So, time flies and Ive been on a tiny island for two weeks already!
Got a lot to tell you all, so here’s the first section:
Work begins at SECAR, island style!
My first task after settling in was to sort a bunch of stuff on the artefact table, in the main room of the SECAR building. Routine work, the archaeologists among you may think. But not so. I was actually sorting out a bunch of tools from when Grant had tried to fix the perpetually-broken-down-landrover last. My classification system was as follows: spanner pile, pile of ‘mixed hardware’, drill bits pile, hand tools pile, driver bits heap, adhesives box, car parts jumble, and rubbish catalogue!
Next day it was onto the real archaeology, installing a screen door at the Center Now, Im not a carpenter, and shouldnt have said I was “handy with a drill and a saw” to Grant, because I may have got the door on, but I put it on upside down, and smashed the nearby coffee pot into a million pieces in the process! Put a small pic of this one so you cant critique my handiwork. At least it did keep Vincent the barking cat out of the house.
And then it was onto the real archaeology, building a massive storage unit to hold all these boxes of artefacts. You see, people have been doing archaeology here for quite awhile. Over about the last 50 years they’ve been doing archaeology in bulk man: And each team that comes, boxes up the artefacts that they’ve dug up, and leaves them on the island. So basically the old cinema building in town is full of dusty boxes of bits of broken glass and pots and rusted unidentifyable bits of metal. And these have been piling up for awhile.
Oh yeah, did I mention that its impossible to get anyone to do anything on this island? So you want some shit built, you go get yourself a volunteer intern from Australia to do it!
Yeah, they don’t teach ya that in an archaeology degree!
Onto the Archaeology, island speed…
So for the first week, we didnt really get to excavating. Did I mention that things run slowly here? (Everyone is telling me that I need to read a certain book ,called of all things “Dont Stop the Carnival“. Apparently it will enlighten me as to why things either run slowly, or not at all around here). Actually SECAR runs as an archaeological field school, and was set up specifically to encourage tourism of an archaeological nature. So the main aim of SECAR itself is to teach students how to dig, and to get people to the island. The director of the place has done a good job of also pursuing the preservation and recording of the archaeology here, and pushing to get archaeological work done whenever development threatens to destroy the archaeology on the island, but this is kind of separate to SECAR. So good news for me, there wasnt much to do until the volunteers arrived and I got to start chastising them for bad trowel habits!
By and by we had a bit of a chat about the ceramics here, Grant made this usually dry subject pretty interesting. I think Im gonna get along with this guy just fine. Bottles are more my thing though, if I had to be into either. Check out some of these, the ones at the top left are about turn of the century, like 1700.
Not to gripe about archaeology or anything, its just that for me, its not really about the stuff itself, but about what the stuff can tell you about people. About other ways of life, long forgotten, that have the power to pull us out of our routine, slap us about the face, and make us think again if we really know what it is to be human, in the fullest sense. Hopefully more on that later, got to get into the ground before you start talking that kind of heavy.
So, being about time, but not complaining of a bit of a rest and opportunity to acclimatise to the balmy weather, I get thrown a task, archaeological this time: to try identify this guy.
Grant found it near the beach, and it appears to be a statue of a saint, probably from one of the islands many churches. The Catholic one? Any clues who this is? I figure the main clue to go on is that he has a hand on his side, not much I know…
So a week goes by, spent on carpentry, meeting people slowly, doing a bunch of reading about slavery, and sitting in the garden thinking hard on it all. Walking down my favourite trail to the little brown beach, and hauling myself up the super steep path, built by people who didnt have the freedom to choose which route to take.
Some days I would wait down there and watch the sunset, and the sky would tell the story of these islands, the relaxed beauty of this lazy afternoon with the bloody turmoil of the past seeping through.