Wilson-Leonard Site

This deeply stratified site in the Brushy Creek valley of southwestern Williamson County contains evidence from every prehistoric time period in Texas, the most complete single-site record of its kind for the southern periphery of the Great Plains. The Wilson-Leonard site (41WM235) evidences a succession of ancient peoples—from early Paleoindian Clovis cultures to Late Prehistoric Toyah folk—practiced a hunting and gathering lifeway throughout nearly 13,500 years. For the last 8,500 years of that time, campers at the site also used earth-oven cooking technology to cook bulbs from tuberous plants as well as other foods.

The site was excavated in the early 1980s by the Texas Department of Transportation in advance of construction of Ranch-to-Market Road 1431. Roughly ten years later, archeologists from the Texas Archeological Research Laboratory, led by Michael B. Collins, returned to the site to do further work. Using a host of new technology and research methods, the team gleaned significant new information on human ecology, chronology, and paleoenvironmental changes. Among the more significant findings of the TxDOT/TARL excavations are:

References:

Collins, Michael B. (Assembler and Editor)
1998 Wilson-Leonard: An 11,000-year Archeological Record of Hunter-Gatherers in Central Texas (five volumes). Studies in Archeology 31. Texas Archeological Research Laboratory, The University of Texas at Austin, and Archeology Studies Program Report 10, Texas Department of Transportation, Environmental Affairs Division.

Collins, M.B., C. B. Bousman, P. Goldberg, P.R. Takac, J.C. Guy, J.L. Lanata, T.W. Stafford, and V.T. Holliday
1993 The Paleoindian Sequence at the Wilson-Leonard Site, Texas Current Research in the Pleistocene 10:10-12.

Masson, M.A. and M.B. Collins
1995 The Wilson-Leonard Site (41WM235). Cultural Resource Management News and Views 7(1):6-10.Texas Historical Commission, Texas.

For more information on the Paleoindian Wilson component, see:

Bousman, C. Britt, Michael B.Collins, Paul Goldberg, Thomas Stafford, Jan Guy, Barry W. Baker, D. Gentry Steele, Marvin Kay, Ann Kerr, Glen Fredlund, Phil Dering, Vance Holliday, Diane Wilson, Wulf Gose, Susan Dial, Paul Takac, Robin Balinsky, Marilyn Masson, and Joseph F. Powell
2002 The Palaeoindian-Archaic transition in North America: new evidence from Texas. Antiquity 76(2002): 980-90.

 

aerial photo of Wilson-Leonard site
Aerial view of the Wilson-Leonard site (41WM235) during TxDOT excavations in the early 1980s. Situated at the juncture of Brushy and Spanish Oak creeks in southwestern Williamson County, the site provided access to water and a variety of food and fuel resources, making it a favored campsite for hundreds of groups throughout prehistory. TARL archives.
photo of clovis points
Tools of the Clovis culture. This array of chipped stone tools bears attributes of Clovis workmanship, including the tip of a projectile point (a), large, early-stage biface (b), and flake from a blade core (f). Photo from Collins et al., 1998 (Fig. 7-5).
drawing of human skeleton
One of the oldest and most complete human skeletons in the Western Hemisphere, the Wilson-Leonard burial known as “Leanne,” or the “Leanderthal Lady,” was found by TxDOT archeologists in 1982. A well-worn tool, used for grinding or chopping, and a limestone boulder—perhaps placed on the body as a marker or to secure a wrapping around the body—also were uncovered in the grave.
photo of excavations
TARL archeologists at work at the site. Digging through more than 19 feet (6 meters) of valley fill, the excavators uncovered multiple layers of cultural deposits representing hundreds of encampments on the banks of Brushy Creek. White tags on the unit wall mark locations where samples were extracted for special analysis (eg., plant pollen identification) to help track environmental change through time.
photo of net sinkers
Net sinkers (or possible bola stones) from chiefly Late Paleoindian contexts. An increase in fish and turtle remains during the time may indicate that these early peoples were using weighted nets to exploit aquatic animals. The grooved stone at bottom dates to the Early Archaic.
photo of grinding tools
Grinding tools for food processing from chiefly Archaic deposits. Click to enlarge and see more examples.
drawing of stratigraphy
Window to the past. This idealized stratigraphy chart depicts more than 13,000 years of cultural deposits in two contiguous sections of a wall in a Wilson-Leonard excavation block. Top portion shows increasing use of stone cooking features (black dots indicate stones) in Late Paleoindian/Early Archaic times (stratigraphic units II and IIIa) and massive accumulation of burned rocks (middens) in later Archaic times, as hot-rock-cooking in earth ovens burgeoned. Bottom section shows the Leanne burial dug in from the Wilson soil (Unit Isi[c]). Wavy vertical lines indicate soil formation.
photo of points
Bone Bed point. The thin, unfluted projectile point found in the bison Bone Bed component could not be classified. Its fine workmanship is more similar to Plainview technology than Folsom.
photo of stone tools
Tools from the Late Paleoindian Wilson component, Unit Isi(c), including Wilson points (middle, left), corner-notched projectile points with thick, ground-edged stems. Stemmed projectile points during this time period (ca. 11,000 years ago) are rare in Texas. This cultural zone also encompassed the Leann burial.
drawing of points
St. Mary’s Hall points. This Late Paleoindian, unfluted lanceolate style, while similar to Plainview, occurs later in the site deposits at circa 8000-9,500 B.C. (9900 to 8700 radiocarbon years B.P.)
photo of excavations
Remains of an ancient oven. This large, burned rock basin (Feature 181) saw repeated use as a baking/cooking oven for large quantities of foods, including wild hyacinth bulbs (camas) during the Early Archaic period some 9,000 years ago (7,000 B.C.). More than 200 cooking features were documented at the site.
photo of report
Cover of the first volume in the five-volume Wilson-Leonard report series, assembled and edited by Michael B. Collins, presents the research results of some 40 contributing authors. It was published in 1998 by TARL and TxDOT