Tuesday, July 4, 2017

What We're Doing Here

This summer is a return to my dissertation field site, Buen Suceso. For those new to the blog (or who don't feel like reading the back posts), Buen Suceso is the site of an ancient village, belonging to the Valdivia culture. The site dates to around 2000 BC, which places it in the Late Valdivia period. Valdivia is the earliest agricultural, sedentary, and pottery producing culture in the region¹. It is also the period when social hierarchies first developed. Buen Suceso is unique in that the people who lived here seem to have rejected those hierarchical developments, and instead created a community that was more expressly egalitarian².

We have several specific, and hopefully attainable goals for this summer:

  1. Create a topographic map of the site. I did this as a grad student, but was relying on an old Brunton compass, a telescoping level that eventually had a stick taped to the top of it to get sufficient height, and my somewhat iffy trigonometry. This time we're using a Total Station with millimeter accuracy to more closely map the local terrain. 
    The family that surveys together stays together.
  2. Locate and excavate ancient houses. We want to know if the egalitarian ethos at the site was something that existed just in communal spaces, or if it was something expressed within and between households as well. To do that we need to identify multiple houses so that we can compare them. We're starting by digging test pits in three areas of the site, so that we can get a sense of what lies below the surface. Once we see what those turn up we'll select a few additional areas for expanded excavation. 
    Luis and Robert digging a test pit.
  3. Work with the local community. This field season is the first of two years funded by Fulbright. Next year will focus on heritage workshops and including the archaeology in the tourist resources that the local community, Dos Mangas, has to offer. To do that well, though, requires thought and planning, so I'm starting that conversation with the community this year. 
    At the monthly community meeting, presenting a UTRGV pennant in friendship.

We'll keep you posted on the progress of these goals as the summer goes along.

¹ For the more technical among my readers, I'm not ignoring the San Pedro tradition but I am simplifying for my audience.
² If you're curious to know more about why I say this, check out my dissertation or wait a bit longer for the forthcoming article.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Beginnings are hard

Our arrival back in Dos Mangas was more than I could have hoped for, in many ways. It was wonderful to walk down the street and greet old friends. I could not have had a warmer welcome. Despite that the arrival is still a bit of an adjustment, and difficult mentally at times. Hello culture shock. The village is quite different from our landing pads in Quito and Guayaquil, and adapting to the rhythm and paces of village life take some time. Throw in that I'm traveling with an infant, and it feels just a tad more difficult.

Also, it's really wet here, meaning everything is muddy and dreary. It's also causing me anxiety about the project. We're already getting a bit of a late start (losing about a week of field time because of a delayed permit and some other issues) and the heavy rains will put a further damper on things. And because of the rains we're also impacted by excessive vegetation.
The river valley in May 2006.
Same valley, June 2017. Yeah, it's wet here.

On Father's Day we took a hike out to look at the site. First, I have to give my husband major props for coming willingly on this adventure. And also for tromping through mud instead of doing whatever else you're "supposed" to be doing on Father's Day.
This photo just makes my heart melt.

The land where the site is located has been farmed in the past, but has been left untouched for about two years. There's lots of vegetation and it's hard to see much of anything. My plan of "here, look at the site" turned into a much shorter visit of "well, it's under there somewhere". So, first order of business will be getting some guys out with machetes to clear things enough to map and place some excavation units.

I'm hopeful to get the clearing started on Thursday or Friday, and then to be underway with excavations on Monday. That means the season will be six weeks long instead of seven, but hopefully we can still get a lot done.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

I'm Baaaaack

On the ground, in Ecuador. Thanks to a Fulbright Scholar award I'm able to return to my dissertation site and carry out another season of field work. My university did a nice little write-up on the award:

So here I am, with my husband and infant son, hoping to identify ancient households and excited to revive my collaboration with the comuna of Dos Mangas. The blog will once again become half travelogue, half critical engagement with archaeological themes. As internet access can be hard to come by, this will also be my primary mechanism to let friends and family know what we're up to, and that we're still alive and well. I'll also add more details about the project goals once the initial craziness of settling in is over. More soon!