Get dirty with the Texas Archeological Society

Volunteers working with the Texas Archaeological Society

Members working with the Texas Archeological Society

I am pleased to introduce Wendy Lockwood, president of the Texas Archeological Society

Wendy Lockwood, President of the Texas Archaeological Society

Wendy Lockwood, President of the Texas Archaeological Society

(www.txarch.org) today. Wendy is a former science teacher who fell in love with archeology and rock art more than 20 years ago, and has been active in these fields ever since.  TAS will host it’s annual Field School June 14-21, 2014, near Columbus, Texas, on a site with both historic and prehistoric features.

Hi Wendy. Tell us about the Texas Archeological Society (TAS). What is it for? What does it do? The purpose of TAS is to promote an awareness of Texas archeology. The preservation of our archeological resources is our first priority. Professional archeologists AND avocationals work close together to see that this goal is met.

Can anyone join? Membership is open to anyone who is interested in archeology. We have memberships for individuals, families, students, and other societies and organizations. Membership forms are available online at http://www.txarch.org. The website offers a complete overview of who we are, what we do, and ways to become involved.

 Does TAS actually go on digs?  TAS host a field school ever summer early in June. Field School is held at TAS 2 copydifferent places throughout the state. This year it will near on a ranch near Columbus, June 14-21. Participants must be members of TAS. (Individual memberships = $60.00 annually, or family for $70.00). For those who work, there is the option of signing up for 3 days. The field school officially starts on Saturday morning and ends Friday night with a special program. For those who wish, breakfast and dinner meals are offered at a reasonable price. We camp in a central location, have programs each night, and work each day until around 1:00 in the afternoon. It is a great opportunity to meet new people, renew old acquaintances, laugh, and have loads of fun. Information about Field School can viewed at our website. You will also a short report and a few pictures from past field schools.

We offer teachers that are new to the field school a three-day program that can count toward academic growth hours. We also have a children’s program where we teach them the basics of archeology. They learn how to excavate (dig) properly, how to plot in artifacts, and take various measurements when needed. Along with these, they are treated to several small activities during the week. Field School offers a great family vacation to those who might be interested. Field School registration starts at $90.00 for an adult for three days, or $35.00 for three days for a child (ages 7-17).

Do you get to keep what you find? No, we do not keep any artifacts that are found. These belong to the landowner whose property we are privileged to be working on. If it is state-owned land, the artifacts go to the state. Artifacts are collected in the field and then sent to the Lab for processing. In the lab, artifacts are sorted, washed, and bagged for later study by the PI, the archeologist who is the Principle Investigator. There are terms and conditions that TAS must abide by when it comes to artifacts. These requirements are set down by state and Federal antiquities laws or regulations.

 Have you ever had any close encounters with varmints of any kind while on a dig? Varmints are something we have to always be on the lookout for. Depending on where you are assigned to work, there may be problems with insects, snakes, feral hogs, livestock, and other critters. After all, we do live in Texas. Fortunately, we have never had a bad experience with varmints. Personally, I have had some dealings with javelinas, a rattlesnake or two, a cottonmouth, a coyote, and fire ants. I had an encounter with a young mountain lion one time in Utah. We scared each other, both ran in opposite directions, so things were good.

What about weather?  If you have lived in Texas long enough, you know not to be surprised at what

Students get real experience at TAS field school

Students get real experience at TAS field school

happens with the weather. There is kind of a saying in TAS: “Where TAS goes, rain follows.” We have brought rain with us to so many places we have gone for Field School, that we laugh about charging folks a fee just to come work in their area. How does it happen? We have no idea, it just does. We have braved hail storms, 70 mph winds, rain so hard the camp flooded and a major cold front in June. (We bought out all the sweat shirts and blankets in the local Walmart and Penneys). But, let me say, we have never been deterred by the weather. When it clears up and dries out enough, we go back to work. Sometimes it’s an opportunity for a little extra sleep, a lot more fellowship, or a new adventure or site in the area.

Do you have a particular specialty, or something you really like to do in archeology? I really enjoy doing just about anything that surrounds archeology. I enjoy working in prehistoric sites more that historic. This past year at field school, I worked in the floatation lab. That was fun but really dirty. BUT, I kept really cool in the heat that day. I have worked with the kids in their area, done survey, and worked in the lab. I would encourage people to try and experience all facets of field work. You will find your niche.

As for my passion, I would have to say Rock Art. Rock art is the paintings and incisings left behind by ancient people. We like to call it a “graphic artifact.” You find rock art primarily on canyon walls, boulders, and in shelters. In a few places it can be found in dry river beds. Texas has some of the premier rock art found in the world. You may ask how I know. I have been told by individuals who have traveled the world looking at rock art that our rock art sites cannot be equaled.

So why do you do it? What motivates you? Rock art is my niche! I really have no words to fully describe the feeling I have when I am working at a rock art site. Regardless of how many times I may visit a site, it is always new. I look at that wall and ponder who the person was that placed it there. Does it tell a story? Is it a ritual or ceremony? Was the artist a man or a woman? Did a small child leave the hand print? These are questions we can only guess about. There are Native Americans in the southwest who still put art on walls and boulders today. Sometimes it depicts a rite of passage or a dream quest. But, for most of the art, it is so old we can only guess. Most rock art sites are up canyons in shelters. There is peace to be found. You hear the birds in the canyon; the wind blows through; the rocks crack; you become one with nature and your surroundings. Regardless of how far you have to hike and how high you have to climb up, when you get there and turn around and survey where you have come from, a peaceful sigh slips from your lips and a huge smile lights up your face. You have come HOME!

Thanks, Wendy. Makes me want to get out there in the dirt!  Have a great time in Columbus.

 

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Context and High School Students: Doing What’s Real

Eagle Nest Canyon near Langtry, Texas, site of the Ancient Southwest Texas Project,  2014.

Eagle Nest Canyon near Langtry, Texas, site of the Ancient Southwest Texas Project, 2014.

Context is important in many fields. For example the word “cap”  can have radically different meanings depending on context, or the  words around it in a sentence.  “He put the cap on his head,” illustrates one meaning, while “they discussed cap and trade,” conveys another.  “Capping enrollment” is not the same as “capping a graduate.”

In archaeology, the stuff found around an artifact or ecofact is also context, and can inform how the object was used, as the following article from the Ancient Southwest Texas Project, currently underway on the Rio Grande, will explain.  In education, we have known for a long time that context, or the stuff around learning, is also important. The article also describes how some very lucky high school students are learning in a real-world context.

Eagle Cave-Where Context is Crucial.

via Eagle Cave-Where Context is Crucial.

 

 

 

 

Ancient Dead Bugs of the Lower Pecos

wolf spider

The Ancient Southwest Texas Project recently hosted a visiting scholar who studies archaeoentomology, or ancient insect remains. The purpose of this research is to identify insects in soil samples of particular archaeological sites to learn about climate and fauna of the particular time and place.  Steve and I were happy to host Dr. Eva Panagiotakopulu for a night in Austin on her way from Scotland to the Lower Pecos. Read more about her work in the post below from the ASWT Project.

Archaeoentomology?.

via Archaeoentomology?.