It’s been a week!

I’ve been in Menorca a week and I feel completely at home and in my element. I’m back to the old me. The me who embraces life and enjoys every experience. The last week has been nothing short of amazing. Seriously one of the best of my life.

It’s been so busy – up at 0515h every day to be eat and catch the bus to the dig site and start by 0715h. Dig for 3 hours in intense humidity and heat, catch the bus to the lab and either lecture or clean or label pottery, then bus back to the residence by 1500h. Because it gets so hot by 0900h, we start early and finish early. By 1500h, we are free to do whatever.

Cala Macarelleta (top) & Cala Macarella (bottom), Menorca

The dig site has been amazing. We were filmed for an interview on local tv news, and I’ve learned so much about a late antiquity Roman settlement. I’ve also been pretty lucky to find two coins, bronze fish hooks, a lead weight, and some pretty neat bone fragments. I’ve learned more about ancient Mediterranean pottery than I ever thought was possible, and gotten quite the workout with a pick axe. ⛏

Most of this week has consisted of walking the old town’s back alleys and gorgeous buildings, trying and eating amazing tapas, drinking frozen pomadas, and parking my ass on one of the many gorgeous beaches. Yesterday, I did my first dive for my open water certification. Quite the experience.

Today, my roommates and I ended up at Cala Blanca, about ten minutes away from Ciutadella. We swam, napped on the beach and finished up with an amazing few hours at Hola Ola Mediterranean Bar. Such a fun, kitschy bar with an eclectic decor and delicious cold drinks on the edge of the cliff with the perfect view of the setting sun. It was so fun to just relax with some friends and enjoy a gorgeous sunset in a completely laid-back environment.

So excited to see what week 2 brings. Tomorrow we’ll be trying our hand at actually trying to identify and classify pottery sherds… should be interesting! Thursday is excursion day to see the Talayotic sites across the island, and hopefully some more beach time. I head to Rome and Pompeii on the 18th for five days before returning to wrap things up here and head to Barcelona.

I have to say, I was a bit worried about my language skills but I’m pleasantly surprised at how quickly and easily I am picking up and understanding both Spanish and Catalan. The locals are so happy to practice and explain and I’m enjoying every second of it. I’m also enjoying every second of tapas for dinner here! 🤤😋 Menorca is such an amazing and special place and I am already excited to plan a return trip soon.

The fun thing about traveling is that each new place I go, I leave a piece of my heart behind. I fell in love with Menorca on day 1. It captured my heart much like Rome did.

Day 1 of the Dig

Day 1 started bright and early at 0600h. We were on the road to the dig by 0630h, and on site by 0715h. After a quick orientation of the site, we were discussing potential finds and asked to take a walk and see what we could find. After a few feet, I happened to look down and find a bronze coin. I couldn’t freaking believe it. Literally the thing I had been hoping to find ever since I signed up nine months ago, and I found it within 30 minutes of being on site!

The site is really cool. As I mentioned, it’s an old Roman settlement – first as a fort and then the city. We moved on to take a look at the necropolis number 4, which contains Christian burials. We know this because they face East, towards the rising sun – a trait that signifies Christianity.

I was digging in the city today, and will be all for the entire dig. We started the excavation of Street Number 2 today, and after a few hours of finding pottery sherds, glass pieces, and animal bones, I came upon a piece of smooth oval-shaped quartz. The consensus is that it was/is an insert for a piece of jewelry – likely a necklace or ring. Another way cool find! Another few hours of digging saw some bronze slag (scraps from forging).

As we finished up and headed back to the residence, I couldn’t help but think how incredibly lucky I am to be able to participate in this. This is my dream. And finding something so amazing on my first day was literally one of the coolest and best things that has ever happened to me. I’m so excited to see what tomorrow brings!

Made it to Menorca

Finally settled in and made it to Ciudadela de Menorca, where I’ll be staying while at the Sanisera Field School. Menorca is, from what I’ve seen, a pretty neat little island. It’s part of the Balearic Islands, which also includes the better-known Ibiza and Mallorca. Menorca is the less touristy, more laid-back and not developed island. In fact, it’s been declared a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. It is very hot and dry, but the beaches are some of the best anywhere in the world.

Menorca has its roots in pre-history. Dotted around the island are tons of talayotic settlements from the islands first inhabitants. These sites are stone and very unique – they’re not found anywhere else in the world. We’ll be doing some site visits later in the course, so more on them at that time.

Fast-forward to 123 BCE, when Rome entered the picture. Sa Nitja was a City at the northernmost tip of the island – on the Cape of Cavalleria. In 123 BCE, Roman General Quintus Caecillis Metellus conquered the islands for the Roman Empire as a strategic trading outpost in the Western Mediterranean. He built a fort at the natural harbor, which later turned into the city of Sanisera, which is where I’ll be digging over the next few weeks. He also recruited the local Balearic “slingers” (expert slingshot-men) into the Roman Army.

Today was mostly history and overview of the island and the city/dig site. We discussed what types of artifacts we can expect to see and what building we’ll be working on excavating.

I also walked around the old city Ciudadela a bit today and was pretty impressed with its old architecture and charm. Fast forward to the 7th-8th centuries CE (AD), and the island was taken over by Moorish invaders as they conquered Spain. That influence can still be seen today. It was re-taken in the 17th century by the British, who have also left a distinct mark on the island. Fun fact: gin is a local favorite on the island held over from the British occupation- mixed with lemonade and called pomada. Eventually it became part of Spain once again – in the Catalunya region. Most of the residents speak Catalan, which I’ve been trying to pick up, but all speak Spanish as well. My Spanish is rusty, but I’m surviving.

Tomorrow is the first day on the dig site, and my first day of scuba certification class, too!

Less than a week (!!!) to go!

Oh my. I’m in full on vacation mode. I’ll be totally useless at work til Friday at noon (though, I did get a ton accomplished and it’s only Wednesday). I haven’t even thought about packing yet (beyond my bathing suits, that is)… 😬 I’m checking and double checking plans, reservations, and dates. It’s been a super awesome distraction, honestly, and has kept my mind off of other things.

Sometimes, you think that losing a close friend who was so damn important to you is the end of the world. You can’t breathe, your chest hurts, and you keep checking your phone waiting for a text from them that never comes. You keep thinking about what you could have done to fix it. What you could have done to make it better or done differently. You think about all of the fun times you guys spent laughing and talking…They knew you better than anyone…You didn’t have to say a word because they knew what you were thinking and feeling just by looking at you. They were your best and closest friend.

And then one morning you wake up and you’re at peace. The heartache is fading (because best friends can break your heart, too… way more so than any crush you ever had). Your chest goes from a full-on crushing feeling to a dull ache. You realize that there is nothing at all that you could have done to save the friendship, and that if they really cared about the relationship you two had, they would have tried harder. They never would have let it get to that point. There is nothing, nothing at all, that you could have done to save it. You realize they are no longer worth your energy, and thoughts, and efforts, and friendship. Because you fought hard and in the end they gave up. They stopped caring. They stopped trying.

Finding that feeling is like taking a deep breath of fresh air after years of drowning and man, has it been a long time coming.

Finding that feeling is like along a deep breath of fresh air after years of drowning and man, has it been a long time coming. Two years, to be exact. Deciding to take this trip set me on the path to feeling amazing again. Of being the best me. To living my best life.

I am totally a believer that everything happens for a reason. People are brought into our lives to teach us a lesson and then taken away when they no longer have anything of value to add to our lives. I’m not quite sure what lesson they were supposed to teach me at this particular time, but I’m sure it’ll come to me eventually.

In the meantime, I’ll try and take the advice of Dr. Seuss and forgive them for hurting me. I’m taking all sorts of chances, changing my life, and generally just done with putting up with other people’s shit. It certainly hasn’t been easy getting to this point, but the payoff in a week looks to be way worth it! 🏖✈️🗺🏛⛏🏺⚱️☀️

Adventure: 40 Winks with the Sphinx at the Penn Museum

Those who know me know that I’m a major history lover. Last August, I stumbled upon the Penn Museum of Anthropology and Archaeology in Philly. I was there for work and checked it out after my meetings wrapped up. It. Was. Awesome. I couldn’t wait to come back. A few weeks later, after signing up for the email list and following on Facebook, I saw the post about their children’s program “40 Winks with the Sphinx.” For those who don’t know, the Penn Museum contains the 3rd largest Sphinx in the world, built c. 1938 BCE. Think about that a second…I’ll wait. Crazy, right? So, knowing my now 7-year old, Ella, likes adventures and art, I signed her up as a present for her 7th birthday, which was earlier this month. She was psyched (So was I ). Sleeping over in a museum, in the Egypt Gallery, next to an almost 4,000-year old Sphinx? My inner history geek was squealing.

Fast forward to last night. After the sometimes-hair-raising drive in to Philly, we unpacked our sleeping bags and flashlights, and as we still had 2.5 hours to kill, we decided to walk around the University of Pennsylvania campus. It’s pretty neat – lots of old buildings.

We made our way back to the museum and received our briefing on what to expect, and our scavenger hunt list. The next stop found us winding our way through the Egypt Gallery looking at mummies, statuary, and various artifacts spanning the 3,000 or so years of this awesome civilization. We moved on to the China and Japan Gallery and saw some of the most beautiful Buddha statuary that I’ve seen anywhere.

We then made our way to a short term exhibit, “Cultures in the Crossfire: Iraq and Syria.” This exhibit was utterly heartbreaking, showing the immense destruction by Isis in Syria and Iraq at sites like Nimrud, Ur, Aleppo, and Palmyra. There were video stations showing before and after shots of the sites, interviews with locals whose lives have forever been changed, and various recovered artifacts, like an 18th-century deerskin Torah, clay cuneiform tablets telling the epic of Gilgamesh, jewelry, and even 19th-century children’s dolls. The historian in me cringed at the history that was destroyed and lost forever. My heart broke seeing the men, women, and children who lost everything and fear for their lives on a daily basis.

Afterwards, we walked into the Israel & Canaanite Gallery, where we learned about the way ancient Israelites dwelled and how they worshipped. It was pretty cool to put together knowledge I had learned from reading the Bible, and seeing that culture represented. There were also some pretty neat artifacts from the ancient seafarers – the Phoenicians.

We moved onto Ancient Rome, which of course, is my forte and my passion. I was so excited to tell Ella about the different artifacts, mosaics, coinage, and history from Ancient Rome. The Penn Museum is fortunate to have a great example of damnatio memoriae, or condemnation of memory. Specifically, they’ve got a damnatio memoriae stela of the Emperor Domitian (81-96 CE). Very little of Domitian’s claims to fame remain on the stela, with only four words being partially legible. We saw some coinage from Augustus, which was particularly exciting for me because I’ve been working on a paper for my second master’s degree on Augustus and how he built his public image and ideology through coinage, poetry, statuary, etc. You bet I snapped up some pictures to incorporate into my paper. 😉 We learned about the Etruscans, which was the society, along with the Latins, that predated the Romans in Italy before they in the were ultimately absorbed by the Romans following their defeat in the Etruscan-Roman wars in 264 BCE. 🏺⚱️📿

We hit up the Greece Gallery, but Ella wasn’t really feeling it, so we quickly moved on to the Africa Gallery. Here we had the opportunity to make a version of a Mbira, or African finger piano. These instruments were used by various tribes across the continent of Africa to speak and communicate with ancestors. Ella said the Africa Gallery was her favorite, because she enjoyed how the different tribes communicated with their ancestors through dance and music. She also enjoyed the different masks and was excited to be able to identify different animals represented on the masks.

Later on we played a version of “What in the World,” and Ella was picked as one of the contestants, where she correctly identified a fan from Central America used to help build cooking fires.

We did a scavenger hunt by flashlight afterwards. Walking through the museum in the dark was admittedly creepy – particularly walking through Ancient Egypt with the mummies! No, I wasn’t scared – YOU were scared. 😱⚰️

Finally we made our way back to our sleeping bags (on a very hard floor…) around midnight, in full view of the Sphinx. Needless to say, we crashed hard. Once we woke up, we had a quick breakfast, hit up the gift shop, and headed out.

It was so much fun, and I’m excited to bring my little one, Will, when he turns 7 (minimum age for the sleepover is 6, maximum is 12, chaperone required; however, I think 6 is a bit young to really have the attention span needed for this particular museum). As a bonus, Ella gets free admission through the end of the summer! We’ll definitely be back for another visit. Interested? You can find out more on the program here, but they sell out quickly, and are only held in the winter/spring months due to a lack of a/c in all of the galleries. The museum is undergoing a massive reno, so that may change in the future. We highly recommend!