perjantai 18. toukokuuta 2007

Day 10: Even more pottery

Andre left to the airport early this morning, on his way home to Montreal to spend some time with his family. His departure was sad, as his insights and experience are invaluable (as well as his eerily accurate ability to identify pretty much anything), but he has left us in the capable hands of Ieva, Eva, Dustin, Sam, and Jen, the various PhD students involved in the project, and they will undoubtedly keep us from straying from our busy and productive path.

Today was one of our biggest days in terms of finds: in total, we excavated somewhere around 190 pieces. Much of this was pottery, although at the "Thing" we uncovered another layer of charcoal underneath the slag. It looks, at the moment, like the pits there were probably used multiple times in different eras. This, of course, is very exciting for our project: multiple occupations, some in the Neolithic and some in the Iron Age, allow us to examine the changing activities that occurred at the site over time. Our only concern is disturbance, which we will have to be very careful in identifying. If later occupations dug up and muddled the remnants of previous inhabitants, it will be difficult to date our finds or distinguish between what was deposited early on and what came after. Fortunately, our area suffers from little natural disturbance, so we can usually attribute complicated or unusual stratigraphy to human interference. That said, when trying to associate the vetch, the slag, the charcoal, and everything else we've found at the "Thing" together, we tend to err on the side of caution.

At the main site, much of the pottery we found was severely decayed, but there were more than enough large, solid chunks of ceramics left for us to dig out. Aside from more specimens with asbestos-tempering, we found some pieces of pottery with remnants of black paint. Black paint was one of the more significant discoveries to come out of last year's field school, and finding more is certainly a good sign. We don't yet know its chemical composition or how exactly it was applied, but until last year there had been no well-documented examples of paint or coloring on comb-ware pottery (a type of pottery specific to the Baltic region, named for the patterns of imprints left on the exterior by a comb). Paint is an important find for archaeologists because it implies a lot: like long-distance trade or monumental architecture (like a Giants' Church), a society needs a certain amount of surplus manpower and material to devote time to non-essential activities. Black paint, unless it turns out to serve a more practical function, is strong evidence the Iijoki people had enough time to sit around and consider the visual nature of the world around them.

Moving onto the corrections department, it should be noted that there are actually dozens, not hundreds, of Giants' Churches around Finland, and that there actually have been some excavations conducted on them, albeit a very long time ago. Apologies to those Giants' Church enthusiasts out there; you can attribute it to an excess of creative license.

Finally, for those who are interested, the local newspaper Kaleva posted a three-minute video of all of us digging on their website here. While the video suffers from some serious editing problems, it is good for a laugh or two: at about 2:30, you can see Andre walking up in the background, seeing the camera, and abruptly wandering off into the forest.

That's all for now,
The Field School

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