And that is not only because of the name of our project director, Prof. Dr. Winter, but also because the winters here in Doliche can be quite harsh. In comparison to the high temperature/ low humidity summers the winters reach temperatures of about 0 °C. This of course means that the ground freezes, and we can expect rain as well as the small snowfall here and there. For the nature it gives the dried up land much needed time to recover from the harsh summers. For us however, it means that before we leave for Germany there is one last thing to do: protecting the excavated areas from the weather conditions and preparing the site for the winter.
Therefore, after the actual excavation work has finished, we spent a couple of days every year to protect the exposed areas for the time until the next excavation. We do this in several ways, as different archaeological remains require different protective measures. As sad as it is to cover all the areas which we excavated with sweat and tears over the last weeks, it has to be done in order to be able to enjoy the site in the future.
To do this we use 4 different kinds of materials: Tyvek, geo-textile, fine sand and fragmented limestone pebbles. For normal trenches without mosaics or walls etc. we just cover the whole area with geotextile, to cover the soil and prevent any plants to grow there. If there is a fragile layer, like a foundation layer which can slide away, we will cover the trench with geotextile and then refill it up with soil, in order for the remains to not get destroyed as much.
In case of a mosaic or walls the protection needs to be more in depth: For mosaics we first put down a layer of Tyvek, which will protect the mosaic from water. It works much like the gore-tex membrane, allowing the mosaic to diffuse water from the ground, while not allowing water trough from the top. This will then be covered by a first layer of geo-textile. Then we will fill the space on top of the mosaic with a layer of fine black sand. This will be again covered with geo-textile, topped with a final layer of fragmented limestone pebbles of white colour. These layers serve as a dampener, so that the mosaic takes no damage if any animal (or for that matter people illegally entering the site) decides to take a stroll around the mosaic floor.
Finally, the fence we constructed around the excavation site will be expanded and closed. Thereby hindering wildlife access to the site. All of these measures are necessary to be able to reopen the trenches next year with minimal damage sustained. With these tasks also done we can relax a bit and focus on the coming research period or semester in Germany.
by Fynn Riepe