10 May, 2008

No better way to spend four hours....

Than lying on your stomach on hard white plaster, wearing black pants while leaning over a 3ft hole with sweat pouring down your face! On Friday we opened up this hole in the floor because it seemed suspicious--a patch in the plaster with large rocks coming out of it. I got there after the patch had been opened but to see that Alejandro, who had been was brushing around, had discovered a coco i.e. skull. How exciting, another burial!

I got called away to do some other things, but returned shortly and since there wasn't much for me to do at that particular moment I sat down and observed as Alejandro was excavating a ceramic that based on the shape of the rim could have been fairly large. I was simply observing, wanting to join in of course but not sure if I should or not when Gary came by and suggested I get in there and help. Awesome, of course!

So I laid down on the plaster, which was the only way to really work in the hole, and began helping him excavate. We worked for at least a half hour when lunch was called but I was so happy to finally excavate that I worked through lunch to expose more of the rim of the bowl--which was in fact quite large--for photo. Once it was ready for photo I quickly stuff my torta into my mouth and got back to work. Gary cleaned out the bowl for another photo and drawing while I did some transit work.

When I got back from the transit, it was time to take out the skull since it was so fragile and about to fall apart anyway, as we wanted that out before taking out the bowl. I don't know how it happened, but I guess maybe Alejandro didn't want to do it given the fragility of the skull and since he knew I had worked on many burials before I ended up with the task of taking out el coco. I worked around carefully, not wanting to go to fast and removing the top parts that were broken anyway. I actually had to carefully work out small stones that had been propping the skull up. Finally, I had removed enough dirt to get my hands underneath and carefully lift it out. Unfortunately, as I was moving it to a piece of aluminum to wrap it up, Alejandro put his hands around it to help me move it but the additional pressure I guess caused the rest of it to sorta, well...collapse. Darn.

Anyway, Alejandro and I then spent the next 2-3 hours lying on our stomachs digging out the burial. At one point, towards then end, it was just me in there, halfway in the hole using one hand to support myself as I dug around. It was a bit frustrating as the soil was incredibly soft, so it kept falling down, and the bone was very fragile and would break apart as I tried to brush it. Plus, I was in a hurry to get the bones out, as it was the end of the day and we needed to get it out then, and not later. So there were moments when I would forgo trowel and smaller tools to simply scoop the bones out. As I was excavating the burial and couldn't write the labels for the bones at the same time, some of the workers helped me out.

It was actually pretty hilarious. There I was, hafway in a hole, scooping out bones with my hands and a small pick tool, yelling out the name of the bones as I handed them off to the workers and occasionally spelling out the names. When I was taking out the vertebrae, I was simply lifting them out with my hands and passing them on, shouting "vertebra!" as I handed them off. This went on for quite some time. And just when I thought we were done Alejnadro had discovered another ceramic offering and of course more bone.

Finally, at around 5pm--nearly an hour and a half after we usually stop work--we had everything out and I quickly scrapped around in with my trowel to check to see if there was anything major, then cleaned up the dirt to be screened for small bone fragments. Once that was done, we covered the site up and climbed down the hill, not getting back to the lab until 6:30pm! It was worth it though, and I had quite the time excavating. Of course I had sore spots from leaning on hard plaster over a hole, but I got to excavate and that is all that matters.

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