Explore UT 2015: A Success!

by TARL Staff

Thanks to the efforts of our very own Rosario Casarez, TARL’s involvement with UT’s educational ‘open house’ program was a great success this past Saturday!  Despite the rather chilly and overcast beginning to the day downtown on the main campus, the sun eventually put in an appearance and warmed us up as we manned our tables, answered questions, warded off loaded paintbrushes, made corn husk dolls and handed out information about archeology in Texas.  Arriving early, we put up our tables and mingled with the dedicated anthropology graduate students and then ferreted out the nearest Starbucks (1st floor of the SAC!) to properly fortify ourselves for the morning.

Jonathan Jarvis, our Associate Director, and Susan Dial, editor and project manager of Texas Beyond History, both presented talks in a classroom on the first floor of the CLA building.

As taken from the official Explore UT 2015 schedule: Archaeologist Jonathan Jarvis describes how archaeologists use historic maps and discusses the role of accurate mapping in archaeology today. See how using geospatial tools to locate man-made features below the earth’s surface can help future research.  

And Susan’s talk was a “Detectives into the Past” presentation with Dr. Dirt in which she focused on reconstructing the diet of ancient Texans based on the study of coprolites (preserved human fecal remains).

To get a sense of the kind of turn out that we were a part of at Explore UT please check out this brief video, provided courtesy of UT anthropology graduate student Luisa Aebersold (who also provided the featured image for this post!), on her Twitter feed:  https://twitter.com/luisaaebersold/media

First, there was ‘getting organized:’

ExploreUT2015_settingup_2
Brain and Jonathan considering the myriad options for banner directions (or they were pointing at me to do something and I conveniently didn’t hear).

 

Steven and Marybeth set up the artifact table.
Steven and Marybeth set up the artifact table, displaying the delight all archeologists exhibit when handling Texas material culture in combination with venti lattes.

 

Elizabeth and Jean setting up the materials they will need to create the very popular corn husk dolls.  Susan was attempting to hide in the background until her first presentation at 11am.
Elizabeth and Jean setting up the materials they will need to create the very popular corn husk doll-making activity. Susan was attempting to hide in the background until her first presentation at 11am.  Susan, when you want to hide from people, DON’T wear red!

 

Marybeth was practicing her 'artifact pop-quiz' skills on an unsuspecting Steven in preparation for the tons of children who were glad that there were actually objects they could touch and hold.
Marybeth was practicing her ‘artifact pop-quiz’ skills on an unsuspecting Steven in preparation for the tons of children who were glad that there were actually objects they could touch and hold.

 

Susan made sure that Texas Beyond History was properly represented at this year's Explore UT with lots of handouts and informational material.  Her bookmarks for TBH are always popular!
Susan made sure that Texas Beyond History was properly represented at this year’s Explore UT with lots of handouts and informational material. Her bookmarks for TBH are always popular!

 

...the good news is that we managed to NOT close-line anyone walking  by the TARL banner.
…the good news is that we managed to NOT close-line anyone walking by the TARL banner.

 

Ph.D. candidate Stacy Drake explaining what bones can tell scientists about the people from the past and how they lived.
Ph.D. candidate Stacy Drake explaining what bones can tell scientists about the people from the past and how they lived.  Image provided courtesy of UT anthropology graduate student Luisa Aebersold.

 

Kids had the opportunity to try their hand at grinding dried corn using a mano and metate...and realized  very quickly how much work went into preparing food before McDonald's arrived on the scene.
Kids had the opportunity to try their hand at grinding dried corn using a mano and metate…and realized very quickly how much work went into preparing food before McDonald’s arrived on the scene.  Image provided courtesy of UT anthropology graduate student Luisa Aebersold.

 

As always, Jean was extremely popular at her table where she showed children (and adults!) how to make corn husk dolls.
As always, Jean was extremely popular at her table where she showed children (and adults!) how to make corn husk dolls.  Image provided courtesy of UT anthropology graduate student Luisa Aebersold.

 

Ph.D. candidate Debora Trein working at the table where kids had the chance to write their name in Egyptian hieroglyphs.  We were fortunate to have the opportunity to work side-by-side with the graduate students who have been ensuring a anthropology presence at Explore UT for the last several years.
Ph.D. candidate Debora Trein working at the table where kids had the chance to write their name in Egyptian hieroglyphs. We were fortunate to have the opportunity to work side-by-side with the graduate students who have been ensuring an ‘anthropology presence’ at Explore UT for the last several years.  Image provided courtesy of UT anthropology graduate student Luisa Aebersold.

 

This is a wonderful image of children trying their hand at mending pottery.  It was impressive to watch how focused some of the children would become trying to fit the sherds together to reconstruct parts of the vessels.
This is a wonderful image of children trying their hand at mending pottery. It was impressive to watch how focused some of the children would become trying to fit the sherds together to reconstruct parts of the vessels.  Image provided courtesy of UT anthropology graduate student Luisa Aebersold.

 

Rosario bravely manned the rock art painting table, ducking loaded paint brushes and trying to prevent all of the paint from turning into various shades of brown. Image provided courtesy of UT anthropology graduate student Luisa Aebersold.

 

Rosario had this to say about her very popular activity this year: “The rock art activity consisted of several images of Texas rock art printed on card stock that visitors could paint. The only colors I made available for painting were colors used by Native Americans. So the colors were red, black and as close to ochre as I could mix. They also used white… pigments were made from berries, roots, stones, etc. and I was asked throughout the day if I had made my own paint. I will say no berries were harmed for this activity, but there’s this wonderful stuff called tempera paint! The most popular image the children wanted to paint was the bird, I actually ran out of them. I don’t know what it is about this bird from 41RE14 in Real Co., but it is well liked.”

The image from the site that was so popular?

Bird

 

There was also a tremendous amount of excitement about TxDOT staff archeologist Chris Ringstaff being in attendance to demonstrate flint knapping for the people who attended.  Chris was wonderful at not only demonstrating the various techniques that would have been used by the prehistoric knappers who inhabited Texas, he did a great job of explaining why they did what they did: why they chose the stone they chose, used the tools they used and worked the various kinds of flakes in various ways.  His demonstration was well-attended and all of us took an opportunity to stop and watch this professional archeologist and researcher explain his craft.

 

Chris Ringstaff explaining the use of atlatls (spear throwers).
Chris Ringstaff explaining the use of atlatls (spear throwers).

 

Chris showing the shaft of a "dart" and why selection was so critical to the effectiveness of this tool.
Chris showing the shaft of a “dart” and why selection was so critical to the effectiveness of this tool.

 

Chris shows everyone what the raw materials used were, demonstrating with a  piece of chert.
Chris shows everyone what the raw materials used were, demonstrating with a piece of chert.

 

Chris displaying for attendees the different types of "billets" that would have been used for knapping (parts of the knapper's kit).  They include deer antler "billets" of various sizes for soft percussion and fist-sized "hammer stones" for hard percussion work.
Chris displaying for attendees the different types of “billets” that would have been used for knapping (parts of the knapper’s kit). They include deer antler “billets” of various sizes for soft percussion and fist-sized “hammer stones” for hard percussion work.

 

In this image Chris is preparing a platform for flake removal.
In this image Chris is preparing a platform for flake removal.

 

The same way the knapping would have been practiced by the early inhabitants of Texas, Chris gets to work without the modern comforts of chairs, tables and full gloves.
The same way the knapping would have been practiced by the early inhabitants of Texas, Chris gets to work without the modern comforts of chairs, tables and full gloves.

 

An example of the various kinds of projectile points that would have been made by the prehistoric inhabitants of Texas.  Chris was able to help people to see and learn for themselves the historic, cultural and scientific value of prehistoric material culture, why it was effective and how it evolved.
An example of the various kinds of projectile points that would have been made by the prehistoric inhabitants of Texas. Chris was able to help people to see and learn for themselves the historic, cultural and scientific value of prehistoric material culture, why it was effective and how it evolved.

 

This year’s Explore UT was an opportunity for those of us who work at TARL to make what we do accessible to the public, especially as pertains to using archeology to teach science and social studies to children.  Archeology offers tangible, understandable lessons about the evolution of man, his culture and his technology and TARL staff look forward to other opportunities to work with schools, educators and students to help them appreciate and utilize the wealth of material culture that, in many ways, originated in their own backyards.  Thank you to everyone who came out to contribute and who  participated in making this an opportunity for TARL to renew its ties to the anthropology department and main campus.  We look forward to many more years of educational contributions.

 

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Student Project Update: Truc Nguyen

by Truc Nguyen

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!

 

Truc has been busy constructing models of the long-term mummy housing.  She is experimenting with different types of boards, tapes and designs to better understand how viable her design will be.  The materials that she will be using in the design of her final project will be archival, chemically inert and offer the rigid support needed to protect such a delicately preserved individual.
Truc has been busy constructing models of the long-term mummy housing. She is experimenting with different types of boards, tapes and designs to better understand how viable her design will be. The materials that she will be using in the design of her final project will be archival, chemically inert and offer the rigid support needed to protect such a delicately preserved individual.

 

Once she decided on a drop-front outer box that will provide the rigid protection necessary for moving the mummy she focused on a desgning an interior sled with handles.  This will allow researchers to access the remains by untying the stays and dropping the front of the box and then sliding forward the interior sled.
Once she decided on a drop-front outer box that will provide the rigid protection necessary for moving the mummy she focused on a designing an interior sled with handles. This will allow researchers to access the remains by untying the stays and dropping the front of the box and then sliding forward the interior sled.

 

Truc's project is intended to improve the stability, protection and access of one of our most sensitive sets of remains.  Designed much like a set of Russian nesting dolls, the various envelopes will provide 1. the rigidity necessary to move the box when necessary, 2. the ability to access approximately 160 degrees of the remains, and ultimately 3. 180 degrees with the insertion of a flat, reinforced platform with custom-contoured ethafoam supports that will prevent the mummy from turning or leaning.
Truc’s project is intended to improve the stability, protection and access of one of our most sensitive sets of remains. Designed much like a set of Russian nesting dolls, the various envelopes will provide 1. the rigidity necessary to move the box when necessary, 2. the ability to access approximately 160 degrees of the remains, and ultimately 3. 180 degrees with the insertion of a flat, reinforced platform with custom-contoured ethafoam supports that will prevent the mummy from turning or leaning.

 

For information on Truc’s project:  RehousingTARLMummies

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.

 

 

Of Snips and Snails

by Susan Dial

Sometimes even the smallest of creatures can provide big insights.  Dr.  Ken Brown, an archeologist and TARL Research Affiliate, has been on the trail of snails for decades.  From these seemingly inconsequential mollusks, a wealth of data about past environments at archeological sites can be gleaned.   Simply put, different species of snails can thrive in different environmental conditions.  By determining which species were present at a given time, he can reconstruct what the climatic conditions were like over time.  His observation of snails (species, habitat requirements, species densities and distributions, etc) allow him to contribute invaluable insight into site formation and transformation over time, evidence of bioturbation, possible signs of cultural utilization, and especially paleo-environmental reconstruction.

The processes involved in snail analysis is painstaking and often tedious, involving screening sediment samples through a series of increasingly fine-grained mesh, picking out the shells, sorting by size, and finally identifying them.  Good eyesight is a must for this job: some snails in his samples are less than a millimeter across, and specimen storage is in gel caps, not plastic bags.  For archeologists, however, this sort of information can be invaluable—and often the only available indicator of past environments.

Ken’s research interests are hardly limited to snails, however. He also is a specialist in prehistoric wooden artifacts, having studied (and identified) dozens of the snares, traps, curved sticks, dart shafts and other enigmatic items from TARL’s perishable collections.  His detailed drawings, descriptions, photos and lab notes of these remarkable artifacts now fill very large ring- binders—the makings of a publication long awaited by other archeologists.

Ken’s interest in archeology can be traced back to his teen years participating in Texas Archeological Society field schools. He has been at it ever since.  Awarded a Ph.D. from the University of Texas at Austin, he has worked in the field for nearly 40 years and mostly at sites in Texas, but also in New Mexico, Colorado, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Illinois and New York.   Ken’s dissertation on the Berger Bluff site in Victoria County provides unique insight into the Late Pleistocene and Early Holocene climatic history of the coastal plains of Texas. For that site—and many of the others he’s worked on—he did multiple types of analyses, analyzing not just mollusks,  but myriad other fauna, lithics, etc.

Ken also has contributed substantive content to Texas Beyond History, including the McFaddin Beach exhibit (“This Site Is All Washed Up!”) http://www.texasbeyondhistory.net/mcfaddin/index.html and a “mini-exhibit” on Berger Bluff http://www.texasbeyondhistory.net/st-plains/images/ap5.html. In the past several years, he has also served as a TBH reviewer; his broad expertise and eagle eye as an editor have been greatly appreciated.  His current work is focused on a project at the Genevieve Lykes Duncan site in Brewster County, one of only a few sites with Paleoindian-age deposits in the Trans Pecos.

In subsequent blog posts, Ken will share some of what he has learned about snails… and many other subjects, we hope!

 

 

Introductions!

by Truc Nguyen

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!

Truc_Nguyen_2015

 

Sex, Politics, and Archeology in Downtown Austin

by Susan Dial

History frequently repeats itself, often with an ironic twist or two.  Currently there is a minor furor brewing over a proposed “strip club” just blocks from Austin’s City Hall.  As reported in a February 13, 2015, article in the Austin American-Statesman, several members of a downtown Austin alliance are protesting the plan, arguing that this sort of business is not part of the vision held for that area. But 125 years ago, this sort of business was not only a “vision” for downtown Austin, it was the norm.

What has now become Austin’s trendy warehouse district, the headquarters of the City Council, and high-rise offices of Computer Sciences Corporation was once known as “Guytown,” an infamous red-light district peopled with prostitutes and sprinkled with bars and saloons catering to city and state leaders, among other visitors. Extending roughly from Colorado and San Antonio Streets on the east and west, and 1st and 3rd Streets on the south and north, the area originally had been a genteel neighborhood in Austin’s core; by the 1870’s it had begun its descent into a notorious red light district.

 

Prostitutes, such as these in Caldwell County south of Austin, operated from a variety of venues during Guy Town's heyday in Austin. While some women lived in comfortable, two-story bordellos, many more operated from run-down, one-room shacks such as the one pictured here. Photo courtesy of Texas Beyond History.
Prostitutes, such as these in Caldwell County south of Austin, operated from a variety of venues during Guy Town’s heyday in Austin. While some women lived in comfortable, two-story bordellos, many more operated from run-down, one-room shacks such as the one pictured here. Photo courtesy of Lawrence Jones and Texas Beyond History.

 

In 1876, the Austin Daily Statesman reported that two women arrested for keeping a brothel threatened to expose several of their high-powered clients, among them city council members, legislators and businessmen whose patronage tacitly supported the operations.  Although the area was a tinderbox for violence and drunken sprees, many other stories played out among those at the opposite end of the economic scale—the laundresses, blacksmiths, porters, maids, and others who lived and worked in Guy Town. Unlike today, affordable housing was not an issue; there were no restrictions on the size or upkeep of the wooden shanties and alley cribs in which many made their homes.

The growth of businesses such as Calcasieu Lumber Company, a gradual rise in industrial development, and a change in the city’s master plan in 1928 gradually changed the area and brought about the demise of Guytown.  Seventy years later, another city plan, styled as a “smart growth initiative,” was to bring about a wholescale and radically upscale change in character for the district.

In advance of the new construction, archeological and archival research investigations were conducted by Hicks & Company over a five-city block area, including the lot that now holds the modern, copper-clad City Hall building. Prior to excavations, most of the extant buildings were razed from their lots, including the iconic Liberty Lunch. Spared from the wrecking ball was Schneider’s Store, now home to an upscale barbecue restaurant.  Archeologists conducted only minor tests around the perimeter of that building, unlike the massive excavations on the other blocks.

TARL Associate Director Jonathan Jarvis and I were part of the project.  I ran the mobile laboratory headquartered on one of the blocks, while Jonathan worked on the complex series of excavations, which moved from block to block as each was completed.  It was a massive undertaking led by Project Archeologist Rachel Feit and Principal Investigator James Karbula.  I was amazed at the variety of artifacts that flowed daily into our small trailer lab—and the provocative and often poignant activities the items reflected.  Along with the remains of champagne and beer bottles, gaming tokens, bullets, and “hygiene” equipment for the prostitutes came pieces of china dolls and children’s toys.

Thousands of artifacts were recovered, quickly classified, counted, and logged into our mobile laboratory computer. The great majority—sherds of glass, rusted metal bits, and other unidentifiable materials that clearly had been mass produced and held no diagnostic value, were buried on the site, as part of a policy arrangement with the Texas Historical Commission. The most significant (or diagnostic) artifacts are now curated in TARL Collections, along with the maps, records, and photos accruing from the investigations.  It is a collection that holds enormous potential for researchers and students interested in urban archeology and demographic change.

 

This small sample of the thousands of artifacts recovered from excavations in Austin’s 19th-century Guytown district reflects the area’s notorious past. Shown in clockwise order are a stoneware ale bottle, blue and white spittoon, an amber snuff jar, cartridge casings, a vaginal syringe (perhaps belonging to one of the area’s prostitutes), a bone handle of a makeup brush, a ceramic pipe bowl with anchor motif, and fragments of a fancy glass mug and goblet. TARL Collections; photo by Kerri Wilhelm.
This small sample of the thousands of artifacts recovered from excavations in Austin’s 19th-century Guytown district reflects the area’s notorious past. Shown in clockwise order are a stoneware ale bottle, blue and white spittoon, an amber snuff jar, cartridge casings, a vaginal syringe (perhaps belonging to one of the area’s prostitutes), a bone handle of a makeup brush, a ceramic pipe bowl with anchor motif, and fragments of a fancy glass mug and goblet. TARL Collections; photo by Kerri Wilhelm.

 

 

  • A two-volume report of the project was published by Hicks and Company in 2003: Boarding Houses, Bar Rooms and Brothels: Life in a Vice-District by Rachel Feit, et al (Hicks & Company Series #104).

 

  • To learn more about the currently proposed “adult” business, see Austin American-Statesman Feb. 13, 2015: “Downtown strip club plan receiving early opposition” by Gary Dinges.

 

 

Explore UT 2015

by Rosario Casarez

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TARL is gearing up for Explore UT on March 7th.  Explore UT is touted as “The Biggest Open House in Texas”.  It’s a campus-wide event with hundreds of activities for visitors to enjoy.  TARL is participating in the festivities after a few years’ hiatus, but we are back in full force with lots to do for young and old.  And we will be joining forces with a group of dedicated UT anthropology graduate students who have carried the archeology torch for the past couple of Explore UT’s.

Kids (and staff) enjoying rock art painting during previous Explore UT event.
Kids (and staff) enjoying rock art painting during previous Explore UT event.

 

Rosario expertly demonstrating the technique for making cordage during Explore UT to a group of children...who were carefully gauging younger siblings and asking astute questions about tensile properties.

Rosario expertly demonstrating the technique for making cordage during Explore UT to a group of children…who were carefully gauging younger siblings and asking astute questions about tensile properties.

 

Students learning the fine art of rock painting.  We will provide your children paint and the tools to apply it; what happens  during the car ride home with the wet paint we are not accountable for.  You have been warned.  ;)
Students learning the fine art of rock painting. We will provide your children paint and the tools to apply it; what happens during the car ride home with the wet paint we are not accountable for. You have been warned. 😉
This is Susan "Too Cool for School" Dial manning her Texas Beyond History table.  Explore UT, 2007.
This is Susan “Too Cool for School” Dial manning her Texas Beyond History table. Explore UT, 2007.

 

Here’s a sampling of what we’ll have to offer: pottery mending, corn-husk doll making, rock-art painting (on cardstock), Egyptian and Mayan hieroglyphic writing and an artifact “ooh and ahh” table.  We will also have several grinding stations set up with manos and metates, so you can try your hand at corn grinding. And there will be a skeleton show-and-tell table.  (The skeleton will be a replica; unfortunately, no mummies will be participating.)

Besides these outdoor activities, there will be two indoor lectures presented by TARL staff:

– Susan Dial, our Texas Beyond History editor, will talk about what ancient Texans ate in “Texas Beyond History:  Detectives Into the Past”.

– Jonathan Jarvis, TARL’s associate director, will present “The Role of Maps in Archeology: Past, Present and Future.”

So come out and pay us a visit; we’ll be on the east side of the main UT campus in the Liberal Arts Building Courtyard.  The talks will be held in the Liberal Arts Building, room 1.104.  Here’s more information about this event – https://exploreut.utexas.edu/.

 

 

Update to Training Workshop Announcement

by Marybeth Tomka

On January 1, 2015, TARL changed its collection policies, including separation of collections and required forms.  These changes to the policy and associated forms are now posted on our new website.  The old url should redirect you, if not, this is the address: http://www.utexas.edu/cola/orgs/tarl/.

On Tuesday, March 24 at 1 PM, I will be holding a short overview of the new requirements, as well as explaining the reasons for the changes, and providing some limited training in how to prepare a collection.  We will also have a short segment on records if anyone would like a review of those stipulations.  I ask that you all download the policies and review them before the meeting.  We will meet in the conference room upstairs in the main TARL building unless we get inundated in which case we will move to the “A” portable.

I’d appreciate a heads up on who is likely to attend.  Please email me with a confirmation of attendance for the workshop if you plan to attend.  Don’t hesitate to contact me if you should have any questions about the amended collections policies, the workshop or getting to TARL.

I look forward to speaking with you all at the workshop!

The Akokisa and the Atakapans

by Kerri Wilhelm

I’ve been working with one of our visiting researchers in the Human Osteology collection to provide information that may assist them in determining potential descendant populations of the Akikosa and Atakapa.  Making use of resources such as Texas Beyond History, our indispensable site files and archeological reports, as well as publicly available resources drawn from the UT libraries, the THC’s documentation on tribal claims and contacts (http://www.thc.state.tx.us/project-review/tribal-consultation-guidelines/tribal-contacts) and the online NAGPRA Native American Consultation Database, I can help researchers make connections between archeologically represented indigenous people and potentially descendant modern Native American groups.  Being able to make those connections allows researchers to investigate topics like cultural evolution, affiliation and identity, gene flow and admixture, and provides a larger context for their specific research goals.  It’s really exciting when the collections at TARL support what the documentation is telling us and a clearer image of the past begins to take shape.

Coastal prairie and marshland locations identified through archeological work to have been inhabited by prehistoric and historic populations of indigenous people.  Image courtesy of Texas Beyond History.
Coastal prairie and marshland locations identified through archeological work to have been inhabited by prehistoric and historic populations of indigenous people. Image courtesy of Texas Beyond History.

 

1776_British_Map
Detail from 1776 map by British cartographer and publisher Thomas Jefferys. Most of what the British knew about New Spain came from maps, charts, and sketches captured from Spanish warships by the British Armada. Although the geography is distorted and the map was already outdated in many regards when it was printed, it does name the Atacapa as “Wandering Indians” in southeast Texas. Source: David Rumsey Map Collection. Image courtesy of Texas Beyond History.

 

 

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Approximate territories of native groups of the upper Texas coast in the early 18th century as reconstructed by Lawrence Aten in his 1983 book, Indians of the Upper Texas Coast (Academic Press). Image courtesy of Texas Beyond History. http://www.texasbeyondhistory.net/mitchell/ethnohistory.html

 

 

Territory of the Atakapa-speaking groups in the 18th century as reconstructed by W.W. Newcomb (2004, Fig 1). Image courtesy of Texas Beyond History. http://www.texasbeyondhistory.net/mitchell/images/Newcomb-2004-Atakapan.html

 

There is a group of people who self-identify as being descendants of the Atakapa who are currently in the process of applying for federal recognition as a Native American tribe (“Atakapa-Ishak Nation”).

“We were called Atakapa by the Choctaw.  The name was used by the Spaniards and French colonizers in Louisiana, as a slur word to refer to the Ishak people.  This gave us a reputation and rumor of being “man eaters”, which continues through today.  We, the descendants of the Atakapa-Ishak Indians exist unrecognized and misnamed under various names of choice like Creoles, Creole Indians, and Creoles of Color.  The term “colored” has clouded our racial identity.  Atakapa-Ishak descendants show a wide range of complexions which is attributed to the genes for light or brown complexions.  Many Atakapa-Ishak no longer know their correct racial identity.”

For more information on this tribe, their journey toward federal recognition and their ties to southeastern Texas, please visit their website at:  http://www.atakapa-ishak.org/history/

 

 

Wanted: Volunteers!

by Kerri Wilhelm

TARL has long served as ‘the facility’ within the state of Texas where archeological collections of every size, in every state of preservation imaginable, and with any number of associated files (or the loudly-cursed lack thereof) have come to curated down through the decades as Texas archeology has evolved in theory and methodology from the large-scale excavations of the WPA era to satellite imagery and LIDAR of remote piloted drones conducting survey.  As modern methodology in the field of archeology takes us further and further away from the days of ‘collect everything as you go’ toward an uncertain future where acrheological data and interpretive value are measured in terabytes, server space and 3D printing potential, we here at TARL carefully consider the research value and volume of the collections resting on the shelves.  Unlike the tiny digital footprint resulting from the virtual reconstruction of an excavation, the collections here range in footprint from the Herrera Gates to a 15′ long dugout canoe, to 40lb. metates and countless projectile points.  It can take your breath away if you stop to consider what lies inside the drawers here…4,000 years of human occupation caught in a snapshot, framed with carefully spun cordage, meticulously worked (and reworked) projectile points, and rabbit sticks worn smooth by countless calloused hands.  To the archeologically-uninitiated the drawers hold curiosities made of stone, wood and bone.  To those of us who have the privilege of calling TARL our “place of employment” these curiosities are the remnants of a distant past that was recorded in rock art and pictographs as opposed to cellulose and pixels.  But it takes time and resources to curate these irreplaceable artifacts of human history from our great state.  We are a small staff dedicated to the care of millions of artifacts and miles of site reports and archeological records.  As we have done so many times before, we are looking for volunteers.

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Marybeth Tomka, the Head of Collections at TARL, is interested in accepting volunteers to help her carry out the ongoing collections management tasks that allow these artifacts to retain their significance in history and prehistory.  Collections, and artifacts at the individual level, are only of research value if they are properly recorded in documentation and entered carefully into a relational database that retains this critical information and makes it work for the researchers.  Marybeth is responsible for seeing that all of the archeological collections which have been collected over many decades continue to be well-cared for and continue to be accessible to visiting researchers and archeologists.  Students who volunteer at TARL are provided hands-on training in archeological collections processing, artifact identification and some laboratory methodologies (when she has the time).  If you are a student interested in archeology, anthropology and/or museum collections management, the skills she can teach you through her volunteer program will assist you in your future professional endeavors.  Don’t let the off-campus location deter you.  The experience will prove well worth it and you’ll have the chance to work various prehistoric and historic collections and learn valuable skills from a trained professional archeologist.  If you get your geek on the same way we do, if you want to have the chance to see the drawers that hold the history and contribute to our ongoing projects, contact Marybeth Tomka, Head of Collections at marybeth.tomka@austin.utexas.edu.

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Teaching at TARL

by Kerri Wilhelm

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.

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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.

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The Texas Archeological Research Laboratory