Saturday, June 12, 2010

TAS Field School, Day 1

I am a little wiped and my feet hurt, and I almost certainly will be too tired to pick a garage sale idea tomorrow, but I thought I'd note down today's highlights.

Under Lynn Yakubik, of the Center for Archeological Research at the University of Texas at San Antonio, we spent the day screening the spoil pile that accumulated between the point that the Smiths, of the Old Alsatian Restaurant, started digging their barbeque pit and the point at which they realized they needed to stop and call in the archeologist. One of the crew chiefs and a volunteer did a preliminary profile of the pit while everybody else screened for "Field Sack #1." By the end of the day we were up to Field Sack 1-32 or thereabouts - somebody may have logged in a sack or two after the last one I saw. Because this was all disturbed dirt there was no point trying to track it too closely. We weren't going to get any information from the position of any object.

We did, however, find cool stuff. Numerous bottles, both ceramic and glass, in various states of shatter, some with the features that should make them identifiable with certain time periods or tasks - at least one bottle of blueing, lots of ginger beer and wine bottles, and "J. Hos...tomach" in clear glass. Lots and lots and lots of broken window glass from a known source, so much that we were told to not collect glass fragments smaller than a quarter or a 50-cent piece. (The majority of the volunteers here were old enough to know how big a 50-cent piece was; the younger contingent stayed in Hondo for the prehistoric Indian dig.) Some large ceramics, some more delicate ceramics, one flint scraper, and plenty of rusty metal - chains, nails, mule bits, barrel hoops, and less recognizable rusty lumps. I personally probably curated a bunch of old twigs, because at this level of corrosion it's hard to tell a nail from a clay-clodded twig. Shell, ceramic, and bone buttons; but none of the metal U.S. Army buttons we hoped to find. The screening table I shared with Judy Wayland and Charles Locke produced quite a bit of black leather, much of it in association with metal bits, mostly rivets but some buckles or links. It looked like harness to me, but we don't decide that, the lab people do. We also found part of a broken pipe. And quite a bit of bone - the site was adjacent to a smokehouse, after all.

The big finds for today were two intact US Army belt buckles, with some black leather attached, consistent with sabre belts of the 1851 issue; and a small metal comb for holding the hair in place, with about half the teeth intact and an embossed design. I should remember the names of the people who found those, but I'm blanking. I'll get people more firmly attached to their names tomorrow.

It was different from Gault in some ways (indoor plumbing, dry screening, glass and metal, different priorities in the curation) but alike in the most important ones. Lots of artifacts even in the relatively disappointing buckets, for one. And a lot of nice people working together and geeking out over cool finds, for another.

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