Toyah Arrow Points in the Big Bend

Drawing: Complete Toyah points (Turner and Hester 1985:193)Toyah arrow points (see drawings) have long been recognized as very distinctive and common projectiles in archeological assemblages of the Trans-Pecos region. These small triangular points are characterized by triangular blades, two side notches anywhere from near the base to the middle of the point, a larger third notch in the center of the base, and serrated blade edges (Suhm and Jelks 1962:291-292). The three notches on these specimens form basal ears which commonly flair down and outward.

The Toyah type occurs throughout much of Trans-Pecos Texas and the adjoining areas. These arrow points have been tentatively associated with the Livermore phase and Bravo Valley aspect of the Texas Big Bend-northern Chihuahua region (Kelley et al. 1940), with Kelley's early definition of the Toyah phase of Central and West Texas (Kelley 1947), and with the Jora complex of Central Coahuila (Taylor 1966). Kelley, Campbell, and Lehmer (1940) originally discussed and illustrated the type, dividing it into two distinct varieties which were later named Toyah Triple Notched and Piedras Triple Notched.

Ultimately, these two varieties were lumped together, and described and renamed "Toyah" by Suhm, Krieger, and Jelks (1954:508). Kelley (1957) argued that the variety associated with the Bravo Valley aspect (village sites along the Rio Grande at La Junta [juncture of the Rio Grande and Río Conchos] dating from ca. A.D. 1200-1800), Piedras Triple Notched, is thicker, has smaller notches, is more crudely made, and is frequently asymmetrical compared to Toyah Triple Notched, which is associated with the Livermore phase (hunter-gatherers in the region from ca. A.D. 900-1200). This controversy should probably be re-examined in the future with appropriately derived collections.

Unfortunately, much of the work that occurred on both the Bravo Valley aspect and the Livermore phase was done prior to the advent of radiocarbon dating, thus there is little chronometric data associated with the Toyah type. Only two such dates have been secured from the Texas Big Bend.

One from an open campsite in Big Bend National Park where an average corrected and calibrated date of A.D. 1233-1377 (Corrick 2000:8) was obtained from a partially exposed hearth. Thirty-Drawing: Toyah arrow point found during testing at a site in southern Presidio County, Texas, adjacent to the Rio Grandethree Toyah specimens were recovered from the surface and from within the excavated hearth at this site. The second date comes from test excavations at the Polvo site (41PS21) located near Redford, Texas, where a Toyah point was found in a large trash pit which yielded a corrected and calibrated date of A.D. 1190-1280 (Cloud et al. 1994:126).

At this point it is impossible to understand the complete temporal range of the type or the relationship between the Livermore phase and Bravo Valley aspect.

However, the CBBS is scheduled to conduct a major excavation at a riverine site at La Junta beginning in late January 2001 where two Toyah points were found buried in a midden deposit during testing last May (see CRM Update in this newsletter). The midden was generally dated between A.D. 900-1500 (Cloud 2000), so there is a very real possibility that the upcoming excavation will shed light on the temporal range of Toyah in the Big Bend and, perhaps, also provide information on the two cultural constructs identified in the region that contain the point type.

— by A. Cloud (from La Vista de la Frontera Vol. 14(1):8.)

References Cited
Cloud, William A.
2000 - Archeological Testing and Mapping at Sites 41PS800 and 41PS801, Presidio County, Texas. Draft report submitted to the Texas Department of Transportation, Austin, by the Center for Big Bend Studies, Sul Ross State University, Alpine, Texas.

Cloud, William A., Robert J. Mallouf, Patricia A. Mercado-Allinger, Cathryn A. Hoyt, Nancy A. Kenmotsu, Joseph M. Sanchez, and Enrique R. Madrid
1994 - Archeological Testing at the Polvo Site, Presidio County, Texas. Office of the State Archeologist Report 39. Texas Historical Commission and U.S. Department of Agriculture, Soil Conservation Service, Austin.

Corrick, Donald W.
2000 - The Manufacture and Age of Toyah Arrow Points from Big Bend National Park, Texas. Journal of Big Bend Studies 12:1-12.

Kelley, J. Charles
1947 - The Lehmann Rock Shelter: A Stratified Site of the Toyah, Uvalde, and Round Rock Foci. Bulletin of the Texas Archeological and Paleontological Society 18:115-128.

1957 - The Livermore Focus: A Clarification. El Palacio 64(1-2):44-52. Kelley, J. Charles, T. N. Campbell, and Donald J. Lehmer
1940 - The Association of Archaeological Materials with Geological Deposits in the Big Bend Region of Texas. Sul Ross State Teachers College Bulletin 21(3). Alpine, Texas.

Suhm, Dee Ann, and Edward B. Jelks
1962 - Handbook of Texas Archeology: Type Descriptions. Texas Archeological Society Special Publication 1 and Texas Memorial Museum Bulletin 4. Austin.

Suhm, Dee Ann, Alex D. Krieger, and Edward B. Jelks
1954 - An Introductory Handbook of Texas Archeology. Bulletin of the Texas Archeological Society, vol. 25.

Taylor, Walter W.
1966 - Archaic Cultures Adjacent to the Northeastern Frontiers of Mesoamerica. In Archaeological Frontiers and External Connections edited by Robert Wauchope, pp. 59-94. Handbook of Middle American Indians, vol. 4. University of Texas Press, Austin.

Turner, Ellen Sue, and Thomas R. Hester
1985 - A Field Guide to Stone Artifacts of Texas Indians. Texas Monthly Press, Austin.