Thursday, 7 July 2011

Week Three is coming to an end :(

Again I have been super slack in updating this little blog of mine. It's not that I don't love you all, but it's hard enough motivating myself to get off my butt in the afternoons, let alone wrestle with the internet to write to you guys. But when I realised how much you had been neglected, I felt a little guilty. So here goes.

Excavation
A lot has changed in the site in the past week or so. I was chugging along in Area C, defining robbing trenches for walls and catching up on documentation and basically jumping from SU to SU as Jamie (area manager) needed me. Some exciting things were starting to come up in the two large cuts in the floor that I mentioned last time. Unforutantely I wasn't working on them, but I was nextdoor demolishing a bit of my wall.
In the circular cut, Evan Goldstick was digging the fill out and came across a small animal hole, maybe 30cm in diameter. These can be fairly common and easy to identify, so he kept digging and an hour or so later, his entire leg went through the bottom of the hole into a giant hole/void under the soil. The hole was so deep, that we poked a longhandled shovel down it and had to hold onto the very tip. The stratigraphy was quite odd, if this was a manmade hole, as it undercut (and therefore should predate) not only the floor, but also part of the adjoining wall. If it was some kind of cistern or grave, why would you build a wall on a huge hole, and why didn't the hole cause the wall to collapse? Could there have been some kind of organic material in the hole that had disinetegrated with time? It was very confusing, and Jamie called over the Field Manager Anna for her opinion and for the official word on what to do. She concluded it was an animal hole (some sort of giant goffer perhaps? this seems quite crazy to me), and excavation proceeded as normal.
In the oval cut next to this one, Nick Bartos was digigng and found heaps of semi-intact amphorae and huge chunks of tufa and basalt, which was rather irritating to excavate as I realised later when I helped him out for a bit. The hole turned out to ridiculously deep and the soil so loose on  the sides, that they stopped excavating for fear of collapse, even though the bottom of the hole had not been reached.
You might think that this was the exciting stuff, but there is so much more to come.
We got news from the directors, that 25 new students were joining us for the rest of the dig. Turns out the dig at Ostia Antica, run by the American Institute for Roman Culture and the University of Bologna had been cancelled, something to do with some monetary demands and permits and things. So Nic Terrenato, the head of the dig, had agreed to take on the students who had come to Italy to participate. I was actually considering going to that dig, funny how these things turn out.
So with all the new people coming, they decided to extend the area of excavation, by pushing our excavation area further south (to find the southern wall of the house) and adding a new Area E to the East of my area, to investigate the structures on the other side of the N-S road. So on Friday and Monday, we had a digger on site pulling back the top soil.
It was about this time that I had my rotoation in the Environmental Lab, which was thrilling as always. We were working on a sampling experiment they had conducted last year to see how efficient their method for artefact collection was (sifting through each shovelfull in the wheelbarrows with a trowel). So we had to go through bags of sifted sediment and after it had been seived in a fine seive, we went through with tweezers and removed all the tiny bits of bone and ceramic and glass. Its tedious to say the least.
Around this time I also had a little time excavating the SU from hell! It was impossible to define, because we could find basically no stratigraphic evidence for the cut of the giant 17th century canal that run next to it, and without being able to define the limits of the SU, we can't excatly document or excavate it properly without cross-contamination. It was hellish. The sun baked the soil so hard you couldn't tell anything, and when we came back to try again when the storm (see below) and moistened it all up....still nothing. Its a work in progress, and I think Jamie just decided to leave it because he doesn't want to have to deal with it right now.
But to get back to my Area. After the digger had removed a whole new section of the house, we go in to start cleaning up the loose dirt and seeing what there was. Unfortuantely, barely an hour into the morning....THUNDERSTORM! Torrential rain and lightening, means we all have to retreat to the little metal trailers for about an hour until the thunderstorm passes over. They were earthed though, otherwise I don't think we would have made it. Apparently last year, a lightening bolt hit and destroyed a tree in the next field, so they tend to pack it in when it gets bad like that. Despite the brevity of the storm, we come out and the entire southern section of our Area is flooded, and the rest of the site was muddy as hell. So the entire excavation team has to sit and wash pottery until some of the excavation areas were dry enough that you can walk on them without taking off half the stratigraphy as you go. Some people went down to our area and started to bail it out, but I don't think it did much good. The last few days have been spent cleaning up the mess left by the digger and subsequent rain, so that we can actually start excavating it properly.
I think that just about brings you all up to date, assuming any of that made sense to you. Its hard to talk about my area, because its all about structural relationships of walls and floors, not at all like the exciting stuff they are finding in the other areas. To give you a taster of what I don't get to play with.....Area D found a HUGE (2m deep) hole in the bedrock with 3 niches in the sides of it containing skeletons. In Area B, they have found several more bodies, including an infant in a terracotta sarcophagus with a thin lead sheet over top, and a woman buried in a triple-covered tomb (cappucini tiles, then thick lead sheets, then more tiles). Jealous much!!!!?????

I had planned to write about my last weekend in Rome...but its past 10pm and I'm tired. So I'll leave that for next time, which hopefully will be tomorrow. But I make no promises.
Miss you all!

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