Between 7,000 and 10,000 years ago it is believed that man entered East Texas in small, roving groups that filtered into the area in search of bison and other large game animals. These early hunters killed their prey with spears thrust by hand or propelled by the atlatl, or throwing stick. These people had few personal possessions, and for shelter utilized natural bluff overhangs or constructed simple brush or animal skin lean-tos, which could be quickly and easily built, or abandoned when it was time to move.
To these primitive, non-agricultural people, the local forests offered all that they needed to sustain their preferred lifestyle.e-style. By about 5,000 B.C. this "hunter-gatherer" period gave way to the Archaic Period, which lasted until about 200 B.C. During this period, people living in this area, like those throughout Southeastern North America, learned to better utilize local resources. They hunted deer and small game and collected various edible seeds, berries, nuts, and roots. Brush and skins continued to be the most common form of shelter, and extended family groups, (older man and wife, grown children, and grandchildren), traveled together in search of different resources as they became available, according to season. As favorite sites were visited yearly, seeds collected at previous campsites were often unintentionally dropped, and frequently sprouted, producing new plant populations at these camping areas. Favorite plants included sunflowers, squash, march elder, and gourd. The major weapon continued to be the small spear, propelled by the atlatl. During this period, a great variety of spear points were developed. Also making their appearance were crude, multi-purpose knives, scrapers, and other tools, frequently made from locally gathered petrified wood or chert, as were the spear points.
Following the Archaic cultures came the woodland culture, which probably spread into this area from what would later be Ohio and Illinois. During this period, the basic hunting and gathering mode of life continued, but the people became much more concerned with concepts of life after death than their predecessors had been. Society became stratified, resulting in construction of community projects, such as burial mounds. Vast trading systems were established, allowing the acquisition of items from far-distant locations. Evidence of this has been found at various archeological sites. Buried with cremated remains were finely-flaked knives made from non-local flint, as well as cold hammered copper bracelets, quartz crystal pendants, and various other artifacts.
Between 500 and 700 A.D. pottery manufacture became widespread and abundant, with a wide variety of vessel form and designs being produced. The bow and arrow replaced the atlatl and spear as the major weapon and hunting implements; consequently, small arrow points were needed instead of the large projectile points previously used. During this time the first houses and small permanent villages appeared, frequently at the same locations used as campsites. These changes were necessary because during this time the people began to cultivate certain food crops, such as maize, which required attention over a prolonged period. Fields were cleared, burned, and planted. Digging sticks, the forerunners of plows and shovels, were used to plant fields and obtain clay for pottery. Some mound building took place, as evidenced by the large ceremonial complex near Alto, Texas, which dates from this period. Burials, particularly of important individuals but in some instances of multiple persons, frequently included items imported from other areas through the trade networks. Bodies and grave items were carefully oriented within the graves. These people were probably the ancestors of the later Caddoan or Atakapan groups.
The earliest European contact with residents of this area was made by the Spanish Explorer, Cabeza de Vaca, between 1528 and 1533, who encountered the Caddoan Adai somewhere between Nachitoches, Louisiana, and Nacogdoches, Texas. De Vaca was followed by a second explorer, Moscaso, whose report of his crossing of the Angelina River near it's junction with the Attoyac Bayou mentions the following Caddoan groups: Nondacoa (Anadarko), Nasoni, Ayish (Eyisy, Aays), Nacacahoz, and Naquisca. In 1685, La Salle, the great French Explorer, reported what were probably Hasinai Caddo near Nacogdoches. In 1690, the Spanish established the first two European Missions in the area at sites west of the Neches River in Houston County, followed by four missions among the Caddo in southern Rusk County on the upper Attoyac Bayou and two at Nacogdoches, by 1716. The Spaniards reported that the native people actively cultivated fields of maize, which they supplemented with gardens of beans, squash, and other vegetables, as well as hunting and fishing. Trotlining was a favorite fishing technique. When surpluses permitted, maize was exported, as well as locally gathered osage orange, (bois de arc) wood, a favorite material for fashioning bows. Artifacts found from this period are similar to those from the previous one; however, European trade items such as metal knives, metal arrow points, and glass beads also begin to appear. Pottery from this period maintained quality and variety of form and design. Unfortunately, contact with Europeans also brought deadly diseases, which decimated the populations of the Caddoan Confederacy villages. Remnants of these once numerous people now reside in Oklahoma and Louisiana.
Knowledge of these fascinating early Texans has been and continues to be learned largely from study of the artifacts they left behind. Frequently, much of the information obtainable from such items lies in their location in relation to other items at the site; accordingly, though it is often very tempting to pick up an artifact, such as an arrow point or a pottery fragment, when found around the lake, such action destroys the knowledge which could be obtained from it. Furthermore, removal of ANY artifact from federal lands, (which include all lands lying adjacent to B.A Steinhagen Lake), is a violation of both federal regulations and federal law. Conviction of such an act can result in both substantial financial penalty and jail incarceration. Persons can be cited under Title 36 CFR Section 327.14 (a) (Destruction, injury, defacement, removal or any alteration of public property including, but not limited to, developed facilities, natural formations, mineral deposits, historical and archeological features, and vegetative growth, is prohibited except when in accordance with written permission of the District Engineer). Persons may also be prosecuted under the Archaeological Resources Protection Act (ARPA). To prevent such results, as well as to help preserve this important portion of our Texas Heritage, please leave any artifact found where you see it. If you see anyone picking up such items or digging in a site, report this to the nearest U. S. Army Corps of Engineers Gate House of Office, (which can be reached at 409-429-3491), so that the resource can be protected. Remember: these artifacts are part of the heritage that belongs to ALL of us, and it is up to ALL of us to preserve this heritage.
For more information concerning Federal Regulations protecting Archaeological Resources, consult the following documents, (PFD Format, Acrobat Reader Required to View Documents)
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Archaeological Resources Protection Act (ARPA) 1979
Archaeological Resources Protection Act (ARPA) 1988 Amendment
Native Americans Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA)