Today marked the seventh day of excavation here on Great Mercury Island, and was every bit worth the exhaustion, dirt, rain, and wind that we have suffered through to reach this point. Despite the apparent hardship we are put up against, we continue to set out each day lightheartedly, excited at the prospect that today may be the day that we find something extraordinary. And we have not yet come home disappointed.
Today also marked the finishing point for our excavation of EA 64 East. We excavated out the site until we reached the paleodune, a sandy layer that we believe to be the surface during the Pleistocene. This is well before the settlement of New Zealand and so we can be sure that there is nothing below the surface. This is a was a very important extension as it provided a large amount of fire features, and may help us understand the cooking practices and how pre-European Maori set up their sites. However it was very repetitive to excavate and it is extremely satisfying to have finished it.
We also created a new expansion off of the original EA 64 site. We have labelled this expansion as EA 64 West. So far we have found very interesting artefacts and features in this area and are excited to continue at this area. This excitement is augmented by the continuation of interesting finds from EA 64 South, which never seem to end. Hopefully, this trend continues in the West expansion as well.
We have passed the halfway point in this experience of a lifetime, and we only feel more tired than we began. Our excitement and anticipation levels have not lessened. So far we have been sailors voyaging across the sea, pirates digging for buried treasure on an island, mountaineers, climbing and constructing mountains out of sand. We are excited to see what other careers we will experience in the next 5 days.
Today I think we really did experience all four seasons over the course of 7 hours. We woke up at (the slightly later time of) 6.15am after a long night of howling winds which kept us all awake, particularly those of our group who drew the short straw tent-wise. We got soaked as we excavated through the sporadic but aggressive rain this morning. We then all got sunburnt this afternoon as the sun beat down on us. Less than ideal weather combined with general day-five-itis led to a bit of a lull in the communal student moral this morning, however, revived by sun and sea we’re all a little merrier now.
Archaeologically, today was pretty exciting. I was working in our southern extension of the trench. We excavated down to a paleodune on the eastern border, uncovered a fair amount of one, and came across copious amounts of obsidian. We also uncovered a series of postholes across the trench which seem to correspond to concentrations of fire-cracked rocks. I think that something we’re all pretty curious about and look forward to excavating further tomorrow!
It’s got to the point where we all feel (tentatively) in the swing of things now. The early mornings are tolerable, the constant stream of questions we have as we excavate is somewhat dwindling, and we are all realising that we’re going to miss GMI terribly.
Our excavation definitely picked up the pace today, who would’ve thought that spending the entire day outside overlooking beautiful beach scenery would be such a busy task! The day started out with some wonderful news from the supervisors- impending rain. Most people would think to gear up neck to ankle to stay dry; this was definitely not the case. Instead we all wore the finest of the summer 2016 fashion season; raincoats, shorts and jandals! Luckily the weather stayed manageable, and the rain ensured that we didn’t get a face full of sand every time someone cleaned up their area, a huge bonus!
Everyone spent the day clearing the layer we exposed yesterday and taking a peek at what lies beneath. This meant, as per usual, a lot of troweling, crouching and complaining of sore knees. Despite the rain and wind, we were all very excited to start digging up some treasures of the past, including obsidian, fire cracked rock, and a few pieces of shell! Nothing more exciting than hearing that clink of promise off the edge of your trowel, or seeing a glint of something special in the sunlight after troweling, brushing and carting off buckets and buckets and BUCKETS of sand.
Things are going to start getting really exciting from now on; we are exposing more and more of our unique and wonderful history everyday, everything changes with the scrape of a trowel- so make sure to keep up!
On the shorefront of Coralie Bay we began excavating extensions based on last years field school. We expected this to be a real backbreaker and deturfing lived up to the expectation. However, getting down on our hands and knees and trowelling was easier than expected. Unlike regular gardening you spend a lot of time looking for artefacts and features related to the site and then you have to sift through the dirt again – quite a tedious and repetitive process! But the scenery really made up for this. Coralie Bay is quite sheltered with surrounding cliffs and pristine clear water. Pohutukawa lines the shorefront providing shelter from the sun.
We headed out at 8am after an early start to the day with high hopes. Once at the site we found a practical use for trigonometry to set out the excavation area. There were two extensions, Easterly and Southerly. After a brief demonstration from Dr. Rod Wallace of how not to deturf we proceeded to deturf both sites. Once deturfed, trowelling! This was where things became exciting. As finds became more frequent and exhaustion grew we began to really appreciate New Zealand archaeology. We ended the morning grateful digging through sand was not to difficult.
The afternoon began hot and remained that way. We continued trowelling through the layers and uncovering more finds which made it all worth it. This was a very rare opportunity to understand the history and prehistory of this country. The whole experience of our first day on site was full on and a great hands on experience.
Hope you “digged” this blog post, stay tuned for more to come!
Patricia and Josh 🙂