It rained heavily in Neo Monastiri over the weekend. In order to protect our trenches from being destroyed by the storm, the supervisors had to run over to the site and cover the trenches with giant plastic sheets. Well, this solved the problem of the water getting in contact with the soil, but it creates another one: the plastic and the water together made the trenches into swimming pools. But the excavation had to continue, so a rather funny scene appeared: the five of us, including two workmen, formed a line perpendicular to the edge of our trench. We then acted like a transport belt carrying buckets of water away from the swimming pool and dumping them out into the nearby cornfield.
It was fun at first but became quite tiresome toward the end. Fortunately, our swimming pool is small compared to the other three. We were able to begin our excavation after roughly 40 minutes. The goal of the day was to fully reveal the red clay layer following the disturbed pattern created by plowing. Luckily, the clouds today are on our side, making the digging part of the day much more bearable.
Thanks to my RISD education, I was known as “the artist” in this season’s fieldwork team. Near the end of the day, Professor Hamilakis offered me a new job that I enjoyed much more than shoveling and troweling: drawing. I went up to Z2 (picture above), a trench has been excavated for a couple of years and has become rather complicated, and I was asked to do an archaeological drawing of a 2.5m by 2.5m area containing post holes, an architectural element indicating that there once were post structures to support canopies.
The drawing was quite straightforward: I had to draw a bird eye view of the prescribed area on a sheet with similar texture to that of a tracing paper and a grid.
The difficulty of archaeological plan drawing lies in that every thing drawn has to be in scale and at the relatively exact location. To save me from excessive measuring, I was given a special tool to expedite the process.
It is a metal square frame. One meter on each side, it is divided into one hundred 10cm by 10cm squares by the string. I would place this frame right on top of the region that I am drawing, and its little squares would help me pinpoint the exact locations of the objects and features onto my paper very quickly.
Learning how to draw in an archaeological way took some time, but the learning curve is quite steep. Yet I was not able to finish the drawing before the digging ends.
I went back to Z2 to finish up the drawing I started yesterday, instead of going directly to Ξ15. I had to admit that, after more than one week of digging, I started to become attached to our trench. The drawing took me another two hours or so. It went long not exactly because the features are complicated, but because at one point I was chasing after too many little details and the drawing became too complicated to be understood, so I had to go back to erase a lot of it and redrew some of the more prominent features.
After our break ends at 10 am, I went back to trench Ξ15. After revealing fully the red clay layer, now we are chasing after a more compact orange-looking layer underneath the red. The existence of the orange layer guaranteed that there is a house lying somewhere below.
The orange layer also forms a little mound near the southwest corner of the trench and slopes downward at the other three corners. Because of the slope, we could not finish digging at the spots where it gets deeper. Tomorrow we would strive to fully excavate the corners.
Highlight of the day actually comes at dinner. We tried a new place in the village, and there they served one of the most iconic food of Greece: Gyro. It is barbecued meat cooked on a vertical rotisserie, usually pork or chicken, and is served wrapped in a flatbread with fries, tomatoes, onions, and Tzatziki sauce. Having been eating basically sausages and souvlaki (Greek version of Kebab), I am so happy that I get to eat something different for dinner.
Thanks to the advancement of human technology, we now have shades built over all of the trenches. It is supposed to insanely hot tomorrow, so the building of the shades is not luxury; it is neccessity.
As I was ready to head toward my trench this morning, I was called by Matt, the trench supervisor of Z2, to do another drawing of his trench. I was delighted that I could start the hump day like this, because, although the drawing can become boring toward the end, I still prefer this kind of mind labor way more than the physical labor of digging and sieving.
I was kind of baffled when I saw the section that I had to draw. They have excavated completely one part of the pebble subfloor located in the interior of the Neolithic house, and my job was to draw every single pebble of that portion of the subfloor in a scale of 1:20. I could tell that there are at least one hundred of them, and just looking at them gives me a slight headache.
Well, I should not complain much, since I could sit under the shades and did not have to sweat at all. After measuring up a 2.5m by 1.5m area, I begun to draw.
It ended up taking me almost the entire day. When the drawing got approved by Nico, the field director, I went back to my trench. When I got there, they have already done digging out the orange layer entirely and was cleaning. I joined them for the last bit, and called it a day.
I came to our trench thrilled, thinking that we were going to excavated the orange layer today to reveal the foundations of the walls for the house, BUT…it did not happen. What happened was that, another trench that Karl was digging, Ψ21, was abandoned, since they have dug test pits that were 80cm deep and still did not reach the archaeological layer. The giant Byzantine house shown through the magnetometry now was more likely to be some geographical features shaped in the form of a house. With the extra hands spared, the directors decided to expand our trench from a 4m x 4m to a 5m x 5m so that more parts of the house could be revealed.
As a result, we had to suffer again what we have suffered before: digging through the sun-dried thick topsoil. The rest of day basically consisted more digging, digging, and some more digging. The only interesting thing is that, as shown in the picture below, we have found a small portion of the subfloor structure similar to that of Z2. This probably means that, in addition to the existence of the house, there might have been different phases of occupation, with the house being destroyed and reconstructed multiple times, since that the subfloor structure is higher than the stone foundation that we were looking for.
Thank God It’s Friday!
I didn’t do much digging today, for I was asked to draw the section of trench Χ16. Drawing a section was quite boring, compared to drawing plans of the site. It is nothing but measuring dots and connect them with smooth lines on paper.
Yeah, that was how I spent my Friday. Boring but very, very relaxing.
p.s. We all went to Volos, a coastal port city in Thessaly, over the weekend! Here is a breathtaking ocean view for you to be jealous of.
@Neo Monastiri, Greece