Category Archives: News & Outreach

Year-end Membership Discounts! Join the Friends of TARL Today!

Preserve Texas’ archeological legacy with your year-end giving.

The Friends of TARL helps create public outreach and educational opportunities.
The Friends of TARL helps create public outreach and educational opportunities.

The Friends of TARL is a membership organization that supports the work of the Texas Archeological Research Laboratory. In this time of funding cuts for research and education, your support can help TARL preserve archeological collections, provide educational opportunities for students, protect endangered archeological sites, and build public awareness and engagement in archeology.
If you haven’t joined the Friends of TARL yet, now is a great time!

From now through December 31, we’re offering 10% off all Friends of TARL memberships.

Member benefits include our quarterly newsletter, discounts on TARL merchandise, scholarship eligibility (for students), and invitations to TARL events. Membership costs are tax-deductible. All funds from Friends of TARL memberships will be used directly for scholarship and public outreach costs–not for salaries or overhead.

Regular Membership: $50 (NOW $45)

Retiree Membership: $30 (NOW $27)

Student Membership: $20 (NOW $18)
(Currently enrolled undergraduate or grad students only, please)

Click here to join the Friends of TARL. 

Important: Choose “Texas Archeological Research Laboratory (TARL)” under “Sub Department” to ensure that your donation goes to TARL.

Learn more about the Friends of TARL.

Announcing the Texas Archeology Month Fair!

TARL is excited to announce that in partnership with the Texas Historical Commission, we’ll be hosting a public Archeology Fair to celebrate this year’s Texas Archeology Month! This exciting event will take place on Saturday, October 22, 2016 from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. here at the J.J. Pickle Research Campus. Our Fair will feature hands-on activities for kids and adults, demonstrations from experimental archaeologists, and displays that highlight Texas’ rich archeological history.

Fair Details:
Date: October 22, 2016
Time: 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.
Cost: FREE!

The Texas Archeology Month Fair will be held at the main soccer field on the Pickle Research Campus.
See the map below for location & parking details.

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.
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.

 

Planned booths and activities for the fair include:

  • Mock excavation units
  • Flintknapping (making stone tools)
  • Atlatl throwing
  • Osteology & mock burials
  • Native plants
  • Rock art
  • Fire drilling
  • Ancient foodways
  • Artifact identification
  • Exhibits on various archaeological sites in Texas
  • And much more!

We need volunteers to help this day go smoothly! To volunteer as either an activity leader, table presenter, or general volunteer, please email lauren.bussiere@utexas.edu.

 

Thank you to our event partners:

 

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Llano Uplift Archaeological Society

 

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TARL staff and our community of professional archaeologists love teaching the public about archeology. We are all excited for this fun event!

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TARL Staff Visits the Texas State Forensic Anthropology Research Facility

by Lauren Bussiere

TARL Staff and FACTS researchers Dr. Michelle Hamilton and Courtney Siegert at the Forensic Anthropology Research Facility, Texas State University-San Marcos.
TARL Staff and FACTS researchers Dr. Michelle Hamilton and Courtney Siegert at the Forensic Anthropology Research Facility, Texas State University-San Marcos.

Recently some of TARL’s staff members had a unique opportunity to visit the Forensic Anthropology Center at Texas State University—informally known by the public as the “body farm” but referred to as the “decomposition facility” by the researchers—and learn about the amazing research going on there. This facility and its associated labs are the home of some of the most cutting-edge forensics research happening in Texas. A huge thank-you to Dr. Michelle Hamilton, Courtney Siegert, and the rest of the staff and students at Texas State who took the time to show us around and share their research.

FACTS and its associated facilities provide training opportunities for law enforcement officers, and they collaborate with outside researchers studying taphonomic processes, recovery methods, and more. They also offer a great training and research program for Texas State students interested in forensic anthropology and bioarchaeology. Much of the research at FACTS uses the remains of people who donate their bodies. Learn more about FACTS and their various programs on their website.

One of the most interesting programs going on at FACTS is their Operation Identification or “OpID” program, which works to identify the remains of individuals who have died crossing into Texas from the Mexican border. The OpID staff and students analyze these remains and collaborate with other organizations, including the Border Patrol, FBI, NGOs, and international groups, to match the remains with reported missing persons and eventually return the remains to their families. Since 2013, the program has completed analysis of approximately 100 individuals, with 10 positive IDs made and returned to their families. Although it was heartbreaking to hear the stories of these migrants who perished while searching for a better life, we are humbled by the hard work and dedication of everyone who volunteers their time and effort to contribute to this important work. Find more information on OpID, including volunteer opportunities, through their Facebook page.

We at TARL are always glad to have the chance to get out and see what our colleagues and counterparts are doing, so that we can learn about new research and begin new collaborations.

Thank you, FACTS and Texas State!

TARL Collections Highlighted in Book of UT’s Hidden Treasures

By Lauren Bussiere

This January, the UT Press released a landmark volume entitled The Collections: The University of Texas at Austin. This beautiful coffee-table volume, edited by Andrée Bober, highlights more than 80 collections of historical, artistic, and scientific objects held by the University. TARL is honored and delighted to have some of our most beautiful artifacts included in this publication.

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Cat. No. 16SA48-209, Incised effigy on ground and polished quartz crystal from the Coral Snake Mound in Sabine Parish, Louisiana. Featured in The Collections: The University of Texas at Austin.

The Collections showcases only a small amount of the 170 million objects of significant cultural, historic, and scientific value owned by UT Austin—making the University the largest repository of these objects in the state and possibly in the U.S. Some of UT’s collections date as far back as 1883 when the university was founded. Materials from TARL highlighted in the volume include gorgeous lithic, ceramic, and perishable items, some of which date to 10,000 to 13,000 years ago.

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Cat. No. 68, Corner-tang knife of grey chert, excavated by the University in 1974-75 at the Ernest Witte site in Austin County, Texas. Featured in The Collections: The University of Texas at Austin.

The inclusion of TARL materials in The Collections was made possible by the work of TARL Director Emeritus Darrell Creel and former TARL Head of Collections Laura Nightengale. Work on this massive volume began more than five years ago, and we are all gratified to see the realization of their labor of love.

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The Collections: The University of Texas at Austin, now available from UT Press.

For more information about the book or to purchase a copy, please visit the UT Press website.

TARL at the 2015 Girlstart Girls in STEM Conference

Earlier this month, TARL staff had the pleasure of collaborating with Girlstart, an organization focused on empowering girls through STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) educational programs. The conference brought together women experts from many STEM disciplines and approximately 600 girls aged 9 to 14 from all over the United States. The main goal of the Girlstart conference is promote STEM disciplines as a way to solve many of the world’s current issues, and to encourage young girls to become invested in STEM electives, majors, and careers. Girlstart’s mission is particularly important given the disparity between the recent increase of STEM jobs (currently growing three times faster than in non-STEM careers) and the absence of women in STEM disciplines (only 24% of STEM workforce is female)*.

 

As a lot of archaeological work is scientific in nature, we were more than happy to help Girlstart out! TARL staff Stacy Drake and Debora Trein, along with several amazing UT Anthropology and Geography graduate students, participated in the 10th Annual Girlstart Girls in STEM conference, bringing archaeology to two classrooms full of girls at Travis High School in a session called “Dig It! Adventures in Archaeology”.

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The Dig It! Team at Girlstart. From left: Debora Trein (TARL and UT Anthropology), Emily Dylla (UT Anthropology), Robyn Dodge (UT Anthropology), Angelina Locker (UT Anthropology), Samantha Krause (UT Geography), Stacy Drake (TARL and UT Anthropology), Luisa Aebersold (UT Anthropology), and Nadya Prociuk (UT Anthropology). Courtesy of Luisa Aebersold.

 

Luckily for us archaeology is a very exciting discipline, so it was not hard to get the attention of the students! We created two exercises that gave the girls a taste of archaeological research: mini-excavations with mock burials complete with burial assemblages; and a microscope station, with several “samples” to examine.

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Stacy Drake and Emily Dylla at the “commoner” mock burial. Courtesy of Luisa Aebersold.

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Debora Trein and Robyn Dodge at the “elite” mock burial. Courtesy of Luisa Aebersold.

 

We set up two mock burials with two sets of reproduction remains and burial goods (one “elite” and one “commoner”). We asked the students: “How old was this person?”, “Do you think that they were a man or a woman?”, “Do you think that they were rich or poor?”, “What do you think they did for a living?”, and other questions that form part of archaeological inquiry. Most importantly, we also asked “Why?” they came to their conclusions. This exercise was intended to get students to go through the archaeological thinking process by assessing all of the available evidence. After getting over the excitement of seeing reproduction human remains and artifacts, it was heartening to see the girls analyzing an archaeological deposit and defending their interpretations!

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Samantha Krause at the microscope station. Courtesy of Luisa Aebersold.

 

At the microscope station, the girls experienced the flip side to field work, which is laboratory research.  Using three microscopes, students examined many types of materials, including fabric, beads, shell, and sediment thin sections. The girls were able to see how clues that help us explain the lives of people in the past can be microscopic, and that every part of an archaeological context is important to a complete understanding of past societies. They also got to go through our tool kits and handled compasses, trowels, and rock picks!

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Nadya Prociuk answering questions. Courtesy of Luisa Aebersold.

 

At the end, we held a Q&A session for the girls. It was important for us to relay that in addition to love of discovery, knowledge about people in the past can only come from hard work (both physically and intellectually), collaboration, and respect for material remains that we handle and the people they represent. Archaeology is fun, empowering, and it is definitely for women!

 

We are looking forward to the 2016 Girlstart Girls in STEM Conference! Bring it on!

 

To check out Girlstart’s great work, go to www.girlstart.org

 

To explore some of TARL’s extensive educational resources on Texas archaeology, go to www.texasbeyondhistory.net

 

* www.girlstart.org

Finding Microwear Patterns on Stone Tools: Marilyn Shoberg, TARL Microwear Analyst

Featured image: Microwear analyst Marilyn Shoberg examines a stone tool under a microscope in the TARL laboratory. She typically makes observations at magnifications ranging from 50X to 500X and captures potentially diagnostic wear traces with a digital Moticam camera.

by Marilyn Shoberg

After receiving my MA in Anthropology from UT-Austin,  I joined the Gault Project at TARL in 2000 and began doing microwear analysis, looking at experimental tools and archeological tools from the Gault Site. Some of the stone artifacts in an archeological assemblage are formal tools that have recognizable shapes such as projectile points, bifaces, or endscrapers. Many more artifacts appear to have been used, however, and unless we look at them under the microscope we can only guess at what their function may have been.

When a stone tool is used the edge is gradually worn away by the loss of flakes and abrasion, and the surface is modified by contact with the worked material so that it appears shiny or polished.  Microwear analysis is a systematic process of recording wear traces such as edge flaking, the surface characteristics of polish, and the orientation of striations on a stone tool in order to determine how that tool was used.

The research microscope used at TARL for this analysis is an Olympus BH2 reflected light microscope with Nomarski optics. Observations are made at magnifications from 50X to 500X.  Images of potentially diagnostic wear traces are captured with a digital Moticam camera.

Microwear analysts learn how to identify the various attributes of wear traces by looking at experimental tools used in many different tasks on a wide variety of materials.  It is absolutely essential for every analyst to do experiments and to acquire a reference collection of tools used in tasks relevant to prehistoric human behavior.  The comparative collection of experimental tools we have at TARL is a terrific asset for analysis and teaching.  It has grown from the work of many former students here at UT, archaeologists and friends of archaeology.  The collection includes tools used on plant materials, several kinds of wood, bone, antler, elephant ivory, hide, and butchering a variety of animals.

Patterns of wear on replicated stone tools used for woodworking are shown at a magnification of 500X. The three tools--an adze and two flakes--were crafted by a modern knapper and used for different tasks on different types of wood. Experimental tools such as these provide a comparative baseline for discerning microwear patterns on ancient tools, determining how they might have been used, and on what materials.
Patterns of wear on replicated stone tools used for woodworking are shown at a magnification of 500X. The three tools–an adze and two flakes–were crafted by a modern knapper and used for different tasks on different types of wood. Experimental tools such as these provide a comparative baseline for discerning microwear patterns on ancient tools, determining how they might have been used, and on what materials.

 

In addition to a large number of Clovis tools from the Gault Site, I have analyzed artifacts from a number of CRM projects in Texas, and sites in Arizona, Illinois, New Hampshire, Kentucky and Belize.

In archaeology we attempt to understand past human behavior from material culture, however only a very small fraction of that material culture survives.  The things that people made from perishable organic materials such as plants, wood, bone, and skin are for the most part missing from the archaeological record.  The fascinating aspect of microwear analysis is that the tools used in the manufacture of the “missing majority” of that perishable material culture provide clues to the kinds of things people were making at particular places.

Among the most interesting tools I have looked at are a small Clovis age flake used to incise bone, tools used to pierce animal skin, perhaps in the manufacture of clothing or shelter, and small prismatic blade fragments used in fine cutting or scraping tasks on grass, reed and wood.  Sometimes you find an example of a recycled tool like a used-up projectile point re-purposed as a scraper or abrader on animal skin.

You are welcome to contact me to learn more about the research I conduct and to discuss my availability to contribute to projects under contract.  My contact information is below:

Marilyn Shoberg

Microwear Analyst

Texas Archeological Research Laboratory

The University of Texas at Austin

1 University Station R7500​

Austin, Texas 78712

mbshoberg@mail.utexas.edu

 

Explore UT 2015: A Success!

by TARL Staff

Thanks to the efforts of our very own Rosario Casarez, TARL’s involvement with UT’s educational ‘open house’ program was a great success this past Saturday!  Despite the rather chilly and overcast beginning to the day downtown on the main campus, the sun eventually put in an appearance and warmed us up as we manned our tables, answered questions, warded off loaded paintbrushes, made corn husk dolls and handed out information about archeology in Texas.  Arriving early, we put up our tables and mingled with the dedicated anthropology graduate students and then ferreted out the nearest Starbucks (1st floor of the SAC!) to properly fortify ourselves for the morning.

Jonathan Jarvis, our Associate Director, and Susan Dial, editor and project manager of Texas Beyond History, both presented talks in a classroom on the first floor of the CLA building.

As taken from the official Explore UT 2015 schedule: Archaeologist Jonathan Jarvis describes how archaeologists use historic maps and discusses the role of accurate mapping in archaeology today. See how using geospatial tools to locate man-made features below the earth’s surface can help future research.  

And Susan’s talk was a “Detectives into the Past” presentation with Dr. Dirt in which she focused on reconstructing the diet of ancient Texans based on the study of coprolites (preserved human fecal remains).

To get a sense of the kind of turn out that we were a part of at Explore UT please check out this brief video, provided courtesy of UT anthropology graduate student Luisa Aebersold (who also provided the featured image for this post!), on her Twitter feed:  https://twitter.com/luisaaebersold/media

First, there was ‘getting organized:’

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Brain and Jonathan considering the myriad options for banner directions (or they were pointing at me to do something and I conveniently didn’t hear).

 

Steven and Marybeth set up the artifact table.
Steven and Marybeth set up the artifact table, displaying the delight all archeologists exhibit when handling Texas material culture in combination with venti lattes.

 

Elizabeth and Jean setting up the materials they will need to create the very popular corn husk dolls.  Susan was attempting to hide in the background until her first presentation at 11am.
Elizabeth and Jean setting up the materials they will need to create the very popular corn husk doll-making activity. Susan was attempting to hide in the background until her first presentation at 11am.  Susan, when you want to hide from people, DON’T wear red!

 

Marybeth was practicing her 'artifact pop-quiz' skills on an unsuspecting Steven in preparation for the tons of children who were glad that there were actually objects they could touch and hold.
Marybeth was practicing her ‘artifact pop-quiz’ skills on an unsuspecting Steven in preparation for the tons of children who were glad that there were actually objects they could touch and hold.

 

Susan made sure that Texas Beyond History was properly represented at this year's Explore UT with lots of handouts and informational material.  Her bookmarks for TBH are always popular!
Susan made sure that Texas Beyond History was properly represented at this year’s Explore UT with lots of handouts and informational material. Her bookmarks for TBH are always popular!

 

...the good news is that we managed to NOT close-line anyone walking  by the TARL banner.
…the good news is that we managed to NOT close-line anyone walking by the TARL banner.

 

Ph.D. candidate Stacy Drake explaining what bones can tell scientists about the people from the past and how they lived.
Ph.D. candidate Stacy Drake explaining what bones can tell scientists about the people from the past and how they lived.  Image provided courtesy of UT anthropology graduate student Luisa Aebersold.

 

Kids had the opportunity to try their hand at grinding dried corn using a mano and metate...and realized  very quickly how much work went into preparing food before McDonald's arrived on the scene.
Kids had the opportunity to try their hand at grinding dried corn using a mano and metate…and realized very quickly how much work went into preparing food before McDonald’s arrived on the scene.  Image provided courtesy of UT anthropology graduate student Luisa Aebersold.

 

As always, Jean was extremely popular at her table where she showed children (and adults!) how to make corn husk dolls.
As always, Jean was extremely popular at her table where she showed children (and adults!) how to make corn husk dolls.  Image provided courtesy of UT anthropology graduate student Luisa Aebersold.

 

Ph.D. candidate Debora Trein working at the table where kids had the chance to write their name in Egyptian hieroglyphs.  We were fortunate to have the opportunity to work side-by-side with the graduate students who have been ensuring a anthropology presence at Explore UT for the last several years.
Ph.D. candidate Debora Trein working at the table where kids had the chance to write their name in Egyptian hieroglyphs. We were fortunate to have the opportunity to work side-by-side with the graduate students who have been ensuring an ‘anthropology presence’ at Explore UT for the last several years.  Image provided courtesy of UT anthropology graduate student Luisa Aebersold.

 

This is a wonderful image of children trying their hand at mending pottery.  It was impressive to watch how focused some of the children would become trying to fit the sherds together to reconstruct parts of the vessels.
This is a wonderful image of children trying their hand at mending pottery. It was impressive to watch how focused some of the children would become trying to fit the sherds together to reconstruct parts of the vessels.  Image provided courtesy of UT anthropology graduate student Luisa Aebersold.

 

Rosario bravely manned the rock art painting table, ducking loaded paint brushes and trying to prevent all of the paint from turning into various shades of brown. Image provided courtesy of UT anthropology graduate student Luisa Aebersold.

 

Rosario had this to say about her very popular activity this year: “The rock art activity consisted of several images of Texas rock art printed on card stock that visitors could paint. The only colors I made available for painting were colors used by Native Americans. So the colors were red, black and as close to ochre as I could mix. They also used white… pigments were made from berries, roots, stones, etc. and I was asked throughout the day if I had made my own paint. I will say no berries were harmed for this activity, but there’s this wonderful stuff called tempera paint! The most popular image the children wanted to paint was the bird, I actually ran out of them. I don’t know what it is about this bird from 41RE14 in Real Co., but it is well liked.”

The image from the site that was so popular?

Bird

 

There was also a tremendous amount of excitement about TxDOT staff archeologist Chris Ringstaff being in attendance to demonstrate flint knapping for the people who attended.  Chris was wonderful at not only demonstrating the various techniques that would have been used by the prehistoric knappers who inhabited Texas, he did a great job of explaining why they did what they did: why they chose the stone they chose, used the tools they used and worked the various kinds of flakes in various ways.  His demonstration was well-attended and all of us took an opportunity to stop and watch this professional archeologist and researcher explain his craft.

 

Chris Ringstaff explaining the use of atlatls (spear throwers).
Chris Ringstaff explaining the use of atlatls (spear throwers).

 

Chris showing the shaft of a "dart" and why selection was so critical to the effectiveness of this tool.
Chris showing the shaft of a “dart” and why selection was so critical to the effectiveness of this tool.

 

Chris shows everyone what the raw materials used were, demonstrating with a  piece of chert.
Chris shows everyone what the raw materials used were, demonstrating with a piece of chert.

 

Chris displaying for attendees the different types of "billets" that would have been used for knapping (parts of the knapper's kit).  They include deer antler "billets" of various sizes for soft percussion and fist-sized "hammer stones" for hard percussion work.
Chris displaying for attendees the different types of “billets” that would have been used for knapping (parts of the knapper’s kit). They include deer antler “billets” of various sizes for soft percussion and fist-sized “hammer stones” for hard percussion work.

 

In this image Chris is preparing a platform for flake removal.
In this image Chris is preparing a platform for flake removal.

 

The same way the knapping would have been practiced by the early inhabitants of Texas, Chris gets to work without the modern comforts of chairs, tables and full gloves.
The same way the knapping would have been practiced by the early inhabitants of Texas, Chris gets to work without the modern comforts of chairs, tables and full gloves.

 

An example of the various kinds of projectile points that would have been made by the prehistoric inhabitants of Texas.  Chris was able to help people to see and learn for themselves the historic, cultural and scientific value of prehistoric material culture, why it was effective and how it evolved.
An example of the various kinds of projectile points that would have been made by the prehistoric inhabitants of Texas. Chris was able to help people to see and learn for themselves the historic, cultural and scientific value of prehistoric material culture, why it was effective and how it evolved.

 

This year’s Explore UT was an opportunity for those of us who work at TARL to make what we do accessible to the public, especially as pertains to using archeology to teach science and social studies to children.  Archeology offers tangible, understandable lessons about the evolution of man, his culture and his technology and TARL staff look forward to other opportunities to work with schools, educators and students to help them appreciate and utilize the wealth of material culture that, in many ways, originated in their own backyards.  Thank you to everyone who came out to contribute and who  participated in making this an opportunity for TARL to renew its ties to the anthropology department and main campus.  We look forward to many more years of educational contributions.

 

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Introductions!

by Truc Nguyen

Hello! My name is Truc Nguyen and I am an undergraduate currently finishing up my last semester at the University of Texas at Austin. I will hopefully graduate in May with a B.A. in Anthropology and a minor in French. My academic focus for the past few years has been mostly physical anthropology, particularly with human osteology.

I have had the great opportunity to work with many of the faculty and staff members both on the main campus and here at TARL. Currently, I am part of an Undergraduate Research Internship with Amber Heard-Booth. I am assisting her with her doctoral dissertation looking at variations in longitudinal arch in humans. This internship has allowed me to work closely with great technology, such as 3D scanners and software. Working with a graduate student has also given me insight on life in academia.

I am also working with Dr. John Kappelman as part of an independent study class. This has given me the opportunity to work here at TARL and explore the many collections here. Under the patient guidance of Kerri Wilhelm, I hope to gain experience and knowledge from working with such a vast amount of materials. I hope to be involved in as many projects as I can and I am so excited to be here!

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Sex, Politics, and Archeology in Downtown Austin

by Susan Dial

History frequently repeats itself, often with an ironic twist or two.  Currently there is a minor furor brewing over a proposed “strip club” just blocks from Austin’s City Hall.  As reported in a February 13, 2015, article in the Austin American-Statesman, several members of a downtown Austin alliance are protesting the plan, arguing that this sort of business is not part of the vision held for that area. But 125 years ago, this sort of business was not only a “vision” for downtown Austin, it was the norm.

What has now become Austin’s trendy warehouse district, the headquarters of the City Council, and high-rise offices of Computer Sciences Corporation was once known as “Guytown,” an infamous red-light district peopled with prostitutes and sprinkled with bars and saloons catering to city and state leaders, among other visitors. Extending roughly from Colorado and San Antonio Streets on the east and west, and 1st and 3rd Streets on the south and north, the area originally had been a genteel neighborhood in Austin’s core; by the 1870’s it had begun its descent into a notorious red light district.

 

Prostitutes, such as these in Caldwell County south of Austin, operated from a variety of venues during Guy Town's heyday in Austin. While some women lived in comfortable, two-story bordellos, many more operated from run-down, one-room shacks such as the one pictured here. Photo courtesy of Texas Beyond History.
Prostitutes, such as these in Caldwell County south of Austin, operated from a variety of venues during Guy Town’s heyday in Austin. While some women lived in comfortable, two-story bordellos, many more operated from run-down, one-room shacks such as the one pictured here. Photo courtesy of Lawrence Jones and Texas Beyond History.

 

In 1876, the Austin Daily Statesman reported that two women arrested for keeping a brothel threatened to expose several of their high-powered clients, among them city council members, legislators and businessmen whose patronage tacitly supported the operations.  Although the area was a tinderbox for violence and drunken sprees, many other stories played out among those at the opposite end of the economic scale—the laundresses, blacksmiths, porters, maids, and others who lived and worked in Guy Town. Unlike today, affordable housing was not an issue; there were no restrictions on the size or upkeep of the wooden shanties and alley cribs in which many made their homes.

The growth of businesses such as Calcasieu Lumber Company, a gradual rise in industrial development, and a change in the city’s master plan in 1928 gradually changed the area and brought about the demise of Guytown.  Seventy years later, another city plan, styled as a “smart growth initiative,” was to bring about a wholescale and radically upscale change in character for the district.

In advance of the new construction, archeological and archival research investigations were conducted by Hicks & Company over a five-city block area, including the lot that now holds the modern, copper-clad City Hall building. Prior to excavations, most of the extant buildings were razed from their lots, including the iconic Liberty Lunch. Spared from the wrecking ball was Schneider’s Store, now home to an upscale barbecue restaurant.  Archeologists conducted only minor tests around the perimeter of that building, unlike the massive excavations on the other blocks.

TARL Associate Director Jonathan Jarvis and I were part of the project.  I ran the mobile laboratory headquartered on one of the blocks, while Jonathan worked on the complex series of excavations, which moved from block to block as each was completed.  It was a massive undertaking led by Project Archeologist Rachel Feit and Principal Investigator James Karbula.  I was amazed at the variety of artifacts that flowed daily into our small trailer lab—and the provocative and often poignant activities the items reflected.  Along with the remains of champagne and beer bottles, gaming tokens, bullets, and “hygiene” equipment for the prostitutes came pieces of china dolls and children’s toys.

Thousands of artifacts were recovered, quickly classified, counted, and logged into our mobile laboratory computer. The great majority—sherds of glass, rusted metal bits, and other unidentifiable materials that clearly had been mass produced and held no diagnostic value, were buried on the site, as part of a policy arrangement with the Texas Historical Commission. The most significant (or diagnostic) artifacts are now curated in TARL Collections, along with the maps, records, and photos accruing from the investigations.  It is a collection that holds enormous potential for researchers and students interested in urban archeology and demographic change.

 

This small sample of the thousands of artifacts recovered from excavations in Austin’s 19th-century Guytown district reflects the area’s notorious past. Shown in clockwise order are a stoneware ale bottle, blue and white spittoon, an amber snuff jar, cartridge casings, a vaginal syringe (perhaps belonging to one of the area’s prostitutes), a bone handle of a makeup brush, a ceramic pipe bowl with anchor motif, and fragments of a fancy glass mug and goblet. TARL Collections; photo by Kerri Wilhelm.
This small sample of the thousands of artifacts recovered from excavations in Austin’s 19th-century Guytown district reflects the area’s notorious past. Shown in clockwise order are a stoneware ale bottle, blue and white spittoon, an amber snuff jar, cartridge casings, a vaginal syringe (perhaps belonging to one of the area’s prostitutes), a bone handle of a makeup brush, a ceramic pipe bowl with anchor motif, and fragments of a fancy glass mug and goblet. TARL Collections; photo by Kerri Wilhelm.

 

 

  • A two-volume report of the project was published by Hicks and Company in 2003: Boarding Houses, Bar Rooms and Brothels: Life in a Vice-District by Rachel Feit, et al (Hicks & Company Series #104).

 

  • To learn more about the currently proposed “adult” business, see Austin American-Statesman Feb. 13, 2015: “Downtown strip club plan receiving early opposition” by Gary Dinges.

 

 

Explore UT 2015

by Rosario Casarez

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TARL is gearing up for Explore UT on March 7th.  Explore UT is touted as “The Biggest Open House in Texas”.  It’s a campus-wide event with hundreds of activities for visitors to enjoy.  TARL is participating in the festivities after a few years’ hiatus, but we are back in full force with lots to do for young and old.  And we will be joining forces with a group of dedicated UT anthropology graduate students who have carried the archeology torch for the past couple of Explore UT’s.

Kids (and staff) enjoying rock art painting during previous Explore UT event.
Kids (and staff) enjoying rock art painting during previous Explore UT event.

 

Rosario expertly demonstrating the technique for making cordage during Explore UT to a group of children...who were carefully gauging younger siblings and asking astute questions about tensile properties.

Rosario expertly demonstrating the technique for making cordage during Explore UT to a group of children…who were carefully gauging younger siblings and asking astute questions about tensile properties.

 

Students learning the fine art of rock painting.  We will provide your children paint and the tools to apply it; what happens  during the car ride home with the wet paint we are not accountable for.  You have been warned.  ;)
Students learning the fine art of rock painting. We will provide your children paint and the tools to apply it; what happens during the car ride home with the wet paint we are not accountable for. You have been warned. 😉
This is Susan "Too Cool for School" Dial manning her Texas Beyond History table.  Explore UT, 2007.
This is Susan “Too Cool for School” Dial manning her Texas Beyond History table. Explore UT, 2007.

 

Here’s a sampling of what we’ll have to offer: pottery mending, corn-husk doll making, rock-art painting (on cardstock), Egyptian and Mayan hieroglyphic writing and an artifact “ooh and ahh” table.  We will also have several grinding stations set up with manos and metates, so you can try your hand at corn grinding. And there will be a skeleton show-and-tell table.  (The skeleton will be a replica; unfortunately, no mummies will be participating.)

Besides these outdoor activities, there will be two indoor lectures presented by TARL staff:

– Susan Dial, our Texas Beyond History editor, will talk about what ancient Texans ate in “Texas Beyond History:  Detectives Into the Past”.

– Jonathan Jarvis, TARL’s associate director, will present “The Role of Maps in Archeology: Past, Present and Future.”

So come out and pay us a visit; we’ll be on the east side of the main UT campus in the Liberal Arts Building Courtyard.  The talks will be held in the Liberal Arts Building, room 1.104.  Here’s more information about this event – https://exploreut.utexas.edu/.