Trench II at Priniatikos Pyrgos is near the apex of a promontory that juts out into the Aegean, much higher in ancient times, but still visible from the local beaches that surround the site. At the northern tip of the small peninsula is a ragged edge of gray bedrock, haloed by ocean spray on windy days. It’s good to look out there while digging, sometimes to relieve the tedium of removing more layers of 10YR 5/4 yellowish brown sandy silt with sub-angular cobbles, but also to remember what lies directly below the earth, erupting out of the surrounding matrix to provide a hard chronological edge.
It’s bedrock. You are finished here.
I’ve never dug a site down to bedrock before, and there’s something about the finality of it that is both confusing and satisfying. One of the areas I was working on was interpreted as exterior to all visible architecture and I removed dirt from the area until it was about 60% bedrock, then that part of the trench was shut down. Another part of the trench just to my west was riddled with finds, all tucked into pockets in the bedrock, mortars and pots, sitting in a dark reddish dirt that I previously thought was decaying limestone, fallow and unoccupied. Now I know that it’s probably just iron-rich deposits accumulating just above the hard edge of bedrock.
So the early Minoans were living in and around these bedrock spurs, using them to support walls, smoothing out the surface for floors, stashing away household items in convenient pockets that have since filled with dirt. It makes the stratigraphy difficult to interpret at times, as you end up with lots of these little pockets that are islands in the Harris matrix, disconnected from each other by unyielding physical fact: bedrock.
It was satisfying to see it emerge from beneath the pickaxe and the way that the dirt would come off of it was dissimilar enough to other stones that by the end of the excavation it was so immediately apparent that it hardly merited discussion.
I wasn’t able to bottom out my trench for various reasons–it was a large space and had two rooms that had to be dealt with in a sensible, strategraphic fashion and the rep was particularly sensitive to the use of pickaxes, even to rubble-filled topsoil. Still, it was interesting to see the use of bedrock as cornerstones, as containers, as the raw materials that people were modifying over the ages to incorporate into their daily lives.
During the last day on site I sat doing some paperwork on a particularly comfortable outcropping just outside what I thought was the front door in the north room. It was pretty much at the level the surfaces were at when the building was constructed and I wondered how many other folks sat on the stone over these thousands of years.