Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Weeks 3, 4 and 5...still digging...

We have finally found an internet cafe in south Azraq that is sometimes relatively quick, so I have attempted here to type out an up-date ahead of time and upload it at the internet cafe...Hope this all comes through to you! (I did already get booted off twice...) We are still digging away out in the desert and things are going very well. We spent most of weeks 3 and 4 moving dirt to get down to good deposits – this is much more time-consuming than it sounds given the incredible density of material from the site.

Just to give you some idea, we are screening through a double mesh system of 4 mm and 2 mm, and it takes over 1 hour to pick out all the flint and bone and shell just from the 4 mm mesh (never mind the 2 mm), so we are having to bag up all the material in both screens and sort it later in the lab out of the hot sun! And, in a 1x1m square area, digging only 5 cm in depth we are bringing back to the lab ~10 bags of 4 mm material and 4-5 bags of 2 mm material! And, some of the deposits are so carbonate concreted that we are having to use the big pick to dig them...Never thought I would need a big pick at this site, but the deposits in one of the trenches are as hard as rock. But, all that is gone and we have been digging good deposits in both trenches. Last week I posted some pictures of the crew members excavating, as well as a group photo of the 2008 Kharaneh crew.

Back row left to right: Jennifer Jones (UCL), Hussein Medinah (Beir Zeit), Danielle Macdonald (Toronto), Sam Allcock (UCL), Alison Damick (UCL), Tove Smith (Penn), Ibrahim Meslam (U Jordan), Andrew Graham (Toronto); Middle row left to right: Tha’ir (Azraq), Mohammad (Azraq), Basam (Azraq), Lisa Maher (Cambridge); Front row left to right: Tobias Richter (UCL), Amr (Azraq), and Ismael Karaeem (Amman). Missing are Louise Martin (UCL), Sue Colledge (UCL), Kelly Reed (UCL), Matt Jones (Nottingham). A great crew – we have had a lot of fun!

Perhaps to back up a bit, I should mention that we have opened up two main excavation areas: one in the primarily Early EP deposits at the highest part of the site and another to the southwest in the primarily Middle EP deposits. Muheisen excavated sondages in both these areas and we have selected them in order to re-open his excavation areas and more fully document the stratigraphy of the site and expose a larger horizontal area where he documented features such as living floors and postholes. And, indeed, it seems these are the deposits we are now coming down onto; but more on that in a moment. In the Early EP area, we have re-exposed Muheisen’s sondage, or at least as much of it as is still possible to identify (luckily, some of it was marked by glass bottles, styrofoam, and plastic). Here we have also excavated our own probe to expose a full stratigraphic section of these deposits, and are now just a few centimetres above where Muheisen reported hitting sterile deposits. In this area, we were able to further refine his stratigraphy as we discovered deposits about 1 m below the surface which consist of finely laminated ash- and charcoal-rich clayey deposits, that likely represent several stratified occupational horizons. These deposits are so rich in charcoal that we were able to collect charcoal from each individual horizon, and should we be able to get dates from these, we will have a very nice sequence in this trench. We have also identified a very compact yellowish clay horizon, also containing a great deal of charcoal that Muheisen documented as a floor. However, we will have to await more complete horizontal exposure of this next year to confirm it. In the Middle EP area, we have also re-opened Muheisen’s trench here (he excavated a 3x4 m area down 40 cm in depth) and expanded horizontally from this. Almost immediately (~10-15 cm below surface) we hit clean EP deposits containing large pieces of articulated bone, including cow-sized vertebrae and ribs and complete gazelle feet. And, of course more flint than we know what to do with – seriously! We excavated two layers of silt like this, and have now come down in the south portion of the area (adjacent to Muheisen’s trench) onto a more compact ‘surface’ (our working hypothesis) containing, again, lots of charcoal, articulated bone (but smaller), three mandibles (gazelle-sized), a notable shift from all types of flints to microliths (particularly the wacky trapeze/rectangles), brown stains, and bits of red ochre.

So, lots of excitement in the EP! We are now finishing off our 5th week of excavations and beginning to plan what we can reasonably get done next week, as well as planning our strategy for next year. We are now sitting in the lab looking at all the artefact we have collected and I think that next year we will have to bring a double team – one team that digs, while the other does nothing but lab work! On a related note, yesterday Alison and I went to Arab Box (the store in Sahab that sells red crates we use for holding finds) and bought 80 crates for finds. On the way back in the pick-up truck the rope burst and red crates spilled all over the highway. We were quite the sight running all over picking them up, and it generated quite a lot of honks from the truckers! It was quite entertaining (in retrospect, of course). Ok, now it is lab time and I have to go deal with more flints...stay tuned for an up-date of our last week of excavations next week.


Andrew J. Graham said...

What I wouldn't have given to see all those precious red crates spilling across the roadway. The mental image is quite amazing!

Hussein Madina said...

I miss the time , the site and all lovely things in Azraq I hope go back again this year it is really amazing