Friday, 24 July, 2009
It’s sobering every morning to peep into my lab and see the tabletops and counterspace no less clear of bags. We hauled a few hundred parcels of artifacts and special samples back from the field and they’re waiting in patient ranks for the next phase of work to begin. But I’m happy to say, after nearly a month now, that we’re poised to plunge into the job of processing and analysis.
And this is where the real work of archaeology begins. Fieldwork is a vital step; it remains the most traditional way we collect raw material for study. But all of the grubby potsherds and scraps of bone and even the glittering glass beads would maintain an uncomfortable silence if we neglected to wash them, catalog them, subject them to close examination, and then compare them with material from other excavations. This is a way of saying that, yes, the artifacts have a story to tell, one that surely will take unimagined twists and turns, but they tend to give up their secrets rather grudgingly.
Part of my time back at the museum has been devoted to arranging for the sophisticated kinds of analysis that form our modern archaeological arsenal. These days it is possible to wring information from even the smallest of artifacts with the use of laser imaging, “ray guns” that determine the chemical composition of objects without having to sacrifice a sample, and lab processes that can tell us the age of teeny-tiny bits of organic material. These kinds of tests will be especially helpful as we contemplate the origin of the European objects.
So sit tight and stay with us over the coming months. I can assure you that we’ve barely begun to understand the real meaning and impact of our findings.