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Published: October 21st 2007
After visiting Fredericksburg recently and developing an appreciation for the Texas Hill Country, I was excited to find out that my next project was located in Lampasas, a small town just outside of Fort Hood in Killeen. The area, like most of Hill Country, has lots of limestone outcroppings and the trademark rolling green hills. The limestone makes the creeks particularly beautiful since there is not an abundance of sediments to cloud up the water, so many creeks are clear and clean looking. We actually found the perfect swimming hole in one of the creeks, and after a particularly hot day we went wading around, looking for fossils and artifacts (but not removing them, of course).
Lampasas itself is a small town on the edge of the Colorado Bend State Park. What surprised me most was the prolific exotic animal trade in Lampasas and Watson. We saw private fields with camels, zebra, ostriches, llamas, and advertisements for auctions of bigger animals like giraffes and rhinos. I honestly do not know much about the trade, but in theory I do not like the idea of people buying exotic animals as a hobby. However, after seeing them over the course of two
weeks, it seemed that their environment would be very similar to their environment on the savannas of Africa. In the hands of the right owners I am sure the animals are well cared for and have plenty of room to roam. I just hope there are stringent rules for the care of these animals.
Most of the artifacts found in central Texas are flakes, projectile points, other manufactured tools, and FCR's. FCR's are fire cracked rocks, and can form as a result from people forming rock mounds and using them as ovens. When rock is exposed to extreme heat, it exhibits cracking and spalling, so archaeologists can tell the difference between normal breakage and breakage resulting from intense fires. To be sure a rock did not break from natural fires and was actually used for cooking, you would want to find a group of FCRs, a hearth, or animal bones with cut marks associated with the rocks. In our test pits, we found a good deal of FCR's, bones, and a projectile point that was manufactured during the Middle Archaic period, or 2500 - 1000 BC. This is important because the site is now considered to be older than
Projectile points found in the Middle Archaic
I'm creating slide shows to help me memorize different points found in differents periods.
previously thought. Projectile Points
Projectile points can be diagnostic because there are many different styles of points and methods that they were produced. Each style can be dated to a certain archaeological period. Categories are assigned by the overall design of the point, the angles, and the material. For example, in the Lampasas site, previous findings showed that the area had occupations dating to the Late Archaic period. We found a Perdenales point, which was only manufacted in the Middle Archaic. This showed that there were earlier occupations in the area. The point we found was broken, but the base was intact and was characteristic of a Perd. The Questions
One of the most amusing things about our location was its close proximity to a busy road, and this brought the attention of curious locals and people who wanted to know what we were doing. Most people just do not get to see archaeology at work, so they are simply curious. Many visitors were familiar with local lore that there were several burned rock middens and many different kinds of points found in the area. Every now and then, we would meet people who actively hunt projectile points
and artifacts on private property. This is not illegal as long the person has permission from the landowner to do so, but it does destroy the archaeological record in that particular area to remove evidence from a site. Once an artifact is removed, its context is destroyed. Projectile points themselves are of no value to archaeologists. The value is in its context, what artifacts are associated with it, and what can be gained from taking soil samples and other information where it was found. Had someone dug up the Perd point we had found, we would not have been able to definitively date that site. We did run across a man who admitted that he looted archaeologial sites. He said that he digs holes, sometimes up to 15 feet deep, in order to collect artifacts and sell them. This is the most destructive kind of artifact hunting. He has probably destroyed and pawned off a good number of excellent sites in the area. The main problem is that looters do not record any useful information, they simply steal the remains from a site for profit or personal collection. It is difficult not to lecture people who do this. This one
The point we found was broken, but enough remained to be diagnostic. Here is what it would have looked like.
particular individual even took a pick axe out of his truck when he stopped to visit with us and proceeded to tell us how we should be digging! It was quite funny. Archaeologists never grab a tool and flail away at the ground, most digging is calculated and controlled. On Monday, we returned to the site to find that someone had left fresh tire marks and had removed our tarps. We have a strong suspicion we know who it was. Thankfully he did not use his pick axe.
In any case, the conversations with locals always seemed to follow the same pattern. So much so, that it began to be quite humorous.
Visitor: Whatcha diggin for?
Archaeologist: We are doing some soil testing for TXDot (careful not to say the word 'archaeology' in order to return to digging).
Visitor: Are you archaeologists?
Visitor: Whatcha find so far?
Archaeologist: Nothing interesting yet (note: we will always say this, no matter what we are finding. Simply because if we had been finding anything interesting we don't want people to return to loot the site at night or on the weekends).
Visitor: Well you are digging in the wrong place, all the good stuff is (insert adjacent field or alternate area here).
Archaeologist: We know, but that is out of our testing area.
Every single conversation. Really! A summer of digging...
I've been doing field tech work for CRM firms for a few months now, and so far I really do enjoy the work. No matter what is going on, I always feel that a bad day of CRM is better than the best days at the bank, my former profession. Not that banking was that bad, but I really love doing archaeology, working outside, meeting all different kinds of people, and the travel. Most of the archaeologists and fellow shovelbums I meet are very laid back and friendly, although you do run across the occassional archaeologist who just need to get over themselves. But that is true in any industry. Overall, CRM had a huge learning curve for me because I did not get the chance to volunteer while I was in school since I was working full time. I did not have as much field experience as other graduates who had that opportunity, and that would be my advice to budding archaeologists. Do everything you can to volunteer on archaeological sites. Keep in contact with your professors for field work and lab opportunities. Get as familiar as you can with the local archaeological record. And plan to go to field school every summer. Field schools can be quite expensive, but organizations such as the SAA have scholarships available to help with the cost. It is not as important where your field experience is located while you are getting your Bachelor's, what matters is learning field method. This will help you immensely whether you go straight into CRM or into grad school after you graduate.
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