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    Middle Archaic - approx. 4,200 years B.P.
    Clute, Texas Gulf Coast

    This remarkable artifact is the oldest known wooden bowl from the Gulf Coastal Plain and represents an artifact type unknown in the prehistoric wooden artifact inventory of the Archaic period of Texas. It was discovered by chance during the excavation of Mammoth remains in a commercial sandpit in Clute, Texas, approximately 11 miles inland from the Gulf of Mexico. The geological unit in which it was unearthed is part of the middle to late Pleistocene Beaumont Formation, replete with wooden tree trunks and limbs, estuarine clay with oysters (Crassostrea virginica) still in growth position, and various bone remains of Mammoth, horse, bison and other megafauna. The bowl was found out of context close to the Mammoth bones and it is believed that the original owner left it near the ancient river's edge and that it was deposited downstream on a point bar and subsequently buried within the alluvium of the Brazos River. It is significant in part for demonstrating the use of organic artifacts in this period, previously assumed only from secondary evidence.

    Wooden artifacts are not typically preserved at archaeological sites, especially in the southeastern United States, where post-depositional physical, biological, and chemical processes are antipathetic to long-term preservation. This was an isolated find at the site; no other artifacts were recovered. It would seem that the bowl survived thanks to the permanently saturated conditions in which it lay until the water table was artificially lowered by the commercial sand operations. Although such a wooden bowl is unprecedented in this area and from this time period, it is not entirely surprising given the widespread presence of stone gouges at this period. Fashioned from Live Oak (Quercus virginiana), a native of the southeastern United States, it displays cut marks in a number of areas on the interior consistent with the use of a stone adze, such as a Clear Fork Gouge or similar tool, which is well represented in the Archaic period assemblages of Texas. Only two areas of cutting are identifiable on the exterior and whilst none of these marks shows a preferred orientation, a few areas display repeated unidirectional marks denoting chopping and scraping. There is no evidence of burning or heating of the wood, which suggests that the bowl was manufactured by chopping out the interior portion of the bowl with stone tools, and the surfaces subsequently ground smooth; the round shape and tight, wavy cross-grain suggest that it was made from a knot. No residues were found on the interior or exterior of the bowl and washes of the interior yielded only pollen found in the modern environment, providing no useful information about the bowl's use or function.

    Wooden bowls are rare in the archaeological record of the southeastern United States. At the Windover site, Florida, a small carved bowl or cup made of Live Oak was found at a burial site; this specimen is smaller than the Texas specimen and was found along with a bottle gourd and a wooden mortar made also of Live Oak. Two similar mortars were also recovered from a pond in the Ocala National Forest; both were created by burning and cutting and dated to about 2500 years B.P., making the present bowl a significantly different - and unique - find.

    The bowl is irregular in shape, but is generally round with a maximum thickness of approximately ¾ inches (19.8 mm), an approximate maximum width of 7 inches (17.9 cm), and a maximum depth of approximately 2 3/8 inches (6.1 cm) with a capacity of almost 2 pints (850 ml). Its form flares gently upward with low sloping walls and generally rounded rims varying from 8.4 to 16.1 mm in thickness. The bowl was conserved using silicon oils to prevent shrinkage and disintegration, a method that safely preserves the wood and original morphology of the bowl. The age of the bowl was determined by carbon dating and comparison with carbon and luminescence dating of both older and younger adjacent material and a full scientific report was prepared by Dr. Michael R. Waters and Dr. Robert Bonnischen of the Center for the Study of the First Americans, Departments of Anthropology and Geography, Texas A&M University, College Station; Shanna Daniel of the QAR Project Conservation Laboratory, East Carolina University; and Juan Urista of the Department of Anthropology at Radford University, Virginia.

    Condition Report*: Condition report available upon request.
    *Heritage Auctions strives to provide as much information as possible but encourages in-person inspection by bidders. Statements regarding the condition of objects are only for general guidance and should not be relied upon as complete statements of fact, and do not constitute a representation, warranty or assumption of liability by Heritage. Some condition issues may not be noted in the condition report but are apparent in the provided photos which are considered part of the condition report. Please note that we do not de-frame lots estimated at $1,000 or less and may not be able to provide additional details for lots valued under $500. Heritage does not guarantee the condition of frames and shall not be liable for any damage/scratches to frames, glass/acrylic coverings, original boxes, display accessories, or art that has slipped in frames. All lots are sold "AS IS" under the Terms & Conditions of Auction.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    June, 2011
    12th Sunday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 1
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 2,574

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    19.5% of the successful bid (minimum $14) per lot.

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