Where in the hell am I?

February 7, 2009

An archaeologist’s dream, a client’s nightmare

I haven’t updated the blog this week because we’ve been really busy. A part of the crude oil pipeline we’ve been surveying for months crosses through an area in East Texas that contains segments of the Camino Real. This was a Spanish colonial road that ran from somewhere around Monterey, Mexico to Los Adaes, Louisiana. It has been designated as a National Trail, which makes it a part of the National Parks system, and it’s also listed on the National Register of Historic Properties.

As a part of our survey, some of our archaeologists identified a 10-mile stretch where known (such as SH-21) and supposed sections of the road are located. This was accomplished using historic maps and accounts. For this 10-mile stretch, even in areas that have already been surveyed, we’re excavating shovel tests every 30 meters, and checking carefully for any road traces or large old trees. Ironically, much of this area is presently used as timber farms, so that most of the trees are youngish pines planted in linear rows, with logging roads interspersed. If a positive shovel test is excavated, or if something else screams “historic road trace”, then we chase it out, shovel testing at 10-meter intervals. We can stray from the proposed pipeline corridor as long as we stay on the approved tracts (this is to assist with re-routing the line around sites).

We’ve spent most of the week on a large timber farm near the Angelina River, in Nacogdoches County. A portion of the Camino Real known as the Middle Road is said to run through this tract. Furthermore, a Spanish mission and presidio were somewhere in the area. Missions were generally placed near large native populations. So this was one of the highest probability areas of the entire 500+ mile Oklahoma and Texas stretch.

Thus far we have encountered the following:

– A mid-19th to mid-20th century historic residential site with a small prehistoric component and one possible Spanish ceramic sherd. As it turns out, this is a previously recorded site that includes the slave quarters of a plantation. The main house is on a property to which we have been denied access.

– An extensive prehistoric lithic scatter and campsite that includes the slave quarters area and covers a large ridgetop for 300+ meters.

– Running through this prehistoric extension is a section of the Middle Road, in the form of deeply eroded ruts that cross a minor drainage at a rock outcrop.

– A second mixed component site, with a historic component likely related to the plantation house (it’s right at the property line) and a prehistoric lithic component.

– A mid-20th century historic debris scatter that has been extensively disturbed by the timber farm.

– And, finally, a large Caddo site across a huge ridgetop overlooking the Angelina River. It was initially identified by ceramic sherds and lithic flakes in the existing pipeline corridor. Since then, it’s been extended by positive shovel tests across a couple hundred meters to the south and west. More interestingly, we’ve located it eastward as far as a road, and our PI believes that the area across the road might include the location of the presidio. We’ve recovered a couple of hundred ceramic sherds with a variety of decorative techniques, petrified wood and chert flakes, a Harvey/Mineola biface, and a chert arrow point (in a possible feature). About the only thing we haven’t recovered are European trade goods that would confirm that the site is related to the Spanish occupation.

As the title says, for us it’s a dream, getting to chase two huge, very cool sites. On the other hand, our client faces a major reroute of the line, which will probably require additional survey. I suppose the two (or maybe three) pipelines that cross these sites were built back before Section 106 and the National Historic Preservation Act. As much as we may gripe about the sometimes extreme safety requirements of the client, they’re definitely taking their cultural resources obligations very seriously.

I hope to get some photos up soon!

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7 Comments »

  1. […] Where in the Hell am I? brings us back to the stones and bones of contract archaeology in Texas, where a pipeline survey […]

    Pingback by Four! Stone! Hearth! 60! « Middle Savagery — February 10, 2009 @ 11:39 pm

  2. […] at the edge (and hitting positives), we save some time. Unlike the survey from hell, we can’t chase sites outside of the project boundaries for this project (which is really like a survey from a slightly higher level of hell). We even […]

    Pingback by More log walk « Where in the hell am I? — January 27, 2010 @ 10:05 pm

  3. […] from Hell, Jr. There’s likely to be more log walks, snakes, general safety nonsense, and maybe a cool site or two! I’ll talk more cogently (and by cogent, I really mean sober) about this tomorrow. Or, maybe […]

    Pingback by It begins again « Where in the hell am I? — April 19, 2010 @ 12:00 am

  4. […] depressing, even when I was blogging pretty regularly. I have less than 15,000 total views. My most popular post, which  detailed some of the section 106 process and talked about how sites are both a dream and a […]

    Pingback by Blogging Archaeology 2014 Carnival: Good, Bad, Ugly | Where in the hell am I? — December 4, 2013 @ 1:46 pm

  5. […] depressing, even when I was blogging pretty regularly. I have less than 15,000 total views. My most popular post, which  detailed some of the section 106 process and talked about how sites are both a dream and a […]

    Pingback by Blogging Archaeology #BlogArch – All of the Responses to the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly | Doug's Archaeology — January 5, 2014 @ 12:48 pm

  6. […] response to December’s question is a good example- “My most popular post, which  detailed some of the section 106 process and talked about how sites are both a dream and a […]

    Pingback by Blogging Archaeology | Doug's Archaeology — January 5, 2014 @ 12:51 pm

  7. […] depressing, even when I was blogging pretty regularly. I have less than 15,000 total views. My most popular post, which  detailed some of the section 106 process and talked about how sites are both a dream and a […]

    Pingback by Blogging Archaeology #blogarch Carnival 2014: Best and Worst | Where in the hell am I? — January 28, 2014 @ 11:09 am


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