This weekend marks the end of my third week with the Halmyris dig. I have had such an amazing time so far and I can’t believe I only have another week here. The work on the site has been surprisingly fun so far. The volunteers got split up into groups and assigned to different ‘trenches’ around the fort area. The trenches are usually a 5m x 5m square and can have anywhere from three to eight people working in them.
Below is an aerial photo of the site that I have permission to post (please ignore the awful reflections as the poster I snapshotted was very shiny). The area in the middle of the right side with the tight grid of squares is an area with a lot of original trenches. Other areas, such as the lighter section near the top, show cleared areas divided by the ruins of ancient walls and do not show the original trench boundaries. The semicircular sections around the edges of the triangle are towers; the pair at the left point of the triangle bookend the north gate, the single tower on the bottom side is half of the west gate, and the tower on the top side is a lookout tower above the ancient harbor. The big building covers the basilica and burial crypt and the smaller building covers the bathhouse, both areas that contain delicate features that need to be protected from the elements. The area I’m working on is a little up and to the right of the top point of the triangle, and was completely un-excavated and covered in grass at the time this photo was taken.
I’ve been moving around a bit from trench to trench depending on the type of work being done. At the beginning I was part of a huge group that was working on three side-by-side trenches which would apparently be uncovering a tower (how the site director knew that I have no idea since all the cool stuff is buried under a couple feet of topsoil so the entire site looks like a very lumpy field). A couple days into the dig, though, the trench I was in hit a very hard layer of rocks and mortar and my supervisor switched me to another trench due to my back problems and inability to use a pickax.
My new trench was being dug to extend the space that last year’s crew had cleared. Over the course of a week and a half we dug our 5x5m square to the level of the rest of the cleared space (maybe 5 or 6 feet down)- and every last inch of it was loose soil. We didn’t find a single wall or formation in our entire trench, compared to the trench right next to us which had two walls and a bunch of cool finds like coins and engraved tiles! I was pretty jealous, although by the end we had a sizeable collection of pottery shards.
Two days ago we completed our trench and got moved to a new project. The big group that I was originally in had kept running into problems so they moved them all together in one big trench a little to the west of the three original trenches. They’ve dug pretty deep so far and they’ve found basically an archaeological trainwreck. Big areas filled with absolutely huge slabs of stone (that need two people to move) and a bunch of rubble. However, the director of the site says that this area is important, and even pointed out a few areas that he says used to be pillars that held up an arched ceiling (again I have no idea what he’s talking about but that’s why he’s in charge). My group just got assigned to a big trench (approx. 6mx6.5m but it’s not exactly square) right next to the other group to try an extend the area being dug since the original group hasn’t even hit the outer walls of the tower. Today we found an area with a bunch of huge slabs of rock all mortared together which the director thinks might be the outer wall of the tower but until we dig deeper he can’t be sure. Right now it just looks like a huge mess of dirt and rocks (and very stubborn roots) but we know something interesting is down there!
Mostly the work is a lot of digging and shoveling, and occasionally carefully trowelling around walls and formations. We put on music and take snack breaks and it’s actually pretty fun! I was surprised by how satisfying it is to be moving so much dirt and uncovering ancient walls and rocks. So far the dig has uncovered a lot of pottery shards, some (animal) bones, some glass (both ancient and modern), a few lumps of metal, a couple Roman coins, a Roman spearhead (that unfortunately was in the rubbish pile from a 2007 dig so it’s not archaeologically significant), and some engraved tiles (including one that has dog prints from a 6th-century puppy that walked through the wet clay! So cute).
Speaking of puppies, here’s the dig’s mascot, guard dog, and loveable food mooch: Thor (or Tor in Romanian)
Although I still don’t have permission to post any photos from the dig itself, I encourage you to visit the Halmyris facebook page which has some photos from our dig. Also, my supervisor just published an article about the site in The Conservation journal with a lot of interesting information – go check it out!
Only one more week to go!
Until next time,
P.S. I am aware that my blog is having some trouble displaying my photos (thank you to everyone who pointed it out to me). I am working on the problem but it’ll take a while to fix since I need to hunt down and re-upload every single picture on my blog. Bear with me while I work it out!