Fort Hood, Texas
...The Great Place
FHCRMP works to ‘piece’ the past to the future
By Pvt. 2 Stephanie Carpenter, III Corp PAO
Pieces of glass and metal lay on the table. Peering through his glasses, the archeologist picked up each piece individually and studied it for a while before jotting down information about the object and then placing it into a small plastic bag.
Gavin L. Smith, the curator for the Fort Hood Cultural Resources Management Program, examines potential artifacts that are found on Fort Hood and catalogues them and prepares them using acid free materials for storage in a climate controlled room.
"Changes in climate can destroy the artifacts," said Smith as he opened the door to the room he calls the "meat locker."
The oldest artifact we have in our possession is a tusk from an approximately 25-year-old Columbian mammoth that lived about 13,000 years ago, he said. It was found along the creek in the Pershing housing area.
Housed with the tusk, neatly packed in boxes and shelved are a variety of artifacts ranging in age from 13,000 to 50 years old. They are divided into one of two categories based on this age.
Artifacts 300 years old or older are categorized as prehistoric and are typically stone tools, pottery, and other relics from native tribes that moved in and out of the area, said Smith.
The artifacts were recovered from the more than 1094 recorded prehistoric sites found on Fort Hood, he said.
Artifacts from 300 to 50 years old are categorized as historic. Metal tools, dishes, and other relics typical of this era comprises the mass of this category, he said.
There are 1121 recorded historic sites on Fort Hood.
It is much easier to gather relics from these sites, said Smith. The sites are more recent and most of the relics can be found on the surface.
Smith picked a rock from the bottom shelf. This is chert, he said. The common name for it is flint. This is the material natives used to make stone tools because of its easy shaping and ability to hold a good edge, he said. He picked up a slightly smaller rock and began to strike the first. I am trying to knock off debitage, he said.
Debitage is the French word for trash, but it is the term used for the pieces of chipped chert. Once a workable piece is broken from the larger rock and given a basic shape, an antler is used to shape it more finely, he said.
Placing the rocks back into their nook, he rounded the corner and stopped at another box. He pulled bags containing metal tools out of the box. These are typical of the historic period he said. The nice thing about them is that they are recognizable because they are similar to the tools we use presently, he said.
The artifacts typically remain in their boxes in the room.
They are pieces of a puzzle and each contributes to the big picture of Fort Hood's past, he said.
There are times when they will be taken out. Some times people will come in and request to see a specific artifact or artifacts from a specific site or a specific time period, said Smith. We also take them to schools from time to time to give children a little lesson on the history of their community, he said.
The programs staff also makes an effort to educate soldiers on the history and what they can do to help protect the artifacts and the sites from which they come, said Smith.
Every month Fort Hood holds a class designed to educate a units environmental representative on taking care of the environment based on Department of Defense regulations, he said.
We try to go to these classes and make them aware of what archeologically exists on Fort Hood.
They will also go to a company's Sergeants time and give a class if the company requests.
Fort Hood soldiers as a whole should be commended for their efforts in protecting the environment while still carrying out the mission, said Kristen E. Wenzel, a field archeologist for the program. Soldiers have called concerned about preserving the area they are training in, she said.
They also call to get clearance before they dig or begin construction, she said.
People will sometime come across something they believe to be an artifact and bring it in, said Wenzel.
It's great that they are trying to help the program, but its like ripping a page out a book, she said. The area it was found in and what is around it are essential in knowing the whole story, she said.
If someone were to come across something the best thing to do is leave it there and call and let us know where it is located so that we can can get the most information possible from it, she said.
The Project's office is open Monday through Friday, 7:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. and they can be reached on the phone at 288-0846.
"There is so little federal land in Texas, that it's often difficult to find good representations of prehistoric sites, said Smith.
"The areas where we can enforce federal protection laws can supply the best information."