SAN MARCOS, TEXAS — The drought might seem unbearable now, but a Texas State professor is digging up dirt on how bad it could really get.
Dr. Britt Bousman, archeology professor, is leading a student team in an archeological dig at the Aquarena Center. Bousman hopes to find out more about ancient drought patterns in this area.
“We are trying to reconstruct the ecology and get environmental information,” said Bousman.
Currently the team is excavating the “Calf Creek” era, which dates to about 6,000 years ago. Bousman believes that this is one of the more interesting times in this region because it is between two extreme periods of drought.
About 7,000 years ago, there was a drought that didn’t allow for a lot of human or animal life. Then, around 6,000 years ago, water started to return to central Texas. The brief wet interval — Calf Creek — brought bison and people south from the Oklahoma region to this area. The climate at that time was similar to our current conditions. Another extreme drought followed around 5,000 years ago.
According to Bousman, these droughts surpassed anything the present population could imagine.
“Our society couldn’t deal with those conditions,” said Bousman. “People thought Katrina was bad and that was just a little storm that took out one city. This would effect an entire region.”
While investigating layers of soil, Bousman’s students have uncovered several flint points that were used for hunting. From points and where they were located, Bousman can figure things like what, how and when people hunted. That, along with other information, can lead to conclusions on climate.
“The points are the most distinct indication we have,” said Bousman. “The style tells us the most about what’s going on.”
For example, Bousman concluded that a small, light point that his team uncovered was used for a dart that was probably used to hunt fish or turtles in the San Marcos River during Calf Creek.
“We are trying to reconstruct the occupational history of Aquarena,” said Bousman.
Also, the lack of points or human evidence, like other tools or charcoal, would indicate that the climate wasn’t fit for humans, like the drought periods.
Areas like Bastrop, for instance, were completely abandoned for most of those stretches because there was not a water source.
“At 5,000 years ago, this area looked more like San Angelo, or even Arizona,” said Bousman.
Bousman expects that a drought of those proportions will happen again, but there’s no way of telling when.
Students also uncovered bone tools that would have been used for needles or basket weaving, and a tooth from what Bousman believes to be an early domesticated dog.
The complete findings of the dig will be displayed as part of a study on the San Marcos area at the Texas River Center.