23 August 2009

Done with Quitoloma!!

We are officially done with Quitoloma, and the units we put it may be the last ever to be placed there by the Pambamarca Project. We finished our shovel test pits last week and there were only a couple that had artifacts outside of the parts of the fortress that had been excavated before, so we made an agreement with the community president to open two 2x3 meter units at those locations to investigate further. He agreed, and Monday we showed up to work to find his wife waiting for us with a problem. She said the president hadn't properly understood what we had wanted to do, and two units of this size that go down 80 cm (the limit he had imposed that was okay with us... all of the artifacts found on the site had been found between about 30 and 60 cm) was "too much work" for 8 people to do in 5 days. We did not understand. What did she think we were doing, breaking through concrete? She wouldn't budge, though, forcing us to reduce them to 2x2 meters, even when we told her there was no possible way for us to extend this work into 5 days and we would have to end before the term of the contract was up. We finished the units in just over two days, finishing mapping and backfilling halfway through Wednesday. We called the president to ask about opening some more, and he and some dirigentes from the community came along to talk with us about what we were permitted to do. We agreed on opening two more 1x2 meter units near the others to help further our understanding of these areas, and when we'd thought all was arranged and dandy they demanded $300 more to dig these units. $300 to give the community members more work and more pay? We refused outright; we have 12 more fortresses to try to excavate and simply don't have the funds to spend another $300 on this one that has already been extensively excavated. As we started to walk away they relinquished their demand and agreed to let us continue work at the same rate as we had been up until then. We completed those units in a day and a half, and Friday we closed our work at Quitoloma. I could not be happier.

There is one interesting thing about the units we completed there before we left. The first two both turned up the regular materials, broken pottery, obsidian, sling stones. But my first and second units also had something different. The first, in an area of the fortress without structures that had never been excavated before, had a layer of a material we still can not define; its something sort of like cangahua (a compressed volcanic ash naturally occurring in the area and used by some groups of people for construction) but softer... it was in chunks, some of which had no interesting shape to them, but others which appeared deliberately molded. This material was burned all around the outside, and there were some pieces of carbon on top of them. The same material was found in my second unit as well, 1.5 meters to the north. One of my workers said that this material was cangahua, which says something about the site: The Inca, who as far as we know were the constructors and sole occupiers of the site, were known for their stone work, and I do not know of evidence of them building with cangahua (this is also a question at another site, Pukarito, full of Inca pottery but with cangahua defensive walls enclosing the site). Another aspect of this find is that cangahua does not occur naturally on this hilltop, only down below, so this means that it must have been brought up on purpose. Was there an earlier occupation of the site than the Inca fortress of Quitoloma? Is this material really cangahua? Are we reaching in the dark for something that isn't really there? Only time and diligent lab work will tell.

Other than that, not much of interest happened this week. We're pretty settled, enjoying our apartment and the town. OH! We finally got a kitchen sink this week! Previously, we'd had to go to the roof to wash our clothes and our dishes, at a large sink outside the bathroom. This week, however, the Males family, who rents us our apartment, came up with a metal sink and hooked it up in the room that had been our lab, moving the kitchen in there and giving us a much easier time with our domestic chores. We have also discovered that our stomachs have toughened up since our arrival in this country. Chifa, the word for Chinese food, is notorious in Cayambe for being a guaranteed stomach-turner and generally results in at least one day of being unable to go to work. We had the Great Chifa Challenge 2009 on Tuesday and, sure enough, we emerged victorious. Not so much as a twinge of ache in our stomachs, and we kept on working. Our second stomach-related milestone was when we decided to see what would happen if we stopped sterilizing our dishes after washing them. The water here is not drinkable, even the locals don't try that. During the project and up until Wednesday, we had been boiling our dishes after washing them in this diseased water. Mostly out of laziness, but also related to our thirst for adventure and and our quest for Ecuadorianness, we played a little game of See What Happens. And you know what? No issues. Our dish cleaning time became significantly shorter (it takes quite a while to boil water at this altitude) and we feel stronger, more badass.

Tomorrow I start work at Campana Pucará, where I worked for a few days back in 2007. Same deal as Quitoloma: Shovel test pits followed by targeted excavation. Matt will be touring the country with a friend of his until Friday or so, so I will be running both teams and doing a damn fine job of it. I'll write again later about how it goes.

Hope all is well back at home, keep me updated with the goings-on and all that. Hope to hear from you soon.

Oh, also, a reporter from the Los Altos Town Crier came by the project when it was still the field school and wrote up an article on it for the paper. I'm not quoted or anything, so you may not care about it, but here it is anyway: http://www.losaltosonline.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=18628&Itemid=56

1 comment:

nan said...

I was curious about what the geological name is for "cangahua". I was born in Quito 80 year ago, now I'm a resident of Souther California.
In Alangasi near Quito we buid houses with cangahua stone shaped in blocks usually about 1' x 1' x 1'; cangahua is a tan brownish semy soft stone found in the area of Alangasi and Tingo in the skirts of the Ilalo volcano, the natives shaped the cangahua stone with small steel hatchets; if you visit this area you may find many old buildings build with cangahua blocks.