TxDOT’s Analytical Protocols. TxDOT’s Analytical Protocols. Where Are They Now…?. Where Are They Now…?. TxDOT’s protocols for the recording and analysis of cultural resources address a long-standing need for standardization of archaeological data.
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Where Are They Now…?
Where Are They Now…?
TxDOT’s protocols for the recording and analysis of cultural resources address a long-standing need for standardization of archaeological data.
Regarding standardization, in general, there is an increasingly urgent need in Texas archaeology to identify broad patterns in the archaeological data and develop contexts… [that] require directly comparable data… the protocols are certainly a move in that direction.
…the detailed analyses proposed in the lithics, site structure, and burned rock protocols will lead to a high level of subjectivity in the database, a level of subjectivity that may make the use of the resulting data pointless or lead to spurious and incorrect interpretations.
…these protocols seem micro-focused on terminology instead of distilling which data are comparable.
Some of the proposed data is subjective, and the inclusion of such data will need to be reassessed. Other data, while not explicitly objective, should be recorded with very little if any variability so long as the analyst performing the research is qualified to perform the analysis (ex. production stage, tool portion, use-wear).
No data is readily comparable unless common terminology is used.General Comments
The trend away from materialistic studies and toward interpretation is reflective of archaeology as a whole and of TxDOT in particular, during the last decade. These protocols appear to contradict this progress.
I suggest that more discussion among practitioners is needed and that such meetings should be held in a workshop style… We also need to discuss how this would be implemented. Agreed
In fact these protocols and the standardization of data reporting actually make comparative analyses, synthesis, and meaningful interpretation a possibility rather than an exercise in subjective particularistic interpretation of a specific site. Interpretation in the absence of data is not science. The protocols will be an invaluable asset for allowing greater interpretive potential as they will cause the availability of greater amounts of data.General Comments
Standardization, for pragmatic considerations, ought to focus more narrowly on the quantifiable [data]… Identification of heat-treatment of lithic materials, use of hard vs. soft hammer in debitage, inferences of function of features and tools, many types of breakage patterns, reasons for discard, etc. can vary tremendously between any two researchers.
Frankly, in terms of the lithic protocol, we agree with this in some measure. This is a very apparent need for lithic protocols, but we will need to work together with our professional peers to trim this down to a practicable scale. We suggest the need for a workshop or perhaps a committee composed of several accomplished lithic analysts to work on the lithic protocol w/TxDOT.Lithics Protocol
I often get the impression in some CRM firms that lithic analysis is relegated to some under qualified employee to sort into categories for some RPA to interpret.
In general, some categories require more expertise than others to determine the appropriate check box. I am skeptical that all analysts will be capable of these determinations
This is one of the major driving forces behind the perceived need for and conceptualization of the lithics protocol. Shockingly, not everyone is qualified to perform a lithics analysis. The amount of data gleaned in such an analysis, as well as the accuracy of that data, is directly related to the skill of the analyst. A proper analysis of stone tools requires as much technical skill and training as a ceramic analysis or a geoarcheological investigation.Lithics Protocol
Core / Tool? analysis is relegated to some under qualified employee to sort into categories for some RPA to interpret.
Early Stage Biface?Early Stage Biface?
Modified Heat Spall
The current approach is data-heavy, and is not grounded in regionally relevant problems/issues.
[alternatively, TxDOT should have] a series of regionally and culturally specific ceramic protocols… developed by researchers that have an intimate understanding of the relevant questions/issues, technological, stylistic, and morphological attributes, etc. that are currently worthy of analytical attention.
First, define what you mean by region. We have found very little consistency among or within our report with respect to the use of this word. Region is used unrestrictedly to mean everything from the American Southwest, to Texas, to East Texas, to a biotic province, to a geologic area, etc. This is precisely what we mean when we discuss standardization. Most of the time we do not even define terms. Can we can infer from this statement that baseline data is not relevant to regionally (whatever that means) relevant issues?
Why? Did ancient Texans live in isolation? Almost everything we know about prehistoric as well as historic people in Texas strongly suggests that they interacted intensively and extensively. Viewing groups as cultural isolates went out of vogue at least 50 years ago. Why should we limit research to a specific area and a specific researcher? Where’s the objectivity in that? Who would define the “region?”Ceramics Protocol
Understanding the basics of the temporal components of a site should be the goal of excavations but dictating the terms and manner by which this is done seems excessive and pointless. This protocol goes beyond data quantification and too far into the realm of qualitative interpretation and heavy-handed standardization.
[This is the] Most offensive of all protocols, as it would dictate the use of terminology beyond reason.
We are sympathetic to your point of view. However, the goal of the database is to store archeological data in such a manner that future investigators can reasonably reinterpret site data and derive different analytical units than used by the original investigators. Given this objective, we do not see an alternative to standardizing the observations necessary to do so.
We recognize that the protocols are somewhat dictatorial. Again, note that this applies to a database delivered at the close of analysis and reporting. Nothing about it (except reasonability of cost, which would be case-specific) necessarily precludes reasonable adoption of a parallel system for primary reporting.Provenience Protocol
When separated from the idea of creating a database, the protocols could become useful tools to help standardize terminology and consistency in our work. In particular, the integrity protocol is rightly explicit about things that too often are not made explicit. It should make all of us think more carefully about how we dig, analyze, and report what we do.
This protocol appears to make explicit much of what is already standard practice and provides helpful guidance.
Agreed… except for the part about ignoring the value of creating a database.
Thank you. We feel the same way.Integrity Protocol
The protocols would be better suited to mandating basic, quantitative data on burned rock features (size, weight, results of special studies, etc.) and leave the gruesome study and documentation of fine matrix and other variables to the researchers.
…this protocol also introduces some level of subjectivity into the system with interpretations on feature type (accumulation, scatter, or cluster?), morphology, and other characteristics.
And most researchers will use terminology and data categories identified in the protocol. We didn’t invent this protocol; we selected the best practices followed by our professional community. In short, we are asking everyone to be more like the A student. If you have a SPECIFIC issue (and preferably an example), we would happily address your concern.
Those terms should be no more subjective than distinguishing between a 2x2, 1x1, and 50x50cm test pit. The terms are linked to characteristics of shape, volume, and concentration, and are thus more observations than interpretations.Feature Protocol(Burned Rock)