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.

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.

Final Reflection

In all I was very excited and looking forward in starting this projects with DR. Rowe and my classmates before the semester even started, I had heard about his service learning class through Dr. Duke whom had invited Dr. Rowe to present to the class what the HCPCP was all about and the techniques that would be used. Being an Anthropology minor I was really excited and and looking forward and participating in this project. However little did I know the impact that this project has had and is still having (due to the fact that this particular project is still not complete) on the community of Hidalgo County.

In working on this project i have had first hand experience in data collection, which makes it very simple due to Kobotools being a website that is interactive with any smart phone or device that has WiFi or cellular data. In addition I was very fortunate to be working with the total station a couple of times as well as being the pole person that is used as the marker for the graves. the total station machine is part of the technology that is being used to map the cemetery in a way it is much slower because there is only a limited amount of people working on this machine that is used to map the graves. This spring semester was very fortunate because for some reason (hopefully but most likely due to global warming) for the most part we had fair weather, in the beginning the we had cool weather and towards the end the weather started to warm up. I was very pleased that the county of Hidalgo was very helpful and cooperative in their part by providing air conditioned restrooms and a ice chest of bottled water for us to hydrate,

in working with the HCPCP I have discovered that there are a vast number of graves with many different markers, unfortunately i had to witness some headstones/marker graves that were made out of PVC pipe with the epitaph written in stickers that are found on mailboxes for the mailman to deliver the bills. other graves were evident that they where made on site with cement with epitaph’s written with a stick, other headstones where made out of steel pipes, others where made with sheet metal, and many did not have a headstone at all, I have also noticed that a lot of the graves are from very early on dating from far back as the 1800’s and early 1900’s. This cemetery was originally opened in 1913 which makes me question why there are headstones dating back to the late 1800’s. It is just y opinion but it also sheds light as to why the County of Hidalgo has left this job for the university, because it is a burden that they personally they do not want to deal with, Yes the local government has helped with hydration and a place to maintain homeostasis, but I wonder because I do not know and did not bother to ask Dr. Rowe in which other ways the local government is doing to help this extensive workful project.

Furthermore in my firsthand experience in working on this project I have also become curious and more attentive to our Mexican/Hispanic culture because in working and putting effort unto this project I have noticed particular things that may be out of place. In the coming weeks in which I have been data collecting graves I have came across a technology that is probably not popular between you and me. What I am trying to explain is Witch craft or black magic. Personally after coming across one voodoo doll one day I have learned to be more attentive to my surroundings. in total I have come upon six voodoo dolls and 3 flask. all of these material have been found on, near, or around graves, the pattern was that all of the flask’s were buried next to the headstone. Unfortunately or fortunately a colleague of mine opened one of the flasks while I documented the findings on my cellular device. Inside the flask or mason jar, it was filled with sugar, cloves of garlic and seeds of Chile. Once all of the ingredients where taken out of the jar, out emerged a picture of a man, but before we can clearly take a look at he picture we had to untie the knot of a chain of paper clips that had been wrapped around the photo, once the paper clips where removed there was a photo of a middle aged man approximately in his late 40’s to early 50’s, the man was wearing a button up shirt, the man had a beer belly but his overall built was average and he also wore a dashing mustache. Later in the day towards the end of the class my classmate had mentioned how he had some knowledge on the occult and how this type of work was an “amarre” which translated to a “binding” in English, who ever had done this work on this deceased man was jealous of him or wishes that he/she most likely she wanted to be with the deceased man. Now when I saw fortunately i meant it because if we had not opened the mason jar we would not have figured out who had been buried there, because the marker had no name, on the picture was also some dates, and we are assuming that it was the date of his birth and death, however nothing is certain,

overall I am more than elated that I have participated in this project and I hope I am there when it is finally finished, I know this will certainly not be tomorrow, but I am glad that i participated and looking back I am proud to say to my offspring or grandchildren that I was part of Dr. Rowe’s students that helped map the HCPCP graves and helped reunited many families with their deceased loved ones.

Final Reflection Essay

Going into this class, I wasn’t entirely sure what I had signed up for. I was a little intimidated by the prospect of working in public archaeology because I was somewhat scared I would like it. All I knew about the class was that it was largely based off campus and would demand different work from me than a standard classroom setting would. As far as the course goes, it is exactly what I had always hoped to do in this region and so much more. I think I am mostly surprised that throughout the course of this semester, I heard no mention of the fact that a graduate student from TPA was actually the person who marked and restored a great part of the Restlawn cemetery across the way from the Hidalgo County Public Cemetery. I first heard about this student’s work back in 2013 when I decided to purchase a newspaper one July morning. I remember setting my heart on doing work like this in the future, and it was a moment I knew solidified my interest in anthropology in general. Fast forward to the end of this semester, and I got to experience some of that same work that this student put into the restoration of Restlawn Cemetery.

For example, some of the methods I got to use for the restoration of the Hidalgo County records of the Public Cemetery were online forms, GPS mapping, and spreadsheet/data processing. The online form turned out to be pretty convenient for the purpose of taking in data for the individual plots. The practicality of recording grave marker details via our phone was probably what lead to what I assume is an exponential improvement in input efficacy. I appreciate that the familiarity of our phone usage could help us record the grave measurements, marker conditions, inscriptions, and document the presence of grave offerings. From what I can recall, the majority of the gravestones were made of concrete/cement or a combination of materials where the former made up the majority of the marker. As I collected a lot this data, I anticipated all of the statistics that could be derived from our collective work. Being out there, rain or shine, felt pretty rewarding once the semester came to a close and we looked back on the hundreds of graves we put on the map this spring.

Another collection/recording method I got to work with this semester was the total station. Initially, I was taught by my classmate how to use it from the recording tripod, but I really enjoyed working at both ends of the station. One work day I got to record the points from the scanner tripod, and the other day I worked from the prism, or point of interest. It was obvious that setting up the prism required more than just moving it around the four corners of each plot. The days that obstacles stood in the way of mapping the coordinates from the total station, we would move trees to get our point read. This would make for some questionable bending of branches and jumping around, but all in all, I look forward to the results on our cartography medium. Although the results are not complete, I still would like to browse the map for future reference and look forward to connecting the located grave plots with the information we have compiled into spreadsheets.

Although I only worked with spreadsheets once throughout this semester, I look forward to possibly working further with this data in the future. I think that, although it was just one job, I learned a lot about doing work efficiently. Data cleanup proved to be one of the most fun aspects of this course. Analyzing what is left to clean up after inputting data into our forms told me that the system we have as of now definitely has room for improvements. This was apparent in the repetition of data sets and the missing data sets that failed to go through the forms. I hope to continue working on the data. finding the demographics of the cemetery, finding potential correlations and the implications for the community. I certainly hope I get to learn what this can reveal about the history of this cemetery and its business–knowing it used to be called a pauper cemetery already says so much to us anthropology students, but I would like it if it were as obvious to the community members. What was immediately apparent to me was the variation in attention and care that was put into the maintenance of the separate cemeteries on this square of land, and I feel like I speak for a good portion of my classmates when I say that it’s something we hope changes in the future. I think ultimately releasing or sharing these statistics can move more people to involve themselves in this public archaeology project, and will increase the likelihood of the change we hope the community makes in the preservation of this historic cemetery.

Something I didn’t get much of an opportunity to work on was dealing with the public eye or publicity for the project. The only family member to come my way while we were working on recording graves was a woman I had to redirect to Dr. Rowe because it was our first day out and I had yet to develop dialogue for what I was actually doing out there. In inclusion to that, I felt like I hadn’t contributed enough to the project, at least not as much as my veteran peers, to have any authority in speaking to the inquirer. What I was able to do was a poster presentation on the course as a service learning class. I had worked with Engaged Scholars before, and I must say I greatly enjoyed working with them once again for this group effort. It felt really great to hear the director of the program’s input on the HCPCP project and it was a privilege to represent Dr. Rowe’s work for that afternoon.

Any future direction for me in regards to this project looks like a continuance of my volunteering and potential re-enrollment in the class for the coming semester. For the course itself, I know Dr. Rowe and future volunteers for the project, myself included, would greatly enjoy use of the Ground Penetrating Radar for identifying unmarked graves and an opportunity to have the human remains detection dogs revisit. The ultimate goal of creating a permanent public record for Hidalgo County is within reach. I don’t doubt that the enjoyability and learning opportunity of this course could lead to it possibly being picked up in the future with other cemeteries. The hands-on archaeological experience within the RGV and affordability of the course as an option in our degree curriculum made the course all the more exciting. In the end, I know that what I didn’t get to experience this semester, I am sure I will get to see if I stick around until this project’s end.

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. 


This is the first semester that I have taken ANTH 4385 and I really enjoyed this class if I had space in my schedule I would have taken this course again. One of the things that I liked best in this class was that we were outside of the classroom and doing work with our own hands. When I had first signed up for the class I wasn’t exactly certain what we were going to do but I did know that I needed it for my major. I did think that we would be working instead of just reading and classwork. When we had our first class meeting it was a little intimidating because there wasn’t much information on what we were going to be doing. One of the things that I can still remember is that someone said that we would get the hang of it and I must agree with that. The first time that we went to the cemetery was kind of intimidating, but it was a lot easier because we had ended up splitting into pairs and if we were both new we could talk to each other and figure things out and know that we weren’t alone in feeling lost. By the end of the semester it was easy to fall into an easy-going rhythm. This class was interesting because I’ve never really taken another course like this or another project like it. It was also very informative and educational especially with the reading that we had to read each week. The reading were kind of hard to understand but after reading them it was interesting to see how they connected back to the work that we were doing at the cemetery and to the readings before and after it. Another thing that I found interesting was the actual work that we were doing in the cemetery. I had never really thought that archaeology could be anywhere even in a cemetery. One thing that don’t really understand would be why we recorded the material that the headstone was made of. Was it to help identify the grave or was it to learn more about the person? Like I imagine that a person with a wooden marker might not have had as much money as someone with a limestone one but that’s just a guess. This class did have problems, but they weren’t that big of a deal or a huge inconvenience. One of them was the technology but I’m mostly talking about the website and app. Kobo toolbox wasn’t really the easiest to work with but I’m not sure if that has to do with my phone or the actual website. It sometimes didn’t let you upload picture and when it did that you would have to reload the grave that you were working on. Something else that was kind of an inconvenience was the weather but that’s just mainly because I never check the weather before going to the cemetery, so I end up getting surprised if it ends up drizzling or being too sunny.

The way that I think this class should change in the future would be to maybe do more to let the students of UTRGV know that we have this class. Before signing up for this class I never knew that we classes like it. When I told my sister what this class was about they didn’t know about it either, but they were interested in it. So, I think that if more students were aware of this class and classes like it they would be excited to register. Something else that I think should change with this class is the way that we connect with the community. The way the class is right now feels like we aren’t really connecting with the community and letting them know what we are doing and getting them involved or interested in the project. So, I think something about that should also change. Overall this class was amazing, and it taught me a lot about archaeology and archaeologists that I didn’t know about and it did it in a fun and interesting way.

Final Reflection Spring 2018

Being able to be a part of the Hidalgo Count Public Cemetery Project was more than what I expected. I first heard about the project through Dr. Rowe as I had her for Introduction to Archaeology in the Fall semester of 2017. That semester was also my first at the Edinburg campus since the merging of UTB and UTPA. Even though the merge has made it harder for me to take the classes I need here in Brownsville, I am also very grateful for it. Without the merge I would not have had  the oppurtunity to be able to have a diverse selection of professors and courses. When I first decided I wanted to major in Anthropology I was leaning onto more of a linguistic, and cultural aspect of it. Being introduced to Archaeology definitely made me want to lean towards that path as well. I believe many do not have a clear view of anthropology or archaeology and with this project, it allows us to engage with the community and be able to give back.

When I first started the course I was not sure what to expect exactly. However, on the first day at the cemetery I knew it was a class I could actually look forward to going to every Friday morning. The first day, many of the new students to the project (including myself) were getting the gist of how everything works such as; what information exactly we needed to collect, how to record it, how the equipment works, and how to interpret what we see.

The cemetery is not just our ‘workspace’ or ‘just a course’, because it is so much more than that. It allows us as students to engage with our own community and be able to learn from it as well. We have used equipment archaeologists use on the field thanks to UTRGV. The equipment we use are; tablets, structure scanner, total station, drones, and cellphones. Other sources for our project have been human remains detection dogs, information from family members who loved ones are buried at the cemetery, and in the future we hope to be able to use a ground-penetrating radar. I personally have been able to access the total station which maps graves. The total station scans fixed points in the cemetery, and records image data points at individual grave markers. The only issue we have faced using the total station is when trees or branches are in the way, but luckily we are able to adjust heights, and sometimes we are able to move the branches slightly out of the way. We take turns using the total station as there are so many of us involved in the course, and the rest partake in data collection. For the data collecting aspect, we use a site known as KoboToolBox. This file allows us to insert information regarding the grave such as; images of the grave, describing offerings placed, measurements of the head stones, the information regarding the individuals name, birthday, death date, direction of the grave, and indicating whether there have been repairs to the head stone. Even though we are not connected to wifi, the file still saves to the folder on the app, and once we are connected to wifi we can manually upload each file. After this semester most of the graves have been recorded, there might be a few left to record. 

I have registered for the class next semester, and I hope to further help the project along with my colleagues. We hope to make the data we collected accessible to the public by arranging it accordingly. We also hope to be able to use the drone more to get arial photos of the cemetery, and the ground-penetrating radar. With the ground-penetrating radar we hope to be able to discover more unmarked graves if any left. Something Dr. Rowe brought to our attention was we could possibly have a Día de los Muertos, also known as the Day of the Dead, event at the cemetery. Día de los Muertos is a famous holiday particularly throughout Mexico, and anywhere there are individuals of Mexican descent. It is where family members gather by their loved ones grave and honor their deceased loved ones and ancestors. I believe this is an amazing idea for the community, and hopefully we will be able to hear first hand the history of the individuals buried there through their families. Families will be able to understand what we are doing with the project as well!

Some of the students in the course including myself submitted our project to the Engaged Scholar Symposium 2018 thanks to Dr. Rowe who introduced the event to us and helped us. Together we were able to learn more of the history of the cemetery, and showed an overall view of what the Hidalgo County Public Cemetery consists of. We won first place in the Service-Learning Poster category! It was an awesome experience, and hopefully we can add more results and data next time there is an Engaged Scholar Symposium. Our project was able to be publicized due to this, and we hope to get more people involved with it.

Something I personally learned from being a part of this amazing project is that even in a cemetery, there is still so much life. Being able to see family members visit their loved ones, leaving offerings for them, and seeing nature continue to grow from the wild flowers and beautiful trees. It really is such a peaceful place, and being able to give identification back to those who could have lost it due to time or due to weather feels nice to do for others. We are not just some students doing this because we have to for a course, we are doing this because we want to and we feel a connection with this project. By being able to learn, and to give back to the community make its that much more aspiring for us. We hope to shed more light on this project so that as a community we can come together and take this even further.

Final Reflection

Fall 2018, the first step of this project was full of ideas and unknowns. Meeting the requirement of 15 students was the first hurdle this course endured. While the class was being filled by the first group of student wanting to partake in this project. The university worked hard to acquire the necessary permits to allow the course to do fieldwork. Dr Rowe with her hopes held high, discussed her concerns and goals to us in our first class meeting. The list of unknowns grew within the first hour, we did not know the conditions that the cemetery was in, how many graves were visible, if all the graves had headstones, if there was going to a flat place of land to set up the total station (a machine that is a key part of this project), the list went on and on. A few weeks had pasted before the permits were approved, and we took our first steps on the cemetery grounds. The fall semester was full of trial and error but also success. We left the cemetery with a headstone count of 1,015 and 20 unmarked graves that were found by cadaver dogs.

Spring 2018, picking up right where we left off, we again started gathering data from each marked grave. With the help from the previous semesters technological problems we were able to configure a better Kobo toolbox list. Making the task of gathering data per grave a much faster and easier process. With the new Kobo list we were able to collect the marker design, marker type, marker material, orientation of the grave, over all dimensions of the headstone, if there were carved surfaces, overall condition in other words is the headstone was soiled, or stained, etc…. We also recorded the individual’s information, what grave offerings if any and if was a grave slump. With the large amount of data gathered, others following our findings may conduct further research  in to a single individual or the cemetery as a whole. An other added benefit from this semester was we were able to have the total station out on the first outdoor class. This task so far have proven to be tedious. I spent the majority of this semester working with this slow going machine. It seemed as each time we began to step up the total station we would forget a simple step which then caused us to start the process all over again. Thanks to Dr. Rowe the setup of the total station did become a easier process but, still it a task in which we needed her assistance. As the course continued we spent the majority of our time outdoors, we left the cemetery with few graves needing data collection and many graves needed to be mapped with the total station. With the help from Dr. Rowe this project will be a great accomplishment. She has worked hard to proved the community with information of what this project aims to accomplish.

Collecting data and assisting community members who have came in search of lost loves have been top priority from the beginning of this project. As the project continues there are many more goals this course seeks to accomplish, mapping with the total station will resume in hopes that a digital map of cemetery may developed, the map will include information we have gathered via Kobo, a picture of each grave, a exact location per grave, and a drone view image of the cemetery. Giving individuals access to view graves of loved ones while also providing further assistants to other who wish to use the data gathered for research.

Thanks to the hard work of all  involved this project will be a great contribution to the not only to the families with relatives within the cemetery,  but many others that have interest in this historic cemetery.  Within the semester and the last I have learned many skills and am grateful to have taken part in this once in a life time experience. Working side by side with Dr. Rowe has given me a opportunity to experience the world of public archaeology. Moving forward from this course I can use the skills I have learned both the academically and professionally in the next chapter of my life.


Final Reflection

Participating in the Hidalgo County Public Cemetery Project (HCPCP), Spring 2018, has taught me how to conduct public archaeology within a cemetery. The great part about this course was that it was in the local area of Edinburg, Texas near the UTRGV campus. It helps us understand better the local history as well as work with the community.

What I learned in the HCPCP semester is how to collect data from each individual grave. With our personal phones, we downloaded an app called KoBo Toolbox that asked to input the recorders name, date and grave number. Each grave had its personal number marked in a flag, which was check-marked when data collection was complete. After that, we added the marker information such as images, descriptive appearance, dimensions, inscriptions, and of course if the name and date of the deceased are still visible. Sadly, some of the grave markers were underground or illegible, making it difficult to get the full name and date. Since we were only allowed to clear the area from weeds, it was not possible to uncover the underground graves. Some graves had only part of their name visible or part of the date whereas others had nothing visible. Yet, a lot of other graves were recorded with full names and dates. Perhaps for those monuments who were impossible to determine the inscriptions can be later found in the list provided by the HCPC owner. This is why it is very important to not miss any graves for later on the data can be analyzed to fill in the blanks.  

Not all the graves were recorded because we ran out of time. There are about 90 graves still needing to be recorded in the KoBo Toolbox. Anyone is welcomed to go into the HCPC to collect data. For those who already known Dr. Sarah Row, they are free to go and help finish the recording. If someone else wants to do volunteer work that is possible as well. I am not sure if anyone can sign up through the Engagement Zone website:  but it would be convenient if they could. Maybe that is something to think about, creating volunteer need or an event at the moment when UTRGV classes are over. But aside from that, anyone can contact the project coordinator, Dr. Row, to volunteer or for personal information upon the HCPCP project through the HCPCP website:

Within our phones, there were some problems faced with the KoBo Toolbox app. One was that the app would overheat the phones, making the phones die in the field. Perhaps, this was the reason why some marked graves flags did not save the recorded data. To avoid this problem in the future, it would be best to bring portable chargers. Even more, some student’s phones were not able to download the app. For those students, they should be given diverse tasks, like placing new flags to the broken or faded flags, sorting already collected data at the lab room, using the Total Station, working with another student to record the grave monuments, etc. This will help the student feel needed in the course rather than lost since they have a phone that does not comply with the app. Aside from that, it was good that the app was able to save and later submit the recorded graves for some phones received no signal at the HCPC.

Another great benefit in participating with the HCPCP is learning how to use a Topcon GTS-753 Electronic Total Station. This equipment maps the top surface of the cemetery. The main task was to take four points of each grave to give a sized image of the monument. In this part of the project, we did not get very far because it is very time-consuming and only have one Total Station. I know that the team was thinking of getting an additional Total Station but it might make the mapping more difficult in the end run. There would have to be two stable points and then to add both information to the end result map can be overwhelming. I am not sure if other archaeologists have used multiple Total Stations, but if they have and it is not difficult to collect both datasets into one then two machines would be best. Hopefully, this can help the grave mapping pick up a faster pace. For the next HCPCP semester, it would be nice on the first day of class to go over how the Total Station works. Maybe even bring the Total Station to class and set it up so students can understand how both tripods work. Also, with the class projector, show the students how to use the portable device. Show them where we have left off and how to input the information. This will help the ones working with the Total Station have some background knowledge before using the technical device.  

Aside from all the outside fieldwork, the course provided various readings that helped us the students understand how public archaeology works, data collection, benefits for the community project participants, and others, as well as how mapping can show historical markers. What was missing was actually reading about local history within the area. If readings about the region were included, the students can further connect their fieldwork with the region’s culture. With this, one can further appreciate the work that is being done.

An intriguing factor that stood out at the HCPC is how some graves were so old. I saw a grave dated from the U.S. and Mexico revolution period. How did they get there? Was that location their original burial? Or were they moved? Also, we saw that mainly towards the back of the cemetery there was voodoo dolls and other voodoo ritual practices going on. Maybe providing more feedback about such culture can help us understand more of their religious practices. I would like to know what they mean, especially the wax ball covered with thread that at times was found hanging from trees.

I did not mind the assigned reading responses, but I do think it might get old for some students that have already taken the course. If there are other projects that are more time to consume, like making a poster, perhaps that can replace a grade from the needing to do all writing assignments.  Moreover, as discussed in class, having the students choose a certain grave to do research on would be productive. The student findings can be published on the website in case a family member of the deceased comes across the extra information or a scholar is doing research on a specific monument. For this project the students can be extra descriptive about the monument, find out information about the types of offerings that were left, research the deceased time period of life, research time period within the location, and if possible research about who that person was during his lifetime. The last part might be more difficult but unable to find free information about the person, one can describe the life roles during their time period.

It was unfortunate that the 3D iPad scanner did not work because of lack of good signal. For next class, ask the UTRGV if they can order a mobile hotspot or ask the class if anyone has one. If the internet hotspot helps the iPad function within the HCPCP then there is another task that the students can work on.

In class, you had mentioned that half the class will go to the field and other half be in lab fixing the records. I think in both places there has to be someone that has already taken the class. Previously, there has been little lab work so it is best to place someone in charge on the field to help you be more focused at the lab. Once the students at the lab get to know you and you get to know them, you can, later on, move from lab to field. I do think it would be a waste of time having all the students on the field since there are little students needed for the Total Station. Moreover, having someone that has already worked in the Total Station on the field would work best because they already did that type work. Maybe refresh with the student one on one so they can know exactly how to guide the students going to the field. Also at times, the tree branch would make it difficult for the students at the Total Station to be able to see the tripod triangle. If possible, provide gloves for the students to move branches or maybe even a branch cutting tool to cut small amounts. Finally, another thing discussed was to provide walkie-talkies so the students do not need to walk across the fieldwork in order to communicate. it was easier to use walkie-talkies than phones because of the lack of signal to some phone services and windy days. These possible resources will save time and make the field work be more trouble-free.

I really look forward keeping up to date with the progress that the HCPCP will make next Fall semester. It would be nice if pictures were added to the website about the students participating. If the work material does change, perhaps make students provide short journals to be blogged so we can read what will occur next semester. In all, I recommend other students to participate because it was a great class.

Spring 2018 semester reflection

I would like to start of by expressing my joy and knowledge of the closing of this semester as another door opens post graduation. I was not aware of the the experience I was walking into when I first signed up for this course. Before this semester, I did not know that the university offered service learning classes that collaborated with the community, or I would have signed up much sooner! As an anthropology minor, it had been a while since I last took a course relative to the field so this was a great way to remind myself why I had chose it in the first place. It seems though, that the days flew by too fast for data collection than I would have liked.

Overall, the way the project stands and how it was introduced at the beginning of the semester, reflects a very promising growth. It was interesting to see the work that other students and Dr. Rowe had started before and everything that is to be accomplished. This course is a wonderful opportunity for students to be actively engaged in their work instead of being stuck in a classroom. A hands on experience really helps provide a different and fulfilling environment for those involved, that you wouldn’t necessarily get from a regular class schedule. Also, it being in the spring semester really gave us a variety of weather to work with. It made the semester interesting and informative, while also sparing some days to gather and meet in a familiar setting of a white board class.

I typically found myself more inclined to do data collection, than the mapping. Though I did see a little bit of the mapping process that took more time and focus. It was fairly easier and much quicker to do data collection of the graves for the roughly 2.5 hours at the cemetery. Everything was inputted via mobile, which made the need for pen and paper that much more convenient. At times, the ordering of the graves and the faded numbers made it some what difficult to find but once you found one, the process was smoother to continue. I was not always familiar with the stone types and materials, so having a sheet with the descriptions was very helpful. ( Access to it online would have been nice as well )
Also, the rulers with a clip were better for carrying, or at least a bag to carry everything would give a more manageable way to hold and input data on your phone. And even though it did not use mobile data to upload, my battery went by quickly so I had to make sure to have it completely charged before arriving.

One thing I wish I had or had access to for everyone, would be some brushes to clear dirt away from carvings or sunken graves. At most, I cleared what I could to have the most data for each grave number. The ones with little to no marker or information were the simplest but also an assortment of unique and interesting finds. From metal to all different stone materials and special trinkets. Common last names in the hidalgo county, and some I never heard before. There are people buried from the 1800’s and 1900’s of all ages, each with their own story.
With death there is also life, and I felt that our work really helped care and fill in missing gaps.

When you first come into the cemetery, there is a distinction between sections of the cemetery. Others you can see are very well managed and in better condition. So I always felt that what we did each day was very important. Especially when we have gotten the chance to receive attention and help spread the history and purpose of the project. In return, being able to help family members find loved ones who could be located somewhere in the cemetery was also rewarding. What was lost could be organized and readily accessible with the on going work of the HCPCP. That’s really what made each day worthwhile and exciting to go. Each small detail was equally important to create something better. Everyone before, during and after as the semesters continue will each add on their work and gain something in return.

Ultimately with this course I have been able to know a part of a history so close to home, do work in an outdoor setting that provides experience and working together with the community to make a difference.
Being a part of the Engaged scholar symposium for the service learning poster was also a gratifying opportunity to work with a group of students eager to share the project. For what is being done should not be left unnoticed but shared with the rest of the community. These blogs especially, are an open door for us to share that experience and to connect others with the project. There is a lot to see when viewing the page but also much to fill in the process and I can’t wait to see what it looks like in the end!
The flexibility of this course allowed me to balance my focus on other classes and learn new things every Friday for class at the cemetery. Each day by filling in more information and being able to organize a rather large spread sheet of data. Its flexibility encouraged me to write these very blogs and learn new/different perspectives on articles. I think it added an extra and important touch to the hands on work, being able to read information and other students views.

With the Hidalgo County Public Cemetery project I have gained insight and knowledge of different forms of public archaeology, how to communicate archaeology, ethics, the importance of technology and community, to working together for a greater benefit.  Both at home readings and blogs with the work done at the cemetery blended well to help better my knowledge. Hopefully there is more to learn and gain from this partnership as each student and community partners share their service.