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Fragments of the Past: Artifacts from Kincaid Shelter

An array of artifacts and other images related to Kincaid Shelter

Over the millennia, hundreds of people stayed in Kincaid Shelter, using the protected locale as a base for hunting animals, gathering plants, nuts and seeds, making tools, refurbishing gear, and carrying out other tasks of daily life. Others may have merely stopped there overnight during a longer journey. Like their modern counterparts, many of these prehistoric campers left behind a scattering of trash as well as a few more meaningful items that perhaps were lost or forgotten in the shelter's recesses.

Yet what was trash to prehistoric and later peoples often holds special significance to researchers today. Even broken or spent weapons carry important technological and stylistic information which helps researchers understand life in the past. Discarded tools and toolmaking debris provide insights into the technologies and economies of the various prehistoric visitors. Animal bones inform researchers about the prehistoric diet and may indicate changes in climate and the environment over time.

Unfortunately more than half of the artifacts recovered from Kincaid have no precise provenience, that is, they were out of place, having been dug up and discarded by treasure-hunters. Since the diggers were searching for gold and silver, they left the Indian artifacts behind in their backdirt piles. Prehistoric peoples churned the shelter deposits as well, perhaps digging pits into lower levels for hearths and, in the process, displacing and mixing items left by earlier visitors. For these reasons, many of the items from the shelter cannot be connected to a particular cultural group or time period.

In this section we present a gallery of selected artifacts from Kincaid Shelter curated in the TARL Collections. While investigators did not collect or document all the items they encountered, as is the more standard practice today, they did recover a meaningful sample that provides a window into past activities and peoples at Kincaid. The artifacts have yet to be fully analyzed and reported, although T. N. Campbell did a preliminary classification as part of an unpublished report on Kincaid. Michael Collins and Gene Mear inventoried and measured many of the chipped stone items in the collection, and Collins did a more in-depth study of the Paleoindian materials. Parts of these data are used in descriptions below and in the Kincaid Revisited section, which details Collins findings.

Weapons and Tools

In This Section:

photo of T. N. Campbell
The late T.N. Campbell, professor of anthropology at the University of Texas at Austin, classified most of the Kincaid artifact collection and, with Glen Evans, wrote up the findings from the site. The report was never completed or published. Archeologist Mike Collins, working with Gene Mear, took over the effort in 1988. Collins took this photo.
Diagram of five Folsom points that were recovered from treasure hunters' backdirt piles at Kincaid
Five Folsom points were recovered from treasure hunters' backdirt piles at Kincaid. The fluted points are a distinctive "signature" of the Folsom culture, bison-hunters and gatherers who roamed the North American Plains roughly 12,000 years ago. Dots on drawings indicate extent of grinding on lateral edges (from the bases). TARL Collections. Photos by Aaron Norment; drawings by Hal Story. Click on photos to enlarge and see reverse views.
photo of clovis point
A resharpened point found in a backfill pile. Its tip is partially coated with travertine (calcium carbonate), indicating it originally derived from Late Pleistocene deposits. The flutes on both faces (sides) were from multiple blows. Collins has identified it as a Clovis point . Photo by Aaron Norment.
photo of obsidian
This fragmentary Paleoindian point base is made of a particular type of obsidian which occurs only in Querétaro, Mexico, more than 600 miles to the south. It was found in the Clovis-era, Zone 4 deposits. It cannot be confidently assigned to a particular point type, although it bears some similarities and presumed affinities to Clovis. The right corner was removed for sourcing analysis. Click to enlarge and see drawings of unaltered specimen. Photo by Araon Norment.

Click images to enlarge

photo of blade core
A distinctive polyhedral core, from which a Clovis knapper removed a series of long, parallel-sided flakes (blades), was found in Zone 4. The blades could either be used as tools for cutting and slicing or could be knapped further and shaped into bifaces, projectiles, and other tools. Photo by Aaron Norment.
photo of angostura points
Angostura points. This style of lanceolate dart tip was made during very Early Archaic times some 9000 years ago. Some often have fine, parallel flaking. Photo by Aaron Norment. Click to enlarge and see more examples.
photo of a flake
A simple flake is an effective cutting tool. This specimen was recovered from Zone 4 Late Pleistocene deposits. Photo by Aaron Norment.

Prehistoric toolmakers used many different tools and a variety of resources in their work. From stone, bone, leather, sinew, shell, and plant fibers, these early craftsmen created weapons and tools, baskets and mats, grinding implements, clothing and sandals, ornaments, and works of art. Few perishable materials survived the damp conditions at Kincaid. We know from other sites in the more-arid western regions, however, that items of wood, fiber and other organic materials would have made up the bulk of prehistoric hunting and camping gear.

Chipped stone tools constituted the great majority of artifacts at the shelter, including projectile points, scrapers, knives, perforators, adzes, and a variety of toolmaking gear and chipping debris. Prehistoric stone knappers would have used rounded hammerstones as well as bone and antler batons to remove flakes from larger pieces of chert (flint) or other stone suitable for flaking. Sharp-edged flakes derived from this process made efficient cutting tools in themselves, or could be chipped further and finished using finer tools, such as antler tines. For other tasks, chipped stone burins or gravers may have been used both for cutting and grooving bones and for ornamental incising.

photo of polyhedral core
Bone tools such as these may have been used for weaving plant strips into matting and for leather working. The thin polished bone shown at top is a needle, likely used in sewing.
photo of perforators
Perforators, some of which were made on the bases of gouges (lower left) or projectile points (lower right), were found throughout the deposits, and would have been used for drilling or punching holes in wood or leather.
photo of a chopper
A heavy chopper such as this one may have been used for cutting or pulverizing fibrous plants.
photo of Merrill point
An Early Archaic Merrell point.
photo of Martindale points
Early Archaic Martindale points are distinguished by an expanding "fishtail"-shaped base.
photo of Bell point
This heavily worn Bell point was one of only a few points associated with the Middle Archaic period. In pristine condition, it would have had long barbs extending to its base.
photo of Pedernales Knives
Pedernales knives? This series of Late Archaic Pedernales points shows the changes in shape that occurred with use, as their edges were worn down and then resharpened. Archeologist Mike Collins believes the points may have been recycled and used as knives after they were no longer serviceable as projectile points. Photo by Aaron Norment. Click to see closeup example of resharpening.
photo of triangular bifaces
"Early Triangular" dart points typical of the latter point of the Early Archaic.
photo of Montell points
Several Late Archaic Montell points indicate a type of use and reworking which reduced them vertically, rather than laterally, as in the case of the Pedernales "knives" shown above. Projectile points often show impact or snap fractures (including missing tips), caused by striking an object (such as an animal), which removed the tips. After such incidents, hunters reworked points to create a new tip, but reduced the overall size in the process. Click to see more.
drawings of arrowpoints
Arrowpoints, signaling the shift to bow and arrow hunting technology about 1000 years ago, were found chiefly in the uppermost layers. A variety of types are shown, including Perdiz points (specimens A-L) that were part of the tool kit likely used by buffalo hunters, roughly 700 years ago. Drawings by Hal Story.

Campbell identified almost 50 types of projectile points from Kincaid, including dart points and arrow tips. These diagnostics, or time markers, span almost all known cultural intervals in the region.

A number of projectile points may have served multiple purposes. For example, archeologist Mike Collins believes that many Pedernales points—a ubiquitous Late Archaic type found across much of central, south, and west Texas—were recycled for use as knives, judging from many specimens which have been worn down and resharpened repeatedly along their lateral edges. Several have been reduced to an almost lanceolate form with no barbs or shoulders remaining, as shown in the above photo.

In contrast, the series of later Montell points shown at left (in the enlarged image) suggests more predominate use as projectile points. This type of use typically causes vertical reduction in size. For instance as points were fractured on the tip or snapped on impact, they were reworked to create a new tip of a shorter point.

One unusual Paleoindian projectile point base recovered from Zone 4 is made of obsidian, a type of black volcanic glass that rarely occurs naturally in Texas. It is lanceolate in form with a contracting base; both sides have been flaked in parallel patterning. Although the morphology of this point is enigmatic, its Late Pleistocene context suggests an early type, such as Clovis. Trace element analysis on a small fragment of the base indicated the material derived from a geologic source in Queretaro, Mexico, roughly 620 miles (1000 km) to the southwest. According to archeologist Thomas R. Hester, who coordinated the obsidian study, Paleoindian projectile points made of obsidian are rare in Texas.

Campbell lists almost 100 cores of several different types in the Kincaid inventory, including several blade cores. One small, nearly expended, polyhedral blade core was found in Zone 4 and is attributed to Clovis peoples. The remaining blade cores from Zones 5 and 6 probably were made by Late Prehistoric Toyah folk, who also used blade technology to make their tools and weapons.

drawing of middle and late archaic points
Middle and Late Archaic points identified by T. N. Campbell and drawn by Hal Story. Top row, Nolan. Bottom row (l-r), Nolan, Langtry, Almagre. The alternately beveled stem is a characteristic technical attribute of the Middle Archaic Nolan type. Almagre likely is an unfinished preform, or early stage, of a point such as Langtry.
photo of scrapers
Flakes with trimmed edges, serrations, and graver points likely made good tools for hideworking, plant processing, and other tasks.
drawings of multi-purpose scrapers
Scrapers and gravers for a multitude of purposes. The sharp points on the tools (gravers) in the bottom three rows could engrave shell or bone ornaments and stone pebbles. Drawing by Hal Story.
drawings of Late Archaic Knives
Late Archaic points or knives, known as Kinney type, illustrate the progression of wear and attrition, as the edges are worn down and they are resharpened repeatedly. Because of the flute-like, vertical flake removals from the base, Kinneys have been mistaken for Paleoindian points. Drawings by Hal Story.

Woodworking and Other Tasks

photo of unifacial tools
Examples of unifacial Clear Fork tools. The specimens at left and center, from midden deposits (Zone 6), were probably used in an adze-like fashion to shape bone or antler tools, based on a distinctive polish detected during microscopic examination of the bits (the wider, beveled ends). The stone tools would have been mounted in a wood or bone haft to facilitate use. Photo by Aaron Norment.
photo of bifacial
Bifacial Clear Fork tools are flaked on both sides, but have a beveled working edge on one face. It is not known whether there were different uses for bifacial and unifacial forms of the tools, but there does seem to be a difference in their ages. Although the specimens shown were recovered from undatable backdirt piles, bifacial Clear Forks from other sites were found in early contexts and associated with Paleoindian and Early Archaic points ( for example, the Wilson-Leonard and Baker Cave sites). Photo by Aaron Norment.
drawing of unifacial Clear Fork Tool
A unifacial Clear Fork Tool that has been rejuvenated after the bit (upper) end was removed. As the tools were used, the bits became more steeply beveled and less effective. Knocking the bit off provided a fresh edge with a very sharp, acute angle. Several broken ends and bases were found at Kincaid. Sketches by Pam Headrick.

Several types of bevel-edged tools, or adzes, used in woodworking, boneworking, and perhaps hide scraping, were recovered from Kincaid. One type, known as Clear Fork tools or gouges (because of their initial classification at sites near the Clear Fork of the Brazos River in northwest Texas), encompasses both bifacial (chipped on both sides) and unifacial (chipped on only one side) forms used by prehistoric peoples from Paleoindian to Late Archaic times. Another type, termed Guadalupe tools because of their predominate distribution in the Guadalupe River basin of south Texas, are long, thick, and rounded with a sharply truncated bit (or working) end. At other sites, these tools have been found chiefly in Early Archaic contexts. More than 25 Guadalupe tools were found at Kincaid.

Prehistoric workers put these tools to heavy use, as is evidenced by battering and wear on the bits and by the reworking and gradual attrition of the tools. Tool bits broke off during use or were deliberately knocked off and re-sharpened by the workers to create a fresh, more acute-edged, and more effective working end, as is illustrated in the example above. The specimen at right has been reduced by use and/or successive resharpenings to a size roughly half that of most of the other specimens.

UT-Austin archeologist Dale Hudler examined 40 of the 45 Clear Fork tools from Kincaid in 1996 as part of a larger study to try to determine usage of 195 tools of this form. Microscopic analysis of the bits, or beveled-edged ends, of the tools showed polish and striations which was then compared to that on replica tools used in a variety of experimental uses. Six Kincaid specimens (one bifacial and five unifacial) had a distinctive "smooth, linear polish" on the bit which Hudler correlated with use on a very hard contact material, such as bone or antler.

Hudler also determined that the unifacial Clear Fork tools from Kincaid tended to be wider than most others in the statewide study. However, variations in shape, size, and bit end morphology of both unifacial and bifacial Clear Fork tools have not yet proven to be meaningful. More likely, these differences in morphology, particularly in length dimension, simply reflect use and resharpening.

photo of Guiadalupe adzes
These long, narrow, bevel-edged Guadalupe tools were likely used for woodworking. They are found almost exclusively in South Texas sites, particularly within the Guadalupe River basin . Photo by Aaron Norment. Click to see more examples.
drawing of guadalupe tools
Drawing of a Guadalupe tool from Kincaid, showing shape and angle of the bit (upper) end and overall flaking. Illustration by Pam Headrick.

Grinding and Milling Implements

Pecked and ground stone milling tools were not common at Kincaid. The inventory consists of three complete grinding slabs, or metates, four fragments, and some 45 handstones, or manos. With few exceptions, all were found in Zone 5 or are unprovenienced.

The metates are worn; one shows use in a back and forth motion, another in a circular motion. A third has a circular basin that is roughly pitted.

The manos showed a variety of wear, including grinding facets and striations, while others had central pits, or slight depressions. These pitted specimens may have been used as anvils, or platforms, for cracking nuts. Many manos showed combinations of wear patterns.

Perhaps prehistoric cooks used these tools for multiple purposes: a handstone for grinding seeds and other foods, a platform for cracking nuts, and as a surface for cutting fibrous materials, meat, or hide. (Other examples of possible cutting platforms are shown in Mysterious Stones section.)

photo of dimple stone
Striations, stains and polish cover this odd limestone tool that may have been used for a variety of purposes, including grinding. The striations, or cut marks, in the central pit, suggest that a soft material may have been cut on top of the stone. There are also pecks in the depression, perhaps from pounding nuts. (See detail.) Click to enlarge. Photo by Aaron Norment.
photo of griding tools
Examples of grinding implements from Kincaid. The shallow limestone metate, or grinding slab fragment, at top has been worn down from heavy use. The fragment is roughly 12 inches (30 cm) in length. Manos, or handheld stones, such as those at bottom, would have been used to grind seeds, nuts,and plant bulbs into a flour-like meal.
photo of basalt cobble
Prehistoric peoples must have hauled this heavy cobble many miles to bring it to the shelter. More than 12 inches (30 cm) in length, the stone is basalt, or poryphry, a fine-grained volcanic material that does not occur locally but is found naturally in the Central Mineral region (Llano Uplift) to the northeast. Highly polished, the stone is also scratched and pitted on one face, as if it had been used in grinding. There are also small patches of red ocher stain, indicating it may have been used to pulverize pigment. Quite likely, this unusual artifact was used in many different ways. Click to enlarge.

Ornaments and Special Objects

photo of shell ornaments
Ornaments made of freshwater mussel shell may have been suspended on cording and worn as jewelry. The object on left was from Archaic levels in a terrace test pit, the one on right from disturbed fill. Photo by Aaron Norment.
photo of bead
A polished, hollow bird bone has been grooved and snapped on one end, perhaps to make a bead. Bone beads strung on fiber cords have been found in other sites, particularly in the dry shelters of the Lower Pecos region.


drawing of grooved bird bead
This drawing of a grooved and snapped bird bone bead shows faint sets of lines decorating the object. Drawing by Hal Story.

A number of objects from Kincaid were less utilitarian and practical than stone tools and weapons. Along with a quantity of engraved stones and paint-making materials (see Mysterious Stones section), there were several artifacts of shell and bone likely worn for personal adornment as well as fragments of a probable steatite pipe.

Two pendants made of very thin, freshwater mussel shell had conical perforations drilled from the concave surface of the shell. The objects may have been worn suspended around the neck as jewelry. There were also several pieces of bone that appear to have been beads. These hollow sections had been grooved and snapped, and were likely strung on a cord as a necklace.

Generally, the collection of bone and shell artifacts was scant, however, and this is doubtlessly due to damp conditions in the shelter which took their toll on these and other, even more perishable items made of fiber and wood.

Eight fragments of a vessel made of soapstone (steatite), shown at right, appear to be the remains of a tubular pipe that, based on rim sections, was roughly 2.5 inches (6.4 cm) in diameter. Soapstone is a metamorphic rock, a talc which occurs in both eastern and western parts of the United States. When freshly mined, it is soft and can be easily shaped with hand-held tools. Tool marks can be seen on both the interior and exterior of the Kincaid vessel. In Texas, natural deposits closest to the site are in Hudspeth county to the west, or in the Llano Uplift, some 65 to 100 miles northeast of the Kincaid site.

photo of limestone pebble
This limestone pebble may have been worn as a pendant, with cording passed through the hole cleanly drilled near one end. Photo by Aaron Norment.
photo  of steatite
Curved fragments of a soapstone (steatite) vessel perhaps once formed a long, tubular pipe for smoking. The fragments were found near the top of Zone 5 Archaic deposits. Photo by Aaron Norment.


photo of pottery sherd
This large rim sherd had deeply scored lines across the exterior, a technique perhaps used to make the vessel less slippery if it was used to carry water. Photo by Aaron Norment.
photo of sandy paste sherds
One of two sandy textured sherds found at Kincaid. Photo by Aaron Norment. Click to see full image.
photo of pottery
Fragments of thin-walled, bone-tempered pottery typically are termed "Leon Plain."

During the late part of the prehistoric period (roughly A.D. 1300), Kincaid occupants began using pottery vessels to store food, water, and other resources. Investigators found some 50 pottery sherds, chiefly in the upper levels of terrace deposits in front of the shelter. At least three different pottery types are present, representing perhaps eight or nine different vessels. These include thin-walled, bone-tempered sherds (typically referred to as Leon Plain) and a thicker version with vertical lines scored across the exterior (cf., Boothe Brushed). Other sherds had a sandy texture and apparent grog temper (crushed pottery sherds mixed into the clay paste). Prehistoric potters used various tempering agents, or additives, including sand, grit, crushed shell, and bone, to improve the clay texture and cause more even drying and firing.

Pottery-making technology was late to catch on over much of what is now central and south Texas. The Caddo villagers of east Texas made exceptional pottery as early as 1000 years ago. The pottery at Kincaid was made during the latter part of the Late Prehistoric (Toyah interval, circa 400 to 700 years ago) and some of it (the Leon Plain sherds) can be attributed to mobile groups who used Perdiz arrowpoints and a distinctive tool set associated with buffalo-hunting. Similar sherds were identified at the nearby La Jita site.

Buttons and Bullets: Historic-Period Artifacts

photo of historic artifacts
More-recent visitors to Kincaid left behind a variety of trash including bullets and shells, construction materials, and broken bottles. Photo by Aaron Norment.
photo of button
This brass button was identified by Col. Marvin Crimmins of San Antonio as that of a Confederate Infantry officer's jacket, as signified by the letter "I."

A few historic-period artifacts were found at Kincaid, indicating the presence of visitors—hunters, fishermen, soldiers (or former soldiers), ranchers, and picnickers—from the 1850s to modern times. Along with a variety of ammunition, metal construction materials, and glass, investigators found an 1857 half-dime and a brass button from a Confederate infantry officer's uniform. T.N. Campbell, in communicating with a militray expert in San Antonio, learned that the button likely is attributable to an officer on the staff of General H.H. Sibley, who led a brigade through the area of Sabinal in 1861 en route to New Mexico.

Ammunition found at the site included cartridge cases bearing head stamps marked W.R.A. Co. (Winchester Repeating Arms Co.) and variants, assignable to the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

July 22, 1954

Dear Col. Crimmins,

I wonder if I might draw on your great store of military knowledge for help in identifying a brass button found in the top six inches of an archaeological site near Sabinal. It appears to be from a military uniform. It is 19.5 mm in diameter… . The top is convex and has a loop for an attachment and is stamped "P. Tait & Co., Limerick." Incidentally, at the same level came a U.S. Half Dime, 1857…

Any light you may be able to throw on this button will be much appreciated.
Sincerely yours,
T.N. Campbell, Chairman

Large arrow to click on to follow Kincaid Shelter exhibit
photo of coin
An 1857 U.S. half-dime (both faces shown) was found by investigators in the upper layers of terrace deposits in front of the shelter. Photo by Aaron Norment.
photo of letter
Letter from Col. Crimmins identifying the brass uniform button found at Kincaid. Crimmins noted that Confederate troops posted to Camp Sabinal (near Kincaid Shelter) were not uniformed, therefore the button may have dropped from the jacket of troops in Gen. H.H. Sibley's brigade who passed through Sabinal en route to New Mexico. The brigade fought in a battle near Fort Craig in 1862. Click to enlarge and read full letter.
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