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Understanding Variation

Photo of stone ruins on top of Landergin Mesa in Oldham County with rainbow in the background
The stone ruins on top of Landergin Mesa in Oldham County long have attracted explorers, treasure seekers, and, finally, serious researchers. The spectacular natural setting was chosen by Antelope Creek villagers for its defensive value; there is no source of water and no room for gardening atop the mesa. Villagers, whose main houses and fields would have been down in the valleys, are thought to have retreated here during times of conflict. Photo courtesy Chris Lintz.
Photo showing two stone circles, side by side.
These two circular stone alignments were partially exposed by riverbank erosion at the Chicken Creek site within the Lake Meredith National Recreation Area. Archeologists from the Bureau of Reclamation completely exposed the patterns, which are thought to represent the wall foundations of small structures, perhaps seasonal field houses. The National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 has given archeologists the opportunity to carry out research at many small, unimposing Antelope Creek sites that earlier archeologists overlooked. Photo by Beverly Couzzourt, courtesy US Bureau of Reclamation.

Click images to enlarge

Photo two men looking closely at the wall of a dry arroyo.
Landowner John Erickson and archeologist Doug Boyd examine traces of a pit associated with a Plains Village site. Excavations in 2004 revealed a bowl-shaped barrow pit filled with household debris including burned corn. Erickson's keen interest in the ancient history of his ranch in northern Roberts County has resulted in an ongoing research project involving professional and avocational archeologists. Photo by Steve Black.
Drawing of house with thatched roof on cover of report.
Cover of a report on the Black Dog Village site. This project by the Texas Department of Transportation was one of the first Antelope Creek excavations undertaken because of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966.
Photo of small, rocky, flat-topped hill.
Mesa Alamosa is a smaller version of Landergin Mesa some five miles to the east, and is sometimes called “Little Landergin Mesa.” It, too, may be a defensive retreat position used by Antelope Creek villagers during periods when hostile raids were expected. Mesa Alamosa was known to Studer and Hughes, but was first formally recorded by Marmaduke and Whitsett in 1973. Photo by Chris Lintz.

Photo showing snowy scene of excavation on creek bank.
Excavations underway at the Chicken Creek site in the winter of 1983 to salvage information about this small Antelope Creek site before it was destroyed by erosion. Photo courtesy U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.

One of the enduring problems in archeology is that it is often very difficult to find adequate funding for the final and, ironically, most important part of any research project—the hard work of thoroughly analyzing the recovered materials and fully reporting the results.

Fortunately, most cultural resource management projects include contractual requirements to fully complete the archeological work. The resulting technical reports that are part of what is often called the vast “gray” literature. While such reports are not intended for a public audience, they are an essential part of the cultural resource management process.

Photo of flat-topped mesa with archeologists barely visible.
Archeologists perched atop Landergin Mesa during the 1984 excavations sponsored by the Texas Historical Commission. Photo courtesy Chris Lintz and the Texas Historical Commission.
Photo of flat hill top with grid pattern of the excavations.
Aerial view of the 1984 excavations underway at Landergin Mesa during work sponsored by the Texas Historical Commission. Antelope Creek villagers had retreated here in times of conflict. While the steep walls flanking the mesa top once made the site easy to defend, it also made archeological access a challenge. Photo courtesy Chris Lintz.
Photo volunteer archeological dig in progress.
The 1969 TAS field school investigated several Antelope Creek sites along Blue Creek, a tributary of the Canadian River, on National Park Service property near Lake Meredith. Photo by Wallace Williams.
Photo of excavation with floor of pithouse.
Pithouse excavated in August 2003 in the Buried City settlement zone by a field school of the University of Oklahama. The work is part of Scott Brosowske's dissertation research. Photo and graphic by Brosowske.

Graduate Student Contributions

Graduate students have completed many worthwhile studies on Plains Village topics related to the Texas Panhandle. Here are some additional examples.

In the 1930s, E.J. Lowrey and Tom Holden, two of Currie Holden’s students from Texas Technical College completed graduate theses on excavations at Antelope Creek 22, and the pottery of Saddleback Ruins, respectively. More recent contributions ... read more>>


Photo of woman standing beside a dried-up tree whose base stands two feet above the eroded surface.
Archeologist Glenna Dean points to the original base of a mesquite tree, which sticks up some three feet above the modern ground surface near Landergin Mesa. Long-term drought and overgrazing has caused massive erosion during the last century in some areas of the Texas Panhandle. Drought cycles plagued the Plains villagers as well, although they did not have to cope with overgrazing; in dry periods bison moved elsewhere or died off. Photo by Chris Lintz.
Plan map.
Plan map of two rectangular houses at the Two Sisters homestead in the Oklahoma Panhandle that are thought to represent successive occupations by a single Plains Village family. The simple rockless house on the left (Structure B) was succeeded by a more elaborate house (Structure A) with a typical Antelope Creek style stone slab foundation and smaller, attached circular rooms. Graphic, courtesy Chris Lintz.
Photo of earthen floor of ancient house.
Structure B, the earliest of two rectangular houses at the Two Sisters site, had most of the architectural elements of a typical Antelope Creek house, except the stone slab foundation. (Instead, it probably had picket-post walls). Photo by Chris Lintz.
Plan maps comparing rectangular buildings with thick walls to circular patterns of thin walls.
Antelope Creek vs. Apishapa architecture. At top is the plan of main room block at Alibates 28. The circular Apishapa pattern is from the Cramer site in southeast Colorado. Both are shown are roughly the same scale. Courtesy Chris Lintz.
Photo of bare-shirted young man bending over and digging with a trowel.
Chris Lintz excavating one of the storage pits beneath Structure 5A at the Two Sisters site in 1973.
Cover of report.
This 1986 report by Chris Lintz is the published version of his 1984 University of Oklahoma dissertation. It is one of the more useful studies of Antelope Creek culture that has ever been done.
Drawing showing plans of different types of rooms and pits.
Lintz devised a detailed typology of Antelope Creek structures and storage pits (collectively termed architectural "units") to compare these systematically from site to site. Lintz 1986, Figure 10. Click to see full graphic.
Photo of scatter of broken bones and stones surrounded by  low sand dunes.
The Tucker Blowout site in the Oklahoma Panhandle is a buffalo kill and butchering site that dates to the fifteenth century. It is believed to be the work of late Antelope Creek villagers or their immediate descendants. Given the high frequency of buffalo bones in many Antelope Creek villages, there must have been many such butchering and kill sites. Photo by Chris Lintz.
Drawing of stone and bone tools.
Antelope Creek phase artifact assemblage. Click on image to see details. From Lintz 1986, Figure 4.
Photo of a charred and smashed basket fragment.
Fragment of a charred basket found on the floor of a burned Antelope Creek house. Antelope Creek villagers were probably excellent basket makers, but very few of their baskets survived. This one was preserved only because it was intensely burned. PPHM collections, photo by Steve Black.
Photo of man talking to a group of people.
Doug Wilkens introduces a visiting group of homeschooled kids and their parents to the Indian Springs archeological site in Roberts County. Wilkens is an active avocational archeologist as well as one of the Texas Historical Commission's archeological stewards. Dedicated volunteers continue to play a huge role in Panhandle archeology. Photo by Steve Black.

Since the 1960s, archeologists studying the Plains village sites of the Texas Panhandle and adjacent regions of the Southern Plains have struggled mightily to make sense of the variation that they and their predecessors have encountered. We have come to realize that Antelope Creek culture was a lot less uniform than earlier archeologists had believed. As is invariably the case with ancient cultures, the more we learn, the more we realize we still don't know.

Earlier archeologists were drawn to the larger "villages," like Antelope Creek 22 and Alibates 28, that had visible structures arranged into pueblo-like blocks of houses. These now appear to be the exception rather than the rule. Even the larger Antelope Creek "villages" would have been home to only a few dozen people and could be more accurately called hamlets. These paled in comparison to the truly large, fortified prehistoric and historic villages in the Central and Northern Plains within which hundreds of people lived. In contrast, most Antelope Creek people seem to have lived in family groups in small hamlets and even smaller farmsteads with only one or two houses.

Instead of a single tribe or ethnic group of closely related people, archeologists have found increasing evidence that various Plains Village groups co-exisited in different portions of the area we know today as the northern Texas Panhandle. It is still likely that most of the core area of the Antelope Creek culture along the Canadian River valley north of Amarillo was home to villagers who were closely related to one another, genetically and culturally. But not so far away there were other peoples, such as those who lived at Buried City, who probably belonged to different groups or tribes and perhaps spoke different languages (or at least different dialects). Increasingly, archeologists have found evidence of competition and conflict among Plains villagers and, perhaps, other less-settled peoples who found the villages/hamlets to be tempting targets.

In this section we try to summarize the last 40 years or so of archeological research in the region, knowing full well that there isn't any easy way to do this. Archeology is a lot more complicated today and involves many more people than it did in Floyd Studer's day.

CRM Archeology

Since the mid-1960s American archeology has been transformed by the impact of federal and state laws intended to protect cultural resources such as the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 and the Texas Antiquities Code of 1969. These laws require that archeological and historical sites on government land, and on private land being developed or disturbed with federal funding or by federal permit, be studied and evaluated before adverse impacts are allowed to take place. If an important archeological site lying in harm's way cannot be avoided and protected, then research is carried out through excavation or other means to preserve some of the information that makes the site important, thus “mitigating” the loss of information that the development will cause. One result of these laws has been a tremendous increase in funding for archeology and in the number of professional archeologists employed by universities, government agencies, and, increasingly, private industry. The industry that has developed because of state and federal historic preservation laws is called cultural resource management or CRM archeology.

Compared to many other areas of the country and the state, the northern Texas Panhandle has seen only a modest increase in the amount of professional archeological research in recent decades. Most of the land remains in private hands and population densities remain comparatively low in most areas, hence federally or state regulated developments are few. Nonetheless, cultural resource laws have led to new research in the Antelope Creek area, especially on federally owned lands in the general vicinity of Lake Meredith including the Alibates Flint Quarries National Monument, the Pantex Ammunitions Plant, and the Exell Helium Plant at the Cross Bar Ranch. Although some excavations have taken place, efforts to locate and evaluate archeological sites on federal lands have resulted in a better understanding of the settlement patterns of Antelope Creek villagers. Small hamlets and isolated farmhouses were, we now know, much more common than the larger pueblo-like ruins that attracted so much archeological and public attention for so long.

In 1973, William Marmaduke and Hayden Whitsett conducted an archaeological reconnaissance in east Oldham County in the western part of the Panhandle as a contribution to a “Natural Area Survey” of the Canadian Breaks. This state-funded project recorded 49 archeological sites along Alamosa Creek and formally documented Landergin Mesa and Little Landergin Mesa, both important Antelope Creek sites. The resulting report highlighted the potential of the region’s natural and cultural resources to be protected and developed into regional attractions such as state parks.

Federally funded highway work in the early 1970s led to the excavation of part of the Black Dog Village site, a large Antelope Creek settlement located at the confluence of Cottonwood and Tarbox creeks with the Canadian River north of Borger. Professional archeologists with the Texas Highway Department excavated five structures there, aided by Jack Hughes, Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum personnel, and volunteers from the Panhandle Archeological Society. While a large Antelope Creek structure dubbed the “Big House” attracted much attention, two pairs of small rooms lacking typical Antelope Creek house features were found that probably represent later occupations.

During the 1970s, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation conducted a number of archeological surveys at Lake Meredith. Archeologsits revisited the known sites and searched for unrecorded sites around the lake in order to assess (and lessen) impacts from public land use activities. Archeologists Meeks Etchieson and Jim Couzzourt surveyed the shore line during periods when the lake level was low and recorded 53 sites, few of them known from the earlier 1961 survey. They also excavated slab-lined pits at two sites and conducted flotation and radiocarbon dating on the contents of these pits. Etchieson, a fulltime employee of the Bureau of Reclamation, also conducted other small surveys and damage assessments of tracts around the lake that were being impacted by off-road vehicle traffic. This led to the “salvage” excavation of several Antelope Creek houses. The results of such work are documented in technical reports that are part of what is often called the vast “gray” literature. While such reports are not intended for a public audience, they are an essential part of archeological research.

Etchieson was also instrumental in using archaeology as a training program and involved the Youth Conservation Corps in the testing and excavation of several sites at Lake Meredith. These include the South Ridge site, the Ozier site and a site on Plum Creek. The South Ridge site was used during Antelope Creek times and earlier periods as well and has been reported in full detail. The excavations at the two other sites were supervised by Etchieson and other archeologists, but have never been properly reported. It is difficult to complete research during training programs such as these, because they are geared chiefly toward excavation and preliminary artifact processing, not full analysis and reporting. This, of course, was the same problem faced by the WPA in the 1930s and early 1940s.

In 1982-83, the National Park Service and the Bureau of Reclamation funded two seasons of excavations at the Chicken Creek site. Riverbank erosion threatened this Antelope Creek site, where two small circular structures were found. The fieldwork was directed by Beverly Couzzourt, but the detailed results from only the first season have been reported.

In 1990, all lands at Lake Meredith, except some 700 acres of the dam axis and anchoring bluffs, were transferred from the Bureau of Reclamation to the National Park Service (NPS) jurisdiction. The changes in federal responsibilities have sparked more interest in surveys at Lake Meredith. Archeologists from the NPS Southwestern Regional Office have carried out evaluative testing on several Antelope Creek sites at Lake Meredith. Various private consulting firms have completed site inventory surveys on about half of the NPS property.

Some of the intensive surveys have been conducted at the Alibates National Monument following natural range fires. For instance, a study conducted by Paul and Suzanna Katz under optimal surface visibility identified numerous sites and quarry pits within the monument boundaries. And other private and university contractors have carried out surveys of the Bureau of Reclamation's small property holdings adjacent to Sanford Dam.

Just upstream from Lake Meredith, jurisdiction of the federal helium processing plant on the Cross Bar Ranch switched from the Office of Surface Mining to the Bureau of Land Management. Multiple archeological surveys of the ranch have been conducted, including the development of a predictive model of Antelope Creek site locations. These surveys found that villages were often established near pour-off plunge pools along secondary streams. These pool-side village sites are often miles away from the Canadian River and must have been linked to one another by trails.

Landergin Mesa

In 1981, Robert Mallouf, then the State Archeologist of Texas, directed excavations at Landergin Mesa for the Texas Historical Commission (THC). The work was done to evaluate whether the site merited continued listing as a National Historic Landmark. The THC also sponsored additional excavations there in 1984 led by Christopher Lintz. This mesa-top Antelope Creek village had long attracted archeological attention because of its peculiar defensive location—Landergin Mesa has no immediate water source or nearby agricultural land.

Like many prominent Antelope Creek ruins, the village atop the mesa had been badly disturbed by relic hunters. Funding for the THC archeological work was pieced together from federal, state, and private sources. Unfortunately, while there was enough money for the fieldwork, laboratory stabilization of records, photographs and specimens, and a few radiocarbon dates, a full analysis and reporting has not yet been accomplished. One of the enduring problems in archeology is that it is often very difficult to find adequate funding for the final and, ironically, most important part of any project—the hard work of thoroughly analyzing the recovered materials and fully reporting the results.

The THC investigations showed that, despite extensive looting, substantial architecture and primary deposits remained intact in some areas of the site. Landergin Mesa was found to have had a long history of intermittent occupation beginning in Late Archaic and Woodland times. Most of the architecture (structural remains) dated to the Antelope Creek phase, during which the half-acre mesa top saw remarkably intense use. During the 1984 season, archeologists identified ten structures from seven different occupations within a relatively small excavation area covering 42 square meters (452 square feet). One odd finding was that most of the houses seem to have been built as isolated structures rather than the contiguous rooms one might expect given the severely limited real estate atop the mesa. The pattern of isolated-house construction existed throughout the duration of the Antelope Creek phase. Antelope Creek villagers apparently used Landergin Mesa as a refuge in threatening times rather than as a permanent village. A 2001 article by Lintz provides a useful summary of the excavated features and details of the dating of the site.

Volunteers, Graduate Students, and Field Schools

Since the 1950s volunteers from archeological groups and student “volunteers” from regional universities have been involved in virtually all major excavations of Plains village sites in the Texas and Oklahoma Panhandles.

The involvement of local archeological societies has been mentioned in the previous section as has the pivotal role played by Jack Hughes. In recent decades the Panhandle Archeological Society (PAS) has charted a different course from that taken by its predecessor group, the Norpan Archeological Society. The Norpan group, like many local societies, carried out many excavations on its own, few of which were ever completely analyzed and reported. In contrast, the PAS has focused on helping others and on publishing reports that have long languished in obscurity. PAS members routinely volunteer on field research projects run by professional archeologists and other established groups. Even more importantly, the PAS has published several other important archeological studies in addition to the Baker's WPA reports and Earl Green's report on the Footprint site.

Field schools organized by statewide groups, the Texas Archeological Society (TAS), the Oklahoma Anthropological Society, and by various state universities have also been part of the story. While field schools are held primarily to provide training, important research can also be accomplished.

In 1969, the TAS held its eighth annual field school along Blue Creek, a tributary of the Canadian, on National Park Service property near Lake Meredith. Jack Hughes directed the week-long investigations of four Antelope Creek sites by over 200 volunteers from across the state. Three of the sites were hamlets or small villages while the fourth was a small cemetery where children and infants were buried. While TAS field schools are positive learning experiences, 200 people can move a lot of dirt in a week and create small mountains of artifacts and field records. Hughes never found time to study the Blue Creek finds. Fortunately, two of his former students, Jim Couzzourt and Beverly Schmidt-Couzzourt, took on the project in the 1980s. Their detailed report finally appeared in 1996, an accomplishment that few non-archeologists could appreciate — successfully completing such a project years after the fieldwork is finished is an extraordinarily difficult feat.

The TAS field school returned to the northern Panhandle in 1987 and 1988 as part of new investigations of Buried City. This time it was Jack Hughes’ son, David Hughes, who directed the work. David, who now teaches at Wichita State University (WSU) in Kansas, led new work at Buried City on behalf of the Harold Courson family beginning in 1985 and 1986. The 1987 and 1988 TAS field schools were even larger than the one at Blue Creek. Hughes also ran a WSU field school at Buried City in 1990. The results of the Buried City work are presented elsewhere on this website (see Buried City Investigations).

In 2000, Scott Brosowske of the University of Oklahoma (OU) began investigating new areas in the Buried City vicinity using remote sensing techniques. In the summer of 2003, an OU field school excavated several pithouse structures Brosowske located.

Brosowske is one of the latest of many graduate students who have studied Plains Villager sites in the Texas Panhandle and nearby areas. Dozens of students working on advanced degrees or participating in specialized research studies at universities in Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, and elsewhere have contributed to what we know about Antelope Creek culture. As is the case in many fields of study, most of the master’s theses and dissertations written by archeology graduate students are never formally published. This is unfortunate, because many such studies are in-depth analyses that have significant research contributions.

Among those graduate students who have stuck with it and gone on to complete dissertations and published studies are four that deserve special mention: Lathel Duffield, Marjorie Duncan, Robert Campbell, and Christopher Lintz. Their contributions are highlighted below.

Antelope Creek Paleoecology

In the mid 1960s, two scientists from Wisconsin, archeologist David A. Baerreis and climatologist Reid A. Bryson, published a series of articles advancing a fascinating hypothesis that, in part, might explain the origin of Antelope Creek culture. Using climatic data and newly obtained radiocarbon dates from Antelope Creek sites, they argued that deteriorating climatic conditions in the central Plains about A.D. 1200 had caused Upper Republican peoples to move south from Nebraska to the Oklahoma and Texas panhandles shortly thereafter. While a central Plains origin for Antelope Creek had been postulated in the 1930s by Wedel and reinforced by Krieger and then Watson, Baerreis and Bryson were the first to provide a clear mechanism and supporting evidence. Their work was the first time that Antelope Creek paleoecology, the biological study of ancient organisms (humans included) and their environment, had been seriously considered.

Inspired by this work, Lathel F. Duffield, a graduate student under Baerreis at the University of Wisconsin, decided to undertake a detailed analysis of the faunal materials (animal bones) recovered from 11 Antelope Creek sites. Duffield obtained collections from the three sites he had excavated in 1962 at Sanford Reservoir as well as a series of other sites including Antelope Creek 22, Alibates 28, and Sanford Ruin. His 1970 dissertation remains a critical source of information on Antelope Creek diet, hunting patterns, and paleoecology. For instance, he identified 38 species of mammals, 29 birds, 8 reptiles, and 2 fish among the bones he studied, clearly showing that Antelope Creek peoples relied on far more than buffalo. To be sure, bison was the most important species at all the sites he studied, but Duffield’s data suggested that there had been a drying trend during Antelope Creek times that by A.D. 1300 resulted in fewer bison and more antelope. Was this trend a factor in the demise of Antelope Creek culture?

Recently, Majorie Duncan has completed her dissertation at the University of Oklahoma on a detailed ecological study of the animal bones from the Two Sisters homestead site in the Oklahoma Panhandle. The Two Sisters site is thought to be a small homestead occupied by a single Plains Village family over a lengthy period of time. Duncan’s study relies on contrasting the bone assemblages from two superimposed houses occupied between A.D. 1300 and 1450 that presumably represent continued site occupation by successive generations. In addition to providing a comprehensive description of the site and its material assemblage, she documents the use of 15 species of identifiable mammals, 10 species of reptiles, one amphibian species, 15 bird species, three fish species, and one mussel species. Based on ranking the importance of various prey and studies of long-term resource depletion, Duncan presents a fascinating model of how the site may have been abandoned. She reasons that the work of acquiring food became too difficult following environmental deterioration (increasingly drier conditions) and the immediate area could no longer be effectively farmed, forcing the family to move elsewhere for survival.

Apishapa and Antelope Creek Phases

In the late 1960s Robert Campbell completed his doctoral research at the University of Colorado on the Chaquaqua Plateau of southeastern Colorado. There he found evidence of a Plains village group who were responsible for what he called the Apishapa phase. Apishapa peoples built circular houses with stone foundations and Campbell proposed they were the ancestors and originators of Antelope Creek culture. He expanded this idea in his 1976 book, The Panhandle Aspect of the Chaquaqua Plateau. Campbell argued that around A.D. 1200, the Apishapa Plains villagers were forced to migrate as the result of a prolonged drought. They moved, he argued, south and east into the Canadian River valley, bringing with them their knowledge of stone masonry. In the Texas Panhandle, they came in contact with late Woodland peoples who were already living in rectangular subterranean houses. According to Campbell, the mix of cultures resulted in the typical Antelope Creek houses with stone foundations.

Two years after the publication of Campbell's book, his migration theory drew a withering critique from a graduate student, Christopher R. Lintz. In a 1978 paper called "Architecture and Radiocarbon Dating of the Antelope Creek Focus: A Test of Campbell's Model," Lintz argued that his own appraisal of Antelope Creek radiocarbon dates suggested that the Apishapa and Antelope Creek cultures were contemporaneous rather than successive. (Today the issue is being debated again -- see Hank's House 2.)

Lintz, in essence, had taken up the task of defining Antelope Creek culture where Alex Krieger left off over three decades earlier. Lintz had been introduced to the subject in the early 1970s as a young graduate student at the University of Oklahoma (OU). He took part in two OU field schools held at Plains Village sites in the Oklahoma Panhandle, the first in 1972 at the McGrath site and the second the following year at the Two Sisters site. Lintz wrote up the McGrath site for his 1975 master’s degree. His interest in the region grew in the 1970s and early 1980s while he worked on various contract projects and continued his graduate studies.

For his dissertation research, Lintz critically reexamined many aspects of Antelope Creek culture, focusing on the small core area centered on a 50-mile stretch of the Canadian Valley north and northeast of Amarillo. Lintz had two key advantages over Krieger. First, of course, he was able to incorporate the results of three more decades of research, a period during which radiocarbon dating had become an important tool. Secondly, Lintz devoted a great deal more time to the project than Krieger had been able to and was able to track down many primary field records and unpublished manuscripts as well as published accounts. His 1984 dissertation (formally published in 1986) is a critical source on Antelope Creek culture. Lintz has also published numerous articles and reports on Antelope Creek sites and related research topics.

Lintz reaffirmed the validity of the Antelope Creek concept, redefining it as the Antelope Creek phase within what he called the Upper Canark variant of the Plains Village tradition. Practically speaking, the Upper Canark variant is a slightly expanded version of what Krieger called the Panhandle aspect. As you might expect, given the provincial nature of most archeological research, the new variant name has found favor among Oklahoma and Colorado archeologists. Equally unsurprising is the fact that Texas archeologists rarely use the term, if for no other reason than because of its awkward construction (Upper Canark = upper drainage systems of the Canadian and Arkansas rivers).

Among Lintz’ contributions are these five accomplishments: (1) he classified cultural variation in Plains Village life across the western half of the southern Plains; (2) he revised the chronology of Antelope Creek; (3) he recognized that the extreme diversity others had perceived in Antelope Creek architectural form represented mainly variation on a relatively simple set of basic functional forms; (4) he marshaled considerable data in support of plausible explanations of the origin, development, social organization, and demise of Antelope Creek culture; and (5) he offered an improved explanation of the interaction between Antelope Creek villagers and Pueblo peoples to the southwest.

Lintz compiled the available dating clues and carefully reviewed the chronology of Antelope Creek and defined two subphases, an early one (A.D. 1200-1350) and a late one (A.D 1350-1500), thus pushing back Krieger’s dates by over a century. Rejecting the Upper Republican origins postulated by Baerreis and Bryson, Lintz embraced Jack Hughes’ argument that Antelope Creek was a local development that had its origins in the area’s earlier Woodland and Late Archaic cultures. (While the "local origins" hypothesis is still considered viable today, it has yet to be supported by solid evidence.)

The architectural variation long noted among Antelope Creek and related Plains Village sites had befuddled archeologists for decades. Lintz argued that many of the differences were superficial and were attributable more to the availability of building materials (or engineering constraints due to room sizes) and, especially, to the failure of archeologists to fully expose and understand Antelope Creek architecture. He defined two dominant forms of basic residential units—houses—as well as several types of “subordinate structures” representing storage rooms, work rooms, cooking areas, and other specialized-function areas.

At most Antelope Creek sites, particularly the multi-room “pueblos,” subordinate structures outnumber the actual houses and have caused some researchers to overestimate the number of people who had lived there. The archeological attention lavished on the so-called "pueblos" in the 1920s-1940s created the false impression that these were archetypical Antelope Creek "village" sites. In fact, these appear to be exceptional sites that only occur in a small area and they are are far outnumbered by smaller sites with isolated or paired houses and subordinate structures.

Antelope Creek sites that have architectural remains, Lintz said, could be divided into three categories: hamlets, homesteads, and subhomesteads. (Some site types, like rock art sites, butchering locales, and flint quarries, do not have structures.) Even the largest sites, such as Antelope Creek 22, were really not villages, but hamlets where no more than eight families had lived. Homesteads were smaller sites with one main house and various subordinate structures where a single family had lived. Subhomesteads were sites with subordinate structures but no main houses and probably were seasonal farmsteads or other limited use areas.

In early Antelope Creek times, most people lived in hamlets, including the famed “pueblos” with continuous rooms as well as the more common clusters of individual houses and subordinate structures. But by late Antelope Creek times, most people lived in homesteads, a change Lintz thought was caused by increasing drought and the difficulty of finding enough resources to sustain larger social groups. Another early to late change was a statistically dramatic increase in the amount of traded pottery and other items from the Rio Grande Pueblos to the southwest. Greater trade and interaction after A.D. 1300 was, he argued, a response to less predictable climatic conditions for farming. In a subsequent study Lintz also documented the unusual existence of true mound construction at Alibates Ruin 28, where a mound at least four feet tall with some kind of elevated structure atop was constructed during late Antelope Creek times.

Sophisticated explanations of complex social phenomena, like Antelope Creek life, are complicated and must take into consideration many factors. Lintz did not simply make assertions and offer "just-so" stories; instead he presented supporting data ranging from radiocarbon dates, plant and animal identifications, artifact counts, room size calculations, feature distributions and so on. His comparative regional analysis of hard evidence is exactly the sort of scientific study that had been sorely lacking in Antelope Creek studies for so long. Lintz’ work was a much-needed synthesis and new interpretation of Antelope Creek life upon which other researchers will be building (and picking apart) for many more decades.

Recent Developments

It is hard to make proper sense of any recent history simply because we are too close to the events and personalities. In archeology, for instance, years and even decades can go by between excavation and final publication and between the productive career peaks of leading authorities and their successors.

The small archeological community of the northern Texas Panhandle is still in transition following the death of Jack Hughes in 2001. Hughes left an unequaled legacy of students and friends whose involvement in archeology he inspired. He also left behind many systematic artifact collections and supporting documentation from many Antelope Creek sites. As in many areas of the state, much unglamorous work remains to be done to tap the potential of these important collections.

Happily, there are positive developments underway. Government-sponsored and government-mandated archeological research will continue to provide new opportunities. Landowners such as Harold Courson (Buried City), John Erickson (northern Roberts County), and Pete Thurmond (Dempsey Divide in western Oklahoma) are devoting their own time and resources to learning more about the history of their land. Veteran professional and avocational archeologists, many of them Jack’s formers students, continue to be interested in the archeology of the region, even those who have moved away. For instance, Panhandle natives Doug Boyd and Brett Cruise are professional archeologists who have been returning to the region to help Erickson investigate a little known area of the Canadian River Valley. Members of the Panhandle Archeological Society, the TAS and the THC’s stewardship network, such as Rolla Shaller, Alvin Lynn, and Doug Wilkens (among others), are involved in almost every field project in the region. Graduate students from various universities including the University of Oklahoma, Wichita State University, the University of Texas at San Antonio, and Texas A&M, are analyzing old Antelope Creek collections and undertaking new research. Scott Brosowske’s work at Buried City and other sites exemplifies the contributions that graduate students are making. Finally, we note that Oklahoma professional archeologists, such as Richard Drass and Robert Brooks at OU, are studying Plains Village and Woodland cultures in western and southern Oklahoma that offer close comparisons with the villagers of the Texas Panhandle.

Link to Future Research
Antelope Creek culture was a lot less uniform and a lot more interesting than earlier archeologists had believed. As is invariably the case with ancient cultures, the more we learn, the more we realize we still don't know.
Picture of earth-colored pottery fragments.
Borger Cordmarked pottery sherds from the Congdon's Butte site in northeastern New Mexico, one of the westernmost Antelope Creek sites. This earthenware pottery provided basic household needs—storage and cooking. The ruler at the bottom of the picture is marked in centimeters. Photo by Chris Lintz.
Photo of rectangular pattern of white stones marking the outer walls of a house.
The “Big House” at the Black Dog Village site is a large, classic Antelope Creek house that is much larger than the other known houses there. Archeologists from the Texas Highway Department also exposed four, smaller rectangular structures that are probably more typical houses and it is suspected that numerous other rectangular and circular house patterns may have been present elsewhere at the site, beyond the highway right-of-way.
Drawing  of rectangular house pattern.
Plan map of the “Big House” uncovered at the Black Dog Village site. This large structure (18 by 26 feet) has many of the features identified in classic Antelope Creek houses including a central depression or “channel” flanked by slightly raised benches and roof-support posts, central hearths, partial slab wall construction, and an apparent “altar” opposite the entranceway. Click to see full image.
Photo of tall man wearing cowboy hat and standing in arid valley taking notes on a clipboard.
In the 1970s, Meeks Etchieson was one of the most active government archeologists to be stationed in the Texas Panhandle. Etchieson, who worked for the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, carried out surveys and salvage excavations on federal land around Lake Meredith. Photo by Chris Lintz.
Photo of exposed stone outline of an ancient house. In the background the lake can be seen.
Archeologists have recorded numerous partially exposed Antelope Creek houses on government property surrounding Lake Meredith. This house, like many, has been dug into by a treasure hunter. Such acts are against the law on federal property. Photo by Chris Lintz.
antelope creek houses
Archeologists expose the remains of Antelope Creek houses that once stood atop Landergin Mesa in 1984. Photo courtesy Chris Lintz.
Photo of men loading bags into heliocopter.
Archeologists get help hauling sterile sand to the top of Landergin Mesa to stabilize and protect the 1984 excavation block. Photo courtesy Chris Lintz.
Photo of report cover.
The 1996 Bulletin of the Texas Archeological Society features a final report by Jim Couzzourt and Beverly Schmidt-Couzzourt on the 1969 TAS field school at Blue Creek. Few non-archeologists can appreciate how difficult it is to successfully complete such a project 15 years after the fact.
Photo of two men with dry creek bed behind them
TAS members pause while screening excavated sediment during the 1969 TAS field school at Blue Creek. In the background Lake Meredith is visible. Photo by Wallace Williams
Photo of antelope.
Pronghorn antelope appear to be better adapted to drier conditions than bison. Lathel Duffield used this observation to interpret the increased numbers of antelope bones relative to bison bones in Antelope Creek sites as a sign of worsening drought. Photo courtesy Texas Parks and Wildlife.
Photo a circle of rocks with scattered rocks in the middle.
One of three circular rooms flanking Structure A, the latest of two rectangular houses at the Two Sisters site. The scattered rocks on the room floor may have been used to weigh down a grass-thatched roof. Beneath the floor were several large storage pits. Photo by Chris Lintz.
Photo of Robert Campbell
For his dissertation at the University of Colorado, Robert Campbell studied Plains Village sites in the Chaquaqua Plateau of southeastern Colorado. These, he argued, represented an Apishapa phase that he thought preceded the Antelope Creek phase. Campbell later became a professor of anthropology at Texas Tech University.
This 1989 map by Chris Lintz shows the approximate territories of the Antelope Creek and Apishapa phases as well as of the Buried City and Zimms complexes. All are related Plains Village cultures that coexisited around A.D. 1300. The dotted line is the boundary of the Upper Canark variant, the name Lintz gave to what earlier researchers called the "Panhandle aspect."
Photo of dry valley with red-colored walls.
The picturesque valley of Antelope Creek, namesake of the Antelope Creek focus, phase, and culture. This photo was taken near Antelope Creek Ruin 22, one of the culture's most impressive sites. Photo by Chris Lintz
The Naming Game

What the reader may suspect is true: we archeologists sometimes spend an inordinate amount of time coining new names, arguing over definitions, and otherwise splitting taxonomic hairs. We have our reasons, but explaining these might put you to sleep. Alas, it does make it hard for the non-specialist to follow, especially when trying to compare articles or reports written years apart.

Drawing of stone and bone tools.
Apishapa phase artifact assemblage. Click on image to see details. From Lintz 1986, Figure 4.
Photo of large, oval stone tool made of multi-colored flint and a small, battered hammestone.
Antelope Creek villagers living at Alibates Ruin 28 and other nearby villages (hamlets) quarried the local material and made thousands and thousands of tools for export/trade to other villagers and other groups who lived elsewhere. Shown here is a large quarry "blank" (unfinished biface) and a hammerstone. PPHM collections, photo by Steve Black.
Photo of man in coat and tie handing a plaque to man dressed in blue denium.
Jack Hughes (left) receives the Floyd Studer Award for outstanding contributions to Panhandle archeology from the Panhandle Archeological Society in 1999. On the right is Alvin Lynn, then the president of the PAS. Photo by Doug Boyd.
Photo of charred corn cobs, few of which are mroe than twice the size of a dime.
Charred corn cobs have been found at many excavated Antelope Creek sites. Recent studies have cast doubt on the extent to which villagers depended on corn. Corn may have provided a relatively small part of the diet. PPHM collections, photo by Steve Black.