Monday, October 9, 2000

How would the prehistoric peoples of Central Texas have heated up their "microwave pizza"?

For some time the archeologists who study the hunting and gathering peoples who once lived in Central Texas have been attempting to explain the functions of daily life represented by the burned rock middens. These large accumulations of fire-cracked and discolored limestone, along with other debris, are one of the most common prehistoric cultural features in the central part of Texas, on and adjacent to the Edwards Plateau.

For many years burned rock middens have evaded archeological interpretation. A classic burned rock midden is a circular, mounded accumulation of rocks about 30 to 75 feet across. The stones are more numerous near the middle and then become fewer and fewer toward the outside edges. Typically there is a circular pit in the center and a lot of ash and carbon. The prehistoric peoples used these areas over and over and sometimes they created new pits as they rebuilt their "oven." The ways they built these structures were determined by the type of food they were planning to cook. Archeologists have found that they prepared a diverse assortment of plant and animal remains within these ovens.

Fires would have been built in the pits and would have heated up the mound of rocks and turned it into a baking/roasting pit or an oven. The prehistoric ovens that archeologists see in Central Texas were layered arrangements of heated limestone rocks, earth, and vegetation that formed spherical and hemispherical cooking enclosures. These were used and reused over and over to cook both plant and animal foods. Why not bring on the pepperoni pizza for a little hot rock cooking.

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