Pull tab. Scratch n’ win. Spin the wheel. Pick 6 numbers. In a field of acres twenty units of only one square meter each will be placed. There is, of course, careful calculation behind the placement of those units: Untold hours of research, site surveys, mapping, and test units – the progenitors of excavation units – which may yield little of value or may offer a furtive wink. But despite the due diligence no one knows with certainty what lies underneath. Opening an excavation unit is like opening an attic door, or a long forgotten box. We sense familiarity, but we also know that we don’t know. We turn the key, we open the lid, and we hold our breath.
Yes, all through the day, and at every minute through the meticulous process of soil removal and sifting, and at the intervals of rest too, Anticipation sits right beside you. It cheers you when you feel it. It coaxes you when you grow too mechanical. It lifts you up when you tire. It feeds you with visions and possibilities. What will you find in that quadrant? In that screen? Perhaps something not yet found. Perhaps something still strangely intact. Maybe you might find something startling or graphic, what Adrian calls “iconic.” And yet all of it, from the smallest fragment of rusted tin to the splendid enamel bowl, is a certain kind of treasure.
The team has expanded lately to include Josh Allen, a Senior in archaeology at the University of Idaho, and Tim Dodson, an archaeologist working in the private sector in Colorado. Unit 32K2C begun on Monday, has now been completed, reaching sterile soil at about 40 cm below surface. Two new units are now well underway. Adrian and I teamed together on 32K2E while Tim and Josh joined forces on 32K2D. Both teams were surrounded by the usual panoply of heckling six-legged spectators (mosquitoes!). We worked together under a sledgehammer sun, layered like sedimentary rock with our substrata of insect repellent, sun screen, and dirt. The sweat made gullies on our skin. And we felt Anticipation beside us, cheering and coaxing.
Here is another lottery: one unit may yield nominally interesting artifacts while another, only scant meters away, may contain all the objects that especially excite us. Adrian and I, laboring at 32K2E often paused to admire the terrific cache at 32K2D.The discoverer is praised: “Nice find!” But we all know it is a lottery, to be the discoverer, and that in fact we are all the beneficiaries. When promise becomes fulfillment, when expectation becomes realization. When Anticipation thrills us with another find.
PS: Photos of our fieldwork are added daily to this album!