Just a quick update today since I’m really tired and going to get some food soon. Even on a travel day, the heat just sucks all the energy out of me.
We’re back for another week, and feeling a time crunch. The back part of the park, which has several picnic tables and may have once been a camping area, is now finished with the metal detector survey. Only 700 hits to investigate! That’s a solid two days of work for the entire crew at a good pace, and it’s almost all likely modern trash.
We also detected the northwest corner of the park, near the “hot spot.” Much lower density of hits there, only 215 across a 60 x 100 m area. Might be able to get that in a day. Also, hoping to find some more battle related items there.
Today we had a volunteer “detectorist” come out to help us. He is a Texas Revolution buff, and really knew a ton about the artifacts. He also had a very fancy detector and a lot of experience on Revolution battlefields, all legitimate volunteer work through archaeological societies and state agencies. He had a lot of respect for archaeology and context, and made it a point to try and uncover things in situ. He resurveyed the “hot spot” and found at least a couple dozen more things that we missed, including a very cool copper or brass button from a uniform.
Tomorrow, we’ll be excavating the hits in Block 5, the other high probability area. I think we’ll have another volunteer helping out.
Sorry I couldn’t be more descriptive about the day!
May 31, 2011
Just a quick update today since I’m really tired and going to get some food soon. Even on a travel day, the heat just sucks all the energy out of me.
May 27, 2011
May 26, 2011
Lunchtime update: Finished the “hot spot” for now, decent recovery but definitely not as prolific as Wednesday. Right now, we’re sitting on the porch of one of the park buildings. It’s a really great spot for a picnic, if you’re ever in the Fannin area!
The PA is on the phone with the guy who rented the metal detectors to us. We’re feeling less confident about our “hits” today, and having problems replicating them. Hope it gets worked out, although we’re shifting back to the first area. At least there’s a little shade there!
10:10 am CDT:
Added the WordPress app to my iPhone, gonna try updating in the field today!
It rained last night, but our paint held. One might hope the ground would soften, but if anything it’s made the substrate even harder! And the weather is still hot and humid.
Thus far, the amazing results from yesterday have slackened. Still an occasional musket ball, and at least one more iron pot scrap, but many more modern and false hits. As for myself, I’ve found one small lead slug, 2 bolts (collected just in case, but probably 20th century), and roughly a dozen modern or false hits.
Right now we’re taking a break in the shade, having gone at it for 2.5 hours.
We’re definitely not finishing this week!
May 25, 2011
May 6, 2011
I’ve been tired all week. And pretty cranky most of the time. A lot of factors, including the heat and lack of sleep from early travel times. So I’m really looking forward to this weekend to rest and decompress, even though I have a big stack of archaeology reports and articles here beside me.
Most of my plans involve working on my yard and my garden, coping with the horrible drought here in central Texas. None of the seeds I planted took, and the tomato and pepper plants are hanging on, but certainly not thriving. My peach tree has a lot of peaches hanging on it, but with this dryness I doubt they’ll really grow big enough to eat. It’s a lot of work, being an environmentally conscious homeowner, that’s for sure!
And now, a couple of slightly related (to each other, not to anything above) blog posts to check out sometime this weekend. Both cover topics I’ve been meaning to blog about, and both are by fellow CRM archs.
Lucy at The CRM Field Tech Newsletter (http://crmnews.org/), who came up and talked to me after the Blogging Archaeology panel (and may be one of the only people I actually gave a business card to) has some good advice for people considering entering the world of CRM. She also uses a photo of mine!
ProcessArch, at Process:Opinions on Doing Archaeology, answers one of the FAQs of archaeology: How do you know where to dig? He does a very good job summarizing what is really a long, drawn-out, multi-faceted response that usually makes the questioner tune out (or at least if you’re a chatterbox like me!).
Knowing Where to Dig
That’s it, have a great weekend!
May 3, 2011
I suppose some might consider that title to be in moderately bad taste…
Friday, our office got a call from one of our big wind farm clients who needed us to survey a couple of last-minute, very small changes. The draft report is almost done, and they’re getting ready to go to construction as soon as the report is accepted; they have some important deadlines to meet in order to retain some grants (or something along those lines). The total survey area was less than a half-mile.
Fortunately, this client is also very flexible concerning travel arrangements. So myself and the lead archaeologist on the project boarded a plane at 7:50 am for Oklahoma City. We arrived around 11 am and picked up a rental vehicle. Rather than try and check shovels, we stopped at a home improvement store and bought the cheapest shovels they had (less than $10 each). One final stop to buy some water and we were in the field by 12:30 or so. About two hours and six shovel tests later (plus some notes and photos), we were finished, and back to Oklahoma City to stay in a hotel near the airport. 10 hours, including travel.
By flying up, we actually saved the client a couple thousand dollars. I explained before about billable rates , in a post about budget shortsightedness on the part of clients. In this case, the cost of the airplane tickets was substantially cheaper than the cost for myself and the lead archaeologist to drive 14+ hours round-trip, plus conduct the fieldwork, plus the cost of the fuel. Note that the rental vehicle, hotel, and per diem costs would have been the same either way. At the same time, they also recognized that trying to fly here and back on the same day would have been too demanding, and allowed for no flexibility in the field in case of a significant discovery.
On a side note: I’m working on a blog post commenting on the recent Careers in Archaeology issue of the SAA Record. At the moment, however, I’m too tired to give it the proper thought and attention. I’m not good after waking up at 5:30 am!
Second side note: I update my Twitter feed much more regularly than this blog. It’s archaeology about half the time, and random softball/music/politics/retweets the other half. I try and retweet interesting US archaeological stories from the media, particularly when they’re CRM-related. So click here for my Twitter link, if you’re so inclined!
April 27, 2011
Last time, I talked a bit about some of my challenges with making a public impression as a (for want of a better word) “punk” archaeologist, especially in a state like Texas steeped in cowboy mythology (I remember a Disney version of Pecos Bill as a kid) and culture.
Essentially, while my fashion choices in the field (which actually usually cover my tattoos, especially my Texas ones) are motivated by practical considerations, such as comfort and safety, I also have chosen to some extent to restrict my self-expression. My encounters with the public in rural and even mid-size urban Texas, particularly the ranchers, necessitate this. First, many of these encounters are potentially hostile, such as when a landowner isn’t aware that we’re on their land or is mad at the project. I really don’t want to give them a reason to be more agitated, and I would prefer that they see me as someone they can relate to. Tangentially, I often wear a safety vest on survey just to make it clear that I’m not trying to hide or be sneaky. Second, I am representing my company and our client, serving as a “public face” by default, and looking at least somewhat professional is an important part of that. Third, I want to be respected, to be acknowledged as a professional scientist doing scientific work. Of course, most people have an image as scientists as a little bit “different”, so that does allow for a little leeway.
The first and third are especially important to me, because I feel like my size and my personality are often detrimental in my interactions with the public, particularly in Texas. I’m actually completely average physically, 5’9″ and on the light side of average build, graying brown hair, no obvious physical defects. I’m also a bit of a people-pleaser, non-aggressive, some might say sensitive. None of these are bad things, of course! Still, I can see the difference in the way that many landowners, some contractors, and even some client representatives treat me (especially in person) from how they treat some of my bigger, taller co-workers. Honestly, it’s demeaning and humiliating to interact with someone in a professional capacity who decides to ignore you, or push you around, only to watch them change faces and be completely conciliatory to a co-worker with the same job title and responsibilities. It’s even worse when your future promotion depends on your ability to deal with clients, contractors, and crews.
I don’t know if there was much of a point to this, except to find a way to vent my frustration at feeling diminished, despite my attempts to mitigate prejudicial appearances. I’ve certainly compromised along the way to advance my professional career as an archaeologist, but I like who I am as a person, and I have leadership qualities and strengths which are just as valuable. And I’m certainly not going to get any taller.
April 21, 2011
I just got a new Texas tattoo with my friend Dave. I tweeted about it, saying “getting another Texas tattoo today. hoping that this will make ranchers a little more comforable with me!”. This led to a back-and-forth with @processarch (link to his blog) about cowboy hats and boots, and I decided I would blog about projecting an image with field wear. Several days later, here it is.
My company has some basic dress requirements for the field, although there is some wiggle room: sleeved shirt, long pants, socks, and boots above the ankle. There are many suggestions of how to put this together, largely related to safety issues such as bugs, heat stroke, and poison ivy. Furthermore, some clients or projects will have more specific requirements, such as safety vests, steel-toed boots, or having (or not having) a visible company logo. But still, there’s a lot of freedom.
Working in Texas, you have the interesting situation of being in a state that combines the Wild West (and subsequent Western ruggedness) with the Deep South. Cowboy culture is strong here, even in parts of the state that didn’t have true cowboys. The stereotypical image of Texans are cowboy hats, cowboy boots, and a big belt buckle. I must admit that when I moved here in 1993 from “up North” I expected to see spurs.
Many landowners I’ve encountered during my years fit the stereotype to a certain extent. Cowboy boots are certainly ubiquitous, cowboy hats a little less so, and most are wearing Wranglers and a snap-button denim work shirt. Once, in East Texas, we had a ranch manager who was in full denim, cowboy boots, hat, big belt buckle, spurs, AND wearing a gunbelt with a pistol (note: the spurs were an accessory, he rode around in an ATV).
I, on the other hand, have never really been one for conforming or the mainstream, and fully embraced that when I found hardcore punk when I was almost 16. I’ve had at least one earring since I was 16, around the same time I first started spiking my hair (although it’s not that way right now). I got my first tattoo at 21, a week after I moved to Austin. I don’t dress overtly punk, but odds are good on any given day that I’m wearing a band t-shirt, Levis 501s, and checkered Vans (these old feet can’t handle Chuck Taylors as well). Of course, I also have a Lone Star belt buckle and also feature pearl-snap cowboy shirts as part of my wardrobe. Basically, I look an awful lot like I’m from Austin.
In the field, my look is different for reasons of comfort. I almost always wear rip-stop camouflage Army pants, and my t-shirts are all black or grey wicking material. I’m usually wearing a lightweight, long-sleeved fishing shirt (also wicking) as well, because of my sensitivity to poison ivy or being in heavy vegetation. I’m not trying to make any fashion statements, with the occasional exception of a skull bandana (and some people assume that’s because archaeologists are into bones). I wear a “gimme” farming-related baseball hat that belonged to my late Grampy, currently held together with duct tape.
I will not, however, wear a cowboy hat. There are several reasons, including that it would be inconvenient on survey through wooded areas, and that (I must confess) I just don’t look very good in a cowboy hat. But the main reason is that I feel like it would be perceived as trying too hard to fit in, when it’s obvious that it doesn’t suit me. There’s a saying that someone is “All hat and no cattle” (frequently used in reference to Dubya), meaning literally that the person is trying to be a cowboy but doesn’t actually have a herd, but more that someone is putting on airs, all talk, or a “poser.” Unless you can sing and play a guitar, ranchers and cowboys aren’t too fond of posers. One way they differ from punks, I suppose.
This is getting into tl; dr territory, so part 2 will talk some more about my experiences trying to make a public impression in the field, as well as archaeologists in general and public impressions.
April 14, 2011
I’m probably jinxing myself by posting this on Thursday, with a half-day of survey left here in the Junction area before heading back to Austin for a very busy weekend. But there just really hasn’t been a whole lot to blog about work-wise.
The weather has been beautiful: sunny and not too hot, although today did get up near 90. We’re covering a lot of ground and doing thorough work, even with stream-lined crews. Despite working in some really promising areas, there have been no significant sites or notable finds.
There were the usual highlights: seeing lots of goats (and almost getting to pet one), getting to walk across one of the most scenic parts of Texas, working on my tan and my upper body strength, the occasional sweet biface or projectile point fragment. Eating a chicken fried steak at Isaack Restaurant would have been more of a highlight if it were a little better, and if they actually sold Lone Star.
Also, the usual lowlights: angry landowner, poky Ashe juniper trees, long drives in circles, missing another softball game.
The only really special things I can say about this week are that I got to: work in a new county (Schleicher, and disregard the part about the first inhabitants in that link!), ride on a new portion of IH-10 (the 10 or so miles between the first Kerrville exit and where US 290 joins IH-10), see some expensive trophy bucks and a couple of exotic deer/antelope species while driving through some ranch.
always often exciting, but it pays the bills!
April 10, 2011
The annual Society for American Archaeology meetings took place this year in Sacramento, California. Colleen Morgan asked me to be a presenter on her symposium “Blogging Archaeology“, and I happily accepted. I had not presented at a conference since my senior year of undergrad (the 1993 National Conference on Undergraduate Research), so I was nervous and excited. I had attended one previous SAA meeting, in Austin, but my time there was spent mainly networking (aka drinking beer with friends and colleagues) and seeing papers by friends and co-workers.
Actually, my experience this year outside of my own symposium wasn’t all that different, in that I only saw a few papers and posters and spent a lot of time catching up with friends and meeting new people. Speaking of, I did a horrible job handing out and collecting business cards, and Saturday night I was well into my cups, so I would be happy if all those wonderful people I met and talked to would drop me a line at (idigholes at gmail dot com) or my work address on my card!!
The few papers I did see were mostly about public archaeology, since that’s where my interests are skewing. But first, I saw a couple of papers on Maya Water and Land Management, which brought about thesis flashbacks. It was nice to see one of my graduate school colleagues continuing with her research in her new role as a university professor (hell, it’s just nice to see that one of my grad school colleagues was actually able to get a full-time academic job!).
The first two public archaeology papers were part of the general session titled “Archaeological Education and Public Outreach in the Americas”. The first paper, by Rebecca Schwendler, was “Using Backyard Archaeology to Foster Cultural Resource Presevation”. This was about her excavation of a historic privy in her backyard in Lafayette, Colorado, and the outreach she conducted as a part of this personal project. Interestingly, although she wrote a series of blog posts about replacing her windows on the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s webpage, there was no mention of blogging or any sort of internet-related outreach as part of the backyard project.
This was to be a theme for the public outreach papers I saw. Kristin Swanton’s “Public Archaeology and Landowner Support at the Battle of Mystic Fort” was interesting in breaking down the most effective forms of landowner communication while attempting to conduct an academic/public archaeology project. This is partly because I always figured that landowner issues were restricted to the road and utility projects that CRM firms are involved with. Again, no mention of using social media or blogging as a part of the outreach.
I managed to drag myself out of bed Saturday morning (after an afternoon and night of carousing with a bunch of the Berkeley grad students, among others) with a goal of catching Randy McGuire’s presentation on “Working Class Archaeology” and then eating a giant pancake (aka The Hubcap) at Jim Denny’s. McGuire’s paper was thought-provoking, for sure, particularly in the definition of class as not just pertaining to income level. His discussion of outreach involving the United Mine Workers during his work on the Ludlow Massacre site during the Colorado Coal Field wars was very cool, and also contained some real food for thought. Again, however, no mention of the Internet whatsoever, even though there is a webpage for the project (another “virtual museum”) and a paper/presentation posted online as well. I also saw Jay Stottman’s “A Slow and Moving Target: The Reality of a Practice of an Activist Archaeology” but honestly I was still waking up and don’t remember much of it. I wish I had been able to see this full session…and have no one to blame but myself.
As for the Blogging Archaeology panel, other people, including Colleen Morgan, Michael Smith, and Kris Hirst (our amazing discussant) have done a better job of summarizing than I could, so I will happily link to them and defer. I did also have my very brief wrap-up here, with a link to my paper. I also encourage you to check out Shawn Graham’s paper here (which you can read or watch). I will say that I was inspired by the different perspectives, the post-session comments and the later beer discussions, the live-blogging via Twitter, and all the nice personal backpats I got from people. I was very pleased that people laughed at my laugh-lines, and I feel like I held my own with an impressive array of presenters. Also, having seen what the Campus Archaeology Program at Michigan State University and the Florida Public Archaeology Program (particularly the Northeast and Southeast regions) are doing, I’m more determined than ever to drag CRM (and hopefully, my firm) into the 21st century.