Thursday, June 30, 2016

First Encounters of the Cosa Kind

Having only dabbled in classics as an undergraduate, my experience with archaeology up to this summer consisted of reading books in air conditioned libraries and sauntering through the well lit galleries of museums. To me, archaeology was all crisp, clean prints and polished marble. But this summer I committed myself to getting to know the earlier stages of the archaeological process, the ones full of dirt and long days in the sun. My two and half weeks at Cosa was gave me just what I was looking for.

A view from my first day at Cosa

I came to Cosa with a fairly clear idea of what excavation would entail, lots of shoveling, troweling, and sun burns. Being the shoveling enthusiast I am, I began the dig eagerly, maybe even a little too eagerly. What I had not anticipated (although in hindsight this seems an obvious point) was the care with which everyone would dig. After half a day of overzealous pick axing and shovel work, I began to notice the nervous looks on the faces around me. People were concerned for the dirt that I was moving with such wanton abandon. 

I saw many times the loving way that the other excavators would dig down a layer or articulate a wall. It seemed there was a great respect for the dirt and stones that were being moved and the potential finds that might emerge. After a week or so the message finally began to sink in. The pick axe stopped flying over my head and I started listing to the sound of the dirt, getting to know the soil of each layer through which I dug. I found digging in such a mindful way thoroughly rewarding. My sense of the site grew and I was actually learning about what I was digging up.  

When the dirt is treated with its due respect, I'm sure that it gives something back in return. Everyone at the dig was full of energy, working hard all day long and spending nights full of exuberance at our lengthy dinners. I was fully convinced of the rejuvenating gift of the dirt while down in the cistern with Darby. Darby started digging at Cosa before I was even born, yet he digs with a methodical and tireless intensity. I think Darby found his fountain of youth, and it is full of Italian dirt and sherds. I felt the power of the dirt myself, and I plan on taking it with me. Not only caked on my boots and deep under my fingernails, but also in my heart.

And lastly, a special shout out to Matt for introducing me to Cosa! Everyone here is wonderful and I'm so glad I've had such a great first experience with excavation.

Matt (right) and I at the Cosa party 

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