Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Tuesday, July 6 BINCHESTER

On the second day of digging, I am assigned to a different location within the fort. Running thru the middle of the trench there is a clear foundation of a building that is being called a soldiers barracks. Today our job is to work away from the foundation, continuing to uncover a jumble of stone that sits outside the barracks. There are six of us and we spread out in a line and start in with our trowels.
For a while we make good progress. There are lots of stones and we clean around them and find lots more. However as we work our way further away from the wall the stones start to disappear.
Our supervisor, Matt, sees this and comes to investigate. It seems to him, that as we work our way from the wall the level with stones is sloping down deeper. In order to get to the new level, out come the Mattocks. We clear a long line about three feet back, but don’t find any new stones. Back to the top and repeat. Again nothing. Repeat for a third time. This finally begins to bring up new stone so we put the Mattocks aside and go back to our trusty trowels.
As we work, we begin to talk, getting to know each other. The woman working next to me is somewhat younger than me and is from a town about an hour north of here. She is here because her teenage son (and his friend) has developed an interest in archeology and wants to work at the site. Since they are underage (and can’t drive) she has to come with them. She has never done anything like this, but here she is, on her knees digging in the dirt.
During our breaks I start to take pictures. At first people are a little camera shy, looking away. However, over time, they get used to me pointing my camera at them and start to ignore me, which is exactly what I want. This is the beginning of a project I will be working on the entire time I am here. (More on this later.)

This also allows me to take a break from digging and to explore the other trench and see what they are working on. In the other trench, which we are calling the “vicus” (Latin, meaning “village”) they have been pulling out coins in surprising quantities (maybe four to six a day). They are also finding some of the same things we are, bits of pottery and lots of animal bones. Watching them work, it is clear their site is easier to work. As a result there is a lot more socializing going on then in ours. Our work is hard and people are quiet while digging and focusing hard on not pulling out something that should be left in place.
Later in the day Michael Shanks arrives on site. Michael is a co-director of the project for Stanford, co-teacher with Gary of the classes I have taken at Stanford in preparation for this, director of the Stanford Humanities Lab, English by birth (although he now resides in California) and something of a minor celebrity in the world of archeology. He is also academic advisor to many of the students here from Stanford. His role, it seems, is to provide academic access for his students to the locals as well as greasing the political wheels necessary to get funding for the project and keep it moving.
After about 15 minutes of talking to the on site staff, I am tickled when upon seeing me, he immediately comes over and spends 10 minutes chatting me up. Michael is also a photographer and we are going to be working on some photo projects together later on. Over the course of the day, Michael makes a point of introducing himself to everyone on site. A second conversation between us ensues about the upcoming projects.

After returning from the site, I conduct another hurried shopping trip. Arriving at the house I dig in my pocket for my key, and sure enough, it is gone. I put down my purchases and frantically search my pockets, three times to be sure. No key. Silently muttering every self-curse I can think of, I go down to the main house. The office is occupied and I am given a new key.
When I get back to my door, there is my original key, sitting in the lock. Only problem is I don’t need the key to lock the door, so someone has picked up the key and put it there for me to find. (I never do learn the identity of my savior.) Clearly, I am going to have to come with a better way to hang onto the damned thing.
After dinner tonight, some of us go to the pub to watch the first semifinal game of the World Cup. After the U.S. was eliminated I adapted the hard luck Dutch so I will have a team to route for. They win, 3-2, and advance to the finals. Hooray!

About the images:

1. A larger view of the vicus.
2. Sometimes it's all just a jumble of rocks!
3. Tea time.

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