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The Titus Phase, ca. A.D. 1430-1680

Collage of images related to the Titus phase
Titus  phase map
Distribution of Titus phase sites. From Perttula, 1998.

Click images to enlarge  

Benson's Crossing
Titus phase settlements are sometimes found on upland ridges protruding into the floodplains of the major and minor streams. This example is near Benson's Crossing, Big Cypress Creek, Titus County, Texas. TARL archives.
Cooper Creek
Wooded bottomland along Cooper Creek, a tributary of the South Sulphur River. This was near the western edge of the area within which the Titus phase is found. The Blackland Prairie to the west of the Cross Timbers formed the western periphery of the Caddo Homeland. Photo by Bill Martin.
plan of the ear spool site
Plan of the Ear Spool site, a Titus phase hamlet in Titus County. Three circular houses were uncovered on one side of a small plaza. On the opposite side was a "special building" with an extended entranceway and supports for interior benches. There were several burials, one inside a house. Courtesy PBS&J.
Looted Titus phase cemetery
Looted Titus phase cemetery in Marion County. Photo by Tim Perttula.
turkey effigy bowl
Turkey vulture effigy "tail-rider" bowl, probably a trade piece from the Frankston phase area, from looted Titus phase cemetery in Big Cypress Creek drainage.
Titus phase pottery
Titus phase pottery from cemetery at the Russell site. The red Avery Engraved bowl in the middle is probably a trade piece from the McCurtain phase area in the Red River Valley to the north. TARL archives.
plan of Titus phase map
Plan of a Titus phase community cemetery (about A.D. 1600-1700) at the Taylor Farms site near Lake O' the Pines within the valley of Big Cypress Creek in northeast Texas. The University of Texas excavated this site in 1931 and documented 64 graves. Note the consistent east-west grave orientation and the fact that the graves do not intrude into one another.
stone knives
Large, thin chipped-stone knives like these are found in Titus phase burials thought to be those of high-status adult males. These examples are from looted burials in the Big Cypress Creek drainage. Several of these (if not all four) appear to be made of Edwards chert from central Texas.
celt and stone ear spools
Celt (ground stone axe head) and a pair of stone ear spools from Titus phase burial, Lower Peach Orchard site, Camp County. TARL archives.
typical titus phase artifacts
Typical Titus phase artifacts.
Taylor Engraved bottle
Taylor Engraved bottle with highly unusual "spiked gaping mouth." Titus phase, Taylor Farm site, Harrison County, Texas, height = 15.5 cm. TARL collections.
Wilder Engraved Bottle
Wilder Engraved bottle, Titus phase, Mattie Grandy site, Franklin County, Texas, height = 20.9 cm. TARL collections.
Keno Trailed bottle
Keno Trailed bottle, Titus phase, Taylor Farm site, Harrison County, Texas, height = 21 cm. TARL collections.
LaRue Neck Banded jar
LaRue Neck Banded jar, Late Caddo, ca. A.D. 1400-1650, J. M. Riley site, Upshur County, Texas, height = 16.5 cm, diameter = 15.3 cm. TARL collections.
Ripley Engraved bowl
Ripley Engraved bowl with kaolin-filled S-shaped scroll design. Shelby site, Camp County, Texas. Courtesy Dee Ann Story.
polished red bottle
Polished red bottle with negative engraved scrolls. A very similar bottle is known from the Hatchel site (41BW3) on the Red River, and this vessel may have been traded from the Red River Caddo to the Titus phase Caddo living the Shelby site. Courtesy Dee Ann Story.

The archeological traces of Caddo groups who lived between the Sabine and Sulphur rivers in the East Texas Pineywoods between about A.D. 1430-1680 are known as the Titus phase. Of the several hundred identified sites with Titus phase occupations, the largest concentration occurs in the Cypress Bayou (or Big Cypress Creek) Valley. Other Titus phase sites are found throughout the valley of the Little Cypress Creek, the southmiddle portions of the Sulphur River basin, the middle and upper portions of the White Oak Creek drainage, and the upper and middle reaches of the Sabine River drainage. Closely related communities were present in the Toledo Bend area farther to the south along the Sabine River in Louisiana and Texas and probably represent a late movement of Titus phase people.

Archeologist Pete Thurmond sees the Titus phase has being made up of four contemporaneous subclusters: the Three Basins, Tankersley Creek, Swauano Creek, and Big Cypress Creek. In addition, Robert Turner has proposed early and late periods within the Titus phase based on design motif variations on Ripley Engraved carinated bowls and changes in vessel form. Combining both ideas, there are apparent geographical clusters within the Titus phase as well as noticeable changes through time.

Thurman defined his subclusters based on differences in the design motifs found on the most common type of decorated Titus phase pottery, Ripley Engraved bowls, as well as differences in other shared pottery types, and the distribution of different arrow point styles across the area. He argues that the Titus phase subclusters represent separate tribes or subtribes similar to the named groups who made up the historically known Hasinai and Cadohadacho alliances. The overall Titus phase seems to represent the archeological remains of a series of tribes/groups banded together in an alliance analogous to, and at least partially contemporaneous, with that of the Hasinai to the south and the Kadohadacho to the northeast.

In general, Late Caddo societies seem to have had a three-tier social/political hierarchy. At the top were civic-ritual centers that had platform (temple) mounds, burial mounds, and presumably the residences of principal leaders (caddis as well as the xinesi and lesser priests). The larger examples of these are found along the major stream valleys, such as the Red, Ouachita, and Little rivers, but smaller centers were also present in smaller drainages such as along Big Cypress Creek (Titus phase). Below the civic-ritual centers (in size and presumably status) were small mound centers that lacked burial mounds or large platform mounds. Instead they had small mounds that capped burned and ritually dismantled structures functionally equivalent to those found on the platform (temple) mounds at the larger centers. At the bottom of the social ladder were small but widely distributed rural communities made up of many farmsteads and hamlets often spread out along smaller streams and across productive upland areas.

For the Titus phase, Thurmond recognized three types/sizes of settlements: limited use areas, small settlements, and large settlements. The limited use areas are places that were used only in certain seasons for short-term stays such as camps for hunting, nut-gathering, and salt-making. In contrast, the small and large settlements were occupied year-round. Small settlements (between 0.2-1.8 hectares or 0.5-4.5 acres in size) account for 73% of the known Titus phase settlements in the Cypress Creek basin, the limited use areas 23%, and the large settlements (those larger than 1.8 hectare or 4.5 acres) only 4% of the sample.

One of the more intensively investigated large Titus phase settlements is the Pilgrim's Pride site along Big Cypress Creek at its confluence with Walkers Creek. Residential areas at the site cover between 5-10 acres, with more than 100 pit features, several circular structures, midden deposits, and more than 20 burials, along with an open plaza-like area. Several of the burials appear to have been placed in and near the floors of structures, but the Pilgrim's Pride site also had a planned cemetery with at least 19 burials.

The small settlements appear to have been home to one or several family compounds marked today by scattered house middens often containing daub (fired clay) and trash-heap (midden) mounds. Midden mounds up to one meter in height were common on Titus phase settlements before they began to be plowed in historic times. Excavations suggest that many activities occurred outside the houses, resulting in trash-filled pits, hearths, and posts in these areas, where ramadas and granaries may also have been present, along with concentrations of artifacts and debris. The limited evidence of structure rebuilding, suggests that most Titus phase settlements were occupied only about a generation. Small family cemeteries typically occurred nearby.

Because of the intense avocational and professional and focus on the cemeteries that occur on Titus phase settlements, as well as significant looting of these sites since the early 20th century, little is known about the types of houses and storage structures used by these groups. Based on the few houses that have been excavated (some of which were in mounds and probably are not ordinary domestic structures), houses were probably circular in shape, with wattle and daub walls (sometimes) and thatched roofs. They were between five and eight meters in diameter and some, especially those capped by mounds, have extended entranceways. Within the houses were central hearths and center posts, possible interior benches and racks for sleeping and storage, as well as storage and trash pits. Residential structures had some midden accumulation on their floors (i.e., house middens), which were not prepared or clay-lined, but the vast majority of the daily trash and refuse was deposited on the nearby trash midden mound.

When Pedro Vial visited the Nadaco Caddo "village" near the Sabine River in 1788 (probably in the vicinity of Longview and Marshall, Texas), he described it as having thirteen to fifteen houses scattered over a distance of three leagues (about eight miles). The houses or ranchos of the Nadaco were evidently distributed mainly along tributaries of the Sabine River. The distribution of Titus phase settlements suggests that agricultural farmsteads and hamlets were scattered similarly in prehistoric times, usually being found near springs or along smaller streams, where good soil and fairly level ground for farming was present.

The permanent settlements and larger cemeteries of the Titus phase tend to be found near springs. In contrast, Late Caddo mound centers typically do not occur in proximity to a spring, but rather are on the floodplains of major rivers and large creeks or they are situated on ridges that jut into and overlook large floodplains.

Mound-building in the Late Caddo period in the Pineywoods outside of the Red River valley was once thought to have ceased between roughly A.D. 1400 and 1500, but dates from several sites in Upshur and Camp counties suggest mound-building may have continued in the Titus phase "heartland" until about A.D. 1600 or later. Only a modest number of Late Caddoan period mounds are known in the region, ranging from one to four small mounds per site.

There are two types of cemeteries used by the Titus phase groups: the small family cemetery, and the large community cemetery. More than 130 Titus phase cemeteries have been documented to date.

The small family cemeteries contain roughly equal numbers of adult males and females and are located near farmsteads or hamlets. Such cemeteries in the western margins of the Titus phase area have about 10-20 individuals while those in the Titus "heartland" along Big Cypress bayou have 20-40 graves. There are few indications of differential status or social rank in grave good associations and burial treatment in family cemeteries. Typically, the graves are laid out in rows with the individuals in extended positions oriented roughly east-west. Children were typically buried in subfloor pits within the houses themselves. Artifact associations in family cemeteries seem to differ only by age and sex. Older individuals are buried with more offerings than younger ones. Men's graves often contain clusters of arrow points in patterns suggesting quivers of arrows. Women's graves contain polishing stones or more numerous pottery vessels. Items of exotic material are quite rare in family cemeteries.

The large community cemeteries of the Titus phase seem to have served several communities in the vicinity. These cemeteries usually contain at least 60-70 individuals, but some are known that contained at least 150-300 individuals. Large community cemeteries show the existence of different social classes within the Titus phase Caddo communities. Known community cemeteries are not uniformly distributed among the Titus phase groups, but are concentrated on Big Cypress Bayou and several of its eastward-flowing tributaries (i.e., Walkers Creek, Dry Creek, Greasy Creek, Meddlin Creek, and Arms Creek), the Titus phase "heartland," with a few large cemeteries known on Little Cypress and White Oak creeks. Presumably, the areas where these larger cemeteries are found had the highest population densities and more complex societies.

The larger community cemeteries are internally organized by space and structurally divided by rank. Graves rarely overlap and it looks like the cemeteries expanded over time. Since the cemetery plan was consistently maintained, they may reflect stable communities over several generations.

Four criteria have been used to identify social status ranking in Titus phase cemeteries: the presence of large shaft tombs, the number of individuals per grave, the relative quantity of grave goods, and the presence of certain types of presumed high-status artifacts. Large shaft tombs and those with multiple interments are considered to be high-status burials; all other Titus phase burials are single, individual burials. Family cemeteries do not contain shaft tombs or multiple interments. The high status burials also contain larger numbers of grave offerings ( over 30 compared to an overall average of about 15 per grave) than those of other burials. There are also certain types of artifacts only found in high-status burials. For example, in the Cypress and Upper Sabine basins, large, thin chipped-stone knives are almost always found with high status adult males.

There are 18 known Titus phase sites in the Pineywoods that have burials of presumed high-status individuals, such as J. E. Galt, Caldwell, Lower Peach Orchard, Tuck Carpenter, H. R. Taylor, and others; these are along Big Cypress Bayou and its tributaries, particularly in the Titus phase "heartland" between the dam site at Lake Bob Sandlin and the Lake O' the Pines dam, and western and southern tributaries such as Dry Creek, Greasy Creek, and Arms Creek. Other cemeteries with high rank burials occur in the Little Cypress Creek valley, along a Sabine River tributary, and on White Oak Bayou. The best-known and studied community cemeteries with high-status burials are the Tuck Carpenter and H. R. Taylor sites.

At the Tuck Carpenter cemetery, high-status burials dating between ca. A.D. 1350-1550 are at the center of the 70+ interments in the cemetery, while the latest high-status burials (estimated to date after ca. A.D. 1550 to the early 1600s) were placed near the outer edge of the cemetery. With the exception of the two graves with multiple interments, graves contained single individuals in extended position that were placed in the cemetery in roughly aligned north-south rows. The high-status burials contained on average 37 grave offerings per burial (large numbers of ceramic vessels and arrow points), compared to about 15 grave goods per burial for the cemetery as a whole.

A similar pattern is seen in the graves in the cemetery at the H. R. Taylor site. Mean values of ceramic vessels (8.3 per individual), arrow points (5.09 per individual), and total number of specimens (14.5 per individual) as grave offerings at H. R. Taylor are not significantly different from other Titus phase cemeteries, but the high-status burials each contained between 27-55 grave offerings.

High-status individuals account for 8 and 9% of the burials at H. R. Taylor and Tuck Carpenter, respectively. Overall, in the Titus phase mortuary populations, high-status individuals account for less than 2% of all known burials, showing that the community cemeteries were associated with the mound centers where the leading members of the Titus phase societies presumably lived. In contrast, lower-status interments, namely those lacking grave goods or containing only small quantities (0 to 9.0 items at Tuck Carpenter and 0 to 6.7 items at H. R. Taylor), account for 19% and 23% of the burials at the two sites, respectively. As judged by the grave goods, lower-status individuals at both these community cemeteries were usually adult females, juveniles, or children. Most of the individuals at both cemeteries, 73% at H.R. Taylor and 68% at Tuck Carpenter, fall within the middle category of neither high nor low status.

The majority of known Titus phase burials of apparent high-status appear to date after ca. A.D. 1550-1600. Those individuals buried prior to A.D. 1550 demonstrate considerable intra-regional variability in the manner of burial treatment, as well as in the types of grave offerings. For example, in addition to the multiple interments at Tuck Carpenter, shaft tombs are represented in a pre-A.D. 1550 cemetery at the Lower Peach Orchard site. At the J. E. Galt site, the high-status burial included such offerings as a large number of celt fragments and other native stone implements, rather than caches of arrow points. Galt bifaces were also recovered from the cemetery.

In general, community cemeteries are relatively short-lived phenomena that were used intensively in the core Titus phase area in the basin of Big Cypress Creek after about A.D. 1550 to the early 1600s. It is probably no coincidence that the period of the most intensive use of community cemeteries seems to be roughly contemporaneously with the initial contact between Titus phase Caddo populations and the Spanish De Soto/Moscoso entrada of 1542-1543. The short-term use of these cemeteries could, in part, reflect deaths due to conflicts with the Spanish army as well as increased mortality from European diseases. The timing in the intensification of the use of large community cemeteries in the region also seems to occur at about the same time that mound centers ceased to be used for community ritual and religious functions by about the 1550s or slightly later. Collectively, the changes occurring after 1550 reflect rapidly changing societies on the eve of (or in the process of) group consolidation and the eventual Caddo abandonment of the Pineywoods of northeast Texas.

One of the most striking aspects of the Titus phase archeological record is the diversity and distinctiveness of the pottery found in settlements and cemeteries. The wide variety of vessel shapes and decorations, as well as their frequency in domestic contexts, demonstrates the importance of pottery for cooking and serving food, as personal possessions, and as social identifiers. Large quantities of both fine wares and utility wares were manufactured in the Titus phase.

The fine wares were tempered with finely crushed grog (pottery) and bone, and were well-polished; shell-tempered vessels are quite rare, and when found, are typically trade wares from the Red River Caddo. Titus fine ware was decorated with engraved lines, with scrolls, scrolls and circles, pendant triangles, and other curvilinear motifs. Another form of decoration was the application of a red hematite (ochre) slip on both interior and exterior surfaces, and the painting of engraved lines with red hematite or white kaolin. The diversity of vessel forms is impressive: carinated bowls, compound bowls, bottles, cone-shaped bowls, ollas, jars with flaring rims, square bowls, globular peaked jars, and chalices. Animal effigies and rattle bowls were also made.

The utility vessels were tempered with grog and grit (crushed stone such as sandstone and hematite), and had a coarser paste along with a thicker body. Small to large jars (over 30 centimeters or 12 inches in height with mouth diameters greater than 25-30 cm) and plain conical bowls were typical utility vessel shapes. The presence of carbon encrustations, food residues, and sooting on many of the utility vessels show clearly that these were cooking pots. The larger utility vessels were probably mainly used for storage of food (wide/flaring mouths) and liquids (narrow/constricted mouths).

Utility vessels were decorated and textured with neck-banding, brushing, applique, incising, punctating, and various combinations thereof. Small handles or lugs were added to some utility vessels. Utility vessels probably comprised between 50 to 70% of the ceramic assemblages in Titus phase settlements. Far fewer utility vessels, proportionally, are found in Titus phase cemeteries.

Titus phase groups also made ceramic earspools, as well as tubular and elbow pipes of clay. Earspools were also made from siltstone and sandstone, as well as wood. One set of earspools from the Tuck Carpenter site had been covered with sheet copper. The elbow pipes are commonly decorated with engraved lines that have been painted (filled) with red hematite or white kaolin clay.

Compared to earlier periods, stone tools and tool-making debris are generally uncommon at Late Caddo period sites in the Pineywoods. We suspect this is because many tools were made out of wood, cane, bone, and shell, few examples of which are preserved in the archeological record. The relatively few stone tools types present also indicate the increased importance of other materials at the expense of stone. Common stone tools include triangular and corner-notched arrow points, flake tools (drills, scrapers, and retouched pieces), along with an array of groundstone implements. These include celts, metates and manos, battered and polished cobbles and pebbles, hematite and limonite pigment stones, and abrading slabs.

Although bone is usually poorly preserved in Titus phase sites, many different kinds of bone tools have been found in favorable contexts. Among these are deer-mandible cutting tools, deer beamers (hide-working tools), deer ulna punches, antler-tine flaking tools, and deer and bird bone pins. Turtle carapace rattles have also been found. Heavy clam shell digging tools ("hoes") are sometimes present.

Unfortunately, few studies have been done of the diet of Titus phase groups based on charred plant and animal remains, which are sometimes reasonably well preserved in middens, hearths, and pit features. Charred plant remains from trash midden deposits suggests that corn (Zea mays L.) was the main dietary staple, but that beans (Phaseolus vulgaris) were also an important food source. Nuts and seeds were still gathered, but of lesser importance in the Titus phase than they were between ca. A.D. 900-1400. In fact, evidence from the Titus phase in the Pineywoods, as well as elsewhere in the Caddo area, suggests that the Late Caddo economy was based primarily on maize (corn).

Animal bones identified in Titus phase trash middens include deer, turkey, cottontail rabbit, jackrabbit, squirrel, and beaver. Turtle and fish were also present, but were relatively uncommon compared to mammals and birds. Deer and turkey appear to have been the main prey species.

Although many of the details are not yet understood, grave goods and other exotic artifacts (such as marine whelk/conch shell and certain stones) suggest that trade among "town and country" Caddo communities and among Caddo groups in different areas was flourishing at the time of initial European contact in the sixteenth century. Titus phase people were also part of long-distance trade and information networks linking Caddo groups with farming peoples living in the Southwest, Southern Plains, and lower Mississippi Valley.

The most common ceramic imports found in Titus phase sites are those from the Red River Caddo groups. They include such fine wares as Belcher Ridged, Belcher Engraved, Glassell Engraved, and Hodges Engraved from the Belcher phase to the east, and shell-tempered Avery Engraved and Simms Engraved pottery types of the McCurtain and Texarkana phases to the north some 100 kilometers (62 miles). Red River gravel chert (flint) and chalcedony was found to make up about 20% of the stone tools and debris in the Three Basin subcluster of the Titus phase. Hatton tuff and siliceous shales from the Ouachita Mountains were used to make celts. Edwards chert from central Texas is also found in Titus phase sites, showing the existence of trade and exchange with non-Caddoan hunting and gathering peoples living more than 150 kilometers (93 miles) to the west and southwest of the Pineywoods Caddo.

New assessments of the route of the de Soto-Moscoso 1542-1543 entrada through East Texas suggest that the Spanish encountered the Titus phase peoples described by the chroniclers as the Lacane province. By 100-150 years later, the Titus area had been virtually abandoned. The demise of the Titus phase people is thought to be mainly due to the introduction and, more importantly, the continued exposure of Caddo groups to European epidemic diseases. It is likely that some Titus phase peoples moved to live with either the Red River Kadohadacho, or among the Hasinai Caddo south of the Sabine River.

Archeologists believe that Titus phase Caddo sites in the Pineywoods hold great promise in helping to document the nature of social, political, demographic, and economic changes in the region during a most eventful era in Caddo history. In part this is because improved dating now makes it possible to use subtle pottery differences to pin down the date of some sites and events (such as graves) to perhaps within a 20- to 30-year period. As other studies of Caddo archeology make clear, there have been substantial changes in Caddo societies from ca. A.D. 800 to European contact. One of the most important changes is the development and elaboration of complicated forms of social and political organization after ca. A.D. 1400 in many regions of the Caddo Homeland.

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Titus phase map
Titus phases subclusters as defined by Pete Thurmond. From Perttula, 1998.
Big Cypress Creek
The bottomlands along Big Cypress Creek and its many tributaries were rich sources of wild plant foods, wood, and game for Titus phase peoples. Titus County, Texas. TARL Archives.
map of know mound centers
Distribution of known Titus phase mound centers; most, as can be seen, occur along Big Cypress Creek. Adapted from Perttula, 1998.
Benson's Crossing site
Archeologists at work at the Benson's Crossing site, a Middle Caddo period site near Big Cypress Creek that probably represents the direct ancestors of Titus phase people. The two-tone soil colors in the excavation walls represent a dark midden deposit overlain by a lighter colored plow-disturbed zone. TARL archives.
distribution of cemeteries map
The distribution of large Titus phase cemeteries is similar to that of Titus phase mound centers; the two are obviously related. Adapted from Perttula, 1998.
turtle effigy bottle
Turtle effigy bottle from looted Titus phase cemetery in Big Cypress Creek drainage.
A.T. Jackson
A.T. Jackson holds two large, thin chipped-stone knives found in a Titus phase cemetery at the J. E. Galt farm in Franklin County during excavations by the University of Texas in 1931. These "Galt bifaces" could be more accurately described as ceremonial knives or blades and, although no bones were found, the knives were almost certainly offerings in a high-status grave. TARL archives.
Tuck Carpenter site cemetery plan
Plan of Titus phase community cemetery (A.D. 1350-1600) at the Tuck Carpenter site located on a tributary of Big Cypress Creek in Camp County, Texas. Avocational archeologists and collectors excavated this cemetery in the 1960s; 44 of the estimated 70+ graves were documented.
mace head
Grooved and decorated mace head, probably from a high-status burial. Shelby site, Camp County, Texas. Courtesy Dee Ann Story.
engraved bottle
Engraved bottle with engraved bird motif, Titus phase burial, Lower Peach Orchard site, Camp County, Texas. TARL archives.
Ripley Engraved bowl
Ripley Engraved bowl, Titus phase, Mattie Grandy site, Franklin County, Texas, height = 9 cm, TARL collections.
Hodges Engraved bottle
Hodges Engraved bottle with unusual oblong form and pairs of nodes at both ends. Titus phase, Taylor Farm site, Harrison County, Texas, height = 13.8 cm. TARL collections.
Karnack Brushed jar
Karnack Brushed jar, Titus phase, Taylor Farm site, Harrison County, Texas, height = 27.5 cm. TARL collections. Click on image for enlarged view.
Cass Applique jar
Cass Appliqué jar, Titus phase, Morris County, Texas, height = 17.6 cm. TARL Collections. Click on image for enlarged view.
Harleton Appliqued jar
Harleton Appliquéd Jar, Titus phase, Taylor Farm Site, Harrison County, Texas, height = 10 cm, TARL collections.
Compound engraved bowl
Compound engraved bowl with unusual (kaolin-filled) scroll motif. Shelby site, Camp County, Texas. Courtesy Dee Ann Story.
four-sided square bowl
Four-sided square bowl with unique scroll motif and a protruding node or appendage, a rare form of decoration on Titus phase vessels. Shelby site, Camp County, Texas. Courtesy Dee Ann Story.
bottle with trailed design
Unique bottle with trailed design. Shelby site, Camp County, Texas. Courtesy Dee Ann Story.