Who were the first peoples to inhabit Texas? It’s often the case that research yields more questions than answers. But now, there might actually be some answers lurking in a thin body of water that flows through Central Texas, called Buttermilk Creek. Michael Waters has been excavating around the site for over a decade. He’s the director of the Center for the Study of the First Americans at Texas A&M University. In a recently published paper, Waters describes a discovery at Buttermilk Creek, near Salado, that could significantly change our understanding of early Texans.
Over the years, Waters’ team has found projectile points, similar to arrowheads, along Buttermilk Creek, which indicated that the Clovis people lived there. That’s because these particular projectile points are made in a precise way characteristic to the Clovis.
“The Clovis represents a really brief interval of time, but it’s one that’s very distinctive,” Waters says. “The hallmark of Clovis is that Clovis projectile points are fairy large and robust projectile points that were typically used for hunting. And at that time, the Clovis people would’ve been hunting mammoths and other large animals that roamed Central Texas.”
Scientists consider the Clovis period to be from about 13,000 years ago to 12,700 years ago. But now, Waters says his team found artifacts that date back even farther.
“We’ve been excavating there for a number of years, and in the last two or three years we’ve found projectile points which were different from those Clovis points in the layers below the Clovis horizon,” Waters says.
That means that there was a group that predated the Clovis in Texas. Waters says he can tell its a different group by the look of the spear points: they have a stem and are slimmer than the Clovis points – they date back as far as 15,000 years ago.
He says these prehistoric groups settled in the area because of its natural resources like permanent water, food to gather and hunt and abundant tool-making materials like flint.
“We know for sure that the first Texans settled along Buttermilk Creek, but I’m sure they were in other parts of the state,” Waters says. “It’s just a matter of finding them.”
For a long time, Waters says scientists thought the Clovis People were the first people to come to the Americas, but this discovery has changed that assumption.
“Now, sites like Buttermilk Creek, like the Friedkin site [where his team found the new spear points] are showing us that people were here much earlier than we previously thought,” Waters says. “We have to try to understand who these early people were, and especially what their relationship is to Clovis.”
Written by Brooke Sjoberg.