Welcome to another week digging in the desert. Although not the most eventful week we have had so far, it was still a very productive one. We have just got back from our mid-dig break (I know it seems late, as we are in week 5, but we still have 2.5 weeks to go). For the mid-dig break most people had a very relaxing three days of hiking up and down mountains in Petra and eating copious amounts of Movenpick ice cream. Those who headed to the Dead Sea or to Amman had some real R&R, and those who made the trek to Jerusalem had a great time sight-seeing. I headed up north to Ziqlab to see Kevin and hang out with Seiji before he headed back to Japan and see the rest of the crew in Dayr Abu Sa’id. Now everyone is well-rested and itching to sink their trowels into the ground (or hands into the flotation tank).
Area A is actually moving pretty slowly at the moment because of the excitement of several hearths and hearth-related features (including several likely post-holes from stakes or something similar around the fireplaces). Danielle (aka Mr. T) and the A Team have been carefully and laboriously digging out these very fragile features, which are full of burnt bone and flint and charcoal (see pic for Areas AP36, AP37). It is that time of the season and the wind has really picked up on-site lately, making photography quite challenging with our shade tent which really just acts as a kite – someone got caught in its crosswind – can you guess who? Actually, I am not kidding about the wind and excavating these deposits in it is really a battle. Yeah, A Team!
In Area B, Papa Bear’s cubs kept busy trying to sort out what’s going on in that area. The deep trench (R/S2/60) is full of new features every time you use the leaf trowel. This week was a burnt grey, charcoal-rich area, and a very dense bone layer. In the upper parts of Area B, Steve wrangled with several loci to sort out layers with really dense bone from layers with really, really dense bone. Toby had to leave for a few days for his brother’s wedding in California, or at least he told us he had a really good reason to leave the dusty, windy desert for California. Steve and I are looking forward to the day he gets back so he can sort this area out!
We finished in Area C, which I first mentioned last week, by bottoming out in sterile white clays that underlie water-lain clays deposits and are likely deposits from a dried up lake (but, I will leave the final interpretation of that to Matt J). The deposits here were much shallower than in other parts of the site and seem to be predominately Middle Epipalaeolithic, so our search for stratified deposits of Middle and Early EP continues. In hopes of catching this stratigraphy and linking up our on-site deposits with the sections done by Matt J around the site and the adjacent wadi deposits the crack digging team of Matt G (see pic), Jen E and myself dug like crazy in a ‘Geo-Trench’ (well, ok, we had one day of help from a couple of workmen, but we did the rest ourselves). Here we placed a 9x1 m trench running N-S from the wadi up into locate the very edge of the site on its southern margins. The first 5 m hit only wadi deposits right away; however, the next few metres hit the edge of the site, as hoped. We are still processing the material, but it looks as though we have both Middle and Early EP – yeah!
And the other excitement on-site this week is the construction of a low mudbrick wall around the site. We have tried a fence around the site to prevent people from driving their vehicles right over the site, but that keeps getting pulled down. People have even been as bold and careless as to drive up onto the site after we leave to check out our excavations. So, now more drastic measures are needed. Or, at least it will be much more of a deterrent (they will have to get out of their cars to see our excavations, or not care very much about their cars). It is quite an operation, as we (by we, I mean professional mudbrick builders) are building the mudbricks from scratch on-site, even digging up the clay from the adjacent wadi. More on this as it develops.
Back in the lab things are also going swimmingly. Flotation is going ahead at full speed and although we have a small backlog, Team Flotation is really working fantastically! When not floating, they are enjoying the mud of their creation. We are thinking of packaging it as Azraq Spa mud – Matt swears by it. Caroline is creating fantastic illustrations (and eating copious amounts of biscuits), while everyone else is busy sorting 4 mm fraction (and practicing karaoke to MeatLoaf, not mentioning any names here Jen J) or working on the never-ending notebook work.
Thursday half of us went to Amman for some rest (and trips to the bank), shopping and watching about two hours of explosions in Terminator. The other half stayed in Azraq for the annual All-Night Azraq Pirate Disco Party, aaaarrrrrr (pictures to follow next week), followed the next day by a picnic in the wetlands reserve.