Another Day of Archaeology, and another year in which I’m not doing anything “sexy.” Well, last year I was on vacation, sitting in a baby pool on my back porch drinking beer, which may be sexy depending on your perspective…
It’s often said that for every day in the field, there’s 5/7/X+>1 days of post-field reporting and analysis (and pre-field too, but I don’t recall that being part of the truism). Which means that you pay a big price for a little fun (again, depending on your perspective)(also, I make a lot of parenthetical comments, so be advised).
Site recording, evaluation, and reporting is the most critical things that CRM archaeologists do. We are being paid by a client to look for cultural resources prior to construction of a project. If we find a site, we have to document it and determine what the significance of the site is. We then report this information to the client to help with their construction plans, and to permitting agencies to decide whether our evaluation is valid in their eyes. The recommendation could be (among others, but most common) no further work, avoidance, or additional archaeological investigation, ie: “digging”.
We also submit a site record and map to the designated repository/agency, which in Texas is the Texas Archaeological Research Laboratory, or TARL. Theoretically, every site recorded in Texas should have a site form and map submitted to TARL, which can be accessed by other archaeologists as needed. They also maintain an online Atlas to help with planning work (click here to see a public version with certain Historic Sites). The Atlas has maps with locations of every recorded site, and links to the site data (when submitted).
The information on the site form includes project information, locational data, natural setting data, observed components (ie 19th century, Late Paleoindian, unknown prehistoric), artifacts and features present at the site and their locations within the site, a description of the site, an assessment of the significance of the site, and a recommendation on the need for further work and eligibility for the National Register of Historic Places (or in Texas as a State Archeological Landmark). This information should be thorough, to aid future archaeologists who may be working around that site.
So…all that background is to explain why I did nothing today but sit at my desk, writing out information in little blanks with a pencil (which will then be entered into a computerized database for submission, which shows that we’re not quite 21st century here yet), peering at notes and maps on a screen, and then finding my “prehistoric not eligible” site write-up template to change a few words here and there for the report.
I’ve been doing this on and off for the last month for this project, and many, many times over the last 4-5 years. It’s pretty boring, but it’s an important part of the archaeological process that is often given short shrift.
If you’ve made it this far, your reward is some links to far more interesting days in my life as an archaeologist!
Happy Day of Archaeology, y’all!