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Buried City

Location

Panhandle, on Wolf Creek southeast of Perryton

Inhabitants

  • 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

The Site

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 site.

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.

Astronomical Significance

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.

Public Access

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, (806) 488-2227.

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 Press, 1996
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, 1989.

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.

 

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