Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Archaeologists - we will date any old thing

Hey guys,

I´m glad so many of you are reading and enjoying the blog. Sorry my updates are sporadic, and my email responses even more so! I do love you all, but most of my free time is spent sleeping. So what do I do when I am not sleeping? Good question! Let me tell you....

HOW I SPEND MY DAYS

We get up fairly early, around 6. My roommates cat likes to wake me up and then trip me as I head to the bathroom to brush my teeth. We have a breakfast of coca tea and magical Peruvian bread, load up our truck with a ridiculous amount of buckets and then head to the site - blasting The Beatles the whole way.

At the site I meet up with my team of workers, which usually consists of two or three Aymaran women. We have been working on 4x4 meter units lately, which is a lot of ground to cover and a lot of things to explain. Luckily they are total rockstars and are great at moving dirt quickly. Only very occasionally do I need to waive my hands frantically and make attempts at giving instructions in Spanish. But even when I have to do this, things surprisingly work out really well.

My current unit is right on a big looter´s hole (the Spanish came looking for gold at some point), so to go check on my workers and come back I literally have to walk up-hill both ways. Not through the snow though....but through adobe and stones. Sometimes barefoot because I don´t like to stomp through fragile things with shoes on. I´ve tried to convince everyone that naked archaeology would be even more awesome and protective of the site...but no one believes me.

When not walking through it, digging through layers of this broken adobe and stones is pretty sucky, and I curse the Spanish and their greed often. But eventually we hit the cool stuff underneath all the crap - the animal bones, the decorated pottery, or the occasional human tooth. All of these things rest on the floor of the temple, just as they were left a thousand years ago. And luckily, the people who built the temple I am working at decided to make it really, really easy for me to find the floor.

They made it bright red.

It is like a giant red stop sign saying "THIS IS WHERE THE GOOD STUFF IS". The Tiwanaku were obviously very considerate of my feelings.

The really neat thing about the floor is that you can find the impressions of the wall bases. Most of the walls have long since fallen down (actually, ripped down by angry people...more on that later), and then their adobe bricks get spread around kind of randomly. But if you are very careful and sweep very slowly you can find the imprints where the heavy wall sat in the floor. And from those you can make a map of the former temple! It is rather magical to have a whole bunch of jumbled adobe, and then to brush at away to find a beautiful square imprint showing you exactly where the building stood.

Magic and impressions! I should take this show to Vegas.

Anyway, after everything is dug up we have to map everything, which is the only source of stress in my life. I really am not good at drawing things. My adobe piles turn into giant piles of potatoes on the paper. And I am sure that if I had to actually draw a giant pile of potatoes they would all turn out to be....lumpy socks or something. But I work hard at it, measure everything ten times each, and eventually I get the giant mess of adobes onto the paper, and the paper into the folder.

After that stressful event we are usually done, and we pack everything up and head on home to do lab work, which is counting up all the stuff and tagging it. The cat helps by trying to steal the tags and knocking things on the floor. Which pretty much brings the day full circle, now that I think about it.


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