Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Monday in the Magazzino (6/5)

(This was written yesterday, but the wifi was fighting me.)
As we drove home from site today, I thought about what a motley group we make, the seven of us, inhabitants of the Torre, cozy in the minivan. Up front is our trusty driver Dan who has successfully thus far navigated the through the treacherous holes on the hill and through the gate in the still standing polygonal masonry walls of Cosa. Ana has shotgun, navigating for Dan but more importantly she adds Russian words to our Italian words of the day (today’s was pulvero, dust)! Three wide in the middle seat were Anthony with his hair safely secured in his Survivor Buff; Ann, the ‘mom’ to us all, who most often knows what’s happening; and Nora, with her dig bag on her lap and freshly painted blue fingernails freshly matte-ed by a healthy coating of dirt. Finally, in the back backseat are two of us: Jordan, who due to the espresso-like dirt of his trench (Elevated Cistern 3) has been variously called mole-man or compared to a coal miner and me, at the other end of the spectrum, only slightly dusty from Magazzino duty.
What’s the magazzino you may be asking? The magazzino is the storeroom for all the archaeological material both from our current dig, but also from the Cosa excavations going back decades. According to Christina’s precise organization, the light objects from our current project are stowed in neatly stacked, clean cassettas, plastic trays, and heavier, more durable objects are stowed in the lower bins. The potpourri of objects deemed significant enough for more detailed study also live in their own, separate catalog bins. Beyond storage, the magazzino and the courtyard are also where all the processing of finds happens. Objects are brought up to the courtyard every day and after communal washing time before lunch through grumbling stomachs, it’s up to the magazzino staff (currently me, Christie, and Christina) to sort the finds by material- marble, ceramic, bone, glass and other subcategories- noting special features like the lozenge-shaped brick found here and the easily recognized sherd of black gloss pottery over there. We also study the special objects, weighing and measuring and most importantly drawing them, my favorite part.
                Today, after pleasantly drawing some finds during the morning, we were confronted with four large SUs (stratigraphic units) of material to process in the afternoon, and so Christie, Christina, and I buckled down to get through it. We worked through the material like a well-oiled machine (surprising, given that its only our third real day working together).  After sorting this type of pottery from that and dividing up the pieces of tile to keep because of their cool shape or the swoop created by someone’s hand as they pressed the clay into the mold, one of us would fill in our paperwork, while another would weigh the different piles of finds we had spread out over our large table, and the third would write the tags for all the finds so they could be neatly packaged to join the thousands of others on the Magazzino shelves. Surprisingly, we got through it all, and had time to tidy and pack not in a rush to be all set to do it all again tomorrow: to arrive relatively clean, do the archaeology, process material, determine what needs further study, and come down the hill, full of stories from the different corners of site, cozy in the minivan. 

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