultures attributed to the Plains Village period, ca. A.D. 1100 to 1500. Second, despite the overall similarities among Plains Village sites across a vast area, researchers recognize many regional variations but are still grappling with identifying the characteristics that define and distinguish different cultures. Erickson (2004), Indeck et al. (2004), and Lintz (1986) provide good overviews of the history of archaeological research and cultural taxonomy in the Texas Panhandle. The picture presented in Figure 1 is but one snapshot portraying what the Late Prehistoric social landscape may have looked like, and it will undoubtedly change many more times as new archaeological data come to light. In fact, based on his recent work, Brosowske (2005a) has proposed yet another cultural name for the Plains Village period in the Oklahoma and Texas Panhandlesthe "Odessa phase." While this cultural construct may prove to have some validity, at this time I prefer to consider it the "Odessa complex" rather than a phase. Until detailed descriptions of the features and artifacts are published for Odessa Yates (Brosowske 1999, 2000) and many of the other key sites, researchers will find it difficult to compare site data and evaluate whether Odessa meets the strict ideological definitions of a cultural phase as described by Willey and Phillips (1958:2143). The inclusion of all of the Plains Village occupations at the Buried City (see D. Hughes 1991 ; Hughes and Hughes-Jones 1987; J. Hughes 1991) under the Odessa rubric is particularly confusing. Odessa phase is defined to include rectangular houses with stone foundations, but these rectangular houses, some of which are classic Type 1 (Lintz 1986:Figure 12) structures, are found only at the Buried City and are not present at any other Odessa sites (Brosowske 2005a: 142-146).
All of the Plains Village groups in the Texas Panhandle are generally discussed herein as if they were a single cultural entity, although this is admittedly not the case (Figure 2). Although there are significant differences between the Antelope Creek phase (J. Hughes 1991; Lintz 1986), the Buried City complex (D. Hughes 1991; Hughes and Hughes-Jones 1987), and the West Pasture sites on the M-Cross Ranch (Boyd 2001, 2004), the broad similarities may be viewed as representative of a widespread Plains Village tradition (as per Willey and Phillips 1958:34-43) for the purpose of examining prehistoric agriculture. Regardless of which taxonomy or cultural names one prefers, the southern Plains Village tradition in the Texas Panhandle is characterized by an economic focus on bison hunting, farming (corn and, to a lesser extent, beans and squash), and general foraging. Beyond this, however, archaeologists can and should debate how important each resource group was to the Panhandle villagers, as well as the levels of agricultural intensity they may have attained. There are two key considerations in this debate. What constitutes archaeological evidence for the practice of agriculture? And, how do we determine how important prehistoric farming was in the southern Plains?
THE EVIDENCE FOR PREHISTORIC AGRICULTURE IN THE TEXAS PANHANDLE
Evidence for prehistoric agriculture can take several forms, but it can be roughly grouped into two categories-direct and indirect. The best type of direct evidence is finding agricultural fields, water control features, and actual crop remains as either charred plant parts or pollen. Indirect or circumstantial evidence includes findings of tools thought to have been used to plant crops and till fields, isotope data from human bones, storage pits and storage rooms that may have been used for crops, and grinding tools that may have been used to process domesticated plants.
Direct Evidence: Agricultural Features and Cultigens
T. L. Eyerly (1907) was the first to conduct substantive archaeological investigations in the Texas Panhandle with his excavations at the ruins of the Buried City in 1907. Since then, numerous investigations have been made at sites now classified as belonging to the Plains Village tradition, and the sites have been grouped by many different archaeological names (Brosowske 2005a; Erickson 2004, Indeck et al. 2004; Lintz 1986). Even after a century of archaeological research on Plains Village sites, however, archaeologists are still debating the cultural taxonomy and have yet to develop any meaningful concepts of how these people farmed.
Many Panhandle archaeologists have avoided prehistoric agriculture issues, in part because the evidence is so skimpy, but Lintz has addressed the topic more thoroughly than any other researcher. In his analysis of Antelope Creek community patterning, Lintz (1986:193-214) notes that there are correlations between the locations and sizes of habitation sites and environmental variables such as soil types, soil productivity, biotic setting, and distributions of springs and other natural resources. He classifies Antelope Creek habitations as large hamlets, smaller homesteads, and subhomesteads, and notes that these site types tend to occur in specific settings. The shear diversity of variations in the size and configuration of isolated houses is suggestive of some type of functional, social, or political variability, and some small sites contain only isolated circular structures that may represent specialized summer field huts (Lintz 1984:330).
Floyd Studer, who dug at many Plains Village sites throughout the first half of the twentieth century, made a curious statement in 1955. He stated that: "... It is indicated that they irrigated their crops with water from these streams" (Studer 1955:89). This could mean that he actually saw remnants of some type of water control feature, such as small irrigation ditches, check dams, or diversion barriers of rocks or mounded earth. More likely, it simply means that he assumed the Plains Villagers used irrigation. The explicit statement made by Lintz (1984:331) in 1984, that "No prehistoric fields or water control systems have been recognized in the Panhandle region," still holds true today.
Direct evidence for prehistoric agriculture in the Panhandle is limited to finds of the actual charred crop remains. These include a few rare finds of charred beans or squash seeds such as at the Footprint site (Green 1986:110), Black Dog Village (Keller 1975:22,29), Landergin Mesa (Dean 1986:44, 47), Two Sisters (Duncan 2002:Table 7.3), and Buried City (Brosowske 2005a:Table 4.10), but charred com is by far the most abundant in the archaeological record. Com has been found at numerous Plains Village sites in the region (Drass, this volume). So far, the only other domesticated plant recovered from Plains Village sites in the Texas Panhandle is sunflower, although marshelder found at Paoli phase sites in central Oklahoma sites was cultivated too (Brosowske 2005a:137, Table 4.10; Drass 1998:429).
It is important to remember that the vast majority of archaeological investigations at Panhandle village sites were done many years ago, long before soil flotation and macrobotanical analysis were standard techniques. For most of the investigations done in the Texas Panhandle, we simply will never know how much charred plant material was present, and little or no quantified plant data are available. This fact is emphasized by the paucity of archaeological finds of prehistoric plant remains from Plains Village sites in the Texas Panhandle as summarized by Richard Drass (this volume).
Indirect Evidence: Agricultural Tools
Certain types of tools are generally classified as horticultural tools or "agricultural implements" (Krieger 1946:56), and they are often considered to constitute an important form of indirect evidence for the practice of agriculture. Tools made of bison bones are fairly common at many Panhandle sites, and include tibia "digging sticks," scapula "hoes," and "squash knives" (Baker and Baker 2000:349; Green 1986:Figures 17, 25, 47 and 48; Keller 1975:Figure 33). It has sometimes been assumed that the abundance of these bone agricultural tools reflects the relative importance of farming activities at particular sites.
In his study of agricultural dependence at Landergin Mesa, Robinson (2001: Table 7, Figure 14) compared the frequencies of bison scapula hoes and scrapers as a means of evaluating the importance of agriculture vs. bison hunting. Based on this data, he concluded that bison hunting was more important than agriculture at Landergin Mesa and other sites where very few scapula hoes were found. One problem with this overall study is that tibia digging sticks are excluded from consideration as agricultural tools (a fact noted by Chris Lintz, personal communication 2005). Furthermore, the ratio of scrapers to scapula hoes ranges from as low as 10 to 1 to as high as 129 to 1 for 13 sites where scapula hoes were found, and only one site had more scapula hoes (n=2) than scrapers (n=0). Without a careful consideration of these data on a site by site basis (taking into account such variables as excavation and analysis techniques, artifact sample sizes, and site settings) it is far from clear what these data might mean.
Marie Huhnke (2001) conducted a use-wear study of bison bone "agricultural tools" recovered from extensive WPA excavations at the Alibates Ruins near the famous Alibates flint quarries. Her sample included 68 scapula tools and 112 tibia tools. Huhnke concludes that the wear on many of the scapula tools indicates they were probably not agricultural hoes but were used as spatulas for mixing and applying adobe for house building (Huhnke 2001:35-37, 55-59). Among the Pawnee, for example, scapula hoes were used for digging soil and repairing the roofs of earthlodges (Weltfish 1965:93). Huhnke also concludes that the bison tibia tools were indeed digging sticks but cautioned that we should not assume that digging sticks were used only for agriculture-related tasks (Huhnke 2001:53-59). The bison tibia tools would have been useful for a variety of tasks such as digging the roots of wild plants, excavating house pits and storage pits, and digging borrow pits to obtain clay for house maintenance. Wilson (1934:365) notes that "in the old days" the Hidatsa used bone hoes to cut grass used as a layering of roof material in building their earthlodges. Huhnke (2001:54-55) concludes that while bison tibia and scapula artifacts may have indeed been earth working tools, archaeologists should not assume that they were used only for farming. Thus, the frequency of bone digging tools is not necessarily a direct reflection of the intensity of farming activities. In addition, it is especially important to consider the possibility that digging sticks and hoes made of fire-hardened wood may have been used and would leave no archaeological signature (Doolittle 2000:137, 149, 161; Weltfish 1965:385-386).
Indirect Evidence: Stable Isotope Data and Diet Studies
Stable carbon and nitrogen isotopes in prehistoric human bones are indicators of a person's diet while they were living, and isotope studies are another form of indirect evidence for consumption of domesticated crops. Judith Habicht-Mauche and her colleagues conducted an isotopic study of human bones from 29 Plains Village burials1 in 1994 (Habichte-Mauche et al. 1994) based on an earlier bone analysis by Levendosky (1987). The carbon and nitrogen isotope values demonstrate that the Antelope Creek people were eating a lot of C^sub 4^ plants or animals that ate C^sub 4^ plants, namely bison. The researchers concluded that about 90 percent of the Antelope Creek diet was derived from bison meat, maize, prickly pear cactus, or amaranth (all C^sub 4^ plants), but it is not possible to determine chemically which of these were the main contributors. They then assume that the southern High Plains was "marginal" for the practice of maize horticulture, and that bison, cactus, and other wild C^sub 4^ plants must have been more important than corn (Habicht-Mauche et al. 1994:301). The idea that corn was not very important and the agricultural productivity of Antelope Creek peoples was minimal is based on two other major assumptions. First, it is assumed that the natural rainfall in the region is generally too low to support corn farming. Second, it is assumed that Antelope Creek peoples did not practice any type of irrigation or water management.
As shown in Figure 3, the Habicht-Mauche et al. (1994:Figure 1) study shows that the bone chemistry of the Antelope Creek people is very comparable to that of prehistoric Pecos Pueblo people who did practice rather intensive maize agriculture (based on various diet reconstructions for Pecos Pueblo by Schoeninger [1989:49-58]). The idea that major differences in the diets of these two groups occurred because the Texas Panhandle was a "marginal" area for agriculture is not well supported. In fact, when one compares the climatic data for the Texas Panhandle with that of Pecos Pueblo (Table 1), it shows that the Panhandle's growing season is much longer than at Pecos and the annual precipitation is higher. More importantly, the Texas Panhandle gets on average about two inches more rainfall each year during the critical corn-growing season from May through September than does Pecos Pueblo. Experimental work on growing native Southwestern corn (a variety of Tohono O'odham flour maize) in northcentral New Mexico suggests that the "timing and amounts of individual rain events influenced total maize grain yield, especially for maize receiving no supplemental moisture" (Adams et al. 1999:492). Consequently, the distribution of spring and summer rainfall is often sufficient for com farming in the Texas Panhandle, and the region should not be viewed as a marginal area for prehistoric agriculture. Certainly dryer years and droughts occurred, but prehistoric farmers were undoubtedly aware of these conditions.
Part of the problem in understanding Panhandle villagers is related to concepts of the type of farming they may have done. Researchers have often assumed that Plains Village farming was limited to rain-fed plain field agriculture without any dryland water management (or water harvesting) techniques or irrigation (e.g., Baerreis and Bryson 1966:114; Habicht-Mauche 1994:300). Doolittle (2000:121-122, 219-222) describes the differences between plain field rain-fed agriculture, in which farmers rely solely on the annual precipitation for crop production, and dryland farming in which people actively managed rainfall and took advantage of subsurface water. Assuming that Panhandle villagers practiced rain-fed agriculture is, in all likelihood, incorrect. William Doolittle (2000:235) notes:
Quite arguably, certain agricultural practices speculated for the Plains area might not fall under the category of dry farming. A case could be made that agriculture in this region was rain-fed or even flood recessional. Doubtless, many prehistoric fields on the Great Plains were entirely dependent on the rain that fell directly on them, while others may have benefited from floodwaters. However, Wedel in his most recent statement on the matter, made a most illuminating comment. Writing about the headwaters of the Republican River, the area surrounding the point where the states of Nebraska, Kansas, and Colorado meet, he said: Over much of this westerly region, the surfaced flow diminishes sharply or disappears entirely into the deep sandy beds during the heat of mid summer. Here water could often be found by the knowledgeable way-farer with a bit of digging in the sand' (Wedel 1986:32). Given that astute travelers could find such water and that fields are known to have been located in these general areas, it is more than probable that prehistoric farmers on the western Great Plains took advantage of subsurface waters that were protected from evaporation by the overlying sand. In other words, dry farming was in all likelihood practiced there.
Plains Villagers in the Panhandle may have practiced a combination of rain-fed and dryland farming. Certainly rain-fed farming would have been productive in wet years, but dryland farming, with its associated and varied forms of water harvesting, would have made farming much more predictable and productive in dry years. By situating villages and fields in smaller tributary valleys, farmers could have taken advantage of springs, spring-fed streams, and deep water pools in springfed streams. In fact, spring water may have been the critical factor that allowed people to avert the catastrophe of a total crop failure. During droughts, people may have used hand irrigationwatering individual plants by transporting water one pot full at a time (Doolittle 2000:83). Lintz et al. (2002:140-142) also notes that pour-off plunge pools at erosional escarpments were another important setting where water may have been present year round.
Duncan (2002) conducted an excellent "diet breadth and site catchment analysis" of subsistence practices for the Two Sisters site on the Beaver River in the Oklahoma Panhandle. After analyzing the data from the 1972/1973 excavations, Duncan (2002:162) proposes that the site was occupied by an extended family of 12 people between A.D. 1380-1420. She speculates that this family probably farmed about 1.77 acres of prime farmland characterized by Spur soils within 1 km of the site. She calculates the amount of calories that this family of 12 would need to consume in a year, and then concludes that corn farming would have provided only about 6.7 percent of their annual dietary needs. She concludes that maize agriculture was not very important to the overall diet of these people.
Much of Duncan's argument is rather theoretical, and her ultimate conclusion depends on several critical assumptions. The assumptions are that: (1)12 people could provide only enough labor to farm 1.77 acres; (2) the people were doing pure dryland farming with no water management or irrigation involved; (3) the total field productivity was limited to 10 bushels of com per acre of farmed land; and (4) that corn was the primary crop while beans and squash were of little or no importance. All of these assumptions are open to debate, and the conclusions of the study could be radically altered if any one of these assumptions were revised. What if the extended family of 12 could farm three or four acres of land instead of 1.77? What if they used simple water management practices and were able to increase dryland field productivity to 20 bushels per acre instead of 10? While corn is factored in the dietary calculations, what was the overall productivity of beans and squash (note that a cultivated bean was recovered from Two Sisters [see Duncan 2002:284, Table 7.3]), and what did these plants contribute to the people's diet? Obviously, the dietary importance of agricultural products for the people at Two Sisters is subject to different interpretations. Furthermore, extrapolating the results of a single-site dietary study to all of the Antelope Creek phase and other Plains Village peoples in the Texas Panhandle is not warranted without comparative data from a larger sample of sites.
Indirect Evidence: Storage Features and Grinding Tools
Underground pits (including bell-shaped pits, cylindrical pits, and circular rock-lined cists) and small rooms attached to houses, are generally considered to have been storage facilities. Referring to the Panhandle ruins, Floyd Studer (1955:92) observed that corn was important "as evidenced from charred remains of kernels and cobs found in their storage bins and kitchen middens." While it is likely that many of the pit features and small rooms were used for storage of surplus crops, it cannot be assumed that all of them were. At the Two Sisters site, for example, numerous subfloor pits were only found in two of the three small rooms attached to the larger residential structure. The third room had implements on the floor suggesting that it was used as a specialized processing area rather than for storage (Duncan 2002; Lintz 1979). When we find charred corn in storage pits, it is almost always found in pits that were abandoned and filled with trash. In such cases, there is no direct relationship between the archaeological corn and the original use of the pit, and the presence of the corn is incidental. I know of no find in the Panhandle where corn has been found in primary association with a storage pit in such a context to suggest that the corn was actually stored in the pit. This is certainly due to differential preservation because only charred corn gets preserved while remains of unburned plants stored in a pit would deteriorate and disappear quickly. Unfortunately, most of the soils in the Panhandle are not conducive to preservation of pollen or organic residues, and we should begin systematically searching for phytoliths and starch grains. Despite this preservation bias, it is safe to assume that Plains Villagers who grew corn were storing some of it in their storage pits and rooms (Drass 1997:162). The larger question-how much dried corn, beans, and other crops were being stored relative to wild plant foods-is especially difficult to address with archaeological data. Trying to infer crop productivity by quantifying the storage capacity of storage features is also problematic when multiple features are associated with structures. In the Antelope Creek phase for example, two or more storage pits are often associated with isolated houses and multiple small storage rooms are often associated with isolated houses and contiguous-room dwellings (see Lintz 1984; 1986). It is unlikely that all storage features within a village site were used at the same time, especially if the site were occupied for any length of time. For most sites, we must acknowledge the likelihood that storage features were constructed, used, became unusable, and were abandoned at different times. The fact that most storage pits were backfilled with trash indicates intentional abandonment of the pits during the site occupations, most likely because bacteria or rodents ruined the pits. Of the four bell-shaped storage pits at Hank's site (discussed below), for example, two had been abandoned and backfilled with trash while the two with clean fill may have still functioned as storage pits when this portion of the site was finally abandoned. Duncan (2002:116-164) presents a good discussion of the multiple storage pits and storage rooms at the Two Sisters site. The obvious cautionary note for Plains Village archaeology is that the relationships between storage features and agricultural productivity are not easily understood.
There is a great deal of literature regarding the use of grinding implements for processing crops. In particular, recent studies have looked at the relative sizes of manos and melates as indicators of the intensity of farming. Robert Hard and his colleagues (Hard et al. 1996) conducted an interesting cross-cultural comparison looking at maize production among six different prehistoric cultures in the greater Southwest, including the Antelope Creek phase. The data used in this Antelope Creek analysis are summarized in (Table 2). Using mano size data and maize ubiquity to examine the relative importance of agriculture, they concluded that "The Antelope Creek phase data include a mean mano area of 112.3 cm^sup 2^, 21 percent large manos, and 4 percent maize ubiquity. This pattern indicates an adaptation in which maize played a minor role" (Hard et al. 1996:299-300). While the conclusions they reached for some of the other culture areas are more robust, the sample sizes for Antelope Creek are so small that the interpretations are questionable and should not be extrapolated to the rest of the Antelope Creek culture area. The mano data consists of size measurements on only 33 manos from only two sites in the Oklahoma Panhandle (McGrath and Two Sisters). The maize ubiquity data consist of 45 soil samples from a single site-Landergin Mesa-in the Texas Panhandle (Dean 1986; Lintz 1990). These were not standard flotation samples but small pollen samples from which charred plant remains were picked (Dean 1986:22; Lintz personal communication 2005).
Recent archaeological investigations using systematic soil flotation and macrobotanical analyses (all of which were conducted by Phil Dering) have yielded more reliable data on maize ubiquity for the Texas Panhandle. Our excavations in West Pasture have produced interesting results. Charred corn was found in 3 of 14 flotation samples at Hank's site, resulting in a maize ubiquity of 21 percent. At the Hank B locality, 5 of 5 samples from a large pit feature produced charred corn for a maize ubiquity of 100 percent. In 2005, archaeological testing of the Long View site (4IRB112) in Roberts County, located about 12 km (7.5 miles) west of Hank's site, produced similar results. Flotation of sediment from four different features yielded charred corn in 6 of the 7 samples, for a maize ubiquity of 86 percent (Mike Quigg, personal communication 2005). And finally, test excavations at 41PT109, an Antelope Creek phase site in Potter County, were done by archaeologists from Texas State University in 2005 (Bousman and Weinstein 2005:5, 29, 31). They recovered maize in 4 out of 5 samples for a maize ubiquity of 80 percent. Obviously, if the maize ubiquity for any one of these sites were included in the study by Hard et al. (1996), the revised data would dramatically alter their conclusions regarding agricultural intensity. In fact, the average maize ubiquity for all four of these sites, 63 percent, compares well with the maize ubiquity for some of the Southwestern cultures in the study, such as the El Paso phase of the Southern Jornada at 54 percent.
In a similar study using grinding tools as a measure of agricultural dependence, Robinson (2001:53-65) examined 395 ground stone tools and fragments, mostly manos and metates, found at the Landergin Mesa site in Oldham County (western Canadian River valley). From a sample of 146 manos, he determined that the mean mano length is 12.16 cm and the mean mano grinding area is 88.4 cm2. These data led Robinson to conclude that the inhabitants of Landergin Mesa practiced a low level of agriculture, and he supports this interpretation by citing theoretical studies that link grinding area size with volume of foods being ground. Robinson's (2001) conclusions are based in large part on other similar studies such as the one by Hard et al. (1996). However, not all researchers think the correlation between grinding tools and agriculture is so simple. Based on her experimental work, Adams (1999:479) suggests that the grinding areas of manos reflect technological aspects of food preparation and are not an accurate indicator of agricultural dependence. In other words, the grinding tools may have more to do with how they were processing foods than the amount of food they were processing.
There are at least two other important considerations when interpreting the significance of ground stone assemblages and using mano size data as a measure of overall agriculture intensity as was done by Hard et al. (1996) and Robinson (2001). First, the Panhandle villagers could have consumed lots of corn without grinding it at all, in which case they would not have needed large grinding stones. It is possible that instead of grinding their corn into meal or flour, they simply consumed it in other forms, such as boiled, roasted, or popped. second, productivity levels of beans and squash-foods usually processed without grinding and only infrequently burned and added to the archaeological record- are not factored into the equation at all. Great quantities of these foods could have been grown without having any impact on grinding tool assemblages and leaving only minimal macrobotanical evidence. Third, it is possible that Antelope Creek people and other Panhandle villagers used wooden mortars and pestles for grinding their corn, such as was done by the Pawnee (Weltfish 1965:145, 385) and Caddo (Swanton 1942:131). Since many southern Plains Village cultures were influenced by peoples from an eastern Woodland tradition, as demonstrated by the widespread distribution of cordmarked pottery, it is possible that the Plains Villagers in the Panhandle used wooden mortars and pestles along with their stone grinding tools. The idea that grinding tool size equals intensity of crop production is a decidedly Southwestern concept (e.g., Adams 1999; Hard 1990; Morris 1990) that may not be totally applicable to the Texas Panhandle.
M-CROSS RANCH AND THE WEST PASTURE
Compared with the rest of the Texas Panhandle, relatively little archaeological work has been done in the eastern portion of the Canadian River valley. Since 1999, I have been working in collaboration with Brett Cruse, Charles Frederick, Doug Wilkens, and John Erickson on an archaeological research project on the M-Cross Ranch in Roberts County. We have conducted a series of archaeological investigations at four Plains Village sites along a 2.4 km (1.5 mi) stretch of a tributary canyon called the West Pasture (Figure 4). A number of field investigations have already been completed, and analyses are in progress. More investigations are being planned.
Preliminary studies suggest that these sites may represent yet another regional cultural variant in the Texas Panhandle. We are not yet ready to formally define these as a "West Pasture complex," and we prefer to informally call them the "West Pasture sites" at this time. More than half a century ago, Alex Kreiger (1946:74) noted that sites in Wolf Creek valley (i.e., Buried City) and along the North Canadian River in the Oklahoma Panhandle were different from those of the core area of Antelope Creek. Perhaps we will eventually gather enough archaeological data to determine if a new cultural name is warranted for the eastern Panhandle Canadian River valley, but none is suggested at this time (Erickson 2004).
Although we have done only limited investigations so far, we have already found charred corn in all four of the village sites that have been tested. Our work in the West Pasture has led us to wonder just how important maize agriculture was to these Plains Villagers. This is one of the focuses of our research in this ongoing project.
The West Pasture canyon is one of many formed by dendritic tributaries all along the north side of the Canadian River. In this canyon, multiple streams head at the caprock escarpment of the High Plains and then converge into one main but unnamed stream. The total distance is about 12.5 km (7.8 miles) from its head to its confluence. The area we call the West Pasture is a section of the main canyon located between 3.2 and 6.4 km (2 and 4 miles) upstream from the stream's confluence with the river.
WEST PASTURE ARCHAEOLOGY AND EVIDENCE FOR AGRICULTURE
In the 1990s, Doug Wilkens, a regional archaeological steward with the Texas Historical Commission, started working with landowner John Erickson to record archaeological sites on the M-Cross Ranch. I first visited sites there with Wilkens and Erickson in 1999. From this humble beginning, the work has evolved into a much larger ongoing project involving intensive survey, archaeological testing, limited salvage excavations, and geomorphic studies. Four large prehistoric sites have been found in the West Pasture (Figure 5). From north to south in the canyon, these locations are called Indian Springs (41RB81), Hank's site (4IRB109), Whistling Squaw (41RB108), and Three Toes (41RB110). Buried structures and other features associated with Plains Village occupations have been found at all four sites. At least two of these sites, Hank's and Whistling Squaw, appear to represent fairly large villages composed of numerous houses and features from the Plains Village period. Table 3 presents a summary of Plains Village houses and features that have been investigated at the West Pasture, along with associated radiocarbon dates. Analyses of the excavation data from these four sites are underway, but the following discussion provides a brief summary of the Plains Village occupations at each site.
Indian Springs (41RB81) is a prominent fresh water spring fed by the Ogallala Aquifer. The springs emerge from a deeply incised cut tucked up against the edge of the High Plains capped by Ogallala caliche. A dense cover of unusually large juniper trees surrounds the springs. Limited testing and surface collections on the east side of the springs reveal cultural deposits of Late Archaic, Plains Woodland, and Plains Village age. Most of our archaeological work has been done on the west side of the springs where thick midden deposits appear to represent Plains Woodland to Plains Village occupations.
Four separate structures have been investigated in the western portion of the site. Structure 1 is a very large rectangular structure denoted by alignments of large rocks. The large structure measures approximately 10.5 x 8.2 m (34.5 x 26.9 ft). Extensive testing has been done, but no radio-carbon samples have been analyzed. The age of this big house is not known, but it may be a Plains Village dwelling. Structures 2 and 3 are both small circular rock alignments measuring about 4 m in diameter. Each has a small, unlined basin hearth in its center, and dated charcoal samples indicate that Structure 2 was occupied at the terminal end of Plains Village times (A.D. 1400-1460). Structure 3 was contemporaneous or perhaps a little later (A.D. 1460-1660). Although these structures resemble the Type 3 houses defined for Antelope Creek by Lintz (1986:Figure 14), they are surface houses rather than pithouses. It is presumed that the rocks were used as weights around the edge of some type of brush or hide hut.
Structure 4 is the only one at Indian Springs that falls squarely in the Plains Village period. Located on a caliche knoll at the southwest end of the site, Structure 4 was discovered accidentally. Investigation of this area began because human finger bones were found near some clusters of caliche rocks. Excavations in this area then uncovered a 2 m diameter circular depression with some burned patches on the floor (Figure 6). This feature appears to be a small house of some kind, and charred corn was recovered from a small central hearth (although the macrobotanical studies are not yet completed). Two charcoal radiocarbon dates place the age of this structure at A.D. 1280 to 1410. A mound of clay found inside the depression indicates that this was probably a small earth-covered lodge with a west-facing entryway. We do not know the function of this structure, but its small size and proximity to a series of small rock cairns suggest it may have had a ceremonial function or it may simply be a residential structure like the small circular houses found at the Odessa Yates and Buried City sites (Brosowske 2005a: 143-144).
Hank's Site and Hank B Locality
Hank's site (41RB109) is on the first terrace down on the valley floor. We have excavated one rectangular pithouse and several nearby storage pits, dug a pit feature at the Hank B locality nearby, and observed evidence of buried cultural materials along the road cut in the south end of the site. Between one and four meters of sand dunes cover most of this site, and we suspect that there are many pithouses buried in this large Plains Village site.
Our excavations exposed exactly half of a Plains Village pithouse (Figure 7) that had no rocks used in its construction (Boyd 2001, 2004; Erickson 2004). One half of the house had been destroyed by stream erosion, but the remaining portion was excavated. Because the house had burned, its architectural features were beautifully preserved. Large amounts of burned daub, juniper, elm, and cottonwood branches, and yellow Indian grass, were found on the floor. The vertical wall posts and plaster and two of the four main roof support posts were well preserved; all of the structural posts were juniper. With its interior depressed channel and central hearth, this house closely resembles the classic Type 1 Antelope Creek houses defined by Lintz (1986:Figure 12) but without the vertical foundation rocks. The complete structure measured 6.0 x 5.6 m, with an approximate floor area of 33.6 m^sup 2^. Architecturally, Hank's House is most similar to the burned house found at the Jack Alien site (Lintz 1986:Figure 63). We recovered charred corn from the central fire pit in Hank's House and from two different trash-filled, bell-shaped storage pits outside the house.
In the outside work area in front of Hank's House, we found an unusual cache of grinding tools clustered in a small pit (Figure 8). The tools are five manos of different sizes, a small metate, and a pestle. This diverse group of tools may indicate a variety of specialized grinding tasks that likely included processing a broad range of wild plants and cultivated crops, although these implements may have been used in non-subsistence activities too. In his study of grinding tools from Landergin Mesa, Robinson (2001) notes the broad diversity of grinding surface areas in the mano assemblage and suggests the mesa inhabitants employed a broad diversity of subsistence strategies.
In our hypothesized reconstruction (Figure 9), Hank's House was probably an earthlodge and had the appearance of a low earth mound (as opposed to a house with a steep-pitched thatch roof)- It is likely that this dwelling was constructed in the same general manner as the larger circular earthlodges of the Pawnee and Hidatsa (Weltfish 1965 :Figure 8-1; Wilson 1934) but was set deeper into the ground. Hank's House was probably very similar to the rectangular houses of the Central Plains tradition, which are commonly considered to be remains of earthlodges (e.g., Blakeslee 2005; Blakeslee and Caldwell 1979:36-39; Roper and Pauls 2005; Steinacher and Carlson 1998:241, 249, 252-253; Wedel 1986:104-105). We obtained two very reliable radiocarbon dates on charred corn from the floor of the house and on the outer rings of the large juniper roof support post. They provide an age estimate of A.D. 1276 to 1391 for the construction and occupation of the house.
About 100 m east of Hank's House, John Erickson found another cultural midden-like deposit in the creek cutbank. We designated this location as Hank B, and at first thought it might be remains of another burned house. Excavation exposed one-half of a shallow, bowl-shaped pit that was filled with trash (Figure 10). There was no evidence of in situ burning, and the pit measured 1.7 m in diameter. We suspect this feature may be a borrow pit that was originally dug to obtain clayey soil for building or repairing houses, such as a possible "adobe mortar-mixing basin" found at the Stamper site, an Antelope Creek phase occupation in the Oklahoma Panhandle (Lintz 2003:27). A radiocarbon date on charred wood from this pit places its age at about A.D. 1250 to 1300. We recovered 239 tiny fragments of charred corn cupules and kernels from this pit; this is the most corn found so far at any West Pasture location.
Whistling Squaw Site
The Whistling Squaw site (4IRB108) is on a large alluvial fan on the east side of the canyon, and it overlooks the creek valley. Investigations consist of limited testing of two structure areas and a rock cairn, but there is surficial evidence suggesting that this is a large site with numerous buried houses.
A single test unit was dug in one possible Plains Village house or midden area, and associated charcoal yielded a radiocarbon date of A.D. 1320-1460. No further work has been done at this location. A prominent rock caim is present on this site, and a shallow test excavation was done to expose the rocks. This work recovered part of a large cordmarked pot with unusual incised chevron design on its shoulder. We suspect that this cairn might be a burial area and the pottery could be a grave offering.
The most extensive investigation at the Whistling Squaw site is limited testing of another pithouse perched on the highest knoll. A line of test units across the front portion of this structure revealed that it is another rectangular, Type 1 (Lintz 1986:Figure 12) pithouse with vertical post walls. This house also burned and appears to be architecturally very similar to Hank's House described above. A massive amount of burned daub was found on the floor, and many large pieces had intricate branch, stick, and grass impressions (Figure 11). Many of the daub pieces were 7.6 to 12.7 cm (3 to 5 in) thick and all were found with the impressions lying face down, indicating that a thick layer of clayey sediment was on top of the frame superstructure. We interpret this as evidence that this prehistoric house was a Plains-style earthlodge as defined by Roper and Pauls (2005:27). The charred remains recovered from flotation have not yet been analyzed, but charred corn is present in the samples from this house (Phil Dering, personal communication 2005). So far, all of the excavation data and surface artifacts from Whistling Squaw appear to represent a Plains Village occupation, but no organic samples have been dated yet to confirm this. Based on the surface evidence, we suspect that there are many houses buried at this site.
Three Toes Site
The Three Toes site (41RB110) is on the west side and across the creek from Whistling Squaw. It is situated on three projecting toes of a low erosional remnant ridge. At this site, we have tested another pithouse perched on top of the distal end of one toe. This house has not yet been dated, but the artifacts indicate it is a Plains Village house. Like the pithouses at Hank's site and Whistling Squaw, this one is rectangular with vertical post walls, but no evidence of burning was observed.
We also tested a dark stain located in the ranch road about 10 m west of the house. It turned out to be a cylindrical pit with straight sides and a flat bottom. Its shape is unusual compared with the classic bell-shaped pits, but it appears to be a large storage pit that was abandoned and filled in with cultural trash, wind-blown sand, and collapsed wall sediment. We recovered one charred com cupule from a small sample of cultural fill in the bottom of this pit. Although this feature has not been dated yet, we suspect that it is associated with Plains Village occupations.
Figure 12 shows the view looking northward from the buried pithouse at the Three Toes sites. Below the three projecting ridge toes is the alluvial terrace surface carpeted in lush grass in the spring of 2004. The grass was especially tall in the low-lying areas where most of the rainwater coming off the alluvial fan collects. We believe that these natural wet areas are places where the Plains Villagers planted their corn and other crops.
SPECULATION ON PREHISTORIC AGRICULTURAL PRACTICES IN WEST PASTURE AND BEYOND
Our work in West Pasture has been exciting and productive, but like most archaeological investigations it often raises more questions than it answers. It led us to the inevitable questions-How and where did the Plains Villagers farm? With the help of Charles Frederick, we have initiated a geoarchaeological study to look for evidence to answer these questions. We have begun looking at the landscape to try to understand the Plains Village settlement pattern within this short stretch of canyon. Our goals are to predict where the agricultural fields may have been and what water management practices might have been employed, and then to systematically search for physical evidence of fields and agricultural features.
Many of the speculative ideas on prehistoric agriculture in this paper were gleaned from two sources. One is WH. Wills' (1988) book entitled Early Prehistoric Agriculture in the American Southwest. The other is William Doolittle's (2000) book Cultivated Landscapes of Native North America. Both provide useful insights into simple farming technologies. The latter is particularly useful because Doolittle synthesizes large bodies of ethnographic and archaeological data and examines different agricultural practices of native peoples across North America. CuItivated Landscapes also has excellent discussions of the many problems inherent in recognizing agriculture in the archaeological record.
Charles Frederick has examined cutbank exposures in the West Pasture valley and used a backhoe to expose and sample deep deposits in some areas. Based on the examination of numerous locations, he has developed a landform model that maps out the distribution and relationships of the colluvial fans and alluvial terraces in the lower elevations of the canyon (Figure 13). Between the active flood plain and the colluvial slopes, are three different alluvial terrace surfaces, and we are trying to establish the ages and relationships of these landforms. In addition, there are two large areas where eolian dunes are present and obscure the underlying terraces. Most of this accumulation post-dates the Plains Village period, although it is possible that the eolian deposition began in late Plains Village times. The relationships between the dune formations in West Pasture and the dunes present in the main Canadian River valley are not yet understood.
A closer look at the locations of Plains Village houses relative to the geomorphic landforms observed in the West Pasture valley shows that three of the sites occur on higher landforms-colluvial slopes and erosional remnant ridges-that are well above and overlook the terraces. In contrast, Hank's site is situated on the first terrace down in the broad alluvial valley bottom. This complex valley offered a wide variety of settings where people could have planted crops and utilized a range of different farming techniques and water management practices. It is important to remember that before modern agricultural pumping and overuse of the Ogallala aquifer in the twentieth century, Indian Springs and other springs in the West Pasture valley would probably have kept water in the streams year round. We also should consider the possibility that some terrace areas were sub-irrigated by seep springs flowing out underneath colluvial fans. seep springs are present in the deeply entrenched gully just north of Whistling Squaw site, and springs there might have emerged onto or underneath the adjacent alluvial terrace before the gully became deeply incised.
The four Plains Village sites in the West Pasture are located on or around the various alluvial terraces where crops could be raised, and the total area of farmable land is more than 60.7 hectares ( 150 acres) excluding all areas on the colluvial slopes or valley walls. All of these alluvial terraces are characterized by loam or sandy loam soils.
Some archaeologists suggest a correlation between the locations of some Plains Village sites and the region's best agricultural soils as identified by modern soil surveys for the Texas and Oklahoma Panhandles (e.g., Bernent and Brosowske 2001). Brosowske (2005b) and Wilkens (2005) have observed that patches of Spur and Guadalupe soils are located near the Archie King Ruins in Roberts County only 16 km (10 miles) west of the M-Cross Ranch. Brosowske (2005a:149-150; 2281-283) also notes that Odessa complex sites are usually located near Spur and Canadian Series soils, which are the highest ranked crop production soils according to modern soil surveys. Duncan (2002:293-297, Figure 7.1) observes that the Two Sisters site is also within 5 km of a large patch of Spur soils.
The correlation between high-ranked crop soils and Plains Village site locations is an intriguing hypothesis. It may work well for some areas, but it does not apply to the West Pasture valley because there are none of the "good agricultural" soils (e.g., Canadian, Guadalupe or Spur) within the valley. In West Pasture, the primary alluvial soils where farming almost certainly occurred are the Likes and Mobeetie soils, and the modern Soil Survey of Roberts County (Wyrick 1981:20,25) states that these soils are "not suited to cultivation." It is really a matter of scale in farming technologies. This view is biased because modern farmers are looking for some characteristics that were not important to prehistoric farmers. Likes and Mobeetie soils, for example, only occur in tributary canyons in patches that are generally too small and inaccessible for mechanized farming. However, when one compares the "rangeland productivity" data2 from the modern Roberts County soil survey (Wyrick 1981) as an indicator of potential agricultural productivity (Table 4), it is clear that the Likes and Mobeetie soils are almost as productive as Spur and Guadalupe soils and would have been excellent farmland. Perhaps more significant, Likes and Mobeetie soils are far more abundant throughout the small tributary canyons along the Canadian River in the eastern Panhandle.
The correlation between high-ranked crop soils and Plains Village site locations also does not work for the Antelope Creek phase. In his Antelope Creek settlement pattern study, Lintz (1986:194-215; Tables 40, 42, 43, 46 and 47) discussed the spatial relationships between site locations and the distribution of soil types. He used the rangeland productivity scores from county soil surveys as "a measure of soil fertility" to compare site locations, topographic settings, and soil types (Lintz 1986:206, Tables 46 and 47). His data demonstrate that Antelope Creek sites-classified as hamlets, homesteads, and subhomesteads- occur in a wide variety of topographic settings and are commonly associated with loam (59.6 percent of sites) and sandy or gravelly loam soils (28.9 percent of sites). Furthermore, a broad range of different soils is present on and around these sites, including Likes and Mobeetie soils. In short, there does not seem to be any strong correlation between site locations and any particular soil or groups of soils. An examination of Lintz's (1986:Table 47) table of "Soil Types Within 1 Kilometer Site Catchments" is informative. Each of the 23 Antelope Creek sites in the sample has between 30 and 77 percent of the surrounding land (i.e., within a 0.5 km radius) comprised of soil types with moderate to high rangeland productivity (productivity values range from 1850 to 2600). Thus, it is likely that the Panhandle villagers grew crops on a broad range of different soil types in different topographic settings. Consequently, archaeologists should not assume that the locations of prehistoric farming communities will be strongly correlated with the best soil in the Texas Panhandle. The prehistoric Plains Villagers' views of what constituted good farmland were probably very different from those of modem farmers.
Based on Frederick's geomorphic model for the West Pasture (see Figure 13) and observations of differential vegetation growth following spring rains, it appears that some terraces contain an abundance of low-lying wet spots that collect more rainfall runoff than most other areas and have high moisture retention. These natural wet spots are microenvironments that support relatively lush grasses compared to adjacent areas, and they would have been ideal locations for dryland corn farming (Figure 14). The terraces shown here account for about 28.3 hectares (70 acres) of prime farmland near the village sites. Most of the wet spots are found at the point where colluvial fans coming off the valley wall intersect with the terrace. We have not yet mapped out all of the natural wet spots in West Pasture, but individual areas cover as much as 2.0 to 6.1 hectares (5 to 15 acres). We strongly suspect there is a close correlation between these wet spots and the locations of Plains Village agricultural fields and nearby pithouses. If this is true, it is likely that the prehistoric farmers tried to channel rainfall runoff from the slopes into these low areas and perhaps used simple water diversion structures such as soil berms or rock alignments running diagonal to the slope (Chris Lintz, personal communication 2005).
In his study of Antelope Creek settlement patterns, Lintz (1986: 214) noted that "Most large hamlet sites occur 2.9 to 4.5 km from the Canadian River...in close proximity to Ogallala aquifer seeps and springs." He also observed that "the rangeland productivity near these sites is typically high and soils show a medium range of diversity" (Lintz 1986:214). These areas had plenty of timber for building houses and were very close to the High Plains grasslands for hunting bison and antelope. This description fits the setting of the West Pasture quite well. Located near the head of a small tributary canyon, West Pasture was indeed an ideal spot for prehistoric farmers (Figure 15). The importance of the fresh water springs there should not be underestimated, and the diversion of rainfall slope runoff would have been important as well.
Let us now return to our original questions posed at the beginning of this study. "Were the Plains Villagers of the Texas Panhandle bison-hunting farmers who practiced intensive agriculture...or, were they bisonhunting foragers who only dabbled in agriculture to supplement their foraging economy?" The most direct answer to both questions is-we simply do not know. There is not sufficient evidence to answer these questions with any degree of confidence. The questions are, nonetheless, important ones that should not be avoided. We must be cautious to avoid letting preconceived ideas about minimal importance of agriculture hinder our research.
It is likely that the prehistoric Plains Villagers farmed in a variety of different field locations and employed a variety of different farming techniques. This statement definitely applies to the West Pasture sites, and probably to any cluster of Plains Village sites found anywhere in the Panhandle region. Within tributary valleys like the West Pasture, one likely scenario is that the primary field locations were low-lying areas with sandy or loamy soils that have naturally high moisture accumulation and retention. We suspect that West Pasture folks were practicing dry farming, defined by William Doolittle (2000:219-222) as "any form of cultivation practiced in dry lands and involving any number of soil moisture retention techniques." We believe it is likely that West Pasture farmers used some simple forms of water management to channel rainfall to enhance natural wet spots or create artificial microenvironments with enhanced moisture retention. Table 5 summarizes some of the possible farming techniques that might have been used by prehistoric Panhandle farmers. Many of the techniques listed in the table would leave little or no archaeological evidence that might be detectable after 500 to 800 years.
CONCLUDING THOUGHTS ON PREHISTORIC PANHANDLE AGRICULTURE
I believe that the Plains Village farmers may have planted several different crops (minimally corns, beans, squash, but probably others too) and different varieties of each crop in different types of fields and gardens in different settings across the landscape. I believe they may have employed a wide range of different water management techniques in different settings. Why would they do this? The answer is that farmers used spatial and technological diversity to increase the likelihood that more of their crops would survive regardless of the specific climatic conditions during any given year. It was, quite simply, a logical buffer against the risks inherent in dryland farming, and it took advantage of the natural adaptability of maize.
I also believe that the Plains Village farmers were probably very knowledgeable about the crops they were growing, the landscape and soils they were farming, and various methods necessary to control rainfall runoff and maximize available moisture. This type of intimate knowledge is well documented among farming cultures around the world and especially in arid regions such as the American Southwest (e.g., Doolittle 1985, 2000; Gasser et al. 1990; Lightfoot 1997; Pawluk et al. 1992; Sandor et al. 1986). Such intimate knowledge was crucial to their survival, just as having intimate knowledge of bison behavior would have been.
Much of the ethnographic literature on simple farming cultures supports the ideas proposed above. The Pawnee, for example, raised 10 strains of corn, seven types of squash and pumpkins, and eight varieties of beans (Weltfish 1965:119-123). Papago farmers "developed a keen awareness of the subtleties of the land and how water tends to move across the landscape" (Gasser et al. 1990:4.3). They also had many different terms for different types of soils and favored certain soils in specific locations for specific crops (Gasser et al. 1990:4.4). It seems unlikely that Plains Village peoples in the Texas Panhandle would have been hunter-foragers who simply dabbled at farming. Crop raising, especially corn farming, requires a commitment of time and energy that tethered people to their village farms for much of the year (Wills 1988:39-40). Successful farming in arid lands requires an intimate knowledge of the environment and farming techniques. In all likelihood, "aboriginal farmers had a keen perception of the biophysical environment and all its nuances and subtleties" (Doolittle 2000:252).
No one has yet attempted to do a comprehensive landscape study involving an intensive, systematic search for the prehistoric agricultural fields and farming features at a Plains Village locality in the Texas Panhandle. This is an ambitious task, and we hope that our work in the West Pasture is a step in the right direction. Our ultimate goal is to gain a better understanding of the role of cultivated crops among Panhandle villagers and the farming methods that these villagers employed.
There are a few main rules that we are trying to follow as we seek to understand prehistoric agriculture in West Pasture. First, we must keep an open mind when it comes to how we interpret standard archaeological data (i.e., features and artifacts). second, we must use systematic and extensive sediment sampling and flotation recovery in all site excavations to increase our recovery of interpretable botanical data. Third, we must approach the investigation of Plains Village sites from a broader landscape-oriented perspective and search specifically for fields and agricultural features between the house ruins and well beyond the habitation areas. Fourth, we must keep an open mind regarding the importance of agriculture, how farming may have been practiced, and the types of fields and water control features that might be present. Fifth and finally, we must employ a range of different discovery and analytical techniques when trying to locate, recognize, and interpret archaeological evidence for agriculture. We currently are attempting remote sensing analysis of possible field locations near the Three Toes site.
The agricultural landscape studies that need to be done in West Pasture and elsewhere in the southern Plains will not be easy and are likely to be frustrating in many respects. The evidence we seek will be subtle and elusive or may not exist at all. As William Doolittle (2000:235) states:
.. .one of the greatest problems for understanding dry farming prehistorically is the paucity (in fact, in most cases, the lack) of evidence which survives to the present day. Cultivation of sandy areas that retain soil moisture, and farming in locales that benefit from either seepage or water not too far below the surface do not often require landscape modifications that are detectable in the archaeological record. In some cases they do, but typically they do not, and this has led to more speculation than proof.
First, thanks go to Phil Dcring and Dawn Youngblood for inviting me to participate in their symposium at the Society for Economic Botany meeting in July 2005. second, thanks go to John and Kris Erickson of the M-Cross Ranch for their support of the archaeological research on their land. John has not only been an active participant in this research, he also is the ringleader and chief instigator of the West Pasture investigations. Third, thanks go to my co-conspirators in the West Pasture adventures. Doug Wilkens, Brett Cruse, and Danny Witt have organized and directed many of the archaeological investigations, and Charles Frederick has taken on the task of defining the geomorphology of the West Pasture canyon. Fourth, thanks go to the many people who have volunteered their time and energy to help with the archaeological investigations of the West Pasture sites. Untold hours of labor have gone into the work at these sites by many volunteers, especially Lance Brussard, Mike Gilger, Doug McGarraugh, Raymond McGarraugh, Teddy Stickney, and Regge Wiseman. Finally, I would like to thank a host of characters (Steve Black, Scott Brosowskc, Cruse, Richard Drass, Erickson, Frederick, David Hughes, Jeff Indcck, Chris Lintz, Alvin Lynn, Mike Quigg, Rolla Shaller, Wilkens, Wiseman, and Witt) for sharing their knowledge with me over the years and for the many wonderful discussions of Plains Village life.
Erickson, Wilkens, Lintz, and Drass all reviewed earlier versions of this paper, and their input is greatly appreciated as were the review comments from an anonymous reviewer. Sandy Hannum and Brian Wootan produced the figures. Boyd, Cruse, and Hannum took the photographs.
1. It is unfortunate that more bone isotope data are not available. At least 178 burials that reportedly belong to the Antelope Creek phase (n= 129) or Buried City complex (N=49) have been found (Summers 1997:73,76). The study by Habicht-Mauche et al. (1994) provides the only isotope data currently available for the Plains Village period in the Texas Panhandle.
2. Rangeland productivity, or potential production, is defined as "the amount of vegetation that can be expected to grow annually on well managed rangeland that is supporting the potential natural plant community" (Wyrick 1981:46). Brosowske (2005a:149) suggests that the "rangeland productivity" ratings in modern soil surveys are not a useful indicator of soil suitability for corn farming. I disagree and believe that range productivity is a fairly reliable indicator for comparing land suitability for prehistoric farming. It is notable that some of the best agricultural soils in the county, like Spur and Guadalupc soils, have the highest range productivity ratings.
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