Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Kharaneh IV 2009 - Week Four

Well, Week 4 has already started very well! Today we are back at site after a bit of a chaotic weekend – half the crew went to Umm Qais and Umm al-Jimal for a lovely day of touring Roman sites. The rest of us went to Madaba, which was largely relaxing, except for poor Chris, who suffered from some tummy bug and had to make a trip to the hospital overnight. All is well now and he is well again, but we will have to test all his food for him first, just in case!

Anyways, we had a very good first day on site and in the lab. In Area A we came down on the surface in a few new squares and have now achieved some very nice horizontal exposure of the surface. However, Area B had the big excitement of the day (ok, excitement if you are really into prehistoric archaeology, otherwise, maybe not so much). On Thursday, we uncovered, documented, and excavated an Early EP hearth – which was exciting in and of itself (they are still quite rare to find). Today, while cleaning up around the hearth and attempting to continue excavating these squares, we discovered another possible hearth underneath and, in fact, are now beginning to be able to sort out a number of grey, dark brown, and black stains in this area that seem to be a series of overlapping hearths, each new one placed slightly offset from the one before so that over time the hearths appear to migrate to the southeast.

In the lower of the exposed hearths currently being excavated we discovered two very large chunks of charred material which turned out to be completely burned, but still articulated, gazelle horn cores sticking straight up from the fire! As we discovered last year, things are really happening in Area B, but it will also take us quite a long time and painstaking excavation to sort out.

In the lab Sam, who is working on the shell from Kharaneh for her Masters dissertation, discovered that a) the 2 mm fraction from flotation is full of dentalium shell beads and b) the 1 mm fraction from flotation in certain contexts of Area B is full of fish bones. These are very small bones from very small fish (likely the Kill fish – the only endemic fish to Azraq) that were either brought to the site from Azraq or from a nearby lake. More on this as it develops…

Excavation of the first hearth in Area B has been taking some time this week – the preservation is amazing and the hearth material is really full of charcoal and other burnt material. In order to fully expose and remove the hearth sediments with minimal disturbance (it gets quite windy on site and the hearth sediments are quite amenable to blowing away), we had a crack team of Toby, Danielle, Jen E and myself stay out one afternoon to deal with it. It was a long and hot afternoon, but extremely rewarding. Aside from the hearth excavation, adjacent to it we excavated the complete and fully articulated four paws of a small canid (just paws, nothing else?). The preservation was absolutely amazing – many of the foot bones for each foot remained attached when excavated! In addition, later this week in Area B, Toby and Alison were working on our deep trench continuing from last year and discovered several nice bone tools and another well-preserved hearth.

In Area A, Danielle and her crew have been continuing to expose and map a compact surface, a feat complicated by the continued appearance of enigmatic brown circular stains in the sediment that contain high densities of burnt flint and bone in their fill. We are just now exposing, mapping, and excavating them and hope to be able to solve their mystery soon.

In Area C (actually, I’m not sure if I have mentioned Area C before, but it is a new exploratory square in between Areas A and B where we are trying to connect up the stratigraphy between the two main areas), we have spent most of this week excavating virtually sterile deposits (well, sterile for Kharaneh)! We have hit a couple of distinct clay layers that contain almost no bone or lithics, and the bone that is present is mostly turtle carapace. It is possible that we have hit lake deposits, but only time and lab work (and Matt) will tell…

This week we were also very happy to have Leslie and Phil visit us again, even if only briefly, to take a little tour of some local sites. And, on Tuesday night we had a little party at the dig house with our neighbours – the team of April Nowell, Carlos Cordova, and Michael Bisson, who were just finishing up their work on some Middle Palaeolithic sites in the North Azraq Druze Marsh. Ismael worked his wonders with the BBQ and baked us a cake to help celebrate their end-of-season (we still have two weeks to go, but are always looking for a reason to celebrate!).

Well, now it is the mid-dig break (a little late, I know). About a third of our crew have headed down to Petra for the break, a few have headed over to Jerusalem, and I am headed up north to Ziqlab to catch up with everyone there. Now, we are off to relax for a few days…

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