Category Archives: News & Outreach

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.

 

Welcome, Jeff!

TARL is very pleased to welcome a new staff member, our new TexSite and Atlas Coordinator Jeff Arnold. Jeff is taking over the position recently vacated by longtime TARL staff member Jean Hughes. Jeff is now the person to contact regarding site recording forms, TexSite and Atlas submissions, and general mapping and GIS inquiries. He wanted to share this message:

Greetings to everyone,

I would like to thank all of the people at TARL and all of TARL’s associates that have welcomed me over the last few weeks. Since the beginning of August, I have been training with Jean Hughes to take over the position of TexSite and Atlas Coordinator following her retirement. Since there are so many people that I have not yet met, I’m grateful for this opportunity to introduce myself.

I was born and raised here in Austin, Texas and I am finishing my Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology from the University of Texas. For a little over 8 years, I worked as a logistician in the United States Marine Corps where I finished my career as a Logistics Operations Instructor and curriculum developer of
logistics courses. After coming back to Austin, I was reintroduced to my high school girlfriend and we recently married in December of 2017. If you are ever visiting TARL, please drop by and say hi. I am looking forward to meeting many of you in the archeological community!

Hook ‘em Horns,
Jeff Arnold

TARL TexSite and Atlas Coordinator Jeff Arnold.

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!

TARL Visits ORPL

At the end of the summer, TARL brought students and volunteers on a field trip to visit the Osteological Research and Processing Laboratory (ORPL) at Texas State University’s Forensic Anthropology Research Facility. ORPL is the main laboratory where students and staff process human remains from both their regular donation program and their Operation ID program. Operation ID (also known as OpID) is a collaborative effort between the forensic anthropologists at Texas State, the Border Patrol and other law enforcement, landowners in south Texas, various NGOs, and other state, federal, and international agencies who work together to find, identify, and repatriate the remains of individuals who have died attempting to cross the border from Mexico into the United States. ORPL also processes the remains of people who have chosen to donate their bodies after death, which are used for many purposes from longitudinal studies of decomposition to law enforcement training.

By visiting ORPL, TARL’s students and volunteers were able to learn about these amazing projects and gain some first-hand insights into the work and training of forensic anthropologists and bioarchaeologists. While this work is often difficult both physically and emotionally, it is also extremely meaningful and important. Through the work of the ORPL team, many families have been able to learn the fates of their missing loved ones–although these stories are tragic, families can finally lay their loved ones to rest. The OpID project also demonstrates the capacity for meaningful and productive collaboration between these various agencies, and what they can accomplish working together toward a shared goal.

Thank you very much to the Texas State Forensic Anthropology team and especially to Courtney Siegert and Chloe McDaneld for hosting us and sharing their extensive knowledge.

TARL Staff, students, and volunteers in front of the ORPL Facility at Texas State’s Freeman Ranch.

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 on the main field 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

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

This year’s donors include:

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
  • 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.

 

Goodbye to Flash! Changes Underway for Texas Beyond History by Susan Dial and Steve Black

As many of you know, we have been hard at work for the last two years with UT’s Liberal Arts Instructional Technology Services (LAITS) trying to bring our 17-year-old website, Texas Beyond History, into the 21st Century. We are happy to report that this complicated “makeover” is nearly complete and promises both esthetic and functional improvements. The project transforms our main entry portals as well as educational activities and interactive graphics originally programmed in Adobe Flash into a more modern technology accessible on many more platforms. This will allow viewers –whether in the classroom or in the field–to use tablets and, to a lesser extent, cell phones, to engage in TBH’s interactive learning activities, open interactive charts and maps, and fully utilize the resources of the website. TBH will have a fresh, new look but more importantly should function more smoothly.

Website technology has advanced exponentially since the founding of TBH in 2001, when Steve and I, along with student website developer Meg Kemp, unveiled the website and the first 20 site exhibits. At the time, we were excited to offer many interactive features for maps, graphics, and student learning activities using Flash technology. The “cat’s meow” for its time, this program provided exciting tools to incorporate animation and other interactive capabilities in maps and graphics (e.g. opening up stratigraphic layers in a profile map). Unfortunately, Flash is no longer being supported by many browsers and has been dropped altogether by Apple and some newer Android devices. Viewers who use Apple products, particularly iPads and Mac books, may have been encountering blank pages where our traditional TBH interactive maps and Kids Only revolving carousel should be.

As further complication, TBH was designed for “mousing” on a desktop or laptop, before touchpad navigation came into vogue. Many of our interactive scenes where users “mouse over and click” on segments of paintings to access more detailed information and site-specific photos of evidence (ie., Frank Weir’s remarkable painting of a prehistoric burial scene from Loma Sandia cemetery) cannot be utilized on these devices. As might be anticipated, this is a particularly critical problem in the classroom, and for K-12 teachers in particular, as schools increasingly are providing individual tablets for student use. For LAITS, the process has been especially challenging due to the volume of Flash content on TBH and markedly different formats in each of the Flash activities. There has been no “one size fits all” solution to reprogramming this content. Over the last year, however, LAITS web developers engineered a process to strip out content and imagery and then recreate the 40+ interactives using HTML5.

Along with the technical changes, there also will be a new look for TBH. Instead of the interactive Texas sites map, TBH will soon have a colorful and streamlined portal for accessing all of the website sections. (A revamped version of the familiar TBH map page will be accessible in a section called Site Explorer and made functional for all browsers.)

Rollout of our revamped website is slated for sometime this Fall (2018). This is particularly important because TBH is heavily used in university archeology classes as well as in 4th and 7th-grade classrooms. We continue to receive emails from Social Studies teachers who have been stymied by the non-working Flash activities, but are anxious to once again use educational interactives such as “Through the Eyes of the Explorer: Cabeza de Vaca on the South Texas Plains.” Older students (even university students, according to Texas A&M professor Alston Thoms,) have used the kids Flash activity “Stratification in Action!” to better understand complex stratigraphic processes such as that which occurred over thousands of years on the Medina River at the Richard Beene site, on which the activity is based.

This summer (with Steve back at TARL just in time for the TBH review process!) we will continue testing the updated website, checking new functions, and kicking the tires, so to speak. It is a painstaking process with numerous technological bugs lurking in the 60,000+ files that comprise TBH. Fortunately TBH Associate Editor Heather Smith and Education Advisor Carol Schlenk have been able to join in the effort. While change can be difficult (if not agonizing), we at TBH are determined to embrace the opportunity to usher this much loved and critically acclaimed public education website into the modern era. We are grateful for the time and dedicated efforts of the LAITS staff and student technical assistants.

And as for what lies beyond the website revamp process, Steve is already at work creating new plans and a vision of the future for TBH. Stay tuned!

Lithics & Flintknapping Workshop

This weekend, TARL welcomed instructors Dr. Robert Lassen and Sergio Ayala, both from the Gault School of Archaeological Research, who led an excellent workshop in lithic analysis and flintknapping.

Dr. Lassen presented on lithic technology, typology, and analysis, along with a show-and-tell presentation of artifacts from the Gault site and from the TARL collections. The workshop focused on artifact types commonly found in Texas, but we also got to look at some artifacts from Mesoamerica, elsewhere in North America, and even a few Lower Paleolithic artifacts from Africa.

Dr. Robert Lassen explained principles of stone tool artifact analysis to workshop participants.
A sample of lithic artifacts from TARL and the Gault site.

After a morning of classroom work, participants got to check out a flintknapping demo from Sergio, who makes excellent stone tool reproductions by hand. Afterward, all the workshop attendees got to try their hand at making their own stone tools using the same techniques and materials used by prehistoric people.

Sergio Ayala explains some finer points of his flintknapping techniques.
Sergio Ayala demonstrates flintknapping techniques to workshop participants.
Workshop participants practice hard-hammer percussion to create stone tools.
Dr. Lassen helps students plan their flake removal strategy.

Thank you so much to our wonderful instructors for volunteering their time and expertise to make this a great workshop! And thanks to all the students, volunteers, and participants who attended–we hope you had a great time.

If you have suggestions for future workshop topics, or would like to volunteer to lead a TARL workshop, please comment below or email our staff.

Field Schools & Fieldwork Opportunities for 2018

We know that there are many interesting field projects out there looking for students and promising to help you build your skills, gain experience, and expand your professional network. But which ones are the best fit for your goals (and your budget)?

To help students and others looking for fieldwork opportunities this year, we’ve put together this list of recommended projects. For most projects listed below, students can earn course credit while gaining archeological field experience through these accredited field schools. We recommend that every archeology student attend at least one field school before graduating. Many field schools also accept volunteers–participants who do not earn course credit, and may not be current students. Costs listed below do not include tuition and fees or travel, but most include room and board. Many programs have scholarships available.

UT & International Field Schools

Programme for Belize (University of Texas)

Excavate Maya settlements from the Classic to the Postclassic in the subtropical jungles of northern Belize. This year’s program will include a 2-day workshop in skeletal analysis.

2018 Dates:

Cost: US $1,765 for one session or $2,765 for both sessions.

Info: UT PfBAP Home Page

Belize Valley Archaeological Reconnaissance Project (BVAR)

Excavate Maya sites dating from the Preclassic through the Classic period in western Belize. Course credit available through Northern Arizona University.

2018 Dates: Session 1: May 27 – June 23; Session 2: July 1 – July 28.

Cost: US $2,200 per session

Info: bvar.org

Moche Multidisciplinary Field School

An archaeology and bioarchaeology field school on the north coast of Peru. Course credit available through the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

2018 Dates: June 21 – July 25

Cost: $3,600

Info: Save the Moche


North American Field Schools

Below are some accredited field schools for students who want to broaden their experience in North American archaeology.

Etzanoa Field School

Excavate the second-largest known prehistoric site in the United States. Course credit available through Wichita State University.

2018 Dates: June 4 – June 29

Cost: $1,540

Info: Contact Dr. Donald Blakeslee or the WSU Anthropology department.

Exploring Globalization REU – Caribbean

Learn anthropological and forensic archeology at a field site on the Caribbean island of Saint Eustatius, with a lab component at Texas State University.

2018 Dates: June 11 – August 3

Cost: Free with $500/ week stipend

Info: Contact Dr. Todd Ahlman (toddahlman@txstate.edu) at Texas State University.

Luna Settlement & Shipwrecks Field School

Learn techniques of underwater and terrestrial archaeology at sites near Pensacola, Florida. Course credit available through Florida State University.

2018 Dates: May 21 – July 28

Cost: Contact for cost information

Info: Florida State Anthropology

Digital Camera

Texas Field Schools & Fieldwork Opportunities

Below are some highly recommended field schools in Texas, as well as two volunteer opportunities for students and graduates.

Nueces Canyon & Mission San Lorenzo de la Cruz with the Texas Archeological Society and Texas Tech

This year the Texas Archeological Society field school will return to Camp Wood to excavate historic Mission San Lorenzo de la Cruz. Course credit is available to students through Texas Tech University; the TAS field school is open to all TAS members as well. The TAS field school is an excellent opportunity for archaeologists under 18.

2018 Dates: TAS field school June 9 – June 16. TTU field school May 19 – June 22. 

Cost: TAS field school $100+ depending on length of stay, plus TAS membership. TTU field school $850 plus tuition.

Info: Texas Archeological Society; for Texas Tech field school contact Dr. Tamra Walter (tamra.walter@ttu.edu).

West Texas Cave Archeology with the Center for Big Bend Studies

Excavate two caves occupied since the mid-Holocene and learn techniques such as mapping, photogrammetry, and how to manage archeological collections, including many perishable artifacts. Course credit through Sul Ross State University

2018 Dates: May 30 – July 6

Cost: $500 plus tuition.

Info: Contact Dr. Bryon Schroeder (bryon.schroeder@sulross.edu).

San Saba River with LUAS

The Llano Uplift Archeological Society is currently conducting fieldwork on Cherokee Creek, at the westernmost known Caddo site in Texas. They are looking for volunteers for Saturday excavations.

2018 Dates: Saturdays, now until excavation is complete

Cost: Free

Info: Contact LUAS coordinator Charles Hixson (charles.hixson@gmail.com).

Bastrop County with TCAS & THC Stewards

The Travis County Archeological Society is currently conducting excavations at a site near Bastrop in central Texas, in conjunction with the Archeological Stewards program of the Texas Historical Commission. They are looking for volunteers for Sunday mornings.

2018 Dates: Sundays, now until excavation is complete

Cost: Free

Info: Contact Nick Morgan (nlmorgan@earthlink.net).

Explore UT 2018

This past weekend, TARL staff and students got to join in one of our favorite events of the year: Explore UT! Each year, the University of Texas opens its campus to thousands of K-12 visitors to give them a look at college life. Each department and research unit is invited to participate by sharing activities that can help students learn about the many majors and career paths open to them as a future UT student.

We had an amazing turnout this year–thousands of students from across the state came out to visit the UT campus. With the help of several amazing student volunteers and friends, we shared a hands-on activity, flintknapping demonstration, and artifact show and tell with a huge number of kids, educators, and parents.

We want to say a huge thank you to our volunteers! This day would not have been possible without your help. Thank you for helping us share our love of archeology with the next generation of UT students!

TxDOT archeologist Chris Ringstaff demonstrates flintknapping (stone tool making) to a group of students.
TARL Intern Mallory shares info with visitors.
UT grad students brought manos and metates to demonstrate prehistoric food preparation techniques.
TARL Intern Ann Marie discusses artifacts with students and parents.

TARL Visits Downtown Austin

This month, TARL students, donors, and volunteers had a chance to visit downtown Austin and see the historic buildings and excavation areas uncovered during excavations of Austin’s Guy Town district in the 1990s. TARL Associate Director Jonathan Jarvis led the tour and talked about his experiences working on this project and the challenges of doing archeology in an urban environment. The massive archeological project covered four city blocks under what is now Austin’s City Hall and Second Street district–a part of town that in the 1870s–1910s was full of boarding houses, brothels, saloons, and gambling halls mixed in with the homes of working-class families and everyday business ventures. The tour group started the day with a look at some of the many artifacts recovered by archeologists, which included telltale signs of the lively atmosphere–beer and liquor bottles, poker chips, and dice–as well as the items lost or left behind in the course of everyday activities, such as sewing needles, children’s toys, and dishes. The artifacts recovered by this project are curated at TARL.

A huge number and variety of glass bottles were recovered from the Guytown excavations, including many beer and liquor bottles, patent medicine bottles, and perfume bottles.

We then visited the downtown site, where we learned a bit about the geomorphology of the Colorado River and the terrace where downtown Austin sits. Finally, we got to check out the few remaining historic structures in the area. A highlight of the field trip was a visit to the Schneider Beer Vaults, built by German immigrant J.P. Schneider, who dreamed of starting a brewery. The historic building across the street was also owned by the Schneider family and operated as a general store. We also learned a bit about another downtown historic site, the Susanna Dickinson Hannig House, where Alamo survivor Susanna Dickinson lived out her last days. The Dickinson-Hannig House was also excavated during downtown construction in the 1990s, and is now a small museum near the Austin Convention Center.

TARL students, staff, volunteers, and friends in front of the J.P. Schneider General Store building in downtown Austin.
One of the barrel-vaulted underground chambers built by the Schneider family sometime in the 1870s. The structure is in the style of “beer vaults” built by many German immigrants, but Schneider died before it was ever used for brewing beer. The structure was re-discovered by archeologists in the 1990s.

Special thanks to Josh Prewitt, General Manager of La Condesa, and the La Condesa staff for welcoming us into their space so we could see the underground beer vaults, a unique gem of Austin’s history.

Field trips like this one are a special perk of membership in the Friends of TARL! Join the Friends of TARL to receive invitations to special events in 2018.