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.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

A first for me

Today, after multiple false starts trying to get a backhoe out to our survey area (much of which was badly rutted and partly underwater), we finally used a roundabout way to get to a nice upland ridge overlooking a creek. Theoretically, this area had already been surveyed and would not have such deep deposits that a backhoe was required (basically, a shovel test can only get you about a meter below the surface). But, it was a nice spot and it was actually dry, unlike the floodplains. SO I have our driver pop in a backhoe trench. It has about 60-70 centimeters of a nice brown sandy loam, and then a very strong yellowish-red clay layer (which would be very old and predating the presence of humans in Texas or the Americas). I'm out there partly to show a bunch of newbies and rusties how we examine and record a backhoe trench. So I start cleaning an area of the trench wall with a shovel, showing the actual clean profile. I go over the different strats and call out depths and such.
Then I start cleaning the whole trench wall. You're pretty much supposed to do this anyway, but depending on time considerations and probabilities and such, I don't always do this. Nothing was obvious in the backdirt and there was nothing in the small area I had cleared. Plus, it had already been surveyed.
As I'm going along, having cleared maybe another foot of wall, I see a cool ferrous concretion in the wall and try to knock it out. When I bend over to try and find it, I notice a piece of what looks like chert sitting on top of the dirt I had just cleared off the wall. "Interesting," I thought and take a look at what I figured was a small gravel. I realize it's an artifact of some kind, look at it again, and "Holy shit, I just found a point!" It's an ugly little Gary point, but it counts. I've never found a point in a backhoe trench (or a shovel test) that was not on a known site. Plus, I had eight people watching when it happened.
We end up doing another trench and a series of shovel tests, mostly just trying to find the site boundaries. We also did a column sample (a small test unit) on the original trench and screened the trench backdirt. All in all, we found 6 more flakes in the original trench, had 3 positive shovel tests that found 4 more flakes, 3 pieces of prehistoric pottery, and a possible point base. I also found 3 more pieces of pottery in a gopher mound, including an incised sherd and a very nice rim sherd. It ended up being a decent site, and we've recommended avoidance due to potentially significant, intact deposits.
So yesterday I talk about the high possiblity area, and sure enough, it produced! It took some looking, but it was there alright. It made up for the freezing mist we had to work in all day.
Tomorrow we head to the South Sulphur River for more backhoe trenching. We're also going to do some more shovel testing on a very large Caddo site that was found earlier this year. It's a lot of hard work, but it's really exciting! I'll try and post some pictures tomorrow.

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Blogger Mr. Krotpong said...

Dude, that's awesome!

9:19 PM  

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