Diggin’ in the Dirt #3

Ooooh, is this delinquent and late!

Let’s see. Been a couple weeks since I sent out an update, and I bet I’ve done interesting things in the meanwhile.

We’ll begin with work, shall we? The last couple weeks have blended more or less together in my brain. Where I am working, there are three different trenches. A different team works in each trench. The trench I work in is the boringest trench ever. Here’s the proof:

In trench #1, they have found foundation walls and floors of Roman houses. And that’s just the stuff on top. If you look deeper, you have several different floors (some of terra cotta, some of dirt packed nice and hard, some showing signs of being burned down), and a lot of very cool Roman Treasures (one Roman’s garbage is another archaeologist’s treasure…)

There's a wall in there. You can see it right?

In trench #2, they have the gardens which belong to the houses in #1. Of course, by now, there isn’t much left of the gardens proper, but you can see traces in the soil of where the garden walls were, plus pits probably used for refuse, a few animal pens, and a well. The well is so cool I can hardly believe it. You can see layers and layers and layers of stuff.

In trench #3 (where I am), we have some rocks. In fact, we also have a Roman wall, but they found that well before I arrived, so it isn’t interesting anymore. No, all we have are rocks and post holes.

What is a post hole, you ask? I forget what a good question that is. Okay – pretend you have a post – y’know, a big ol’ stick of wood. You probably want to use it to build a house. You want your house to be sturdy, so you dig a really deep hole in the ground, then stick your post in the hole, and fill it back up with dirt. Now you have a good sturdy post against which you can build a wall or on top of which you can settle a roof.

Now, pretend 2000 years have passed. Most of the post is gone – might have been burned down, might have gotten knocked over – but your hole was so deep, that the part underground stayed there. Since a post is made of wood, after 2000 years, it will disintegrate and turn back into soil. The neat part is that it will be a different color from the soil around it, so when the archaeologists come knocking, we know it used to be there.

First, we see it on top of the ground. (“We.” Haha. You have to have a really good eye to spot one of these on top.) They use cranes to scrape off a nice thick layer of topsoil, then if they spot a potential post hole, they send me over to dig half of it out and see if it still looks like a post hole from the side. The following is a very nice post hole.

From the top.

(posthole, as seen from the surface)

Profile

(posthole from the side)

And that is the story of post holes! Fortunately, “rocks” need somewhat less explanation. It is very vaguely possible that the rocks we’re finding *might* have been a prehistoric (pre-Roman) floor, but I find it very hard to believe. Call me a beginner, but… I have a feeling maybe they’re just pretending it’s interesting so they can keep the Americans busy while they work on the important things.

Rocks.

In fact, to let you know just how uninteresting Trench #3 is, consider this: Two fridays ago, all four Dutch workers in Trench #3 had the day off. It happens sometimes. David (also American) and I were the only ones left. Normally, what you’d expect is that they’d reassign us to different trenches for the day, but no. Trench #3 was so unexciting that they let us work there more or less without supervision. Nothing at all that we could screw up that would cause any heartache, I suppose.

In truth, it was kind of fun to work “unsupervised.” (Yeah, Kiki checked in on us every hour or so, but we never really needed much.) Makes a person feel mildly competent. We drew maps of the trench and dug up post holes and drew pictures of the post holes. I got to hone my fine dutch skills by filling out the paperwork. It’s a good thing we didn’t find anything other than post holes, because that’s about the limit of my vocabulary: “coupe door paalgat.” In Dutch, I can also ask where my tools are, count as high as you’d like, and name most of the things that come out of the dirt (bricks, bits of pots, bones, rocks, rocks, and more rocks). Not exactly the kind of vocabulary that will do a person any good in casual conversation (well, unless all your friends are archaeologists), but hey – it’s a start!

So, onward and upward! During my free time, I’ve been doing lots of interesting things! Last weekend, we took a trip on the
Panenkoekenbot (Pancake Boat) down to Germany. It’s a three hour, all-you-can-eat Pancake cruise. Dutch pancakes are flatter than American pancakes but nearly as filling. I was only able to eat two, despite my very best intentions to eat a stack as tall as I am. We got to go visit the captain’s cabin and Kinga and Angela played in the ball-pit. It was great fun.

Balls. Whee!

This weekend I took a couple days off and went back down to Belgium. I was supposed to finish up my last minute errands, but I was ill-prepared, so I didn’t get much done. I stayed with my English friends and had a really lovely, relaxing time. I came back this morning and have continued relaxing all day. The weather is still lousy, so I don’t feel too badly about sending emails all day.

But I had better wrap this up before my housemates all come home. We’re going out to dinner tonight, as two of them are leaving to go home (to the States) this week.

So until next week, I hope all is well. I send many hugs and much love to all!

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