Today marked the 3rd full day of our excavation. By 8am we were at site and ready to work, the sun merrily sitting in the east and foreboding clouds in the west accompanied by a pleasant breeze which, after two days of excavating under the hot sun, was most welcome.
As we get further into the excavation we have ‘trench talks’ to fill each other in (pun intended) on all of the interesting things revealing themselves to us as we venture gingerly below the surface. Quantities and types of artefacts are shared (using words to quantify them other than “lots” and “heaps”.) Having these discussions prior to starting excavation for the day helps paint a holistic picture of what is happening in the entire excavation area, as one can get very engrossed in their own square metre. It also helps prepare us budding archaeologists for big, serious academic talks we might have to give one day.
Once the group has touched base most of us go back to troweling, but two lucky candidates are daily appointed to be on the total station; the ominous looking yellow tripod which sits atop a hill ever-watching, kind of like a super hi-tech eye of Sauron. I had the good fortune to be on the total station yesterday alongside Tara. At first it was extremely intimidating to have this responsibility thrust upon the very shaky foundations of my knowledge about such things, but after a few hours Tara and I grew more confident.
The total station is an integral part of the excavation; it is particularly important for processing information once we put our trowels down and go behind a computer screen to analyse the artefacts we have collectively found that day. Basically, the total station shoots and scans the excavation area, sediment levels, and all the artefacts in a 3D map which can be shared among the team members, even those who weren’t on site to give them a reference. Once Tara and I had our turn on the total station, Josh showed us all the points we shot on the GIS (the software we use to process the data collected by the total station) and we could see all the artefacts we had spent the day shooting. Once all the artefacts are shot on the map, the brains behind the excavation can start chugging away at drawing inferences about how they could relate to how people lived in the past.
Prior to this field school I had never been on an excavation (excluding all the ones seven-year-old me conducted in the backyard uncovering old bottles and bottle caps). Having the opportunity to finally go out, excavate and apply all the knowledge I have spent the last two years learning has been a profound experience. Knowing that what I am uncovering is not just any stone or obsidian flake, but an artefact that a person had manufactured, used or lost is very rewarding.
I certainly feel very privileged to have the chance to uncover stories of lives led on this land well before my time here. Furthermore, the friendships and camaraderie developing here over our shared passion of archaeology adds to the tapestry of the entire experience. I will certainly be sad to eventually leave this lovely island and all the treasures we have found here, but having the knowledge that I have contributed in aiding the understanding of her previous inhabitants is something I will quite happily hold on to.