25 August, 2013

Another Sunday Morning Grab Bag (Part One)

Every now and then, something slips through the cracks. For instance, I just hit the 'draft' button on my Blogger software. I was surprised to see three almost postings sitting there, all with photos and some text. A couple of the drafts were when work was going on at the Santa Rita ruins. I combined those two and added in a few other photos of the ruins that didn't even make it into a draft.

The other is some nice shots of Dianna and her garden that I have no idea why they never got posted. Senior moments? Could be, could be. Hopefully, nothing more significant. I'll have to keep track of that... if I can remember to do so.

So, here's the first grab bag that I've done in a while. There's so much, I've broken it down into two parts. This is part one.

This bit is from May 22, 2013. It was tentatively titled 'The Dig From the Side; Just the Way You Like It.'

A Lotta Dirt To Move
Just the way you like it. Not sure where I was intending to go with that statement, but I thought I'd leave it in anyway. This is what is found for the most part, I think at any dig. Bits and pieces. It's amazing what they can put together from such tiny little things.
Somebody Done Good
Working an archeological dig was something that sparked an interest with Dianna and myself from way back. In fact, you might say, it was more or less what caused us to end up here in Belize.

I had seen a program on TV about 'working vacations', and archeological digs apparently are always looking for cannon fodder - er, I mean, volunteers - especially volunteers who can pay their own way, both in transport and in food for the duration of their participation.

What interested us was a dig I found on the Intertubes that was occurring about 300 miles up the Amazon from the nearest town. Keep in mind, this was right after the movie Medicine Man, with Sean Connery. It really sounded cool and mysterious.

We were getting ready to start the process of finding out about required shots, stuff to bring, transportation, etc., etc., when I read an article about that very dig in some blog or news item. The thing sounded like it was right up our alley till I came to the part about 'participants would observe only...' Observe only?  We wanted to do and observe. We didn't see much value in traipsing 300 or so miles up the Amazon only to stand around and watch somebody else do the work. Besides the time commitment was a bit much too, something like six weeks, which would have been tough since we were both working.

Still wanting to do a working vacation, we stumbled upon a volunteer program through the University of Washington (Tacoma) Archeology Department, which really sounded cool. it still required a significant time commitment, but it seemed worth it. They would run you through each area of the dig. That is, a few days working photographing items and doing other photo lab stuff, maybe a few days in the art section, where people drew the recovered items, a couple of days running a wheelbarrow, a couple of days here, there, and everywhere. You'd get exposed to every bit of the archeologist's lot in the field.

The only problem with all this was it was in the Jordanian desert somewhere. Can you say 'hot?' Sure, I knew you could. We decided that 120+ in the shade might not be quite our cup of tea.

Then, we found a dig at an Irish monastery in the Aran Islands in Galway Bay on the west coast of Ireland. This sounded at the time, more to our temperament. You were lodged with townspeople in their homes, and the time frame was fairly good.

But then we got turned on to the Peace Corps. I don't know if I watched a program on TV or what. Anyway, longer story short, that was the direction we headed off in. After getting tired of waiting for the Peace Corps, we decided to make our own adventure and came to Belize, where we've been ever since. Best decision we ever made. It's a hell of a vacation.

But, the idea of working on a dig never really did leave us, so this opportunity up at Santa Rita was, by now, exactly what we were looking for. Even though we only actually participated for two or three days on the dig, we felt we did something few other folks really ever get an opportunity to take part in.

So, here's a shot of Dianna and Bruce hard at work at the Santa Rita dig. Bruce and Colleen spent a lot more time here than we did. Bruce ended up lessening his participation as it impacted his golfing up at Consejo Shores, But, Colleen got the bug so much so, that she could probably qualify for a paid position - if there was one.
It Could Be Important
More tiny little bits and pieces. It's amazing how many of these you find on this dig.
It Was A Good Day
A Good Find
Part of a dig, that we learned about, is that you have to remove a lot of rocks before you find the good stuff, if there is any. Then you have to put the rocks back in better order than you found them. Basically reconstructing whatever structure was there in the first place. At least at this dig, that was more or less, the order of business. Below is the pile of those rocks awaiting their turn for repositioning.
Lotsa Rocks to be Used
We did find some pieces that struck our untrained eyes as being significant, such as the piece below. There really were some gorgeous pieces that everyone helped find.
One of Our Best Finds
For a while, Bruce's sister, Maria was in town, so naturally, she got pressed into service, helping on the dig. Just cause you're visiting is no excuse.
Patty's Found Several Pieces
Colleen is showing another small but interesting piece. As time went on, she became quite knowledgeable as to what the bits and pieces were.
Quite the Find

Recovered Rocks Waiting to be Replaced
Denis, Bruce and Dianna working away in the heat.
Running Out of Gas
Here's a shot looking head on to the front part of the ruin.
Santa Rita Ruins - The Big Dig
Off to the side, Colleen found this wall portion that was fit together very well.
Some Original Wall
There were several paid workers there. They were paid by the Archeological Institute, and they moved huge amounts of rock, dirt and other debris. He's loading up the little piles of rubble that each of us created, then moving the barrow-loads over to a bigger pile that will eventually be sifted for even smaller stuff than what we were finding.
Somebody Has to Haul Away the Spoils
A good part of what we accomplished was conversation. Here we're combining both work and talking at the same time.
The Crew At Work
The Outer Reaches
Just as an army moves on it's stomach, so to, does a group of hard working folks on a dig. This is the local sandwich and drink wagon, what we called in the military, the 'roach-coach'.
The Roach-Coach
Here's the pile I mentioned of the fines that are to be sifted at a later date.
The Spoils Site
Even though everyone had gloves, there were plenty of times where gloves just got in the way. Bare fingers were what was needed. Manicured nails don't stand a chance.
There's a Piece Buried
Every now and then, something comes up that really catches your eye.
Two of Our Best Finds
Here's Vivien hard at it. When you're doing it, it seems like you're hardly making a dent in the soil, and then, when you're done, you're impressed at how much you really did get moved.
Vivien's Corner of the World
Always the ongoing debate - is it a shard or a rock? Thankfully we had professionals on site to solve the questions of this sort that we just couldn't answer. They could tell at a glance too.
Is it a shard or a rock
It All Looks Like Dirt and Rocks
A Near Perfect Match

And this next part is from July 2, 2013, and was tentatively titled 'No Dinosaurs Yet.'

Here's the early approach to the dig, way before anything is prettied up.
The Approach to the Dig
Another Day At the Mine
A Lot of Progress
Workers Everywhere
Areas of Emphasis
More Piles of Rocks
Santa Rita From the Road
More Workers
Artifacts Found Here
Rubble Yet to be Sifted
I think they can smell something significant. Just about anytime one of us amateurs found something of note, one of the pro's either the head archeologist or the Conservator would be right there to supervise it's removed from the soil.
Conservator Doing the Detail Work
Thousands of wheelbarrow loads of rock, dirt, and debris had to be moved to begin to make sense of the site.
Wheelbarrow - An Integral Part
Looking Across the Whole Thing
This is what Bruce and Colleen had been working on prior to our arrival on the scene.
Bruce and Colleen's Handiwork
Colleen is giving the twenty-five cent tour to Dianna's brother David, who came down and visited us for a couple of weeks from Colorado.
Colleen Briefing David and Dianna
And that's the end of Part 1 of the Sunday Morning Grab Bag for today's edition. Part 2 will be along more or less shortly.

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