The Men who stare at Sherds

As I arrive at the excavation, Vitali, Slava, and Stas are busy preparing Vitali’s pit for documentation. First they stand and crouch ponderingly in front of it, focused on the profile and the large number of sherds sticking out of it. Stas takes a trowel and scratches away some dirt, first next to one sherd, then around some others. He steps back and the three look at the wall of earth again. A couple of sentences in Ukranian. Are they looking for something? What is running through their minds?

Stas steps out of the pit, Vitali fetches the „Gloria“ (a kind of hand-pumped spray thing, the correct term is escaping me right now – luckily I can simply upload a drawing instead) and sprays a fine mist of water over the profile. The sediment dried out and became dusty over night; the moisture makes the different earth tones that form layers appear again.

Slava and Vitali squat silently for another ten minutes in front of the profile. They speak briefly, laugh, then begin to discuss. Vitalipoints to one of the layers. Slava protests and points to another part of the layer.

Then, sitting and looking again.

Stas asks if he can see my drawings. When he sees the picture of him and Slava in the pit, he laughs and explains that they are preparing the drawing, the interpretation. They already took the photos yesterday, and photos are also useful, but a drawing can show people who were not on the excavation important aspects much more clearly.

He clarifies that the pit is now half exposed so that a cross-section (here everyone calls it a „profile“) is visible. The pit belongs to the kiln in the middle of the trench („Trench“ refers to a single part of the excavation, a particular pit), where Slava works the most. The „Geomagnetic survey“ suggested many finds would be located here, and so far it has been true. In the pit that Vitali excavated and now will draw innumerous deformed and broken ceramics, possibly the trash from a firing furnance, were found.

I’m already excited to see what else Vitali will find there!

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