A. C. Saunders Site

By: Kathleen Kirk Gilmore

Type: General Entry

Published: November 1, 1994

The A. C. Saunders Site, in extreme northeastern Anderson County, is a site of the late prehistoric Frankston Phase. This phase is directly ancestral to the Caddoan-speaking Hasinai tribes encountered by the Spaniards and French in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. The site consists of an ash mound and a midden beneath which was a circular house pattern. A. T. Jackson of the University of Texas anthropology department did tests there in 1931 and excavated in 1935; he called it a perpetual fire site. E. B. Sayles of Gila Pueblo, Arizona, did tests in the midden in 1933, and copies of his notes are housed in the Texas Archeological Research Laboratory.

Jackson's excavations consisted of two trenches dug into the ash mound and complete excavation of the midden. During the later work was found a circular pattern of postholes that represent a former structure about forty-six feet in diameter. The entrance may have been one of several gaps in the posthole pattern. Evidence of a hearth and several support posts was found on the interior. Additional postholes and hearths were found on the exterior of the large house and may represent the position of a lean-to. The ash mound, which contained few artifacts, was 152 feet from north to south and 123 feet from east to west. The maximum height was about 7 feet. The ash had been placed on a natural knoll of red sand. Covering the ash was an ash-free deposit of sandy loam about 1.5 feet thick.

Spaniards who visited East Texas told of a large, round, thatched house set aside for the maintenance of a perpetual fire and associated ceremonies; they stated that ashes accumulated on the outside. Jackson believed that the A. C. Saunders Site was such a site. In 1982 Ulrich Kleinschmidt tentatively supported Jackson's hypothesis but noted that there is no information to support the contemporaneity of the ash accumulation and the large structure. Yet, as Kleinschmidt points out, in the nearby six-county area, where 668 sites are known, only one other site, Pace MacDonald in Anderson County, has an ash accumulation. But it is smaller and appears to be earlier than that at the A. C. Saunders Site. The Saunders Site is therefore unique in the eastern Texas area.

Several different pottery types were found in the midden. Effigy bowls with mammals and birds and ceramic elbow pipes were also found, as well as projectile points, mainly Perdiz. Stone and bone tools were also recovered, as well as altered mussel shells that were probably used as tools. Food remains consisted principally of deer, wild turkey, and fish bones. Jackson's notes and artifacts from the site are stored at the Texas Archeological Research Laboratory, Austin.

A. T. Jackson, "A ‘Perpetual Fire’ Site," Bulletin of the Texas Archeological and Paleontological Society 8 (1936). Ulrich Karl Wilhelm Kleinschmidt, Review and Analysis of the A. C. Saunders Site, 41AN19, Anderson County, Texas (M.A. thesis, University of Texas at Austin, 1982). Dee Ann Suhm et al., "An Introductory Handbook of Texas Archeology," Bulletin of the Texas Archeological Society 25 (1954).
  • Archeology
  • Land Sites

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

Kathleen Kirk Gilmore, “A. C. Saunders Site,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed June 29, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/a-c-saunders-site.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

November 1, 1994