23 September 2009


After several days at the dig--Arbeia Roman Fort on Tyne, South Shields, England--I frequently experienced momentary mental flashes of the layering of time that matched the layers of soil and occupation we were laboriously unearthing. As I held a shard of Roman pottery, I gazed out of the pit at present-day, street-level England aware of the time-collapsed passage of centuries and realized that I was doing menial labor moving the same earth where others, stretching backwards in time 20 centuries or more, had also performed their labors, whether as Celtic agriculturists, Roman soldier-builders, Medieval plowmen, or Victorian-era laborers.

Perhaps my diachronic sense of the passage of time--the mental flashes of someone from a time-space in which the temporal sense operates mostly in present tense--only could have occurred while standing deep in an archeological pit holding a shard of Roman pottery.

The raucous gulls on the roofs across the street seemed to mock, in full-throttle disdain, my pondering the meaning of time.

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