July 18, 2009

Peru, Week 4: “You did that? I can’t believe you did that! I didn’t, and look, I got a disease!”

I haven’t written about the more banal aspects of our day, so here is our schedule:

6.45- wake up (for people like Peggy, who runs in the morning, this is much earlier)

7- breakfast (can be pancakes, fruit, oatmeal, and always Andean triangle bread)

7.30-leave for site (arrive at 8, get our gear from Sr. Alpaca’s house, go to our units)

10.30- snack break

12ish-lunch (sandwiches of varying types, an apple and an orange)

2.30- pack up (leave at about 3)

6ish- dinner (varying foods, often late)

Afterwards we watch movies or have bonfires or sometimes just go to sleep.

Each week we have a visiting professor or guest – first was Frank, the zooarchaeologist; then Chris, the conservator; this week was Rodolfo, an agricultural engineer and surveyor.

This week I was back at Nene’s area, which we have realized is very clearly NOT a cemetery. There may have been one or two residential burials, explaining the bones nearby, but that’s it for the remains. We think it’s some sort of residential complex, as we’ve found walls both in the unit and around it (only visible after the workers cleared loose stones from the area). The question now is what the looters were looking for, and what they found, as the Wari tended to have very rich burials. Oh yes! The pottery sherds say Wari, although Agusto found a lone sherd of Tiwanaku origin, which is exactly what we were hoping to find (our main question asks what the relationship between Wari and Tiwanaku was in this area). Starting Tuesday, I put myself on sifting duty, as there were too many people in the pit and we don’t really trust the workers to sift properly (while sorting artifacts on Thursday night, I found about 10 rocks in the bag they collected). Also, I have all that experience from Shannon’s lab picking out tiny things from piles of dirt. We found four basic categories: charcoal, animal bones (in one room, camelid, and in the other room, shrimp), organic materials (ancient llama poop), and botanics (sticks, leaves, seeds). There are two clearly defined rooms and an outdoor space. Until Thursday, we were wondering whether this building was early colonial or pre-colonial; it was impossible to tell based on the poop as llama, deer, and sheep poop all look the same (sheep would have been the tell-tale sign of a colonial farm building). [And yes, it is important as archaeologists to look very closely at ancient and modern poop.]  However, at about 11 on Thursday, I was sifting through Alice’s buckets and getting the usual poop, charcoal, more poop, when I spotted something shiny. I looked closer. “We have a lithic!” I exclaimed, and held it up for all to see. In short order I found another. They’re clear obsidian points with serrated edges, less than two inches long. First, this shows that our area is pre-colonial; second, it shows that there were some trade connections with areas south of Misti, where the obsidian possibly comes from (although mass spectroscopic analysis will tell us exactly where). Also, I got to carry them around in my pocket for the day. For safekeeping, you know.

lithic

How cool is that???

We also do fun things outside of digging (or sifting, in my case, as I’ve sort of proclaimed myself the Official Sifter and thus the dirtiest person on the dig, as sifting releases all the particles into the air, where it attaches itself to my face, arms, orifices, and clothing). Wednesday was Itze’s birthday, so we had tres leches cake and a pseudo-party (one of the cooks sat and watched us to make sure there was no drinking, so we moved down to the fire pit where the wine flowed). Thursday we had a soccer game, girls vs boys, where they decidely beat us despite our having the greater numbers. (I played goalie because my toe hurt.) I did a couple of nice slides and body-checks, and then realized I was having some sort of allergy to the grass, so I went inside and wiped down with a baby wipe. After about five seconds this started to burn, so I ran into the shower and washed my legs. Then I slipped and bruised my arm.

Fridays are supposed to be lab days, but since we don’t really have anything to do in the lab, we took a field trip to see two looted cemeteries. The first had loads of textiles and bones, and we even found an in situ articulated lower arm with the fingers bound with red thread. The second site was mostly ash, and we wished they had warned us not to wear flip flops. (I also had – have – a bug bite making my left ankle into a cankle). There were more bones there, and suddenly we heard that the property owners were going to open a grave for us. We all ran over as fast as our flip-flop-clad, ash-sinking feet would allow, and the man in charge took out a shovel and uncovered a mummy bundle. It (he?) was wrapped in a yellow textile with a multicolored embroidered edge. It still had hair, but no skin, lying flexed on its back. Next to it, the men had buried a pot with coca leaves in it – their own mesa, thanking Pachamama for providing them with all this wonderful loot. (Yes – these were in fact the looters, showing off their mummies.) As we were heading back to the komvi (which actually broke and had to be towed for a bit by a pick-up truck and pushed Little Miss Sunshine style), someone spotted another about fifty meters away – this one was sitting up, out of the ground, sort of in a “Thinker” pose but with no head and no hand. It did, however, have skin; one could (and did) creepily look inside the empty chest cavity. That one also had the “mummy smell” – sort of like beef jerky gone off, if that’s possible. Afterwards we went for drinks and snacks in the town square and then back to Arequipa.

mummy

Agusto brushes the mummy

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