Sneak Peek: Saving An Ancient Library

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Richard A. Marini (hanging out of the vehicle) and others make their way to the Wiley rock art site is an all-terrain vehicle. Credit: Shumla Archaeology Research & Education Center

Winter 2017 Sneak Peek By Richard A. Marini

Hanging out with smart, talented people is one of the best parts of being a journalist. When they’re also fun to be with, it’s a bonus. That’s what it was like spending two days with the six scientists from Shumla Archaeology Research & Education Center recently.  They recently began the four-year Alexandria Project to catalog and digitize more than 350 cave art sites in remote Val Verde County Texas. I wrote about the project for the upcoming Winter 2017 issue of American Archaeology in a piece called “Saving An Ancient Library”.

To most archaeologists the Alexandria Project is probably a dream job. But I’m not sure I could work fulltime out of the tiny town of Comstock (pop. 375) . There’s not much there in the way of entertainment; the list pretty much begins and ends with the town’s two restaurants, Tacos Rosy and J & P Grill. But the team—research director Karen Steelman, project archaeologist Charles Koenig, assistant project manager Amanda Castañeda, and staff archaeologists Vicky and Jerod Roberts (executive director Jessica L. Lee was also in town from Shumla’s  Dallas headquarters)—seem to make the best of it, doing what they can to stay busy and becoming part of the community.

They enjoy after-work pizza parties, Steelman teaches a research methods class at Comstock High School, and they can often be found cheering on the local teams (Go, Panthers!). They also host the annual Rancher-Steward barbecue, inviting landowners and townspeople to their campus for a look at the work they’re doing.

But what I most appreciated during my time with them was how much they enjoy each other’s company. Not only do they work well together while at a site, they also have an easy, playful way of joking and teasing that must make the long drives, and long, hot work days, go by much quicker.

And I also appreciated that they never seemed to tire of answering this armchair archaeologist’s many, many questions.

~ Read the online summary of Rediscovering the Alamo  also by Richard A. Marini in our Winter 2016 issue, and in our Summer 2013 issue COVER FEATURE: VISITING SOUTH TEXAS AND THE HILL COUNTRYTwelve thousand years of history is on display in this summer road trip.

Keep your eyes peeled for ‘Saving an Ancient Library’ in American Archaeology Magazine Winter 2017, hitting Newsstands after Thanksgiving.

The researchers, the media, and others pose for a picture at the Wiley site. (From left) San Antonio Express-News photographer Kin Man Hui, assistant project manager Amanda Castañeda, project archaeologist Charles Koenig, staff archaeologist Jerod Roberts, Connie Causey (holding 16 sign), research director Karen Steelman, staff archaeologist Vicky Roberts, Shumla executive director Jessica L. Lee, ranch hand Omar Murillo, reporter Richard A. Marini. Wiley is the sixteenth site the Shumla researchers recorded, hence Causey’s sign. Credit: Shumla Archaeology Research & Education Center
The researchers, the media, and others pose for a picture at the Wiley site. (From left) San Antonio Express-News photographer Kin Man Hui, assistant project manager Amanda Castañeda, project archaeologist Charles Koenig, staff archaeologist Jerod Roberts, Connie Causey (holding 16 sign), research director Karen Steelman, staff archaeologist Vicky Roberts, Shumla executive director Jessica L. Lee, ranch hand Omar Murillo, reporter Richard A. Marini. Wiley is the sixteenth site the Shumla researchers recorded, hence Causey’s sign.
Credit: Shumla Archaeology Research & Education Center

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