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Kastro Kallithea Field School 2015 Blog nr 5: Kaitlyn Skinner and Morgan Kostiuk’s blog

In this field school we are learning how the post-excavation process of a site unfolds. When artefacts are discovered during a dig, they are put in bags with find numbers to reference back to later, and it is our job to analyze those finds to make sense of what was going on during antiquity at Kallithea.

We are learning how to interpret the small pieces that make up the big picture and how to put that into context. For example, one fragment of pottery can help us deduce what type of vessel it came from, and then we might gain some insight into what the room it was found in was used for. One minuscule seed has to be floated and picked out of residue with tweezers and a magnifying glass so that we can guess what a diet or environment may have consisted of. Even after careful analysis with hands in the dirt, pottery-covered fingers, permanently crossed eyes after staring into the eyes of faces on coins, we still may never know what was going on for sure. Such is the life of archaeology – that is one thing we know for sure. We always have to assume that there is more information to chase, and more dirt to sort through. All kinds of variables can confuse the data that we have – like animals, natural disaster, roots, and even the excavation process itself.

Kaitlyn Morgan 1

Morgan: I am an anthropology major, and archaeology is a huge part of that. Now that I have seen the finds, I’m motivated to pursue archaeology further and experience where the finds actually come from, before they get put in a bag. If I wasn’t interested in faunal remains before, I am now – because I got to dissect a whole sheep head here.

 

Kaitlyn Morgan 2    Kaitlyn Morgan 4   Kaitlyn Morgan 3

 

Kaitlyn: I am a history major, and had next to zero archaeology experience before coming here. Learning about everything that goes into a post-excavation process has been so inspiring for me because I see that there are so many more options than to just dig. There is a place here for a little ‘ol history major.

Kaitlyn: I am a history major, and had next to zero archaeology experience before coming here. Learning about everything that goes into a post-excavation process has been so inspiring for me because I see that there are so many more options than to just dig. There is a place here for a little ‘ol history major.

We both feel that we will now have an advantage in any workplace because we have had this amazing hands-on experience. Seeing and experiencing the culture while studying it in an apothiki puts everything into perspective that we’ve learned in university to date. Now, if only we had a time machine to go back and see what exactly was going on in building 10. A big magnifying glass will have to do.

Kaitlyn Morgan 5                     Kaitlyn Morgan 6

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The Kastro Kallithea Field School Blog no. 4. The Necessity of Documentation Through Photography in an Archaeological Setting. By: Alexandria Garcia and Rashmani Chakrabarty.

Alex Rashmani 1

Pictured above is Alexandria Garcia photographing a lamp fragment.

Photography is a key aspect in the documentation process of classical archeological sites and personally, it was one of our favourite modules to learn at the Kastro Kallithea Field School. Archeology is about preserving the past, but unfortunately, it is a destructive practice. Despite our best attempts the handling of excavated artifacts increasingly damages them. Photography allows us to preserve these artifacts digitally, so that we can have an image to refer to when studying them. Furthermore, often artifacts are excavated in certain countries where they cannot be legally removed; this is the case for the Kastro Kallithea site. In these situations, photography becomes essential in the study of artifacts abroad.

Alex Rashmani 2

Pictured above is Gino Canlas demonstrating a technique in which to photograph artifacts from an areal viewpoint.

It is not enough to only photograph artifacts, as there are thousands of finds per site. Imagine trying to find one lamp nozzle image in the numerous images taken of each item. In short, a rather difficult and time consuming task. For this reason, we further document every image into two logs. There is a written log, where we summarize the total number of images taken for each profile of an artifact. Additionally, there is a digital log where every image is documented. As a student, we filled out the summarized log, while our instructor was responsible for the upkeep of the digital log. It is crucial to not only document images of artifacts on the camera in question but also ones that have been deleted. This is done to avoid confusion over a jump in the numbers on the camera’s memory card. Therefore, images whether deleted or kept are still accounted for within both the written and digital photo logs.

Alex Rashmani 3

Pictured above is Rashmani Chakrabarty using plasticine to arrange the artefact for capturing different profiles.

In addition to the many other methods of preservation, photography is essential in the preservation and studying of artifacts as well as an interesting and informative module. We had a great teacher, Gino Canlas, who taught us to think outside the box when photographing, as you can in the second picture.

Alex Rashmani 4

Pictured above is the summarized written photo log.

The Kastro Kallithea Field School Blog No. 3: Uncovering the Clues of Ancient Life, by Aysha Braun and Kassandra Kist

For outsiders, a common view of Classical archaeology is that scholars only study complete and beautiful artefacts and vessels such as the ones that are found in museums. Yet, the miniscule and not necessarily ‘pretty’ artefacts are also essential to understanding past lives. This year at the site of Kastro Kallithea, the team focused on processing of artefacts and ecofacts rather than actual excavation; this meant that the smallest details and clues were processed, recorded and analyzed. An example of this detailed work is the process of soil flotation and sorting which proved that we didn’t need to excavate to get our hands dirty.

flotation 1

Soil samples are taken during excavation from floor levels and areas such as hearths and pithoi (storage containers) for examination through soil flotation. This allows the recovery of organics and small artefacts such as ceramics and plaster and ecofacts such as bone, shells, seeds and charcoal.

In the soil flotation process we separate the smallest of artefacts and ecofacts in order to obtain better insight into the kinds of organic matter that were associated with the life and lifestyle of the inhabitants of the ancient city of Kastro Kallithea. In this process we used a handmade flotation machine. It consisted of two major basins, in the largest we placed a water source (a hose) and a mesh screen (this we referred to as a reservoir as depicted above).

Our soil sample was initially placed in the reservoir and mixed in with water. The light organic material, such as carbonized seeds and roots became separated and drifted to the surface as a result of the difference in mass and was caught in the mesh screen of the second container. (Depicted below).

flotation 2

Both flot and residu are left to dry after which they are sorted into the categories ‘faunal remains’, ‘plant remains’, ‘charcoal’, ‘ceramics’ and ‘stone’ using a magnifying glass, bamboo sticks and tweezers.

These clues can help us infer aspects of ancient life. For instance, seeds and bones may be indicative of what people were eating both through species and isotopic analysis. At Kastro Kallithea carbonized seeds recovered from pithoi are sent to a lab in Holland for species analysis, which may help us gain insight into people’s diet and food production. Charcoal can also be recovered in this process and large samples can reveal aspects of the natural environment and perhaps the function of a room. These are just a few examples of what can be learned from recovered items.

flotation 3

Overall soil flotation is a fun way to get your hands dirty, learn about the site and uncover artefacts in the processing stage.