HOUSTON—Long before skyscrapers sprouted from the soil of downtown Houston, Native Americans apparently settled near Cypress Creek and established what may have been an ancient trading post.
Archeologists digging around a piece of property in what’s now northwest Harris County have discovered not only human bones, but also tools and bowls and other artifacts of what may have been our area’s first settlers. Indeed, the settlement may date back as far as 14,000 years.
"The size of the site, the density of materials, the number of graves suggest there was a village there, and that that village was actually at cross roads of a major trade network that linked wide areas of North America," said Dr. Ken Brown, a professor of archeology at the University of Houston.
But now, it’s at the crossroads of a controversy between historic preservationists, Native Americans and the Texas Department of Transportation. Whatever sat on that patch of land now sits directly in the projected path of a new freeway, the Grand Parkway in northwest Harris County.
Archeologists hired by TXDOT first started probing the site over the summer, turning up what appeared to be the bones of at least two humans that the state said were about 2,000 years old. But Brown said in court documents that other archeologists found the remains of as many as ten humans.
Some of the artifacts found at the site were made from material that apparently came from several hundred miles away, suggesting Native Americans brought them to this area for trade.
"We’ve got everything from axes, knives, projectile points, scrapers, the full tool kits people used in their daily lives," Brown said.
The Harris County Attorney’s Office, which has already lost one round in court, is trying to delay the freeway’s construction to give archeologists more time to assess the site’s significance.
"The purpose of that is to force the Texas Department of Transportation to take another look at what’s going on and not do something which we consider to be astoundingly ignorant," said Terry O’Rourke, an assistant county attorney.
TXDOT declined comment because the matter is still under litigation.