Author: Laura White
This week on site has been an interesting one for a number of reasons! First, our team experienced some sort of epidemic, with four members down with fevers and flu-like symptoms; likely an unfortunate side effect of having so many people sharing a relatively small living space! Luckily, with the advice of INA medical correspondent Matthew Partrick we have been able to keep everyone hydrated and resting, and our team is well on the way to recovery.
Perhaps aiding in recovery was the fact that this week marked an important local holiday: the Sinhalese and Tamil New Year, Aluth Avurudda. The holiday marks the end of the harvest and spring and is based on the astrological calendar. The Sri Lankan members of the team returned to their homes to participate in traditional activities and spend time with their families and friends. The foreign team members stayed on site to rest and relax, catch up on paperwork, and process artifacts.
While this was going on we also hosted an important visitor to the site: Andrew Lawler. Andrew is a writer for Archaeology Magazine and Science Magazine, and he is experiencing his first taste of underwater archaeology with his trip to the Godavaya project! In spite of the holiday, our Sri Lankan colleagues kindly consented to dive on the morning of the 13th so that we could show Andrew the ropes, and he got to see the team raise several exciting artifacts. However, we also got in on the celebration during the following days, receiving TONS of well-wishes and traditional sweets from our neighbors and friends here, including Kirbath, which is a type of moist rice cake made with milk, and Kevum and Kokis, various oil-fried sweet pastries. Throughout the day, “poppers” (noisemakers) went off marking the beginning of “auspicious times” to complete various activities; each one sounded like a cannon going off!
During the holiday, the Director General of the Department of Archaeology here in Sri Lanka arranged for us to have the opportunity to take Andrew to the Maritime Archaeology Museum in Galle. The museum at Galle is beautifully designed and executed and housed in a restored Dutch fort, and it exhibits aspects of Sri Lanka’s maritime cultural past from the Neolithic to the present day.
The museum truly is a tribute to maritime archaeological pursuits in Sri Lanka, and contains remarkable ship models, preserved traditional vessels, exhibitions of trade goods coming to and from Sri Lanka, an impressive gallery dedicated to the Avondster, a VOC ship that was lost in Galle harbor in the late 17th century, and even many artifacts from the Godavaya shipwreck which were raised in previous seasons.
After the museum visit, we headed home, hoping to stop for a bit of sustenance. Because of the holiday most of the restaurants in Sri Lanka were closed, but upon the recommendation of one of the gentlemen who opened the museum for us, we stopped at a forbidding gate on the side of the road, only to discover this stunning vista just inside:
Our Sri Lankan colleagues kindly consented to cut short their holiday time so we can return to work on site, but celebrations were not behind us, as the end of the New Year’s celebration fell on Easter Sunday!