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.
Texas Archaeology Month Events in October - Save the Dates!
Mark your calendars for Texas Archaeology Month events in October! Additional information to follow. Hope to see you there!
Oct. 4: Acequia Systems of San Antonio presentation & King William Cultural Arts District presentation
Archaeology Symposium: Currents in Texas - Oct. 11th
Join archaeology scholars, professionals, and practitioners, with sponsorship from the Witte Museum, Brackenridge Park Conservancy, and the City of San Antonio Office of Historic Preservation, for a symposium on recent Texas archaeological fieldwork. Sites include several adjacent to the San Antonio River. Sessions will explore the Protohistoric/Historic Indian, Spanish Colonial, and Industrial-Historic time periods. Symposium is on Saturday, October, 11, from 8:00 am - 12:00 pm at the Witte Museum, 3891 Broadway. Admission is $10.00. See the flyer below for the complete list of presentations.
Artifact Identification Day - Oct. 11th
Don't know what you have, but have been dying to know? Now's your chance! Have that artifact identified (including prehistoric and historic artifacts)! Join us at the Witte Museum on Saturday, October 11, from 12:00 - 4:00 pm. $10 general museum and event admission. Bring in those artifacts that you've always wondered about and find out what they are!
Archaeology Day - Oct. 18th
Join the Office of Historic Preservation and the National Park Service as we celebrate Archaeology Day at Mission San Jose on Saturday, October 18, from 10:00 am - 2:00 pm. Activities for kids include painted pebbles, flint knapping, corn grinding, adobe brick making, ancient writing, spear throwing, rock art wall, a weaving demonstration, and more! The event is free and open to the public. Come spend Archaeology Day at one of San Antonio's most historic sites. See you there!
The STAA Quarterly Meeting will be held on Saturday, July 26, 2014, at the Institute of Texan Cultures from 12:30 - 3:15 pm. Please see the attached flyer at the link below for more details.
For archived archaeological reports and report submission guidelines, please see the link below.
Archaeology in the News
Remembering Everyday People: Our Rural Heritage Merits Attention (Voelker Farm) - Postcards from San Antonio
Cultural Resource Compliance - Training provided to Office of Historic Preservation and other City staff from PBS&J (now known as Atkins Group)
TAS Academy - Lithics: Reading Stone Artifacts - March 8th and 9th
Lithics: Reading Stone Artifacts will be held March 8-9 in Georgetown at the Public Library. Dr. Harry Shafer, TAMU Professor Emeritus, will teach the class with Chris Ringstaff, archeologist at TxDOT. This valuable Academy will introduce the manufacture of stone tools by early people and analysis by archeologists. Participants will engage in hands-on activities that include sorting, classifying, measuring, and recording sample artifacts. Advanced analysis will include understanding the process of making a stone tool from cobble to finished product and tracing the use-life of stone tools. One previous attendee stated: "I will never look at a stone in the same way again." Deadline for registration is February 21, 2014.
The registration fee ($100) plus TAS membership is for two days instruction and includes a digital manual (100 pp.) with lunch both days. A certificate of participation will be awarded to attendees. Continuing Professional Education (CPE) credit is available for teachers as approved by the Texas State Board of Education Certification (SBEC). No previous archeological experience is needed to enjoy these sessions. Scholarships are available - information on the web site. Click here to register.
2013 STAA Awards
The STAA Quarterly Meeting was held on Sat., January 25, 2014, at the Liberty Bar with over 40 in attendance. The year 2013 was the 40th anniversary of the STAA! Recipients of the 2013 STAA Awards were presented, including our own City Archaeologist, Kay Hindes, who received the Dee Ann Story Award for Archaeological Conservancy. Congratulations Kay! For more information about the award recipients, click on the link below. Watch for more information about upcoming STAA meetings in the OHP monthly newsletter.
Dr. Tom Hester Receives Lifetime Archeological Achievement Award
Dr. Tom Hester was honored with a Lifetime Archeological Achievement Award at the Texas Archeological Society (TAS) meeting held in Del Rio, Texas in October 2013. Tom is only the third recipient of the award in the history of the TAS. He has been a leading figure in Texas archeology for over 45 years.
Dr. Hester graduated with a B.A. in Anthropology from The
University of Texas at Austin (UT, Austin) in 1969, and received
his Ph.D. in Anthropology from the
Tom has been a prolific author and writer. Tom’s publications total over 500 articles, book chapters, refereed publications, and books. Perhaps two of his best known works (used extensively by TAS members) include Digging Into South Texas Prehistory originally published in 1980, and Stone Artifacts of Texas Indians co-authored with Sue Turner, originally published in 1985 and revised and reissued in 2012, with Richard McReynolds as a new co-author. Tom was senior author of Field Methods in Archaeology in 1997 and has been a Senior Editor for Field Methods in Archaeology. He has published extensively in The Bulletin of the Texas Archeology Society (BTAS). Tom has been selected for numerous awards and offices by his peers. He was elected a Fellow of the Texas Archeological Society in 1978 and served as President of the TAS in 1993.
Tom has conducted/directed numerous field schools and projects in Texas, California, Montana, Mexico, and Belize. A few notable examples include: Director of the 1976 and 1984-1985 excavations at Baker Cave; administrator of the Colha Project in Belize (1989 through the mid-1990s); Director of the 1990 TAS field School in Utopia; Co-Director of the 1991 Gault site excavations; Co-Director of the 1995 UT-Austin field school in Victoria, Texas; Director of the 1997-1998 TAS Field Schools at the second and third locations of the Mission Espiritu Santo de Zuniga in Victoria, Texas; and, most recently Director of the 2010-2011 and 2013 TAS Field Schools held in Medina County.
It was Tom who conceived the idea of a
regional archaeological association that would promote the study
of prehistoric and historic archaeology in Southern and South
He has served in many capacities including
Editor of La Tierra; contributes his "Notes on South
Texas Prehistory" in most volumes; and served as Editor of
Special Publications. STAA fieldwork includes
the St. Mary’s Hall site, Granburg II site (41BX271), St. Mary’s
Hall site (41BX229), Timmeron Rockshelter (41HY95and the
Chandler site (41BX 708 ) on Culebra Creek that was found by Tom
Perhaps one of Tom’s most significant contributions to archaeology, and in particular Texas archaeology, is the large number of former students who studied and trained under Tom who now are the guardians of our state’s prehistory and history. No greater legacy can be bestowed upon one than to have inspired others. For many of us, Tom IS Texas Archaeology. He has been and continues to be a friend, mentor, and inspiration to all.
Southwest Texas Archaeological Society - Lecture Series
The Archaeological Institute of America Southwest Texas Archaeological Society (AIA-SWTAS) will offer a 2013-2014 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.
Texas Archeological Society Named Preserve America Steward
In May, 2012, the Texas Archeological Society (TAS) was named as a Preserve America Steward. Twenty-one Preserve America Stewards from all across the nation have been officially designated and recognized for their exemplary volunteer efforts to care for historic resources around the country since the program was announced in 2008. Other groups from Texas include the German Texan Heritage Society, the Texas Historical Commission (THC) RIP Program, and the THC Texas Archeological Stewards Network. Check out the link below for further information!