After most of the week was spent cutting paths through the thick forest covering Bukit Kincir, the neighboring hill to Bukit Gombak, archaeological excavations have finally begun in three trenches. Restricted to work only at this steep and rugged site, where only one small area was examined during the previous season, has meant several changes in plan and a temporary postponement of work at Bukit Gombak.
Several paths cut into the jungle surrounding the site were used to measure the topographic layout of the site. Arne spent many hours and walked many kilometers up and down the hillsides and into the surrounding landscape (sometimes to the concern and amusement of the locals wondering why a funny white-man holding a box was running around the rice fields) gathering over 6,000 GPS-'points', enabling him to generate topographic maps as well as 3-D images of the site using advanced computer software. Another larger track straight up the slope of Bukit Kincir was used to place several fix-points guaranteeing an accurate measurement of the trenches.
Today, the morning sky was filled with smoke as the final clearing and burning of the area at the top of the hill began. The presence of bamboo, which was most certainly planted there intentionally, and the generally flat layout at the top of the hill, as well as interesting reports by local workmen of large, shaped stones (these stones are generally markers for burials both from islamic and pre-islamic times depending on the direction in which they point) that were supposedly pushed down the hillside several decades ago in order to make way for grazing livestock, present compelling reasons to believe there was human activity in this area and to warrant excavations here. In light of this new evidence two trenches were set up at the peak, in which investigations will take place in the coming week under the supervision of Annika and Kilian.
Work at the base of Bukit Kincir, where excavations during the last two weeks of last years season also took place, continues in Johannes and Maresi's trench where at least three pairs of grave-marker stones have been identified. The unearthing of an in situ burial in an archaeological context would be a first for the region and an enormous gain to the research and history of highland Sumatra.
Eagerly anticipating the weekend, the team is also looking forward to the arrival of Manfred from Germany (who has a fancy surprise in his luggage...) and three students from the Universitas Indonesia in Jakarta, who will be joining us on Sunday!