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November 10th, 2009
Texas State digs Collins

Noted archeologist Michael Collins is a new staff member at Texas State.

STAFF REPORT

Texas State recently announced that archeologist Michael Collins, director of the world renowned Gault archeological site in Central Texas, has joined its faculty in the Department of Anthropology.

Collins will hold the post of research professor while continuing his research on the Gault site through Texas State.

The Gault site is the world’s largest Clovis period excavation. Collins has been working there since 1998. It is estimated that more than 60 percent of the known Clovis artifacts have come from the site, which covers an area the size of four football fields near Florence. Until recently, Clovis technology was believed to represent the Americas’ earliest human inhabitants, who arrived in the hemisphere by walking across the Bering Land Bridge some time between 11,000-8,000 B.C.

Recent discoveries at Gault and elsewhere, of stone artifacts predating Clovis, have convinced most archeologists that culture existed in the Americas at least 500 to 1,000 before Clovis, possibly arriving by boat and on foot.

The National Science Foundation awarded a $214,000 two-year grant to Collins to continue his pre-Clovis excavations, which will involve Texas State anthropology students and archeologists from all over the world.

“If we find what we think we’re going to find, it will change American archaeology,” said Clark Wernecke, executive director of the Gault School of Archaeological Research. “We may start talking about the Florence Culture or the Gault Culture coming before Clovis.”

The Gault School is an educational outreach program begun by Collins to further understanding of the Gault project’s significance.  The Gault School offers public workshops and volunteer opportunities involving participants in excavations and lab work.

The Gault project’s Clovis-era discoveries have even changed archeologists’ ideas about Clovis culture. The people using Clovis technology were thought to be nomadic mammoth hunters. The Gault site excavations show that they were established as hunters and gatherers, much like the cultures that spread across the continent a few thousand years later.

“This is a whole new way of thinking about what is still recognized as America’s earliest culture,” said Wernecke.

Department of Archeology Chair John McGee said the Gault research compliments the research interests of the Anthropology Deparment faculty and the department’s Center for Archeological studies.

“The work will draw national and international scholarly attention to Texas State and bring outside scholars to campus,” McGee said.  “Undergraduate and graduate students will be able to participate in field research at the Gault site, gaining valuable hands-on training and experience.  Students will also be able to take part in laboratory research, including M.A. thesis projects.”

Collins said, “Texas State is creating a vital center of research and education  in Texas archaeology. I am really excited to become a small part of that development.”

More information on Texas State’s anthropology department is available at http://www.txstate.edu/anthropology/. Information on the Gault site is available at  http://www.gaultschool.org.

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