Saturday, November 24, 2007

Is That a Sherd, or a Rock, or Flint, or Shell, or a Fossil?

So many months ago now we began the game of “Is That a Structure?” While wandering our way through the monte of Xtobo we would come across random rocks that almost, but not quite, looked like an old house mound. The rather frustrating part of the game was that there was no real answer. Now we have begun a new game, which sometimes has a few more answers, but not always.

As we continue tearing through test pits like Grease Lightening (go ahead and sing the song, you all know it), we continue to find geological oddities. Most of the pottery sherds are relatively obvious. They have flat sides (since they were once part of a plate or jar) and they tend to be relatively soft. But sometimes they can be strangely hard, and we frequently run into look-a-like rocks, and soft crumbly rocks that feel like pottery. Then there are all those random limestone fossils. They can be quite pretty, but for an archaeological study they don’t mean too much. So I have to occasionally dash the hopes of an eager Mayan who just made the find of a century. Perhaps the most difficult determination has been Flint (or Chert) vs. fine grained limestone. Flint was used by the Maya, and everybody world wide, to make chipped stone tools like knives and arrowheads. Since flint forms naturally inside of a limestone system, that also means we get things that almost became flint, but not quite. So far I think we only have two real pieces of flint and a lot of look a likes.

In order to break all this overwhelming tension involved in making these complex decisions, the boys from Ucu have invented yet another new game, “Who threw that pebble at me?” Now since I’m sure none of you will be familiar with such a foreign game I will explain. While screening through the dirt, or digging it up, everyone finds a ready supply of small pebbles. When no one is looking these pebbles can be thrown over one’s shoulder at another fellow excavator. Then they have to try and guess just who threw the rock. Dan has shown great cultural literacy and has been able to insinuate himself into this uniquely Mayan game.


Blogger Candy Griffin said...

That pebble throwing game is right up my alley. Sounds like fun! I wish I was there to play and dig in the mud ;)

10:01 AM  
Blogger Cloro said...

The director of my first project disapproved of the game of "Contamination!"(it must have been a convergent evolutionary structure - our game took the exact same form as the Maya game) and pulled me aside and threatened to send me home (from Israel) a week and a half before the end of the season if I didn't stop the game.

His two kids, the other players, got no such admonition...

7:11 AM  
Blogger Candy Griffin said...

Hah! What's work without a little fun mixed in? Your director didn't know what he was missing.

7:28 AM  

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