On Saturday, a group of Texas State Students will fire up a piece of 10,000-year-old technology.
The third annual Sacred Springs Powwow, being held this weekend in San Marcos, will feature traditional dancers in colorful regalia and musicians from native tribes all over Texas, including the Comanche, Choctaw, Chickasaw and Lipan Apache. There will be traditional foods and arts and crafts.
And this year, for the first time, archeology and anthropology students from Texas State University will demonstrate earth ovens that were used by ancient people who lived in this region.
The springs that feed the San Marcos River, near where the powwow will be held, are considered one of the the oldest continuously inhabited sites in North America, with people living there for more than 13,000 years, according to research by the Center for Archaeological Study at Texas State.
Members of the university’s experimental archeology club have been working to perfect the use of earth ovens, which were used to cook plants like sotol and agave over the course of 24-48 hours. The ovens use rocks heated in a fire. The rocks are placed at the bottom of a hole, covered by layers of green plant material. The food is placed on top, followed by more plants and then sealed with earth. The students have been experimenting with the type of rock, how long to keep them in the fire and other elements of the ovens to find the ways Native Americans likely used them.
“One thing that archaeologists have a tough time doing is involving the public in the work that we do,” said Jarod Roberts, a senior anthropology major at Texas State and a leader of the experimental archeology club. “We would be out of a job if we didn’t have the public’s support. This creates ties to the people that we study and gives better public support to what we’re doing.”
The students plan to cook meat and vegetables in the ovens and open them in the afternoon so visitors can observe and possibly sample.
Visitors will also get to sample foods like fry bread, buffalo and turkey, and hear a presentation about the “White Shaman” panel, a 4,000-year-old rock art painting found near Comstock that depicts the creation story of the Coahuiltecan people, who believe the San Marcos springs is their origination site.
The event is supported by a combination of city, county, private and non-profit funding.
“I think it is very important for native people to get together and celebrate their culture and show the public that they are still around and we are still proud of our traditions,” said Dr. Mario Garza, a member of the Miakan Garza Coahuiltecan tribe and board chair of the Indigenous Cultures Institute, which helped organize the event.
The event begins at 10 a.m. with a traditional blessing conducted by Native American elders.
Sacred Springs Powwow
10 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday at the Aquarena Center, 921 Aquarena Springs Drive in San Marcos
Admission for adults is $2 or two cans of food for the food bank. Children, students, elders, and veterans are free. For information, call 512-393-3310 or visit www.indigenouscultures.org.