Today was my best day in Estonia so far.
I am not sure if I wrote sometime back that when I was in Estonian training, I read an article about an archaeological excavation going on near my apartment here. I wasn't sure exactly how near, but I gathered it was pretty close.
Turns out, close is practically across the street.
Basically, the Art School tore down an old building and Estonian cultural heritage law requires that they do excavations before they rebuild. In their excavations, the archaeologists found a medieval suburb of Tallinn.
When I got here, I happily realized I could see the excavations from my window...so I have been watching...waiting....for any signs of work. And this morning, I noticed that one area had a new tarp. So I watched for a minute, and saw a guy walking around, and he was wearing...knee pads! Meaning he was expecting to be kneeling in the dirt....digging!
So I walked over this morning when I took my dog out and the head archaeologist showed me around a bit. I told her I was an archaeologist before I joined the State Department, and she invited me to come dig with them. How could I resist? The weather is perfect!
This afternoon, I walked over without Noostie and chatted with some of the students and volunteers. It was excellent (and exhausting) Estonian practice. The Masters student on the site showed me some of the stuff they have found...ceramics as far back as the 13th century and from all over. Wood. Leather. Bone. Wonderful stuff that never preserves on our sites back home!
Then I went down into the units and looked at what the volunteers were finding. I chatted a lot with one young guy who was digging next to an older guy. The older guy was just plowing through what looked like a burn feature, putting the dirt into a bucket and tossing it on the backdirt pile.
Earlier, a woman had walked up to the Master's student and showed her a sherd. Where did you find it, she asked the woman in Estonian. I didn't understand the word she used but I understood the expression. I said, she found that in the backdirt, didn't she?
So I was watching the old guy toss dirt into his bucket, and I saw a sharply angled object. I pulled it out. Deer mandible. Wait, we want to save that said the young guy, and put it in an artifact bag. I started feeling though the dirt and found lots more bone, and put it in the bag. The old guy looked at me and laughed, and the young guy asked if I wanted some gloves. But I don't usually use gloves because I can feel more fragile artifacts with my hands without them. So I said I was fine. He looked at me and shook his head and asked, "What did you say you do again?" I said I am a diplomat. and he shook his head and laughed and said, you are a strange diplomat.
Truer words have seldom been spoken!
The old man said I needed to go wash my hands, and I said I was fine. And he said, no, you are putting your hands in shit. I said I was okay, and he decided that meant I didn't understand him. so he clarified. Shit means to poop. Yes, I know. But even if there is poop in this feature, it is really dang old poop and I am not worried. But the young guy then decided I really needed to wash my hands. So I went with him and washed my hands.
He has no idea how good it felt to have them dirty.
They will be there through November, and when the rest of my clothes arrive, I am totally going back out there and getting dirty.
Because even the backdirt pile is happy when archaeology is happening!