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.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

The day in review

I saw a water moccasin. It's 50 freaking degrees out and there was a water moccasin all stretched out along a small creek. Mary Jo saw it when it moved it's head and opened it's mouth. We found another way across.
A Caddoan ceramic sherd (my first). Exposed in a tire track along an overhead power line corridor. Unfortunately, we weren't really prepared to dig holes, we were just checking out access points and the project area. So we brought it home and I cleaned it up for pictures and identification, and tomorrow we'll take it back and check out the area more thoroughly. I don't know what type it is, just that it's grog-tempered plain ware with blackening on the inside
I'm pretty sick. I alternate between chills and sweats, and have a pretty nasty cough. Makes it hard to get comfortable. Tomorrow should be interesting, as we'll be working a long day, walking 2-4 miles and digging shovel tests. It might rain, too. Hope we find some cool stuff in our 30-foot wide corridor. And it sure is nice to be doing archaeology again!
Where in the hell am I? A Quality Inn in Marshall, Texas.
PS: I started a second blog to review restaurants from a field tech perspective. Here's the link:

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Monday, January 28, 2008


I am battered and bruised all over from digging in the cave. Those rock walls are hard and craggy, and even the slightest bump seemed to leave at least a little red mark on me. Plus, today I was using a demolition hammer (which is like a small jackhammer). Unfortunately, if you don't hold it at the right angle, or if it hits a really solid piece of rock, the chisel bit slips. The end result was usually me bashing my arm or elbow into one of the many hard (and sometimes pointy) walls. After smashing out a whole lot of limestone, it turns out that the cave doesn't really extend as far back as we thought. Oh well.
I never did get around to bringing my camera out, so the cellphone picture will have to be it. Wednesday, I get to go do some actual archaeology!!!! Of course, it's in Longview, but it's still archaeological work and will involve some per diem, which is excellent because I am pretty damned broke right now. I'm not sure if we'lll be back on Thursday or Friday. I'm hoping for Friday, since that means extra money (and a day between 5-hour drives!)
Don't know if anyone has read this already, but THIS is where my office is located. The church converted one whole office building into their sanctuary, and has offices in the other. Frankly, it's a little embarrassing that our environmental services company, who won the Austin Kill-A-Watt Challenge for energy reduction last summer (in the business category), is even tangentially attached to this. We, of course, have nothing to do with it and no control over it whatsoever, but it's still a bit maddening. But that's megachurches for ya...
(disclaimer: I speak only for myself, these are only my opinions and not those of my employer, nor should they be viewed as representing in any way the views of my employer).

Friday, January 25, 2008

Finding caves, or making them?

Tini in a hole
Originally uploaded by texasrobo
That's Tini digging in a karst feature out off RM 620 in Round Rock. A bunch of dirt and rocks were cleared out to expose the opening, roughly 8 feet below ground surface. We're now a good 9 feet down, and digging off to the sides well beyond the narrow opening. I had to use my camera phone, because the weather has been pretty misty and I didn't want to bring my real camera out. Next week, nice weather and better pictures, and maybe we'll find the cave that's hidden under here!!

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Hurts so good

Thank you, John Cougar Mellencamp.
Despite the gray, misty weather, I have actually been working outside the last 2 days and it makes me very happy. It's not archaeology, but it's still digging and my back and shoulders hurt in a way they haven't hurt in months. I'm helping dig out karst features to see if they might be caves. If they're caves, then we'll try and see if there are endangered insects in them. If there are, well, I guess Williamson County will have to do some form of mitigation if they want the road widened.
Tina and I were partners today, trying to make headway in a pretty deep feature. I'd say we're about 8 feet below ground, making our way down on big slabs of limestone bedrock. The opening to the actual work space was so narrow that you had to have your body sideways while bending down. Then, you had just about enough room under those rocks to lie on your side or lean forward on your knees (like some kind of yoga move). So the clearing of dirt was pretty slow. Near the end of the day, however, Tini realized that one of the huge rocks forming the narrow crevice was loose. I had assumed it was part of the bedrock. So she wiggled it around and got it loose enough to try and get it out. But it was too unwieldy. So we went after it with a small sledgehammer/mallet and a small rockbar, and smacked 3 huge chunks off the main boulder. What was left was still at least a foot wide and a foot thick, and weighed at least 100 pounds. We hauled it up using a rope and all the strength we had left.
Tomorrow, I get to go back and keep working in there, with a lot more room to maneuver. I'll also be taking my camera.
Oh yeah, I also smashed my finger yesterday and peeled off a big chunk of skin. It's really gross looking!

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Friday, January 18, 2008

What a week

Very busy being a document manager (read: file clerk) at TxDOT. Lots of paper cuts and dry hands (from all the manila folders). Also good exercise as I was carrying 10 pounds of files to my desk, and then to the rolling file shelves at least 30 times a day. Not fun at all, though.
Today is just a rotten day. Grey, cold, windy. Perfect day for the bus home to be 15 minutes late!! And it was crowded, and there was a fat, smelly "special needs" person who kept staring at me and pointing at the Misfits patch on my bag. I need to blog about riding the #16 one of these days.
Then there was finding out that most, if not all, of my company's projects that were in a holding pattern at TxDOT won't be funded for at least 2 years. There goes most of what I was going to be working on for, oh, the next year or so. Or at least the interesting stuff (artifact analysis, writing).
I wish I had good things to say about archaeology right now. It just hasn't been fun for the last month or so.
Things I'm looking forward to:
The Packers game on Sunday.
Long weekend.
Going out to dig caves next week.
Being done with my thesis.
Tina bringing beer home from work.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Enchanted Rock

I'll talk about the trip tomorrow, but for now there's pictures on Flickr you can check out!

Monday, January 07, 2008


I woke up at 4:30 this morning (went to sleep around 11:30). Finally gave up trying and spent some time working on my thesis. Probably not the best time of day to be doing it, but I figured it's an hour or two I wasn't counting on having so why not?
Work is boring. Looks like we might get busy once it starts to get really hot. Of course. At least the jobs might be interesting.
More next time about Saturday's big excursion to Enchanted Rock and Kerrville. Just letting you know I'm still alive, if soaked in ennui.