The people of the Buried City were gardeners, hunters, and foragers. We know they raised corn and we strongly suspect they also grew other crops like beans, squash, and chili peppers, although these don't preserve well archeologically. Crops were probably planted in the low-lying swales between houses and along the valley floor (floodplain). During especially wet years when floodwater occasionally inundated the valley floor, simple diversion dams (lines of stones and/or rows of bushes) across the swales would have kept the fields wet enough for good crops. This strategy is similar to the Ak-Chin dryland farming technique used in northwest Mexico and southern Arizona by various groups including the Pima and Tohono O'odham people (who are collectively known as the Ak-Chin, from the O'odham word meaning "place where the wash loses itself in the sand or ground"). During dry years when the swale crops might not have been successful, those planted in the valley floors would have had sufficient moisture to grow.
The abundant bison bone on the Buried City sites shows that buffalo hunting was important. Buffalo provided meat and many other useful products including hides and bones for tools. We also find deer bones and antlers as tools so they were hunting white-tail deer in the local area. (Antelope and deer bones are quite similar and it is likely that antelope were also killed.) In addition to large mammals, the bones of smaller critters are common in the sites including those of cottontail, jackrabbit, turtles, and frogs, as well as sunfish bones, drum fish teeth and abundant freshwater mussels.
The vegetation in the area was diverse and the people used western red-heart cedar as main support posts for the houses, plum and winged elm wood for the wall posts, and lashed them all together with willow withes, grape vines, and twigs of plum and elm. The hearths contained charred wood from oak, elm, juniper, plum, cottonwood, and other species of trees. One visitor suggested that the oak-charcoal layers in the firepits may represent winter-time use, while the cottonwood charcoal and ash probably represent summer fires, the difference being whether you want a long-term fire to keep the house warm all night or a quick fire just to heat a meal.
The primary gardening tool was a digging stick with a bone tip made from a bison tibia (lower leg bonewhich is thick and tough). Such tools had wooden handles inserted into the end of the tibia (which had been cut or broken out) and may have been used as hoes or as straight digging sticks/dibblessort of like a narrow-bladed trenching shovel. Bison scapulae (shoulder blades) may also have been used to move loose dirt and for smoothing plastered surfaces. No stone hoes or other digging tools have been identified at Buried City sites.
Bone was used for a variety of tools other than for digging. We find bone awls and needles for making basketry and clothing, deer jaws used as sickles for cutting grass, deer antlers used for knapping flint, bison ribs that may have been used as pot-stirrers, and abundant grooved or notched bison ribs that may have been used as musical rasps, tally sticks, or for other purposes. At one site, several notched ribs were found laying together, as if for some particular social purpose beyond the mundane.
Marine shells like olivella and others from the Gulf of California were used for ornaments like beads and pendants. Native mussel shells (freshwater clam) were also made into pendants by notching, cutting, and drilling holes into them. Some of the native mussel shell may also have been used as pottery scraping and smoothing tools and for spoons.
Food was cooked and stored in locally made pottery vessels. Buried City pottery was generally globular and about 8 to 12 inches in diameter, volleyball to basketball size, with a constricted neck and a vertical rim. What sets Buried City pottery apart from the similar-shaped pottery of the Antelope Creek area (which is called Borger Cordmarked) is the abundant decoration of the rims and the variety of surface finishes. About one-third of the Buried City rim sherds include a variety of decorations like fingernail impressions or gouging, impression of the rims with tools like mussel shell, and thickening of the upper rim to form a collar. We also see various incisions around the rim on the collar. In addition to decorated rims, the pottery also includes cordmarked and smoothed rims. Body sherds are most often cordmarked, but some seem to have been textured with some other kind of tool, and still others have been carefully smoothed. This kind of decoration on rim sherds and variation in surface finish is more often found on Central Plains Tradition sites (in Kansas and further north) than it is in Southern Plains village sites.
Food was prepared in many ways including grinding, and we find the remains of worn-out grinding slabs or metates in all the sites as well as the hand stones or manos that were used with them.
Tools for hunting, processing meat and hides, and for other purposes were made of Alibates flint and other cherts and jaspers. Despite the nearness of Buried City to the Alibates Flint Quarries, there is little evidence of substantial access to Alibates flint on Buried City sites. Brown jasper from western Kansas makes up a measurable percentage of the tools, as does Tecovas jasper from the southern Texas Panhandle. Additional evidence of limited contact with the Alibates quarries is that almost all of the tools find have been extensively re-worked, worn-out, and recycled prior to discard and even the flint-knapping debris is extremely small and almost any flake that could be held between two fingers shows edge damage from use as a scraping or cutting tool.
The styles of stone tools are fairly typical for the Southern Plains people of the 12th and 13th century. These include various kinds of drills or perforators, diamond-shaped beveled knives sometimes called Harahey knives, and side-notched, unnotched, and side- and base-notched arrow points. For arrows to fly true and arrive with enough impact to take down a bison or with enough accuracy for a deer, they must be carefully worked. We see some evidence of the care in arrow manufacture in the form of a bison rib shaft straightener or shaft wrench and a grooved abrader for smoothing the shafts once they were straightened
As rich as the material we have may seem, most of the goods owned by the people of the Buried City didn't survive the ravages of time. We know from the needles, awls, and other tools that they probably had clothing, bags, boxes, and other materials made of hides, probably had baskets, mats, and sandals of woven goods, and many objects and tools of wood and other perishable remains which don't normally preserve.