US Geological Survey
Implications of Water Supply for Indigenous Americans during Holocene Aridity Phases on the Southern High Plains, USA
Date of this Version
Quaternary Research 58, 139–148 (2002); doi:10.1006/qres.2002.2355
Springs in the 40 to 50 large lake basins (>15 km2) on the southern portion of the Southern High Plains (SHP) were active during periods of aridity in the Holocene when there may have been human habitation of the area. Eolian erosion of the lake floors and lunette accretion occurred as groundwater levels declined in response to decreased groundwater recharge. The declining lake floor associated with eolian erosion allowed groundwater evaporative discharge to continue, thus maintaining a groundwater gradient toward the lake. This hydrologic condition was favorable for a relatively continuous spring discharge to the lake, independent of the elevation of the lake floor. To evaluate the postulated dynamic equilibrium critical to this conclusion, 17 optically stimulated ages were determined from a 17.7-m deep core of a lunette adjacent to Double Lakes, Texas (33º 13′ 15″ N, 101º 54′ 08″ W). The core yielded sediment accumulation dates of 11,500 ± 1100, 6500 ± 700, and 4900 ± 500 yr B.P., corresponding broadly with periods of aridity known from other evidence. Based on analysis of this lunette, it is concluded that springs in Double Lakes basin probably existed throughout the Holocene with discharges similar to those observed historically. We assumed that similar dynamic equilibrium existed in the other large lake basins in the SHP and that these springs could have provided a continuous source of water for indigenous peoples during periods of prolonged aridity. The dynamic equilibrium that is proposed in this study is applicable not only to other arid and semiarid geographic areas with wind-erodible material but also over different geologic times.