The weather changed significantly on Sunday (10 July), as warmer temperatures and higher humidity settled in for the rest of the week. The humidity is like a damp blanket that lies heavy over the area, casting all in a gray haze that smothers one’s senses and enthusiasm. It blurs the horizon and blends a gray sea with gray sky, rendering the two indistinguishable except for their darker and lighter shadings. The temperature cools little at night and leaves us sleeping on damp sheets moistened both by the muggy air and our own perspiration. Such conditions make sleep difficult and tend to leave us feeling drowsy and poorly rested after we awake in the early mornings.
Regardless of the conditions, the team has settled into its normal excavation routine. We wake up at 6:00 AM and have a light breakfast, typically consisting of yoghurt and granola with honey, and of course some strong espresso coffee. Afterwards, the team loads artifact boxes, collection bags and vials, tags, dive slates, extra pencils and brushes, underwater cameras and housings, and our water and lunch coolers into the van and by 6:50 AM we are on our way to the marina—a short drive of less than 10 minutes. There, team members retrieve their diving equipment from our storage container and set up their dive tanks and kit.
We dive in three groups of 4–5 divers each. The first two groups head out to the site in the boats, leaving group 3 at the port. At around 7:20 AM, dive group 2 boards Soneya and heads off with Pedro to the site, where they tie up to our mooring buoy and line. Meanwhile, group 1 loads all of the kitted tanks (groups 1 & 2) into the dive boat. At about 7:40 AM, Emilio and group 2 speed out to the site and arrive just before 8:00 AM, at the same time as Pedro. The dive boat hitches up to Soneya’s stern and dive group 1 enters the water. At 8:00 AM, they dump the air from their BCDs and descend down along the anchor and shot lines to the site. Each diver makes his or her way to their assigned grid square, removes and stows their fins, positions their airlift, turns on the air, and begins excavating.
Our dive bottom times are 45 minutes, after which divers surface back up the mooring line, make a 3-minute safety stop at 5-meters depth, and then surface by the dive boat. Meanwhile, divers of the following group have donned their tanks, fins, and mask and are waiting in the water on the surface. As soon as the previous dive team reaches the safety stop, they submerges and head down to the site to begin their own work.
Once out of the water and back into the dive boat, Emilio takes group 1 back to the marina, where they disembark with all of their gear and are replaced by group 3. Then, it’s back out to the site to await the surfacing of group 2. In this way, our three dive groups shuttle to and from the site to make their dives, with no idle time between.
Once back at the marina, divers change out their used tanks for fresh ones and are ready to go for the second set of dives in the afternoon. These begin just before noon, after a 3-hour surface interval to off-gas nitrogen. Between dives, one or two persons from group 1 walk over to the bakery and grocery store to buy fresh bread (pan rustica), ham or other sandwich meat, cheese, and tomatoes for the bocadillo (Spanish breakfast). Team members busy themselves with writing up notes from their dives, copying slate sketches into their notebooks, filling out dive log books, reading, or catching up on sleep with a short siesta. Both sets of dives are typically completed by 2:30 PM, and it is usually an hour later by the time we’ve washed and stowed our gear, loaded cameras, empty lunch coolers, and boxes of raised artifacts into the van, locked the container, and driven back to the expedition house. Then, it’s time for dinner!
Following the Spanish custom, the team eats its large meal of the day around 4:00 PM. Annun is our cook this year, and has made sure that the team keeps up its strength for the diving and other work with a variety of tasty, multi-course meals. These typically end with water or other melon, Spanish flan or custard puddings, or—when they can be cajoled—with mouth-watering cookie, pies, or brownies from Laura and Staci. Finally, all is topped off with espresso coffee.
The caffeine hit is certainly appreciated, since immediately afterwards it’s time to get back to work. This is when all of the non-diving, but equally essential, work gets done: artifacts raised during the day are inventoried and recorded; mapping measurements are checked and object positions triangulated; underwater photographs are processed; and specific objects are analyzed, drawn, or otherwise examined.
Juan leads the inventorying effort, assigning lot numbers and initial identifications to all the objects before “bagging and tagging” them and sorting them in labeled boxes.
- Jose Mata Mora and Juan Pinedo sort and register pottery sherds raised earlier during the day’s dives (photo by S.H. Snowden).
Neil oversees the object photography, providing an immediate digital visual record of each inventoried object. These photographs are used as well to verify the contents of each artifact box before it is handed over to the Arqua staff.
- Josh Jones and Neil Puckett arrange artifacts to be photographed (photo by S.H. Snowden).
Staci is responsible for collecting and entering all of the mapping data into the Web program and verifying that the measurements are ‘good’. Once she signs off on a mapped object, the diver responsible for it is free to raise that object at the earliest convenient time (typically, on the subsequent dive). If the mapping program is unable to position the object points within the level of accuracy we have set, then the diver must retake the measurements before the object can be move.
Besides the archaeological work, other logistical tasks are tended to, including taking our empty SCUBA tanks to the dive shop for filling, shopping for food, water, or any needed supplies, repairing equipment and dive gear, and—of course—making sure that there is always sufficient money on hand to keep the project going. Kiko and I tend to take care of these tasks, especially since driving team members are few this year. I learned long ago that, when in the field, my job as director is less about doing archaeology myself than it is about facilitating team members in doing such work and making sure that they have whatever they need to document, record, and otherwise capture all of the archaeological field data that we generate. Later, back in my office,library, laboratories, or wherever, is when most of my research will take place and where I will do the necessary detailed analyses and interpretation of the site and finds that all of this field data allows.
Work continues until 8:00 PM, after which time team members tidy up the work spaces and then are free to shower and freshen up, relax, or take care of any personal business—emailing, Skyping with friends and family, or simply surfing the web being the most common of such activities. Fourteen hours of work, including two dives, make for long and exhausting days, but the team does it all, day in and day out, without complaint. They are true troopers!