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Texas State University’s chemistry and biochemistry department has joined the anthropology department’s ongoing study of the noted Gault site, the excavation of an area 40 miles north of Austin thought to have been occupied for at least 13,500 years.

Texas State anthropology professor Michael Collins at the Gault site. PHOTO via TEXAS STATE UNIVERSITY

Texas State anthropology professor Michael Collins at the Gault site. PHOTO via TEXAS STATE UNIVERSITY

The site has yielded numerous significant archeological discoveries including more than 600,000 artifacts of Clovis age, generally accepted as the first culture to emerge in North America about 13,500 years ago. But researchers at archaeological digs across the continent have recently found “components” that date older than Clovis, findings that have been met with skepticism by archeological community, said Anastasia Gilmer, a Texas State archeology graduate student.

Underneath the Clovis-era layer at the Gault site, multiple artifacts have been dated by Optical Stimulated Luminescence to be as old as 13,800 years, which suggests a culture older than Clovis.

The Gault Archeological Project at Texas State has now enlisted the chemistry and biology departments to preserve soil samples that could support the idea that North America was inhabited by indigenous societies earlier than previously thought.

“One of the research questions we have is determining if [the samples] are older than 13,500 years,” Gilmer said.

In order to protect and preserve the soil samples that the team has excavated from the Gault site, the chemistry department has started assisting with embedding the samples into a plastic polyester resin. The preservation process is essential to the Gault studies because it keeps the samples intact so they can later be sliced and analyzed under a microscope, said chemistry and biochemistry departmental chair William Brittain.

The samples are classified as micromorphology samples, meaning they are undisturbed soil samples that will be analyzed under a microscope, Gilmer said. The samples, some as large as a loaf of bread, will eventually be analyzed to study their geologic material and their environmental history, such as weather patterns.

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