Radio Program | Buried City Fact Sheet | Printable version
Panhandle, on Wolf Creek southeast of Perryton
- Buried City probably represented a fairly isolated culture, perhaps speaking
the Caddoan language
- Early farming culture, growing beans, squash, corn, and other crops, and
hunting both large and small game around spring-fed Wolf Creek
- Inhabited around 1200 to 1400 or 1450; abandoned before Coronado
passed through in 1541, perhaps because of climate change or incursions by
nomadic Plains tribes
Buried City stretches for several miles along the slopes of Wolf Creek, a
small stream that was fed year-round by springs. The picturesque valley provided
abundant water and game and relatively good farming conditions.
Because so many ruins are scattered through the valley, the first scientists
to study the site, in the early 1900s, thought it was a single large city.
In more recent years, though, archaeologists have identified at least five
separate “village” sites. Each contained seven or eight fairly
large structures (the largest was about 650 square feet). David Hughes, who
led extensive investigations of the site in the late 1980s, suggests that each
group of structures was inhabited for 20 years or so. When local resources,
such as timber, were exhausted, the people simply built new houses at a different
A typical room was built from caliche boulders, with large posts at each corner
to support the roof. A central aisle, which extended from a long, low, igloo-like
entryway, contained a hearth. The entryways in all the houses faced east.
One Buried City house seems to show more than one astronomical alignment.
The east and west walls line up north to south -- an alignment that may have
been made by watching the North Star. The other two walls line up with the
sunrise on the equinoxes in March and September.
Many Panhandle houses of the same era open toward the east. The exact alignment
varies a little, however, suggesting that the entryways may have aimed at the
sunrise at the time they were built.
Buried City is on private property and is not open to the public. The house
sites are covered over by six centuries of weathering. However, visitors to Lake
Fryer and Wolf Creek Park can see
much of the Wolf Creek valley that the people of Buried City inhabited. The
park is at the end of North Canadian River Road, off of US 83 southeast of
Perryton. Admission. Contact (806) 435-9885.
One of the most important archaeological sites in the Panhandle is Alibates
Flint Quarries National Monument, which is near
Fritch, north of Amarillo. People excavated flint from this region for thousands
of years, and by 1000 A.D. the quarries were mined by full-time traders.
Access is provided only through ranger-led tours. Contact: 419 E. Broadway,
Fritch, Texas 79036, (806) 857-3151.
Palo Duro Canyon State Park was
first inhabited about 12,000 years ago, and was the site of the last major
battle of the Indian Wars in Texas. Admission. 11450 Park Road 5, Canyon 79015,
The Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum,
on the campus of West Texas A&M University in Canyon, is one of the largest
history museums in the state. Its exhibits chronicle 14,000 years of human
occupation of the region. Admission. The museum is at 2503 Fourth Avenue, Canyon,
79016, (806) 651-2544.
Museum of the Plains in Perryton
offers a small exhibit on Buried City, a Kiowa village, and fossils of mammoths
and other animals hunted by early inhabitants. Donations accepted. 1200 N.
Main, Perryton 79070, (806) 435-6400.
References and Resources
Learn about...Texas Indians, by Georg Zappler; Texas Parks & Wildlife
A learning and activity book for children.
The Indians of Texas: From Prehistoric to Modern Times, by W.W. Newcomb Jr.;
University of Texas Press, 1961, reprinted 2002.
A Field Guide to Archeological Sites of Texas, by Parker Nunley; Gulf Publishing,
Plains Indians, A.D. 500-1500: The Archaeological Past of Historic Groups,
edited by Karl H. Schlesier; University of Oklahoma Press, 1994.
Courson Archaeological Research
Texas Beyond History: Buried City
Extensive sections on the site, its inhabitants, and archaeological explorations in Wolf Creek valley
Handbook of Texas Online: Buried City
Handbook of Texas Online: Antelope Creek Phase
The Antelope Creek people, although apparently not directly related to those at Buried City, built their own villages in the Texas Panhandle.