By Pat Mercado-Allinger, State Archeologist and THC Archeology Division
THC Archeology Division staff was well represented during this year’s Texas Archeological Society’s (TAS) Annual Field School, held June 15–22 in Hondo.
Marie Archambeault, who also serves as the TAS Native American Scholarship Subcommittee chair, reports the outreach program was a resounding success. Seven scholarships were awarded to individuals from Oklahoma and Texas representing four different tribes (Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas, Lipan Apache Band of Texas, Navajo Nation, and Seminole Nation). The scholarship program increases the level of understanding among the many people who have called Texas home. TAS members benefit from meeting, talking with, and learning from the native people whose traditions and lifeways are tied to Texas archeological sites. Native scholarship recipients learn about archeological ways of studying the past by working side-by-side with experienced avocational and professional archeologists at the Eagle Bluff site.
I conducted one-day orientation sessions for new field school participants. The purpose of the orientation is to acquaint these individuals (high school age and up) with basic archeological concepts and terminology, along with a brief summary of the archeology of the region. Participants are also given instruction on field procedures—including how to measure depth with a line level, string, and measuring tape—and offered the opportunity to inspect and identify artifacts before they join their assigned field crews. This year, there were a total of 39 orientation attendees, including members of the John H. Reagan High School Anthropology Club who traveled from Houston. Several other high school students came to the field school and attended the orientation because they are considering archeology as a potential career. The youngest aspiring archeologist to attend the orientation was 10-year old Charley Battise, a TAS Native American Scholarship recipient.
The TAS Field School always offers a specific youth component, and this year was no exception. It is an extremely popular aspect of the field school. In fact, it is often these young people who insist that their family vacations include the TAS Field School. THC archeologist Jeff Durst assisted with this group. Field school participants ranging from 7 to 14 years old excavate alongside seasoned avocational and professional archeologists in the Youth Area. They are treated to special demonstrations, such as atlatl (spear) throwing, and even take a mid-week field trip to nearby educational attractions. This year, there were nearly 40 young people working at the Eagle Bluff site!
For the third TAS Field School season at the Eagle Bluff site, THC archeologists Brad Jones and Tiffany Osburn again served as area supervisors, who are charged with overseeing the various crews—often consisting of 20-50 individuals—working in a particular area. Tiffany and her crews began new test excavations in Area 5 where backhoe trenching had previously identified an area of high density Archaic and Late Prehistoric artifacts. Their excavations confirmed the presence of intact deposits and resulted in the recording of a burned rock feature in addition to the recovery of numerous stone tools. One of the most remarkable finds for the 2013 field season in Area 5 was a small carved stone bowl, the first of its kind found at the site and rare regionally.
In Area 2, Brad and his crews picked up where they left off in 2011, continuing block excavations aimed at establishing the overall history of the site occupation. It took three years, but the deepest unit in the block excavation finally encountered an occupation surface corresponding to an Early Archaic hearth excavated in 2010 by the South Texas Archaeological Association from the cut bank approximately three meters from the bluff surface. Associated with this occupation were nine Gower dart points, as well as a variety of other tool types. The other units continued to recover invaluable data on the later period occupations. These have revealed numerous stone hearth cooking features and artifacts associated with consistent Native American use of the site for more than seven millennia, including dozens of projectile points and other stone tools, bone, shell, and a rare limestone gorget.
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