The Gault Project at Texas State University is the laboratory for the non-profit organization, the Gault School of Archaeological Research. I chose this internship to gain archaeological experience, as it aids to becoming a Forensic Anthropologist who should have a strong understanding of excavation methods, data collection, and data analysis across a broad spectrum of disciplines. As a future graduate student, it is important to have a strong understanding of how to conduct individual research and this internship allows for honing in on research skills.
Volunteering at the site is a rare and amazing opportunity. When arriving at the site, everyone must park near the house, which serves as the Gault School, and walk down a long pathway leading to the excavation and screening areas. The excavation area is a large space covered by a white tent to help control weather conditions. Surrounding the excavation are boards that create a safe walkway with a stairway leading into the pit. The pit is measured by meters to the north and east and by centimeters as the pit descends. The top strata (the most recent) are sectioned by increments of 10 centimeters while the lower strata (earlier time periods) are in increments of 5 centimeters. Each square (1 meter x 1 meter x 5/10 centimeters) is assigned a lot number. Artifacts from each lot are bagged separately to avoid confusion during analysis. Any significant pieces are point provenienced which means they are labeled with the north and east orientation and the exact elevation above sea level. Everything that is point provenienced will be entered into a computer program called ArcGIS. This program will create a 3D image of the site and plot the artifacts in their original position, allowing the site to be recreated for better analysis. The remaining artifacts will be put in buckets of water and carried to the wet screening area.
A first time volunteer will assist in wet screening, a common method used in excavation. There are two large tables, designed specifically for this use, where the screens lay. The screens are wooden, rectangular frames covered with screens of either one fourth or one eighth inch holes. A one fourth inch is placed on top of a one eighth inch screen to prevent losing smaller flakes, shell, bone, etc. The buckets from the excavation area are poured into the screens and sprayed with a large water hose, much like the ones found on fire trucks. The tables were designed with a curved wall underneath so that the water from the hose is carried away from the screener and deposits on the other side of the table. The water is extracted from the nearby creek but is eventually routed back to the creek after being used. The hose is used to wash away all of the dirt from the buckets while leaving the artifacts in the screen. Everything remaining in the screen is bagged, tagged, and stored in a barn on the property until it is taken to the lab on campus.
Returning volunteers will be allowed to excavate after experience in screening. It preferred for volunteers to begin in screening in order to become familiar with the artifacts. They will then know what to look for during excavation, for example, a rock versus a flake. If anything is questionable, people in the field are told to send it to the lab for analysis.
The Gault Project is located in the Pecos building, across from the Center for Archaeological Studies (CAS). Occasionally, the lab consults with CAS to identify species of faunal bone found at the site. A typical day in the lab usually includes washing, processing, and cataloging artifacts. If the majority of the screens on the dry rack are empty, then that day should be spent washing. The artifacts need enough time to dry before the next day of work. Otherwise, the day is spent processing and cataloguing.
Volunteering at the site and working in the lab allows the student to follow the artifacts from beginning to end, performing every task that is required. The Gault Project provides an amazing learning experience where students gain archaeological and research experience.