Saturday, November 17, 2007

Test Pits R’ Us

The grand switch has finally been made. The mapping of Xtobo has been finished, and this week we began excavating the test pits necessary for this year’s project. Some of you may have been surprised by just by just how much time an archaeologist can spend not digging, well that’s all changed. Every day now I get to come home covered in dirt from head to toe.

The name of today’s blog is inspired by the rapid progress that has been made so far. Approximately 30 test pits need to be dug across the site, and in our first week we have already finished 5 and started the 6th. So obviously if we can maintain that pace I just might finish up this project sooner than I had expected. And not only have the test pits been proceeding rapidly, but they have also been very productive. The main thing we are looking for is pottery sherds (broken bits of pottery). With these I will be able to further confirm the dating of Xtobo, as well as, hopefully, gain some insights into the different sorts of activities that were being carried out at the different types of structures. So far the test pits have produced, not huge quantities of sherds, but significant quantities. In addition they have also produced four obsidian blades. Obsidian is a naturally occurring form of volcanic glass, which can be strategically shaped into long thing blades that can be incredibly sharp cutting tools. Finding these blades at Xtobo is particularly significant because the nearest sources of obsidian are highlands of Guatemala or central Mexico. Thus these little bits of stone offer instant evidence of long distance trade.

The other significant item coming out of test pits of pieces of marine shell. Now Xtobo is not all that far away from the ocean, it would be approximately a day’s walk with a direct road, but its nice to have confirmation that everyone likes to go to the beach for a day!


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