The Loeve-Fox Site, on the north bank of the San Gabriel River near Circleville in eastern Williamson County, is now owned by the United States Army Corps of Engineers. It is named for two former landowners, Clarence Loeve of Granger and writer Henry B. Fox of Circleville. The site is now on the shores of Granger Lake, which was impounded in 1979. Loeve-Fox is a large, deep, terrace site that extends over about five acres and reaches depths of more than fifteen feet; its total vertical extent has not been determined, since the terrace rises some thirty feet above the normal river level, and excavations have been confined to the upper one-half of the terrace. Excavations were carried out intermittently from 1972 through 1978. These included weekend work by students from the University of Texas at Austin (1972–74); work by the Texas Archeological Survey under contract with the National Park Service (1973); a summer field school of the Department of Anthropology, UT Austin (1973); and a final season of work by the Texas Archeological Survey under contract with the United States Army Corps of Engineers, administered in 1978 through North Texas State University (now the University of North Texas). The field school was held under the direction of Dee Ann Story of UT Austin, and the remainder of the work was directed by Elton R. Prewitt.
Cultural materials in the Loeve-Fox Site are stratified and extend from the late Neoarchaic period near the surface to the middle Archaic period near the maximum depth of excavations. Seven of the named cultural phases recognized in Central Texas are represented. From youngest to oldest these are: Toyah (A.D. 1750–1300), Austin (A.D. 1300–700), Driftwood (A.D. 700–550), Twin Sisters (A.D. 550–150), Uvalde (A.D. 150–300 B.C.), San Marcos (300–650 B.C.), and Round Rock (650–1550 B.C.). A series of seventeen radiocarbon assays yielded internally consistent dates for the Twin Sisters, Driftwood, and Austin phases and contributed substantially to clarifying the chronological ordering of successive occupational episodes both within the site and within Central Texas.
The cultural phases are recognized on the basis of distinctive suites of features and tools, especially projectile-point styles. Arrow points are the hallmarks of the Neoarchaic Austin and Toyah phases, and dart points characterize the earlier Archaic phases. An important aspect of the artifacts recovered from the Loeve-Fox Site is the changing array of formal tools other than projectile points. Particularly important are the chipped stone axes and the bifacially chipped stone knives in the Twin Sisters and Driftwood phases. Though the bulk of materials recovered consists of chipping debris (55,748 flakes), substantial variety is displayed in the 1,334 artifacts recovered during excavations. Bone awls and flaking tools are associated with several of the phases; ornaments of freshwater mussel shell were found only in the Driftwood Phase. In contrast, marine shell beads and gorgets (pendants) were found associated with the San Marcos, Twin Sisters, and Austin phases. This indicates that a widespread trade network existed during those times. Other exotic items include a stone gorget and a boatstone (atlatl weight) from the Twin Sisters Phase.
A wide variety of features was encountered in the twenty strata recognized in the Loeve-Fox Site. One significant feature is an articulated bison (Bison bison) skeleton in the Toyah Phase. The skeleton lacks the skull and horn cores and was found with five arrow points in or adjacent to it. The animal apparently was slain but not butchered, even though the head (except for the mandible) appears to have been removed. Two small mandible fragments found near the bison have been identified as either dog or coyote. Another significant feature consists of a cemetery used during the Austin Phase. Twenty-seven skeletons in varying flexed positions and orientations were buried in an area approximately ten feet in diameter. These were surrounded by cremations contained in a band about ten feet wide encircling the central part of the cemetery. Only ten of an estimated fifty-two cremations were excavated. Ages of the noncremated individuals range from infant to old adult; arthritis and dental diseases are evident in many of the skeletons. Grave offerings are sparse and consist mainly of marine-shell beads and gorgets. All but one of these were associated with cremations. One freshwater mussel valve and two modified deer antlers may also represent grave offerings. Unquestionable evidence of human aggression indicates intense group competition for subsistence resources. Arrow points lodged in, between, or adjacent to vertebrae or in other fatal positions were found with six skeletons. One of these individuals is female, the other five are male, and only one is a young adult, while five are mature adults. The only other burial found in the site is a cremation associated with the San Marcos Phase. A single marine-shell bead was found in the cremation.
Many fire hearths and cooking pits were found with the various phases. A large, stone-lined, basin-shaped hearth in the Austin Phase provides important evidence of hearth construction. It apparently was used immediately after construction, and the intense heat burned the surrounding soil. Imprints of digging-stick marks are preserved in the fired clay matrix and show the methods used to excavate the pit. Distinctive arrangements of hearth features in the Twin Sisters Phase provide evidence of camp structure and, by extension, imply possible social structure during this phase. Three styles of cooking pit were clustered around large, stone-lined, basin-shaped hearths; the clusters were then encircled by a series of small hearths thought to be associated with small brush shelters six to eight feet in diameter. This suggests extended kin groups. The pattern is repeated on a sitewide scale with apparent special-use hearths in the center. The overall camp pattern during the Twin Sisters Phase is thought to have been similar to that used by various Plains Indian groups (such as the Cheyenne) during the nineteenth century.
Limited evidence of feature patterning was noted in the earlier components of the Loeve-Fox Site as well, particularly in the Round Rock Phase strata. However, the horizontal size of the excavations was so limited at that depth that broad pattern recognition was precluded. All artifacts, notes, photographs, drawings, and other documentation collected or generated through the various investigations at the Loeve-Fox Site are housed at the Texas Archeological Research Laboratory, J. J. Pickle Research Campus, University of Texas at Austin.