Archaeology Magazine Archive

A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America

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Dawn of the Domicile? Volume 55 Number 4, July/August 2002
by Eric A. Powell

Gravel pavement may be the first example of architecture in North America. (Courtesy of Clark Wernecke) [LARGER IMAGE]

A modest gravel rectangle unearthed in central Texas may be the earliest evidence for a man-made structure in North America. University of Texas archaeologists excavating at the Clovis-era Gault site say the surprising discovery came after they encountered a curious line of rocks about three feet below the surface. Much to their surprise, the line turned out to be a regular pavement of gravel measuring about six feet by six feet and laid out on a north-south axis. Artifacts found with the pavement suggest it dates to sometime around 11,000 B.P., possibly making it the first example of architecture on the continent.

Gault field director Clark Wernecke says the team suspects the gravel served as a kind of platform, perhaps to keep the damp out of a temporary shelter erected above it. According to Wernecke, the find is almost unprecedented. The only similar structures are six 14,000-16,000-year-old gravel squares in France, thought to be the floors of huts.

Michael Waters, a geoarchaeologist at Texas A&M University who also works at the Gault site, says that if the pavement proves to be man-made, "It would be great. There's nothing in America like this." But he remains cautious. "I still think there's a strong possibility that the pavement is a natural gravel bar. I'd give it 50-50."

© 2002 by the Archaeological Institute of America