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.
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.”
Dr. Charles E. Hilton is an Affiliated Researcher with the Texas Archeological Research Lab. This article is part of the December 2017 TARL Newsletter.
Dr. Charles E. Hilton will be presenting a poster detailing several paleopathological analyses of the Lower Pecos human skeletal remains of southwest Texas, a project on which he collaborated with the late Dr. Marsha D. Ogilvie, at the 2018 Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists to be held in Austin, Texas. This presentation will describe and discuss severe arthropathies, specifically joint fusions in the lower limbs, in an elderly adult male from the Lower Pecos. The talk will also contextualize the implications for reduced mobility for an individual who lived within a hunting and gathering community. The AAPA meetings are scheduled for 10-14 April 2018 in Austin and are hosted by the University of Texas at Austin.
Drs. Hilton and Ogilvie also recently submitted a manuscript highlighting their bioarchaeological analyses of a large number of Lower Pecos human skeletal remains as a chapter inclusion into Ann Stodder’s Bioarchaeology of the Southwest volume to be published by the University Press of Florida.
Timothy K. Perttula is a visiting researcher at TARL. This article was part of the September 2017 TARL newsletter.
In the summer of 2017, 21 ancestral Caddo ceramic vessels held since 1933 by the Gila Pueblo Museum and then by the Arizona State Museum were returned to the Texas Archeological Research Laboratory at The University of Texas at Austin (TARL). These vessels had not been properly or fully studied and documented when the University of Texas exchanged these vessels, so the purpose in documenting these vessels now is primarily to determine the stylistic (i.e., decorative methods, motifs, and decorative elements) and technological (i.e., vessel form, temper, and vessel size) character of the vessels that are in the collection, and assessing their cultural relationships and stylistic associations, along with their likely age. In 1933, little was known about the cultural and temporal associations of ancestral Caddo ceramic vessels from East Texas, but that has changed considerably since that time (e.g., Perttula 2013).
Ceramic Vessel Exchange
Harold Gladwin of the Gila Pueblo Museum (GPM) in Globe, Arizona, first proposed to The University of Texas (UT) an exchange of ceramic materials in November 1931 with Dr. J. E. Pearce of UT. Pearce was not prepared to exchange any ceramic vessels or sherd collections then because the ceramic materials in his possession had not been studied because they had only recently been recovered from excavations at East Texas Caddo sites.
However, by November 1933, Pearce felt an exchange of Southwestern vessels with ancestral Caddo vessels between the GPM and UT was worth doing, and 20 Caddo vessels from eight East Texas sites were selected by E. B. Sayles of the GPM. After Pearce obtained permission from UT President H. Y. Benedict and the Board of Regents, the vessels were shipped to the GPM. The eight ancestral Caddo sites that had vessels selected for the exchange included the Richard Patton Farm (41AN26, 2 vessels); Goode Hunt Farm (41CS23, 2 vessels); Mrs. H. L. Culpepper Farm (41HP1, 1 vessel); H. R. Taylor (41HS3, 7 vessels); T. M. Sanders Farm (41LR2, 2 vessels); Hooper Glover Farm (41MX4, 1 vessel); Russell Bros. Farm (41TT7, 1 vessel); and the J. M. Riley Farm (41UR2, 4 vessels). The vessels remained in Arizona museums until the summer of 2017.
The exchanged vessels from the T. M. Sanders site are from burial features in a Middle Caddo period (ca. A.D. 1200-1400) Sanders phase mound on the Red River. They include a Maxey Noded Redware bottle (Figure 1) and an East Incised bowl.
The fine ware and utility ware vessels from the Culpepper Farm, H. R. Taylor, Hooper Glover, Russell Brothers, and J. M. Riley sites are from Late Caddo period Titus phase sites (dating broadly from ca. A.D. 1430-1680) in the Big Cypress and Sulphur River basins in East Texas. The fine ware vessels include Ripley Engraved (Figure 2) and Taylor Engraved carinated bowls, a Wilder Engraved, var. Wilder
bottle, a Bailey Engraved olla, a red-slipped bowl, and Ripley Engraved compound bowls, while the utility wares are Bullard Brushed, Harleton Appliqued (Figure 3), and Karnack Brushed-Incised jars.
Finally, the ceramic vessels from the Richard Patton and Goode Hunt sites are from late 17th to early 18th century Historic Caddo burial features in the upper Neches River and Big Cypress Creek drainage basins, respectively. These burial features were in cemeteries created and used by Hasinai and Nasoni Caddo peoples. The historic Caddo ceramics from the Richard Patton site include two different varieties of Patton Engraved (Figure 4), while both vessels from the Goode Hunt site are Simms Engraved carinated bowls (Figure 5).
Thanks to Lauren Bussiere and Marybeth Tomka at TARL for facilitating access to the study of these vessels, and for providing photographs of the vessels taken by the Arizona State Museum. Kevin Stingley kindly assisted with the vessel documentation. All photos courtesy Arizona State Museum.
Perttula, T. K.
2013 Caddo Ceramics in East Texas. Bulletin of the Texas Archeological Society 84:181-212.
Dr. David Robinson is a visiting researcher at TARL. This article is part of TARL’s September 2017 newsletter.
Work at TARL’s microscopy lab in 2017 has focused on Caddo sites, particularly the George C. Davis site (41CE19). Imagery in
the microscope has been captured for sharing with scholars with an interest in ceramics and Caddo culture. Digital
photography with a dedicated computer setup (although still a part of the TARL-UT network) makes capturing, sharing, and
distributing the imagery easy. The hard part is still identifying unknown minerals in thin section and centering them in front
of the camera’s shutter.
The assistance of Marilyn Shoberg in operating the digital system is gratefully acknowledged.
All thin section images in this article are from the George C. Davis Site (41CE19).
Feldspar particle in Paste Group E. Feldspar is a telltale sign of nonlocal wares at the George C. Davis site.
Paste Group C. This paste group is an unusual hematite-tempered group. The small brown (medium silt-sized) particles may be hematite. The actual hematite temper particles are coarse sand-sized (not visible in this view).
Grog temper particle. Note color difference, high angularity, and much smaller interior particles in the grog particle.
Large mass of bone tempering. Bone material almost fills the image. Bone particles may take almost any shape.
Ilmenite is titanium oxide; it appears as a fractured mass with white speckles, which are small masses of elemental titanium. It could
well be a specific telltale sign in Caddo country, but research has not yet determined this.
Bug eggs in blue void. Invertebrates lay eggs in ceramic voids. Sometimes they are preserved by carbonization in the ceramic firing. Species unknown.
Void with woody burnout. Some sections from George C. Davis have up to 2.5% of such voids. Note the black interior particle and jagged
or feathery black interior rim of the void. The void was originally filled with a woody organic material, and firing burned out all
the material around the interior rim.
Hex void. Some sections from George C. Davis have numerous voids of irregular hexagonal shapes. Many are more elongated than this one. Some interpretations speculate that these are the shapes left by seeds being added to the ceramic paste. The material burns out, leaving the hexagonal shape. Black masses inside the void may be remnant material.
Special thanks to the Texas Historical Commission for their funding of this project, and to Tim Perttula (PI).
Eric Schroeder is a UT graduate student and archeological researcher. This article appeared in the September 2017 TARL newsletter.
One aspect of my current research is examining the ethnohistoric and archeological evidence for social complexity during the Toyah interval. Inspired by the ethnohistoric accounts of native Jumano leaders including Juan Sabeata, Tuerto, and the Catqueza leader Don Nicholas, where these special status individuals are portrayed as organizers of large Native coalitions, as well as being widely traveled diplomats and traders, I am looking into the Toyah material record for evidence of socially complex phenomena such as ceremony, ritual, violence, exchange, and aspects of labor organization.
In addition to synthesizing the available mortuary data in an attempt to identify regional patterns related to social inequality, I am particularly interested in sites that contain evidence of communal activities such as organized hunting, feasting, and commodity production. Items associated with ritual and ceremonial significance such as rock art, large food processing features, and smoking pipes play a large part in my analysis of the intersite data, as well as evidence of long-distance exchange and craft production. This investigation into craft production has directed me toward a study of Toyah blade and ceramic technologies. In this regard, I am investigating whether blade technology functioned as an efficient means of mass-producing a stone tool kit focused around the production of hide commodities.
In reference to ceramic technology, I hope to provide information on the variability expressed among Classic Toyah pottery to evaluate whether there existed a standardized production process that may have been organized and controlled under a certain set of cultural/ideological parameters. The intended outcome of this study is to systematically identify present data gaps and future research trajectories under a more humanistic model, one that goes beyond purely environmental determinants and has the power to add new understanding into the origin and spread of the Toyah cultural phenomenon.
It’s that time again… the Texas Archeology Month Fair is coming up! TARL is teaming up with the Texas Historical Commission and other local agencies to provide a fun day of hands-on educational activities, presentations, and exhibits for kids, older students, and the general public. Our goal is to increase public awareness of the fact that archaeology is happening around us all the time, and to promote archaeology as an important part of environmental conservation and scientific research.
We are looking for professional and avocational archaeologists and general volunteers to host activity tables and displays, assist other presenters, and help with setting up the Fair. We hope to have upwards of 20 presenter booths and bring in more than 200 visitors. The Fair is free and open to everyone.
Please contact TARL by commenting below or via email at FriendsofTARL@utexas.edu to volunteer. We hope you’ll join us!
Here are some great photos from last year’s event. Thanks again to everyone who helped out in 2016!
Earlier this month, TARL bid farewell to the Hererra Gate, which had been stored in our facility while awaiting conservation work. This massive hardwood gate came to TARL after research by Kay Hindes in the 1990s. The gate is now being stabilized and then hopefully it will be on permanent exhibit alongside its other half at the Texas State History Museum. The 300-year-old wooden gate sat on a nearby ranch for many years after being salvaged from an old Texas
mission. Family legend says that mission was the one and only Alamo in San Antonio! Many thanks to the owners, Evie Patton and the Hererra family.
Tawnya Waggle is a visiting researcher from Eastern New Mexico State University. This article is part of TARL’s December 2016 newsletter.
I am a graduate student at Eastern New Mexico University studying collections from the Blackwater Draw Site excavated by the Texas Memorial Museum. I recently visited TARL to collect lithic attribute data in order to understand the mobility of Folsom and Late Paleoindian occupations represented at the Blackwater Draw Site. I successfully collected metric and qualitative data, and took photographs of the artifacts critical to my research. Thanks to the generous support of TARL, I was granted access to the collections, a research space, and a photo set-up area. The collected data will be analyzed to compare the mobility of the Folsom and Late Paleoindian occupations. I hope to contribute to the existing knowledge of Paleoindian mobility on the Southern Plains with the completion of my research.
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!
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?
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…
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.