TARL Staffing Update: Farewell, Dr. Drake!

This week, TARL is sad to say goodbye to one of our staff.  Dr. Stacy Drake, TARL’s Staff Osteologist and NAGPRA Coordinator, has left us for a great new opportunity to work at the Field Museum in Chicago. Stacy will be working on osteological analysis and NAGPRA consultation and repatriation work at the Field Museum.

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Dr. Stacy Drake teaching future archeologists about burials at the Texas Archeology Month Fair in October 2016.

During her time at TARL, Stacy oversaw the rehabilitation and analysis of many human remains in the TARL Human Osteology Laboratory. She also mentored numerous students and volunteers, and assisted with several tribal consultations on NAGPRA and repatriation issues. Stacy will be greatly missed at TARL but we wish her all the best in her new position!

For the time being, all inquiries regarding human osteological research or NAGPRA should be directed to TARL’s Head of Collections, Marybeth Tomka (marybeth.tomka@austin.utexas.edu).

 

Upcoming Events for Spring 2017

TARL is looking for student researchers and volunteers for two upcoming events this spring semester. Want to present your independent research or share your love of archeology with others? Here’s your chance!

UT Research Week 2017
April 19-21

UT Research Week is a chance for undergraduates to present their research and find new research opportunities. This year, TARL will be hosting a table at the Longhorn Research Bazaar (April 19) for students who want to present research. We’ll also be passing out information about volunteer and internship opportunities at TARL during this event. If we have a lot of students with research they want to share, we may organize a symposium as well!

If you’re interested in presenting research or helping disseminate information at this event, please get in touch with us today!

kristaresearchweek


Explore UT 2017
March 4

Explore UT is an annual event designed to give young students a taste of university life. TARL joins in the fun every year with several tables full of hands-on archeological activities. This year we’ll be doing rock art, beaded bracelets, and more. We need volunteers to help! Students and adults are welcome; no experience needed.

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To volunteer for one of these activities, please email us at FriendsofTARL@utexas.edu, or leave a comment below.

We hope to see you there!

Paleoindian Mobility at Blackwater Draw, By Tawnya Waggle

Tawnya Waggle is a visiting researcher from Eastern New Mexico State University. This article is part of TARL’s December 2016 newsletter. 


I am a graduate student at Eastern New Mexico University studying collections from the Blackwater Draw Site excavated by the Texas Memorial Museum. I recently visited TARL to collect lithic attribute data in order to understand the mobility of Folsom and Late Paleoindian occupations represented at the Blackwater Draw Site. I successfully collected metric and qualitative data, and took photographs of the artifacts critical to my research. Thanks to the generous support of TARL, I was granted access to the collections, a research space, and a photo set-up area. The collected data will be analyzed to compare the mobility of the Folsom and Late Paleoindian occupations. I hope to contribute to the existing knowledge of Paleoindian mobility on the Southern Plains with the completion of my research.

Artifact 937-32 is a projectile point found during the Texas Memorial Museum excavations at the Blackwater Draw site in New Mexico. This Late Paleoindian projectile point is made of grey chert and was found in the upper diatomaceous earth strata.
Artifact 937-32 is a projectile point found during the Texas Memorial Museum excavations at the Blackwater Draw site in New Mexico. This Late Paleoindian projectile point is made of grey chert and was found in the upper diatomaceous earth strata.

Re-Analysis of Materials from the Rob Roy Site, 41TV41, By Dan Prikryl

Dan Prikryl is a visiting researcher at TARL who has conducted  extensive archeological projects across Texas. This article is part of TARL’s December 2016 newsletter. 


The Rob Roy Site, 41TV41, is a prehistoric campsite located on Lake Austin in Travis County, Texas.  A large-scale excavation project was conducted December 1938 to April 1939 by the University of Texas (UT) at Austin with funds provided by a federal agency called the Works Progress Administration (WPA). The purpose of the project was to help salvage materials from important archaeological sites that were to be inundated by the construction of a chain of reservoirs on the Colorado River known today as the Highland Lakes.

View of the stepped profile excavation at the Rob Roy Site, 41TV41, in 1939. The excavations recovered a sizeable collection o f lithic artifacts and faunal remains, including the remains of several bison which were butchered near the campsite.
View of the stepped profile excavation at the Rob Roy Site, 41TV41, in 1939. The excavations recovered a sizeable collection o f lithic artifacts and faunal remains, including the remains of several bison which were butchered near the campsite.

The UT-WPA excavation block extended for a length of 185 feet on the terrace edge adjacent to the river channel and the maximum width of the excavation block was 45 feet. The site was excavated by the step profile method and the maximum depth of excavations of the terraced profile was 27.5 feet below ground surface (see attached photograph). Excavation methods and data recording were crude in comparison to current standards. However, in areas where burned rock features or dense accumulations of lithic artifacts and faunal materials were present, the majority of the burned rock features and artifacts being recorded by their exact depths below a datum marker established at the top of the terrace.

 

A full report of the excavation project was not ever published because the WPA program was terminated about the time that the overall excavation projects on Lake Austin and Lake Travis were completed. Since August of this year, I have been studying the notes and artifacts at TARL related to the Rob Roy excavations.  My review indicates that some portions of the excavation block appear to contain stratified prehistoric deposits. In other areas of the excavation block, erosion and redeposition have led to mixing of deposits.  The Late Archaic component which contains some burned rock features, lithic tools and faunal materials has received the majority of my attention.  I hope to complete an analysis of the site materials and then publish a journal article on the Rob Roy excavation project.

Petrography and Micromorphology of Caddo House Floor Material from 41LR2, Lamar County, Northeast Texas, by Dr. David Robinson

Dr. Robinson is a visiting researcher at TARL who spends a good deal of time here working on various collections from around Texas. This article is from TARL’s December 2016 newsletter. 


Recent research in the TARL microscopy lab has placed a highly magnified focus on a small section of a prehistoric Caddo structure from 41LR2, the Sanders site, a mound site in the Caddo country of northeast Texas.  The material is silty clay layers of two colors which came from the West mound.

 

The specimen was found by Tim Perttula, Mark Walters, and Bo Nelson, archeologists with ongoing research interests in the Sanders site.  They noticed that the item was in two colors, a yellowish brown (10YR 7/4; very pale brown) of the immediate floor about one cm thick; and a darker, grayish brown (10YR 3/2; very dark grayish brown) color above the floor surface, starting about 2.3 cm thick in the specimen (this is not the full thickness of the original deposit).  The specimen has a surface with rain cracks and a clear stick impression near one edge.  This may or may not indicate a structural floor surface.

 

All the microscope work was accomplished in the TARL microscopy lab on the Olympus BH2 polarizing light stereoscopic microscope.  The initial examination and transect counting were made at 100X magnification.

Possible structure floor surface fragment from 41LR2.
Possible structure floor surface fragment from 41LR2.

Results

As of this writing, the microscope work has been finished except for follow-up checks as needed.  All the counts need to be added to a spreadsheet that will facilitate the making of graphs and statistical comparisons.

 

The analysis returned a wealth of data on the micromorphology and mineral composition of the sample.  Particles and bodies identified in the specimen include silt quartz, hematite, hornblende, micas, pyroxene, feldspar, voids, and organic materials.

 

Assessment

The specimen shows no petrographic difference between the materals of different colors.  The material is technically a clayey silt rather than a clay, but it is rich in additional particles and bodies.  These additional minerals and organic bodies may provide additional information on the structures in the mound.

Thin section slide showing transect.
Thin section slide showing transect.

Acknowledgements

The work reported here has been carried out entirely at the TARL microscopy laboratory, a facility that is proving flexible to address a variety of research topics.  Marilyn Shoberg of TARL manages the microscopy lab under the direction of Dr. Brian Roberts.  The outsized sample thin section was the result of customized work by National Petrographic Service of Houston, Texas.

 

Reference Cited

Folk, R.L.

1980          Petrology of Sedimentary Rocks.  Hemphill Publishing Company.  Austin.

The Paul T. Seashore Basket Collection, by Judith W. Finger

Judith Finger is a visiting researcher at TARL studying Southwestern basketry from the prehistoric and historic periods. This article is part of TARL’s December 2016 newsletter.


In October, 2016, I visited TARL to study baskets in the Paul T. Seashore Collection of Native American baskets. The baskets, most dating to the early 1900s were donated to the Texas Memorial Museum in 1950. The Collection includes baskets from many California, Southwest, and Northwest Coast tribal groups as well as other less well known groups. There are traditional, utilitarian baskets, made for the Indians’ own use in addition to fancier, made-for-market ones, those to be sold to tourists and collectors as the Native Americans became part of the dominant Anglo cash economy.

For the past ten years, Dr. Catherine Fowler, Professor Emerita of the University of Nevada, Reno, and I have been researching the baskets collected by Helen J. Stewart, a pioneer rancher in Las Vegas, Nevada. She amassed a collection of 550 baskets, focusing on baskets woven by neighboring Southern Paiute and Nevada Shoshone women.  The informative TMM publication on the Seashore Collection, which we came across during our research, contained four baskets that we were able to identify as being from the Stewart Collection based on historic photographs of the Collection.

Helen Stewart with some of her basket collection. Two of the baskets shown here are now in the TARL collections.
Helen Stewart with some of her basket collection. Two of the baskets shown here are now in the TARL collections.

Thanks to the cooperation and assistance of Marybeth Tomka and Lauren Bussiere, I was able to spend time with the Seashore Collection and examine the four baskets, and several others I requested, with my own eyes and hands, to identify materials and get a better sense of construction techniques and design layouts. While I hoped to find detailed collection history in the accession file, beyond a typed list of the collection objects, there was not much else. However, information on this inventory did provide important historical context for some of the other baskets, such as a Hopi coiled plaque, woven on Second Mesa, and collected by Paul Seashore. The large plaque with a geometric design originally came from the collection of Heinrich (Henry) Voth, a Mennonite missionary and minister, born in Southern Russia, who lived with the Hopi in the 1890s. This basket was dated to the late 1880s.

Hopi coiled plaque from the Seashore Collection. Image: TARL Archive.
Hopi coiled plaque from the Seashore Collection. Image: TARL Archive.

Discussions with the TARL staff alerted me to the fact that there might well be additional files still in storage due to the move of the baskets from the Texas Memorial Museum to TARL about 10 years ago. As we continue our research and the TARL staff works through the containers still in storage, better, more detailed information may be discovered. In the meantime, Dr. Fowler and I are still looking at museum collections that include Helen Stewart’s baskets in preparation for a publication about Southern Paiute basketry and the Stewart Collection.

An Examination of Two South Texas Archaic Lithic Collections, By Christopher Ringstaff

Chris Ringstaff is Staff Archeologist at the Texas Department of Transportation and a visiting researcher at TARL. This article is part of TARL’s December 2016 newsletter.


As part of my continuing research into lithic technology of the South Texas Archaic sponsored by the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT), I have been conducting a study of bifaces from the A.E. Anderson collection and Lino Site (41WB437) collections over the past few months. The A.E. Anderson collection was chosen as it provides a large multi-county sample of Lower Rio Grande stone tools and may provide insight into regional technological and raw material variability. The Lino Site was selected as it is one of few stratified archeological sites in the region and offers a glimpse into diachronic change in Archaic period stone tool technology.

A.E. Anderson Triangular Points from Zapata County.
A.E. Anderson Triangular Points from Zapata County.

This ongoing study constitutes one aspect of TxDOT’s alternative mitigation project for site 41ZP191. The collections review is largely focused on the Middle Archaic triangular tradition and consists of a metric and technological analysis of complete and use-broken specimens as well as triangular preforms and staged bifaces. The data collected will be used to compare with specimens recovered from 41ZP191 and other excavated sites from the region. In addition, data from the staged bifaces and preforms are being used as a comparative control for a recent experimental lithic study also associated with the 41ZP191 Project. The experimental study explores the use of debitage analysis to examine biface production features and estimate labor expenditure.

The occasional distraction in the A.E. Anderson collection: a translucent dart point.
The occasional distraction in the A.E. Anderson collection: a translucent dart point.

The collections housed at the Texas Archeological Research Laboratory offer incredible research opportunities for professional archeologists, graduate and undergraduate researchers, and avocational archeologists alike. As a visiting researcher, I found the staff at TARL knowledgeable, courteous, and helpful. They not only assisted me with locating collections and provided me lab space but made me feel welcomed as a fellow colleague, my sincere thanks to you all.

3D Scanning at the Texas Archeological Research Laboratory, By Dr. Robert Z. Selden, Jr.

Dr. Selden is a visiting researcher from the Center for Regional Heritage Research, Stephen F. Austin State University. The following article is part of TARL’s December 2016 newsletter. 


 

Over the course of 2016, my 3D scanners and I had the opportunity to visit the Texas Archeological Research Laboratory (TARL) on two occasions. Both of those projects are focused upon collecting data for the ongoing shape analyses (geometric morphometrics) of Caddo vessels; however, I always try to scan other artifacts and specimens as they are available. Those scans rarely get the attention that they deserve, and I thought this a proper forum to engage in a short discussion regarding one of these artifacts; a large biface from the George C. Davis site (41CE19) in East Texas (Figure 1).

 

Figure 1. TARL-41CE19-4078-63A, curated at the Texas Archeological Research Laboratory.
Figure 1. TARL-41CE19-4078-63A, curated at the Texas Archeological Research Laboratory.

This specimen (4078-63) comes from Feature 134 at the Davis site, and was associated with Skeleton 5. There is something adhering to the biface; according to Shafer (1973), this may be the remains of a leather sheath. He noted that edge smoothing and some polishing occurs almost around the full perimeter of the biface, which may have resulted from being carried in (and lightly abrading against) a loose sheath of bark or leather (Shafer 1973). This material is still present on the biface, and can also be seen on several of the Gahagan bifaces from the George C. Davis site. The biface is an impressive 480 mm (48 cm) in length.

3D Puzzle

Using those data from the 3D model, the biface was made into a 3D puzzle (Figure 2); you can download the plans here. There are 37 puzzle pieces that can be cut out from five sheets of 8.5×11″ paper; thus there is no need for a 3D printer. This puzzle is a bit more challenging than the ceramic puzzles. There are 754 triangles and 380 vertices–to put that in perspective, the decimated (50%) 3D model has over 2,400,000 triangles and 1,200,000 vertices. As you build the puzzle, take some time to ponder the skill, care and craftsmanship that the original Caddo maker took to create such an incredible tool.

Figure 2. 3D puzzle of the large biface from the George C. Davis site (Selden 2016).
Figure 2. 3D puzzle of the large biface from the George C. Davis site (Selden 2016).

Contact TARL and we’d be happy to send you an interactive 3D PDF file of Figure 1, so you can see the 3D scan from all angles. For more on how to engage with a 3D PDF, visit https://helpx.adobe.com/acrobat/using/displaying-3d-models-pdfs.html.

 

Recent Research at the Texas Archeological Research Laboratory, by Timothy K. Perttula

Dr. Perttula is a visiting researcher who spends a good deal of time working with ceramics and other artifacts from TARL’s collections. The following article is part of TARL’s December 2016 newsletter. 


In addition to examining ceramic collections at TARL from Caddo sites across East Texas—including the ceramic vessels and sherds from the platform mound at the Hatchel site (41BW3) and sherds from more than 30 sites collected by Gus Arnold during his Works Progress Administration (WPA) survey of East Texas sites—I recently completed analyses of the ceramic sherd assemblage from the Harrell site (41YN1) in the upper Brazos River basin. The Harrell site was excavated by the WPA) in 1938 and 1939.

One of the characteristic material culture remains recovered from the Harrell site in WPA excavations were sherds from a number of plain (or minimally decorated) shell-tempered vessels. Shell-tempered vessels were relatively abundant in archeological deposits of Late Prehistoric age at the site, being associated with Harrell and Washita arrow points. My concern was to determine the stylistic and technological character of the ceramic sherds and other clay artifacts from the Harrell site, based on the recent reanalysis of the rehabilitated WPA collection by sherd type, temper, surface treatment, firing conditions, sherd thickness, rim and lip character, orifice diameter, and decorative elements. This information on the sherd assemblage data was employed to more completely characterize the range of ceramic wares at the site, and then compare them to other southern Plains ceramics in northern Texas and southern Oklahoma.

The assemblage includes 578 ceramic vessel sherds as well as fragments of a figurine and clay bead. The sherds are almost exclusively (96 percent) from shell-tempered vessels. There are shell-tempered, shell-hematite-tempered, thick (14-19 mm) non-tempered or bone-tempered paint cups, and other non-tempered or bone-tempered sherds not from paint cups. Most of these sherds are from plain vessels, but 7.5 percent shell or shell-hematite-tempered sherds have decorations, as do 53.3 percent paint cup sherds. The shell-tempered and shell-hematite-tempered vessel sherds have appliqued, brushed, brushed-incised, incised, punctated, incised-punctated (Figure 1), and red washed decorative elements; the latter are from thin-walled bowls, and not from paint cups. The paint cup sherds from Harrell are not corncob-impressed, the main style of paint cups in Plains Village sites in the southern Plains. The paint cup sherds from the site are the southernmost occurrence of this distinctive vessel in North Central Texas and southern and western Oklahoma, and suggests a close association between the Harrell site aboriginal occupants and Plains Village settlements on the Red River in North Central Texas and Washita phase settlements in southern and western Oklahoma (see Brooks and Drass 2005).

Figure 1. Selected decorated sherds and a sherd with a loop handle in the assemblage from the Harrell site: a-a’: Unit O9, 19 inches bs (No. 1493); b: Unit G6, 18 inches bs (No. 573); c: Unit T12, 24 inches bs (No. 3930); d: no provenience (No. 10096); e: Unit F13, 23 inches bs (No. 4263); f-f’: no provenience (No. 10095).
Figure 1. Selected decorated sherds and a sherd with a loop handle in the assemblage from the Harrell site: a-a’: Unit O9, 19 inches bs (No. 1493); b: Unit G6, 18 inches bs (No. 573); c: Unit T12, 24 inches bs (No. 3930); d: no provenience (No. 10096); e: Unit F13, 23 inches bs (No. 4263); f-f’: no provenience (No. 10095).

The Harrell site ceramic vessel sherds comprise a distinctive but far from homogenous aboriginal assemblage in the upper Brazos River basin in the Rolling Plains of North Central Texas. The detailed analysis recognized three separate ceramic wares—shell-tempered, shell-hematite-tempered, and non-tempered and bone-tempered paint cups—with their own characteristic ways in which vessels were shaped, tempered, smoothed, decorated, and fired, not just Nocona Plain vessel sherds. The paint cup sherds are the best available clue to the cultural and social relationships of the Harrell site aboriginal occupants and contemporaneous Plains Village settlements on the Red River in North Central Texas and southern and western Oklahoma and settlements in the Washita and Canadian rivers in southern and western Oklahoma.

TARL News & Upcoming Events

What a year it has been at TARL! We’ve had some amazing research done using our collections, had some wonderful students come through here as work-studies, interns, and volunteers, built our community of volunteers and supporters, and brought our love of archeology to hundreds of people through our public outreach.

Thank you to everyone who has helped us with all these activities, and especially to those who have volunteered their time to help us out. We could never have accomplished what we have without you!

TARL’s offices will be closed for the winter holiday beginning December 23, 2016. We will reopen on January 2, 2017. We wish you all a lovely holiday and a happy new year.

Happy Holidays from TARL! TARL Staff (L to R): Librarian May Schmidt, Registrar Rosario Casarez, Head of Collections Marybeth Tomka, Director Brian Roberts, TexSite Coordinator Jean Hughes, Administrative Assistant Diane Ruetz, Staff Osteologist & NAGPRA Coordinator Stacy Drake, Curatorial Assistant Lauren Bussiere, and Associate Director Jonathan Jarvis.
Happy Holidays from TARL! TARL Staff (L to R): Librarian May Schmidt, Registrar Rosario Casarez, Head of Collections Marybeth Tomka, Director Brian Roberts, TexSite Coordinator Jean Hughes, Administrative Assistant Diane Ruetz, Staff Osteologist & NAGPRA Coordinator Stacy Drake, Curatorial Assistant Lauren Bussiere, and Associate Director Jonathan Jarvis.

TARL Student News

TARL Staff Osteologist and NAGPRA Coordinator Stacy Drake completed her Ph.D. in Anthropology from UT. Her dissertation topic was an analysis of more than 120 burials from various sites in northern Belize, identifying various mortuary patterns. We are so proud of you, Dr. Drake!

TARL Human Osteology Lab Intern Lauren Koutlias graduated this December with special honors in Anthropology. She plans to pursue graduate education beginning next school year. Way to go, Lauren!

TARL Collections Intern Sheldon Smith will take over as President of the UT AnthroSociety in the spring 2017 semester. We look forward to you recruiting more volunteers for us, Sheldon!


Public Outreach at TARL

In 2016, TARL reached more than a thousand individuals through our public outreach efforts. These activities included:

  • Hands-on activities at the annual university-wide open house, Explore UT.
  • Guest lectures and workshops by TARL staff at UT and Texas State, as well as for the UT AnthroSociety.
  • Hands-on activities at the annual Girls in STEM Conference as well as at summer camps hosted by local STEM education nonprofit Girlstart.
  • A new tradition: the Texas Archeology Month Tailgate, leading up to the Texas Archeology Month Fair, both in partnership with the Texas Historical Commission and other groups.
  • Participating in Russell Lee Elementary’s career fair for 3rd-6th graders.

TARL also had the honor of hosting representatives from various Native American tribes and nations, and participating in a joint meeting with multiple tribal representatives from throughout the US Southwest and South. We are dedicated to improving working relationships with Native American communities and we are grateful for the perspectives and involvements of these various groups.

TARL's Jean and May teach button-making at Explore UT 2016.
TARL’s Jean and May teach button-making at Explore UT 2016.

Upcoming Events

  • January 4-8, 2017: Society for Historical Archaeology  Annual Conference, Ft. Worth, Texas.
  • January 7: Public Archaeology Day at SHA, Omni Hotel, Ft. Worth, Texas.
  • January 14-15: TAS Canyonlands Academy, Langtry, Texas. Registration deadline is January 2.
  • Now through February 25: “Tutankhamun: Wonderful Things from the Pharaoh’s Tomb” exhibit at Texas Museum of Science & Technology, Cedar Park, Texas.
  • February 25-26: TAS Ceramics Academy, Jacksboro, Texas. Registration deadline is February 10.
  • March 4: Explore UT, Main UT Campus, Austin, Texas.
  • April 29-30: TAS Technology in Archeology Academy, Fredericksburg, Texas. Registration deadline is April 14.
  • June 10-17: TAS Field School at San Lorenzo de la Cruz, Camp Wood, Texas.

Have news to share?

New job? New research? Plans for graduation or retirement? We want to hear from you!

We are also looking for stories about your experiences at TARL from the 1960s to the 2000s.

Email us or comment below to submit your news and stories.

The Texas Archeological Research Laboratory