A Site By Any Other Name (or Number)?

Readers may wonder about the abbreviated numbers noted in parentheses from time to time in this section such as "Arenosa Shelter (VV99)." Wonder no more. Archeological sites are always assigned unique site numbers, and may or may not have names.

Most archeologists name the sites they excavate or study in detail. sites are named for landowners, landscape features, and various other namesakes and the names may not be unique or easy to reference. In Texas alone, for example, there are dozens of sites that have the name "Smith" as part of the site name. But many sites never get named—a large archeological survey may record hundreds of sites, most of which are never excavated. So to keep track of all the sites archeologists identify, we use individual site numbers.

Since the 1950s archeologists have assigned a unique number to each site they record using a simple and flexible numbering system developed by the Smithsonian Institution. In brief, each site is assigned a three-part number that gives the site a unique identification number that avoids confusion between site localities. This site number is used on all site records, field notes, and collection bags and is a critical reference.

For example, the famous Amistad site known as Arenosa Shelter is formally known as 41VV99. Texas was the 41st state on an alphabetical list of states at the time the Smithsonian Trinomial System was devised. VV stands for Val Verde County. And, Arenosa was the 99th site officially recorded in Val Verde County, Texas.

On this website, we prefer to use site names because names are more memorable than numbers. Nonetheless, serious students of archeology who seek further information about a particular site need to know the site number because that is how all the site records and collections are stored at archeological repositories such as the Texas Archeological Research Laboratory (TARL), publisher of this website. To make cross-referencing easier for the serious readers, we have included a short version of the site numbers when we discuss each of the major named sites investigated during the Amistad salvage program. Since all of the sites discussed in this section are in Texas, we'll simply note the abbreviate version in parentheses. For example, "Arenosa Shelter (VV99)."

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