Sunday, July 25, 2010

Monday, July 19

Back into the Land of Mystery, aka the Pit of Doom aka the Pit of Despair.
Actually we are finally beginning to make progress. One part of the grid is finally giving up rocks that might be the edge of a structure. The other grids are showing more form than mine. One of our local volunteers, Jonathon, has found a completely intact skull of a cow. He spent Friday meticulous cleaning around it and continues to do so today. By late afternoon he has about 80% of it exposed and is just waiting for permission to go a little deeper so he can remove it.
While he is working on that I have begun to uncover a large stone that has a clear curved shape to it. The more I work on it, the more interesting it gets. It is about 15 inches long, 4 inches wide and I still have not found the bottom of it. Clearly someone has put a lot of effort into shaping this rock and it is the first one I have found with a clearly defined worked shape.
At lunch I tell Matt he needs to come by and take a look. I know he is not going to let me remove it yet, it is still too deep, but it is unusual because of its shape. Matt comes by, looks at it for a while and say, “Well, it certainly is a thing.” I just love these highly technical terms. In other words, its purpose, at this point is a

mystery. I adapt it as “My Thing”.

Shortly thereafter, Peter comes along to check on our progress. At this point he is mostly interested in finding changes in the soil (specifically the presence of clay) that will indicate a purpose built floor of a structure. He looks over Jonathon’s trench, climbs in and begins to go at the walls very aggressively with a trowel. After a minute of this he doesn’t find what he is looking for and goes to climb out. Without looking around he places his foot squarely in the middle of the cow skull and climbs out. Jonathon has been kneeling behind Peter watching him and I am standing behind Jonathon. Peter’s foot smashes the skull into four pieces. Jonathon turns and looks at me with a mixture of horror and heartbreak in his eyes. Peter looks at us, sees the shock in our expressions, looks into the trench and seeing the now smashed skull, says, “Oh, did I step on that?” and then climbs into my trench like nothing has happened.
He then notices “my thing” and looks at me with a look that says, “Well, that is interesting!” He has no idea what it is either so he begins to throw dirt around in my very clean trench looking for any sign of clay. Finding none, he climbs out and says, “Dig deeper” and wanders off.
Poor Jonathon can only stand and stare at the smashed remains of his once perfect skull. Silently he pulls the remaining pieces out and packs them up and turns them over to the finds people.

During the day we have been teasing Cory, who is working in one of our four trenches, over the fact that today is his 20th birthday. Cory is somewhat depressed by this. Since this birthday does not afford him any new legal privileges (like being able to legally drink in the U.S.), Cory says this birthday simply makes him feel “old”. I have been barely able to contain fits of laughter at his thought of being “old” at 20!
About an hour before we are to stop working it starts to rain. Unlike the other days though, this time it does not stop and over the next 45 minutes gets progressively stronger. So it has finally come – steady rain. Dirt begins to turn to mud and everything gets heavier – buckets of dirt, wheelbarrows of dirt, soles of shoes with mud stuck to them.
After getting cleaned up I go out to dinner with the folks from the Pompeii trip that have come to Durham. We go to an Italian restaurant (of course) and we talk about everything that has been happening onsite and what they can expect when they get there.
Later, I stop in to say hello at Cory’s birthday dinner. They are headed back to the house for some drinking and self acknowledged “bad” movie watching. I pass and catch up with another group who is headed to a pub quiz. We get there near the end and can’t “officially” participate.
Several of the supervisors are there and I get a glimpse into some of the issues that are going on in the group. They are concerned that people are spending too much time in the pubs and not enough onsite and have asked Gary to say something about it. (The next day we get a mass email on several subjects, including this one. Several days later it is hard to say if this has had any effect.) I bite my tongue to refrain from saying that some the supervisors have been leading the “Night Out” group. In addition, there is some tension about how much attention some are getting towards their academic goals at the expense of the others.

About the images:

1 & 2. A couple of views of "my thing".
3. Before the rain, Miriam takes a nap while safeguarding her trowel.

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