Survey under bridge reveals historical artifacts

When newspaperman J. B. White walked the river beds of Milam County in the 1920s and 1930s, in search of finding artifacts—remains that were left by early villagers who set up camp—little did he think that 70-plus years later, Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) archeologists would be employing a professional crew of archeologists to study the site under the Texas 36 Bridge over the Little River just outside Cameron.

The state is required by law to evaluate areas to be affected by road construction activities and to determine whether historically significant cultural properties, such as some historical sites will be adversely affected. If such occurs, further studies are recommended. Prewitt and Associations, Inc., an Austin-based archeological consulting firm was hired by TXDOT to complete the study.

Based on the information they needed, a crew of eight to 10 people were hired for three months.

The crew, from diverse and highly trained institutions of higher learning, performed the study.

The results of the TxDOT study on what was named “The J. B. White Site” is available at

Forty-eight cultural features directly related to human inhabitants were identified in these excavations.

Stone tools, including knives, drills, gravers, wedges, hammerstones, and choppers were found.

These were tools that were used to work wood.

Fewer bone type tools were recovered.

While White’s work in the 1920’s did identify that prehistoric man lived in the area of Milam County, little did he know that less than 100 years later, a project to learn more of these inhabitants would be needed.

Work began in the steamy month of July 2002.

TxDOT research yielded archeological evidence buried from one to six feet below the surface of the modern floodplain.

Sloughs and old river channels of Little River had moved to the present position by the 1920s when the J. B. White site was occupied.

Questions remain. Who were the Little River people? How long did they stay at this site?

Now that the El Camino Real de los Tejas Trail, two routes through Milam County, will soon be marked with National Park service signs, what effect will this have on research in this century?

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2011-11-17 digital edition

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