Tag Archives: TARL Staff


Introducing TARL’s Current Student Contributor:  Debora Trein

by Debora Trein

I am originally from Brazil, and I was interested in the human past from an early age, an interest that manifested itself with a fascination with ancient mythology! I was very fortunate to have had the opportunity to study archaeology at University College London (UCL) in the UK, where I achieved a Bachelor’s degree in archaeology followed by a Master’s degree in archaeology in 2006. In 2008, I entered the graduate program at the Department of Anthropology at UT Austin, and I am planning to defend my doctoral dissertation in 2015.

I have over 10 years of fieldwork experience, working in archaeological sites in the UK, Belize, Guatemala, Mexico, and Texas, leading and participating in a variety of projects, which included many archaeology fieldschools as well as excavation- and conservation-driven research. Since 2007, I have conducted research with the UT Austin-administered Programme for Belize Archaeology Project, one of the largest archaeological fieldschools in Mesoamerica, serving as assistant project director since the 2014 field season.

The projects that I am personally involved in entail the digitization and organization of some of TARL’s many collections of archaeological material and document. I have aided in the creation and compilation of a TARL “Loans” database, which records all loans coming to and from TARL from 1930s to the present. These loans may involve archaeological material, photographs, maps, slides, reproductions, and reports, information that is documented in the digital database. I am also analyzing the lending and borrowing practices of TARL through time, charting the changing relationships between TARL and borrowing institutions such as museums, private individuals, companies, and academic researchers. The reasons for loans, which may have included academic research, reporting, and educational events such as conferences and school talks, for instance, are also recorded. By managing the loan data in this way, we will be able to determine what parts of the collections and library are accessed the most, and by whom. Moreover, we will also identify which relationships between TARL and external agencies may be strengthened through a more robust material borrowing and exchange program, a strategy that will be made possible through TARL’s continuing commitment to greater accessibility.

Currently, I am in the later stages of a project that entails the complete assessment of all dental material in all of TARL human remains collection. This kind of comprehensive evaluation has never been undertaken on a digital platform at TARL, and it will provide an invaluable resource in locating and quantifying human remains under TARL’s stewardship. Moreover, the level of qualitative detail contained in this database will include information such as the number and type of teeth in good preservation state, information useful to potential researchers wishing to examine ancient population dynamics in Texas.

I am working towards my “black sash” in Choy Li Fut Kung Fu.

Debora Trein conducting excavation during a field season.
Debora Trein excavating during a field season.




Introducing TARL’s Head of Collections: Marybeth Tomka

We are pleased to announce that Marybeth Tomka joined the staff of the TARL in July 2014 as the Head of Collections.  Marybeth received her BA and MA from UT-Austin, and feels like she has come home to TARL.  Marybeth has over 30 years of professional experience in the field of cultural resource management. She has experience working in both the private and public sector, has completed analyses of lithic and ceramic materials, made contributions to archaeological reports, participated as the supervisor of archaeological lab and field crews, and served as a project manager while in the private sector.

She spent six years with TRC, six years with TPWD, and as a work study and later employee at TARL’s former contracting arm.  She comes to us from the Center for Archaeological Research (CAR) staff where from July 2000-July 2014, Marybeth served in two major roles as the laboratory director for contract projects and as curator.  She was the driving force to CAR’s 2006 acknowledgement as a THC certified repository coming as only the second institution to be certified.  She also served as the technical lead for outreach field schools work with community volunteers at the National Park Service’s Spanish Colonial site of Rancho de Las Cabras in Wilson County from 2007 through 2012 and taught UTSA’s field in 2008 and 2010. As an undergraduate, and then graduate student, Marybeth was a lab technician for the WS Ranch Project of the Anthropology Department under Jim Neely, and as a teacher’s assistant and area supervisor for the University of Texas (Austin) field school as part of her Master’s thesis research. Her research focused on the great kiva complex.

Marybeth’s interests are focused in the management of archaeological records and collections within the context of state and federal laws and sound museum practice. This interest as well as database administration, led her to pursue additional training and in June 2012, she received her Professional Certification in Collections Management from the University of Victoria (UVic).

Already somewhat versed in TARL’s massive collections, Marybeth is happily pursuing taking TARL into the 21st century with planned projects in collections care, collections management, and database construction management.  She will also be actively recruiting volunteers as we move forward.

Follow the blog and/or subscribe to the Friends of TARL Newsletter to keep track of Marybeth’s projects, her discoveries in TARL’s collections and her own blog entries as she gathers the reins and guides TARL’s collections along an exciting trajectory into the future.


The artifact featured above in this post is made of shell.  Per Susan Dial, Editor and Project Manager of Texas Beyond History, this artifact is an:

“Engraved conch shell gorget with triskele design, ca. AD 1400. Excavated by the University of Texas in 1938 from the Mitchell locality (site 41BW4) in the Upper Nasoni Caddo village on Red River, Bowie County, Texas. Specimen 41BW4 (6-2-56); width 11 cm. To learn more about the Hatchell-Mitchell site, see the Nasoni exhibit at http://www.texasbeyondhistory.net/nasoni/index.html.”