Macrobotanical Perspectives on Earth Oven Use in the Lower Pecos Canyonlands, Texas

Author(s): Kevin Hanselka; Leslie Bush; Philip Dering

Year: 2019


This is an abstract from the "Hot Rocks in Hot Places: Investigating the 10,000-Year Record of Plant Baking across the US-Mexico Borderlands" session, at the 84th annual meeting of the Society for American Archaeology.

The tradition of cooking foods in earth ovens goes back at least 10,000 years in the Lower Pecos Canyonlands of southwest Texas. Throughout millennia earth ovens were used to transform otherwise inedible plants into food, fiber, and possibly beverages. The region’s arid climate favors preservation of perishable materials in abundant dry rockshelters, allowing insight into past plant use generally not accessible in open-air sites where preservation of uncarbonized organic material is rare. Excavated earth oven features in sheltered sites in the Lower Pecos contain not only the partially-carbonized remains of plant foods, fuelwood, and packing material used in these facilities, but also post-oven discard deposits of largely uncarbonized botanical materials associated with other activities (e.g., fiber production, tool manufacture). This outstanding preservation provides a unique opportunity to evaluate pre- and post-oven plant processing and track behavioral chains involved in rendering plants into food and fiber artifacts. Using plant identifications obtained incidental to several research projects, we attempt to address the challenges of modeling prehistoric processing of plants with multiple uses (e.g., lechuguilla [Agave lechuguilla] and sotol [Dasylirion spp.] for both food and fiber); factors governing selection of particular plants for food, fiber, and fuel; and aspects of past environments.

Cite this Record

Macrobotanical Perspectives on Earth Oven Use in the Lower Pecos Canyonlands, Texas. Kevin Hanselka, Leslie Bush, Philip Dering. Presented at The 84th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Albuquerque, NM. 2019 ( tDAR id: 450713)

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 25382