By Ann Friou
University News Service
November 3, 2009
Michael Collins, archaeologist and director of the world-renowned Gault archaeological site in Central Texas, has joined the faculty of the Department of Anthropology at Texas State University-San Marcos.
Collins, who will hold the post of research professor, will continue his research on the Gault site through Texas State.
The Gault site is the world’s largest Clovis period excavation, and Collins has been conducting work there since 1998. It is estimated that more than 60 percent of known Clovis artifacts have come from the Gault site, which covers an area the size of four football fields near Florence. Until recently, Clovis technology was believed to represent the Americas’ earliest human inhabitants, having arrived in the hemisphere from Asia by walking across the Bering Land Bridge between 11,000--8,000 B.C.
However, recent discoveries at Gault and elsewhere, of stone artifacts predating Clovis, have convinced most archaeologists that a culture existed in the Americas at least 500 to 1,000 years before Clovis, possibly arriving by boat and on foot.
Collins has received a $214,000, two-year grant from the National Science Foundation to continue his pre-Clovis excavations, which will involve Texas State anthropology students and archaeologists from around the world.
“If we find what we think we’re going to find, it will change American archaeology. We may start talking about the Florence Culture or the Gault Culture coming before Clovis,” said Clark Wernecke, executive director of the Gault School of Archaeological Research, an educational outreach program begun by Collins to further understanding of the Gault project’s significance. The Gault School offers public workshops and volunteer opportunities involving participants in excavations and lab work.
The Gault project’s Clovis-era discoveries have changed archaeologists’ ideas about Clovis culture, as well. Whereas the people utilizing Clovis technology have been thought to be nomadic mammoth hunters, excavations at Gault show that they were established as hunters and gatherers, like the cultures that spread across the continent a few thousand years later.
“This is a whole new way of thinking about what is still recognized as America’s earliest culture,” Wernecke said.
Jon McGee, chair of the Department of Anthropology, said the Gault research complements the research interests of the Anthropology Department faculty and the department’s Center for Archaeological Studies.
“The work will draw national and international scholarly attention to Texas State and bring outside scholars to campus,” McGee said. “Undergraduate and graduate students will be able to participate in field research at the Gault site, gaining valuable hands-on training and experience. Students will also be able to take part in laboratory research, including M.A. thesis projects.”
“Texas State is creating a vital center of research and education in Texas archaeology.” said Collins. “I am really excited to become a small part of that development.”