Archaeologists cataloging Central Texas’ past as development soars


AUSTIN (KXAN) — Most of us observe how Central Texas has changed from the ground up, but some people see progress below the surface. Archaeologists often work with contractors to look out for our past, while we move into the future.

“You start to understand how cities grow, how people move in and out, and how things develop the way they do,” said Nesta Anderson, who has been an archaeologist for about two decades.

She works for Pape-Dawson Engineers. It’s common for larger engineering and construction companies to have an in-house archaeology team. Pape-Dawson hired their first archaeologist four years ago. There are now six on the team.

As Central Texas continues to boom, there’s plenty for archaeologists to study. Anderson’s team has been busy in rural areas in Pflugerville that will soon be housing developments.

Before construction begins, the archaeologists do shovel tests to see if there are important artifacts buried below the surface. It’s an important step before clearing out the old to make room for the new.

“It’s like a treasure hunt. So, if I’ve got a piece of broken glass, what else might be here? Could there be a whole bottle? Could there be a plate?” Anderson says any item 50 years or older is considered historic age.

“If we find artifacts, we come back here, we wash them, we analyze them and we write a report. So, start to finish it’s a lot of work.”

Anderson’s team catalogs their findings and, if it’s public land, the artifacts go to repositories throughout the state. If it’s private land, they turn them over to the landowner. Then, it’s onward and upward.

“We’re finding who was here before you and telling their stories, and someday someone will be able to come back and do that for what’s happening now,” says Anderson.

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