All posts by Lauren Bussiere

TARL and BookPeople Book Talk

This week for Texas Archeology Month, we teamed up with our wonderful local independent bookstore, BookPeople, to do an online book talk! These book talks introduce readers to new books on a particular subject, so it was a perfect chance to share some of our favorite kids’ archeology books and other resources for learning about Texas archeology.

You can watch the book talk below, and be sure to check out BookPeople’s archeology reading list too! And, explore our past blog posts for more great educational content.

Colors of the Past: Ransom & Sarah Williams Farmstead

This week we’re featuring a new coloring page with artifacts from a fantastic historic archeological site. The Ransom and Sarah Williams Farmstead near Austin was home to a family of previously enslaved farmers during the Reconstruction and Jim Crow eras. Excavated by a joint project between UT, TxDOT, and two private firms from 2007-2009, the Ransom Williams collection provides an in-depth view into the lives of previously enslaved Texans. More than 26,000 artifacts were recovered during this project, which also included historic records research and oral history interviews with descendants.

The artifacts represent a wide range of activities, from the farming and homestead activities that supported the family to their education and leisure preferences. Overall they paint a picture of a hardworking family that was able to enjoy the fruits of their labors.

Learn more about the Ransom and Sarah Williams Farmstead

collection on Texas Beyond History

Download the coloring page by clicking the text below:

Ransom Williams Coloring Page

Colors of the Past: Hunter’s Pouch from Horseshoe Ranch Cave

This week’s new coloring page features one of the most spectacular finds in the history of Texas archeology: a woven pouch found with more than 200 unique artifacts still contained inside. The pouch was found by archeologists working in Horseshoe Ranch Cave in West Texas in 1936. They found the pouch wrapped in a larger bundle of woven matting and rabbit fur, and removed it to the lab in Austin to be opened there.

The contents of the pouch appear to be the toolkit of a hunter, healer, or shaman, with various types of tools, toolmaking gear, and special objects. These objects were made and used by an indigenous inhabitant of the area more than 4,000 years ago!

Learn more about the Hunter’s Pouch on Texas Beyond History. 

Download the coloring page by clicking the text below:

Hunter’s Pouch Coloring Page

 

 

Texas Archeology Month 2020 Kicks Off!

Texas Archeology Month looks little different than usual this year, since our in-person events are cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic. But, that won’t stop us from bringing you tons of new and exciting Texas archeology updates and activities! Here’s one new way to connect with us:

TARL is now in Instagram!

Follow @ut_tarl for great photos, activities, and contests.

 

We also thought we’d introduce TARL to anyone who isn’t familiar with us! Former TARL staffer Lauren Bussiere (ahem, that’s me) sat down with Associate Director Jonathan Jarvis and Head of Collections Marybeth Tomka to talk about what’s new at TARL. Check out the video below!

Many thanks to Jonathan, Marybeth, and Annie, as well as to Tom Williams of the Prehistory Research Project, who recorded and edited this video.

Colors of the Past: Ceremonial Cave

Throughout this October for Texas Archeology Month, we’ll be releasing new coloring pages featuring some of the amazing artifacts in the TARL collections. This is a fun way for kids and adults alike to learn about prehistoric life and the archeology of Texas.

Our first featured site and collection is Ceremonial Cave! This cave site in West Texas was a special place where people left offerings over the course of more than 1,000 years. The deposits left in the cave were badly damaged by looters in the early 20th century, prompting archeologists to excavate the remaining areas of the cave. What they found remain some of the most incredible artifacts ever recorded in Texas.

Exotic materials like the turquoise in this bracelet, obsidian and abalone shell found in the cave show that some of the objects traveled a great distance before they were left as offerings. It is likely that people traveled to the cave from parts of what is now New Mexico and northern Mexico as well as from nearby villages.

Learn more about Ceremonial Cave on Texas Beyond History. 

Download the coloring page by clicking the text below:

Ceremonial Cave Coloring Page

 

Take a Hike this Texas Archeology Month

October is always beautiful in Texas, and no time is better to get outside and enjoy nature. Next time you visit your local park, try this fun family activity to learn more about prehistoric life in Texas.

The Take A Hike scavenger hunt encourages kids (of all ages) to engage with the natural world by imagining what life was like in prehistoric times. By visualizing ourselves in the shoes of people who lived here before us, we can gain an appreciation of traditional lifeways and learn to think about what people may have left behind–the clues archeologists use to piece together prehistoric cultures.

This activity comes with a worksheet for kids and a guide to help parents and educators lead a discussion. We hope you enjoy it!

Download by clicking the link below:

Take A Hike

Illustration of Native American woman gathering plant foods by Ken Brown

Top Ten Creepy Archaeological Discoveries This Year

1. The Black Sarcophagus

The discovery of a massive, 2000-year-old sealed black granite sarcophagus in Alexandria, Egypt in July 2018 prompted speculation that opening it would unleash a world-ending curse. When opened, the sarcophagus was found to contain only the remains of three Egyptian army officers and a reddish-brown sewage liquid, spawning the #sarcophagusjuice meme.

2. The Knife-Armed Man

While excavating a 1200- to 1400-year-old necropolis in northern Italy, archaeologists found the remains of a man with a knife blade prosthetic arm. Analysis of the man’s bones revealed that his arm had been removed through blunt-force trauma below the elbow, and that he lived for some time afterward with the knife blade prosthesis in place of a hand.

3. The Elder Cheese

While the world was still mourning over not being allowed to drink the sarcophagus juice, archaeologists in Saqqara, Egypt uncovered another ancient (and equally inedible) find: the world’s oldest known solid cheese. Protein analysis showed that the 3,300-year-old powdery white substance was likely a mixture of cow and either goat or sheep milk, made into a cheese, which was left in the tomb of an official who served the pharaoh. Scientists warned that the cheese might actually be “cursed” with live bacteria that could sicken anyone who dared to taste it.

 

4. Ancient Sites Appearing in the Back Yard

Drought and a massive heatwave across the UK revealed the presence of hundreds–if not thousands–of previously unknown archaeological sites, ranging from neolithic hamlets to massive henges and WWII landscape modifications. These are no crop circles: because disturbed sections of the landscape hold more water than undisturbed soil, the differential drying patterns have revealed the exact locations of buried structures.

 

5. Spiral Shaped Mass Burial

Archaeologists working at Tlalpan, just south of Mexico City, uncovered the remains of ten individuals arranged in a spiral shape in a mass grave. The burial, which dates to the Preclassic period, includes adults, juveniles, and an infant, who were all buried in a single event and left with many grave goods. 

 

6. A Creepy Tiny Hand

At the Roman fort of Vindolanda near Hadrian’s Wall in England, archaeologists found a creepy, lifelike, miniature bronze hand. The hand may be associated with the worship of Jupiter Dolichenus, a mystery cult whose practices were shrouded in secrecy, which was very popular in the Roman army of the early 3rd century CE. The hand was likely left as an offering after a major invasion of Scotland in which a huge number of people may have been killed.

 

7. The Lucky Few Deceased

Another mass grave was uncovered in late 2017 on Murder Island off the western coast of Australia. This grave contained the remains of five individuals, survivors of the wreck of a merchant ship called the Batavia, which sank nearby in 1629. Although these five individuals are believed to have died of dehydration shortly after the shipwreck, more than 100 survivors were brutally murdered by mutineers in the following months.

 

8. The Most Unlucky Man

At Pompeii, the site of Mt. Vesuvius’ disastrous eruption that killed the entire town in 79 CE, a man was found who was thought to have been crushed to death by a massive falling stone. Although archaeologists later found that the man’s head and upper torso were intact, they initially hypothesized that the rock had landed on him as he attempted to flee, hindered by an infection in his leg.

 

9. The Underground Labyrinth of Death

Using tiny remote-operated robots, archaeologists working at Chavin de Huantar in Peru have discovered a network of 35 interlocking underground tunnels, which contained the remains of at least three individuals that may have been sacrificed in “rituals [involving] drugs, noise and light manipulation.”

 

10. Pits Full of Heads

Archaeologists working along the Great Wall of China published new findings that describe a previously largely unknown early stratified society, the Shimao polity. Along with thousands of jade items, researchers discovered that human sacrifice was an important feature of this society. At least six pits filled with the decapitated heads of young women were excavated at the site.

 

Runners-up:

  • The Lothagam North Pillar Site in Kenya was found to be the oldest and largest cemetery site in eastern Africa, with more than 580 individuals interred over the course of 450 to 900 years.  This awesome site isn’t really creepy… with the exception of a burial headdress made of more than 400 gerbil teeth.
  • Record-setting drought and low water levels along the Elbe river in Europe revealed many “hunger stones” along the river banks–rocks carved with laments and warnings from prior periods of drought and famine with carved dates as early as 1417. One stone reads, “if you see me, weep.”

Texas Archeology Month Fair 2018

RAIN UPDATE:

We are NOT cancelling this event due to rain! Instead, we are moving the event inside to the Commons Learning Center (the purple building on the map below).

It’s that time again! TARL is planning our annual Texas Archeology Month Fair! This year’s Fair will take place on International Archeology Day, October 20, 2018.

Join us in the Commons Learning Center at the J.J. Pickle Research Campus in north Austin from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. for free, hands-on fun for all!

The Texas Archeology Month Fair brings together dozens of professional and avocational archeologists from across Texas, who lead a wide variety of hands-on educational activities and demonstrations on many different archaeological topics. The event is open to all visitors and there’s something fun for everyone!

The Pickle Research Campus is located in north Austin near the Domain shopping center, just west of MoPac at the corner of Burnet Road and Braker Lane.

This year’s activities and demonstrations will include:

  • Pottery-making
  • Sandal weaving
  • Fire drilling
  • Flintknapping
  • Atlatl and rabbit sticks (prehistoric hunting techniques)
  • Painted pebbles
  • Rock art
  • Historic button-making
  • Face painting
  • And many more!

Thank you so much to our partners and sponsors, who are helping to make this event possible!

This year’s donors include:

Louis Shanks of Austin

TARL’s event partners include:

  • UT’s Anthropological Society
  • UT’s Anthropology department
  • UT’s Classics department
  • UT’s Mesoamerican Center
  • The Texas Archeological Society
  • The Texas State History Museum
  • Great Promise for American Indians
  • TxDOT
  • The Travis County Archeological Society
  • The Llano Uplift Archeologial Society
  • The American Institute for Archaeology, Central Texas chapter
  • Texas State University’s Forensic Anthropology program
  • The Sophienburg Museum
  • The Gault School of Archaeological Research
  • The Shumla Archaeological Research and Education Center
  • Texas Military Forces
  • The Council of Texas Archeologists
  • The Texas Historical Commission
  • The Lower Colorado River Authority
  • Texas Parks and Wildlife
  • Many individual volunteers

TARL is looking for general volunteers to assist presenters and help with set-up and clean-up. To volunteer, please email lauren.bussiere@utexas.edu.

Texas State’s Forensic Anthropology team shows these young researchers how to document their finds at the 2017 Texas Archeology Month Fair.

 

The Bioarchaeology of Care in the Lower Pecos Region by Pamela Hanson, Central Texas A&M

Pamela Hanson is a student at Central Texas A&M. This article is part of the September 2018 TARL Newsletter. 


My name is Pamela Hanson and I’m working with Dr. Christine Jones at Texas A&M University-Central Texas Department of Social Sciences. Our current research project invites one to imagine caregiving and receiving among the hunter-gatherers of the past. Like us today, they would likely have experienced disease and disability, love and community. How might they have sought healing and comfort? What clues did they leave for us? It is really exciting to examine artifacts from the ancient peoples of the Lower Pecos region of Texas at TARL and explore these questions.

Please stop by and visit our poster “Healing pathways: Exploring the Bioarchaeology of Care in the Lower Pecos” at the upcoming TAS meetings.

Pamela Hanson and Dr. Christine Jones.

TARL Symposium at TAS and Other Upcoming Conferences

A number of TARL staff members, former student interns, and researchers will be presenting their research at the Texas Archeological Society’s Annual Meeting in San Antonio October 26 – 27, 2018. We will have approximately 12 presentations on a variety of topics: painted pebbles, experimental flintknapping, public outreach, collections rehabilitation, independent student research, and more. We are excited to present this research, and to hear feedback on our work from the community!

Beyond the upcoming symposium, we are busy keeping abreast of all things curatorial going on around the nation. In addition to attending local society meetings like those of the Travis County Archeological Society (TCAS) and TAS, TARL staff members will be attending several conferences in spring 2019. In January 2019, TARL Head of Collections Marybeth Tomka will be part of a round table discussion on standards of cataloguing for repositories at the Society for Historical Archaeology’s Annual Meeting in Saint Charles, Missouri. Marybeth serves as a member of the Curation and Collections Committee.

Marybeth and TARL Curatorial Associate Lauren Bussiere also plan to present a poster at the Society for American Archaeology meetings in Albuquerque, New Mexico in April 2019. The committee on Collections, Museums and Curation is sponsoring the poster session, the goal of which is to encourage and facilitate collections-based research by building relationships and sharing knowledge. Marybeth is a former member of this committee and still keeps up with their activities and sits in on their meetings when possible. An offshoot of the committee is the formation of the Curation Interest Group that Marybeth co-chairs.

Additional papers will be presented at the 2019 SAA meeting by Lauren (on the topic of pseudoarchaeology), TARL Curatorial Technician Annie Riegert (bioarchaeology in Belize), and TARL Affiliated Researcher Nadya Prociuk (shell ornaments and tools from south Texas). We welcome all colleagues and interested parties to check out our presentations, give us feedback, and share their research with us!