Sunday, June 26, 2016

Logistical challenges and creative thinking

Archaeological excavations will always be somewhat unpredictable—if we knew exactly what was underneath the dirt, we wouldn’t have to dig it up to find out! One of the ongoing challenges in any season of excavation is figuring out how to handle unexpected hurdles when they emerge in the middle of the season without wasting the limited time that’s available for digging each summer.

Can’t see all of the trenches at once? Andrea solves intervisibility issues by standing atop the elevated cisterns to survey the whole bath complex

While these logistical challenges can cause frustrating delays, they also result in some of the most impressive examples of creative thinking on site by forcing everyone to come up with interesting workarounds and on-the-fly solutions. For example, although the olive trees dotted across the landscape of Cosa are lovely scenery and provide welcome shade from the midday heat, they also make it very challenging to take trench photos with even lighting. In order to cover the entire area being photographed, different trenches have experimented with a variety of techniques for suspending the sunshade/tarp (“Tarpeia”), including climbing trees…

…and tying it to shovels, rakes, pickaxes, and/or the measuring rod for the laser level.

In the Street “N” Probe trench, our standing architecture has provided a series of interesting challenges as it emerged during the course of the season. As we removed increasing volumes of soil from the southern part of the trench and discovered more and more of the walls, it became much harder to enter and exit…particularly when we came down on a degrading cocciopesto floor that couldn’t support the weight of a ladder.

When the flooring gets fragile, the shoes come off!


After exposing and cleaning all of the floor surfaces in the southern half of the trench, we turned our full attention to the northern portion, where we confronted the difficult task of excavating between two walls separated by a narrow gap of approximately 30-40cm. As this area gets deeper, it becomes increasingly difficult to fit an archaeologist in with the archaeology:


...and requires some pretty creative poses to excavate the soil from between the walls...

...or to check if something happening on the exposed side of the wall is also happening on the much-less-visible side...

...or to consult about a barely-visible artifact some 60cm down between the walls.

Will we ever reach the bottom of the space between our walls? Will we ever let Emily out of the deepening crevasse? Check back in to find out!

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