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Old dig to be reopened

City agrees to pay for further excavation along Wonder World Drive estension route

By Brad Rollins
San Marcos Daily Record Staff Reporter
June 6, 2007


San Marcos — The Wonder World Drive extension will pass directly through the remnants of a 2,000-year-old Native American settlement that a Texas State University report describes as “one of the best preserved and more fully excavated Archaic sites in Texas.”

On Tuesday, the city council voted unanimously to pay the university up to $415,650 to complete an archeological study of the area and save what artifacts it can before what remains of the site is destroyed by bulldozers and excavators. Work is scheduled to start early next year on the three-mile road, which will connect Hunter Road with Ranch Road 12.


Though not nearly as old as the Clovis-era tribes that lived seasonally around what is now Spring Lake — making it possibly one of the oldest continually inhabited sites in North America — the Wonder World location is further evidence of San Marcos’ place as a cradle of early Native American culture. Archeologists consider the Archiac period to have started about 8,800 B.C. and ran through the 13th Century.

Partially excavated in the 1980s, according to report by the university’s Center for Archeological Studies, the one and one-quarter acre site included the remains of a habitation structure, stone ovens, a weapons manufacturing area and possible storage pits. Referred to as the Zatopec Site, the location “possesses the greatest unrealized potential for providing unique information about this period,” the report states.

Even so, city staff told council members that the settlement will not slow down construction of the extension unless researchers find evidence that the site was used for burial.

“Not unless we find a body,” said Sabas Avila, the assistant engineering and environment department director. “We do not anticipate that this site was used as a burial ground but there is always that small possibility when you are dealing with any type of Native American areas.”

More than 140,000 artifacts were removed between 1983 and 1986 under the direction of professor James Garber, but the report says he “did not fully analyze the materials he recovered and the site remained incompletely studied and documented.” Completed in 1989, construction of the spillway for emergency flood control dam No. 5 disturbed the western part of the site, the reports states, but spot tests by a city contractor in 2002 found “discrete areas with intact archaeological deposits.”

In addition to excavating the habitation structure, the study will include the archaeological survey of the proposed location for a water detention pond near the junction of the Wonder World Dr. extension and Hunter Road; monitoring drilling for bridge concrete supports; analysis of previously excavated artifacts, features, fauna, and other associated materials, to be undertaken concurrently with the fieldwork.

Meanwhile, city staff continues to acquire right-of-way for the road. On Tuesday, the city council unanimously authorized condemnation proceedings for a 12.68 acre tract owned by Marion H. and Florri Wills. They postponed paying $323,643 to Satterwhite Ranch LLC for three tracts totaling 26.97 acres.

If that purchase goes through at the next meeting, the city will have bought seven of 14 tracts it needs for the roads. It has spent $2.75 million of $11 million budgeted for right-of-way acquisition.