LA 38597

The Pecan Site

Overview Analysis
Archaeological site LA 38597 is an ancient campsite occupied multiple times over thousands of years. It is most notable for the recovery of maize starch from Middle Archaic deposits–the earliest archaeological evidence for maize in this part of the Permian Basin. Ceramics found at LA 38597 suggest regional trade based on clay sources likely from the Sierra Blanca Mountains roughly 125 miles away. Stone tools made from Pecos River and Mescalero Plain gravels, as well as the presence of Pecos clam and mussel shells, demonstrate the importance of the local landscape for subsistence.

Ceramics found at LA 38597 in 2019 suggested that the site was occupied during the Early Formative Period between AD 500 and 1100. Radiocarbon dating of features excavated in 2021 indicates three periods of occupation spanning the Archaic through Formative periods: 2600-1800 BC, 1600-1000 BC, and AD 500-900.


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, pecan/hickory, and goosefoot. Some maize (corn) pollen was torn providing direct evidence of grinding. The only faunal remains recorded include clam/mussel shells and five unidentifiable mammal bones.


Among artifacts discovered at LA 38597 are numerous tools used to process plants for food, including large manos and metates. These paired tools are used to grind hard foods such as nuts and grains by pressing them between a handheld stone (mano) and a stone grinding surface (metate).


Sponge spicules found at LA 38597 suggest that it was part of a wetter landscape than today’s arid scrubland. More year-round and seasonal water sources allowed a greater variety of vegetation, including large stands of hickory and/or pecan trees, whose pollen was also recovered from the site.