The Paul T. Seashore Basket Collection, by Judith W. Finger

Judith Finger is a visiting researcher at TARL studying Southwestern basketry from the prehistoric and historic periods. This article is part of TARL’s December 2016 newsletter.

In October, 2016, I visited TARL to study baskets in the Paul T. Seashore Collection of Native American baskets. The baskets, most dating to the early 1900s were donated to the Texas Memorial Museum in 1950. The Collection includes baskets from many California, Southwest, and Northwest Coast tribal groups as well as other less well known groups. There are traditional, utilitarian baskets, made for the Indians’ own use in addition to fancier, made-for-market ones, those to be sold to tourists and collectors as the Native Americans became part of the dominant Anglo cash economy.

For the past ten years, Dr. Catherine Fowler, Professor Emerita of the University of Nevada, Reno, and I have been researching the baskets collected by Helen J. Stewart, a pioneer rancher in Las Vegas, Nevada. She amassed a collection of 550 baskets, focusing on baskets woven by neighboring Southern Paiute and Nevada Shoshone women.  The informative TMM publication on the Seashore Collection, which we came across during our research, contained four baskets that we were able to identify as being from the Stewart Collection based on historic photographs of the Collection.

Helen Stewart with some of her basket collection. Two of the baskets shown here are now in the TARL collections.
Helen Stewart with some of her basket collection. Two of the baskets shown here are now in the TARL collections.

Thanks to the cooperation and assistance of Marybeth Tomka and Lauren Bussiere, I was able to spend time with the Seashore Collection and examine the four baskets, and several others I requested, with my own eyes and hands, to identify materials and get a better sense of construction techniques and design layouts. While I hoped to find detailed collection history in the accession file, beyond a typed list of the collection objects, there was not much else. However, information on this inventory did provide important historical context for some of the other baskets, such as a Hopi coiled plaque, woven on Second Mesa, and collected by Paul Seashore. The large plaque with a geometric design originally came from the collection of Heinrich (Henry) Voth, a Mennonite missionary and minister, born in Southern Russia, who lived with the Hopi in the 1890s. This basket was dated to the late 1880s.

Hopi coiled plaque from the Seashore Collection. Image: TARL Archive.
Hopi coiled plaque from the Seashore Collection. Image: TARL Archive.

Discussions with the TARL staff alerted me to the fact that there might well be additional files still in storage due to the move of the baskets from the Texas Memorial Museum to TARL about 10 years ago. As we continue our research and the TARL staff works through the containers still in storage, better, more detailed information may be discovered. In the meantime, Dr. Fowler and I are still looking at museum collections that include Helen Stewart’s baskets in preparation for a publication about Southern Paiute basketry and the Stewart Collection.

An Examination of Two South Texas Archaic Lithic Collections, By Christopher Ringstaff

Chris Ringstaff is Staff Archeologist at the Texas Department of Transportation and a visiting researcher at TARL. This article is part of TARL’s December 2016 newsletter.

As part of my continuing research into lithic technology of the South Texas Archaic sponsored by the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT), I have been conducting a study of bifaces from the A.E. Anderson collection and Lino Site (41WB437) collections over the past few months. The A.E. Anderson collection was chosen as it provides a large multi-county sample of Lower Rio Grande stone tools and may provide insight into regional technological and raw material variability. The Lino Site was selected as it is one of few stratified archeological sites in the region and offers a glimpse into diachronic change in Archaic period stone tool technology.

A.E. Anderson Triangular Points from Zapata County.
A.E. Anderson Triangular Points from Zapata County.

This ongoing study constitutes one aspect of TxDOT’s alternative mitigation project for site 41ZP191. The collections review is largely focused on the Middle Archaic triangular tradition and consists of a metric and technological analysis of complete and use-broken specimens as well as triangular preforms and staged bifaces. The data collected will be used to compare with specimens recovered from 41ZP191 and other excavated sites from the region. In addition, data from the staged bifaces and preforms are being used as a comparative control for a recent experimental lithic study also associated with the 41ZP191 Project. The experimental study explores the use of debitage analysis to examine biface production features and estimate labor expenditure.

The occasional distraction in the A.E. Anderson collection: a translucent dart point.
The occasional distraction in the A.E. Anderson collection: a translucent dart point.

The collections housed at the Texas Archeological Research Laboratory offer incredible research opportunities for professional archeologists, graduate and undergraduate researchers, and avocational archeologists alike. As a visiting researcher, I found the staff at TARL knowledgeable, courteous, and helpful. They not only assisted me with locating collections and provided me lab space but made me feel welcomed as a fellow colleague, my sincere thanks to you all.

3D Scanning at the Texas Archeological Research Laboratory, By Dr. Robert Z. Selden, Jr.

Dr. Selden is a visiting researcher from the Center for Regional Heritage Research, Stephen F. Austin State University. The following article is part of TARL’s December 2016 newsletter. 


Over the course of 2016, my 3D scanners and I had the opportunity to visit the Texas Archeological Research Laboratory (TARL) on two occasions. Both of those projects are focused upon collecting data for the ongoing shape analyses (geometric morphometrics) of Caddo vessels; however, I always try to scan other artifacts and specimens as they are available. Those scans rarely get the attention that they deserve, and I thought this a proper forum to engage in a short discussion regarding one of these artifacts; a large biface from the George C. Davis site (41CE19) in East Texas (Figure 1).


Figure 1. TARL-41CE19-4078-63A, curated at the Texas Archeological Research Laboratory.
Figure 1. TARL-41CE19-4078-63A, curated at the Texas Archeological Research Laboratory.

This specimen (4078-63) comes from Feature 134 at the Davis site, and was associated with Skeleton 5. There is something adhering to the biface; according to Shafer (1973), this may be the remains of a leather sheath. He noted that edge smoothing and some polishing occurs almost around the full perimeter of the biface, which may have resulted from being carried in (and lightly abrading against) a loose sheath of bark or leather (Shafer 1973). This material is still present on the biface, and can also be seen on several of the Gahagan bifaces from the George C. Davis site. The biface is an impressive 480 mm (48 cm) in length.

3D Puzzle

Using those data from the 3D model, the biface was made into a 3D puzzle (Figure 2); you can download the plans here. There are 37 puzzle pieces that can be cut out from five sheets of 8.5×11″ paper; thus there is no need for a 3D printer. This puzzle is a bit more challenging than the ceramic puzzles. There are 754 triangles and 380 vertices–to put that in perspective, the decimated (50%) 3D model has over 2,400,000 triangles and 1,200,000 vertices. As you build the puzzle, take some time to ponder the skill, care and craftsmanship that the original Caddo maker took to create such an incredible tool.

Figure 2. 3D puzzle of the large biface from the George C. Davis site (Selden 2016).
Figure 2. 3D puzzle of the large biface from the George C. Davis site (Selden 2016).

Contact TARL and we’d be happy to send you an interactive 3D PDF file of Figure 1, so you can see the 3D scan from all angles. For more on how to engage with a 3D PDF, visit


Recent Research at the Texas Archeological Research Laboratory, by Timothy K. Perttula

Dr. Perttula is a visiting researcher who spends a good deal of time working with ceramics and other artifacts from TARL’s collections. The following article is part of TARL’s December 2016 newsletter. 

In addition to examining ceramic collections at TARL from Caddo sites across East Texas—including the ceramic vessels and sherds from the platform mound at the Hatchel site (41BW3) and sherds from more than 30 sites collected by Gus Arnold during his Works Progress Administration (WPA) survey of East Texas sites—I recently completed analyses of the ceramic sherd assemblage from the Harrell site (41YN1) in the upper Brazos River basin. The Harrell site was excavated by the WPA) in 1938 and 1939.

One of the characteristic material culture remains recovered from the Harrell site in WPA excavations were sherds from a number of plain (or minimally decorated) shell-tempered vessels. Shell-tempered vessels were relatively abundant in archeological deposits of Late Prehistoric age at the site, being associated with Harrell and Washita arrow points. My concern was to determine the stylistic and technological character of the ceramic sherds and other clay artifacts from the Harrell site, based on the recent reanalysis of the rehabilitated WPA collection by sherd type, temper, surface treatment, firing conditions, sherd thickness, rim and lip character, orifice diameter, and decorative elements. This information on the sherd assemblage data was employed to more completely characterize the range of ceramic wares at the site, and then compare them to other southern Plains ceramics in northern Texas and southern Oklahoma.

The assemblage includes 578 ceramic vessel sherds as well as fragments of a figurine and clay bead. The sherds are almost exclusively (96 percent) from shell-tempered vessels. There are shell-tempered, shell-hematite-tempered, thick (14-19 mm) non-tempered or bone-tempered paint cups, and other non-tempered or bone-tempered sherds not from paint cups. Most of these sherds are from plain vessels, but 7.5 percent shell or shell-hematite-tempered sherds have decorations, as do 53.3 percent paint cup sherds. The shell-tempered and shell-hematite-tempered vessel sherds have appliqued, brushed, brushed-incised, incised, punctated, incised-punctated (Figure 1), and red washed decorative elements; the latter are from thin-walled bowls, and not from paint cups. The paint cup sherds from Harrell are not corncob-impressed, the main style of paint cups in Plains Village sites in the southern Plains. The paint cup sherds from the site are the southernmost occurrence of this distinctive vessel in North Central Texas and southern and western Oklahoma, and suggests a close association between the Harrell site aboriginal occupants and Plains Village settlements on the Red River in North Central Texas and Washita phase settlements in southern and western Oklahoma (see Brooks and Drass 2005).

Figure 1. Selected decorated sherds and a sherd with a loop handle in the assemblage from the Harrell site: a-a’: Unit O9, 19 inches bs (No. 1493); b: Unit G6, 18 inches bs (No. 573); c: Unit T12, 24 inches bs (No. 3930); d: no provenience (No. 10096); e: Unit F13, 23 inches bs (No. 4263); f-f’: no provenience (No. 10095).
Figure 1. Selected decorated sherds and a sherd with a loop handle in the assemblage from the Harrell site: a-a’: Unit O9, 19 inches bs (No. 1493); b: Unit G6, 18 inches bs (No. 573); c: Unit T12, 24 inches bs (No. 3930); d: no provenience (No. 10096); e: Unit F13, 23 inches bs (No. 4263); f-f’: no provenience (No. 10095).

The Harrell site ceramic vessel sherds comprise a distinctive but far from homogenous aboriginal assemblage in the upper Brazos River basin in the Rolling Plains of North Central Texas. The detailed analysis recognized three separate ceramic wares—shell-tempered, shell-hematite-tempered, and non-tempered and bone-tempered paint cups—with their own characteristic ways in which vessels were shaped, tempered, smoothed, decorated, and fired, not just Nocona Plain vessel sherds. The paint cup sherds are the best available clue to the cultural and social relationships of the Harrell site aboriginal occupants and contemporaneous Plains Village settlements on the Red River in North Central Texas and southern and western Oklahoma and settlements in the Washita and Canadian rivers in southern and western Oklahoma.

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.

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.

Volunteer Spotlight: Jonelle, Pat, & Bunny

This week’s volunteer spotlight post is an interview with some of TARL’s long-term volunteers, who turn up every week to work on collections from the Texas Archeological Society’s annual Field Schools. The TAS and TARL are lucky to have these wonderful ladies around!

TAS Volunteers Bunny Hague, Patricia Perkins, and Jonelle Miller-Chapman in the TAS Lab at TARL.
TAS Volunteers Bunny Haigh, Patricia Perkins, and Jonelle Miller-Chapman in the TAS Lab at TARL.

Lauren: How long have y’all been volunteering here and what do you do as volunteers?

Jonelle: I think I started around 2004 volunteering for the Gault project, who occupied this very building at that time. I was working on a collection that was recovered by a Texas A& M field school that was held at the Gault site one summer. So we were naming and labeleing artifacts that had been recovered and doing the paperwork necessary that hadn’t been done, and we set up a big table right over there. All the Gault people would come and go, and they had various little office spaces in this building, and I got to meet a lot of interesting people. And then Gault left and they went to San Marcos.

After they vacated this building, then Laura Nightengale came to me and said, something to me about how would I like this space, you know, for a TAS lab? That was fine. This is kind of a holy room because this is where all the Gault goodies were locked up! Under lock and key. Cameras and all that. Without having all that here anymore, it’s just kind of exciting to be working in the same space occupied by the mammoth jaw and all that important stuff. Now it really was! I got to know all those people, they’re very fine folks, and they must be doing well as far as I know. But anyway that’s how we inherited this workspace. And that was beginning in maybe 2010 or later. I’ll have to check and find out when Gault moved…. And as time went by, we worked on different field school projects here in this room.

Lauren: (to Bunny and Pat) So did you guys start out volunteering for Gault also?

Pat: No, that was before my time in this lab, and I can’t remember how long I’ve been volunteering out here… three years?

Jonelle: I don’t know, it just seems like forever.

Pat: It does. I want to say three years. I’ve been a member of TAS since 2003. I learned about it after I had retired from teaching and started going to the field schools. I enjoyed going to the field schools, and I learned that Jonelle could use some volunteers working on the Hondo artifacts from the Eagle Bluff area. And so that’s how I got started here. And I learn a lot every day, and you get to see such beautiful artifacts and meet all the wonderful archaeologists working here, so it’s been a real growth experience. I love it. And I love the campus too. There’s something about driving onto this little bit of sanity in this big city, that every time I make that corner—although it’s a very scary turn! (laughter)—I feel peace. It’s just peaceful.

Lauren: How about you, Bunny? How long have you been volunteering?

Bunny: I’ve been volunteering here about a year and a half. I came in the summer last year, early summer when we were washing all those artifacts from the field school and we needed lots of people to help with the washing to get it going forward. But I just kinda… stayed around. I just kept showing up like an old bad penny! (laughter)

Pat: Because I’m old, I would have said you’ve been here at least three months! (laughter) So I think I’ve been here longer than three years. Multiply by two!

Bunny: Every time I think it’s a certain time, it’s usually double. But this I do remember. It’s been about a year and a half.  My first field school was at the Devil’s River in 2012? And that was exhausting and very very hot because I was working in a field on a burned rock midden. But now when I go to the field school I work in the lab. I really enjoy seeing all the artifacts come through.

By profession I’m an artist and I work in ceramics, so I’ve always been interested in toolmaking and how things are shaped and made. So that gives me an additional interest in why things are shaped the way they are, and I really love it. I’ve learned so much since I’ve been here, and that’s one day a week, not even a full day, and it’s such a joy that you get back for that little bit of time.

Lauren: So tell me about some of the coolest and most fun things that y’all have found in the lab.

Pat: Oh golly!

Jonelle: Well we find interesting things every day. Today’s joy is that bottle. We have a complete bottle, this is stuff from the trash pile, and we found a complete bottle that wasn’t in pieces. It was hand-blown into a mold, and we learned all about it from Elton. We didn’t know any of this stuff.

Bunny: And last week he told us about the bitters bottles, the log cabin bitters bottles, because we found some fragments.

Lauren: Oh, wow! That is so cool! That’s so cool looking!

Pat: Yeah we found a bunch of pieces in this collection, probably a whole bottle if we put it back together.

Jonelle: People used to drink bitters because alcohol was a bit of a no-no, so they just got their alcohol from bitters.

Bunny: They could call it medicine and have a good time. (laughter)

Pat: I think we’ve seen the whole gamut, from working at least on the previous Hondo stuff, the whole gamut, or at least early Archaic artifacts all the way up to historic artifacts. It gives you a much more tangible sense of history. I have a much more tangible sense of history now, and it’s really broadened my interest in learning more about historic times. I was always more interested in prehistory, but now I’m really becoming more and more interested in the last three hundred years, I would say.

Lauren: That’s so interesting, that archaeology would be what brings you to that, because you might think that it would increase your interest in prehistory rather than the historic period.

Pat: It made me see how it’s all just one continuous evolution.

Jonelle: Well, you know, so you come here and you have doors opened for you, and you weren’t expecting it, and things happen that just sort of, gives perspective to what you’re doing.

Lauren: So let’s see. What about your field experiences? Can you tell me about any really fun or super memorable field experiences that you guys had?


Pat: No.

Lauren: You can’t talk about them? (Laughter)

Bunny: I went on the death march down at the Devil’s River.

Lauren: That sounds horrible!

Bunny: It was horrible! We all got a “treat” a couple, three times a week, to go on a walk to go see something special. It was organized and you signed up for these different treats they would set up for you. So Peter and I signed on to go see the painted under-cliffs, I can’t remember what that particular one was called.

Pat: Was it the crab? Or a sunrise?

Bunny: Yeah there was a sun there.

Pat: Rock art.

Bunny: And we got there after our sack lunch that we brought that day, because we finished working at noon, because it was so hot, we weren’t working until one o’clock. So we quickly ate our sack lunch we brought and we showed up at the parking lot and met our guide, with the group of people who had signed up. And it was a hundred and two in the parking lot. So we proceeded to walk pretty slowly about a half a mile to this archaeological site that was stunning and beautiful, but I tell ya, we almost lost someone along the way! We had to really go really slowly with lots of breaks. This poor woman almost didn’t make it. Anyway, by the time we got to dinner that night about five-thirty in the evening, people were already talking about the death walk (laughter). And I said, “oh, is that what it was called? I was on that!” It was a hundred and six when we got back to the hotels. So they canceled those tours until they could figure out a short cut to drive the cars in. We were really working with very difficult temperatures.

Lauren: That doesn’t seem like a treat.

Pat: Well in retrospect it really becomes one of your most memorable experiences because you survived it.

Bunny: Yeah, that’s right.

Pat: Most of my most memorable experiences are all weather-related. (Laughter)

Jonelle: I can understand that.

Pat: I was very happy, my goal at Devil’s River was to survive. I was on survey. I’d never been on survey before, and you’re going down in to the canyons and up the sides.

Bunny: Wearing your snake guards.

Pat: Yes, we were just looking carefully and trying not to get lost from the group. I really quit looking for artifacts, I just looked at my feet the whole time. All I saw were my feet, because I was watching where I was putting them. But my favorite thing, and this is… one of my favorite things is discovering how adaptable archaeologists are, the people that go to field school. At Perryton, which is a death trap for tornadoes, and bad storms, oh tents were destroyed one year. My car levitated, actually, while I was in it once. But it hailed…

Jonelle: (Laughs) Yes it did!

Pat: The hailstones were as large as softballs.

Jonelle: Yes they were!

Pat: And it was crazy, chaos for a while. Then it’s all over, it passed pretty rapidly, and then all the archaeologists come out, and they’re gathering the hailstones to put in their ice chests, because then you don’t have to go buy a bag of ice! (laughter) And I just thought, I love it! I love these people. It’s like, oh, that was bad, look at my truck, it’s all dented up, BUT! I’ve got ice.

Bunny: And this is all volunteering, but at field school we actually pay money for it! (Laughter) And then we volunteer on top of it!

Pat: I just love that in those people.

Jonelle: You just make the best of it. And everybody looks out for everybody else, you know. If your tent blows down and you’re in town or something, you come back and it’s properly put up for you again. It’s like summer camp for grown ups.

Pat: It really is, only we’re nicer to each other than children. (laughter)

Lauren: You have a good field school story, Jonelle?

Jonelle: Well, nothing stands out in my mind. My first field school was 1990 and I’ve been to every one except one. I missed 1999. But every year, seeing your old friends and just making new friends every year. Tent camping was a wonderful experience. I did that many years, I guess until 2009. Eight. 2008, switched to a camper. I worked on digging crews all those years, and switched to lab when I started the newsletter, so that would be… 2003 I switched to lab. I wanted the flexibility of being able to get up and walk out and take pictures for the newsletter, and have a little more freedom than you have when you’re on a work crew. So I”ve been in the lab ever since.

So after that first field school, I just met the most wonderful people, you know, right off the bat, and I’m still friends with everybody, and it’s just kind of been a good experience for me. I’ve met the neatest people I’ve ever known in my whole life in this TAS group.

Pat: Me too.

Jonelle: The most interesting, exciting, vibrant, funny, smart. Just…

Pat: Strange.

Jonelle: Oh, strange is the norm.

Pat: And I would say in addition, ditto to all that, and I think the bottom line is just sort of a humanity. There’s no B.S. There’s just a down to earth way of looking at life, accepting people from all walks of life. The levels of education vary from… All levels, and yet everyone’s considered equal.

Jonelle: No one’s better than anyone else.

Pat: No one’s better than anybody. One of our resident scholars is the man who knows all about insects.

Jonelle: Mark.

Pat: He comes to field school, and they call him Bug Man, and he’s proud to be called bug man. And I think he works as a maintenance guy. And I’d put him up with any Ph.D. entomologist in the world. So I just love that about it.

Jonelle: You wanna know what this bug is, you go find Mark and he’ll tell you all about it.

Lauren: Even though he’s not a research scientist at a university, he’s the guy.

Pat: I think you’ve described it there. It’s the passion. It’s the passion you’ve got for something, and he’s got it, and it’s self taught.

Lauren: So just two more questions. First question is, what advice would you give to young people, students or young professionals, who are working in archaeology or want to be working in archaeology?

Jonelle: Besides its importance, and some of us do think it’s important, it’s fascinating, it’s interesting, and you meet the best people in the world out there who are interested in this work. But it’s like any other job, parts of it you like, and parts of it you might not like as much. But it all needs to be done, it’s all part of the big picture.

Pat: I agree, ditto to all that. Plus, volunteer as much as you can, whenever you can, because you never know who you’re going to meet or what they’re going to know, or how they can lead you to areas that you never anticipated. So, what’s that called? Network. Network, network.

Jonelle: Very important. Join the professional organizations so that you can network, and keep in touch with what other people are doing out there in the field, researching and whatnot. It’s all who you know.

Bunny: Well I don’t have children, but I have nieces and nephews, and I tell them, learn something new every day, and I take that very seriously. I think you should be very curious about the world around you and seek out knowledge. And obviously you’re going to seek out knowledge that of the most interest to you, that’s a fine thing.

Pat: And I think it could apply in any field, but, do something that, if you can, is just a little bit outside of your comfort zone. Some things are very easy, even a new thing, oh that’s easy for me, I’ll do that. But sometimes there’s something that you have to be a little bit afraid to try, and that’s when you really learn the most.

Jonelle: Field school has been that way for me. All the time.

Pat: Yeah me too. I was terrified the first time.

Jonelle: “Here, do this,” “Who, me?” “Oh, it’s easy, we’ll show you how.” The first time I was crew chief I was thinking, what, me? (laughter) I was scared to death, you know. But all it was, was filling out a lot of paperwork that other folks didn’t have to do. (laughter) That’s part of it. But you learn. And sometimes they want you excavating, like, “ooh, I get to do this one? This is going to be hard.” But you just get in there and do it. And it gets done. And when you have a cooperative crew that certainly makes all the difference. Everybody comes pretty much eager to get going and do the work. It’s therapeutic, you know, getting out there in the dirt. All your cares and your worries just melt away. You’re communicating with the earth down there, and thinking about what you’re doing and what you’re looking for and what it’s all about. It’s a neat thing.

Lauren: Last question. So when I started this job, I think it was my first week here or my second week maybe. The first time that I met you guys, this group of ladies, you were having a conversation that really let me know that this was the right place for me. (laughter)

Pat: (whispers) Oh, no.

Lauren: And the topic of conversation was, which archaeologists have the cutest butts? (Laughter)

Pat: Really? Oh I’ve forgotten that. I can’t remember that at all. What did I say?

Lauren: Well I don’t know, so what’s the answer? (laughter)

Pat: Which archaeologists have the cutest butts?

Jonelle: The ones that show up! (laughter)

Pat: In my age group?

Bunny: Does that mean instead of the plumber’s crack we were talking about the archaeologist’s crack?

Jonelle: Well if your jeans are too tight, you can’t squat down, so I don’t know. But it’s just kind of nice to meet a person younger than you, and is excited about what they’re doing, and will check in with your unit to see how you’re coming along, and get you involved in doing things out in the field and in camp too. Camp life is really important at field school. You really get to know people then. The good, the bad, & the ugly. We just keep coming back every week, can’t get enough. We love it here.

Lauren: This project wouldn’t be the same without you ladies at all. This work wouldn’t be getting done, and it needs to be.

Bunny: I have to say, that was a pretty big education for me, of how detailed and layered this process is. Of course I knew that archaeologists went out into the field and found things, and wrote them down, and then eventually something might be published about it. But I had no idea the gap in between and what that entailed. And we need volunteers.

Pat: We need a lot of volunteers.

Bunny: It’s a lot of work that goes into that operation.

Jonelle: And that’s why I do this, because otherwise we’d get hung up. It comes in from the field and then what? It languishes. You don’t follow through with it, and I was aware of all this, like the collections you’ve been working with, and other collections too, that so much needed to be done, that wasn’t getting done, and I thought, well, I can do that. I know how to do that, I’ll do that. And you can give an association money, but that doesn’t necessarily get the work done, you know. So I just don’t mind coming up here, and doing the grunt work, and making friends and having a good time.

Bunny: It’s a win-win situation as far as I’m concerned.

Jonelle: Gets me out of the house and I get to meet new people.

Bunny: And we always find something to laugh about.

Jonelle: If someone were to come out here and be grumpy, that wouldn’t go over at all.

Pat: Well I just don’t think it would attract a grumpy person.

Jonelle: They wouldn’t like the work.

Pat: They wouldn’t like us!

Jonelle: You don’t see the humor in the work… (laughter)

Bunny: That’s right, Jonelle, you have to see the humor in being down in some pit where it’s a hundred and five degrees and you’re scraping a layer out.

Jonelle: Thinking, what am I doing here? Look at my nails!

Thank you very much to Jonelle, Pat, and Bunny for taking the time to do this interview, and for all the time that you volunteer to help TAS and TARL take care of these collections. It is a pleasure to have you around!

TARL History, Part 2: TARL at Balcones

In last week’s TARL history post, we talked about the early days of UT’s archeological collections. By the 1950s, UT had gathered massive and impressive collections of archeological artifacts and other materials, but these were scattered across various locations including the Anthropology Museum in Pearce Hall, the Texas Memorial Museum, and UT’s Little Campus. As the River Basin Surveys and Texas Archeological Salvage Project added more and more artifacts to the collections, it became clear that the collections needed a new home.

In 1960, the choice was made to begin a new organization, which would become TARL, and the following year, the TMM, TASP, and Department of Anthropology began TARL (then called TARC) as a cooperative venture. Many of the University’s various archeological collections and records were moved to TARL’s new facility at the Balcones Research Center (now the J. J. Pickle Research Campus) in 1962-4. Since those early days, TARL’s mission has remained fairly consistent: to house and protect archeological artifacts and records, to train and educate new researchers, to provide research opportunities, and to disseminate information about archeology.

TARL's first Director, Dee Ann Suhm (later Dee Ann Story), as a student at the UT Kincaid Rockshelter field school in 1953.
Second from left in checked shirt, TARL’s first Director, Dee Ann Suhm (later Dee Ann Story), as a student at the UT Kincaid Rockshelter field school in 1953.

Homegrown archeologist Dee Ann Story was appointed as the first Executive Director of the Texas Archeological Research Laboratory in 1963. Story was a UT student and got her early training at some of the most important archeological sites in Texas, including Kincaid Rockshelter. She was one of the first women to earn a Ph.D. in Anthropology from the University of California, Los Angeles, and ran the archeological laboaratory for the University of Utah while also running excavations in Glen Canyon. Her mentors at UT convinced her to return to Austin, where she was instrumental to the establishment of TARL.

Over the course of her career, Dr. Story contributed some of the most influential publications in Texas archeology, most notably the Handbook of Texas Archeology. She led field schools at the George C. Davis site, the Chupik site, the Loeve-Fox site, and many others throughout the 1970s, working with and training a huge number of Texas archeologists. Dr. Story’s work as TARL director set the tone for our existence and her legacy continues to this day.

Students peruse the TARL collections, 1960s.
Students peruse the TARL collections, 1960s.

Under the Directorship of Dr. Story in the 1960s, 70s, and 80s, TARL was a thriving center of learning and independent research. Dr. Story’s many students filled the halls and brought their ideas and knowledge together, documenting the prehistory of Texas. Many of her students went on to become professors or professional archeologists, making their own important contributions to Texas archeology. Dr. Story retired in 1987.

Pioneers in Texas archeology (left to right): Michael Collins, Jerry Epstein, Curtis Tunnell, Jack Hughes, Ernie Lundelius, Ed Jelks, Dee Ann Story, and Glen Evans.
Pioneers in Texas archeology (left to right): Michael Collins, Jerry Epstein, Curtis Tunnell, Jack Hughes, Ernie Lundelius, Ed Jelks, Dee Ann Story, and Glen Evans.

In our next TARL history installment, we’ll look at the late 80’s and 90’s, when a major boom in archeology spurred huge amounts of new research and publication.

Student Spotlight: Lauren Koutlias

Today’s spotlight post is about former TARL intern and current volunteer Lauren Koutlias, who studies bioarchaeology and osteology.

TARL volunteer Lauren Koutlias in the TARL Human Osteology Laboratory
TARL volunteer Lauren Koutlias in the TARL Human Osteology Laboratory

My name is Lauren Koutlias. I am an anthropology major at UT focusing on biological anthropology and archaeology. My internship at TARL started in September of 2015, so I have been helping in the human osteology lab for over a year. My current project at TARL is doing the re-inventory, and ultimately re-analysis, of individuals analyzed using now-outdated forms back in the 1980s.

As an honors student, I also have the privilege of pursuing an honors thesis and original research utilizing TARL skeletal collections. My research focuses on differences in paleopathology rates among juveniles at the Morhiss, Crestmont, and Ernest Witte mortuary sites on the Western Gulf Coastal Plains of Texas and making inferences about diet, including weaning age, and how infectious disease is impacted or exacerbated by nutrition. My supervisor and second reader are Drs. John Kappelman and Maria Wade, respectively.
TARL is not my only internship focusing on human skeletal material. I am also an intern in the eAnthro Projects lab in the Department of Anthropology at UT. Utilizing a NextEngine scanner, ScanStudio Pro, and Blender, I create 3D digital files of skeletal individuals for the new eAnthro project, eForensics.
This past summer, I participated in the Belize Archaeological Field School through UT. I excavated larger structures at La Milpa as well as smaller Maya water conservation sites near La Milpa. I was also able to assist the project osteologist with bioarchaeological excavations of Maya burials, which was an extremely interesting and necessary experience for me and my future!
Finally, I am the current president of the Anthropological Society at UT (AnthroSociety). My goal this semester is to help foster better research relationships between undergraduates and faculty members, specifically sociocultural and linguistics researchers. The AnthroSociety has a history of favoring archaeology and biological anthropology members and professors. We are striving to show all our professors that our undergraduate members are interested in learning about their research. Another goal is to offer more graduate application and writing help for those members  that know they want to pursue graduate school.
I am hoping to continue on full-force into graduate school in fall of 2017. I am most interested in the programs at UC Santa Barbara, Texas State University, and Vanderbilt University. My plans are to continue my research on juvenile osteology and childhood nutritional paleopathology in a graduate context.
P.S. Come check out the Anthropological Society booth at the Texas Archaeology Fair! We’ll be doing an art “rock” wall where you can paint your own rock art and/or anything else you feel is representative of archaeology and anthropology!

Student Spotlight: Alyana Fernandez

Today’s Student Spotlight is an introduction to TARL work-study student Alyana Fernandez, who helps with TARL’s GIS mapping and site assignments. Alyana’s work demonstrates how archeology is an interdisciplinary field that relies on people with a wide range of interests!

TARL work-study student Alyana Fernandez on her visit inside the Inca Temple of the Sun on her Maymester in Ecuador.

My involvement at TARL is as a Sr. Student Associate in the Records department. Working with digital databases such as TexSite, I assist in assigning new site trinomials, as well as searching through existing archaeological site files, in order to document the geographic locations of archeological projects and artifacts throughout all Texas’ counties. Using the program ArcGIS in addition to printed maps of Texas quadrangles from centuries past, I record each site for use.  During my time at TARL, I am gaining additional experience with ArcGIS, USGS topographic maps, and the various files in the TARL Records collection.

I am a geography major and geology minor at the University of Texas at Austin. I am interested in the physical environment; my desire to expand my knowledge of Texas’ environment and gain research experience has lead me to my interest in archaeology. The study of archaeology is very broad and interdisciplinary. What interests me most about it is how you can relate archaeological findings to many other disciplines and discover innumerable  characteristics of the area you are focusing on; including climate, natural resources, etc.

Following graduation next spring, I aspire to find opportunity in a field similar to environmental consulting, surveying, or research. Additionally, I intend on furthering my education by attending graduate school after spending some time in the work force.

Thanks, Alyana! We’re glad to have you on our team!

The Texas Archeological Research Laboratory