The Gault Site in central Texas (see map) has been known by archaeologists for at least 78 years. In 1929, the first anthropologist at the University of Texas, J.E. Pearce, had a crew excavating at the site for eight weeks. Though primarily interested in the Archaic (hunter-gatherers 9,000 to 1,500 years ago in that area) burnt-rock midden showing on the surface Pearce's crew managed to excavate a handful of Paleoindian 13,000 – 7,000 years ago) artifacts including Clovis cultural materials more than 2 years before the discoveries at Blackwater Draw, New Mexico (where the Clovis archaeological culture was first defined).
Research and excavations at Gault are under the co-direction of Dr. Michael Collins of Texas State University and Research Associate of the University of Exeter and myself of the Department of Archaeology and Director of the Centre for Archaeology of the Americas, University of Exeter, UK.. The site is held in trust by the Archaeological Conservancy and is managed by the Gault School of Archaeological Research. From 1999-2002 research was focused on recovering information about the Clovis Culture. We now have over 600,000 stone artifacts from Clovis context at Gault (se examples in the adjacent case). Contrary to the generally accepted interpretation that Clovis people were only mobile large game hunters, what we found was the signature of a highly sophisticated and knowledgeable generalized foraging culture. These people knew a great deal about their habitat, were not nearly as mobile as previously thought and used nearly all of the available local resources. Generally thought to be the first people in North America it has become clear that Clovis was well established an unlikely to a pioneering culture but rather one of a group that was comfortable with and knowledgeable about their area. The implication is that there were already people living in the Americas (see display to the left).
Since 2007 Bruce has been taking University of Exeter students to work at Gault and several of these students have developed their own research projects. These include Ann Oldroyd who is investigating the evidence of learning flintknapping for her PhD dissertation. Felix Reeves-Whymark became fascinated with the extensive system of Archaic earth ovens and has developed an experimental project for his undergraduate dissertation. Nancy Littlefield is beginning a project that will be characterizing Clovis small flakes and how they may relate to the evidence of earlier people at the site for an MA by Research. Bruce and Mike have recently co-authored a book on Clovis technology, much of which was based on evidence from the Gault Research, and continue to develop new research and publications.
Excavations continue at Gault, partly funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation in the States and greatly supported by volunteers and University of Exeter groups. Currently, this work focuses on the deposits that underlie the discrete Clovis horizon and expects to be able to document a long-time use of the site before the advent of the Clovis Culture. Gault has already proven to be one of the most important Clovis sites and has changed the way we view these ancient people. They were much more than wandering nomads making a tenuous living by hunting mammoths and other now extinct large animals. Our results indicate that rather than being a culture centered in semi-arid western North America, they were well settled into the heartland of the continent.