Back in August we took a tour of the Opera House dig (in Swiss German), and we finally got a chance to see it again in a small-group, English-language tour. I'm glad we did, not only because this time we could understand a lot more but also because the tour was during the lunch hour, making it possible for us to actually climb down into the dig.
Because many of the recovered materials remained under water for millennia, an amazing amount of wood has been preserved, well beyond what would be possible in a dry site. This enables quite accurate dating by dendrochronology, while other biological materials from the site (bone, pollen, seeds) will allow for genetic analysis. A complex picture of environmental change, food ways, and material culture over a very long period should emerge from this analysis.
The archaeological undertaking itself is also remarkable. Financed by the city of Zürich (as required by law), the dig is on an incredibly compressed time table––just nine months to map the site and and remove materials for later study. In fact, the city funding is only for this initial stage and does not cover any analysis or support publication of findings. That funding will have to come from the canton.
One of the goals of the dig's communication outreach program (that is, in part, the dig tours) is to gain public support for further funding for analysis of these finds, as well as support for more intensive survey archaeology along the lake shore and river side, which have been shown in this dig and the previous (when the Opera House itself was built) to offer an incredibly rich archaeological record.
If you'd like to see the dig yourself, weekly tours will continue through December, and you can book online. You can also arrange a small-group tour in various languages. To contact the city about a small-group tour, go to the tour website and click on Kontaktformular.
Story and photos by Kathy
*My notes are somewhat lacking, so I'm not sure it was Bronze Age. Maybe it was later than that. It was really damn old, okay?