Bridging the Past and Present: Cultural Resources Highlights

Learn more about Texas' history and archeology as we share stories from the road.

April 7, 2016 - Prehistoric Rainfall

Mesquite Tree

The course of human history and culture is heavily influenced by climate. For example, in a recent study, Washington State University scientists researched how cycles of rainfall and drought may have influenced regional abandonment and social reorganization in the prehistoric southwest. Clearly, an understanding of past rainfall patterns is essential to the study of ancient cultures.

In one experimental study aimed at adding a piece to this puzzle, TxDOT archeologist Dr. Kevin Hanselka looks at the differences in modern mesquite wood samples and their associated climates across Texas.

The goal is to build a baseline for interpreting ancient or prehistoric rainfall in Texas using archeological mesquite wood charcoal, which would give a glimpse of what environmental conditions might have been like in prehistoric times.

“Estimating the general rainfall pattern in effect when a site was occupied helps us interpret other aspects of the archeological record, such as availability of edible plants and animals, presence or absence of agriculture, group movement and settlement, and possibly evidence of social strain or conflict,” Hanselka said. “Insights like these give us perspective on how prehistoric Texans adapted to the natural environment.”

Find more information about the project by reading the full story.

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