Bones & Bribir

bones-bribir

The irony of experiencing total elation when fulfilling a lifelong dream is that it never
sounds as good when you try and explain it out loud. Happiness is such an inward emotion, warming every inch of your soul until your cheeks ache from a permanent smile. I’m positive every pair of eyes currently reading this little entry is familiar with the feeling. Stay in that mindset as I attempt to transport you back to April, in the small township of Bribir in southern Croatia…

I realise that context is quite ambiguous but it is all part of my air of mystery. I'm guessing my first-person voice is unknown to the majority of you. I'm a second year Bachelor of Ancient History student, currently living out of Sydney. Ever since clearing out the school library of the entire Horrible Histories collection, I have had a livid passion for past lives.

Happiness is such an inward emotion, warming every inch of your soul until your cheeks ache from a permanent smile.

Fast forward 10 years of keeping my head in the books, pushing back judgements and a simple love for learning, I am studying my dream course. In this dream world I currently live in, I learn to operate Hieroglyphs and Latin, whilst studying the feminine artistic features of Egyptian coffins and deciphering historiographical bias. To me, I am a hero of my own world where all the decisions and desires lay on my own shoulders. To some, a pressure cooker but to me an environment I can thrive in. One of the most life-changing opportunities presented itself to me in the latter half of 2015, sprouting from a shy girl who sat next to me in Intermediate Latin.

She had been selected as part of a small group of undergraduate students to assist with the excavation of the Brebarium/ Bribir/Varvaria. A real-life archaeological dig! No, not the Indiana Jones, Lara Croft stylised version complete with a kick-ass soundtrack but the one that could rewrite history. The stuff they (and by they the very people attending the dig with me) write very real books about, or as we famously said at the completion of the month - the stuff that "shifts paradigms".

Over three gruelling weeks in April 2016, spent within very closer quarters of 12 other archaeology students and closer still to my trench supervisor and partner in dirt, Nicola, the joint Macquarie University and Split Archaeological Museum excavated the rotunda church and mausoleum complex (fancy jargon, I know) situated below the modern day St Joachim and Anne Orthodox Church. Our fabulous directors, Victor, Danijel, and Tonči, really wanted to unearth material capable of dating the rotunda definitely. Easy right? Find a tablet that has the date stamped onto it and we are in business? How very, very naïve of me.

”I encountered a few dozen skeletons, something I thought I had mentally prepared for but which I quickly realised you wouldn’t”

I spent, on average, nine hours a day scraping away stratigraphical units, or SU for short, in hope of finding the smallest traces of pottery, glass, metal, charcoal. I encountered a few dozen skeletons, something I thought I had mentally prepared for but which I quickly realised you wouldn't. The final two days I became very close acquaintances with one particular skeleton we coined "Legolas". For me, this is truly when my eyes realised what I had been seeing for hours upon days — a throwback to all of humanity. Within this action, my mind had been completely revitalised to a new outlook on life, a new appreciation for the wondrous world we live in and the true marvel humanity has created over centuries.

Even now, I fight back tears speaking about such a glorious experience. I can imagine the stunning sunsets falling over the surrounding hills of Bribir. I can imagine the evenings of constant singing, laughing and dancing in which people from each corner of the globe bonded over bottles of champagne. I can imagine the brutal winds of Bora inflicting pain on my exposed face. But most of all, I can imagine myself in total bliss and that, my friends, is what I wish for each and every one of you reading this.

This article originally appeared in Orenda 4.