Office of Historic Preservation
Phone: (210) 215-9274
The archaeological record in Bexar County dates back at least 11,200 years. The first occupations occurred in the Paleo-Indian period during the last part of the Pleistocene, indicated by the occurrence of scattered Clovis and Folsom spear points. Groups were likely small and highly mobile. Clovis peoples (9200 B.C.) hunted Ice Age mammals, such as mammoth, and the later Folsom bands (8800 B.C.) pursued large, extinct species of bison (buffalo). Among the important Late Paleo-Indian sites in Bexar County are Pavo Real, St. Mary’s Hall, the Richard Beene site, and the Chandler Site, recently excavated by the Southern Texas Archaeological Association (STAA) in cooperation with the City of San Antonio and private developers. As modern environments began to emerge around 10,000 years ago, Paleo-Indian peoples were more numerous, and there is widespread evidence of occupation throughout the region.
The hunting and gathering patterns of this early timeframe, involving modern species of animals and plants, began to be intensified by 8,000 B.C., leading to the development of Archaic cultures. This way of life lasted for thousands of years, reflected by regional specialization and locally distinctive types of projectile points, scrapers, and other stone tools. Important Archaic sites include those along Panther Springs Creek within the Walker Ranch National Register District, Medina River sites, and the Culebra Creek sites. It was not until about 500 A.D. that changes in this long-lived tradition began to emerge.
The introduction of the bow and arrow marked the beginning of the Late Prehistoric period. For over 10,000 years, the ancient hunters had used the spear and spear-thrower as their main weapon, and this began to be replaced by the bow and arrow around 2000 years ago. The most distinctive archaeological indicator is the presence of tiny arrow points, and later, around A.D. 1300, the intensified hunting of buffalo. The material culture from this era is notable for the presence of pottery and other distinctive artifacts. With the arrival of the Spanish in the region in the late 17th century, the native peoples of the Historic period began to go into the missions. The raids of invading Lipan Apache bands spurred this transition. Those Native Americans who went into the missions were joined by groups from south Texas and northeast Mexico. These groups continued their distinctive bone-tempered pottery, along with stone-tool making, throughout the Spanish colonial period.
San Antonio is best known for the four 18th century Spanish missions that are now part of the San Antonio Missions National Historical Park and a fifth mission, San Antonio de Valero, or the Alamo. The missions, and features linked to the missions (such as acequias, gristmills, and dams), have received a great deal of archaeological attention. The Spanish presidio, Presidio de Bejar begun in 1722 and located in what is now downtown San Antonio, was recently excavated by the University of Texas at San Antonio. Archaeological investigations in Bexar County include those at site 41BX274, the Perez Rancho one of the few privately owned Spanish Colonial ranches documented in the region.
The expansion of 19th century San Antonio saw the rise of neighborhoods around the missions and adjacent to the San Antonio river corridor. Eventually, the construction of railroads, industrial areas, and other facets of urban growth occurred. Urban archaeological sites have been documented for the construction of major public projects such as Rivercenter Mall, the Alamodome, and the new Hyatt Regency Convention Center Hotel.
A total of over 1600 archaeological sites have been recorded in San Antonio and Bexar County. The Office of Historic Preservation (OHP) is actively involved in the discovery, documentation, and preservation of these significant cultural resources. Archaeological sites are protected under the City of San Antonio Unified Development Code (UDC). The UDC has one of the strongest preservation ordinances in the country for the protection of cultural resources including protection measures for archaeological sites.
Cultural Resource Compliance - Training provided to Office of Historic Preservation and other City staff from PBS&J (now known as Atkins Group)
Dr. Harry Shafer Receives Lifetime Achievement Award from TAS
Dr. Harry Shafer, Retired Professor Emeritus from Texas A&M University and Historic Design and Review (HDRC) Commissioner for Council District 2 was honored on Saturday Oct. 27, 2012, with the Texas Archeological Society’s (TAS) Lifetime Achievement Award. The award was presented at the TAS Annual Meeting held in Tyler, Texas on Oct. 25-28, 2012. The Lifetime Achievement Award is the highest honor that the TAS bestows. The award recognizes an individual TAS member’s lifetime commitment to Texas archaeology. It is presented as deemed appropriate by the TAS Board to a TAS member in recognition of his or her lifetime involvement in TAS and Texas archaeology. Dr. Shafer's nomination stated: "He has made significant contributions to Texas archaeology that were and continue to be unparalleled. As a professor at Texas A&M University, he has left a robust imprint on the current cultural landscape of Texas archaeologists, providing a knowledge base of basic and advanced methodological and theoretical underpinnings that are sure to be employed for many years to come."
Dr. Shafer was appointed to the HDRC in
2009. He is a Fellow of the TAS (1985) and
received the President's Merit Award from the TAS in 2004.
Other awards include the Texas Historical Commissions
(THC) Archeologist of the Year in 1994, the Society of American
Archaeology (SAA) Award for Excellence in Lithic Studies in
1995, and the Association of Former Students of Texas A&M
Distinguished Teaching Award in 1992. Dr. Shafer has over 50
years of professional experience in archaeology.
He founded the archeology program in the Department of
Anthropology at Texas A&M in 1972 where he taught for 30 years.
He is the co-author of Ancient Texans: Rockart and Lifeways
along the Lower Pecos, Mimbres Archaeology at the NAN
Ranch Ruin, New Mexico, Painters in Pre-history:
Archaeology and Rockart of the Lower Pecos Canyonlands (in
press), and co-wrote Field Methods in Archaeology and
Maya Stone Tools. He has authored numerous other
publications. Dr. Shafer currently is
President of Abasolo Archaeological Consultants in
January STAA Meeting - 2012 Award Recipients and 2013 Officers Elected
At the Southern Texas Archaeological Association (STAA) meeting held on January 26, 2013 at
October was Archaeology Month!
Texas Archaeology Month at Mission San Jose - October 13th
year, archaeologists in
National Archaeology Month Artifact Identification Day - October 20th
The Southern Texas Archaeological Association (STAA), the National Park Service (NPS), and the Archeological Institute of America, Southwest Texas Regional Association (AIA-SWTAS) hosted an Artifact Identification Day on Sat. Oct. 20, 2012, at the Mission Concepcion Convento. Participants brought in historic and prehistoric artifacts and "whatzit" items for identification by expert archaeologists, See below for photos of the event.
Southwest Texas Archaeological Society - Lecture Series
The Archaeological Institute of America Southwest Texas Archaeological Society (AIA-SWTAS) will offer a 2012-2013 Lecture Series! These lectures are free and open to the public and cover a wide variety of topics within the field of archaeology. The lecture series calendar, along with other related activities and events, is available at the link below.