Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Frascati! Finally doing some archaeology

So. I should probably start from the beginning. I was at the main Rome station, and the train to Frascati didn't come for an hour. So I dumped by bag against a wall and sat down to wait. Turns out the chick I sat down next to....was going to Gabii. I only knew this because she was reading some articles, and I fully recognised them. Would have been quite embarassed if I was wrong. We got on the train, and there were a bunch of other Gabii people (the trains to Frascati aren't that often). I suppose I can't put all gossipy stuff here, because Gabii people might read it...but in all honesty....its a grat bunch of people. Pretty much a 50/50 split between boys and girls which is good for balance. All Americans, except for me and the two other Kiwis, so sometimes I have to NZ-out with Illana to escape some of the American overload. But a real variety of people, lots of different ages and cities. 8 Jews so far, which was pretty cool. Means I am not the only one doing the semi-Kosher thing, which is good. The hotel is really nice, although they are in the middle of renovating. Hopefully the dining terrace and pool will be done soon, because an evening swim would be super nice. Dinner is amazing, they insist on acutally serving us, and we get 3 courses and each serving is amazingly large and tasty. I got special chicken on the first night, cos it was pork meatballs, and they gave me 3 huge thick slices, basically like 3 chicken breasts. It was crazy. I have two roommates, but sleeping comes pretty easily at the end of a long day, so thats alright.

But on to the digging, becasue thats probably what you all want to hear about. First morning was equipment handout - gloves, steelcapped shoes etc. I didn't need a trowel....I brought mine and its been great so far. Then we got the EU compulsory safety talk thing, and a logistics tour of the site - they have to do all the artefact processing on site, because the Italian regulations are super strict. Then we got a tour of the city and the past excavation area which was super detailed and quite interesting. They are doing open-area excavation, which works well because they are looking at street systems and town plans and suchlike. They had gotten a mechanical digger to come through and scrap of over a metre of topsoil, which they had identified in the past through coring. I got assigned to Area C, which they are extending from last year. We are looking for the end of the city block and completition of a 2nd century AD house structure. When we have revealed that, they plan to take the floor up and see if there is an earlier structure, becasue in the area right next to it, they have found a much earlier house structure. They luckily will get a good look at the stratigraphy, because there is an 17th century canal cut right through the block that they used the digger to mostly empty and are tidying up atm. But..on the first afternoon we started cleaning up the excavation area, trying to trowel and sweep off the burnt top layer left by the digger and baked in the sun. My part that I have been working on yesterday and today, is what appears to be an extension of a rubble retaining wall on the edge of the road (it follows the line from the other half of the Area), its got a plaster wall on one edge, and a definite house floor on the other side. We started today on taking down the soil to expose the top of the rubble wall. This is a bitch, and we are continuing tomorrow. You can't just pickaxe it out, because you start dislodging the rubble itself and destroying the wall. So you pick, trowel, clean over and over again. And constantly sweeping. And having to stay away from the plaster, which is so flaky and degrading. Its not hugely hard labour though at this point, just repetitive, and frsutrating. Getting the hang of a pickaxe for different types of excavation in different situations takes a little while, but I think I'm getting there. Its pretty crazy hot, and its worse from about 11-lunch at 12.30, because its gotten super hot but the afternoon wind hasn't picked up. The work days are pretty short though, although the lunch break is short and there is not morning break. Because there has to be an Italian Govt supervisor on site when we are, and he insists on leaving at 3.45, we have to get off site then. Its a new thing this year, and its pretty ridiculous. They are negotiation with the Italians to extend that, but I don't know how successful that will be. We can't even go out earlier, because the guy doesn't get there till 7.45. All up, excavation is going really well. I wanted to be in Area B, where their houses were later reused as  a graveyard, and they have human burials to excavate. Very jealous. But in my topsoil stuff over the wall, I have found a whole lot of bone  fragments (Bioarch comes in helpful as identifiying it as I dig) and pottery, and tiles and Roman glass. Quite exciting stuff. Later this week I have a rotation in the finds lab, cleaning and processing pottery and bone, which I am looking forward too.

Thats all for now I think, might go and stop being all antisocial and chatting to all of you guys. Plus, dinner time is coming up soon.

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