Ramblings

The good news is that I’m finding stuff, the bad news is what I’m finding is fairly boring. I’m finding mostly roof tile fragments, bone fragments, and a few pottery pieces. Except for the bone, basically my stuff gets counted, weighed, and discarded. Nevertheless, I’m still finding stuff and I don’t think I’ve hit bedrock yet, though I might have.

Dr. Fuller has put up a temporary webpage with some pictures and notes about the dig. It’s at:
http://users.stlcc.edu/mfuller/marko2006.html

Last night they brought me a birthday cake (Black Forest) and sang me the song. Like everyone, I hate it when that song is sung to me. I even had it happen twice, as they sang it to me when the bus broke down. It was, however, a great birthday and one I will remember and appreciate for some time.

We even got to hear about artifacts they have discovered in a dig in Novgorod while eating my cake. That rocked. I’m very excited about the boots they found there as they look exactly like my fighting boots and if I recall correctly are dated to the 10th century. My boots might not be so wrong after all. I’m going to check on that some more when I get back.

Tomorrow it’s back to moving dirt. I’m about to start my third and likely final Locus. A Locus is a level of a dig so that the artifacts and the paperwork can be kept organized and the context preserved. It won’t be final if I find something really cool, so wish me extra paperwork. Just this one time, though.

It was a very fun weekend. On Saturday after digging we went and roamed around the older part of town. We started by checking out the Swan English Pub. It was even more disappointing than the Irish Pub. We therefore went and had pizza at a really good and cheap place in this little walking mall area.

After that we walked up to the castle and walked around its battlements. The castle was originally started by Justinian I and was in use for basically a millenium finally occupied by the Ottomans. It’s a fascinating ruin because you can see bits and pieces of a variety of building techniques. It’s also got a good view of the mountain which the hotel and the dig are on. I’ll have pictures of that soon.

After that we went and roamed around the Bit Bazaar, which is a fascinating place to shop. It’s what we would envision of a bazaar: vibrant, cramped, loud, and really interesting.

After that we went to the National Art Museum which is in the old Turkish baths. I’m not much of an art guy, but the architecture was awesome. There was also a room filled with a variety of beautiful icons. Finally, we roamed around a bit until we decided to go back to the hotel. Since we’d started early because we only had a half day of digging I even had time to relax for a bit.

Sunday was really neat, though it started on a very worrisome note. I was concerned when the bus drove up and it was painted a horrible salmon color. I thought the bus might be fishy at that point. OK, so they didn’t like the pun either, but I was right. First, the bus driver forgot to go to where we were to pick up the Macedonian students. Then, about 20 miles out of Skopje, the bus broke down.

Fortunately, the bus company sent a new (and newer) bus. This one was white so it didn’t have the same sense of impending doom the other one had. Anyway, Macedonia is a beautiful country with a lot of mountains which we drove through. It was great.

Our goal was the ancient town of Heraclea. It was originally founded by Philip II of Macedonia, Alexander the Great’s dad. It was also extensively used by the Romans and the Byzantines. It has some beautiful mosaics and a lovely amphitheatre. Unfortunately we couldn’t see it, but they apparently were doing a Greek tragedy last night in that theatre.

After that we went around the town of Bitola, which basically surrounds ancient Heraclea. We went to their museum, which is in a very interesting building. I wasn’t really paying much attention to the building as we walked up to it, as it was simply a big, fairly unattractive nineteenth century style building, but as I walked up I noticed a sign which said that Kemal Ataturk had attented high school there.

The museum itself has a lot of stuff, but the most interesting thing is a Byzantine cataphract spangenhelm. It separated into a bunch of pieces, but they were found together and they showed how the pieces went together. It was beautifully decorated, with coinlike images in the metal piece around the head.

We then went to lunch in a nice outdoor cafe with a little roof between two trees. Lunches here often take a long long time, and Dr. Fuller was a little concerned it would take too long, and he wanted to give us time to explore more of downtown Bitola. I chose something that I had no idea what it said in Macedonian, and what I got was something like a Macedonian haggis. The filling was regular meat, however, and was very tasty.

Despite our desire for a quick lunch, it took quite some time, but it turned out not to be much of a problem as most of Bitola was closed. The bazaar was empty. What was open was the Orthodox Church which was extremely beautiful. That was well worth the trip in and of itself.

After that we lounged around until heading back to Skopje. On the way back the driver put on a radio station that played a bunch of 80s songs. At one point I mentioned Cruel Summer by Bananarama, and we all laughed when it came on. I then said that what was needed to finish the 80s day off was Safety Dance by Men Without Hats. So, of course, the next song was indeed the Safety Dance. I then predicted Goody Two Shoes by Adam Ant, but my prognostication abilities had failed by then.

We finally made it back for a late supper at the hotel around 8ish. After having Macedonian salsa and soup, we crashed.

Today we got up and headed by to the grindstone. I dug quite a bit today, and found a lot of roof tile and bone, but nothing particularly spectacular. There are hints that something nice might be there though, so I’m going to continue digging away there.

A Find

Today I found something very interesting. I found a bodkin arrowhead in very nice shape. Though I doubt they’re related, I found the arrowhead next to some bone fragments. Interesting indeed.

Tomorrow we have a little shorter of a day and we’re going to roam around the Old Town area which is generally occupied by Albanians. The main castle, which we went to on Tuesday is there and I want to see it again. There’s a bazaar and there’s supposed to be some awesome kebab vendors. Oh, and there’s an English Pub, which we have to check out just because.

Sunday, I get to spend my birthday touring Bittola and Heraclea. Heraclea, at least, is in Thrace, the homeland of the Byzantine emperor Justinian I and his general Belisarius. I’m wondering if we’ll see anything related to them.

I am posting some pictures, by the way, of Skopje, the site, and my little plot of land. As I said, we’re some 1000 feet over Skopje, both in where the hotel and the dig are located.

King of the Mountain

Today I did it, I walked up and back without stopping, with a few minor quibbles. On the way back, I started from a different pit, but it’s about 10ft up and about 15ft away. I also stopped twice to get out of the way of a truck and once to pick up stuff to go up the mountain. I’m gonna call that good.

The castle, by the way, is called Markovi Kuli, which basically means Marco’s Castle. Marco was sort of a Macedonian Arthur, though I’m reminded more of Alexander Nevsky. I say Nevsky because Marco also helped fight to defend a homeland which was under the control of an outside ruler, Turks is the case of Marco, Mongols in the case of Nevsky. Anyway, as their last king, he’s an important figure in Macedonian history.

I’ve not been finding much of late, mostly because I’m not really at a level that will give much stuff. I did find a piece of medieval glass yesterday, and we’re convinced that a sizable piece of metal lies under one corner of my test pit. Today, I finished clearing off 15 centimeters of dirt in preparation for chasing that metal bit.

I took a day off from walking around yesterday, and the schedule got switched around a bit so we could go to bed early so I’m pretty refreshed right now. Tonight I’m guest lecturing on the differences between history/historiography and archaeology, which is mainly just viewpoint.

Now I’m headed off to buy some food for lunch tomorrow and maybe baklava, which is very tasty, inexpensive, and comes in many varieties here.

Two Days

Today was the fourth day of the dig. The walk is becoming easier. I have told the others that my goal is to walk from the hotel to site and then after working back again without stopping.

The walk out consists of a big hill from the hotel to the trailhead, then almost immediately another big hill, then generally sloping downward to the final really big mountaintop climb. It’s actually easier going out than coming back because the generally sloping downward part becomes over a mile of generally sloping upwards.

Right now I stop at least six times, three each way, though yesterday I made it up the big hill at the end without stopping and today I made it up the first hill and then to the place on the second hill I had stopped the first three days.

The real challenge to doing this will be, I suspect, coming from my test pit, which is wayyyy down the mountain from the peak. In fact, It’s about half again longer from the test pit to the top than the big climb to get to the top in the first place. I’m estimating it’s about 80 feet up from my test pit to the peak. We’ve got a GPS and I plan on figuring that out just to now.

My test pit is likely a catch basin for stuff from up the hill. I’m finding a lot of roof tile and some pottery, mostly Byzantine, as well as a lot of animal bones in my pit. They brought the metal detector around and found a nail from the time of Justinian and a bomb fragment from World War II. There’s still stuff to find, though all four of us digging in this area are getting worried about where we might hit bedrock.

Our schedule is basically this:
5:30 Get up
6:00 Breakfast
6:30 On the road
7:15 Begin the day
11:00 Sort of second breakfast/lunch
1:00 End of the dig portion
1:45 Lab where we begin by cleaning our artifacts
7:00 Dinner
8:00 Class
Then crash.

We get from about 3 or 4 to 7 to roam around Skopje. Skopje itself is an interesting town. Our Hotel (Hotel Vodno) is well up the hill about 4 miles from the center of the city. The cab rides on the twisting-turning road with crazy cab drivers are, umm, exciting.

Yesterday we went to the local Irish Pub. It did not have Guinness or Strongbow, though it said it did. It did have a large menu, but it was sort of a gamble whether they had any individual item. What we did not get was the Indonesian Chicken subtitled “Nazi Goring.” Hmmm, not sure that marketing scheme would go well in many places. Oh, and we were served by a Slave. Well, we think it’s pronounced Slaavaa, but that was how it was spelled.

Then we went to the castle is the center of the city. It’s a fascinating collection of a variety of periods of architecture from Byzantine to medieval. It’s a cool castle and from there we can see the hotel and bits and pieces of the trail we walk to get to the castle we’re excavating. It’s encouraging to see how far we’re walking each day.

Today I just came to the local shopping center that has WiFi access to catch up on email and make this post, but tomorrow we’re going to roam about the bigger mall including a Macedonian Antique Flea Market. That should be fun.

Bones

The walk today was of course worse than yesterday. My muscles were wayyy tired. I expect it to be worse tomorrow, but I’m hoping it will start improving on Tuesday but right now I’m sore.

Today I began actually digging my plot. It’s in the lower keep on the north side where we think the wall was. I’m just scratching the surface, literally, but I found quite a bit of pottery and roof tiles. I also found three bones, probably of an animal but possibly of a small child. Some of the pottery was interesting as well because it was decorated.

Tonight, Dr. Fuller has insisted we all must watch the World Cup Final, which of course I wanted to do. It will be interesting to see if Zidane and the French can actually score on Italy.

More tomorrow as I see if I can make it up the mountain.

Owwww

Well, the dig part of the dig is very interesting. Lots of stuff I’m learning about how to lay these things out. There’s also lots of neat scenery and then the hint of possibly finding buried treasure.

But the walk to and from is a killer. It makes me long for walking around Pennsic. The final walk is a climb up this steep hill to the main castle. It’s very challenging.

My thought that this might be good for me physically is an understatement. I am likely to be in the best shape of my life at Pennsic. Nevertheless, I’m dreading tomorrow and the next few days until I acclimate somewhat.

Not much else to report, just: owwwwww 🙂

Welcome to Macedonia

I can now say that I have been to Vienna, Austria. Well, for a few hours in the airport. The flights from Heathrow to Skopje were on Austrian Airlines, and well, I guess I shouldn’t complain about the service on American flights. It was especially bad given that the flight from Vienna to Skopje was absolutely packed. There might have been one seat free. Maybe. And apparently everyone brought lots and lots of luggage. Bleah.

But I made it here. In terms of the real reason I’m here, this is going to be great. I’m very excited about what I’ve seen in terms of the hotel, the dig site, and that sort of stuff. There are twelve of us in the group, including the Fullers, some people from the St. Louis area, three from Grove City College in Pennsylvania, and myself. It seems like a good group.

Today we went out to Stobi, a Roman city about an hour from Skopje. They believe they’ve excavated only about 15% of the city, but what they have done is quite fascinating. Lots of impressive examples of Roman architecture and building technology (especially the baths of course), and some beautiful tiled mosaic floors.

There’s also a small museum with some of the items they’ve recovered. The most interesting item was a knife blade that looked very much like a saex blade. When I get the chance I’ll post pictures and you’ll see what I mean.

The when will be questionable. Macedonia bills itself as the first wireless country. Um, well, I have yet to find wireless and the wireless we thought the hotel had was not in existence. I’m at the American Corner room and using their computer right now, but of course for some reason the mail server at Metapros must be down because I can’t open my mail right now. GRRRR.

Anyway, the upshot is I don’t know how consistent I’ll be able to post. My plan is to go ahead and type up the LiveJournal entries, and then put them up when I can. This may mean that there will be several posts at once. I’ll try and let you all know when I’m doing multiple posts so you know to check down to previous posts, but I might forget. You’re warned.

So, for now, talk to you all later, whenever that is.

Last Day in London

Well, yesterday was my last day in London. I met with Sisuile again and we went to the Tower of London.

First, I don’t care what you think, London Bridge is Falling Down is not good theme music for visitors to this spot. There were a lot of people there, and it seemed like I could hear someone singing that song at some point the whole time I was there.

Second, the Tower of London is BIG. Way bigger than I had pictured in my head. It’s a huge conglomeration of buildings that various kings have added on to.

Third, it’s a heck of a place. Like Leeds, there’s not much early period stuff, but since I didn’t really expect any, I wasn’t disappointed. There’s a bunch of later period plate armor, but I was more interested in the historical guns and artillery. Dad, you would love seeing this stuff.

The Jewel House is also stupendous. I’m not a big fan of diamonds usually, but the size, quantity, and workmanship of the jewels there was amazing.

After that, I hurried home to make sure I was ready to go. Eddie, Mia, Ian, and a few others are headed to the Isle of Man today, so they came over last night. I got virtually no sleep, but I have now seen Shaun of the Dead. That’s a pretty funny movie, and an SCA event waiting to happen.

Eddie brought me over to Heathrow at 3:30, it’s now 5:30, and I’m blogging from the airport. I’m very excited about the dig (especially since my textbook showed up on Tuesday and I don’t have to stress about that), but I’m not ready to leave England. There’s too much left to see.

British Museum (Take Two)

I met Sisuile at the British Museum and we had a blast. This time I looked at other stuff besides the Sutton Hoo and early medieval period stuff.

Obviously, there’s a ton of interesting stuff from a bunch of cultures. We spent 3 hours looking around and I know for a fact we missed much of the museum.

Nevertheless, I have now seen the Rosetta Stone, the Elgin Marbles (which are no longer the Elgin Marbles, by the way), and a host of other beautiful items. I have lots more pictures and sooner or later, I’ll get them uploaded.

After the museum, we had dinner and watched the Italy-Germany World Cup match. That was one of the dullest games I’ve seen, even though Italy won without going to penalty kicks. The England-Portugal game, despite a total lack of scoring was wayyyy more exciting, not simply because of the atmosphere I watched it in, but because both teams were seriously trying to score.

Anyway, next will be the Tower of London.

Opinions and fiction of person misplaced in time.