Category Archives: TARL Staff

Teaching at TARL

by Kerri Wilhelm

This semester our Associate Director, Jonathan Jarvis, is instructing a course here at TARL entitled “Digital Data Systems in Archeology (ANT 324L).”  It is a hands-on course introducing students to the digital equipment and basic geospatial software used in the field to collect archeological location data.  Jonathan provides students an introduction to GIS and an over view of near-surface sensing techniques, technical skills that archeologists should be able to successfully apply while conducting field work.  Jonathan’s focus is providing these UT students the fundamentals of instrument operation and data capture in simulated archeological field conditions.  CRM firms seek to hire the most qualified recent graduates and Jonathan’s course gives students their first real introduction to what will be expected of them when considering a career in archeology: a firm foundation in location mapping and working with geospatial data.

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Jonathan was kind enough to invite me to speak to his students to recruit student bloggers.  These students are being introduced to the technology and software programs that continue to evolve in scope and application even as they progress through the semester.  I wanted to take an opportunity to get some feedback from the students about their perspectives on the increasing role, and perhaps, increasing dependence, on technology to carry out field data collection and synthesis.  I offered the following topics to them as potential blog post material as they work their way through the course:

“Posts can range in topics from the macro (how trends in technology are being represented in the field of archeology) to the micro (what are the advantages and disadvantages of using ‘satellite archeology’ to define archeological sites and what are the limitations).  Other topics to be considered can include:

  • how are recent technologies changing the roles archeologists play in defining history?
  • are software applications, like GIS, more reliable for publishing data in archeology or less reliable because it assumes a level of computer proficiency that the field of archeology may still be trying to catch up with?
  • how has technology changed the role of the archeologist in the field over the last 100 years?
  • does social networking have the potential to increase the relevance and value of archeological data and interpretation? How?
  • what are some good examples of technology providing archeologists with tools and data that they would not have otherwise obtained?
  • how can technology be applied to existing archeological collections to obtain more or better data, re-interpret findings or provide more access to researchers who cannot afford to physically visit the collections?”

As we continue to invite more and more students to join us out here at TARL, we not only want for them to learn the ins-and-outs of processing archeological collections or the necessity for strict policy to guide the management of collections of artifacts that number in the tens and hundreds of thousands, we also want them to use the skills they are acquiring out here to apply in their critical thinking as they approach the various sub-disciplines within archeology that will govern their professional paths.  TARL is a resource at many levels, and not just for the massive volume of collections or the depth of time they represent.  TARL is also a resource based on the knowledge that staff bring to bear in helping to teach the next generation of archeologists.  The students in Jonathan’s archeology class represent the most digitally-based generation of future archeological researchers yet.  It will be interesting to read their posts and to hear their thoughts about the role that they foresee technology playing in their future professional careers.

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Historic Ceramics Workshop at TARL

by Marybeth Tomka

In cooperation with Becky Shelton at the State Archeologist’s office at the Texas Historical Commission, I am working to develop a historic ceramics workshop.  We are planning to have a seminar this spring, date to be announced, and depending on its appeal, we will continue having them yearly.  There will be limited space, about 20 people with preference given to stewards.

If you want to know more about historic ceramics, their varieties and nuances, consider this workshop as a fun and cooperative learning experience.

Stay tuned to the blog as we move forward with planning the details of this wonderful, hands-on learning opportunity that will be presented here at TARL on UT’s Pickle Research Campus.  We will provide workshop details as they evolve.

Oh, the featured image above is of the texts that we will be using for training during the workshop.  We look forward to sharing our experiences with you at the workshop, and at those we hope to offer in the future.

Stay tuned!

 

 

Always, the Work Continues…

Ongoing Collections Management Efforts at TARL

by Kerri Wilhelm

One of TARL’s many functions, and secondary only to its role as an archeological research facility at UT Austin, is serving as a repository for archeological collections derived from permitted excavations in Texas.  It is in TARL’s capacity as a state-certified repository that our staff expends a great deal of time and resources performing the intake tasks associated with reviewing inventories of submitted collections and associated records.  Marybeth Tomka, our new Head of Collections, tries to make the most of the intake process by offering to train students interested in CRM archeology in proper artifact laboratory methods and collections processing techniques.  This is a great opportunity for students interested in learning artifact identification and analysis, especially as relates to ceramic and point typologies, to work with different artifact classes and to learn from knowledgeable staff about their classifications and significance.

This photograph shows PhD. candidate Debora Trein (left) and volunteer Elizabeth Martindale (right) meticulously confirming submitted inventories against their collections they.  In particular Debora is confirming the inventory of a  contractor-submitted collection.  Following her check of the collection, and a review of documentation by Marybeth and Rosario, the collection will be placed into TARL’s permanent curation space.  Elizabeth Martindale is also confirming the inventory against the collections for a submitted collection.  However, following her review the collection she is working on will be sent to another repository for permanent curation.

Keep checking back on the blog as we continue to chronicle the work on the various duties and projects we undertake.  If you’re a college student and interested in archeology, collections management or archives and information management, you’re encouraged to contact Marybeth about opportunities we have for contributing to projects.  Send her an email and let her know that you’re interested in volunteering or in carrying out an internship.  She’ll be glad to discuss these opportunities with you!

marybeth.tomka@austin.utexas.edu

 

 

Back to the Future for Marybeth

by Marybeth Tomka

One of the many wonders of working at TARL again after so many years, is coming across sites and materials that made impacts in my life during my student years.  Since I am just learning the locations of all the collections, I was surprised when I opened a cabinet to look at one collection and found a familiar one right next to it.  Such was my pleasure December 15, 2014.

In 1981 I was a senior looking forward to graduation in May, field school in New Mexico and graduate school in the fall.  I had been working at TARL on my professor’s project for almost a year and having the time of my life.  One of the TARL staff members mentioned that a phone call had come in from the THC and some burials had been disturbed by trenching for a phone cable near Houston. He and another graduate student were going to meet a representative from THC on Saturday and maybe, with the Houston Archaeological Society’s help, there would be a salvage excavation.  Since it was still early on in the semester, I didn’t need to study (yet!) so I asked to go along.

I was going on my first excavation with two graduate students; I thought I was impressive having finished my osteology class in the fall of 1980.  Boy, did I get a lesson in humility.  But what an experience!  I got to excavate a site, work a transit (for you young folk – the forerunner of a total data station where you actually have to know geometry!), and the best part, work alongside experienced avocational and professional archaeologists.  I worked on the site for several weekends in January and February and then again in August when I got back from field school.

I am sure that in the coming days, weeks, months, years ahead, I will find more that has my present intersecting my past life at TARL.

 

 

Introductions!

Introducing TARL’s Head of Collections: Marybeth Tomka

We are pleased to announce that Marybeth Tomka joined the staff of the TARL in July 2014 as the Head of Collections.  Marybeth received her BA and MA from UT-Austin, and feels like she has come home to TARL.  Marybeth has over 30 years of professional experience in the field of cultural resource management. She has experience working in both the private and public sector, has completed analyses of lithic and ceramic materials, made contributions to archaeological reports, participated as the supervisor of archaeological lab and field crews, and served as a project manager while in the private sector.

She spent six years with TRC, six years with TPWD, and as a work study and later employee at TARL’s former contracting arm.  She comes to us from the Center for Archaeological Research (CAR) staff where from July 2000-July 2014, Marybeth served in two major roles as the laboratory director for contract projects and as curator.  She was the driving force to CAR’s 2006 acknowledgement as a THC certified repository coming as only the second institution to be certified.  She also served as the technical lead for outreach field schools work with community volunteers at the National Park Service’s Spanish Colonial site of Rancho de Las Cabras in Wilson County from 2007 through 2012 and taught UTSA’s field in 2008 and 2010. As an undergraduate, and then graduate student, Marybeth was a lab technician for the WS Ranch Project of the Anthropology Department under Jim Neely, and as a teacher’s assistant and area supervisor for the University of Texas (Austin) field school as part of her Master’s thesis research. Her research focused on the great kiva complex.

Marybeth’s interests are focused in the management of archaeological records and collections within the context of state and federal laws and sound museum practice. This interest as well as database administration, led her to pursue additional training and in June 2012, she received her Professional Certification in Collections Management from the University of Victoria (UVic).

Already somewhat versed in TARL’s massive collections, Marybeth is happily pursuing taking TARL into the 21st century with planned projects in collections care, collections management, and database construction management.  She will also be actively recruiting volunteers as we move forward.

Follow the blog and/or subscribe to the Friends of TARL Newsletter to keep track of Marybeth’s projects, her discoveries in TARL’s collections and her own blog entries as she gathers the reins and guides TARL’s collections along an exciting trajectory into the future.

DID YOU KNOW?

The artifact featured above in this post is made of shell.  Per Susan Dial, Editor and Project Manager of Texas Beyond History, this artifact is an:

“Engraved conch shell gorget with triskele design, ca. AD 1400. Excavated by the University of Texas in 1938 from the Mitchell locality (site 41BW4) in the Upper Nasoni Caddo village on Red River, Bowie County, Texas. Specimen 41BW4 (6-2-56); width 11 cm. To learn more about the Hatchell-Mitchell site, see the Nasoni exhibit at http://www.texasbeyondhistory.net/nasoni/index.html.”