Santa Susana 2016 has come to a close. When I first began writing this post I had just completed database entry in lab and with it my final work day as a crew member, and now I finish it sitting in my room back in Pennsylvania after flying back from Lisbon yesterday. I already greatly miss Portugal, but I am excited about all we have accomplished this season and the experiences I’ve had.
Though this was the final week the tasks I completed varied greatly. On Monday I returned to the tesserae pit from last week and finished working there with my partner. The completion of the layer raised many questions regarding our bath complex and I am eager to see what we will be able to find in the coming seasons. I also helped clean a section of our most fragile mosaic with a scalpel. The mosaic was damaged over the winter, and while only a few parts of the last season’s finds remain, more of the mosaic was uncovered this season. It is also very fragile since it is disrupted by roots, leaving portions wobbly and unstable. Nevertheless, these portions needed to be cleaned, so medical scalpels were used to scrape the dirt off of individual tesserae faces and define their edges for a 1:1 drawing.
On Tuesday I tried something entirely different and went out on high-intensive survey for the first time in the field near the site. Working across transects of five meters by twenty meters myself and three others collected and weighed every piece of building material after sorting them by brick, tile, or pan tile. This survey will help us determine what structures may lay beneath the surface of the field. It was exciting to experience an entirely different type of fieldwork from excavating.
The field where high intensive survey was conducted
Wednesday was a lab day for me. I learned how to use Filemaker Pro and worked to enter the spreadsheet information amassed in lab into the database, the same task I completed later in the week. The database is now up to date with four seasons’ worth of information about finds at Santa Susana. On Thursday I worked to make a detailed drawing of a significant portion of the bath complex, as well as the older part of the site. In the midst of the drawings the whole crew worked to cover the mosaics for the off season. A new technique was used this year. We built retaining walls using building material that had been excavated around the mosaics at a height of about fifteen centimeters. The mosaics were then covered with roughly ten centimeters of sand and a layer of excavation dirt on top. This is an alternate method to covering the mosaics with tarps and excavation dirt, which traps moisture and can lead to water damaging the mosaics in the off season. Hopefully this method will be the most effective and keep our mosaics pristine until 2017.
A retaining wall around the mosaic I helped consolidate in week three
Friday night we journeyed back to Monsaraz for one final dinner together. The view from the castle walls to Spain on one side and Portugal on the other as the sun dipped low in the sky was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen. It was an early wakeup call Saturday morning to go to the airport, but a late night at the castle was worth being tired the next day.
The crew at Monsaraz on the last night
This concludes my first field experience, but most assuredly not my last. I am intensely grateful that I have been able to have this experience, and would like to take this opportunity to thank my parents, project directors and supervisors, professors at Hopkins, and American Archaeology Abroad for all of their support and guidance in this process. Field work has been an event like no other, and being in the field has only deepened my interest and passion for archaeology and material culture. Before coming to site my only knowledge of archaeology was from museums and textbooks. Now, I have dug under the hot sun and uncovered objects that had not been seen for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. I have recorded and analyzed and surveyed and lived with people whose interest in the archaeology of the region is infectious. This has been a profoundly important experience to me, and I can’t wait until I can continue my work in the field. For now, tchau!