On the Perception of Wealth
Being on such intimate terms with the soil and its summer dryness one is ever surprised by the richness of its bounty. Rabei brings nine varieties of figs for our twelve o'clock break; fruit freshly picked from his father's plantation. These small gifts of sweetness spike our energy levels at a vital moment, just as we are becoming aware of the weariness of six hours in the field. Such moments are precious. A sweet fig is suddenly a feast, cold water from the containers, the finest drink on earth.
The almost inevitable first question of passers-by who observe us digging in the vault is: "Have you found any gold yet?" It seems that this is how a fair portion of the public views the role and motivation of the archaeologist. I certainly would not object to finding gold, but it would mean no more to me, indeed probably less, than to find an object of no apparent monetary value that provided important historical information. In the past our "gold" has been some beams of burnt wood that taught us of how Baybars dismantled the castle, rusty iron nails that enlightened us as to how the stable roof was constructed, an incised game-board and some graffiti on a stone that showed how the masons passed their time. This season it is a number of stacks more or less intact limestone ashlars that constitute our "gold". They inform us of a dramatic event in the castle's history for which no written source exists. In that role, these stones are far more valuable than any gold coin would be (unless that coin, through its presence on the site itself told an eventful and unknown story, in which case its value would indeed be doubly high).
19 August 2019