Day 3: The Cycle of Archaeology

Jo:

Although Ukraine lost last night, I woke up happy today, as the sun was out and the sky, bright. Little did I know when I brushed my teeth that I wouldn’t see the sun much today. Instead, in the morning, I was placed in the photography lab to continue with the 1200 B.C. artifacts. In addition, I was given iron nails and other bronze artifacts such as fibulae to shoot.

Though I was disappointed that I couldn’t be in the field during such nice weather, the lab was a blessing in disguise because the sun was possibly too hot. The temperature hit 31 degrees Celsius today (around 88 Fahrenheit) and according to my co-trench workers, C Middle was not the most hospitable location.

After completing my photographing job, I returned to the convent to grab a quick lunch. Mid-sandwich, Professor George informed me that I would be staying at the convent to join Tanya in cataloging the artifacts discovered during the 2016 season. I was quite excited to complete this task, since once this was done, I would have partook in all possible opportunities of the dig.

With Tanya, I labeled (using nail polish and pen), input into the computer, and packed up the artifacts in bags for the photography lab to shoot. Some of the artifacts looked familiar, for either I or my co-trench workers had been the one to dig it out of the ground.

By the time the afternoon had ended, I had grasped the basics of the entire archaeological process.

First, the artifact is dug out of the ground. It is cleaned with brushes and tools at the site. Then, it is given to the cleaning lab to wipe the dirt off using toothbrushes. Following the cleaning, it is given to Tanya to catalogue. Nearly finished, it is photographed and documented for use in research projects and papers.

It was enlightening to complete that cycle of archaeology, and now it is very clear that archaeology isn’t just digging. There is so much more to it than simply finding a piece of pottery or glass, and as Will informed me yesterday, each aspect of the job is equally important. For instance, without the photography lab, a researcher would have to fly all the way to Italy to look at the artifact s/he wants to write about (It is illegal to take any archaeological artifact out of its country). Without the cleaning team, dirt stains remain on the artifact, so the photograph is not nearly as clear for the researcher. Without the catalogue team, the artifact isn’t recorded so the researcher cannot find neither the details (which trench, what date, what part of pottery/glass/etc., etc.) nor the photographs. And of course, without the digging team, the artifact remains in the ground.

The process is like a train track, or an assembly line—if one part does not complete its job sufficiently, the whole project is ruined.

 

Perry:

Today marked my long-awaited return to Coriglia and C-North. To put it simply, I (and my eyes) was becoming a little weary of Excel work and pined for the trench. After a quick shift cleaning up breakfast, my duty for the week, I hopped on the van and arrived at the site at 7:45 A.M.

Immediately, however, my excitement somewhat grew into the usual apprehension as I sank back into the usual routine. Even after my three day’s absence, we were still working on locus 512, the really messy pit of seemingly floor-less cocciopesto. I knelt down in the hot dirt, trowel in hand—“it’s going to be another one of those days,” I said to myself. Instead of moping around, however, I converted such frustration into full trowel-strokes and worked quite productively.

In the last few days, a tile floor was discovered in locus 512, only to be disproved and subsequently removed. The supervisors’ hypothesis, which everyone seems to believe, was that there was originally a room there with cocciopesto floor which was eventually demolished to make room for the kiln which remains nearby today. This theory was strengthened by the discovery of a lump of clay-turned-glass which often serves as the by-product of kiln activity. Furthermore, we measured the distance from both sides of the kiln to the nearest locus change and they both were quite similar—130 cm to the north and 125 cm to the south.

Thus today, we attempted to lower the level in 512 in the ever-so-constant search for the floor. Eventually, we found a bunch of changing loci and decided it would be best to close the locus and take photos—personally, I think that everyone was sick of working there and wanted to move somewhere else. We did a deep sweep and attempt to have the locus done by tomorrow.

In the meantime, we grabbed the usual lunch at Monterubiaglio—two slices of pizza margherita for me (the butcher at the deli and I enjoy our conversations in broken Italian and he now treats me as a regular)—and arrived back at Coriglia at one. One only had to look at the dirt to notice the change in weather since the morning—having dried and subsequently changed about three shades of grey, it indicated the bitter heat of the sun’s rays. We moved back to locus 658, where we started two weeks ago. It was the same type of work as then—heavy demolishing with picks and shovels. Under the scorching sun, it was quite tiring, and I was the most exhausted today that I’ve ever been here at the dig—there’s definitely a reason C-North is (not-so) affectionately referred to as “The Desert.” However, I was still quite satisfied with myself and my finds, which included pieces of unusual colored and glass tesseræ as well as chunks of lucite, a mill-stone material not typically found in Coriglia. With the same work scheduled for tomorrow, who knows what I will find then?

After a quick stop at the grocery store to restock on spicy tortilla chips, Danish butter cookies, and breakfast croissants (our arsenal of snack food), we arrived back at the convent. On a slightly non-archaeology-related note, the start of my NSLI-Y Hindi immersion program in Indore, India is only a week-away, so I took much of today’s free time to review my notes on the Hindi language and Indian culture and continue my contact with my host family, the Nyati’s. I’m truly grateful to be able to participate in two wildly different, but equally interesting, intercontinental experiences this summer, not even to mention that they are both fully externalliy funded! Following a tasty—why must I even say, for the meals at the convent are always quite delicious—dinner of lemon-spaghetti, beer-braised chicken, and haricots verts, I wrote my blog post and look forward to watching the UEFA Sweden-Belgium game. As an avid Scandiphile, I would love to see the Swedes come out on top, especially considering that the team’s star player, Zlatan Ibrahimović, just announced his retirement from international competition. I’ll end today’s entry just like yesterday’s—go Sverige!

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