Archaeology Dig Exercise Sample: Layer II

This was ready last weekend, but… uh, I forgot to post it, so… blame the 3 day weekend?  (Nearly forgot this weekend, too).  I guess, after having not had a working blog for a couple years, I’ve gotten out of the habit of weekly releases.

Just in case you’re just joining us, you should first check this explanation as to what we’re doing, then see this link for last week’s sample sheet. As they’re connected, you might want to refresh yourself on what I wrote last week, even if you’ve already read it once. You probably won’t understand what’s going on without having read those blogs.  I’ll also suggest you reference that first sample sheet, because I’m not going to repeat my explanation about who each of the archaeologists are.

Sample II:  The 2nd Layer

Site I:

Dig Team Report:
We think we’ve found the lost monastery!  Surprisingly, the walls of the monastery are going around the cistern… which we’re no longer certain is a cistern.  As we dug down deeper around it, we found that what we thought was a cistern was actually a room on the top of a set of steps.  How far down the building housing what we’ve called a “cistern” goes,  we can’t be certain, as we have yet to dig down to the foundation, but the monastery appears to have been built on top of it, and integrated it into its own foundations.
We’ve never seen anything like this, before, so even though she really wants to continue working on Site II, we had to bring in Dr. Leia Villa to check this out.
Dr. Anne Bein was called away, despite excavations continuing on the many barrows we’ve also found in this field, but she had an interesting suggestion — despite not finding any weapons on any of the bodies, many of the skeletons have a cause of death that are typical of veterans of war.  To try and explain this, we’ve asked Dr. Yari Makura to come in and examine the scene, to see if she can figure out why.

Dr. Leia Villa’s Report:
Certainly are two different types of construction going on, here.  The walls of what we’re calling the Cistern (even though it’s clearly not one of those… though what it was, I can’t tell, yet) are made of large quarried stone blocks — which might explain how they’ve survived intact for so long — with gypsum rubble to fill in gaps (not a true mortar, as it has no binding properties, but with stones this heavy it doesn’t need that).  I’m told the workers, here, found dating evidence that suggests this ‘cistern’ was built in the First Era, but I have to wonder about that.  The stones this place was built from are of varied composition and origin — a mix of granite, basalt, and similar material that would have been… difficult to cut with the technology of the First Era, but it’s certainly quite old.  The amount of wear, alone, proves that.
It must have been built no later than the Third Era, however, because the monastery built on top of it could only have been built in the late Third, early Fourth Era.  Partially destroyed in a fire, the monastery’s walls appear to have principally been timber-frame construction with wattle and daub walls throughout, built on a gravel foundation that was packed tight into the walls of the Cistern.  The layout of the building suggests steps up into the cistern would be in the rear of the building, in a back room, with a large assembly hall in the front.
I’m sorry to miss out on that first sight of the port city, but I can certainly see why I was called out.

Dr. Yari Makura’s Report:
I can see why I was called in, but I’m not sure what I can see in this site.  I’m no osteoarchaeologist, so I had to consult Dr. Bein’s notes extensively.  I also can’t make heads or tails of the barrows, though thankfully Dr. Villa is here to consult.  I was, however, able to make quite a few observations based on the grave goods, which Dr. Bein had largely ignored to focus on the bones.
The bodies were buried with clothing (only fragments of which remain), which was mostly made of silk.  Silk would have been difficult to produce in such quantities at the time.  Silk is often prized for duelist outfits in that era, as it is easier to keep out of, or remove from,  wounds than many of the other clothing fibers in the era (wool, cotton, linen, etc.) common in the era.  Perhaps this is a society of duelists?
There are no weapons in these burials.  There are, however, some odd pieces of what might be charitably called ‘armor’ for forearms and shins.  Odd designs, though — they’re hinged plates, and use intricately woven wire bracelet to attach to the intended limbs.  The way they’re designed, you could put them on as a baby, and they would still fit you when you were fully grown.  And there are no chest pieces, no helmets, nothing.  Ceremonial armor, almost certainly.
I do agree with Dr. Bein’s conclusion that the bones suggest combat injuries throughout the lives of these people, but I doubt they occurred on the battlefield.  They’re mostly consistent with the sort of injuries I would expect to see from hand-to-hand combat, save for a sizeable percentage of wounds you would expect to find from wild animal attacks.  Odd.  Considering the nearby monastery, perhaps deaths from some sort of ritual combat against both man and beast, rather than war?

Site II:

Dig Team Report:
We’ve moved on, for the time being, from the dry riverbed, and started serious digging on the city.  So far, we’ve unearthed a number of 4th era buildings, and a trash heap belonging to a factory of some kind.  As most of the debris is ceramic in nature, we asked Dr. Jordan Potter to investigate.
There is a large statue of some sort, an obelisk on top, with engraving all around it on the pedestal, and some of that odd glowing green glass Dr. Makura discovered as the cargo of one of those ships discovered last week enclosing something in between.  We’re hoping Dr. Aroon Carver will be able to interpret these engravings for us, and maybe help us figure out just what is going on with this glass stuff.

Dr. Jordan Potter’s Report:
Literally tons of ceramic shards have been unearthed from a Fourth Era pottery factory — unusually early for such an industry, but not unheard of.  Porcelain process, which is unheard of in this area, with all of the pottery solidly colored a pale green.  The pottery is in a variety of standard designs, and includes plates, glasses, bowls, and so forth.  I imagine this is more fascinating as one of the earliest examples of mass production-type factory, but is otherwise not all that unusual.  There are no artist’s markings, it’s not especially well made or of good quality.  It’s basically the same sort of pottery as you could buy, today — it’s just older, and for the most part broken.  Why did you bring me in on this one?  There’s nothing I can tell you about it that you can’t see for yourselves.

Dr. Aroon Carver’s Report:
I was rather miffed to be taken away from Site III, because I’m still not done with those metal tablets.  I brought one of them with me, however, and I’ll continue to work on translating it.
As it turns out, having the tablet with me has proven to be useful, both for this site and for my work on the tablets.  There is one passage on one of the four sides of this statue where the engravings are identical to the engravings in one passage on the golden tablets.  Given that the other three sides all translate to the same thing, I believe I’ve now been able to interpret that passage… and established a definite connection between Site II and Site III.
The passage reads “Bear, Dog, Pig, Bird, Worm, Person.  By Our Powers Combined!”  Unlike the tablets, the pedestal includes a symbol below the passages — a circle with a lightning bolt splitting it.
The glass is not standard glass, but uranium glass (hence why it glows); I’m surprised Dr. Villa was unable to identify it, herself, but it isn’t typically used in architectural features, I suppose.  The known manufacturing process for uranium glass was first patented in the Fifth Era, but we’ve had small samples show up from time to time that date back as far as the First Era.  This is the largest example we’ve seen from the Fourth Era or earlier, however.  The glass is enclosed in a structure made with what looks like gold (Dr. Ferreum taught me how to identify if a metal is gold or an alloy; this is an alloy, not actual gold) that is further supported by some surprisingly well-preserved cast iron outside reinforcements on the outside of the frame.  The glass is enclosing something, but we cannot retrieve whatever that is without destructive study, which I am reluctant to suggest.  The discoloration of the glass makes it hard to see, but I believe it is organic, possibly someone’s internal organ.  You should have called Dr. Bein in to see, because I’m hopeless at internal anatomy, and so is Dr. Potter.  Jordan believes it may only be a ceramic replica, given its current state, but without disassembling the statue (which I do not believe can be done without damaging the obelisk) I am uncertain how we can confirm it either way.

Site III:

Dig Team Report:
We still haven’t dug down far enough to reach the First Age settlement we’ve been looking for, but we did just discover a small Fourth Age settlement, which again has not appeared in any of our past records.
Most of what we’ve found to show the presence of the village is decomposing wattle and daub and some gravel foundations to small buildings.  There are few remarkable finds from the village, save some small pieces of metalwork that we’ve shown to our visiting archaeologists, but the village layout is unusual — all of the buildings were built in a circle around a central plateau.  Soil analysis shows that there was once something heavy in the very center of the circle, but it must have been removed when the village was abandoned.  Soil compaction says this would have been a very heavy object, so it must have taken some effort to remove.
This settlement also has several more of those odd tablets, placed in a circle between the village and that central feature, so we retained Dr. Cannon Ferreum to determine which of them are the ‘golden’ tablets, and which are the alloy.  We intend to set them all aside, regardless, for Dr. Aroon Carver’s analysis once she returns.
This settlement includes a large graveyard.  We’re not sure if these particular graves will give up anything of interest, as the bones are not especially well preserved, but in the hopes they might tell us something, we asked Dr. Anne Bein to come and examine them.

Dr. Cannon Ferreum’s Report:
Well, quite a bit to find on this site.  The extensive presence of iron and steel slag throughout the site suggests this village was manufacturing large amounts of crucible steel, possibly even enough for export, in an era where steel manufacturing was in its infancy.  There’s also filings of that fake gold alloy from the tablets, suggesting it was manufactured here as well.  There is no evidence of brass or bronze manufacturing, however, which is odd, as there are a number of brass and bronze artifacts (in the form of cutlery, jewelry, and similar personal effects) on site.
Once again, we found exactly seven slabs.  Five of them were made with a gold-like alloy infused with blood (a different alloy than the one used last week; likely an older process), and two others made with pure gold.  These are exactly identical to the seven slabs we found last week, but the two pure gold slabs are different from the one gold slab found last week.  I’ve sent the pure gold slabs to Dr. Carver for further analysis, but we’re keeping the fake gold slabs on-site for now, to use as comparisons to any similar tablets we find in the future.

Dr. Anne Bein’s Report:
I’m not sure why the dig team thought I would want to see these old pieces of junk — I’ve left them all for Dr. Ferreum’s analysis.  It’s the bones that interest me.
These gravesites are unusual.  In an area without any trees (at least in the Modern Era), the people of this village buried their dead in hollowed out trees.  Symbolic of something?  I’m guessing some sort of nature ritual is involved.
Some of the bones seem unusually soft.  That sometimes happens when soil bones are buried in is especially acidic, but we tested, and the local soil is almost perfectly neutral, not acidic at all.  This may suggest the bones have been moved, at some point in the past, from a different area to this graveyard — but from where?  We have no samples of the foreign acidic soil to test, so we have no idea where the bodies came from.
As to the surviving skeletons, every time we find a skeleton with bones broken during the body’s lifetime, we also have found that the body was killed in a ritual faction — evidence that necks were sliced, to where at least one skeleton was almost fully beheaded.  This society believed in sacrificing their wounded rather than treating them, which is unusual for this era.
I am loving this graveyard, and hope I may continue on it for the forseeable future.

Wrap Up:

I may have forgotten to post last week, but I’m hoping to not have to use another “classic” post next week before posting the next layer, at least, as a consequence.  Got a pretty good head start on the next one, at any rate.  I do have a dentist’s appointment tomorrow, however (routine check-up, but I never react well to these), so we’ll see how next week goes.

Again, I “assigned” each anthropologist by random dice roll (which caused me a narrative issue or two, but figuring out what these various anthropologists might discover about this story is partly the point of this exercise).  I’m not going to let anyone hit the same place three times in a row, however, so despite whatever the dice roll indicates next week, Dr. Cannon Ferreum will NOT be returning to Site Three next week.  Nor with Dr. Villa and Dr. Makura be working together, again, next week.  However, I will continue to use dice rolls to decide where people go, for the most part, but there are plenty of other methods for choosing which of your anthropological specialists go where.

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