My apologies. I want to say that not a lot has happened since April to justify not keeping up with the blog, but that would not be true! I’ve been to field school at Palo Duro Canyon State Park, I volunteered at TARL again, and have started classes at my new home of Western Illinois University! I also did some brief shovel testing at a new site with the Houston Archaeological Society in July.

So I said that I was doing survey at field school and that is true. I had no idea that the floor of the canyon was so…mountainous? Hilly? Anyway, lots of ups and downs. It was supposed to be light survey. Oh hell no. This was rugged, so that was annoying. It rained A LOT earlier this year, more than usual. Normally the vegetation in the canyon is pretty dry in June, but the rain made everything grow like bonkers. Yes, it was beautiful, but it made it very difficult to see artifacts and lithics on the ground (which is what we were looking for).

So we were up to our ears in the bushes (not kidding) in the middle of nowhere and I heard rattling every so often. Great. Have I mentioned that with the rain comes an increase in rattlesnakes? Frikkin’ snakes. In true Indian Jones fashion, I HATE SNAKES!!!!

I guess it’s not so hard to avoid them? Walk away from the rattling? Except that the damn mother fudgers are camouflaged to blend in with their surroundings, so yeah…good luck with that. I didn’t have snake gaiters because I’m a newbie at survey and didn’t think to hit up Academy and buy any. At one point I hear the telltale rattle and it’s CLOSE. REALLY CLOSE. I look down and there’s a damn Nope Rope about 2 feet from me, curled around a yucca, and buzzing away.

You have never seen overweight and out-of-shape Heather Leonard move so fast wearing 20-30 pounds of gear. I impressed myself with that physical feat. Amazing what we’ll do when confronted with serious danger. RUN, HEATHER. RUN! Like Forrest Gump, I WAS RUNNNNIIINNGGG!!!!

So my team got back to the Mack Dick Pavilion (command center for the field school) and I had my first panic attack in 20 years in my car. The thought of going back out in the boonies the next day actually made me physically ill. I’m all for facing your fears, but I wouldn’t have been any good out there in the field freaking out every 5 minutes. My team leader concurred, so no more survey for me. I shall try again at a less remote location and wear snake gaiters next time (yes, I have some now…they are in the garage).

I asked to be moved to excavation, which I like more anyway. That was actually a good move because my site supervisor, Brian, was fabulous, and I learned a lot from him! He knew exactly where to push and challenge me and I came out learning some new skills (paperwork, yay!) and refining the ones I’ve already started to develop. Here’s some photos…

So that was the first couple weeks of June, for the rest of the summer I volunteered once a week on Fridays at TARL (Texas Archaeological Research Lab). Mary Beth had me working in a separate building verifying the contents of different collections and entering them into the database. It was tedious but interesting work and I didn’t get nearly as far as I thought I would. This was my first day on the job…

Several of the boxes were from field schools that were 30+ years old and the plastic bags containing artifacts had degraded somewhat, especially the bags of debitage or snails. I had to rebag EVERYTHING, which is why it was tedious. Here are some random photos I took of artifacts that I found…

In July I did a day’s worth of shovel testing at a prehistoric site called the Lone Oak Site. Not saying where as it’s privately owned property, but it’s about 2 hours vaguely east of here (sorry for the vague, but looting is a huge problem…it’s why I don’t post trinomials or anything like that). There were cows around, which was interesting. They would just sort of wander over and stare at us, let out the occasional confused moo, and wander off. I’ll take cows over rattlesnakes any old day (I had my eye out for snakes as well).

I finished my short course over the summer in Viking studies and earned a diploma with a distinction. Go me! Actually, I learned a lot about Vikings and it opened a lot of research questions that I’m working on. I have a list of books and sources on my computer that I’m adding to for when I start looking for ideas for a Masters thesis or even possible PhD dissertation.

My classes at Western Illinois University started this past Monday. I’m taking Forensic Anthropology (YAY!) and Magic, Religion, and Shamanism. Both of the classes look amazing and I can already tell I’ll learn a lot!

That’s about it for now. There isn’t too much coming up except for the annual Archaeology Fair at TARL in October and I’m volunteering for that, like I did last year. I promise I’ll take more pictures this year! I don’t have any planned digs yet, but the fall is another short digging season for us when the weather cools off (it’s just too hot to dig right now) and sometimes things are announced last minute. So who knows!