Friday, June 22, 2007

Caving on Keros

During this field season I poked around the numerous caves in the Kavos region, which may or may not be associated with the site.

In a 1998 article by Bassiakos and Doumas, they discuss the possibility of the cave just north of the special deposit being associated with ritual use by the Early Bronze Age inhabitants. They actually state that the cave might be the "entrance to Hades" al a Greek mythology.

With the aid of a couple of geologists TK and JED, and some archaeological buddies MM, KR and BM we managed to identify a bunch of cave-like features and perhaps event the Bassiakos and Doumas “ritual cave”.

We excavated a small trench in order to look for evidence of human use in the cave . After about 60cm we hit bedrock (the natural limestone formation) and we recovered only one pottery sherd, one fragmented shell/goat animal bone (I was listening to SWK all of those years) and one sea shell. Perhaps they have austerity measures in Hades and the old adage that "you can't take it with you" in fact true.

The caving adventures will go on next year.

This is an image of my caving side kick Nicholas, he one of our workmen from the Cycladic Island of Amorgos. He would ask about a million times a day, "why are we digging here??" It was one of the Greek phrases I learned this summer. As was the answer "we are looking for hell".

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Hot Off the Press!!

Ok, pretty hot off the press!

The book that Dr. Mo and colleagues edited actually came out some months ago, but in the world of academic publishing, that is yesterday. And while the reviews of such books traditionally take years to appear in print, the "internets" is changing that, slowly. Now many book reviews are being placed on line. The positive review of their book Archaeology, Cultural Heritage, and the Antiquities Trade (University Press Florida) by a well known archaeologist who specializes in South American archaeology and heritage is great news and a feather in the collective caps of the editors.

Although it may not seem like much of an "adventure" to an outsider, editing such a thing can certainly rate as an adventure -- but the kind many choose not to relive! Oh, and if you would like to read the review, you can find it here. It is a glowing review that includes phrases such as "This superb, valuable, and balanced volume is comprised of a well presented selection of case studies" and "...outstanding volume is a must-read for any scholar interested in museums, cultural heritage, and the traffic in illegal antiquities."

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Another week in paradise

The site of Kavos on the Island of Keros. You can an idea of the slope (extreme archaeology) and the trenches in which we work.

This was our last full week in the field, so things were very hectic. I am posting some images of the past week, including one wet and rainy day.

As many of you know, my job this year on the dig was to organize and run the field school. We had twelve student from the US and Canada, they were all awesome. This morning we had a "What I learned during my summer vacation" session - they all seemed to enjoy themselves although 3 admitted that the field school was as much field archaeology they ever want to do. This is an image of one of the students from UPenn, she has just inaugurated her trowel, using it for the first time to break soil - a momentous moment.

Here is another student from U Ottawa with a find from the wet sieve. We put all of the dirt we take out of the ground through mesh screens in order not to miss any important artifacts. We send 20% of the dirt to the Beach where the valiant wet sievers put the dirt in a contraption and let the sea water sieve the material. The remaining material is then dried and sorted. During this process we often find small obsidian fragments, small marble figurine feet and pieces of pottery.

Here I am in the Kavos area in Trench F2.

We are in the field on Monday and Tuesday mainly drawing plans of what we found. The majority of the students and archaeologists leave on Wednesday. I'll be here for a few more days doing some post-excavation wrap-up and then off to Naxos and Athens for post-doc research.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Hello From the Cyclades

Dhaskalio and Keros, were they connected???

While I like Yo's posts, I still think that 3 posts in 5 weeks is lame. Today we have wireless on Koufonisi who knows about tomorrow. I'll try to upload a couple of images from the field season. We are having a great time, even though the weather has been very windy, rainy and cold. We have been dividing our time between two sites - one thought to be the settlement (Dhaskalio) and one where the special deposits (figurine fragments and other special finds) are found on Kavos. One of the research questions we are asking this season is whether in antiquity Dhaskalio and Kavos were connected making for ease of access between the settlement and the "ritual" area.

The above image is some of the field crew working in the special deposit area and the other image is the wait for the "daily commute". As many of you know we work on one island and travel 1/2 hour by boat to the site. Here is an image of me on the boat.

The field school is going well, we have 12 students (7 Canadians and 5 Americans) who all seem to be enjoying themselves. They have lectures every day, which I find tiring so they must be exhausted. Okay I am signing off and hoping that this uploads as it should. Hopefully more this week.

Burqu, basalt and badia

Inspired by last week's successful and extremely gratifying effort to avoid work, we again scheduled some eastern desert site visits for yesterday. Inspired by green licorice and perhaps a bit of gin (or was that a different evening?), J. insisted on a trip to Qasr Burqu, in the northeastern section of Jordan, not too far from the border with Iraq. I also had in mind finding the Early Bronze Age site of Jawa, although I had been warned by a Jordanian archaeologist that this is hard to find.

Once again we decided to kick off the day with the yummy coffee place that J guided us to, and if anything, the coffee was better this time (or it just seemed that way because we didn't have to listen to W. go on about 'sludge' since this week he stayed home to watch episodes of "Lost" or something.) This time we had pea donuts with the coffee. Who knew someone would make a fried dough ball with peas and shaved carrots inside? And who buys such a thing?
At any rate, we headed out, ever vigilant for jackknifed infernos of fuel tankers and colliding bumper cars/spaceships/protzoa. Along a certain area beyond Zarqa we noticed a tremendous number of serious looking Jordanian military police dudes with the snazzy red berets lining the highway. A few jets also came in low and fast, then shot up into the air; a few minutes later we could see the explosions, with the surrounding hills lined with important observers. Ever mindful of security precautions, you can see pictures of things exploding here.

With only a stop to top up the gas tank in Azraq, we pushed on to the east towards Baghdad. By the time one arrives in the oasis of Azraq (a former wetlands drained by the early 90s to meet the water needs of Amman), it is fairly flat already, but there is still greenery. Beyond this it becomes even flatter, with some relief barely visible to the north and flat desert to the east.

Armed with instructions from E! again, we knew that the turn-off to head north from the Baghdad road should be immediately after the "Burqu checkpoint, and just before ar-Ruwaished". As it turns out, the checkpoints were unmanned, and so without signs or humans, we had no idea which one was it. Luckily there was a sign just before Ruwaished that let us know where to turn. There was also a big wide dirt track marked on either side with shallow dug out mounds of earth on either side, each with a rock atop the mound. So it was well marked and one only needed a little faith that this was the right general direction.

Qasr Burqu next to lake. Note 'dahab hole' in foreground.

A note on Burqu: like Qasr Tuba, no one goes to this place. Information on Burqu is pretty skimpy, but it was probably originally built by the Romans, perhaps in the 3rd c. CE, reused during the Byzantine as a monastery, and then was used by the Umayyads later in about the 8th c. CE. According to the Lonely Planet (a guide book) for Jordan, "The castle is not worth visiting as such, and is certainly too difficult to reach to be a part of a day trip around the desert castles".

While it IS too far to fit in with a day trip to the other qasrs ('castles'), it is well worth the trip despite what the guidebook says (no wonder its lonely). First, there is all that water out in the middle of the desert! Apparently that water manages to stay even through the baking hot summer.

Two, there are animals and birds, not so common in Jordan. We didn't see any of the gazelle, fox or hyena that apparently still live out there, although we did see some impressive lizards, a dead snake and some birds.

Lonely Planet also claims that you need a 4 WD vehicle. This is also inaccurate, although a vehicle with high clearance is necessary. The former Minister of Tourism admitted on Saturday that he had only visited the site by helicopter. Thats another way to get there. I would be happy to explore this option.

After a lunch of hummus, we headed back out. The track was so smooth, wide and flat that it seemed a good place to have a manual stick tutorial for Miss A, who is now ready for the Porsche (girl version).

We headed to Ruwaished for more 'solar' (diesel). The kids (no, really, they were perhaps 9-11 years old) running the only petrol station in town insisted we pull ahead of the large tanker trucks, so we did, and once again topped up the tank. For some reason the truck drivers patiently took this in stride rather than simply running over us with their trucks. And when hot, sweaty and dusty, what do you need? A nice hot cup of dark sludge, thats right. So we stopped at the truck stop, where our little cups of tasty ahwey were brought on a platter to the truck.
Headed back west to Safawi, we were already getting a bit hot, dusty and tired. From Safawi we headed north In Search of Jawa. Jawa is an Early Bronze Age site excavated by S. Helms; the remarkable aspects of the site are all the water management constructions (dams, run-off channels, etc.) that sustained a larger town than seems possible. I knew that it would be very difficult to find, and indeed, we never found anything resembling a road that headed in the right direction. And in fact the road we were on was much worse than the non-road to Burqu. Next time I will try the approach from Deir el-Kahf.
But the landscape in this area, known as the badia (essentially, the badlands), is impressive. The whole area is covered with a mantle of basalt because of the numerous volcanic cones in the region. If you need something out here, its best if you can make it out of rock, that being the only available material other than the sand below it. There are corrals, sheep pens, cairns, and various other structures strewn across the landscape.

After finally admitting defeat and not eager to drive in the badia after dark, we headed back to Azraq for a coffee and shisha. This was enough to get us back through the harrowing drive of Zarqa and East Amman at night (here is where you need a guide - thanks J! ...not to find Burqu!).