All posts by Lauren Bussiere

TARL TAM 2020 Lecture Series: Careless, Spiny & Succulent

This October for Texas Archeology Month, TARL is offering a series of online lectures, free and open to all. Our second lecture (“A Trade-Friendly Environment”) included unpublished data and the recording will be shared when our speaker clears this with his co-authors. The third lecture took place on October 27 and is available for viewing below.

Dr. Casey Wayne Riggs, Steward with the Texas Archeological Stewards Network and farmer at Pasigono Farms in Lamesa, Texas, presented recent research from his doctoral dissertation, completed at Texas A&M University.

Careless, Spiny, and Succulent: Terminal Late Prehistoric (A.D. 1250-1535) Plant Foods of the Eastern Trans-Pecos

In this talk, Dr. Riggs discusses nine sites in the eastern Trans-Pecos region that have occupations dating to the Terminal Late Prehistoric/Perdiz point time period and have evidence of plant foods. Investigation of these archeological plant food remains made it possible to reconstruct the inhabitants’ diet and look at which were the most likely important foods. Dr. Riggs explains how his new research changes our understanding for the region and the time period.

Clovis In Kentucky: The Little River Clovis Complex

Dr. Alan Slade of the Prehistory Research Project and Gault School of Archaeological Research recorded this talk for the 2020 Festival of Lithics: Lithics Studies Society Online Conference, and we’re sharing it today as part of the our digital outreach program for Texas Archeology Month 2020.

Check out this amazing new collection, collected from Little River Complex Clovis sites in Kentucky beginning in the 1970s and recently moved to TARL for curation.

Clovis in Kentucky: The Little River Clovis Complex: A Recent Acquisition for the Texas Archeological Research Laboratory, University of Texas at Austin

Colors of the Past: Mission Espiritu Santo

This week’s new coloring page features items from the Espiritu Santo Mission in Goliad county, Texas. This site has been excavated by several different projects from the 1930s to 2000s, and the artifacts recovered tell the story of a transitional time in Texas’ history. The mission was established by Spanish colonists as they attempted to stake their claim to the territory that would be come Texas, and convert native inhabitants into Christians who practiced a more European way of life.

The Mission Espiritu Santo collection includes objects of European and Mexican origin, such as ceramics, metal tools and ornaments, and glass trade beads. It also includes items that were used by the native Aranama people as they continued to conduct traditional activities, such as grinding stones, locally made pottery, and stone projectile points.

Learn more about Mission Espiritu Santo on Texas Beyond History

Download the coloring page by clicking the text below:

Espiritu Santo Coloring Page

TARL TAM 2020 Lecture Series: Peopling of the Americas and the Origins of Agriculture

This October for Texas Archeology Month, TARL is offering a series of online lectures, free and open to all. Our first lecture took place on October 15 and is available for viewing below.

Dr. Andrew Somerville, Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Iowa State University, presented on his recent research.

Peopling of the Americas and the Origins of Agriculture: New Insights on Old Questions from the Tehuacan Valley, Mexico

The Tehuacan Valley of Central Mexico is a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to its high biodiversity and rich archaeological record. During the 1960s, excavations led by Richard S. MacNeish registered over 10,000 years of human occupation within the valley and discovered thousands preserved botanical remains, including early examples of domesticated plants such as maize, beans, and chili peppers. Recent studies have returned to the collections recovered by MacNeish and apply new analytical techniques to further our understanding of the ancient history of this region. In particular, stable isotope analysis of animal bones documents significant environmental and dietary changes over time. Additionally, new radiocarbon analyses reveal surprisingly early dates and cause us to reevaluate the timing of the arrival of humans to the region and to North American more broadly. This presentation summarizes these recent findings and discusses their implications to questions about the peopling of the Americas and the origins of agriculture.



We have three more talks scheduled for this month. The first two will be streamed live over Zoom and all three will be posted here for future viewing.

October 22: Dr. Adam Schneider of the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES), University of Colorado at Boulder, will present “A Trade-Friendly Environment: Climatic Influences on Early Bronze Age Maritime Trade Between the Near East and Indus Valley” 

October 27: Dr. Casey Wayne Riggs, Steward with the Texas Archeological Stewards Network, will present “Careless, Spiny, and Succulent: Terminal Late Prehistoric (A.D. 1250-1535) Plant Foods of the Eastern Trans-Pecos

October 29: Alan Slade of the Prehistory Research Project (Gault School of Archeological Research) will present a pre-recorded talk, “Clovis Points in Texas: A Further Update to the TCPPS, 4th Edition

TARL and BookPeople Book Talk

This week for Texas Archeology Month, we teamed up with our wonderful local independent bookstore, BookPeople, to do an online book talk! These book talks introduce readers to new books on a particular subject, so it was a perfect chance to share some of our favorite kids’ archeology books and other resources for learning about Texas archeology.

You can watch the book talk below, and be sure to check out BookPeople’s archeology reading list too! And, explore our past blog posts for more great educational content.

Colors of the Past: Ransom & Sarah Williams Farmstead

This week we’re featuring a new coloring page with artifacts from a fantastic historic archeological site. The Ransom and Sarah Williams Farmstead near Austin was home to a family of previously enslaved farmers during the Reconstruction and Jim Crow eras. Excavated by a joint project between UT, TxDOT, and two private firms from 2007-2009, the Ransom Williams collection provides an in-depth view into the lives of previously enslaved Texans. More than 26,000 artifacts were recovered during this project, which also included historic records research and oral history interviews with descendants.

The artifacts represent a wide range of activities, from the farming and homestead activities that supported the family to their education and leisure preferences. Overall they paint a picture of a hardworking family that was able to enjoy the fruits of their labors.

Learn more about the Ransom and Sarah Williams Farmstead

collection on Texas Beyond History

Download the coloring page by clicking the text below:

Ransom Williams Coloring Page

Colors of the Past: Hunter’s Pouch from Horseshoe Ranch Cave

This week’s new coloring page features one of the most spectacular finds in the history of Texas archeology: a woven pouch found with more than 200 unique artifacts still contained inside. The pouch was found by archeologists working in Horseshoe Ranch Cave in West Texas in 1936. They found the pouch wrapped in a larger bundle of woven matting and rabbit fur, and removed it to the lab in Austin to be opened there.

The contents of the pouch appear to be the toolkit of a hunter, healer, or shaman, with various types of tools, toolmaking gear, and special objects. These objects were made and used by an indigenous inhabitant of the area more than 4,000 years ago!

Learn more about the Hunter’s Pouch on Texas Beyond History. 

Download the coloring page by clicking the text below:

Hunter’s Pouch Coloring Page



Colors of the Past: Ceremonial Cave

Throughout this October for Texas Archeology Month, we’ll be releasing new coloring pages featuring some of the amazing artifacts in the TARL collections. This is a fun way for kids and adults alike to learn about prehistoric life and the archeology of Texas.

Our first featured site and collection is Ceremonial Cave! This cave site in West Texas was a special place where people left offerings over the course of more than 1,000 years. The deposits left in the cave were badly damaged by looters in the early 20th century, prompting archeologists to excavate the remaining areas of the cave. What they found remain some of the most incredible artifacts ever recorded in Texas.

Exotic materials like the turquoise in this bracelet, obsidian and abalone shell found in the cave show that some of the objects traveled a great distance before they were left as offerings. It is likely that people traveled to the cave from parts of what is now New Mexico and northern Mexico as well as from nearby villages.

Learn more about Ceremonial Cave on Texas Beyond History. 

Download the coloring page by clicking the text below:

Ceremonial Cave Coloring Page


Take a Hike this Texas Archeology Month

October is always beautiful in Texas, and no time is better to get outside and enjoy nature. Next time you visit your local park, try this fun family activity to learn more about prehistoric life in Texas.

The Take A Hike scavenger hunt encourages kids (of all ages) to engage with the natural world by imagining what life was like in prehistoric times. By visualizing ourselves in the shoes of people who lived here before us, we can gain an appreciation of traditional lifeways and learn to think about what people may have left behind–the clues archeologists use to piece together prehistoric cultures.

This activity comes with a worksheet for kids and a guide to help parents and educators lead a discussion. We hope you enjoy it!

Download by clicking the link below:

Take A Hike

Illustration of Native American woman gathering plant foods by Ken Brown

Top Ten Creepy Archaeological Discoveries This Year

1. The Black Sarcophagus

The discovery of a massive, 2000-year-old sealed black granite sarcophagus in Alexandria, Egypt in July 2018 prompted speculation that opening it would unleash a world-ending curse. When opened, the sarcophagus was found to contain only the remains of three Egyptian army officers and a reddish-brown sewage liquid, spawning the #sarcophagusjuice meme.

2. The Knife-Armed Man

While excavating a 1200- to 1400-year-old necropolis in northern Italy, archaeologists found the remains of a man with a knife blade prosthetic arm. Analysis of the man’s bones revealed that his arm had been removed through blunt-force trauma below the elbow, and that he lived for some time afterward with the knife blade prosthesis in place of a hand.

3. The Elder Cheese

While the world was still mourning over not being allowed to drink the sarcophagus juice, archaeologists in Saqqara, Egypt uncovered another ancient (and equally inedible) find: the world’s oldest known solid cheese. Protein analysis showed that the 3,300-year-old powdery white substance was likely a mixture of cow and either goat or sheep milk, made into a cheese, which was left in the tomb of an official who served the pharaoh. Scientists warned that the cheese might actually be “cursed” with live bacteria that could sicken anyone who dared to taste it.


4. Ancient Sites Appearing in the Back Yard

Drought and a massive heatwave across the UK revealed the presence of hundreds–if not thousands–of previously unknown archaeological sites, ranging from neolithic hamlets to massive henges and WWII landscape modifications. These are no crop circles: because disturbed sections of the landscape hold more water than undisturbed soil, the differential drying patterns have revealed the exact locations of buried structures.


5. Spiral Shaped Mass Burial

Archaeologists working at Tlalpan, just south of Mexico City, uncovered the remains of ten individuals arranged in a spiral shape in a mass grave. The burial, which dates to the Preclassic period, includes adults, juveniles, and an infant, who were all buried in a single event and left with many grave goods. 


6. A Creepy Tiny Hand

At the Roman fort of Vindolanda near Hadrian’s Wall in England, archaeologists found a creepy, lifelike, miniature bronze hand. The hand may be associated with the worship of Jupiter Dolichenus, a mystery cult whose practices were shrouded in secrecy, which was very popular in the Roman army of the early 3rd century CE. The hand was likely left as an offering after a major invasion of Scotland in which a huge number of people may have been killed.


7. The Lucky Few Deceased

Another mass grave was uncovered in late 2017 on Murder Island off the western coast of Australia. This grave contained the remains of five individuals, survivors of the wreck of a merchant ship called the Batavia, which sank nearby in 1629. Although these five individuals are believed to have died of dehydration shortly after the shipwreck, more than 100 survivors were brutally murdered by mutineers in the following months.


8. The Most Unlucky Man

At Pompeii, the site of Mt. Vesuvius’ disastrous eruption that killed the entire town in 79 CE, a man was found who was thought to have been crushed to death by a massive falling stone. Although archaeologists later found that the man’s head and upper torso were intact, they initially hypothesized that the rock had landed on him as he attempted to flee, hindered by an infection in his leg.


9. The Underground Labyrinth of Death

Using tiny remote-operated robots, archaeologists working at Chavin de Huantar in Peru have discovered a network of 35 interlocking underground tunnels, which contained the remains of at least three individuals that may have been sacrificed in “rituals [involving] drugs, noise and light manipulation.”


10. Pits Full of Heads

Archaeologists working along the Great Wall of China published new findings that describe a previously largely unknown early stratified society, the Shimao polity. Along with thousands of jade items, researchers discovered that human sacrifice was an important feature of this society. At least six pits filled with the decapitated heads of young women were excavated at the site.



  • The Lothagam North Pillar Site in Kenya was found to be the oldest and largest cemetery site in eastern Africa, with more than 580 individuals interred over the course of 450 to 900 years.  This awesome site isn’t really creepy… with the exception of a burial headdress made of more than 400 gerbil teeth.
  • Record-setting drought and low water levels along the Elbe river in Europe revealed many “hunger stones” along the river banks–rocks carved with laments and warnings from prior periods of drought and famine with carved dates as early as 1417. One stone reads, “if you see me, weep.”