A very special Day of Archaeology

Once again, by pure accident, I’m not actually working on the Day of Archaeology. There’s a very good reason for this, but first, let me talk about what I do when I am working.

This is me. I would say the Texas heat made me goofy, but in truth I’ve been goofy all my life.

The Texas heat can make you goofy

For the past 3 years, I was an archaeologist with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department State Parks Archaeology Survey Team (it’s government, lots of wordy names and acronyms). But in April 2016, I took over as the (sole) Archaeologist for the TPWD Wildlife Division. I’m responsible, in theory, for over 800,000 acres of Wildlife Management Areas.

My job is to handle the cultural resources compliance, under the Texas Antiquities Code and Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act (since a majority of our funding is Federal grants and tax revenue). Basically, before a new building or utility is built, a new field (emphasis on new) cleared and disked for habitat restoration, a fenceline bulldozed for replacement, I have to make sure that no SIGNIFICANT cultural resources are impacted.

So I do background reviews on soils and geology and other sites in the area. I do intensive pedestrian survey, where I walk the area of potential effects and dig holes to search for, and evaluate, subsurface archaeological deposits. When I find something, I have to decide whether the site has the potential to yield significant information about prehistory or history, also known as Criterion D. I make recommendations about the project and impacts on archaeology, which can include avoiding impacts to a significant site (and since TPWD is a conservation agency, we take the avoidance recommendation very seriously, it’s in our Mission Statement) And then, I write a report for the State Historic Preservation Officer (SHPO) and our federal review agency to read, and decide if they concur with my recommendations. The Federal agency also conducts Tribal Consultation with Native American tribal governments and their Tribal Historic Preservation Office (aka THPOs) to allow them the opportunity to comment on the project and the impacts, as there may be significant elements that are missed by a traditional archaeological survey.

It’s a good job, and very busy. Sometimes it can be pretty: Wildflower meadow

More often, though, it’s pretty rough (after all, I’m mainly looking in areas that are kept wild):

Lovely east Texas thicket

But wait, John, what’s so special about this?

Ah, right, why am I off work today, on this Very Special Day of Archaeology?

Because I’m getting married!!! (This is what is called “burying the lede”)(Also, this picture is a fake wedding at last year’s Great American Beer Fest)

Practice wedding with Saint Arnold

This lovely lady is understanding of me having to be gone for a week or more every month, coming home sweaty and stinky and covered in bug bites, with aching muscles and joints. She takes care of the house and the cats while I’m gone. She comforted and supported me as I struggled with stress and depression during some rough times at my previous position. Being a field archaeologist can be very difficult, and honestly I often feel guilty about asking someone to put up with it, but she understands. I’ve been very lucky with work and with life.