Spring 2018: Final Reflection

This is my second time taking this class, and it has been an adventure. The first semester I took the class I wasn’t to sure what it was about. I remember being in Dr. Dukes class, and he was letting us know about the new class that was going to open for the fall. I was very excited the first day of class. I was just beyond excited, and I felt very comfortable in the environment I was in. I felt like everyone in the class was on the same page as me. It was nice because it was the first time the class was being taught and we were all learning as the time went by. I couldn’t picture the cemetery we were going to be doing the project in, i just knew that it was old, and was a little forgotten by the county. The first thing that grabbed my attention was that a lot of the graves were like the ones from Mexico. Some were colorful and full of offerings, and others were forgotten and broken. I was a little intimidating with the data collection, especially the area where we had to distinguished what time of stone the grave was, but after practicing a couple of times I was able to find it a little bit easier.  The use of electronics made it so much easier because the website did the job for you, the only thing we were doing was inputting the information, instead of carrying a notebook and writing everything down. The total station was more advance for me to get comfortable using it. It was a little to much high tech for me, so I concentrated more on data collecting. The weather during the first semester of the course was extremely hot. Good thing we were told to bring specific things to the cemetery in order to stay hydrated and protected from the sun. We found a variety of Santeria objects that seem to be offerings to graves or just random people going to the cemetery and practicing their rituals. While I was collecting data from a child grave, I saw what seemed to be a letter buried to the side of the grave. I was very eager to grab it and try to to see what it was but I did not have the heart to invade their privacy, but what I also notice was that that grave had a picture of the deceased child on the head stone. It said that the baby had passed away in the 80’s, but the picture had the printed date on the back that said it was printed in 2013? I found that very interesting, and I was eager to know why? We also found a couple of wax balls hanging from the trees that were wrapped in yarn as well. We weren’t to sure why those were there. The first semester consisted of learning the process of doing data collection and flagging all the graves as well. The majority were color coded, unless for the ones that were skipped. We also learned to  map the graves with the use of total station. When we had the detective dogs come down from California was awesome. We were able to  see how they did their work on identifying areas were might have a possibility of human remains, but due to the hot weather they got pretty exhausted, but they were still able to marked 20 more graves. It was an awesome start to the course, and a lot was learned during that time. I enjoyed the class so much that I decided to take it for my last semester as an undergraduate student. This time I felt like we knew there was a lot more to the class than just data collection. We were able to almost finish data collecting more or less of 1,020 graves. I felt more confident this next time because I had practice from the previous semester, and I was able to help the new students of the course.  I notice that there was a lot of children buried, and many from the same year, I also found a couple of graves that were from the 1800’s, which was very exciting because most of them were in great shape. We were able to see a lot more  Santeria objects and dolls as well. The highlight of the semester for me was when I was able to witness when a family was able to find their lost loves grave with the help of Dr. Rowe. This family had been looking for their love one for about 50 years, and they were finally able to find her. It was amazing to see how this project will help a lot of the community, and at the same time it will help teach the community about how much history a cemetery has. My advice for the up coming class would be to be prepared for the heat, and make sure to be open minded to things. There is so much to learn from this project, and it would be a great loss if you didn’t get any knowledge from it. I think that it would be nice to have a couple of students concentrating in finding documents based on the deceased, and we might get a better insight on what was going on around the times of their deaths. It might help gain more history based on cemetery. Others can be doing corrections on the data collection,  and another group can be doing the mapping at the cemetery. They can plan an alternating system so everyone would get a chance to experiment the areas.I have learned so much from this class, that it makes me sad that I wont be able to take it next semester, but it brings me joy because I might get the opportunity to take it as a graduate student. It was a great opportunity, and this was one of my wishes to be part of before I graduated, to be able to get the hands on experience.  I look forward for the event that will take place on El Dia De Los Muertos, and to the new adventure that awaits. 

Archaeology in Schools

I find it important for universities to have archaeology  as a major.Learning archaeology helps the students develop various skills across many disciplines including critical thinking. Archaeology can be included in a comprehensive curriculum for social science, history, mathematics,environmental studies,and art. It also touches on the entire spectrum of human behavior and a series of questions. Archaeology helps students appreciate history from different points of references, and also teaches students about other cultures.  Hands on experience is very important when it comes to Archaeology. It’s a great experience for students to have, and they get to learn to do field work at the same time. There’s not many schools that offer Archaeology, and it makes it very difficult for students that what to major in that. It was amazing that UTRGV  offers a hands on experience. Fields schools are very expensive, and theirs not many of them either. In conclusion there should be more universities that offer archaeology as a major, as well as more field work so students can have the opportunity to experience hands on experiences.

Investigating Cemeteries

While I was reading the three articles that were provided for this theme, it was an overview of the project we are working on. Its extremely sad how people dint find it important to conserve cemeteries. There are so many cemeteries out there that have been abandon,  forgotten, and many have been destroyed. Cemeteries consist of a variety of history, sentimental aspects, as well as historical lands. I have gain a great amount of knowledge  while  working in the Hidalgo County Public Cemetery Project, that I find it heartbreaking having a great amount of cemeteries abandon. Cemeteries are reminders of various settlement patterns, such as villages, rural communities, urban centers, and ghost towns. Cemeteries can reveal information about historic events, religions, lifestyles, and genealogy. I have been able to see a great amount of grave stones used through the years that gives us an idea of how economically the family was during the time of the deceased. We are also able to see if there was any remodeling of the graves throughout the years. Many of the graves consist of a specific saying or an image that says a lot about the deceased.  We were able to identify just by looking at the headstone if it was an adult or a child buried; also by the offerings that many of the graves had. Many of the graves consisted of plants being planted around them or could be the possibility of it being used as a headstone. I seen a couple of trees and ferns planted next to a grave.  We see many graves that are still being visited by the family or friends, a great amount that have been forgotten, and a couple that were from the 1800’s which there might be a chance theirs no more family to come and visit them. The article, Abandoned Burial Ground’s,  mentioned some of the devices we have used during the project, and some that will be used in the next semester, which would be the GPR.  The GPR is most commonly used, and sends radar waves into the ground and then records their reflection back to the GPR unit.  The disturbed soil in grave shafts can be recorded by GPR as locations where the radar travels farther due to the presence of softer soils, while the GPR can also sometimes identify coffin remains as more solid features below less compact soil. GPR’s ability to read the signatures of grave shafts depends on the soil conditions, the height of the water table, the degree of prior disturbance in a location, and the skill of the operator. By using this device, we are going to have an idea if theirs others buried that have not been marked. Its exciting to see how the project is moving forward, and how we are having the ability to have hands on experience. Its a great opportunity for students to have a course offered. In the near future, I hope there would be more opportunities like this for the students.

What is Public Archaeology

Public archaeology in the broadest sense is that part of the discipline concerned with studying and critiquing the processes of production and consumption of archaeological commodities. To what I have learned to be Public Archaeology is to perform a research or project that would give back to the community. It is to conserve history and to teach the community about the importance of these sites.The goal is is the preservation of the fragile sites of our prehistoric and historic past that are being destroyed at an alarming rate through natural process and development. Our job is to bring back what has been forgotten. There’s a couple of steps that should be taken when a public archaeology is being performed.

  1. Stimulate public interest in archaeology

We try to get the community to be aware of what the project is about, and what it consist of ( students, professors, equipment, etc)

2) Raise awareness on the importance of cultural resources and advocate for their preservation.

Explaing to the community about the importance of the project and the outcome that would be recieved.

3) Educate the public on the processes and importance of archaeological research

By educating the public, they would have the ability to gain knowlege about the project, and how they could help to create other projects that would help preservate other sites.

4) Connect people to their heritage

By being able to perform a project like this, we are able to connect people with their heritage, maybe find a lost love one for the family. Since I have been part of the Hidalgo County Public project, we have gotten numerous of families coming to the cemetery looking for a lost loved one. I was able to witness a family find the grave of a family member that had deceased over 50 years now, and it was amazing to be able to see the connection that was brought by this project and a family. It would be amazing to keep witnessing moments like this in the future.

Digital Techniques for Public Archaeology

“Digital engagement with archaeology may bring along new and particular ethical issues that should be adequately pondered and weighed up front in so far as this is possible. By means of example, some forms of digital engagement that rely strongly on voluntarism and on the donation of time, skills and knowledge in support of activities proposed by archaeological organisations have been criticized as exploiting free labour and contributing to neo-liberalist economies (Perry and Beale 2015).” I found this part of the article very interesting because it shows me that digital techniques can engage in the public archaeology life. From the experience I got at the cemetery we used a lot of devices, special our phones to collect the data. Its very interesting how we can use our own devices in archaeology. Its crazy because when i was younger i though archaeology was really just excavating and finding lost treasure, but in reality its so many different things. To me i believe public archaeology is trying to keep the culture alive and the forgotten restored.

Investigating Cementaries

As I was reading the articles for this blog, it just took me back to the Pauper Graveyard. Its amazing how just a historical site was abandoned. Just because its a pauper cemetery doesn’t justify it as not being important. As we would do the data collection we had to be able to describe the site, either it was a gravestone, a slab, we had to record the information on the stone, if we could read it. We also had to record the offerings the site had as well. As i would collect data i would see a lot of site that had seashells on slab. I not sure what it means, but i found it very interesting. We would see all kinds of things in the cemetery . There was many children that lost their life really young. They had toys and and water bottles on their site. It broke my heart when i saw it. The article had a part that really caught my eye and said,

“Cemeteries are among the most valuable of historic resources. They are reminders of various settlement patterns, such as villages, rural communities, urban centers, and ghost towns. Cemeteries can reveal information about historic events, religions, lifestyles, and genealogy.”

When i read this, it all made sense. I see what they mean that cemeteries can reveal information about historical events. It could also give you an idea of what was going on during those times. The times the cemeteries  started and the time it ended.

What is Public Archaeology

Public archaeology in the broadest sense is that part of the discipline concerned with studying and critiquing the processes of production and consumption of archaeological commodities.

  1. Archaeological materials
  2. Archaeological knowledge and skills
  3. Archaeological work
  4. Archaeological experiences
  5. Archaeological imagery

These 3 terms are inevitably somewhat simplistic, but it serves to highlight the desperate need for a nuanced understanding of archaeological economics.  This can then form the basis for a more sophisticated and critical form of public archaeology capable of studying and influencing public policy, commercial practices and the multiple, overlapping worlds of contemporary archaeology.

Like its express in the article by Gabriel Moshenska  “Public archaeology is all the New Territories, lying around the periphery of direct research into the remains of material culture … All of them are about the problems which arise when archaeology moves into the real world of economic conflicts and political struggle. In other words, they are about ethics.” Public archaeology is the system to bring back life to material, land, objects anything that has been forgotten.