Finding My First Artifact

25 Apr

This post is more for the archaeologically savvy than anyone else. So if you don’t have a strong interest, this will probably be a boring post. Just warning you in advance. But I DO think you should read it regardless! Maybe you’ll realize that you dig archaeology (yes, pun definitely intended and yes, that is how you spell archaeology, in Canada, at least).

The whole reason why I went to Peru in the first place was because I was participating in an archaeological dig! I then decided I wanted to stay for longer and backpack around.

I love anthropology. Everything about it. I love learning about different cultures, which is pretty much what I get to learn about in my university classes. I get to learn about the significance behind Balinese cockfighting, the mystery of the Incas and Machu Picchu, gypsies and how they aren’t what people assume they are, and so much more. Since anthropology is the study of humanity (variations between cultures, social organizations within those cultures, how our evolutionary past influenced these variations, etc) then it makes sense that archaeology would be a branch of anthropology because archaeology is the study of the human past through material remains.

Over the years of learning about anthropology I gained such an interest and appreciation for archaeology. So, I decided that I would try a field school or volunteer work with archaeology to learn more.

After a little research, and a long lasting desire to see Machu Picchu, I decided that Peru was where I HAD to go.

I arrived in Nepeña Valley, Peru at the beginning of August 2010. I’m not going to lie, I had a rough first few days. I was in the middle of nowhere, with access to so little compared to Canada, and I truly didn’t think I would be able to stick it out for a full four weeks.


I found my first artifact!

Before I tell you about the artifact I found, I will give you a little background information about the project. Now, I’m no expert on the Moche (pronounced: Moe-chay) civilization in Peru, but I will do my best to briefly explain.

The Moche civilization occupied northern Peru from around 100 to 800 AD. The Cerro Castillo Archaeological Project (the project I was a part of) aimed to contribute to the interpretations on Moche craft production, looking at the shaping of identity, power relationships, specialized craft production, and funerary practices. So, during the four weeks I was there, I was digging in the domestic areas — the residential sectors — of the site, which would also look at the urban characteristics of Moche settlements beyond the capital. I know, sounded confusing to me at first too. Basically, we were trying to understand specialized craft production in a Moche area that was residential and the role of the craft specialists in social development.

The dig site!

One of the residential areas

Anyway, on to the good stuff…

I was digging on a very hot, sunny day (like most days) and (like most days) I wasn’t finding much of anything.

BUT THEN… dun dun dunnnnn…

I was brushing a wall in one of the sectors and I hit something metal.

So I continued digging around it.

Once I carefully removed it from the wall and briefly inspected it I realized that this metal artifact was a SEWING NEEDLE.

It looked so similar to a modern sewing needle except that it was much longer, maybe 3 inches, and it was thicker. I could tell it was a sewing needle because of the loophole at one of the ends.

I found an artifact that was approximately 2000 years old! I’m not trying to brag… who am I kidding? Yes, I am. Modesty has always been a virtue of mine.

The icing on top of the cake? Not only had no one found an artifact made of metal since I had been there, but it was museum-worthy! One weekend, our group went to visit Huaca de la Luna (a famous Moche temple) near Trujillo, Peru and the museum there was a needle that was exactly the same.

This might be a lot more thrilling for me than for you, but it was SO exciting.

This is what I came for. To work hard and long hours, finding next to nothing most days, to eventually be rewarded with the amazing feeling of finding something that contributes to archaeology and the knowledge of the past of our ancestors.

Hard work (and a little luck, of course) definitely pays off.


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