Where in the hell am I?

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

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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.

Monday, February 26, 2007

In Austin, for 12 hours

So Tina and I just got back from a nice vacation in the Bay Area. We did a lot of walking, a lot of eating, and a lot of drinking. Went to Alcatraz for the first time, and it was pretty cool. Also went to Muir Woods and Muir Beach for the first time (on a great weather day, even) and froze my feet in the water. I also enjoyed playing Guitar Hero, and I found almost 2 bucks in change on the ground over the course of 9 days. There were a ton of highlights and it's too much to recap. Suffice it to say that Colleen and the Rifleman were great hosts and a great time was had by all.
Unfortunately, we have to work to pay the bills, and work wants us in Buffalo Gap (technically, closer to the small town of Nolan) tomorrow for a wind turbine survey. So after getting home at 7pm this evening, we have to meet at the office at 7am tomorrow morning. The pluses are getting per diem to replenish our vacation drained bank accounts and saving a vacation day by working 4 ten-hour days this week. The minuses are leaving Kit-Kat again, having pretty much no time to readjust to Central time and a non-vacation schedule, and eating in restaurants for 4 more days. I miss healthy home-cooked meals, although Colleen made a killer blackberry cobbler as a surprise treat last night.
Maybe we'll get to see some of our Austin friends (who we dearly miss!) this weekend.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Of tektites and other rocks

Ok, I promised to talk (blog? I'm still kinda iffy about using "blog" as a verb) about tektites. In the course of our dig at Junction, we recovered a flake of black, glassy material. Our immediate reaction was "Holy shit, obsidian!" Obsidian is volcanic glass formed from superheated sand (or something like that). Naturally, it's most commonly found in the vicinity of volcanoes. In the US, this would be the Rocky Mountain states. So finding obsidian in Texas is a big deal because the nearest source is somewhere in New Mexico. When you have it, you can say "Aha, evidence of a long distance trading network!" which makes your basic CRM report a bit more sexy.
When our geomorphologist (I mentioned him before briefly, and I now realize that the previous paragraph was written in the manner in which he speaks) dropped by to check it out, he said, "Or, it could be a tektite." When we asked what that was, he said something to the effect of "It comes from when meteorites strike the earth, in this case the Chesepeake Bay area around 30,000 years ago." So naturally, we figured he was messing with us (he spent a lot of time in Britain and thus has an odd sense of humor) and kept digging. Then he said, "The way you can tell a tektite from obsidian is to use a blow torch. I happen to have a blow torch in my truck." As you can imagine, this got our attention. If you read the link, you can see that tektites have almost no water or gases in them, so blow torching them has no effect. Obsidian will foam due to the water and gases escaping. Unfortunately, this test destroys the obsidian, and so we didn't actually do a field test (it's a rather small flake and not easily replaceable).
Upon doing some research for this post, I learned about Bediasite, which is the tektite specific to Texas and resulted from a meteorite impact in the Chesapeake Bay area 30 MILLION years ago. So Charles wasn't messing with us at all. It's also interesting because there have been a number of unsourced obsidian artifacts discovered in Texas, which may actually be tektites. Now, if only we can convince the various curation centers to let us take a blowtorch to their obsidian!

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Thursday, February 01, 2007

Goodbye Junction

So tomorrow is the last day of the data recovery here in Junction. The last couple of weeks have been a challenge due to weird stratigraphy, strange weather, and tough dirt. There hasn't been the awesome finds that make the digs feel a little better, but we moved a hell of a lot of dirt.
Today was supposed to be warm and sunny, but it started out cool and wet. Then it rained pretty steady. Then it got sunny briefly and hot. Then it rained again and was really windy for like 15 minutes. Then it cleared up and was sunny and cool for the rest of the day.
On Tuesday we went for a hike after work, at South Llano River State Park.
The hike was nice, but we ended up underestimating how long the loop was, and by the time we finished it was dusk and the temperature was dropping and we were starving. Saw some cool birds, an armadillo, and a large cat track (mountain lion or bobcat). I realized that in my 13+ years of living in Texas, I've been to 3 State Parks: Garner, Lost Maples and now South Llano. Even worse is that the other two were in my first year of living here. I need to change that, maybe buy a parks pass or something.
Next time I post, I promise to talk about tektites.

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