The Austin Chronicle Guide to SXSW 2017

Day Trips

Learn about the earliest people in the Americas

Day Trips
Photo by Gerald E. McLeod

The Gault Archaeological Site near the Bell and Williamson County line, a few miles west of I-35, doesn't give up its secrets easily. Possibly the oldest continuously inhabited place in North America, the site has untold stories hidden beneath the fields alongside Buttermilk Creek. Thus far, the valley has yielded a rich trove of artifacts from ancient cultures even after arrowhead hunters had picked the surface clean.

Long before the interstate highway, the Gault Site was on a trade route between the southern and northern continents. The early Texans bartered for imported goods with high-quality chert (flint) that was stronger than steel and could be sharpened into tools and weapons.

On Saturday mornings, the staff of the Gault School of Archaeological Research leads a nearly three-hour tour, tracing thousands of years of history to the main dig at the site. The 23-square-foot, 12-foot-deep hole exposing the bedrock has revealed important clues about ancient people. Nearly 60% of all the rare Clovis culture artifacts have been found in the area. Like a gold mine, the hole will soon be played out. By the end of this year, docents will still lead tours telling the history of the valley, but the archaeologist's work site will be filled and abandoned to the wildflowers.

The Gault Site is accessible only by reservations through the Bell County Museum ( or the Williamson County Museum ( for $10 per person.

1,144th in a series. Collect them all. Day Trips, Vol, 2, a book of "Day Trips," is available for $8.95, plus $3.05 for shipping, handling, and tax. Mail to: Day Trips, PO Box 33284, South Austin, TX 78704.

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