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Harker Heights Evening Star
Harker Heights Evening Star

Gault Site: “Pivotal in debunking theories of early Americans”

Gault Site: “Pivotal in debunking theories of early Americans”

By Lindsay Starr Platt

Saturday morning at Harker Heights Public Library almost a dozen people attended a lecture by D. Clark Wernecke, Executive Director.
The Gault School of Archaeological Research, and the importance of the Gault Site and Clovis Man. Gault Site is located in Southern Bell County and is one of the largest and most important Clovis discovery sites. Artifacts discovered at Gault Site have been pivotal in debunking theories of the early Americans of when and how they got here.
“It was interesting, I had heard about Gault for many years. I want to go and look,” said Dawn Haines, Killeen resident.
Wernecke said it was strongly believed that Native Americans had only been in the New World for 4,000 years. Until nearly the 1930’s it was considered heresy to suggest any earlier occupations.But, human-made stone tools were found in the Americas with the remains of animals that went extinct 10,000 years ago.
“That takes us to what we all learned as kids. There were these half naked men in Siberia and they were moving around a lot, thousands of miles in fact. They were following mammoth herds across the Siberian steppes. One day they come to a land bridge connecting Asia and the Americas and since I guess the mammoths crossed, they followed along. They come to a huge three-mile high wall of ice, but they apparently came at just the right moment because the two glaciers miraculously parted forming a 2,000 mile-long corridor into the rest of the Americas,” said Wernecke speaking on the once popular Bering Strait theory, “Thus was born the “Clovis First” hypothesis which quickly became more than an idea, it became a religion to some. Of course, most of the story, particularly the way I told it, is ridiculous, it does not stand close scrutiny and it never did, there is little evidence for any of the hypothesis.”
Gault Site is about 20 miles from Harker Heights near Florence. The site has been known to professionals since 1929, but it was on private property and the subject of looting and collecting for at least 90 years. Since Gault School gained access to the site in 1998 it has revealed one major surprise after another. The earliest dated artifacts in the Americas were found there. Also found was the remains of a Columbian mammoth surrounded by Clovis artifacts. Gault Site is one of only 15 mammoth kill sites discovered in the Americas.
“The sheer quantity of stuff coming out of Gault was a surprise, to date 2.6 million artifacts from only 3% of the site including an estimated 65% of all excavated Clovis materials found between Canada and Venezuela,” stated Wernecke. “A stone floor was identified that was at least 12,700 years old and the clues around it told us it had a structure making it the oldest house in North America.”
The last week of May 2002, one of the staff was cleaning a profile to gather what he could before backfilling the project. He followed the water table down, he would dig to it and it would drop a little and he would dig more. But as he went lower he found more artifacts below the Clovis levels and the dates they got were Older-than-Clovis, around 14,000 years ago.
“I am thinking about studying archaeology. Ever since I was little I liked digging in the dirt,” said Julie Ramsey, age 13, Harker Heights resident. “History is amazing we can figure out what will happen in the future by looking in the past,”
Gault Site had been looted and collected; including a long-running pay-to-dig operation, for 90 years and much of the top meter was filled with rusted tools, beer cans, and cigarette wrappers. In 2007 the site was purchased and donated to the Archaeological Conservancy.
“We destroy a lot of history every day,” remarked Warnecke. “And we can’t just put it back, not even recent history.”
Gault Site is located in the Edwards Plateau and consists of 80 acres. 40 acres belongs to The Gault School of Archaeological Research and 40 acres to J. J. Pickle Research Campus, The University of Texas at Austin.
Attendees to the lecture had a chance to talk with Warnecke and look at artifacts he had brought, such as a mammoth humerus. Warnecke also handed out information on how to become a member of Gault Site and how to sign up for tours. Tours can be booked through Bell County Museum and Williamson County Museum.
“My grandson went to the Gault Site for six weeks with the University of Wisconsin-Lacrosse. You really need to go,” commented Josh Portman, Harker Heights resident. “And join it is only $45 for a membership.”


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