Gault School receives grant from Archaeological Institute of America

By Ann Friou
University News Service
May 19, 2010

The Gault School of Archaeological Research at Texas State University-San Marcos has received a $16,000 site preservation grant from the Archaeological Institute of America (AIA).

The grant will help expand educational programming at the Gault site, the world’s largest Clovis culture excavation. New programs will emphasize the importance of preserving cultural heritage, especially with students in grades four through seven, by developing study guides, lesson plans and workshops for teachers of science, social studies and gifted and talented students. The grant will also enable the Gault School to create an alliance of archaeological organizations in Texas as a resource for teachers, and to enhance the Gault School’s public speaking program.

In making the grant, the AIA said: “The Gault site is regarded as one of the premier archaeological sites for helping us to understand the arrival of native peoples in the Americas. Continuously occupied by humans for 14,000 years, the site has yielded over 2.6 million archaeologically excavated artifacts in the last decade, but looting and vandalism are threatening the site. Today, the Gault site is protected in part through its recent acquisition by the Archaeological Conservancy in 2007; however, this has not stopped people from engaging in ‘arrowhead hunting,’ which can cause harm to the archaeological site and is illegal.”

Until recently, Clovis technology was believed to represent the Americas’ earliest human inhabitants, having arrived in the hemisphere from Asia by walking across the Bering Land Bridge between 11,000-8,000 B.C. However, recent discoveries at Gault and elsewhere, of stone artifacts predating Clovis, have convinced most archaeologists that a culture existed in the Americas at least 500 to 1,000 years before Clovis, possibly arriving by boat and on foot.

The Gault project’s Clovis-era discoveries have changed archaeologists’ ideas about Clovis culture, as well. Whereas the people utilizing Clovis technology have been thought to be nomadic mammoth hunters, excavations at Gault show that they were established hunters and gatherers, like the cultures that spread across the continent a few thousand years later.

“This is a whole new way of thinking about what is still recognized as America’s earliest culture,” said Clark Wernecke, executive director of the Gault School.

The Archaeological Institute of America, founded in 1879, is North America’s oldest and largest archaeological organization. Its Site Preservation Program emphasizes outreach, education, and the spread of best practices in site preservation.