Category Archives: TARL Staff

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.

Texas Archeology Month Fair 2017

Thank you to everyone who came out to this year’s Texas Archeology Month Fair this past weekend!

What an event it was– 68 volunteers representing at least 18 local agencies and groups led activities for more than 400 visitors! The beautiful weather made it a perfect day to get outside and learn about archeology from the experts.

We are so grateful to all our volunteers, to the donors who helped make this event possible, and to our community for being so supportive of this kind of outreach! Thank you to all who shared your expertise and your love of archeology to help inspire the next generation of archeologists.

Here are some of our favorite photos from this year’s Fair. See y’all next year!

The Fates of Very Ancient Remains

NAGPRA, the law that protects human remains and associated artifacts, applies to human burials or remains that can be confidently affiliated with a modern, federally-recognized Native American group. What do archeologists do, though, when remains are found to date back many thousands of years in the past?

TARL Head of Collections Marybeth Tomka was featured in this article In the Summer 2017 issue of American Archaeology. Read the full PDF:

Fates of Very Ancient Remains

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.

archfair2016-48_osteologymockburial_2
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).

 

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.

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 at the 86th Annual Meeting of the Texas Archeological Society

by Lauren Bussiere

TAS_2015

Jessie, Marybeth, Lauren, Stacy and Jonathan at the TAS meeting

Recently TARL’s staff braved torrential downpours, high winds, and sketchy hotel continental breakfasts to attend the 86th Annual Meeting of the Texas Archeological Society in Houston. We all greatly enjoyed sharing our work with our friends and colleagues, meeting new folks and spending time with old friends.

During the meetings, TAS honored TARL Associate Director Jonathan Jarvis for 20 years of membership, and Texas Beyond History director Susan Dial for 30 years of membership in the TAS. We are reminded of how fortunate TARL is to have such dedicated and knowledgeable members of the professional community leading our team!

TARL staff had a great time presenting our work at our symposium session, “TARL Today: Projects and Prospects,” and we are grateful to everyone who took the time to come listen to our presentations and offer their feedback on our work. TARL Associate Director Jonathan Jarvis presented on “The Legacy of A. T. Jackson,” providing a fascinating look into the history of TARL’s collections and particularly the many assemblages that were excavated during the WPA era of Texas archaeology. Head of Collections Marybeth Tomka and Curatorial Assistant Lauren Bussiere shared their pilot project—rehabbing one of these WPA-era collections—in their talk “WPA Archaeology: Revisiting the Harrell Site Collections.” TARL Osteologist and NAGPRA Coordinator Stacy Drake discussed her findings regarding “Skeletal Pathologies of Prehistoric Individuals at Falcon Reservoir,” providing a fascinating look into the challenges of salvage projects, and TARL Osteology Intern Jessie LeViseur demonstrated the wealth of new information that can be gained from re-analyzing old collections in her talk, “The Harrell Site: A New Perspective of a Prehistoric Cemetery.” Finally, TARL Director Brian Roberts discussed TARL’s current state and plans for the future in his presentation, “TARL Today.” We hope that our session provided an interesting look into the various projects that keep us busy here at TARL.

We were all also glad to have the opportunity to hear about the great projects our colleagues across the state have been conducting. TARL would like to extend our thanks to all the presenters for sharing their work, to our audience members for their interest in TARL and support of our work, and especially to the organizers of the TAS meetings: the Houston Archeological Society, Fort Bend Archeological Society, and Brazoria Archeological Society. Their hard work made this year’s meetings a fun and educational experience for all of us!

Meet TARL’s New Curatorial Assistant: Lauren Bussiere

Lauren

Lauren at the Roman site of Jerash in northern Jordan, 2011.

As TARL’s new Curatorial Assistant, I’m excited to get to work rehabbing some of TARL’s great old collections and helping make all that material and information accessible to other researchers.

My background is mostly in Mesoamerican Archaeology, but I’m a Texas girl at heart and a Texas State alum (go Bobcats!). I have a deep love for Central America, Mexico, and the desert Southwest, which inspires me to help preserve the cultural patrimony of these areas and to help ensure that their stories are a part of our shared world history. As one of the largest repositories of cultural material from sites across Texas and beyond, TARL plays an important role in conserving invaluable material and information, facilitating dialogue, and promoting innovative research—and I am honored to be part of this great team!

As a graduate student in Anthropological Archaeology at the University of California, San Diego, I conducted field research in Belize, Mexico, and Jordan, as well as some CRM work in California. My Master’s work focused on warfare and defensive structures in the northern Maya Lowlands, building off my excavation of the site perimeter wall at the Late and Terminal Classic site of Chichén Itzá. My post-M.A. research included looking at intra-site exchange patterns across households at a minor Maya site in Belize, as well as research into chemical analysis methodologies for stone tools at Bronze Age sites in Jordan.

Working on such a range of projects, I gained a strong appreciation for the importance—as well as the difficulty—of ensuring that archaeological data is precise, detailed, organized, compliant, and most importantly, easy to interpret by future researchers. Part of my challenge here at TARL is to consolidate records from old projects, bring them up to contemporary standards, and organize them to facilitate future analysis. Meanwhile, I’m also working to update artifact inventories and ensure that these irreplaceable artifacts are stored in such a way that they will be preserved for many years to come. This is no easy task, given that some of TARL’s collections date from the days when archaeology was in its infancy!

In my spare time, I enjoy running, yoga, hiking, spending time with my husband and two cats, and gardening. I am also a hobby beekeeper, so please call me if you see a swarm that needs a good home!

Archaeological Methods Workshop – Osteology

This week, TARL held the first workshop in a series about archaeological methods! We worked together with the UT Anthropology Department to further TARL’s educational goals and provide a collaborative space to enhance UT graduate students’ field skills. TARL Head of Collections Marybeth Tomka, and TARL staff Stacy Drake and Debora Trein led a 2 hour seminar on principles of osteology in archaeology, which included an in-depth discussion of topics such as NAGPRA legislation, cultural sensitivity awareness, and the duties of archaeologists to the state, the public, and stakeholder communities in private and academic settings. Best practices in excavation, analysis, and curation of human remains was also a topic of great discussion, as most workshop participants have had experience with human remains in archaeological contexts from all over the country and the world.

After the essentials of bone and teeth analysis were discussed, workshop participants were given the opportunity to hone their analytic skills by examining a number of specimens under TARL’s curation. The study of ancient human remains is an extraordinarily informative field, giving archaeologists a window into a person’s life. Human remains provide information that may include a person’s age, lifestyle, diet, place of dwelling, occupation, among and other highly significant knowledge about ancient lifeways. Importantly, human remains can also be employed to study entire populations over time. Human remains can provide archaeologists information about long-term trends such as the impact of the introduction of agriculture on a population’s health and nutrition, for instance.

This was the first of many workshops, which will hopefully be just as informative! Stay tuned for next week’s workshop on survey.

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”.

DSC_0522

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.

DSC_0543

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

DSC_0547

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!

DSC_0539

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!

DSC_0549

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