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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Investigating Life Histories and Taskscapes through Microscale Geoarchaeological Analysis in Fort Davis, Texas from the 1870s to 1930s

  • Author(s): Rodriguez, Erin Christine
  • Advisor(s): Maher, Lisa A
  • et al.

This project applies microscale geoarchaeological analysis to four sites from late 1800s and early 1900s in Fort Davis, Texas in order to reconstruct life histories, past taskscapes, and show the potential of geoarchaeological analysis in a historic archaeology context. The military post at Fort Davis was established in 1854 along the San Antonio-El Paso road through the high Chihuahua Desert in Far West Texas. The civilian town of Fort Davis quickly formed near the post. After withdrawing during the Civil War, the army reoccupied the Fort in 1867 and over the next twenty years it was periodically home to every company of African-American “Buffalo Soldiers” in the United States army. In 1961 the Fort became a National Historic Site under the National Parks Service. The four sites investigated in this dissertation include two residences on Fort property which date to the 1800s: the Laundresses’ Quarters and the Enlisted Married Men’s Quarters. Two additional sites are from civilian areas of town: the Smith-Carlton Casa Vieja (the oldest standing, continuously occupied adobe structure in town), and a midden and nearby foundations on the Francell-Byerley Property which date to the 1920s and 1930s. Analysis at each site focused on a combination of fundamental soil chemical analyses (soil pH and soil organic matter) and microstratigraphic methods (particle size analysis and soil micromorphology). These approaches, combined with historical data, are used to develop life histories for each of the four sites. Additionally, taskscapes associated with residence and discard activities (the tasks most commonly represented in the four sites) are discussed. These analyses show how microscale archaeology, rarely incorporated into historical archaeology projects, can provide a significant line of evidence when combined with archaeological and historical sources.

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