A number of TARL staff members, former student interns, and researchers will be presenting their research at the Texas Archeological Society’s Annual Meeting in San Antonio October 26 – 27, 2018. We will have approximately 12 presentations on a variety of topics: painted pebbles, experimental flintknapping, public outreach, collections rehabilitation, independent student research, and more. We are excited to present this research, and to hear feedback on our work from the community!
Beyond the upcoming symposium, we are busy keeping abreast of all things curatorial going on around the nation. In addition to attending local society meetings like those of the Travis County Archeological Society (TCAS) and TAS, TARL staff members will be attending several conferences in spring 2019. In January 2019, TARL Head of Collections Marybeth Tomka will be part of a round table discussion on standards of cataloguing for repositories at the Society for Historical Archaeology’s Annual Meeting in Saint Charles, Missouri. Marybeth serves as a member of the Curation and Collections Committee.
Marybeth and TARL Curatorial Associate Lauren Bussiere also plan to present a poster at the Society for American Archaeology meetings in Albuquerque, New Mexico in April 2019. The committee on Collections, Museums and Curation is sponsoring the poster session, the goal of which is to encourage and facilitate collections-based research by building relationships and sharing knowledge. Marybeth is a former member of this committee and still keeps up with their activities and sits in on their meetings when possible. An offshoot of the committee is the formation of the Curation Interest Group that Marybeth co-chairs.
Additional papers will be presented at the 2019 SAA meeting by Lauren (on the topic of pseudoarchaeology), TARL Curatorial Technician Annie Riegert (bioarchaeology in Belize), and TARL Affiliated Researcher Nadya Prociuk (shell ornaments and tools from south Texas). We welcome all colleagues and interested parties to check out our presentations, give us feedback, and share their research with us!
At the end of the summer, TARL brought students and volunteers on a field trip to visit the Osteological Research and Processing Laboratory (ORPL) at Texas State University’s Forensic Anthropology Research Facility. ORPL is the main laboratory where students and staff process human remains from both their regular donation program and their Operation ID program. Operation ID (also known as OpID) is a collaborative effort between the forensic anthropologists at Texas State, the Border Patrol and other law enforcement, landowners in south Texas, various NGOs, and other state, federal, and international agencies who work together to find, identify, and repatriate the remains of individuals who have died attempting to cross the border from Mexico into the United States. ORPL also processes the remains of people who have chosen to donate their bodies after death, which are used for many purposes from longitudinal studies of decomposition to law enforcement training.
By visiting ORPL, TARL’s students and volunteers were able to learn about these amazing projects and gain some first-hand insights into the work and training of forensic anthropologists and bioarchaeologists. While this work is often difficult both physically and emotionally, it is also extremely meaningful and important. Through the work of the ORPL team, many families have been able to learn the fates of their missing loved ones–although these stories are tragic, families can finally lay their loved ones to rest. The OpID project also demonstrates the capacity for meaningful and productive collaboration between these various agencies, and what they can accomplish working together toward a shared goal.
Thank you very much to the Texas State Forensic Anthropology team and especially to Courtney Siegert and Chloe McDaneld for hosting us and sharing their extensive knowledge.
This weekend, TARL welcomed instructors Dr. Robert Lassen and Sergio Ayala, both from the Gault School of Archaeological Research, who led an excellent workshop in lithic analysis and flintknapping.
Dr. Lassen presented on lithic technology, typology, and analysis, along with a show-and-tell presentation of artifacts from the Gault site and from the TARL collections. The workshop focused on artifact types commonly found in Texas, but we also got to look at some artifacts from Mesoamerica, elsewhere in North America, and even a few Lower Paleolithic artifacts from Africa.
After a morning of classroom work, participants got to check out a flintknapping demo from Sergio, who makes excellent stone tool reproductions by hand. Afterward, all the workshop attendees got to try their hand at making their own stone tools using the same techniques and materials used by prehistoric people.
Thank you so much to our wonderful instructors for volunteering their time and expertise to make this a great workshop! And thanks to all the students, volunteers, and participants who attended–we hope you had a great time.
If you have suggestions for future workshop topics, or would like to volunteer to lead a TARL workshop, please comment below or email our staff.
This past weekend, TARL staff and students got to join in one of our favorite events of the year: Explore UT! Each year, the University of Texas opens its campus to thousands of K-12 visitors to give them a look at college life. Each department and research unit is invited to participate by sharing activities that can help students learn about the many majors and career paths open to them as a future UT student.
We had an amazing turnout this year–thousands of students from across the state came out to visit the UT campus. With the help of several amazing student volunteers and friends, we shared a hands-on activity, flintknapping demonstration, and artifact show and tell with a huge number of kids, educators, and parents.
We want to say a huge thank you to our volunteers! This day would not have been possible without your help. Thank you for helping us share our love of archeology with the next generation of UT students!
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!
Each year, UT hosts a week of events showcasing independent research done by undergraduate and graduate students across departments. This year, TARL was proud to support several of our student interns and volunteers as they presented their research projects.
Former TARL collections intern Sheldon Smith presented his archeological work on ceramic raw material sourcing at the Maya site of Colha, which he hopes to complete this summer during the Programme for Belize field season. Current TARL Human Osteology Lab intern Elizabeth Coggeshall presented on her primate gut microbe research, which she has conducted in collaboration with various other labs. And, TARL volunteer and anthropology/ history double major Jenny Levin demonstrated the power of technology to enhance our understanding of the past as she explained her work creating a website that compiles the layers of UT’s history into an interactive experience. We are extremely proud of these great students and we know they’ll go on to great things in the future!
TARL also hosted a table at the Longhorn Research Bazaar, where we gave out information on research opportunities we offer for students. TARL is always looking for students who are interested in conducting independent research at the graduate or undergraduate level–our collections and library are available to you! TARL collections can be used for senior theses, master’s theses, doctoral dissertations, independent studies, and much more. Contact us to begin exploring opportunities.
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.