Monday, June 25, 2012

Day 25: Two Coins and a Bulldozer


Archaeology is a meticulous endeavor.  We must document everything—from soil composition and color changes to the height above sea level of each locus to the exact centimeter.  Everyone in the area gets to help with this documentation, but a vast majority the responsibility falls upon the shoulders of the two area supervisor (Chad, who is our supervisor, and Matt, who is the other areas supervisor).  This necessity to document everything can sometimes—often times—lead to stressful situations.  Today, for example, we had approximately 50 buckets of stuff.  (Stuff being pottery, metal, soil samples, shells, worked stones, and other uncovered artifacts.)  Writing tags and logging each bucket takes a bit of time, time that is a high commodity when so many jobs need to be done.

Today was a day where frustration due to an apparent shortage of time with an increase in tasks met with elation over exciting finds.  I have always wanted to find a coin on a dig and have gone the past two season without as much as seeing one in situ (meaning found as it sits in the ground and not in a sifter or by turning it up with a hoe or pick).  Today, I was privliged to find two.  The first was sitting on top of a plaster floor, which was very eciting because in the same floor sat an entire base of a glass goblet that I had fortunately uncovered yesterday.  These two objects should serve as more than enough to offer a date to this floor.  (The goblet was taken out today by our glass specialist.  We were all excited to see part of the stem still attached to it—a rare and find).

I then moved to another square and not two minutes into hoeing dirt, I bent over to see a coin the size of about a quarter sitting perfectly in the ground.  I yelled for others to confirm that it was a coin and my vision was not playing tricks on me.  Others agreed, so we brushed the area for pictures before carefully removing it with a trowel. 

Coins provide a relatively concrete terminus post qquem (the date after which) for an area because coins have a concrete date of production.  For example, a coin with the picture of a certain emperor often tells us when it was minted (or gives us a span of time in which it could have been minted).  This lets us know that whatever feature, be it a floor or wall, upon, in, or under it sits must be dated to after that date.  This coin could have remained in circulation up to a hundred years (or sometimes even longer), so the terminus ante quem (date before which) must be determined with other methods.

In the wise words of the Mad Hatter from Alice in Wonderland,, there was too much to do and too little time today.  Even with the frustration of  figuring out how to read the layout of the area, peeling back the dirt in .5 cm passes, and accomplishing other random jobs in the sun, I would not trade today or any other day for anything. 

Here are some pictures from the days excavations:

A bulldozer is on the site this week to help move rocks too heavy to lift and break

Jocelyn was working too far down and was made to wear a hard hat.  Not amused.

Jim Haverman and David Amit with a bird's eye view of the site