Archaeology Field School (2013-2014)

This six-hour archaeological field school provides a field, laboratory, and academic experience for undergraduate anthropology students. Five weeks of this six week course is spent in the field where students learn proper excavation, survey, and laboratory methods at two different archaeological sites in Texas.

The first four weeks is spent on the John Barnhill Ranch in Coryell County, excavating a multi-component site. This site is important for a number of reasons: 1) the majority of prehistorically occupied rock shelters in central Texas have been extensively looted, destroying archaeological context; 2) less than a dozen rock shelters in central Texas have been investigated and the majority of these investigations focused on chronology and not on recovering occupational information; and 3) the preservation of the hearth and midden material is excellent, therefore, this site has the potential to add significantly to our understanding of ancient plant use in central Texas.

The field school provides students with theoretical and practical knowledge of archaeological research methods, focusing primarily on excavation techniques, laboratory procedures and artifact analysis. Students learn how to lay out an excavation grid, establish a site datum, operate an automatic level and a total data station, collect and process soil samples for macrobotanical and microbotanical analyses, complete paperwork in a professional manner, including scaled drawings and soil descriptions, and maintain a field journal. Laboratory procedures include washing, sorting, cataloguing, and analyzing all classes of artifacts, followed by data entry into a Geographic Information System (ArcGIS) database for spatial analysis. Students also learn how to conduct an archaeological survey and how to record and map an archaeological site on the Barnhill Ranch. They then take part in an archaeological survey of a ranch in Bosque County. The late afternoons are spent processing and analyzing the day’s artifacts, conducting flotation, updating the GIS database, reviewing the day’s paperwork, and updating field journals. Each evening, students spend an hour reading an assigned reading, followed by discussion. During our stay at the ranch, we conduct a few experimental archaeology projects, landowner permission and weather permitting, and host Texas archaeologists who are interested in our site. During this time, students decide on a topic for a final research paper and begin collecting data.

The fifth week of the course takes place on the Tait Ranch, in Colorado County, near the town of Columbus, in conjunction with the Texas Archeological Society’s annual field school. Over 300 TAS members excavate at a number of prehistoric and historic sites. Dr. Jason Garrett serves as the Principal Investigator. Each student is assigned to a different crew with the intent on meeting new people and being exposed to different kinds of Texas archaeology. Students are required to attend afternoon and evening programs and maintain their journals during this week.

The final week of the field school is conducted at Baylor. During this time, students work on their research papers. These papers/posters may be selected for presentation at the Texas Archeological Society’s October Annual Meeting as well as at Baylor University’s URSA Week in the spring.