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Photo © Pierce Ingram


Palo Duro Hosts Archeology Field School

Excavations planned for prehistoric and Civilian Conservation Corps sites.

Palo Duro Canyon State Park, filled with rugged beauty and colorful history, will be the destination this summer for the Texas Archeological Society’s annual field school.

The project will conduct an archeological survey of the state park — both the main park areas and the newer undeveloped areas. Michael Strutt, director of cultural resources for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, says the Panhandle park has never received a comprehensive archeological survey.

“We are hoping to learn as much as possible about archeology within the park to help us both manage those resources in development planning, and for interpreting the long history of human use in the canyon,” Strutt says. “We will also look at some of the undeveloped portions of the park, though that will be limited by access and ruggedness issues.”

The field school will take place June 8-15, with 250-300 people expected to participate. The program, led by professional archeologists, provides training in techniques to the group’s members and contributes important new data to the state’s archeological and historical heritage.

People have inhabited Palo Duro Canyon for about 12,000 years, with the earliest people hunting large herd mammals such as mammoths and giant bison and gathering abundant plant resources. Apache, Comanche, Kiowa and other tribes later made use of the canyon’s plentiful resources. In 1876, rancher Charles Goodnight drove 1,600 longhorn cattle into the canyon and founded the Panhandle’s first big ranch. The state bought land for the park in the 1930s, and the Civilian Conservation Corps spent five years creating a park. At about 28,000 acres, it is the second-largest park in the state park system today.

At the field school, areas of more intensive investigation will take place at a historic CCC-era site and several of the park’s prehistoric sites.

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