Some of the earliest artistic expression in Texas
These decorated stones were excavated from the Gault Site in Williamson County. They were found at varying depths, the oldest of which date from 13,400 to 12,800 years ago. While engraved stones and pebbles from early sites are rare in North America, they are part of a larger tradition of incised and painted stones that reaches back at least 90,000 years and is found in all parts of the world.
Some of the earliest stones found at the Gault Site have very simple marks and were often made and then discarded at quarry or processing areas. This leads some researchers to speculate that the artistic process of incising the stones was as important, or more important, than the finished product. Two of the stones on display are of this type with simple lines and were found at levels dated to 13,400–12,800 years ago. They are made from Edwards chert, a very high-quality, grey hard stone used for making tools. This fine-grained chert was being quarried at the Gault Site by local Indigenous tribes.
The other two stones on display feature more decorative line work. One stone is made from a chert flake that resembles a leaf; it is engraved with a center line with lines radiating outwards that enhance the stone’s leaf-like shape. This stone came from 13,400 to 12,800 years ago in the Clovis levels at the Gault Site. Clovis is the name given to a prehistoric culture named for stone tools originally found near Clovis, New Mexico, in the 1930s. The other incised stone comes from early excavations but its exact date is unknown. This largest example is made from a limestone tablet and is highly decorated. It features straight lines with bands of alternating triangular designs running horizontally across the stone. On the rounded tip of the stone twelve lines have been incised very closely together and at an angle to the rest of the design.
The Gault Site is located in Central Texas about 40 miles north of Austin, halfway between Georgetown and Killeen. People lived at and used resources at the site during all major prehistoric periods, a timespan of thousands of years. To date, over 60 incised stones have been excavated at the site that represent much of that timespan. The designs, made by sharp stone blades or flint chips, range from plain lines to more complex patterns. These four stones from the site help paint a picture of the people who lived in Central Texas as early as 13,000 years ago.
Gault Site Collection
Time Period: BCE - 1518
This artifact is currently on view.