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Touching the past: Students learn about archaeology at Freeman Ranch

By Ann Frio
University News Service
December 19, 2007


Britt  Bousman shows students how to use a GPS system to log the locations of the artifacts they found at the Freeman Ranch. (Photo courtesy Texas State)

San Marcos students received an introduction to professional archaeology recently when they spent a morning walking a local archaeological site with professors at Texas State University-San Marcos.

The students, fifth- and sixth-graders in the Hernandez Intermediate School Gifted and Talented Program, walked a site at Texas State's Freeman Ranch, near San Marcos, with Britt Bousman, Jon McGee and John Lohse of the Department of Anthropology.  The students found and flagged a number of artifacts on the ground, including a variety of flint tools and animal teeth and bone.

Then, leaving the artifacts in place, the students and Bousman made an electronic map of the site with a hand-held GPS unit. To learn what happens to artifacts after they are excavated, the students then visited Texas State's Center for Archaeological Studies (CAS) and learned how artifacts are identified, dated, and preserved in an archaeology laboratory. Students also had the chance to look at a variety of materials recovered from sites around San Marcos that illustrate different periods of Texas history, from Paleo-Indian spear points to toys found in excavations of houses from the 19th century.

"One of our purposes in bringing San Marcos students to the Freeman Ranch is to get them interested in archaeology and the history of the area, and to impress upon them the necessity of protecting these resources," said McGee, anthropology department chair.  "I also hope to encourage them to go to college to learn more. It is my dream that I will see some of them on campus in seven or eight years.

"Also, most folks don't realize how practical archaeology is," he said. "There is a lot of demand for archaeology projects in Texas and we can't train students fast enough to meet the demand. It is one of the areas in which you can earn a BA or BS and go right into the field and do that work."