Where in the hell am I?

Stories from the road, and home, by a contract archaeologist.

My Photo
Location: Texas, United States

I work out of town a lot as a contract archaeologist. Sometimes it's interesting. It can be quite funny, although probably only to other archys. Home is Austin, with my wife and our cute kitty and all of our crazy friends.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006


I know it's really spelled porcupine, but I don't care. I saw one on Monday at one of our wind turbine locations. One of the landowners in the area said that they've only come into the area within the last 50 years. The one I saw was moving pretty slowly, so who knows how long ago they actually started working their way into the area....

This is a zoom-in, since I didn't want to get too close!

After he got out of eyesight, I turned around and started walking back to tell the guy I was surveying with what I had just seen. About two steps in, a jackrabbit darted out of the bushes. I nearly peed my pants thinking that I had just startled another porcupine, until I saw the ears. With all the mishaps I've had in the field, getting spiked by a porcupine is not one I had considered.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Some Fort Stockton photos

I copied the photos from the field camera onto my computer. There's a lot of projectile point photos. This one is a Pandale point, which dates to 2500-4000 BC and is one of the prevalent point types of the area. It is distinctive because it is beveled, which is a knapping method that makes things look like they're twisted. Imagine taking a flat, rectangular piece of metal, and turning one end slightly clockwise and the other slightly counter-clockwise. That's how a Pandale looks, particularly in cross-section.
The second photo is the fake Sqauwteat Peak.
The third photo is a scenic view from the top of McKenzie Mesa. In the background is Little Mesa (to the left) and Big Mesa (to the right). They can't all be off-color names!

Today was rainy and very cold. We also caught a flat on one of the trucks, and then another tire started getting low, so we left a little early. Thus, we need to finish up one more site tomorrow morning, then we drive back to Austin and a 5-day holiday weekend!

Saturday, December 16, 2006

crazy times in Fort Stockton

Tonight, to make up for missing our company holiday party, we got to go out on our company's tab. Unfortunately, there's nothing really nice here, and the restaurants don't serve alcohol. So we went straight from the field to the grocery store to get beer (I got Pacifico, since I wasn't paying) and then to K-Bob's Steakhouse. I got a big steak, but it wasn't very good. Oh well, it was free. Afterwards, we went to our hotel rooms. That was that. It was 6:30. So I showered and drank a couple of beers while watching boxing on HBO, and now it's 10:00 and I'm getting ready to go to sleep because I'll be waking up for breakfast at 6:15.
When the project is done, I'll have a 5-day weekend, and 2 of those days will be paid holidays. Best of all, I'll already have 40 hours, so Friday's paid day is just a bonus (not overtime, but I'll take it!).
We've recorded 6 sites so far, with 4 more found but not recorded. We also have around a third of the project area left to survey. None of the sites have been super exciting, but they're excellent compared to El Paso. One of the sites yesterday had 20 projectile points, covering pretty much the entire span of Texas prehistory. No caves yet, and it looks like no chance of encountering any (since we're basically on top of the ridge, and they're on the side.
I tried to take a picture of Squawteat Peak today (because "teat" is so much nicer sounding than "tit") but I accidentally took a picture of another mesa that looks like a boob. Makes me wonder if there's an Indian Gap somewhere nearby...

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Fort Stockton thus far

It's very flat here. I've gotten used to Austin and the Hill Country. Or at least places with tall (over 2 stories) buildings. The only tall things around here are the mesas, which are mostly to the east of here, and even they are pretty flat on top. I feel like I can see for 2 miles in each direction from my second floor hotel room.
One of the grocery stores here is called Lowes. I haven't gone there yet. In El Paso, the grocery we went to had Lowes brand products (and grocery bags) but it wasn't called Lowes. I need to buy some Lowes brand chips or cookies or something to bring home. Tangentially, I'm glad I bought a bunch of food at Central Market before I left.
Our project area is about 20 minutes east of here on I-10 (where you can go 80 mph), then about another 20 minutes on gravel oil field roads (or 40 minutes on a combination of paved and gravel roads if it gets rainy). It's on top of a very big mesa (McKenzie Mesa, even though the project is inexplicably called the Sherbino Mesa Wind Farm). We're not very far from Squawteat Peak (no images on Google so you get a topo map), which was the location of a big TxDOT dig back in the 70s.
We recorded 2 sites during an abbreviated work day today. One of them had 2 projectile points, which is one more than we found the whole time in El Paso. We'll see if that ends up being the archaeological highlight of this trip.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Look, a December update!

I've slacked somewhat. It's not that interesting things haven't been going on, although I guess a big trip to Ikea and the outlet mall isn't really all that interesting. I will say the Converse outlet in Round Rock is pretty wack compared to the good ol' days of the Converse outlet on 183, but some of that is due to the higher price point since Nike took over.
I've been alternating between digging in Kimble County (in the beautiful Texas Hill Country) and working at offices in Austin (on the edge of the beautiful Texas Hill Country). The dig is pretty cool, as the dirt is easy to dig and screen and there's lots of goodies I'd The only drawback was that it was really cold last week, and I broke my glasses last Monday and had to hold them together with electric tape and had headaches the rest of the week. While in Junction we've been staying in cabins on the river, with no cell phone coverage, internet or television (although we do have a TV with a VCR and DVD player). It's pretty fun, much different from staying in the hotels.
On Wednesday, I'll be heading back out to West Texas, for a wind farm survey near Fort Stockton. It'll be an 8-day job of 10-hour days, which means 4 day weekends. It also means I miss the office Christmas party which is going to include a casino night! We'll be working on a big old mesa that's pretty much in the middle of nowhere. There's a good possibility of caves and rockshelters. Some previously recorded sites in the area had remnants of mats and sandals in them, which could be really cool. However, I'm not getting my hopes up too much, as I suspect that there's been a lot of collecting around there over the years.
So that's that. After I get back, it's basically Christmas, which means going to the Woodlands for the weekend and then coming home on Sunday night to wait for Santa. Hmm, maybe I should ask for an intact dry cave site as an early gift!