Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The end is near

Well, looks like excavations at ‘Aoa are coming to an end. We’ve collected plenty of artifacts to analyze back at the lab, enough for the scope of this project. The Aoa project proved to be tougher than expected due to all the rain. If I remember correctly, we only had two dry days between Dec 19th and January 8th. When digging, the water table is intercepted at about 40 cm below the surface, hardly deep enough to call it an excavation unit out here. The depth of buried activity surfaces in this particular valley really only start below 120 cm. That means that we need to dig while under the water table for almost a meter before we get to anything. No matter what depth after 40 cm we’re still in knee deep water after bailing. Needless to say this is hardly optimal for digging 3000 year old stuff if you want to have any spatial control or high resolution information of where artifacts are coming from. This also removes any possibility of photographic evidence during excavation (yikes).

Because of the fact that we would be destroying archaeological deposits without proper documentation I have decided to terminate excavations at the site. Aoa has only limited real estate for archaeology along the buried beach berm. So, every time someone puts a square in the ground to study prehistory here a large relative percent of untouched space is destroyed. We have to keep this fact in mind and act upon responsible decisions when weather does not allow for accurate archaeological methods. A lack of archaeological self control and lowered procedural standards leads to academic disaster...it happens.

That being said, my excavations here have produced a wealth of well-provenienced artifacts. Personally, I’m quite surprised at the bulk of ceramics, stone flakes and volcanic glass artifacts that Unit B2 offered. The evidence provided by Unit B2 allows this project to be viewed as a success.

On a side note, I may have tracked down the location of the volcanic glass procurement location. That last sentence may seem a little anti-climactic. Let me explain. Volcanic glass is a close geochemical relative of obsidian, a glassy sharp volcanic stone that produces the sharpest edge available under current technology. This stone material was sought by ceramic period inhabitants in the Samoan Islands from 3,000-2000 years ago. It was traded within an interaction sphere of about 300 km from one end of the Samoan Archipelago to the other (that’s a long way for a little sail boat y’all). Anyway, since about 1964 archaeologist have seen this type of artifact all over the island chain but never knew where folks were getting it from.

The importance of finding the raw material source is that it allows us to trace prehistoric interaction. It lets us create a solid understand of ceramic period trade dynamics at the intra and inter-island levels. In other words, given no formal currency or state level society, how do people choose to organize the dispersal of a prized item... (ie: where does it come from, how is it controlled and who gets it). These questions are only approachable when you know both the procurement site and the consumption locations. I will likely track down this source next June when I return to Tutuila and test it geochemically upon my return to Texas A&M to see if it is in fact the source. Sorry no hints about where it is, I need to nerd out about it for a while still.

so long.

sometimes you just can't dig

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