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On the Bench

August 20, 2014

For the past few days I’ve been excavating the bench in our large men’s house. Benches in this region were traditionally constructed along the interior walls of houses, and were used as sleeping places or as seating during community festivals.

Our bench structure rests up against the wall at the northeastern edge of the house and is made up of blocks of sod, grass, and turf. There might also have been some wood structural elements inside or beneath the bench, as evidenced by two parallel leaning timbers each about 10 centimeters in diameter found within the bench layer. One section of the bench was made up of compacted layers of woven and loose grass forming a sort of concave shape, perhaps a special seat for a respected elder in the community.

IMG_4566Between the soddy bench and the wall is a deposit of looser dirt–a sort of “between the sofa cushions” area where debris and lost artifacts likely built up throughout the years. 

IMG_4564Today I was lucky to find a really exciting artifact nestled between this layer and the house floor beneath the bench: half of a wooden mask depicting the face of an owl! The owl’s eye is represented by a slightly indented circle, and if you look closely, you can also see tiny decorative circles incised along its edge. This mask might have been tied to the wearer’s face with cordage, which could have been threaded through a perforation on its back. Masks were sometimes broken as part of their use-life, which might explain why we only have half of this one.

I’m looking forward to continuing to excavate beneath the bench tomorrow. Today I revealed a large section of woven grass in this area, which might turn out to be a piece of basketry or matting–only time and work will tell!


One Comment leave one →
  1. Chris permalink
    August 20, 2014 12:27

    Great find! Do you think the other half of the mask is nearby? Would love to see a picture of the bench too!

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