06 July 2009

Weekend festivities, a new type of structure.

My arms got sunburned today and I just scratched it and that hurt.

Otherwise, things here are fantastic. This weekend included visits to Otavalo and Cochasqui, and of course the 4th of July. Otavalo is the famous market town of Ecuador, where local handicrafts such as alpaca sweaters and scarves, knock-off paintings, stone carvings, hats, and nearly anything else a tourist could possibly want are on sale for a flexible price. This year, instead of sticking to the mostly tourist area of the market, some of the students and I ventured uphill to the local area. Up here, where we were the only gringos in sight, we could buy remote controls, underwear, dvds, harmonicas, cameras, sewing machines, fresh fruit, fish, chicken, pig... the mainstays of local life. The smells of the fruits thankfully overpowered those of the fish, and it was a great new experience to see the part of the market not meant to sell tourist swag meant for nothing but to advertise to your friends where you´ve been.

That night Cangahua had another gathering in the town square, in part to celebrate the 4th of July for us and to make us feel at home. It started with music playing and the expectation that folks would start dancing around the square in traditional Ecuadorian dancing circles resembling the horah, but many of the students and staff were bashful and waited for some of the locals to start the dancing. As soon as the emcee offered a free box of wine to the group with the largest circle, however, a wave of archaeologists poured off of the stairs and into an enthusiastic double-ring of merriment. We won several. Later, the town erected a tower of fireworks that would break every health and safety code known to America and lit it for all to admire and run away from. The tower was a 30-foot tall square steel structure with a hundred different fireworks all around it supported by a single steel pole. One man's job was to stand underneath and rotate the darn thing. They lit the fuse at the bottom and different fireworks would go off in turn, each lighting the next as the display moved around and around and higher and higher. Some would just shoot sparks, some would whistle, others would spin. Maybe on purpose, some shot into the crowd and bounced around while everyone would cheer or dive out of the way, depending on their level of inebriation. Once the fire reached the top there was a grand finale of the fireworks we know and love that shoot into the air and explode in bright colors and loud booms. Happy Independence Day.

As far as excavations go, I have a really cool unit going right now. We started it last week at the same site where I've been digging this whole time, but it is different from every other unit that has been started. Up until now, the floor of every structure that we have excavated on Molino Loma has been stone covered in either plaster or pumice. The floor in this structure, however, had neither; instead, the stones are arranged in lines that compartmentalize the floor, and in each section is a different type and color of ash. Today we decided to go deeper into one of these sections and found a ton of carbon, mostly burned wood that looks from the way it is laid out to be roots. Along with this we have found several pieces of burned and unburned pottery and lots of blackened cangahua, the name of the volcanic building material used by local folks. There are all kinds of interpretations as to what this could mean-- multiple occupations? a storage building for something different than the other structures? Who knows! I'll keep you updated as to our conclusions.

Well, I'm hungry as hell right now, so I'm going to grab a snack to hold me off until dinner. Hope all is well where you are and to hear from you soon.

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