Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Mid-way at Marj Rabba 2010

We have just passed the halfway point for the Marj Rabba excavation season, and our team is making wonderful progress. The architectural preservation is quite good, and the flint, pottery and animal bones are plentiful. We have an amazing team that puts in long days of work, starting at 5 am, six days a week.

Some of our readers know very well what working on an excavation entails (indeed, some might be the very people who introduced us to the routine and different field methods!) But for those who have never worked on an excavation, we thought that we could run down the daily routine.
In order to avoid the hottest part of the day, we start very early; Mo and Yo get up at 4 am, so that we have our own gear together (hats, water, cameras, etc). This year we are staying at a college in Karmi'el called ORT Braude, a small engineering college.

ORT Braude campus

We walk over to where we park the vehicles, which is near the dormitory rooms. After collecting empty buckets, water jugs and gear for the field, we hope everyone arrives by our 5 am departure. A quick 10 minute drive through the winding roads leading to Yodefat takes us to Marj Rabba, where our rented container containing the tools is stationed. At this point the sun is just about to rise, but by the time we get the tools out and walk them up to the site, there is just enough light to begin working.

MP and Mo discussing bucket tags and the day's goals

Pre-dawn excavations.
Like last year, we often have some fog up on our hill, and we can hear the peacocks from Kibbutz Yodefat as we discuss our plans for the day.

Mo in the mist

This year we have opened four new 5 x 5 meter squares, plus two half squares (2.5 x 5). We have some walls that are not doing quite what we expected (rectangular rooms are standard for the Chalcolithic, but these are not so clear - yet!).

We work until 8:30, when we stop for breakfast under the nearby olive trees, which includes a variety of sandwiches, veggies, cookies and beverages prepared at the ORT Braude cafe which we pick up on our way out. A little after 9 we go "back to the salt mines", until 11, when we have a short fruit break. By 12:30 we are wrapping things up - taking elevations, sweeping up the excavation areas, collecting the buckets and bone bags, and moving the equipment back to the container, so that we can finish by 1 pm. The day goes by very quickly, usually, but we are all tired.
Because we are sieving 100% of the current excavation areas, we get quite dirty as the dust is unavoidable. We then head to a restaurant where we have "lunch" - a large hot meal - and can relax. We finally return to ORT Braude by about 3 pm for showers, some quiet time or a nap.

Pottery washing time near the dormitories at ORT Braude.

But wait, there's more! All of the pottery, flint and animal bone needs to be washed, then dried, then returned to the bags. At 5 or 5:30 we reconvene to wash this material culture, to bag up the dry material from the day before, and to make day plans for the next day. By 7 we are done, and have a light meal.

At the end of each week, we have short tours of the different areas so that we all know what is going on each area. Here we see MP discussing their amazing progress in square B1, where they moved unimpeded by walls or other architecture.

And below we see A "C" H discussing the results of their area, where a profusion of architectural remains will prove a challenge to understand!

Some of us are finished (that is, wiped out!) by about 9 pm, while others go out and sample the club life in Karmi'el. Ok, perhaps not so many go out clubbing in Karmi'el. We aren't so sure that there is any clubbing in Karmi'el. A major annual 3 day dance festival just ended here in Karmi'el, but as most events began late at night, our group seemed a bit too tired for this entertainment.

Of course, if we did more clubbing, or at least visited the dance festival, we might have seen our resident celebrity, staying at ORT Braude.

Yes, we were told that Samantha Fox was staying on the ORT Braude campus while we were here. She was in Karmi'el for the dance festival, but we didn't see her. We hope her room had some AC, because rumor has it that spandex can be quite hot in humid weather. We are now in the home stretch and beginning the "big push", where we hope to expose some floor or surface levels corresponding the architecture, to understand the area outside of the architectural complex, and to recover some carbonized remains. Wish us luck as we attempt to pull all of this together in only about 10 days of excavation time!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Al-Jib Heritage Exhibition

Yesterday Prof P and Mo visited the Al-Jib Heritage Exhibition in the Al-Jib Womanly Centre. Al-Jib is a Palestinian village in the West Bank where the ancient biblical site of Gibeon is thought to be located. During the early Iron Age, a massive wall was constructed around the crown of the hill of Gibeon and a huge pool was cut in the rock just inside the wall. The pool is over 10m deep and has a spiral staircase of 79 steps cut into the walls of the pool, continuing downwards into a tunnel that provides access to a water chamber 24m below the level of the city.
It is thought that this structure is the "pool of Gibeon" mentioned in the Bible (2 Samuel 2:13). Recently the Palestinian Association for Cultural Exchange (PACE) was awarded an Ambassador's Fund for Cultural Preservation (from the US Department of State) grant to establish some small community museums in the Ramallah area. The Al-Jib Heritage Exhibition is one of these museums.
This is the director of PACE with Prof P - explaining some of the highlights of the museum. Last summer Prof P and Mo went to visit the potential museum sites with PACE and this year we did a follow-up.
The exhibit is made up of artifacts from the site, some ethnographic material and some local handicrafts made by the women from the Womanly Center. Some of the artifacts are donated by the local villagers.
Any good visit to the West Bank involves many cups of tea and coffee and usually some sweets.
On this visit we were treated to a strange jelly and chocolate pudding concoction and more coffee!
This image is for our pal JE who is doing a study on museums, groundstone and the work of women in the Middle East.
As many of your know traveling to the West Bank can be long and involved. We leave you with some of the graffiti on the wall near the Ramallah check point. Tomorrow we leave for Marj Rabba in the Karmi'el region - look for more posts on the dig in the coming days/weeks!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Mo's new job!

Wow - two blog posts in two days, what is the world coming to?? On July 1 Mo finished her postdoc at the Joukowsky Institute at Brown University (sad)
and started her new job as an assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology at DePaul University (happy). There is no small amount of irony in the fact that Mo is ending up in an anthropology department while Yo works at the Oriental Institute with its near eastern archaeological emphasis.
With over 25,000 students, DePaul is one of the largest private universities where the focus is on teaching.
They have a nationally ranked service-learning program, which integrates the service concept into the curriculum. This means lots of work with the Chicago community. This is similar to the program that Mo completed at UGeorgia where much of the time was spent out and about in the Georgia countryside in small towns and cities working with local communities.

DePaul is on the quarter system, so the academic school year is broken up into 4 sections, rather than 3 like the semester/term system. In the Fall Mo will be teaching two sections of Intro to Archaeology and a Museum Anthropology class. In the Winter she'll be back in Jordan doing the Follow the Pots project and then she'll teach again in the Spring.

When Mo got the job - crazy niece LL told people "Did you know that my Aunt is going to be a real live professor?" Unlike previous jobs where Mo was a fake. It's good to be a real live professor, with a real live job and a condo in an excellent city.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

The few, the hardcore, the insane - extreme archaeologists in the Badia

Come for a holiday at Maitland's Mesa:
See camels, who are just passing through the area on their way to who knows where??
Live in comfortable tents amid the ruins.
Cook out in the open using the back of a truck as a food prep area. Drink warm yucky beer. And give up showering for 20+ days!

Eat unidentifiable meat from cans.

Experience sandstorms, and flies (1000s of flies) - desert living is brutal.
Usually the sky is blue - not sand coloured.

The archaeology was great!
50+ Cairns - the tail of a tower tomb
We recorded 300+ structures associated with a "landscape of the dead". We still don't really know the dates for this site but we are working on that angle of investigation. Prof G. found a bunch of PPN (pre-pottery neolithic) lithic scatters and manufacturing sites and we actually found some pottery (less than 10 pieces) that may or may not be Chalcolithic (4500-3600 BCE).

Yo spent a lot of time as the stick monkey (the guy standing around deciding where to put the prism for the total station to read) and Mo spent a lot of time drawing rocks.
Looks kind of like a pile of rocks . . .

Student L spent most of her days pushing the button on the total station - we are pretty sure that she has decided that archaeology is not her calling. In the end we were defeated by two days of sandstorms, which collapsed our shade. We returned to ACOR in Amman - to showers, to cold beer, to fresh food and to a nice bed courtesy of our very good friend BAP.

After a brief visit to Petra we crossed over to the other side and are now prepping for our next adventure.