Stipulations and Procedures for the Preparation of Archeological Material Collections to be Curated at TARL

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Since one of its primary missions is to maintain in perpetuity records and collections for research and education, TARL attempts to curate collections in a manner that provides efficient access for users. As described in the section "Separation of Collections for Housing at TARL," there are four principal collection housing areas (General Collections, Human Osteology, Vessel Collection, Bulk Collections), and the remains curated in each are prepared in somewhat different ways. More specifically, since almost all users want to examine specific objects, specific kinds of objects, or specific kinds of samples from one or more sites, collections submitted to TARL must be separated according to the four-fold division described in the section on Separation of Collections. In addition, those items to be housed in General Collections must be submitted in the analytical categories into which the materials were sorted for reporting purposes; these groups of items must be clearly identified by analytical category. Pottery, for example, is normally reported by ceramic type or other group (Holly Fine Engraved, Borger Cordmarked, etc.). Similarly, chipped stone tools are typically reported by categories such as endscrapers, beveled knives, Montell dart points, Alba arrow points, utilized flakes, etc. The only exception to this is that all artifacts associated with human burials are to be kept together (but separate from the skeletal remains) to be curated as a unit in General Collections.

Other portions of collections are handled somewhat differently as described in the section on Separation of Collections. Particular attention should be given to unmodified faunal remains identified by taxon; these should be packaged first by provenience and then by taxon (with labeling that records the taxononic identification). TARL will not accept collections with faunal remains that have been identified if taxonomic separations are not maintained, so contractors should make certain that subcontractors comply with these requirements.

In general, TARL will not accept for curation objects reported as "isolated finds" or from "localities." If the occurrence of artifacts does not warrant a site designation, the objects themselves are, in most cases, not worth curating. Unusual individual cases should be discussed with TARL's Head of Collections in advance.

Submission of collections according to these criteria is considered to be the professional and ethical responsibility of the Submitting Archeologist, since it permits efficient evaluation of analytical results by others and allows for reproducibility of results. Collections submitted without meeting these stipulations in their entirety will be rejected.

  1. All collections, including records and materials, must be complete when submitted for curation. TARL Collections Inventory Worksheet(s) must be included with the collections at time of delivery. There shall be a separate worksheet for each site and for each phase of investigation at each site (e.g., survey collection, testing collection, excavation collection). Records should be archivally stable, as noted in Council of Texas Archeologists Guidelines for Curation Standards and Procedures 3.2.1.

  2. All artifact tags/labels are to be of acid-free paper (a random sample of these will be tested for compliance). Information handwritten on labels must be written in pencil. Labels must be readily visible and legible. Tags in bags of shell, metal, or bone should be sleeved to prevent contact with artifacts. Small 1-mil open-end bags work well.

  3. Paper artifact bags will not be accepted for curation at TARL. Use 4-mil reclosable (zip-lock) polyethylene bags for all artifacts. The double-track zipper type has proven longer lasting than the single-track type, especially on larger bags holding heavier materials. Do not write on the polyethylene bag.

  4. Clean and preserve all materials using TARL-approved, nondestructive, and reversible techniques. Exceptions, of course, are expected when cleaning has the potential for destroying archeological data. On the TARL Collection Processing Record, document all techniques and materials used in processing a collection.

  5. Separate and document specimens in need of ongoing restoration, preservation, or monitoring.

  6. Other than the exceptions noted below, all specimens must be individually labeled with a site designation and intrasite provenience designation (a simple lot number system is acceptable). These designations should be written on the specimens with permanent black ink and coated with Acryloid B-72 for protection. If a base is needed on porous materials such as bone (which is recommended), a thin coat of Acryloid B-72 may be used before labeling and top-coating. Care should be taken to avoid labeling specimens in areas necessary for attribute analysis. Dark specimens are to be labeled with permanent white ink and coated as above. Do not use white-out as a base or clear nail polish as a coating. Historically, white-out has flaked off, taking the labeling with it, and clear nail polish yellows and cracks with time. Chipped stone debitage larger than a US quarter dollar must be individually labeled but need not be separated from other, smaller debitage from that provenience (see #10 below). Window glass fragments need not be labeled and should be treated as bulk samples. Rusted metal objects that have not been conserved should be individually bagged with an appropriate label (see #2 above). Nails and wire fragments need not be labeled individually and can be treated as bulk samples (see #10 below); string tags are useful for many metal objects that cannot be otherwise labeled. Animal bones should be labeled (except for very small specimens; see #8 below) as described above for porous materials. Consult the TARL Collections Office regarding human remains.

  7. The labeling of perishable or fragile specimens should be discussed with the Head of Collections as the need arises.

  8. Place specimens too small to be individually numbered in a labeled vial (no film canisters), plastic bag, or gelatin capsule. To insure against loss of provenience and analysis grouping, the label in or on the container should specify that specimens are not individually labeled.

  9. Radiocarbon samples should be submitted in glass containers (if sample is from acidic sediments) or in aluminum foil packets placed inside a reclosable polyethylene bag. There must be labels inside the bag or inside the glass jar (the label should be in a zip-lock bag). Labels should indicate if a portion of the sample has been submitted for dating.

  10. Bulk samples (e.g., matrix, soil, burned rocks, lithic debitage) must be double-bagged, and an easily read acid-free paper tag must be placed between the two bags. Do not overpack, and keep the top of bags up, with heavy materials on the bottom of the container. Staples are not acceptable. In the case of soil, matrix, pollen, macrobotanical, fine-screen, and/or flotation samples, another label inside its own closed zip-lock bag must be placed with the sample inside the inner bag. Labels should indicate if a portion of the sample has been removed for analysis. It is important that all samples be completely dry before being enclosed in their containers.

  11. The following information must be included on all tags and labels: site designations; project name, number, and date; provenience data; analytical group or type of sample; number of specimens included; and name of submitting agency/institution.

  12. Separate and package materials according to the instructions in the section "Separation of Collections for Housing at TARL." For artifacts to be curated in General Collections, submit in the analytical categories used in the report, and if appropriate, from meaningful proveniences within a site (an example might be separation by mound at a multiple-mound site). For General Collections, do not disassemble the analytical categories and return artifacts to field provenience groupings.

  13. Provide an explanation or index for the cataloging system used and a specimen inventory that accurately reflects the quantity of materials being submitted for curation and their analysis and packaging order.

  14. Be certain that analytical groups as well as individual artifact designations on the inventories correspond to those used in the final report and on packaging. This will greatly facilitate use by future researchers.

  15. TARL provides boxes of a specific size for housing of bulk specimens, osteological remains, and other special materials. The cost of the boxes is covered by the basic curation charge. Boxes for Bulk Collections and Human Osteology should be requested in advance. Cardboard box bottoms must be generously hot-melt glued, not taped or interfolded. All adhesive tapes fail with time, and folded box bottoms are not strong enough to hold these bulk materials.

  16. If the need to curate anything unusual is anticipated or if clarification of these procedures is needed, please contact TARL Collections at 512-475-6853. A list of some sources for curation and archival products is included with this curation packet.

  17. Please consult in advance with TARL Registrar to schedule delivery of a collection to TARL.

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Separation of Collections for Housing at TARL

General Collections

Primary housing area for utilized, worked, or otherwise modified materials from prehistoric or historic archeological sites.

Location: PRC Building 5, Room 19

  • All ceramic specimens except complete vessels (which are housed in the Vessel Collection area) and large quantities of undecorated body sherds (to be curated as bulk materials and packaged accordingly see below)
  • Lithic tools and ornaments (exception: large numbers of thick, unfinished bifaces will probably be curated in bulk material)
    • Chipped stone tools
    • Modified debitage (depending on quantity)
    • Stone ornaments
  • Bone and shell tools and ornaments
  • Wooden, fiber, textile, basketry, and animal skin artifacts as well as other similar perishable objects
  • Historic artifacts except for bricks, mortar, bulk glass (window glass and bottle body fragments), bulk undecorated ceramics, large quantities of metal objects (nails, wire, etc.); submitters should discuss in advance with TARL Head of Collections all collections containing metal objects so that the specific needs of each collection are considered
  • All materials associated with human burials; separate by burial if there were multiple individuals (do not include large matrix/soil samples)

Artifacts to be curated in TARL General Collections must be in the analytical categories used in the report, and these groups of items must be clearly identified by analytical category. For example, pottery is normally reported by ceramic type or other group; similarly, chipped stone tools may be reported by type categories. If a submitter deems it appropriate to maintain some intrasite provenience separation (but with separation by analytical categories within those provenience groups), this should be discussed in advance with TARL Head of Collections.

Specimens housed in General Collections should be packaged according to the Stipulations. Because the basic unit is the site, materials from one site within a project must be kept together. Do not use the standard cardboard box used for Bulk Collections to submit artifacts for curation in General Collections.

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Human Osteological Collection

Housing area for human skeletal remains.

Location: PRC Building 5, Room 110

TARL will not accept for curation Native American human remains or associated or unassociated funerary objects without written proof of (1) right of possession by the party submitting the remains (as defined in NAGPRA), and (2) a transfer document giving TARL the right of possession (Letter of Transfer/Ownership and/or Deed of Gift). Remains thus transferred must have been analyzed and documented using Standards for Data Collection from Human Skeletal Remains (available from the Department of Anthropology, University of Arkansas, Main 330, Fayetteville, Arkansas 72701 [479-575-3556]) if not, an additional fee will be charged to cover this expense. Anyone wanting to submit Native American human remains or associated or unassociated funerary objects under other circumstances should consult TARL staff to discuss pertinent legal issues.

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Vessel Collection

Housing area for whole or nearly complete ceramic vessels. Contact the Head of Collections regarding submission of whole vessels.

Location: PRC Building 5, Room 117

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Bulk Collections

Unless the amount per site and/or project is small, as is true in many survey collections, the following kinds of materials will be curated in Bulk Collections. Specimens housed in Bulk Collections should be packaged first in plastic bags or other appropriate containers (see specific requirements in Stipulations), and then in standard 18 x 11 x 6-inch cardboard boxes provided by TARL. Boxes should be labeled neatly on 11-inch side of box with black marker.

Location: PRC Building 33

  • Ground, pecked, and battered stone tools (exceptions may be considered if specific objects would be more appropriately curated in General Collections)
  • Unmodified debitage (within provenience groupings, maintain analytical categories reported)
  • Thick unfinished bifaces and unifaces
  • Burned/thermally altered rocks
  • Unaltered gravels/pebbles
  • Matrix samples
  • Soil samples
  • Bulk ceramics (see criteria in section on General Collections)
  • Bulk historic materials (see criteria in section on General Collections)
  • Unaltered nonhuman bone (includes bone with cutmarks and other indications of butchering; within provenience groupings, maintain any taxonomic separations that have been made)
  • Plant remains
  • Picked matrix
  • Charcoal samples
  • Unaltered shell (within provenience groupings, maintain any taxonomic separations that have been made)
  • Pollen samples
  • Phytolith samples
  • Archeomagnetic and thermoluminescence samples
  • Coprolite samples

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Labeling Bags and Boxes

Categories to put on label
Categories to put on box

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