LA 20241

The Shell Site

Overview Analysis
Archaeological site LA 20241 is an ancient campsite occupied multiple times over thousands of years. It is notable for the abundance of shell relative to all the faunal remains recovered from the site. Laboratory analysis identified three varieties of shell including some showing modification suggesting shells were used as food, ornament, and tools. In addition, ceramics found at LA 20241 suggest regional trade based on clay sources likely from over 100 miles away.

Ceramics and projectile points previously found at LA 20241 suggested that the site was occupied during the Late Archaic and Formative periods. Radiocarbon dating of features excavated in 2021 confirms overlapping periods of occupation spanning the Archaic and Formative periods between AD 1 and AD 1400.


Site occupants’ diets included a diverse array of plant and animal resources. Botanical remains, including starch and pollen, suggest people were eating maize (corn), barley/rye, and tubers. Common faunal remains available included migratory waterfowl, quail, fish, mussels, and clams as well as mammals like rabbit, deer, and at times bison.


Ceramics recovered from LA20241 include a variety of decorative types such as Corrugated brownwares, Chupadero Whiteware, Red-slipped, and Corona ware. Their presence suggests interaction with distant groups to the north and south of the archaeological site. Among the shell artifacts some have chipping and polish along the edge suggesting use as a knife. Other examples have notching showing where they were pried open.


While climate conditions during the site’s use were similar to today’s, the abundance of shell remains suggest water was more immediately available then now. In addition, the presence of starch from certain varieties of tubers indicate that wetland environments might have been located nearby. The site overlooks Dogtown Draw, which contains water during periods of precipitation and may have served as a tributary of the Pecos River in the past.