Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Adventures in Archaeology!

I think I'm going to add archaeology to the list of things I want to do when I grow up. Monday, I went with Ricardo and his archaeologist friends to visit some excavation sites and hike around the area surrounding Rubielos de Mora. It's an incredible area to look at and we picked a beautiful day to go hiking.

We visited three different spots in the region - a ruined lookout fort, a mine, and a canyon full of caves where Islamic people lived in refuge during the Christian reconquest of Spain. The ruined lookout fort was constructed sometime during the period of Islamic rule in Spain (the professionals told me sometime around 1100-1200) as a way to lookout for enemies and to have a point from which the nobles could rule over the peasants below. A couple of centuries later, the Christians constructed a small "ermita" which is, from what I understood, a Christian temple of sorts to one saint or another. It's reminiscent of Greek and Roman temples to various lesser gods, with the lesser gods being replaced by a saint that provides some form of protection against something (storms, bad harvest, etc.). The group of archaeologists had been working on excavating this site for a while but had to temporarily abandon the project because of the weather in December. 

Part of the ruined wall.

Ermita from afar.

Inside the ermita.

The site from afar.

Next, we headed to a site that Ricardo had been looking for. I'm not sure where he found out about it, but there was supposed to be some kind of ancient copper mine and he was excited. We actually found the mine, but I'm not sure why he acted as though it was supposed to be some sort of legendary expedition:

I honestly thought we were going to have to pull him out by his feet because there was barely enough room for him to crawl in there. The region was quite deficient in copper deposits, so I assume whoever mined this hole in the wall was disappointed and left after digging for a few minutes. We spent an hour or so hiking around the area looking for pieces of pottery and copper. We found a few small pieces but nothing special. The view was gorgeous, though:

The third site was where the archaeologist team was actually working at this point. I got to meet the little team and watch them dig around. It was interesting, albeit tedious-looking. This site is down in a canyon where there are a lot of caves that Islamic refugees were hiding in during the Christian reconquest. The team found several graves of smaller children from that period and some ruined stone walls. I hiked around a bit and looked at the caves up in the rock faces. If people were actually hiding in these places, they had to have had a difficult time accessing the caves (I suppose that's part of the point). 

There is a goat peeing in this picture. It maintained eye contact with me the entire time.

Archaeology seems like a fun way to do historical work. I'm sure my entirely theoretical history degree would allow me to get a job digging around like Indiana Jones someday. But sitting in a library reading generally means you avoid snakes, so I suppose it depends on how adventurous I'm feeling.

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