Where in the hell am I?

October 27, 2010

Mach men

Filed under: archaeology, archeology, Texas — Tags: , , , , , , — John @ 8:56 pm

I’m down in San Antonio, doing construction monitoring at the Olmos Dam. There once was a huge, amazing site here with deposits spanning not only all of Texas prehistory but most of Texas history as well. It’s at the northern edge of a National Register of Historic Places district, marked by multiple large prehistoric sites and springs. This link has some interesting information about the area, including the sites.

Exciting, right?

Not so far. Most of the work has been on the north side of Olmos Creek, where no site has been recorded. There’s about a 50-foot-wide terrace on this side of the creek before you hit the limestone uplands, which is now covered with concrete riprap to prevent erosion.

There are some cultural materials here, in the upper 30 cm (or 1 foot) of soil. They’re completely mixed, with flakes, possible historic glass and nails, and modern trash all jumbled together. Not only that, but the trackhoe has a huge bucket which scoops up to 3 feet of dirt at once. Plus, all of the backdirt is bring hauled offsite. In other words, the odds of me actually finding anything are almost nil.

Did I mention that the hole is 38 feet deep at maximum depth, a couple hundred feet long, and almost 50 feet wide? And I have to monitor all ground disturbing activities?

The only really interesting aspect is watching the trackhoe in action. The operator is a maestro, maneuvering the huge machine like it’s a precision race car. He can get the bucket right up against the retaining wall and knock off a bunch of dirt without scratching the concrete. I’ve seen him walk the machine using the arm and bucket, and I swear he’s done a couple of controlled slides. Because of the need to dig so deep, the hole is stepped (or, more accurately, ramped) and he’ll tip the machine in, so that the tracks are at almost a 45 degree angle. Then, he’ll be at an angle, 10-15 feet below surface, near the edge of a 20 foot drop, hauling out huge limestone boulders.

He also will see things in the backdirt, scoop them up with just the smallest amount of dirt, and drop it off at the side so I can look at it. This is a good thing, though, because between that huge machine, two huge dumptrucks, and a regular backhoe, I keep a pretty good distance from the action! There’s also the matter of the 30 foot hole in the ground…

The musical title reference comes from Down in the Park by Tubeway Army (aka Gary Numan).


1 Comment »

  1. super exciting!

    Comment by CES — December 9, 2010 @ 3:33 pm

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