perjantai 28. toukokuuta 2010

"It's like we were never here...sort of"

The final day has come and gone with no further discoveries to speak of. The units that once fell a meter deep have become whole again. The red flags indicating the potential importance of certain areas have been plucked from their positions. And the rumbling of the 8 a.m. van, filled with excavation rookies for the most part, has tallied its last kilometer.

Final touches were made on some of the units as profiles were reviewed and corrected appropriately.While a press event was held at the local Kerikki museum, where we were invited to give a brief summary about our work throughout our excavation period. At the lone bone unit, small fragments of bone continue to show up; whether they are from an animal or human, it is still unknown.

It was a fascinating three week experience, one that, I'm sure all will agree, would not have been traded for anything. The lessons we learned and the time spent with new friends cannot be replaced. From a cultural aspect, we learned a lot about life outside of the U.S. while in a archaeological sense we learned the importance of teamwork and order. We learned how a single miscalculation, whether its mapping a unit or surveying a site, can disrupt the timetable of a work schedule. But lastly, and arguably most important, we learned that archaeology is a job but one with a field of history; deeply rooted within the soils and sands of the past. Farewell team, this excavation will forever belong to us.

torstai 27. toukokuuta 2010

Spring Cleaning

With the final day of excavation approaching, we were surprised by a visit from Professor Ezra Zubrow. With one day remaining, he came to examine the excavation site as well as potential sites, for the future, with the survey team. Today at the site, almost the entirety of the day was spent profiling the completed units and finishing one final unit. Nothing new to report from that end except that some more fire cracked rock was found.

The survey team, on the other hand, set out to explore the area surrounding the mysterious bones that were found a couple of days ago. Quartz flakes and chips of bone were indeed uncovered but without the use of the total station at hand, nothing more could be done without disturbing a potentially huge site. Friday, the final day of excavations should prove to be an interesting one with all of the man power focused on the "bone" site.

keskiviikko 26. toukokuuta 2010

Clarification for legal purposes

The tooth has not yet been examined by a bone expert, and the most we can officially say is that it is from a medium-sized mammal that is not likely to be a pig, deer, or seal.

Bad to the Bone

On Tuesday the 25th, in the mosquito infested area of Kierikki, a startling discovery was made by our survey team which consisted of Dan, Rob, Greg, Laurel and Dusty. The discovery, though only a glimpse at what could potentially be the biggest find of the excavation for us, was the uncovering of bones and human teeth. After a few hours of shovel tests the team grew weary, especially considering past survey teams have made it back to camp empty handed. This time, however, morale received a boost of hope after Laurel and Greg carefully screen the shovel tested dirt. The discovery not only brought hope to the survey team but also the team back at the excavation site.

On the other hand, with highs come the lows and those lows were given to the team at the dig site. After hours of digging with the hopes of finding more fire cracked rock or potential fire pits or maybe even a dagger the team came up empty handed. But even with days where nothing comes up something is always learned. In this case the lesson is that patience is an archaeologists best friend and also we learned where not to dig.

Today, Wednesday the 26th, most of the day was spent preparing to complete the excavation. Some people worked diligently on the strange circle in the fire cracked rock unit but only to notice that the circle has been slowly disappearing. While others were assigned the duty of mapping out the excavation area and drawing profiles for the already completed units. With the rains punishing us today, the team trekked on through the harsh weather completing the tasks at hand and we were rewarded with a lunch makkara feast over a fire in reconstructed stone age village hut. Though we did not find anything new today, it should not be considered a failure and many necessary tasks were completed. Tomorrow holds new breath for our excavation site.

maanantai 24. toukokuuta 2010

Who you callin' a dirt circle?

This is the edge of a big pit full of the remains of old fires, including more fire-cracked rock than I have ever seen at any site in the area.

Diagrams, diagrams, and more diagrams...

Friday we began sketching the walls of our one by one excavation pits. It was actually very interesting since we'd never previously inspected the soil layers. Having to draw them in great detail we were now forced to examine them thoroughly. Many walls had up to six or seven separate layers while at a glance they seemed only to have two or three. Our diagrams continue and once we have some finalized pictures I'll be sure to post them up.

Art at Arktikum, Christmas Comes Early and A Return to the Excavation

For this weekend’s excursion from the daily excavation site the team gathered together for a road trip to Rovaniemi. It was a long, sleep-filled haul but the end product was quite worth the trip. We arrived in Rovaniemi at around 1 p.m. and immediately the group split to dine at whichever place their wallets felt most comfortable. Some ate at the famous Rocktaurant as other decided for a pizza buffet.
After the delicious meals filled our belly’s we walked down towards the river where, unbeknownst to us, a marathon was being run and we were standing at the finish line. Runners zipped on by as we cheered on those who have never met us; they gave us grateful smiles and kiitos. The river was an amazing site and an equally amazing site was the bridge, which our Finnish friend Riku informed us was helped built by his father.
Soon after we became sucked in by tourist traps and coughed up some cash for souvenirs, completely forgetting the time and the rendezvous point of our other half. We scrambled, asking strangers for directions to the nearest museum (not truly knowing which museum we’re supposed to head to) and finally we found ourselves in the Arktikum museum.
The Arktikum museum was an arctic wonderland for arctic archaeologists with exhibits about Lapland and their World War II horrors but, on a lighter side, many of the exhibits dealt with animal life in the region and archaeological sites of importance in the area. Showcases of iron tools and blades outlined the perimeter of the first museum hall while other halls displayed reconstructions of wildlife and human inhabitance living together as one in the treacherous, changing weather of the Arctic Circle.
The other standout aspects of the museum were the theatre room, which I will get to in a moment, and a room, appropriately titled by the students as the “acid” room. In the “acid” room, one had to lie down on a cushioned-filled floor and observe a light show of life in the arctic. Though the show lasted only about 10 minutes, the music and the CG blended together to created a beautiful world of the northern lights. The theatre room was an entirely different experience on a more educational basis. In the theatre room, a short film about the history of the Lapland was shown; giving people a glimpse of a world long since past.
Though the Arktikum museum was a fulfilling trip in itself, we were gifted with a trip to the Arctic Circle and an opportunity to meet Santa Claus. Unfortunately we arrived too late to see Santa we did enjoy the company of our team in an environment outside the excavation. Rovaniemi was a wonderful experience and a trip worth remembering. The tension of the excavations quickly vanished but the sun is always brighter before the rains and on Monday, the rains came.
Saturday’s trip to Rovaniemi seemed so long ago today as excavations began not so bright and early. The dig site was gloomy and miserable, entirely due to the rains falling upon us at such a crucial time of the excavation. The team was split into surveyors and diggers. The survey team consisted of Spyros, Laurel, Greg, Dan, Dustin, Chris and Lauren while back at the dig site the team consisted of Matt, Adam, Juan, Carlos, Noelia, Eva, Riku and Rob.
From the sound of things, both team had trouble dealing with cold, wetness of the rain as the survey team was plagued with mosquitoes and rain, as well with the disappointment of finding nothing. While at the excavation more fire cracked rock was found and a strange dirt circle. At this time the dirt circle is still a mystery but hopefully tomorrow, being a new day of opportunities, an understanding of what it could be might be brought to light. Until than, I must leave you bloggers with this cliffhanger; check back tomorrow.

torstai 20. toukokuuta 2010

Some natural stone, some not

Well, it looks like the big stones are there naturally... tireless and extremely patient students hauled sand out of the bottoms of a few other units and cleaned off the profile of the unit with those cool stones, and it looks like 1) there are stones down deep in other parts of the site, and 2) there are clear natural strata above the stones, which means that they ended up there before people ever moved in to the area.

On the other hand, we've got a ton of fire-cracked rock (FCR), dark fireplace soil, and quartz flakes from tool-making coming out of another unit, so at least we know that people were actually there during a stone-tool-using time in Finland's past!

Sweating with Mittens On

In the dog days of the excavation, with the sun slowly beaming UV skin cancerous rays, the team has shown an unwavering extent of focus and interest in the project at hand. With many faces unfamiliar with the field of archaeology, let alone being a part of a full length excavation, the experiences had and the knowledge gained have left most of us wondering why did we ever volunteer for such a job.

In the wee hours of the morning, as the sun completed its routine 24 hour cycle around Finland, 13 familiar faces lined up at the pick-up zone for the 9th straight weekday. Today, in particular, was a day filled with workers weary from farewell festivities the night before but the search for artifacts remains the top priority for us, well for just about two of us. As teams were chosen, a lucky few of us were given the opportunity to change the pace a little by sending one team out to survey and opening a new site next to an existing in the hopes of finding more meaning to the FCR found yesterday.

In the new hole more FCRs were found but a subtle vagueness has begun to settle in to the minds of the workers, perhaps these stones are just naturally made within the area. The evidence of quartzite and FCR presents hope for people being there 5,000 years ago or a miscalculation has occurred and these stones are there because of a geologic strata.

Hopes have yet to dwindle but a noticeable fade has taken its course. In time it shall pass. In all honesty, the fade may have something to do with the fact that our foreign exchange kids are leaving tomorrow. The times spent together has been one of memories that will not fade until about 2 weeks from now. As for the memories of the today, hopefully more substantial will be made tomorrow.

keskiviikko 19. toukokuuta 2010

Here's that mysterious stone formation

Rocks from a tree-fall? Stone Age cremation burial? Foundation for some structural remains? The mystery continues. The first image shows the south half of the stone cluster before we took them out to see what was underneath. The second photo shows the north half of the stone cluster after we excavated out the rest of the unit.

Kierikki Stone Age Center

Today we went to the Kierikki Stone Age Center for sausage day. After splitting up for survey and excavation this morning we all met up at noon by the Ii river where a stone age long house has been reconstructed. After building a fire (which was way too hot because of the wind) we made our sausage and had lunch overlooking the site. As we later learned the whole area of Kierikki is an archaeological site. The state built the official museum there after a dam project forced them to quickly excavate all the artifacts on the shoreline of the river. As we proceeded into the center we got a much better idea of what we might find some day at the bottom of one of our excavation holes. T shaped daggers, ceramic pots, and amber beads/buttons were the most memorable items to be excavated in this area. Although the film we watched upon entering the museum set a new precedent for boring material the rest of the museum was very interesting. After leaving the museum we once again headed our separate ways and after more shovel tests and excavation work we all headed home for some well earned rest.

tiistai 18. toukokuuta 2010

First Week of Excavations

After almost a week offline the blog begins! Of course throughout this time we’ve been digging furiously (but carefully) in the sweltering heat. Now I know what you must be thinking, Finland and heat seem like contradictory concepts but I assure you it’s been 28 degrees Celsius on more than one occasion (that’s 84 degrees Fahrenheit). Glancing back at the recommended packing list for Finland it included: long underwear, wool socks, a warm hat, a thermos for hot drinks, and a number of other warm articles of clothing all of which proved absolutely useless shortly after our arrival. Luckily even nature seems confused and despite the heat mosquitoes don’t seem to be biting yet. And I didn’t mention the sunlight, although it was expected it’s difficult to imagine before you see the sun set at 11 o’clock at night that it can do that. Needless to say sleep has been much more difficult as the sun floods everyone’s window at around three am every morning. Enough complaining about working conditions let me begin chronicling the past week in greater detail.

A day after my arrival Eva, Riku-Ville, and our European Archaeology group went out to begin the preliminary excavation. Our European group consists of Noelia a Spanish Archaeologist from Barcelona, Carlos coincidentally Noelia’s neighbor in Barcelona he’s studying to be a history teacher, Spyros an architecture student from Greece, Juan Pablo a Mexican graphic design student, and Axelle an English major from France. Our interesting national variation has made for some very interesting conversations about our different cultures.
The first day we began our square meter by meter holes and took off the top layer of the first few. Split into groups of two we each drove our nails and roped the boundaries. Cutting through the top soil like a root filled layer cake we dug down through the turf to reveal a layer of white nutrient leeched sand. As we got to this layer it was already time to go.
Friday night a large part of the American group arrived: Matt another Anthropology major, Chris a recently applied Anthropology major, Rob an English and Film major, and Lauren an Anthropology major who intends to do premed. That night and over the rest of the weekend we all settled in and got to know one another. A night or two of clumsily adjusting to the new sleep schedule and we were ready for excavations Monday morning. On Sunday our graduate students Greg and Dan arrived.
Digging further into the first layer we began to find our first artifacts, quartz flakes, charcoal, and massive amounts of fire cracked rocks. Quartz flakes show evidence of tool making, charcoal pinpoints where there was a wood fire, and fire cracked rocks are likely rocks left around a fire place which exploded due to the pressure from the heat of the flames. Searching through each layer for artifacts we dug down five centimeters each layer and documented whatever we could find. The first day didn’t get us very far, but the second day was a different matter entirely. In addition Dustin, another graduate student arrived Monday night.
Tuesday, everything changed when Excel and I found an almost intact charcoal pit in our excavation hole; it was circular and had another almost intact piece of charred wood on the other side of the hole. It wasn’t a major find but it reaffirmed the knowledge that people had lived in this place. That night, Laurel arrived after her graduation from SUNY Buffalo, now technically a graduate student she marked the last person to join our excavation crew.

Wednesday is sausage day. Now be fore you get any ideas, sausage day is when Eva goes to the market and buys an assortment of different Finnish sausages, we go to a nearby camp site and cook them over a fire. Last Wednesday the tastiest sausages were the cheese filled package Eva found. As they cooked over the fire you could feel the cheese bubble from the heat when they were nearly ready. After a tasty lunch we returned to work where Rob and Noelia found an odd rocky depression in their hole. Digging further down they sadly realized it was just misshapen hardpan.
Thursday marked our biggest discovery to date. When the team furthest from the center Spyros and Chris (in the same hole Axelle and I found the fire pit) dug down into their supposed hardpan layer they reached a wall-like rock formation. At the time we believed the formation extended eastward and set up to shovel test around it the next day. Thursday was the first day we began our shovel tests an d each group got a chance to do one. I enjoyed mine as I grew up doing very little shovel work but other groups seemed less enthusiastic after their turn had come.

Friday the shovel tests were all geared around finding more of the rock wall. Fire cracked rock could be found in almost every layer above where the wall began. This strange wall formation still could not be identified even with the help of Sam our resident Finnish expert. The day finished with a short walk toward another site. When we came across a river, Rob and Laurel decided it was time for a swim. Rob had the foresight to remove his clothing before undertaking the endeavor but Laurel decided to spend the rest of the day in soggy clothing.

As the first week drew to a close a weekend of trips to and outside of town began. Saturday Laurel, Lauren, Chris, and I accompanied the Graduate students to the center of town where we visited a bazaar area where we sampled Finnish cuisine in the form of tiny fried minnow sized fishes which were reminiscent of spiced french-fries when eaten as they were meant to be taken whole. Laurel especially had trouble eating the cute ones. I on the other hand devoured my box quickly and was happy to help her. Afterward we headed further into town, passing a fur shop, an assortment of Finnish food stores, and finally stockman, a gigantic store reminiscent of New York’s Macys (you can get literally everything there). Arriving back on campus we had dinner at Eva’s place which consisted of various types of smoked fish, hamburgers, and panqueques de manzana (a new recipe prepared by Laurel). The other group of we later discovered, had spent the day at the beach, which the weather had been perfect for.

The next day we took a long drive out to the Giant’s church, which I saw very little of. Eva had talked up the snake problem in the area so much that I found it difficult to look anywhere but straight down. The forest around the church was beautiful though, I managed to notice that between staring down at the ground.

Next we visited Liminka’s salt marsh, one of the best places in Finland to see the direct effects of Isostatic uplift. As we walked further through the marsh you could see where the shoreline had receded over the past 200 years. The marsh itself was a sight to behold; it smelled like a beach but was covered with tall wheat grass which ends abruptly at the shoreline. A bizarre but peculiarly attractive sight it made me imagine a landscape in which Kansas were by the ocean.
Yesterday, Monday we began our first set of surveys; led by Dustin, Greg, and Dan: Chris, Axelle, and I trekked through the Finnish wilderness in search of new Archaeological sites. Meanwhile the rest of the group continued to work on the original set of holes and dug deeper into their respective layers. An extremely hot day, we were all happy to end early and make our way back to the yliopisto (university in Finnish) for our first day of laboratory work.