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What to Expect at a Texas Archeology Academy

Harry Shafer with screen Laying out the unit Sorting Finds

Classroom presentations and exercises

Participants learn how to measure and establish excavation units.

During the class students learn how items recovered are handled in the lab.

Texas Archeology Academy provides learning opportunities in archeology for those interested in more in-depth information on archeological goals and procedures.

Find information about earlier Academies here.

Read site reports from past Academies. (PDF files; download Adobe Acrobat for free)

Open to All

All Academy sessions are open to anyone interested in archeology and do not require prior experience.

The workshops are intended for inexperienced and experienced avocational and professional archeologists, undergraduate and graduate students, and educators. TAS is a provider of professional development and accredited through SBEC.

Texas Archeology Academy Overview
Presented by Dr. Harry J. Shafer

Rock Art Academy participants descend toward the Pecos River. Rock Art Academy participants get close-up view of rock art. Ceramics Academy participants show off their creations.

Rock Art Academy participants descend toward the Pecos River.

Rock Art Academy participants get close-up view of rock art.

Ceramics Academy participants show off their creations.

Since they were introduced in 2003, more than one thousand people have enrolled in the Texas Archeological Society's Texas Archeology Academies.  The TAS offers these enlightening and informative programs each spring in different parts of the state.

The Academy began in 2003 with Archeology 101.  In 2004 a class on Ceramics was added and Lithics followed the next year.  In 2006 the first Rock Art Academy was held.  Archeology 101 has been held in Houston, San Antonio, Fort Worth, San Angelo, El Paso, Corpus Christi, and Tyler. Ceramics academies have been hosted by Dallas, Huntsville, San Antonio, Bastrop, Midland and Nacogdoches.  The Rock Art sessions have been near Comstock.

A goal of Texas Archeology Academy is to show participants what archeologists do, why they do it, and how archeology is done.  Archeology 101 teaches participants basic archeological procedures.  The base source of information for archeology is the material remains of past cultures.  To go beyond Academy 101, we have selected three material classes, Ceramics, Lithics, and Rock Art for separate academies.  Each shows how material remains are studied and how they can reveal much about a culture and its people.

Archeology 101: Recognizing and Documenting Archeological Sites

Archeology 101 students head out to do some site recording. Explaining what information should document provenience on an artifact field sack. Sorting buttons into meaningful groups.

Archeology 101 students head out to do some site recording.

Explaining what information should document provenience on an artifact field sack.

Sorting buttons into meaningful groups.

The full scope of an archeological project is presented over a three-day period.  Participants are provided with the tools necessary to identify, properly record, and assess an archeological site through five PowerPoint presentations.  Hands-on exercises and demonstrations accompany the oral presentations.  The first step in managing archeological resources on private land is to know that the site is there, and learning something about that site.  A better understanding of the past and better management of our archeological resources comes from knowing the locations of sites across the landscape and through time.  One site, however, never tells the whole story.  It is the cumulative knowledge of the location of archeological sites in time and space that allow archeologists and planners to piece together the larger puzzle.  Therefore the site data must be reported.

Course instruction includes basic knowledge needed to identify archeological sites in various regions across the state, how to properly survey a site and record the information needed to complete a standard Tex Site survey form, how to perform a test excavation if necessary, including establishing methods of control (horizontal and vertical), sampling, preserving provenience of artifacts recovered, collecting samples, laboratory processing and cataloguing specimens, analysis, interpretation, and reporting.  Each topic is covered in specific sections.

Archeology 101 includes a half-day in the field with an archeologist.  The steps in recording and testing a site that are discussed in the presentations are demonstrated then executed by the participants on an archeological site.  The archeologist takes the data collected that day and prepares a report that is given to each participant.  (Site Reports)

View the Archeology 101 curriculum here.

Ceramics: The Stories Found in Pottery

Pottery under construction. Chuck Hixson prepares to fire pottery for Ceramics Academy students. Ann Matthews and cohorts sorting sherds at Bastrop Ceramics Academy.

Pottery under construction.

Chuck Hixson prepares to fire pottery for Ceramics Academy students.

Ann Matthews and cohorts sorting sherds at Bastrop Ceramics Academy.

The purpose of the Ceramics Academy is to provide a comprehensive background and understanding of prehistoric and historic ceramics from archeological sites.  Ceramics constitutes one of the largest and most informative material classes recovered archeologically.  Two days are devoted to exploring the kinds of information that ceramics reveal.  A comprehensive study of ceramics incorporates many approaches, as indicated by the topics addressed in this workshop.  These topics include the properties, of clay, definition and origins of pottery, how pottery was made (pinch pots, coil and scrape, paddle and anvil, use of a wheel, and molds); how and why pottery was embellished, how pottery can be sorted, classified, and analyzed, and for what purpose.  Also, what we can learn from pottery in terms of chronology, dating, technology, trade and exchange, subsistence, social and political identities are discussed.

Much of a culture is reflected and mapped in their ceramics.  The roles ceramics serve are many and often complex, and are quite different when used among hunters and gatherers (coastal and central Texas groups), formative cultures (Caddo and Pueblo groups), and more complex cultures such as the Maya and historic.  Ceramics occur in all areas of the state, and their origins are many.  A side bar to the study of ceramics includes an overview of the origins of Texas pottery.  Hands-on exercises and pottery making demonstrations are incorporated into the Ceramics Academy agenda.

View the Ceramics curriculum here.

Geoarcheology: Recognizing and Evaluating the Archeological Potential of the Landscape

Participants in the March 2010 Geoarcheology Academy aim for the bluffs on Owl Creek at Fort Hood. Participants learn how to "read the dirt" in the bluffs across Owl Creek at the March 2010 Geoarcheology Academy led by Charles Frederick and Karl Kibler.
Participants in the March 2010 Geoarcheology Academy aim for the bluffs on Owl Creek at Fort Hood.

- Photo Lynn Yakubik
Participants learn how to "read the dirt" in the bluffs across Owl Creek at the March 2010 Geoarcheology Academy led by Charles Frederick and Karl Kibler.

- Photo Lynn Yakubik

In the Geoarcheology Academy, developed by Charles Frederick and Karl Kibler, you should expect to trek over some rough terrain as you learn how landscape settings influence site context, visibility, and preservation.  Hands-on exercises in the field, as well as classroom instruction, will offer participants the opportunity to see what can be learned from the geography of Texas.  The Geoarcheology Academy is presented over a weekend, with lunches, snacks, and coffee provided during the course of the Academy.

View the Geoarcheology curriculum here.

Historical Archeology: In Pursuit of the Past

Joan Few, well known in the Lake Jackson area for her extensive experience investigating the historic sugar plantations of the lower Brazos River, developed the curriculum for the Historical Archeology Academy.  The presentation will define Historical Archeology and address the many historical sites found in Texas.  Field methods, artifact types and significance, analysis, and reporting of historical archeological sites will be part of the agenda. Field trips to local historical sites may also be part of the academy experience.  Participants will receive a CD manual “Historical Archaeology 101” written by Joan Few; lunches, snacks, and coffee will be provided during the course of the Academy.

View the Historical Archeology curriculum here.

Lithics: Reading Stone Artifacts

Lithics Academy students scrutinize some examples of chipped stone artifacts. Knapper Cary Voss shows Lithics Academy students how archeological record is created. Instructor Harry Shafer points out examples of tool making techniques.

Lithics Academy students scrutinize some examples of chipped stone artifacts.

Knapper Cary Voss shows Lithics Academy students how archeological record is created. Instructor Harry Shafer points out examples of tool making techniques.

The Lithics Academy provides each participant with the background and hands-on experience to recognize stone artifacts and how to interpret basic information.  The course includes a brief overview of stone tools, why stone artifacts are important, how they are produced and used, and how stone tools contribute to the archeological record.  The Academy begins with a review of rocks and how they were used.  Stone tools were fashioned by two basic processes: chipping and grinding.  Chipped stone tools are made of siliceous rocks (flint, chert, obsidian, etc.) which leave diagnostic attributes on the stones struck and resulting flakes.  The process of how siliceous stones behave under loaded stress (when hit with a hammer), kinds of stresses applied (hammers, punches, pressure) and how fractures are initiated are explained.  Hands-on examples show how to recognize these processes.  Different approaches can yield a functional chipped stone tool.  How the force is applied depends on how one was taught.  Ground stone artifacts are formed either by being shaped through use, or shaped to a desired form.  These processes also are described and presented.

Participants participate in exercises designed to record information about stone artifacts.  These exercises include sorting, classifying, measuring, and information recording as part of basic stone tool analysis.  Advanced analysis include understanding the process of making a stone tool from the cobble to finished product (linear reduction models), functional uses of stone tools (cutting, scraping, pounding, piercing), formation of use-wear, recognizing breakage patterns, and tracing use-life of stone tools (how form and size change).  The final part focuses on interpreting stone artifacts and patterns in the archeological record.  This is the section where stone artifacts are put into the hands of participants with attention-getting examples.  Discussion includes technological style and identifying different flintknapping traditions, recognizing trade and exchange, caches and what they may mean, the difference between expedient, formal, and prestige artifacts.  Also, stone tool use often differed among hunters and gatherers, formative, and complex societies due to resource availability and mobility.  Contrasting examples show some of these differences and how they may be understood.  This workshop also includes flint knapping demonstrations with an emphasis not so much on how points are made, but rather on understanding how the archeological record is formed.

View the Lithics curriculum here.

Rock Art

Instructor Carolyn Boyd points out details at the White Shaman Rockshelter.

Instructor Carolyn Boyd points out details at the White Shaman Rockshelter.

Instructor Carolyn Boyd shows how some paints were prepared.

Rock Art Academy participants get close-up view of rock art.

This Academy introduces Texas rock art within a world framework.  Presentations include rock art as part of cultural expression, rock art and territorial geography, and why recording rock art is important.  In 2006 and 2007 we experienced first hand the amazing rock art of the lower Pecos with Dr. Carolyn Boyd and Dr. Harry Shafer.  Participants attended lectures and traveled to rock art sites.  Our stay at the Shumla School enhanced our experience and gave us a better understanding of the environment in which native peoples produced the art work we viewed.

View the Rock Art curriculum here.

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