The wind storm that swept through the island this week made me think about how we are staying on a midpoint between two large and significant places, making this a prime trade route. I started thinking about a couple questions that I was unable to answer, and probably never will be able to answer. How would wind storms like the one we just experienced have affected the ancient periods we are studying? How would they have coped back then? I’m sure they had some form of a routine in such situations as storms like these must have been frequent, but it makes one question how ancient cultures varied so much from our current one?
The 3rd week of excavation here has gone by in a blur, and it’s strange to think that in less than a week the project will be concluded. The past few days I, along with other team members, have been concentrating on revealing the features where there is a great deal of rubble and collapsed material. It has been a fascinating process to see the features previously hidden by this collapse slowly become defined, adding to the complexity of the site. After a hard week’s work, I took the opportunity to walk down to a beautiful cove near our accommodation called Cala Cinque Denti. The cove has an almost supernatural quality, with jagged cliffs surrounding it on all sides and gargantuan boulders scattered beneath them.
We are at the halfway mark of the excavation season at Lago Di Venere and the great progress continues. Although it is a lot of hard work, it is just another part of the process that allows us to learn about the history of the island. The sense of accomplishment that I feel when I see how much progress we have made is worth every scrape of the trowel under the hot Mediterranean sun. A nice swim at Gadir at the end of the week also makes working and learning here that much more amazing.
Our second week of excavation is over already and we’ve made tremendous progress. Much of my time last week was spent working in trench 3 in a very narrow area with the wall of the trench (the baulk or section on my left), and the exterior side of a wall feature on my right. This led to a lesson in proper archaeological practice. First, I had to ensure the section to my left was kept straight and not sloping forward to give myself enough space to work in, while also ensuring that the wall to my right was clearly defined and free of dirt. I came out of the affair with a few scraped knuckles and very sore knees, but some R&R by the ocean combined with delicious fresh fish and local wine for dinner has left me feeling ready for this week’s challenges.
Our second week has gone by so fast I can hardly believe it. So much has been happening on- and off-site. After having found some very interesting architecture we have extended one of our trenches twice. It has been a lot of work but we hope that doing this will give us a better understanding both of our site and the feature. One of our coolest finds of the week was a rim of African Sigilata that was found in three pieces but fit together to show its unique stamp decoration. On our day off site we visited the Mediterranean Sea for some swimming and sun which turned to more sun than swimming because the jellyfish kept getting too close for comfort. It was, however, really fun to watch them swim around in our stead.
It’s already half way through the season, and the excavation is in full swing. I have experienced some interesting things thus far. The trench had to be extended several times now, allowing for the opportunity to see more pieces of a big puzzle come together. The most challenging thing so far has been keeping my eyes peeled for soil changes, which can be very subtle, but keen eyes can also help spot important finds as well. Being in June now, the weather has changed to become more humid, hot, and sunny, leading to soils drying out very quickly. Of course, it leads to a dip in the silty, unexpected sinkhole-ly, Lago di Venere, and the Mediterranean too, while completing my first ever Sudoku puzzle!
Developments in trench excavations and learning about the cultural context of Pantelleria have progressed in this past week. It’s almost like solving a very complicated puzzle without the picture of the original to work from. Instead of constructing something from the ground up, you’re deconstructing each layer to figure out what came before it or matches it. Using the depth from the surface is simply not enough to answer all the questions. Interpretation of hypotheses and analysis are what bring us closer to understanding the events and functions of these items and sections in the past. Once the day has ended and everything has begun to settle, the stars at night that loom overhead are absolutely spectacular and make you forget everything else, giving a feeling of calm and serenity. I was able to see BOTH the big and little dippers for the first time. They were not faded by the effects of modern implements, but shone in their pure brilliance. It was a nice reminder of why I’m doing what I am, to try and discover the foundations of a more pure and simple time. The many mysteries of the ancient people of Lago di Venere are still unsolved, but some light is beginning to filter into their deep dark secrets.
During the second week of the Pantelleria Project we continued to make good progress with the excavations. The days progressed steadily and more sherds were uncovered. The island itself has many amazing experiences to offer, such as our time swimming in both the Lago di Venere and the Mediterranean Sea. This week my favorite moment by far was swimming in the Mediterranean and using my goggles to view a different world as the fish swam in between the rocks, the crabs nestled in the wall, and the jellyfish floated at a safe distance away.