Lab and dig site connect classwork to real world.
By Janelle Polcyn
Only so much education can be attained in a classroom setting, so an archaeology professor at this college took several of his students March 28 to visit an archaeological lab in San Marcos and a dig site near Florence to expand their knowledge.
Archaeology Professor Wesley Copas teaches the only face-to-face archaeology class here. For three semesters now, he has taken students to visit a working laboratory and site so they can see professionals in action.
“(It’s a) very well-known and very significant site called the Gault site north of Austin,” Copas said. “The site is, for lots of reasons, very important in understanding the first Americans, the earliest people here. They’ve got some of the oldest archaeological material from the Americas there.”
Excavation has been going on at the site since 1929, and there is still plenty to discover, which makes it a good place to take students to see all of the work that goes into a dig site, Copas said.
The group started at the Gault School of Archaeological Research at Texas State University and then drove to Florence, where they saw the actual site, Copas said.
“What’s an archaeology class without … actually seeing the dirt and seeing the buckets? It’s much more effective,” Copas said. “The students are just spellbound the whole time when we’re doing this. I think it’s a really, really neat experience for them.”
Most of the students have never seen a real archaeology lab or dig site. They learned just how vast a job it is to discover early Americans by taking apart the land.
“I liked getting to see the lab,” English sophomore Timothy Bell said. “I’ve never seen anything like that before, all the artifacts. Ancient people leave a lot behind. They have a lot of stuff stored there, and I don’t even know how they go through and find it all because there is so much there.”
Visitors at the site can see arrowheads and other small artifacts lying on the surface.
For several years, Copas wanted to get students involved and give them a better understanding of what archaeology means. A student recommended the site, and now Copas has visited it three times with his classes.
“One of my students, one of those exceptional students, said,‘What about the Gault Site? I volunteer there,’” he said.
Approximately 15 students made the trip to San Marcos and then Florence to understand the regular lessons better.
“I went to learn more about what we’re learning in class,” Bell said. “When you learn stuff in class, you see the words on the pages and the pictures in the books, but when you see it in action, you feel closer to it, makes it more real.”
The trip, from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., included 1 1/2 to two hours at the lab and three hours at the site, plus the driving, Bell said
“If people have a chance to go there, they shouldn’t pass it up because it is a really neat place,” Bell said.
“Just learning about it in the classroom and actually seeing it in real life, it’s a great experience.”