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Digging up history

By LESLIE WILBER
Aug. 22, 2009 at 3:22 a.m.


Victoria CountyMuseum of the Coastal Bend

2200 East Red River St.

Tuesday - Saturday 10 a.m. to 4p.m.

Features a portion of the seven-part La Salle Odessy that focuses on La Salle's failed settlement in Southern Victoria County.

Children's Discovery Museum

204 North Main St.

Tuesday - Friday 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.; Saturday 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; Sunday 1 to 4:30 p.m.

Hands-on activities for kids.

McNamara House

502 North Liberty St.

Tuesday - Sunday 1 to 5 p.m.

A historic building filled with local artifacts.

Nave Museum

306 West Commercial St.

Tuesday - Sunday 1 to 5 p.m.

Rotating exhibits from local artists and traveling shows.

Calhoun County

Calhoun County Museum

301 S. Ann

Port Lavaca

Tuesday and Wednesday 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday and Friday; 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday.

Catalogs the natural and maritime history of the county. Includes a portion of the seven-part La Salle Odyssey that focuses on the struggle between Spain and France in the costal bend.

DeWitt County

DeWitt County Historical Museum

312 E. Broadway St.

Cuero

Wednesday - Friday 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., closed noon-1 p.m.; Sunday 2 to 5 p.m.

A restored home from the 1880's that features period clothing, furniture and other pieces.

Goliad CountyPresidio La Bahia

One mile south of Goliad on U.S. HIghway 183

9 a.m. to 4:45 p.m.

A restored Spanish mission, one of the few that remains standing in the country.

Gonzales CountyCity of Gonzales Museum

414 Smith St.

Tuesday - Saturday 10 a.m to noon and 1 to 5 p.m.; Sunday 1 to 5 p.m.

Highlights Gonzales' role in the fight for Texas independence.

Jackson County

Texana Museum

403 N. Wells St.

Edna

Thursday and Friday 1 to 5 p.m. Special tours by appointment. Call 361-782-5431.

A leg of the seven-part La Salle Odyssey that focuses on native people who lived here before the French.

Lavaca County

Lavaca Historical Museum

413 N. Main St.

Hallettsville

Tuesday-Friday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Features the Old-Timers Baseball Hall of Fame room.

Upcoming exhibits

Museum of the Coastal BendJune 2009: War Brides of Victoria

August 2009: Images of Valor: U.S. Latinos and Latinas of WWII

November 2009: Morhiss - American Archeology on the Eve of WWII

Thousands of years ago, the Crossroads was filled with people. And they were busy.

Today, a group of volunteers is busy digging up evidence of these early locals.

"There were a great many people who lived here a long time ago," said Frank Condron, an archeological steward from Jackson County. "They were smart people."

Condron sat with a group of amateur archeologists in a back room of the Museum of the Costal Bend. The group sorts and catalogs artifacts twice a week - from 9:30 a.m. to 3p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays - and some of the items become part of the museum's permanent collection.

"It's always here and we're always adding to it," Sue Prudhomme, the museum's director, said.

To the uneducated eye, objects in the early people of the Costal Bend display might seem like nothing more than worn rocks. With a little training, the story etched in those rocks emerges.

"This is a scraper," said Kathryn Beeman as she measured a flat-edged stone. "I would call this a spatula if it was in the kitchen."

The scraper could be used for, well, scraping - like separating animal flesh from skin. Beside the scraper was a blade, creating a paleolithic cutlery set of sorts.

The volunteers have worked on professional digs, archeological steward Bill Birmingham said. Though they have only worked on items for the museum since it opened five years ago, most have nursed a love of archeology since childhood.

Archeological steward Jimmy Bluhm held a handful of chips off old rocks. He likes to study not only ancient tools, but what was left behind when they were made.

"I can tell what he was working with," Bluhm said. He can see if the craftsman was thinning out a heavy rock for harvest, or if he was fine-tuning the tip of an arrow.

Bluhm is interested in reconstructing pre-historic crafting techniques. Using authentic methods, he created many of the objects in a display that depicts an early home. He also carved an atlatl, what he calls an early automatic weapon. The spear can be launched from a hand-held catapult. The extra leverage gives the spear more speed and force, Bluhm said. The tip of the spear can be removed and reloaded.

"Our thing is to educate the public," Bluhm said.

Museum visitors are welcome to peek in on volunteers on Tuesdays and Thursdays. But those who want to get actively involved with local archeology will have the chance this fall.

Victoria College will offer a field crew certification program starting in September, Prudhomme said. The class will teach students to recognize artifacts, collect them and record information about them.

People who complete the class can participate in an archeology lab were they will work on digs with the museum's field crew, Prudhomme said.

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