Site 41TA60

Cairn burial site 41TA60 was located on a limestone ledge which formed a rim around the small mountainlike hill. Limestone from the ledge was used to form the burial covering. Photo by E. B. Sayles. TARL Records.

Located on a rocky ledge on a hilltop near Buffalo Gap, Texas, site 41TA60 is a burial cairn containing the partially burned remains of two individuals. The stones covering the grave of the two had been piled to a height of 18 inches above the burial, for which 6 to 8 inches of the loose ledge stone had been removed. The entire cairn measured 16 feet N-S by 11 feet E-W. The slab-lined pit within was roughly circular, with diameter of 2 feet, and was ca. 8 inches deep.  

As described by excavator E.B. Sayles, the cairn had been constructed on a high point facing west. "In preparing for the burial, the loose dirt was removed from the ledgestone, leaving a shallow depression. In this, and enclosed by vertically placed stones, the burial was laid, probably in a sitting position, facing the south."

Although the upper burial was partially burned, the second burial, which was placed in front of the first, had been burned to the extent that only fragments remained. Additional burned bones were scattered for a distance of one to two feet outside the grave.

Having observed similar patterns in other cairn sites, Sayles observed that some of the bodies were cremated in place, or nearby, prior to interment: "In this type of burial, it appears that the loose soil was first removed from the ledge stone outcropping on the high point. After burning, the remains were covered with stones."

Six arrow points were recovered: three Moran, one possible Moran fragment, and one Chadbourne. The sixth appears to be a fragmentary Chadbourne with a probable impact fracture. Although specific provenience apparently was not recorded, Sayles notes that three were found accompanying the burial and one was found two feet from the burial. All showed evidence of fire.

Site 41TA60 is particularly significant as one of the few that held diagnostic materials helpful in establishing time period for the cairn burial phenomenon in this region. Arrow points of both types Chadborne and Moran were found within the burial.  Importantly, their co-occurrence establishes contemporaneity of the two types.  Further, the heat damage to the points suggests they may have been within the bodies at the time of cremation.


photo of large, vertically placed stones mounded to a height of 18 inches above the burial.
Large, vertically placed stones were mounded to a height of 18 inches above the burial. Photo by E. B. Sayles. TARL Records. Enlarge Image
drawing of flexed and partially burned skeletal remains
Flexed and partially burned skeletal remains in cairn at 41TA60. A second burial, containing fragmentary, burned bones, was found in front of Burial 1. Drawing (derived from photo by E. B. Sayles); TARL Records. Enlarge Image
photo of arrow points recovered from 41TA60
Arrow points recovered from 41TA60 include (left to right) notched Moran, Moran, probable Chadbourne, Chadbourne, and Moran. Association of the two types within the burial is significant, indicating their contemporaneity in the early Late Prehistoric time period. Photo by Laura Nightengale; TARL Collections. View alternate photo. Enlarge Image