Work continued on in our growing number of trenches today (4 so far), unabated by brief flashes of heavy rain (but eventually brought down by the promise of free coffee and cookies at the nearby Stone Age Centre museum). Larger pieces of quartz and ceramics are coming to the surface, in larger and larger numbers, and some distributional patterns are beginning to form. In the east corner of our first trench, and the new trench we've opened alongside it, we're finding lots of pottery, as well as some fairly significant pieces of broken quartz tools. On the other end, we've found a lot more quartz. Hopefully this trend will continue; if so, it may suggest a fairly organized use of the "between" space we're interested in. Spatial organization in turn suggests complicated methods of interaction, and has, in other situations, reflected increased social complexity (the perennial focus of this project). Oddly enough, the location of finds is often more important to us than the finds themselves: where people leave their things and how they interact with their space can tell us an awful lot.
Over at the mysterious feature we have found still more interesting things to consider. On top of the hairy vetch and the iron slag, some early test pits (small, quick, unsifted pits we use to either quickly examine a location for what we might find there or to get a good look at some stratigraphy) done around the feature have revealed some strange soil patterns. While the relative lack of natural disturbance in Finland has left most of the soil in our area in distinct, uniform layers (organic, leached, enriched, and coarse sand, which marks the point at which the Kierikki region was underwater), the stratigraphy of our feature is highly mixed and muddled. This could mean that the elevated plateau upon which we have found the slag and vetch is not natural; and if it isn't natural, it likely required a significant amount of labour to dig up the soil and create the plateau. Of course, even more questions flow from this inference. If it was man-made, when was it made? Why? During the Neolithic, the period we originally assumed we were excavating (the slag has forced us to reconsider), the area would have been right on the water, but by the Iron Age the environment was much, much different. Creating the plateau would not have been a easy task: it is large and relatively flat, and it must have been important enough for the people who made it that they spent time putting it together. One possibility is that it was made, for one reason or another, by Stone Age inhabitants, and then re-occupied by Iron Age peoples thousands of years later, who transformed the plateau into an iron smelting site. This, of course, is all conjecture, as it all hinges on the assumption that the soil was not mixed up naturally. However, the disturbed stratigraphy at the "Thing" provides us yet another unexpected piece of information to decode: like everything else we find, it forces us to reevaluate what we we're supposed to be looking for, and what we thought we were looking at.
That's all for now,
The Field School