Tuesday, July 23, 2013

After I graduated with my bachelor’s degree in anthropology, I was attacked by the proverbial (or should I say endemic?) travel bug and needed to get out of the ol’ U.S. and A. Eurotripping seemed like the obvious answer—but I usually have a difficult time being totally lackadaisical—so I searched for “exotic” field schools on the Shovelbums website (you’re welcome Shovelbums R. Joe). Three months of strenuous digging on a Phase III pipeline project in Louisiana, MO (see below) had me searching for UNDERWATER field schools—hey it was summer!

OK, so I wasn’t able to find a pic of me actually working, but here’s some big holes in the ground that I probably helped excavate.

As the anthropology gods would have it, I ended up selecting an underwater program out of the Ecomuseo Cap de Cavelleria on the remote Balearic Island of Menorca. The course was taught by multiple individuals; several “CRM” maritime archaeologists from Ireland and England (I do not know what they call it in the U.K.) flew down to teach the field methods, and the head of the Museo, Fernando Contreras, lectured on the classic history of the region-trade routes, amphora styles and production processes, and socio-political relations throughout the ancient Mediterranean world.

Fernando also teaches a bioarchaeology terrestrial course in the summer

Rex, far left, instructed the field methods portion of the course

I arrived in the capital city of Mahón, and quickly learned that I needed to get clear across the island to Ciutadella, where the student residency was. Public bus did the job; it actually only took a couple hours.

If you’re from Mahón, that makes you Mahónese, the hometown of Mayonnaise. Get it?

Although today, the island is famous for its gin. It can be sipped on without a mixer, or can be added to a variety of sodas. Mahón gin is commonly mixed with lemonade to create the island drink, “Pomada”(which is available at nearly every restaurant—alongside   sangria of course).

The dive site and museum were located on the north-central part of the island (about halfway between the eastern and western coasts, Ciutadella, and Mahón, respectively) at Cap de Cavalleria, which translated to a 1.5-hour bus ride each morning.

I practiced my Spanish by speaking to Fernando on the rides to the dive site (These conversations usually resulted in comical alliterations to Spanish girls’ promiscuity or my hopeless attempts to meet them in bars or cafes.)The rest of the time was spent swatting flies, which seemed to be perfectly at home inside the van.

We had a day or two of practicing underwater methods on land (not unlike how FPAN handles SSEAS trainings); then we jumped into the water to get things started.

Shore dives were more difficult than expected; it’s tough to get your fins on when the waves are crashing into you.

Channeling my inner Steve Zissou, I’ll have a painting one day

“……Wonderful, very lifelike”   …………     “I’m not crazy about it.”

And now, back to the underwater archaeology. We practiced several common methods: mapping, measuring, drawing, and laying baselines.

Seaweed and the underwater current were not my friends.

It was very exciting to locate and map new amphora concentrations.

It was not all work though. We were given several days off to explore the island, and we spent an entire day visiting terrestrial archaeological sites.

These caves were filled with prehistoric and historic art, as well as modern graffi…. I mean.art.

Port of Ciutadella.  I take a decent photograph every once in a while.

Underwater field school 2008, Group shot at a [megalithic]Talayotic site

So, in a few words, that sums up my trip to Menorca. I was both surprised and excited to discover that my new FPAN region has strong ties to this island because of its vibrant immigrant population in northeast Florida. After seeing the monumental architecture produced by both prehistoric and historic Minorcans, it’s not surprising that they quickly adapted to working coquina stone.  No doubt I am in for some surprises as I meet these Minorcan transplants—the  living descendants of plantation workers—and I look forward to connecting my past travels with those of my future—here  in St. Augustine.

Text and Images, Ryan Harke, FPAN staff. Life Aquatic photo courtesy of Buena Vista Pictures. 

The program is still fully operational and now hosts field opportunities in multiple countries. Check them out on facebook at https://www.facebook.com/ecomuseum.cavalleria?fref=ts or on their website at www.ecomuseodecavalleria.com You can learn more about the Menorcan presence in northeast Florida from the Menorcan Cultural Society at http://menorcansociety.net/ 

One Response so far.

  1. I caught an error, Ciutadella is on the west coast and Mahon is on the east coast, not the other way around as the article implies.

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