A matter of Wheat

The sun is quickly rising. Swallows spin and dive close to the water. The pump hums almost inaudibly, water burbles out of the hose. In the distance, a tractor-trailer rumbles metalically; in the village, several late roosters crow. The buckets rattle. No one speaks yet.

Today I’m with Pia and Svetlana, at what Marta has named „Stolniceni Beach.“ Here, soil samples are floated peacefully. A single sediment sample from one of the quadrants in one of the excavation trenches is split between five buckets. Svetlana then fills the buckets with water while stirring the mixture with a gloved hand. After a while, the sediment that makes up the majority of the sample settles to the bottom and only lighter things remain floating on top. The hope is for charred organic material, the remains of plants. The three who work here are archaeobotanists.

When the sample has separated, Pia pours it through a sieve (300µm), washing material through with water from a hose. Each of the five buckets is floated three times; thats 15 times in total for every sample. What remains in the sieve at the end of this process is then placed in a polyester bag and hung on the fence to dry. At night in the school, the samples are re-bagged and examined for the first time. The rachis-segment look like hexaploid naked wheat,says Pia. I agree with her. Definietly hexpaloid naked wheat rachises.

Of course, I actually have no idea and am very impressed. But when Pia explains it to me, I understand what naked wheat is: free-threshing, without a spelt. And according to Marta, it didnt play a role in the Tripolje culture. As the sample is from one of the upper excavation layers and one of the grains is not totally charred, they have to take into consideration that it could actually be representative of a recent harvest and ploughing. Thats a shame.

In the meantime, 9am has come. I have made a few drawings, the pair have emptied and cleaned innumerable buckets, and the first coffee has been shared. Now they are more talkative. Know what, Im not yet dreaming about buckets,says Svetlana in her warm, Belorusian accent. That is still to come, the dreams full of buckets.

It is nice here with you guys at Stolniceni Beach.    

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