The rocks talk

Today, we got a small taste of what it may be like to be an archeologist in Fabas, Ariège. A short bus ride landed us in a quaint rural area with green mountainous scenery. As we walked along a small woodsy path, Sebastian, our knowledgeable archeologist, pointed out different types of rock; limestone and sandstone. He then showed us how we could recreate some of the prehistoric tools that we have been learning about and seeing in museums. After many failed attempts and the realization that these tools are very difficult to create, our group pushed forward and eventually ended up in an open field of crops. Each of us took a lane in between the delicate greens, with the instruction to find things that may be prehistoric artifacts, and collect them. I quickly scanned my lane and wondered how I was supposed to find artifacts among plants, dirt, and rocks. I bent down under the persistent sun and began to search, still somewhat unsure of exactly what I was searching for.

In less than six minutes I had filled an entire small collection bag with artifacts. It amazed me how quickly your eye can become accustom to seeking out what is different, what stands out. Among the light brown dusty soil, I would spot hints of purple-pink flint or bright white rock sticking out; and while some were broken by modern day plows or simply nature, others had clear signs of intentional markings, they had clear signs of prehistoric man. I even found some ceramic pieces. How cool! While I don’t know if archeology is my desired profession, it was a very unique opportunity.

As exciting as it was to collect artifacts from a seemingly random field of crops, what intrigued me most was what we learned afterwards. On an open table back at the gîte, we spread out our rocks and started to wash and sort them. To me they all sort of looked like rocks. Yes, I could see that some of them had specific chunks taken out of them that clearly made them artifacts, but I could not exactly tell what was so special about any individual rock. Sebastian had us pick up certain rocks; he asked us questions such as “what do you see” or “why is this unique” and then explained specific pieces to us. As he talked about the pieces in front of me, I was baffled by how much interpretation and history the rocks held. A rock with different long strips taken out of it and bigger chunks meant that the rock was utilized as a core, designed specifically to create long pieces of flint. A rounded part of a rock that slimmed down meant that above it was the point of contact. A prehistoric man had struck the rock in that specific spot on the rock..wow! The more I looked at the rocks and listened to Sebastian, the more I felt the rocks begged their story to be told.

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