On Saturday, I was finally able to interview Joyce at Tham An Mah. She said the reason why they picked this site was because it would make a comfortable place to live. She described it almost like a real estate listing: roomy, well-sheltered, good living and cooking space… I imagined a hunter-gatherer couple discussing if they wanted to install tongue and groove hardwood flooring.
They have finished digging the one by one. Two giant boulders from “rock fall” from the opening of the cave have made digging any further almost impossible. I thought this meant that the one by one might have been a futile waste of digging time, but it turns out the rock fall was actually a happy if not violent event. Joyce explained that the cave basically has Iron Age deposits over what she hopes is a Hobinian deposit. The rock fall near the entrance of the cave as seen in the one by one gives a “nice” stratographic break between the two periods. She said it’s often hard to find undisturbed layers from that time period. An archaeobotanist will be dating the seed they found in the one by one to determine if it is a Holbinian (hunter gatherer) deposit underneath the Iron Age deposit.
Getting the big pot out of the one by two will be a tricky feat. The lid seems to be loose and then there’s the question of whether you empty the contents at the site or remove the entire pot whole and excavate it in the lab. I imagine this is the sort of thing that makes Joyce good at what she does – excavation seems to require a whole lot of planning offset by a whole lot of flexibility.
We were admiring the almost fully uncovered pot and Michael commented that it was a lucky spot to have dug the trench. Joyce agreed, but also said, “For all we know were standing on bunch of pots and bodies.”