China has been blocking my internet for awhile now… It’s been quite obnoxious, all this censorship. Where driving drunk is just now being addressed, and where you can basically do whatever you want in public, they will still block your right to blog about your experiences!
I spend every single day here wearing BDUs, boots, t-shirts and wifebeaters. I feel kinda like Kara Thrace from the Battlestar Galactica remake.
Sans guns, and add a trowel holster and a Swiss army knife! Oh, and the snide expression and blond hair…
The head of Shaanxi Province’s cultural heritage, museums and archaeology sector was at our site yesterday. It’s insane how much power that guy has… He basically is the administrator for the entire province’s archaeological and museological goings-on, and trust me, that is no small feat considering this region has more high-profile and not-so-high-profile history than anyone knows what to do with. I was just finishing up my post-hole and scraping away some dirt from the pottery scatter at the bottom when he arrived. They descended upon us like Chinese locusts—two SUVs and 10 Chinese archaeologists came out of nowhere and cameras and photos and holy crap it was a PR circus.
I’m going to stop for a minute and explain the magnitude of what we’re doing here. 30 years ago, maybe even 20 years ago, this field school would have been impossible. The suspicion between China and the US, today bad, but then worse, would have made the very thought of a group of American students and Chinese students collaborating, conversing, sharing, and learning together at a Chinese cultural heritage site laughable. One of our professors said that the chance to work in China, put his hands on their heritage and even guess an interpretation. I’m pretty jazzed that I get to be part of a field school that will be used as a model for Sino-US archaeological training in the future.
Anyway, so the head honcho went around inspecting all of the features in our site. The other professors and stuff also came around and the Chinese students explained what we were doing and they asked to see our field records and what not. The boss told me that my drawings were super detailed and my post hole/hearths were super neat and clean and I did an excellent job. I look at this like an AYSO trophy that you get for just participating, but it was nice to see that the three hours I spent laboriously cleaning dirt off a sherd scatter with a flat-ended chopstick paid off. My field supervisor told us in the end that she was so thankful that our site was as pretty and clean as it was, and that the boss was very very pleased with how we were working.
This past Sunday we went to a site outside of Xi’an called “Phoenix’s Landing” that is the burial of a general during the Western Han dynasty. Now that was AWESOME. You could see the deposition layers and the construction of the tomb itself. On top of that we saw a terracotta army being unearthed and holy crap, it might have been one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen. The blackness from the decay! The ash! The leftover paint on the faces! It was grand. I love archaeology.
We then used another hookup to go back to the forest of stelae, where we got a tour from the director herself, who was a classmate of my project director’s. I bought rubbings of that mountain that I really loved on silk scrolls to decorate my room J. I also got better explanations on things, and a tour through the Buddhist art gallery, where I think I could have spent 4 hours just examining the imagery. This trip I’ve really been trying to narrow down what it is I want to study, and I think I’ve been inching toward it. We came back after that, and now I’m back at the base doing lab work again…
News about our visit to Beilin is posted on the HanTang website–a website of the Shaanxi Provincial Administration of Cultural Heritage. Visit here, and use google translator?: