Texas Archaeological Society Meeting

We are happy to present the preliminary analyses from the cemetery project at the annual meeting of the Texas Archaeological Society in San Antonio on October 27, 2018. Because space on a poster is at a premium, we are listing our references here and linking to them with a QR code on the poster. You can download a copy of the poster here as well.

rowe tas


Baker, Brenda J., Tosha L. Dupras, and Matthew W. Tocheri. (2005). The Osteology of Infants and Children. Texas A&M University Press, College Station, TX.

Buikstra, Jane E., and Douglas H. Ubelaker. (1994). Standards for data collection from human skeletal remains: Proceedings of a seminar at the Field Museum of Natural History. Arkansas Archeological Survey, Fayetteville, AR.

Burns, Chester R. “EPIDEMIC DISEASES.” The Handbook of Texas Online| Texas State Historical Association (TSHA), 12 June 2010,

Camp, Stacey, Benjamin Carter, Autumn Painter, Sarah M. Rowe, and Kathryn Sampeck. (n.d.) Teaching Archaeological Mapping and Data Management with KoBoToolbox. In Digital Heritage and Archaeology in Practice, Ethan Watrall and Lynne Goldstein, editors. University Press of Florida, Gainesville.

Fischler, Jacob. “Archaeology Project Getting to the Bottom of Cemetery’s Mysteries.” The Monitor, 24 July 2013,

Flores, Daniel A. “Exhibit on Rio Grande Valley’s Violent History to Be on Display at Texas State Museum.” The Monitor, 17 Jan. 2016,

Garcia, J. (2011). EDINBURG. Charleston, SC: ARCADIA Publishing.

Rosales, F.A. (1996). Chicano! The History of the Mexican American Civil Rights Movement.

Graham, Rod. “Texas Warm Winter Vacation, Snowbirds Retire in Texas, The Winter Texan Connection.” Texas Warm Winter Vacation, Snowbirds Retire in Texas, The Winter Texan Connection,

Jara, Stephanie. “In Pictures: Historical Marker Unveiled to Commemorate 1966 Farm Worker Strike and March.” Rio Grande Guardian, 10 Apr. 2017,

Morgan, L. (2017, August 24). Hurricanes that Texas may never forget. Retrieved from

Public Archaeology and Education

Both Moe and Jeppson stress the importance of having archaeology taught in schools. Moe describes Project Archaeology, which is an education program aimed at providing educators with the materials they need in order to teach archaeology in their schools. Moe’s strategies for incorporating archaeology into youth education were ideal and apparently successful. Jeppson, on the other hand, seemed rather cynical and instead attacked the issue of “culture wars”, which directly affects what gets taught in schools, including archaeology. She claims that the political right makes teaching social studies (which archaeology and anthropology are classified under) difficult, if not impossible. She takes it a step further, however, by arguing that archaeologists do nothing to stop this. According to her, archaeologists should take more active roles as “culture warriors”. I think while Moe’s Project Archaeology is good for schools, Jeppson is also right in arguing that we need to perhaps be more aware and active in our current political climate for archaeology to even have a future. Hopefully while remaining politically vigilant, we can continue to have projects to teach children archaeology. It is incredibly important to have a younger generation interested and engaged in archaeological pursuits because without them, archaeology will likely fade from existence. I think initiatives such as the CHAPS program from our own university do an excellent job in providing archaeological and historical information to school children, as well as adults. Having an annual archaeology fair has also helped to make more children (and again, adults) more aware of archaeology in general. Initiatives such as these are vital to the development of archaeology in our local community, and starting with children is a sure way to ensure its survival. Hopefully these programs will pave the way for more archaeological conceptions in the education realm. I believe that our local students will not only benefit from such conceptions, but also become truly interested in archaeology not as a subject, but as a possible career.

Final Reflection

I have been with this course/project since it’s conception last semester and I hope to continue with it into the future. As an aspiring archaeologist, this course caught my eye immediately. It was the first course that I saw with a hands-on initiative in archaeology, and the only course I’ve seen since. Surely the success of this course will pave the way for future courses in archaeology. I have learned an immeasurable amount from it and I’m sure there are still more things I can learn from it further down the line. This course/project is immensely important not only to the community, but to us as students, which is why I hope to continue to be a part of it. Our work helps inform and engage the community, and as students, we are able to acquire hands-on experience in community archaeology.There have been ups and downs, as with all endeavors, but the change that this has brought and could continue to bring the community is what makes it all worth it.

Because I was already familiar with the data collecting strategies of the previous semester, getting back into the groove of things was relatively simple. I was better prepared to face the weather (although, thankfully, the days were not as hot as last semester’s) and I remembered to keep my cellphone on battery saving mode so that I could actually use it to collect data for the duration of our class time. Unfortunately, one of the problems I encountered this semester was that my phone did not want to upload several of my data entries. I then had to redo several of my previous entries with a classmate who had a better functioning cellphone (or better internet connection, I’m still not sure what the problem was). Aside from the weather and dysfunctional devices, there were no setbacks or obstacles which led to a very successful semester.

This semester, we were able to continue our data collection and very nearly completed data entries on all the marked graves! When we first flagged the more than 1,000 graves last semester, it seemed like it would take an eternity to complete. I wondered if I would even be able to participate in the completion of the project because the finish line just seemed so far away. However, with the popularity of the class last semester, we ended up with more helping hands this semester and we were able to accelerate our work. It seems this trend may continue. I am very excited for the next step in the project, which will hopefully be the use of GPR (ground penetrating radar) to locate more unmarked graves. In the previous semester, cadaver dogs were brought from California to sniff out unmarked graves but because of the close proximity of so many cadavers, the dogs became a little overwhelmed. Even so, they found around 20 unmarked graves but there are likely many more that we may discover next semester. Hopefully we will then have a better idea of just how many people are buried at the Hidalgo County Public Cemetery.

One of the best moments of this semester was being able to witness a family become reunited with a loved one whose grave had been unmarked and lost for many years. Through old records and the data entries of the graves surrounding it, Dr. Rowe was able to locate the lost grave. Moments like those are why this project is so important. Finding more unmarked graves may help us connect more families with deceased loved ones that they may not have been able to properly mourn or visit in years. This, of course, is one of the main and most important objectives of our work. We also aim to create a more welcoming environment for those who still visit these nearly forgotten graves and to provide them with any information we can. Personally, I was able to converse more with visitors at the cemetery last semester. This semester I did not come across many visitors with questions or comments, but I believe this was due to the fact that they were already familiar with our presence there. With that being said, I hope that we are able to engage more with the community in the future. I know that there are plans to have a community event for Dia de Los Muertos, which is an excellent way to engage with the community. Events like these could prove to be beneficial to all of us.

As a student, this course has had tremendous value. First of all, I have gained first hand experience with community-based archaeology. Having spoken to community members that this project affects has been very educational and insightful. I have also gained a lot of hands on experience with data entry and equipment usage that will undoubtedly help me in my future as an archaeologist. Working on a project that benefits the community has also made me want to participate in more community-based projects. I hope in the future I will be able to do so and apply the skills and experience that I have gained through this course/project.

Communicating Archaeology

The “hidden audience” that Allen describes is both similar and different from the audience of our cemetery project. Firstly, those engaged with the cemetery are generally families of very real and impoverished individuals, not abstract individuals with a hobby. However, it could be argued that both audiences must hold a certain passion to remain engaged with the subject. Allen claims that the hidden audience is not only organized and numerous, but also relatively rich. In regard to the hidden audience of archaeology, I do not believe that being rich is a substantial indicator of its enthusiasts. While it is admittedly beneficial, and often times even necessary, to pander to those with thicker wallets, including other “hidden audiences” in our addresses can also be beneficial. By other hidden audiences I mean those that are not as described by Allen, namely those without money. For example, there are likely poor individuals out there, or even very young ones, that access their archaeological readings through free internet content. Of course, this has likely only been possible in more recent years. Regardless, addressing all those who share a passion in archaeology can only help to solidify and strengthen its future.

I definitely do not usually see all of Allen’s 10 rules for addressing the hidden audience, especially not in articles I have read for other classes. Many articles or readings, while definitively educational, are not truly written for the casual or unfamiliar reader. For students, I believe this might be a little unavoidable. However, even writings that are a little too convoluted for those with a casual interest in archaeology could benefit from being more personal and to a certain degree, embellished. That isn’t to say that for a reading to be interesting it should be exaggerated and fantastical, but everyone enjoys an honest story. In most cases, it would make articles easier to read and easier to relate to. As a student who has now spent several years reading academic articles, I can attest to the fact that storytelling in writing is truly more engaging.

I think the best way to really engage the community is by telling the stories of interesting graves and grave offerings we find. Considering that most of us in the Rio Grande Valley are familiar with local occult practices, telling stories of the more spiritual offerings we have found could prove to catch the community’s interest. I think the best format in which to engage the community would be through social media. We live in an undeniably technological era so it only makes sense that we make the most of our environment. With that being said, I think it would also be beneficial to reach through newspapers so that we can also engage older generations that are still attached to traditional media. Specifically, getting our stories on the university’s Facebook page, or even creating our own Facebook page, could gather a good deal of attention. This may especially prove useful in the future, such as for the Dia de Los Muertos event that we hope to organize.

Social Justice and Archaeology

The Hidalgo County Public Cemetery Project (HCPCP) can help address issues of marginalization and inequality. One of the clear examples of marginalization found in the Hidalgo County Public Cemetery (HCPC) is the separation of the land between the private cemetery, Hillcrest Memorial Park, and the HCPC. Through this separation, there is a clear difference in maintenance, as well as in the condition and arrangement of the monuments. The separation also highlights the inequalities between the rich and poor, as those buried in the HCPC came from predominantly poor backgrounds, and were buried in the HCPC as it was a free plot of land.

Through the HCPCP, we can address the marginalization and inequalities shown in the cemetery through raising awareness of the conditions and through the data collection and analysis. Through raising awareness, we can involve the community in improving the conditions of the cemetery and educate the community on the history of the cemetery. Furthermore, our data collection and analysis will help provide more information on the HCPC. Generally, the HCPCP has been effectively addressing the issues of marginalization and inequality. However, there could still be room for improvement in communication of the project to the general community and the involvement of different community members.

Communities and Stakeholders

The Hidalgo County Public Cemetery Project (HCPCP) includes stakeholders from different communities, requiring collaboration with various groups. The primary stakeholders in the HCPCP include the family members of those buried in the cemetery, as well as county officials who work with the cemetery and other community members. There are many diverse communities in the Rio Grande Valley, including ethnic communities, immigrant communities, and religious communities. Some of these communities also include the cemetery and individuals as members, as many individuals buried in the cemetery are Hispanic. We are also part of the communities we work with. In this project, we are all from the area, and each interact with different local communities, helping to inform a more diverse perspective on our research.

There are different sides to the involvement of cultural affiliation when conducting investigations. Cultural affiliation can be beneficial to understanding the cultural background and significance of the project. However, it can also influence the interpretations and perspectives of the project, and thus it is important to remain sensitive to the influence of culture, while remaining open to other views. When we work with certain communities, we may forget or neglect more diverse perspectives that could be achieved through working with different communities. Furthermore, certain individuals may also feel neglected. Finally, there are power dynamics involved amongst the communities with interest in the cemetery, such as the power of county officials compared to the family members and other community members involved.

What is Public Archaeology?

To me, public archaeology is archaeology that is accessible to the public, serves the public, and aids underrepresented communities. Accessibility to the public is crucial because it allows the public to gain more knowledge about the projects and the goals of public archaeology. Furthermore, more accessibility allows for community involvement and input, helping public archaeology serve the public through collaboration and helping archaeologists address concerns from the community. In general, the perspectives of archaeology, and the broader field of anthropology, provide more open-minded and inclusive approaches to projects, allowing for public archaeology to aid underrepresented communities.

The project we are conducting at the Hidalgo County Public Cemetery (HCPC) aligns with my definition in several ways. For example, we keep the projects accessible to the public through the blog, contact with news organizations, and contact with family members and other community members. Our project also serves the public through connecting family members with their loved ones. Furthermore, we are recording the gravestones and mapping the cemetery to provide a resource to the public. Finally, our project serves underrepresented communities, such the poor, which are represented in the HCPC.

The lines of investigation I am interested in pursuing are exploring patterns or trends that are present in the cemetery, as well as the overall evolution of the cemetery. It would also be interesting to involve more family members in the project to learn more about their backgrounds and histories.


Engaging with Publics Online

The most effective type of social media outreach for the Hidalgo County Public Cemetery Project (HCPCP) would be a combination of the blog and other accounts such as Twitter and/or Facebook. The blog provides several advantages to serve as the primary mode of social media outreach. For example, it can be sustained and updated through the course of different semesters. The blog also allows for longer posts, for the inclusion of multimedia, and is accessible to the public.

However, the incorporation of Twitter and/or Facebook could also help reach a larger audience. Twitter may be helpful by presenting a summary of topics or of the progress of the HCPCP. The tweets could also include links to the full blog posts, thus bringing the audience back to the main source of information. Facebook could work in a similar way, by being a medium to share the blog posts to connect to a larger audience. Facebook also allows for longer posts, giving the option to spread more information there as well. Furthermore, both Twitter and Facebook have means to include pictures and videos, which helps in showing the progress of the HCPCP.

Final Reflection

Overall, I enjoyed my experience working on the Hidalgo County Public Cemetery Project (HCPCP). One of the reasons was in the hands-on experience I got in the field. The class was more interactive than a regular class, and being outdoors was a refreshing change to a regular lecture setting.  We typically had good weather for our meetings, except for rain toward the end of on one day, and a couple of hotter days. Through my participation in the project, I learned to use several new tools, such as Kobo Toolbox, the app where we recorded the data that we collected from the tombstones: measurements, inscriptions, descriptions of its condition, etc.

I am doing a minor in anthropology and was hoping to get experience in different areas of the field. I chose this class because of the opportunity to get more hands-on experience with archaeology. I had taken Discovering the RGV, but that class was more interdisciplinary, including perspectives from history, anthropology, biology, and geology, so I wanted to focus more on the anthropology aspect through this class. Through the HCPCP, I was part of an archaeological study and participated in the data collection process. This data collection enabled us to retrieve and preserve information from the past.

Also, I had the opportunity work with other people on preparing our presentation for the Engaged Scholars Symposium. It was fun to collaborate with my fellow classmates, as it provided us an opportunity to interact more closely with each other and to share our perspectives of the class and of the work we had done on the HCPCP. At the symposium, we took turns in speaking about our poster, and we were happy to explain to others what we had worked on and the methods that we used. To our surprise, we won for best poster, and we were proud of our effort and our contribution to the symposium.

Furthermore, the HCPCP had a direct impact on our community, and that was perhaps my favorite part of the class. Our work enabled members of the community to connect with their deceased relatives in a way they had not been able to before our work. Knowing that that would be the result of our work added personal meaning to the project.

Looking forward to the future directions of the HCPCP, I believe there are more opportunities to engage the community and raise awareness about the work that we are doing. Community engagement could add more perspectives to the project and perhaps give us different lines of inquiry. Furthermore, as we were able to finish the primary data collection this semester, we will have more opportunities in the following semesters to analyze the data and continue mapping the cemetery. Thus, I am proud to have been a part of the Hidalgo County Public Cemetery Project over the course of this semester, and look forward to seeing the continued progress of the project.

Public Archaeology and Education

As far as the author Moe is concerned for public education and archaeology going hand in hand, it appears that they are completely complacent with archaeology being used in the context of public education to teach students or children the importance of appreciating and preserving their cultural heritage. Moe elaborates that if the idea of introducing archaeology to children is for the purpose of instilling in them a sense of respect for their heritage, and for archaeological sites and cultural material, that it should certainly be implemented into the existing curriculum of public school education.  His justification for this is that the public school system already is set up in a way that requires of educators teachers to attempt to mold children into well-doing and well-being citizens, and consequently be partly responsible for the outcomes.

Jeppson is not opposed to the idea of incorporating archaeological teachings and principles into the public school educational system, however she does strongly believe that presenting this principle of archaeology, and only this one, fosters a negative narrative in the perception of what archaeology can accomplish, and it feels a general lack of enthusiasm for the field of study. She also argues that to present archaeology as a field that only attempts to preserve and protect culture neglects the fact that archaeology and anthropology have an ugly side or origin that, although largely perceived as liberal, is at times rarely activist or progressive or just.

As far as local education goes, I suppose that for a younger audience, Moe’s approach can prove to somehow still rile up interest in the field of anthropology and archaeology. However, for an older demographic, it is not absurd to attempt to educate them on the reality of anthropology and its origins and scholars, both past and present, as well as the importance of it for the future.