Historical Archaeology

, Volume 52, Issue 2, pp 332–347 | Cite as

Cowboy Life along the Llano Estacado Eastern Escarpment of Northwest Texas: Insights from Macy Locality 16 (41GR722)

  • Stance Hurst
  • Dallas C. Ward
  • Eileen Johnson
  • Doug Cunningham
Original Article


Cattle ranching is an important part of the heritage of the American West, yet few archaeological studies focus on this industry. Many aspects of ranching-related work are ephemeral, leaving on the landscape only small traces of these past activities. Survey on an historical ranch (established 1882) along the eastern escarpment of the Llano Estacado has identified a short-term cowboy camp at Macy Locality 16 (41GR722). Metal-detector survey and excavation has delineated camping activities alongside a chuck wagon and the remains of a temporary corral. Historical documents, composition of the site’s artifact assemblage, and its position on the landscape indicate the occupation was a ca. 1882–1901 roundup camp. This study demonstrates the importance of contextualizing ephemeral ranching-related sites within the broader organization of ranching activities across the landscape.


cowboys Texas Llano Estacado Southern High Plains roundup camp 


La explotación ganadera es una parte importante del legado del Oeste americano, pero son escasos los estudios arqueológicos que se centran en ella. Muchos aspectos del trabajo ligado a la explotación ganadera son efímeros y dejan en el paisaje apenas pequeñas huellas de estas actividades del pasado. Un estudio de un rancho histórico (establecido en 1882) a lo largo de la escarpadura oriental de Llano Estacado ha identificado un campamento vaquero de corta duración en Macy Locality 16 (41GR722). Los estudios de detección de metales y las excavaciones han delineado actividades relacionadas con el campamento junto a un carromato y los restos de un corral provisional. Los documentos históricos, la composición del conjunto de artefactos del asentamiento y su posición en el paisaje indican que la ocupación fue un campamento de rodeo que data aproximadamente de 1882–1901. Este estudio demuestra la importancia de contextualizar los asentamientos ganaderos efímeros en el marco de la organización general de actividades ganaderas en el paisaje.


L’exploitation bovine est un élément essentiel de l’héritage de l’Ouest américain cependant, peu d’études archéologiques portent sur ce secteur. De nombreux aspects des tâches connexes sont éphémères, ne laissant dans le paysage que quelques traces des activités passées. L’étude d’un ranch historique fondé en 1882 le long de l’escarpement est de Llano Estacado a permis d’identifier un camp bouvier temporaire à Macy Locality 16 (41GR722). Des travaux d’excavation et de détection de métaux ont permis de délimiter l’emplacement d’activités de camping à proximité d’un chariot de mandrin, ainsi que des vestiges de corral provisoire. Des documents historiques, l’assemblage des artefacts sur le site et leur positionnement dans le paysage indiquent une occupation de type camp de rassemblement datant de 1882–1901 environ. La présente étude démontre l’importance de contextualiser les sites éphémères dans le mode d’organisation plus vaste des activités d’exploitation bovine dans l’ensemble du paysage.



The authors thank the landowner for graciously allowing us access to the ranch. Thanks to Margaret Purser and several anonymous reviewers for their comments that have improved this manuscript. This research was funded by the Museum of Texas Tech University and a foundation that wishes to remain anonymous and represents part of the ongoing Lubbock Lake Landmark regional research into cultural landscape use strategies on the Llano Estacado.


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Copyright information

© Society for Historical Archaeology 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Stance Hurst
    • 1
  • Dallas C. Ward
    • 1
  • Eileen Johnson
    • 1
  • Doug Cunningham
    • 1
  1. 1.Museum of Texas Tech UniversityLubbockU.S.A.

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