travel

So you want to visit a dig – how to drop in on an archaeological excavation

So, let’s say you’re a history buff.

And that museums are cool, and all, but you’re more of an outdoorsy person. You like to see the splendor and size and the reality of sites and you get shivers thinking about standing on a path where others have stood, thousands of years before you – of touching the same wall, of looking through the same window. You probably like to touch things, if they don’t seem too fragile. (You probably have a thing for buildings and architecture, too, but you always hated math too much to take that path in school.)

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travel

It was confusing, it was dirty, and it was absolutely wonderful.

The dig at Songo Mnara already feels like another lifetime, or another world.

It was amazing. The site was incredible, the island was gorgeous, the people were great. The sun was unbelievably strong, straight down on us, and if the wind wasn’t blowing sand and dirt straight into your eyes, it was only because you were downwind of the sieve and getting mouthfuls of it. The minute tonal difference between the types of soils, trying to identify them, to distinguish between them, was infuriating – almost painful – and hours spent looking for traces of decoration or finished edges on pottery fragments had me hallucinating bases.

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travel

Trowels and tape; hangovers and side-streets.

I’ve always tried to keep my travelling mixed up – a party here, a home-stay cultural immersion there; volunteer placement and aimless wandering – but, as I’m faced with a trip a bit different than what I’ve done before, I’m beginning to wonder about how to mix – authoritatively, presumptively, intentionally – work and pleasure. It’s one thing to step out of the office and into your social circle; it’s one thing to take your spontaneous adventure and twist it back, folding and editing, into a story – or even a study – when you realize in retrospect that there are larger ramifications; its wonderful to have a private room or two that isn’t fodder for analysis and its shielding to be fortified within a uniform as you work; it’s entirely a different thing, a wonderful and lucky thing, to be have your “work” and your “passions” so intertwined as to be the same thing.

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