This is my first classical archaeology dig (I usually work as an engineer) so I am learning a lot about Greek and Roman antiquity and how to dig it up. I have found however that there are still a few things that I can teach the archaeologists.
Today trench leader Kerrie asked me to remove some large rocks from her trench. In the past this has been a difficult job, the trenches can be deep and the rocks heavier than the average adult. More importantly, it can cause serious injury if a rock is dropped and falls on someone. In the past many of these rocks have been left at the bottom of the trench, obstructing the excavation, simply because it is too dangerous to try to remove them.
When I first arrived onsite the trench leaders asked me if I could think of a way of safely removing these large rocks. They asked me because I am a mechanical engineer trained to find solutions to these types of problems. Whatever solution I came up with had to be simple to use, easy to move around the site, quick to set up and take down and, above all, as safe as possible.
My solution is a simple device called a bipod. It is just two long (3m) legs joined at the top and spread a meter or so at the bottom. A pair of guy lines (ropes) are tied to the top to hold the bipod upright and a block and tackle hang from the top for lifting things, in this case large rocks. When we need to lift a rock we set the bipod up by the side of the trench. We then lean the bipod over the trench, hoist the rock using the block and tackle and then lean the bipod back to bring the rock out of the trench. Once we are finished we coil up the ropes, fold the bipod legs together and put it away.
The hardest part in getting this solution up and working was finding all the bits we needed in the local Cypriot hardware stores, especially as we only had a few words of Greek to explain what we were looking for. In the end, after about six or seven hardware stores, we found what we needed and carried it all back to the dig house. Carrying the 3m poles in a small car without roof racks around the back streets of Paphos is another story in itself but we managed it.
The bipod is a nice simple solution to a problem the dig has been experiencing for a number of years. Like many useful items it is a design which can be traced back to an era even earlier than what we are digging at present so it is just another way that it suits the purpose.
Oh, and Kerrie was very pleased at how quickly we could get the rocks out of her trench. It gives us more time to scrub all the pottery we are finding!