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OSO CREEK SITE

OSO CREEK SITE. The Oso Creek Site, also known as the Callo del Oso, Oso Bone Pit, and False Oso Site, is designated as site 41NU2 in the files of the Texas Archeological Research Laboratory, the University of Texas at Austin. It is on the northwest side of Oso Bay, within the city limits of Corpus Christi. The archeological materials from the site consisted of perhaps hundreds of ancient Indian burials that had been placed in a clay dune, a topographic feature common on bays and lower portions of creeks on the coast south of Corpus Christi. There was little evidence of habitation, and the site was apparently devoted to mortuary use. The first published account of the site was by George C. Martin in 1930. He excavated as many as fifty-three prehistoric human remains at the site and also noted that burials had been dug from the clay dune by local collectors in the 1920s. In 1932 E. B. Sayles recorded the site during his archeological survey of Texas; he put in a test pit that uncovered nine burials. A University of Texas field session at the site in summer 1933 was led by A. T. Jackson. A total of 101 human skeletons was recorded; some of these were partial remains, as they had been disturbed by erosion or by other burials that had intruded into earlier graves.

The Oso Creek Site dates to the Late Archaic period, roughly 500 B.C.-A.D. 500. It was common in the first half of the twentieth century for Corpus Christi newspapers to attribute burials from the site to Karankawas. However, all evidence points to much earlier, non-Karankawan peoples. There were very few burial offerings; these included freshwater mussel shell pendants, a bone awl, a deer-antler tool, an unstemmed projectile point, a hammerstone, several small conch shells, fragments of sunray clam shell, and a tube or bead made of human bone. The positioning of the bodies within graves was very consistent. Nearly 87 percent were placed on the left side, with the head oriented east to south (facing Oso Bay); on some, the hands had been placed over the face.

Studies of the remains have been done by several physical anthropologists. However, it is impossible to summarize the burial data accurately; Jackson reported 101 burials from his excavations, yet there are but 68 burials at the Texas Archeological Research laboratory. A review of the burial data by the author, using information from TARL records and Jackson's fieldnotes, suggests that the burial population included thirty-two juveniles (up to age sixteen; twenty-three are less than six years of age); nineteen adult males, sixteen adult females, fifteen adults unidentified as to sex, and sixteen fragmentary remains that are unidentifiable. A 1987 paper by Jackson, Boone, and Henneberg has noted a significant occurrence of lesions within this population; this pathology is related to treponematosis, an infectious disease. They suggest repeated infections spread by these small Late Archaic hunter-gatherer groups during seasonal aggregations. The human osteological remains are at TARL, as are notes, photographs, and artifacts from the work by A. T. Jackson and others who have visited the site over the decades.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

M. S. Goldstein, "Skeletal Pathology of Early Indians of Texas," American Journal of Physical Anthropology 15 (1930). Thomas Hester, Digging into South Texas Prehistory: A Guide for Amateur Archaeologists (San Antonio: Corona Press, 1980). Barbara E. Jackson, James L. Boone, and Maciej Henneberg, "Possible Causes of Endeic Treponematosis in a Prehistoric Hunter-Gatherer Population on the Texas Coast," Bulletin of the Texas Archeological Society 57 (1986). George C. Martin, "Two Sites on the Callo del Oso, Nueces County, Texas," Bulletin of the Texas Archeological and Paleontological Society 2 (September 1930). Patience Elizabeth Patterson and Mary Margaret Ford, Oso Creek Flood Control Project Area, Nueces County, Texas: A Report on the Archeological and Historical Resources (Texas Archeological Survey, University of Texas at Austin, 1974). George and E. Woodbury, Prehistoric Skeletal Remains from the Texas Coast (Lancaster, Pennsylvania: Lancaster Press, 1935).

Thomas R. Hester

Citation

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Thomas R. Hester, "OSO CREEK SITE," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/bbo02), accessed October 25, 2014. Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.