Yay For Dirt!

Mom, remember when the neighbors were doing a bunch of landscaping in their backyard and it was pretty much all dirt and I would go over there and dig in the mud when I was little?  Remember how I would come home, covered head to toe in a layer of dirt so thick you could not even see my skin?  Remember how you would make me wash off with the hose outside, telling me that my constant digging and playing in the neighbor’s yard did not actually help anyone?  Well, I must respectfully disagree with that statement.  Today has been nothing but dirt, dirt, dirt, and more dirt.  Of course there were a few bits of terra cotta mixed in there that we found and even a bronze flake and implement of some sort.  But more on those later.  I guess I should probably start at the beginning…

We woke up at a seemingly ungodly hour for breakfast, while I silently cursed myself for staying up until midnight to read.  Okay, it probably was not as silent as I had thought at the time (Dad, stop laughing, at least it was not four in the morning this time and was still dark outside).  After a nice meal of yogurt, granola, and fruit,  we started the long, grueling trek to the site.  In all reality, it’s really only a 1.8 mile hike, but it seems a lot longer when in the middle of it on a very hot morning.  It also happens to be all uphill, which isn’t bad in some spots, but others can be a little steep and can tend to be dotted with more than a few thorn bushes.  Also, a note on thorn bushes, don’t walk directly into, because they will latch on to you and never let go.  Something we have all learned the hard way.  While this small bit of information may seem completely obvious, you have yet to encounter these particular bushes, they happen to be masters of disguise.  Okay, back to the dig.  We got to the top of the site and began to settle into our routine of attacking our plot of dirt with a pick axe, shoveling the loose dirt into buckets, sorting through the dirt to find chunks of terra cotta (mostly we found rocks), and then wheeling the, now useless, dirt off to the dirt dump.  After we finished one cycle, it was time to begin anew.  By the way, pick axes are a great way to get your back muscles exceptionally sore (I don’t think I’ve been this sore since, well, ever).  You know that feeling you get when you are just so sore, even thinking about moving can physically hurt, but at the same time, the work you were doing was so gratifying that you don’t care at all?  That’s this exact feeling.  

Before I go into the details about the digging process, I should probably explain where on the site we are.  Our plot of dirt is the exact location where a dirt dump from a few years ago once sat.  A dirt dump is exactly what it sounds like.  It is a big pile of dirt where archeologists will send the soil they dig up after it has been sorted through.  Over the course of the season, a dirt dump will end up being a massive mound, accumulating dirt from the surrounding trenches.  This being the case, we were not fully expecting to find anything monumental, as people should have already sorted through the soil and picked out what was important.  Of course, we still managed to find vitrified terra cotta bits (evidence of fire working), pottery pieces, brick pieces, a sheep’s tooth, a bronze flake, and a small bronze implement that could have gone to a larger artifact.  While these finds are cool, they are also very frustrating.  The fact that they were in a dirt dump means that some one had not been careful when sorting previously and had let those pieces slip through.  This is maddening because all archeological narratives are based on where artifacts are found, what they are found with, and what they may or may not have been used for.  What we found today have not context at all, having come from different trenches several years old, making it impossible to create a narrative.  This made Mr. Carroll very frustrated, as meticulous as he is.  It took us almost all day for us to get through the dirt dump and make it to the ground level of the trench, clearing locus one (a locus is a term used for different sections of the trench based on soil type).  Once we had gotten past the old dump, we began forming the bulk walls of our trench and clearing the bottom of any loose soil, making it possible for us to begin on locus two tomorrow.  As three thirty rolled around, we had formed two of our bulk walls, cleared the top of locus two, and found quite a few interesting pieces of terra cotta, pottery, and bronze (along with a bunch of cool rocks).  All in all, it seemed to be a pretty good day.  While we are all exhausted and sore, we are excited to get started on our next day.  

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