Where in the hell am I?

March 14, 2007

The hard part of my job

Filed under: archaeology, archeology, CRM, land issues, Texas — John @ 1:34 am

Archaeology is a fun job, a great profession. You get to hike in cool places, find cool things, get dirty, throw rocks. Yeah, there’s extreme temperatures and dangerous flora and fauna but those are tolerable and usually avoidable. Today, however, was hard for a sensitive soul like myself.
See, in Belize the sites we’re working on are protected. They’re in the middle of a huge ecological preserve, and digging them is theoretically the most destructive thing we do. CRM archaeology is known as salvage archaeology because you’re essentially salvaging the data from a site before it is destroyed. We work because roads and malls and subdivisions and pipelines and wind turbines are being built using public money and/or land. That can be hard.
Harder still is when you meet the people who might be losing some of their land to construction projects. Sometimes the land has been in the family for generations. Sometimes, it’s nice old people who have put a lot of time and love into making a nice home for themselves, maybe to pass on someday. One older couple today built their house 30 years ago, on a relatively small (by rural Texas standards) stretch of land that was a good 10-15 miles outside of San Antonio. They’ve maintained some nice old oak trees, and they’ve made a side business out of growing huge agave plants. The woman across the road has lived there for 25 years, and has a very well-landscaped, rock-walled oak thicket on the edge of her property. Both houses are on top of a ridge that has a road cut through it, so they’re isolated from the traffic.
In the past 20 years, though, San Antonio has expanded immensely, and their little rural homesteads are being rapidly surrounded by humongous cookie cutter subdivisions. Thousands more people, driving their SUVs to their job 20 miles away in downtown San Antonio, needing a wider road. So these older residents will lose some of their trees, and their setback, and their landscaping, and some of their privacy while gaining noise and traffic and pollution. Yes, they’ll be reimbursed for the land and landscaping and trees, but only the assigned value, not the real value to these people. I’m aware that this is going on all the time when I survey, but we very rarely get to meet and talk to the landowners.


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