Bonfire Rockshelter, TX

Bonfire Rockshelter, TX


Using a GIS Approach to Understand the Accumulation of an Archaeological Deposit


Judith R. Cooper

Department of Anthropology and QUEST Archaeological Research Program

Southern Methodist University


A presentation prepared for the University of Texas at Dallas,

GIS Workshop, Summer 2004



            Bonfire Shelter (41VV218), an archaeological site in southwest Texas, contains a rich faunal deposit. Three stratigraphically separate bone beds make up the deposit. The site is interpreted as a locality in which large numbers of extinct bison were killed and butchered by hunters during the early and late Holocene. Interpretations have suggested that the bone beds were accumulated when prehistoric hunters drove herds of bison over the precipice above the rockshelter. A narrow crevice, known as “the notch,” bisects the cliff directly above the site. The majority of the faunal remains are concentrated within the talus cone beneath the notch. This association between the notch and bone concentration suggests that the herd entered the site from the precipice above and that the prehistoric hunters may have used the notch intentionally to aid in stampeding the herd.

            In order to better understand the dynamics of the jump, various GIS analyses were performed using a precise DEM of the site. The analysis aimed to determine how prehistoric hunters might have used certain features on the landscape. A better understanding of the topography of both the site and the surrounding landscape may help to explain the accumulation of the deposit as well as whether the notch played a critical role in early prehistoric hunting tactics.