Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Finishing up the excavation

I can't believe we're already done with the season and that Santi and I have already been in California for over a week!

Lots has been going on. Where to start?

The dig ended well. It was hectic, but we got a lot done. We were even filmed for a television documentary on the archaeology of Mexico (it'll air on a French TV station next year). That was very funny because they only had one camera man, so to get all the angles they needed, we had to "recreate" (i.e., fake) a lot of the stuff we were doing. Like pretend to discover the same pot four times. Or spend all morning driving randomly around town with the camera man hanging out the tailgate of their station wagon in front of us, filming us supposedly leaving to go to the site. They were incredibly nice and friendly though, and we enjoyed having them around.

Being a parent changes your perspective on all sorts of things, I have found. We discovered a number of burials at the site, the last of which was incredibly well preserved. I have always had mixed feelings about excavating those who were laid to rest by their families. We learn a great deal about past civilizations in this way, but it is still exhuming a grave. And in this case, it was even more poignant. The burial was a child who had been carefully placed inside a large ceramic urn, with an offering of perfectly made miniature bowls and jars on his/her lap and some kind of organic cover. Then the opening to the urn was plugged with a bowl and sealed with a precise layer of mud. We found such child burials in every house we excavated (it seems to be a pattern that these people buried their children in their houses and adults outside in cemeteries), but these had all been disturbed at some point after the houses were abandoned and they were really just a mixture of badly eroded bone fragments and dirt, plant roots that had invaded the broken urns, etc. But this last burial was so well preserved we could see precisely how the child had been placed in a seated fetal position, with his little head resting against the side of the urn. He was probably Santi's age (between one and two years-old). I couldn't help but imagine the parents of this child preparing his little body and then tenderly arranging his pots for the next world on his lap before they sealed his small tomb. And I got a bit teary eyed thinking that this little boy or girl had spent the last probably 1,000 years all alone under the floor of that abandoned house. I hope that the physical anthropologists in charge of analyzing the burials take good care of him/her from here on out.

California deserves its own entry, both for the good and the bad. Be back soon!

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