Trowel tales and true – Damien Stone
by Damien Stone,
Having finished my undergraduate degree in Archaeology earlier this year, I thought it was about time I went on my first excavation. With keenness I purchased my first trowel, affectionately naming it Enkidu (after the protagonist’s friend of the Gilgamesh Epic), and applied for the Zagora excavation.
Previous to this, being a volunteer with the conservation and collection management team at Sydney University’s Nicholson Museum, I have been blessed with the opportunity to have handled artefacts from various civilisations, though these have all long been removed from their original context.
I was very nervous about the concept of excavating. I worried that some mistake I would make in the field would damage reconstructing the puzzle that is Zagora. However, I quickly picked up a variety of techniques, and I feel that I learnt much on the dig, so that I owe a great deal of gratitude to the direction of my trench supervisor, Kristen Mann. I achieved things that I previously thought I would be incapable of, like technical drawing architectural plans and operating high-tech surveying equipment (Total Station).
While excavating, I established a whole new grasp on the connection between objects and space that seeing an artefact in a museum doesn’t quite achieve.
Standing in a room for the first time in millennia, places where people lived, laughed, laboured and loved, I felt a little bit of that huge divide of time that separates us from the past lessened. There is something almost sacred (apologies to the archaeological purists who will accuse me of poetising their scientific discipline) about removing the accrued soil off and holding items that were once an important part of another human’s life.
At the conclusion of the project, the extent to which Zagora had become a part of my life became apparent in the sense of emptiness I felt when leaving Andros; that this goal we had been aiming towards for six weeks had suddenly been reached. Part of me even missed the delightful dirt-based fake spray tan we would receive courtesy of Zagora’s soil-blowing wind….
As well as furthering my studies, which focus on the Ancient Near East, I hope to participate on many future excavations. I fell in love with that Greek sense of hospitality and know I’ll be back. I am proud to have been part of the Zagora Archaeological Project, and want to thank all the other team members for being great inquisitive people who have each impacted on how this important site is understood.
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