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Anthropology Research Collections

CONTACT INFORMATION

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Please direct any questions related to ARC-TAMU to: anth-arc@tamu.edu

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Curator and NAGPRA Coordinator

Heather Thakar
309E Department of Anthropology
TAMU 4352
College Station, TX 77843-4352
thakar@tamu.edu
979-458-5987

Location

340 Spence Street
TAMU 4352
College Station, TX 77843-4352

 

MISSION

The Anthropology Research Collections at Texas A&M University (ARC-TAMU) supports and facilitates the Department of Anthropology’s goals of education and research focused on understanding the human experience across space and through time. The ARC-TAMU serves this mission primarily through maintaining, and making available to researchers, anthropological materials collected by TAMU Anthropology faculty and students over the last 40 plus years. The driving force of our mission is the recognition that cultural materials – as manifestations of the practical and symbolic lives of human groups – represent tangible and irreplaceable sources of information for the study of human behavior.

 

COLLECTIONS MANAGEMENT POLICY

Since 2008 ARC-TAMU has been a closed collections facility and only accepts new collections on a case-by-case basis for a one time long term curation fee based upon volume and storage requirements. Acquisition fees may be reduced or waived based upon the recommendation of an ad hoc committee of three Anthropology faculty members.

The ARC-TAMU staff will not appraise or estimate the value of items for any purpose. Additionally, ARC-TAMU staff will not identify or authenticate items for commercial interests.

The ARC-TAMU is accessible to researchers with scholarly and educational interests for research, education, and exhibition. The ARC-TAMU does not make permanent loans; however, loans for research and educational purposes are permitted under the terms set out by the curator and can be viewed in the Research Access Policy below.

The full ARC-TAMU collections management policy can be found here.

 

RESEARCH ACCESS POLICY

Research requests must be made at least two weeks before the end of the Texas A&M University Fall and Spring semesters and should be made at least eight weeks prior to the date the material is needed. The ARC-TAMU is not open over the TAMU Summer semester, therefore any requests for access during this period will be reviewed at the beginning of the Fall semester.

The ARC-TAMU Collections are available to individuals with scholarly and educational interests for research, education, and exhibition. Access to collections is not an inherent right of the general public. The Curator will attempt to comply with all serious requests for access to materials and literature on the sites, but the collections are not open to random browsing.

Requests for borrowing materials, scientific analysis, and access to human skeletal remains, requires a written request (using forms below). These research requests include a series of questions, and depending on the request may also require the interested party to attach: evidence of tribal consultation, a project proposal (outlining the purpose, need, and expected results of analyses), a description of analytical methods (if analyses are performed), and a current CV. Permission to borrow material for non-destructive analyses, teaching purposes, and exhibition is granted by the Curator. Requests for destructive scientific analysis requires endorsement by an ad hoc committee of three Anthropology faculty members selected based upon their knowledge of the collection and/or the research under considerations. Proposals may be accepted as is, rejected outright, or require revision and additional research methods on the basis of review by the curator, ad hoc committee, and Department Head.

Requests for Visitation Access

Requests to visit all anthropological collections, with the exception of human remains, can be arranged during the TAMU Fall and Spring semesters. If interested, please contact the ARC-TAMU Curator or Assistant Curators by email to set up a time for visitation. The time of appointment will depend on the ARC-TAMU hours, availability of the curatorial team, and the researcher’s schedule. Please note that the ARC-TAMU is not open during the summer or over winter break, therefore access to the collections is generally not possible except under special circumstances.

Request to Borrow Material

This request should be used by all researchers and/or institutions that are interested in borrowing materials from the ARC-TAMU for non-destructive purposes, including: exhibition, education, outreach, or general interest. If you are planning on pursuing research or analysis of any kind, please fill out the “Request for Scientific Analysis” form below.

Request for Scientific Analysis

This form should be used by all researchers and/or institutions that are interested in performing research or analysis of any kind (including photographs, measurements, etc.). Special directions are given for projects that will require destructive analyses. Please note that project proposals that include destructive analyses will be sent to an ad hoc committee of three Anthropology faculty members for evaluation – it is the responsibility of the researcher to take into account the evaluation process in their project timeline.

Request for Access to Human Remains

NAGPRA is an ongoing process in terms of both legal requirements and tribal requests. As a result, the staff at the ARC-TAMU continues to work with various tribes. Our policy for all skeletal material determined to have a likely cultural, geographic, or biological affiliation to Native Americans requires that any researchers interested in examining such material consult with the appropriate tribes before accessing the material. It is essential that any necessary consultations about sensitive materials (human remains, associated funerary objects, sacred objects, or objects of cultural patrimony) have been conducted before examination of material. Written evidence of this consultation, including copies of all correspondence, along with the names of the cultural consultants, tribal leaders, and observers involved, must be submitted with the request for access form.

 

NAGPRA

The ARC at TAMU houses human remains and cultural materials in compliance with Public Law 101-601, the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA). The ARC will attempt to notify affiliated Native American tribes and comply with the request of the appropriate Native American tribes as to the disposition of the material, providing the request is in accordance to Public Law 101-601. Please contact NAGPRA Coordinator Dr. Heather Thakar (thakar@tamu.edu) with questions regarding NAGPRA materials housed at ARC-TAMU.

The Notices of Inventory Completion for ARC-TAMU can be found here.

 

TEACHING AND TYPE COLLECTION

The ARC-TAMU maintains a Teaching and Type Collection made up of objects and artifacts that can be used by faculty and graduate students for public outreach, teaching, and comparative purposes.  Materials from the ARC-TAMU Teaching and Type Collections can be accessed at the on campus ARC-TAMU Lab or checked out and used in classes or at events.

The Teaching and Type Collection is broken up by material class, and subdivided into different type collections. The material classes include: Lithics, Pre-Columbian Ceramics, Historics, Faunal Materials, Activity Boxes, and Consumables.

  • “Displays” are formally organized trays with labeled artifacts. These are best used for general teaching and outreach purposes pertaining to certain subjects.
  • “ID Training” refers to bags of materials or artifacts that are best used for hands on labs and/or identification tests.
  • “Consumables” refers to objects that can be used in experiments or for hands on outreach activities.

Access to the written guide to the Teaching and Type Collection can be found here, photos of all available materials are provided in the Access Form, which can also be used to request materials for checkout

Teaching Activities

The ARC-TAMU has created several teaching activities that can be used in conjunction with the Teaching and Type Collection, or used independently by members of other institutions. Below are examples of the teaching activities (which include worksheets and instructor supplements) that are currently available. If you are interested in using one of our activities, or have ideas about an activity you would like to see in the future, please email us at anth-arc@tamu.edu

  • Heritage Management Activity: Learning about artifact/object preservation & curation
  • Relative Dating: Archaeological Seriation using Texas Projectile Points

 

COLLECTIONS

The ARC-TAMU curates cultural materials from sites representing the entire span of Texas history, including (but not limited to) the Duewall-Newberry mammoth site, Richard Beene, dry caves with spectacular preservation of perishable materials (Hinds and Granado Caves), and the historic sites of Camp Ford and Fort Brown. Our collections also include materials from the American SW, Montana, Louisiana, and sites abroad, namely Paleolithic materials from the Nar Ibrahim site in Lebanon.

The ARC-TAMU maintains materials, records, and site reports from these excavations and others conducted by other members of the Department of Anthropology, donations, and scholarly exchange. The majority of these materials come from 74 Texas counties (see figure below). A list of the archaeological sites from Texas that are curated by the ARC-TAMU can be found here (Link available soon). If you are interested in accessing the monographs and other gray literature, please contact us at anth-arc@tamu.edu.

A Brief History of the ARC-TAMU: Cultural Resource Management

Historically, the ARC-TAMU curated prehistoric, historic and ethnographic collections acquired as a result of anthropological research, archaeological survey, and excavation conducted by a succession of cultural resource management (CRM) research centers housed within the Department of Anthropology at Texas A&M University from the 1970s - early 1990s. These include the Anthropology Research Laboratory (directed by Dr. Harry Schafer from 1971-1979), which conducted many of the department’s early research projects including the excavation of Hinds Cave, in west Texas; the Cultural Resource Laboratory (directed by Erve Garrison from 1979-1981); the Center for Archaeological Research (directed by Dr. David Carlson from 1981-1990), which received several large federal and state infrastructure contracts, including those for Fort Hood, the All American Pipeline Project, and the South Bend reservoir project; and finally the Center for Environmental Archaeology and the Center for Ecological Archaeology (both directed by Dr. Alston Thoms from 1990-1995, and 1995-2001 respectively), which continued receiving large state contracts for infrastructure projects, including Applewhite and Richard Beene in Bexar County, and Camp Ford. The ARC-TAMU continued accepting archaeological materials from contract work completed by faculty members until 2008, when we became a closed facility.

Sites Curated by the ARC-TAMU

Our Facebook and Instagram pages regularly highlight artifacts and research from the various sites curated by the ARC-TAMU – don’t forget to follow us!

Below are descriptions of several of the large projects curated by the ARC-TAMU.

Camp Ford, Smith County, Texas

Camp Ford (41SM181) was established in 1862 as a training camp for Texas Confederate soldiers, the camp and stockade were built by enslaved African Americans. The site quickly became a Union prisoner-of-war (POW) camp where nearly 6,000 POWs were held between July 1863 the end of the Civil War in May 1865, making it the largest POW site west of the Mississippi. Camp life was particularly difficult in 1864 when the camp swelled to greater than 4,000 POWs, including Northern white soldiers, Southern soldiers and citizens, and African American slaves, soldiers, and sailors from both North and South. ARC-TAMU curates nearly 1,000 artifacts excavated at the site in 1997 and 1998, including historic metal, glass, wood, and ceramics. More information on Camp Ford can be found at Texas Beyond History.

Fort Brown, Cameron County, Texas

Fort Brown was an active military facility from 1846 until 1948 when it became part of the Texas Southernmost College campus, now the University of Texas at Brownsville. It was an important military post during the Mexican American War, the Civil War, Reconstruction, and World Wars I and II. Among the remarkable assemblage at the site are glass, ceramic, metal, and faunal artifacts. ARC-TAMU curates nearly 14,000 artifacts from 147 recorded proveniences from Fort Brown (41CF96), which were recovered by the Archaeological Research Laboratory during archaeological excavations between December 1988 and April 1989. While Fort Brown does not have its own page on Texas Beyond History, general information about the Frontier Fort system, of which Fort Brown is a part, can be found at Texas Beyond History

 

Hinds Cave Site - Val Verde County, Texas

Hinds Cave is a dry rockshelter in the Lower Pecos renowned for its remarkable preservation of perishable material cultural remains including basketry, matting, sandals, cordage, and hundreds of coprolites (paleo fecal material). The coprolites at the site have been used to assess seasonality and dietary decisions in the Lower Pecos. There was near continuous occupation of the site for approximately 9,000 years dating from around 8,000 B.C. to A.D.1200. Dr. Vaughn M. Bryant and Harry J. Shafer excavated at Hinds Cave (41VV456) between 1974 and 1978. Hinds Cave is the subject of several ongoing research projects from Anthropology faculty and graduate students including the conservation of Archaic period sandals and matting as well as coprolite methodological analyses. More information on the Hinds Cave site is available at  Texas Beyond History.

Richard Beene Site - Bexar County, Texas

ARC-TAMU houses over 80,000 artifacts that span nearly 10,000 years from the multicomponent Richard Beene site (41BX831), a Texas State Archeological Landmark located in the bank of the Medina River, Bexar County. The site was excavated by the Center for Environmental Archaeology at Texas A&M University in late 1990 and early 1991. The assemblage from the site is composed of ecological samples, fauna, and lithic artifacts. More information on the Richard Beene site as well as a downloadable PDF of the report are available at Texas Beyond History.

Nahr Ibrahim, Lebanon

The Nahr Ibrahim site contains artifacts associated with the Neanderthals (Homo neanderthalensis) occupation of the Levant. The “Mousterian” technology at the site includes stone tool produced using the Levallois manufacture technique. The tools and debitage from the site have the potential to inform on technological organization strategies and variability in the Paleolithic, including design, provisioning, and curation. The site was excavated in the early 1970s by Ralph Solecki and colleagues from Columbia University, the materials were later brought to Texas A&M University by Dr. Solecki and his wife. John Dockall authored an extensive PhD dissertation on Nahr Ibrahim, which can be found here.

Corbett Ranch, Willacy County, Texas

For almost 50 years, Michael Corbett collected archaeological and geological material from his family ranch, and other local ranches, in South Texas. Many landowning families in Texas frequently maintain such collections; what makes this collection different from many others is that Michael Corbett maintained a master map and catalog, making it possible to tie a large majority of the collection back to the sites from which they were found. Upon Michael Corbett’s death in 2008, his family began to search for a permanent home for this collection and, in 2010, donated it to the Department of Anthropology at TAMU, where it is cared for by the ARC-TAMU. As only one of four private collections from South Texas that has been made available to the Texas archaeological community, this collection has the capability to help shed light into a region that has had very little archaeological research. The Corbett Ranch Collection report can be found here.

The Eric O. Callen Collection:

The ARC-TAMU has a unique collection of perishable materials, coprolites, or paleo feces. In fact, the ARC-TAMU curates one of the largest collections of coprolites in the world. The Eric O. Callen coprolite reference collection includes mounted slides and coprolite residues from notable sites like Tehuacan, Oaxaca, and San Lorenzo in Mexico, Lazaret in France, Ayacucho and Huaca Prieta de Chicama in Peru, Heirakonpolis in Egypt, Chaco Canyon in New Mexico, and Glen Canyon in Utah to name a few. Eric O. Callen is considered the founder of modern coprolite analysis. At his untimely death in Ayacucho, Peru, in 1970 his wife and MacDonald University donated his reference collection to the Department of Anthropology at TAMU so it would be available to other interested scholars for generations to come. In addition to the E.O. Callen collection, ARC-TAMU also curates coprolites and perishable artifacts from a number of caves and rockshelters in Texas: Timmeron Rockshelter, Parida Cave, Caldwell Shelter 1, Granado Cave, Conejo Shelter, and Hinds Cave. In total the ARC-TAMU curates 2,483 coprolites from Hinds Cave alone, which is the largest collection of human paleo feces from any single archaeologically excavated site in the world. Coprolites are an archaeological treasure that provide primary data on DNA, dietary decisions, C-14 dating, and disease amongst other interesting research topics. More information on the Eric O. Callen collections and their significance to anthropology can be found below.

Click here for Bryant and Dean’s 2006 article on Callen’s coprolite collection, click here.

For Bryant’s 1975 article on the Callen coprolite collection, click here.