As part of our efforts to engage students and community members in Texas archeology, TARL tries to offer learning opportunities for our interns and volunteers outside of the lab. This week, we brought a great group of students and volunteers to the Gault site in southern Bell County.
The Gault site (41BL323) first caught the attention of archeologists over 100 years ago. Although some parts of the site were damaged by looting and pay-to-dig operations throughout the 20th century, more recent scientific excavations have uncovered massive, intact Clovis deposits dating as far back as 13,500 BCE and even evidence for older-than-Clovis habitation at the site. No new excavations are going on at Gault right now–the project staff have lots of data to write up and publish before opening up new excavations–but our excellent tour guide, Dr. Tom Williams, was able to show us previous excavation areas and teach us a ton about the site.
As much as we love looking at artifacts in the lab, it’s important to get out and see the sites themselves, so that we can gain a deeper understanding of the role of the landscape in prehistoric lifeways. At the Gault site, our group was able to see how a location like this one is an ideal spot for habitation: it’s close to water and on the border of different ecological zones, meaning that many different types of resources are available nearby. We also got to try our hand at throwing darts using an atlatl, just as Paleoindian hunters may have done!
Another fascinating part of our visit was learning about the various hypotheses for the early peopling of the Americas, and how research at Gault is contributing to our understanding of the earliest inhabitants of our continent. Increasingly, evidence is suggesting that the people all over North America and beyond who used Clovis tool technology were not the first immigrants to these areas. We look forward to seeing all the exciting research coming out of the Gault site!
Thank you to Dr. Tom Williams of the Gault School of Archeological Research for sharing all your time, effort, and expertise–you made this a trip to remember!
Every school year, TARL is fortunate to have the help of many undergraduate and graduate students from UT and other colleges. TARL’s internship, work-study, and volunteer programs help students get hands-on experience in a laboratory setting as they explore their interests in archeology, bioarcheology, forensics, museum studies, and information science. This spring, we had quite a few of our great students graduate. We will miss having them around, but we are excited to see what they do next!
TARL Human Osteology Laboratory intern Elizabeth Coggeshall graduated from UT this spring with an honors degree in Anthropology. Elizabeth completed numerous skeletal inventories and analyses as an intern and volunteer at TARL while completing her degree. Her immediate plans include going to South Africa to do fieldwork on forest baboons for the Goudeveld Baboon Project hosted by Duke University. Afterward, she plans to complete a research project with Dr. Rebecca Lewis of UT, apply for graduate school for fall 2018, and spend lots of time with her tripod kitty, Hammy.
TARL Human Osteology Laboratory intern and volunteer Jessie LeViseur graduated from Texas State with a B.S. in Anthropology, focusing on forensics. She started volunteering at TARL in May 2015. She has had the task of checking the integrity of preservation of human remains in the TARL HO lab, as well as representing TARL at the 2015 TAS meeting, where she discussed her work on the WPA-era Harrell site rehab project. She has also completed a TARL internship, and now works part-time in our HO lab. Her goal is to work in a hospital or police lab doing forensic work full time.
TARL Collections & Osteology intern Kimberly Noone graduated from UT with a degree in Anthropology. As an anthropology student she focused on biological anthropology and archaeology. During her time in the TARL Osteology Lab she worked to catalog and re-analyze the collection of human remains, and in our Collections department she completed an updated inventory of the faunal remains collection from the Bonfire Shelter site in southwestern Texas.
Kim initially had a hard time choosing a major at UT, not declaring until the beginning of her junior year, but she discovered an interest in archaeology after taking the human osteology course offered by Dr. John Kappelman. She found the study of burial practices and human remains intriguing and that helped her plan for her future. Kim plans on returning to school to eventually pursue a Ph.D. in Archaeology. Her experiences working at TARL have solidified her interest in lab work and working with remains. She hopes to be able to study human burial practices, using her knowledge of osteology to further research paleopathologies.
TARL work-study student Christina Uribe just graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a Bachelors of Arts in Anthropology. She is also double majoring in Chemistry at in the College of Natural Sciences. Tina originally came to UT as a natural sciences major, but during her first year she took the anthropology introduction course and has been hooked ever since. After that, Tina continued taking various anthropology courses that included topics such as primate anatomy, Maya civilization, and digital data systems in archaeology. She eventually added anthropology as a second major and studied abroad last summer at the field school in Belize as part of the Programme for Belize Archaeological Project. This past year, Tina was a work-study intern at TARL. She primarily handled data entry, transferring site records and their respective inventory to an online database. Through this work she was able to gain a greater understanding of Texas archaeology. In the future Tina would like to study biological anthropology further and find a way to combine her studies in chemistry and anthropology, possibly in forensics. After finishing up her Chemistry degree at UT this year, Tina plans to get some additional experience to help her narrow down her career options. Once she has a clear idea of what she’d like to focus on, she will attend graduate school to further her education.
TARL volunteer Morgan Lubenow recently graduated from UT with a B.A. in Anthropology. Morgan’s last year was a whirlwind, as she completed a study abroad course at the Turkana Basin Institute (Turkana, Kenya, Africa) in the fall semester and a full work and internship schedule in the Spring Semester. Currently Morgan is working for the Girl Scouts of Central Texas as a Program Manager for an overnight camp called Camp Kachina. This position is a longtime goal for Morgan, so she is very excited. After her summer camp position ends she’ll be starting up a road trip to see as many of the US’s National Parks and Historic sites as possible. She’ll be traveling August through May with a few stops home. After her epic road trip, Morgan hopes to attend graduate school beginning in the fall of 2018. She is currently looking at Duke as well as Stony Brook University.
Not all of TARL’s students have graduated and left us! Former intern Sheldon Smith and volunteer Meaghan O’Brien are currently building up their field experience and archeological skills at the UT Programme for Belize Archeological Project. TARL volunteer and part-time collections staff Katie Kitch is volunteering with the Texas Historical Commission. And, several of our wonderful volunteers are still coming out to TARL regularly to help us out with important lab work and collections tasks. Thanks to all our volunteers!
The past two weeks involved hands on work that I was able to do on the rehousing project of our naturally preserved mummy. Working with cardboard boxes, duct tape, and other tools, I was able to come up with my first rough idea for both the outer box and inner sled. Upon further work, both Kerri and I decided that an additional inner sled would be needed. Hope to keep you all updated as we make more progress!
Check back later in the week as Truc continues to design and engineer protective long-term housing for this delicate set of remains as she continues her research into best practice for creating stable, preservation micro-environments for organic objects.
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!
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.
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.
I am a Ph.D. candidate in the Anthropology Department at the University of Texas at Austin. My focus of study is in archaeology, with a particular emphasis on human osteology and the ancient Maya. My dissertation research is a bioarchaeological assessment of human burial traditions and life experiences of the ancient Maya throughout time periods and different sites in Northwestern Belize. Outside of my dissertation work, I am also very interested in and passionate about public outreach and education in archaeology. I greatly enjoy working with local and descendant communities and providing educational opportunities in archaeology with students of all ages.
I received Bachelor’s degrees in Anthropology and German from the University of Iowa, and received my Master’s at UT Austin in 2011. I hope to defend my dissertation in 2015. I have 10 years of experience conducting archaeological field work, analysis, and research, and have worked with various Cultural Resource Management firms in Iowa and Texas. My first archaeological field school experience was at a historic homestead in Iowa, and I have since participated in field schools in Texas and Belize. I currently serve as Project Bioarchaeologist for the Programme for Belize Archaeological Project in Belize, and enjoy the joint opportunities to work with human remains from various ancient Maya sites and to also work alongside and instruct field school students in proper burial excavation and analysis techniques.
For the past few months I have enjoyed the opportunity to volunteer in the Human Osteology lab at TARL. For this project I am working with human remains to complete inventories and profiles of the individuals housed at TARL. I utilize basic osteological analysis techniques to identify the bones present within each collection and create assessments of sex, age at death, and any other special characteristics each individual skeleton exhibits (such as diseases and traumas experienced during the life or at the time of death of the individual). This analysis will aid in the creation of a database which will allow researchers to access and contribute to useful information regarding ancient populations in Texas.
The ability to work so closely with well preserved and curated remains has been profoundly valuable for my studies, my research, and my educational and personal pursuits. Since working with these remains, I have improved upon and learned new techniques for osteological analysis. I have developed a better understanding of efficient documentation processes and intend to implement similar methods in my own dissertation work. I have also been exposed to special technologies to which I have not previously had access. In particular, Kerri Wilhelm has been extremely supportive in demonstrating the use of some of these technologies and helping to guide me through particularly difficult specimens. I am grateful to her and Marybeth Tomka for this opportunity and experience.
My experience volunteering in the Human Osteology laboratory at TARL has greatly benefited my current research. Preservation conditions in Belize are not kind to bone, so the ability to study the relatively well-preserved collections at TARL has been extremely beneficial. While bones in Belize are often fragmentary and severely damaged by the natural environment, I have been able to further familiarize myself with characteristics of human bone that are not as observable in poorer preservation conditions. While conducting inventory and analysis on the TARL collections, I have not only improved my familiarity with skeletal analysis, but also with methods and techniques that I intend to implement in my own dissertation research and in the field school’s analysis process in Belize. Finally, my growing ability to identify more uncommon characteristics present in some of the skeletal collections (such as various trauma or pathological conditions or taphonomic processes) is primarily due to the patience and guidance of Kerri Wilhelm, who greets every question I bring to her (and there are many!) with a smile and helpful answer. I look forward to seeing what information will be gleaned from future research on the TARL collections and have personally benefited greatly from my own experiences therewith.
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!
Introducing TARL’s Current Student Contributor: Debora Trein
by Debora Trein
I am originally from Brazil, and I was interested in the human past from an early age, an interest that manifested itself with a fascination with ancient mythology! I was very fortunate to have had the opportunity to study archaeology at University College London (UCL) in the UK, where I achieved a Bachelor’s degree in archaeology followed by a Master’s degree in archaeology in 2006. In 2008, I entered the graduate program at the Department of Anthropology at UT Austin, and I am planning to defend my doctoral dissertation in 2015.
I have over 10 years of fieldwork experience, working in archaeological sites in the UK, Belize, Guatemala, Mexico, and Texas, leading and participating in a variety of projects, which included many archaeology fieldschools as well as excavation- and conservation-driven research. Since 2007, I have conducted research with the UT Austin-administered Programme for Belize Archaeology Project, one of the largest archaeological fieldschools in Mesoamerica, serving as assistant project director since the 2014 field season.
The projects that I am personally involved in entail the digitization and organization of some of TARL’s many collections of archaeological material and document. I have aided in the creation and compilation of a TARL “Loans” database, which records all loans coming to and from TARL from 1930s to the present. These loans may involve archaeological material, photographs, maps, slides, reproductions, and reports, information that is documented in the digital database. I am also analyzing the lending and borrowing practices of TARL through time, charting the changing relationships between TARL and borrowing institutions such as museums, private individuals, companies, and academic researchers. The reasons for loans, which may have included academic research, reporting, and educational events such as conferences and school talks, for instance, are also recorded. By managing the loan data in this way, we will be able to determine what parts of the collections and library are accessed the most, and by whom. Moreover, we will also identify which relationships between TARL and external agencies may be strengthened through a more robust material borrowing and exchange program, a strategy that will be made possible through TARL’s continuing commitment to greater accessibility.
Currently, I am in the later stages of a project that entails the complete assessment of all dental material in all of TARL human remains collection. This kind of comprehensive evaluation has never been undertaken on a digital platform at TARL, and it will provide an invaluable resource in locating and quantifying human remains under TARL’s stewardship. Moreover, the level of qualitative detail contained in this database will include information such as the number and type of teeth in good preservation state, information useful to potential researchers wishing to examine ancient population dynamics in Texas.
DID YOU KNOW?
I am working towards my “black sash” in Choy Li Fut Kung Fu.