Hinds Cave Site

By: Harry J. Shafer

Type: General Entry

Published: January 1, 1995

Hinds Cave Site (41VV456) is in a tributary canyon of the Pecos River in northwestern Val Verde County. The site is a large cave formed as a solution cavity in a limestone bluff. The protected area measures thirty-seven meters north-south and twenty-three meters deep. The ceiling of the cave is four to five meters above the floor at the rear. The fill in the cave, which reaches a depth of about three meters, is almost entirely the result of human activity. Due to the dry conditions and semiarid environment, the cultural deposits contain a wealth of perishable material in the form of plant and animal residues, textiles, wooden, bone, and lithic artifacts, and food remains. Hinds Cave was recorded in 1974, when it was first visited by professional archeologists from Texas A&M University. Excavations were conducted in 1975 with support from the National Geographic Society and again in 1976 with funding provided by the National Science Foundation.

The cave was first occupied at the end of the Pleistocene by small bands of gather-hunters who moved into the deep canyon country of the lower Pecos River region. Twenty-six radiocarbon dates from the stratified deposits provide a securely dated occupational sequence and attest to the cave's intermittent use by Archaic bands beginning about 9,100 years ago.

While the excavations were largely aimed at securing controlled samples of plant remains, material items, and human coprolites (desiccated human feces), information was obtained on the use of space under the overhang, a pattern of use that was maintained by most groups that occupied the site. Two living areas marked by the remains of grass-lined sleeping pits and hearths were recorded. One was near the back wall in a relatively flat area of the floor, and the other was in a small alcove room in the west end; a large, stratified latrine area was between two living floors.

Artifacts recovered from Hinds Cave include an excellent controlled sample of plant remains, faunal material, and perishable artifacts-including basketry, matting, netting, split-leaf ties, cordage, sandals, and such wooden objects as notched spear foreshafts, various altered sticks, and snare fragments. Lithic artifacts include battering and grinding implements, waste material from manufacturing chipped stone tools, and discarded stone tools. Many of the tools still bear traces of organic residue that provided direct information on the kinds of materials the tools were used to process, such as the leaves of desert succulents and small animals. Other artifacts included painted pebbles, bone awls, and other examples of modified stone, bone, shell, and plant materials.

Archeological features included the grass sleeping pits, floors of prickly pear pads (with the spines removed), small hearths (usually rock paved), and pits lined with matting fragments; other features reported but not found by Texas A&M included a cache of clay figurines and another containing two hastily made baskets (one containing prickly pear pads) and a remarkably well-preserved digging stick.

The most significant contributions to come out of the Hinds Cave research are the detailed studies of the paleoenvironment using the plant residues and the studies of the ancient Archaic diets from the analysis of coprolite and faunal and plant residue. The field notes and artifact collections from Hinds Cave are presently housed at the Texas A&M University Archaeological Research Laboratory at College Station.

Harry J. Shafer and Vaughn M. Bryant Jr., Archeological and Botanical Studies at Hinds Cave (College Station: Texas A&M University Anthropology Laboratory, 1977).
  • Archeology
  • Land Sites

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

Harry J. Shafer, “Hinds Cave Site,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed July 06, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/hinds-cave-site.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

January 1, 1995