Thursday, July 16, 2009

Kharaneh IV 2009 - Week Seven - The END...but only until next year!

Well, the very last week! Sorry for the delay in the up-date (since we finished two weeks ago by the time this is posted) – things were very crazy, as you can imagine. We had a very hectic last week on-site and packing up the house and lab. We were only on-site for 4 days of this week, and only two of these were digging. Mostly, we spent those two days wrapping things up in the two main areas and leaving ourselves in logical stopping places to pick up with next year. However, as always seems to happen, we did have our two most exciting finds of the year during these two days. In the first day, the flotation crew found an incised piece of stone in the flotation sample coming from a compact surface (likely floor) context. It was a piece of chalky grey limestone that had been incised with a geometric design and parallel lines on one side, the other side had just parallel lines, and both edges had been worked too. A very exciting find indeed – more on this when we have the illustration by Caroline in the fall. The second big find, which we discovered on the last day, was an isolated human bone from a pit feature. We only really had time to determine that it was indeed isolated in a pit fill, but only caught part of the pit (the rest was in the baulk) and so I guess we know where we will dig next year!

And, furthermore, this find was made by Jay, who we just sent into this square to clean it up for final photos – and look what he found!

The second last day on-site was a marathon day of section drawing for all areas – we pulled out the big guns and everyone worked very hard to get almost all of it done that day. We just finished off two small sections and micromorphology sampling on the morning of the last day on site and spent the rest of the day backfilling, which is where most of the associated pictures come from. It was a long and hard day, but everyone worked really hard and we were done by 12:30pm! We had 24 cubic metres of sand delivered to the site for backfilling and used all of it, and then some! That night we relaxed back at the house and enjoyed a little end-of-dig feast and hafla (party).

The next two days were packing, packing and more packing. It all went fairly smoothly and efficiently and we had everything done by the Thurs morning – all in the storeroom in Azraq, artefacts packed for shipping, objects ready for the DOA, and all of us ready to head to Amman for some R&R (prolonged R&R this time). We arrived in Amman in the early afternoon, unpacked all the CBRL equipment, SHOWERED, and then had a nice dinner on the project! And then we all slept soundly.

From then on, everyone has headed home or off travelling and working. Tobias, Danielle and I headed to other projects for about a week (which is why you didn’t hear from me until now – I went up to Ziqlab). But, now Toby and Danielle are home, I have wrapped everything up here until next year, and am going to sleep for days.

Keep tuned in periodically as we up-date this blog with news of the finds from the summer…

Thank you to all of the EFAP 2009 crew members – our extremely successful season would not have been possible without you!

Monday, July 6, 2009

Kharaneh IV 2009 - Week Six - The final push..

How time flies when you are digging – we are now in the last full week of excavations and have only a few digging days left. The pressure in on! We had a very good week on site – more digging days would be great, but that is always the way. We are wrapping things up in both Areas A and B. In Area A that means finishing off a couple of hearths and associated ashy deposits (not an easy feat as you can see from Bryan perched over the baulk while digging one and Susannah’s face after digging one), as well as excavating the compact surface identified last year. The deposits are often so fragile that we had Bryan digging in his sock feet so that the material on the surface would not be damaged. This area contains a lot of very large bone, including a complete equid(?) or bos(?) pelvis (see pic).

In Area B, things are also starting to make more sense…Up top we are cleaning up some small hearth features and associated layers containing burnt flints or extremely dense animal bone (our bone beds). In the lower part of Area B (R/S2/60), we are excavating an alternating series of surfaces and fills (the latter containing high densities of very large bone and tons of charcoal). By the end of the first day next week we will actually be down to sterile deposits in this trench and will take samples for OSL dating (to try and date the sands in the clay below our occupations to get a date for the beginning of occupation at the site began). Things have certainly slowed in this area and we spend a great deal of the day digging a little bit and then cleaning for photos, and repeat. The photographic shade features heavily in this process, this time held by Steve (who, as you can see, is not carrying any dangerous weapons or metal).

GeoTrench is now finished, and I’ve included the fun days that Matt, Jen E and I had digging with the big pick – we now have a nice long section running from the wadi to catch the southern edge of the site that will allow Matt J to link up the surrounding wadi deposits with the deposits on site.

So, what else is new on-site? Well, the weather has changed a little bit with the wind really picking up for a few days (reminiscent of last year). In fact, after a few days of some pretty gale-force winds, our ‘Automatic Party Tent’ (that really was what the blue tent was called) snapped, blew down and collapsed into the Landcruiser. The mudbrick wall is progressing quite well, and we now have a gate onto the site (not wide enough for cars though!). It should be finished by the end of next week.

All is going well in the lab. We are now starting to pack things up and prioritise what we want to look at over the next year. Aside from the excavating and lab work every day, some of our crew are pulling extra hours getting other work done – and after 6 weeks, the exhaustion is starting to show, right Menna? And finally, just to let you all know that the Pirate Disco Party was a big success!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Kharaneh IV 2009 - Week Five - Update

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.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Kharaneh IV 2009 - Week Five - Images Only

Greetings all. Text for the week five update is on its way - as you can guess, things get pretty busy during the end of a field season. So, while you are waiting for the descriptions - enjoy the pics.

Monday, June 15, 2009

New Hat

We had a request from a team member to post a picture of him wearing a new hat that was purchased for him to wear in the desert! So - you know who you you go!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

School Day in Kharaneh

On Wednesday June 10 we had a very eventful day on site. We hosted an archaeological field day for a local school in North Azraq, which meant that we had thirty-five 6 and 7-year-olds on site for the morning to tell them all about prehistory, the site, our work there, and to do a little excavating. Alison Damick and our Rep, Ahmad Lash, did some fantastic organising and we had a very successful day.

The kids came out onto the site, had a little introduction to the work, took a tour of the site, practiced being archaeologists and excavating in a small grid we set up just off-site and salted with some flints and bone, and drew some pictures of the work here (I’ll scan them and post them soon). The kids were so bright and enthusiastic about our work and it was really fun to have them there for the day. They also enjoyed a picnic lunch there (for those who have been or seem pics, we did set up a big tent for them), and we gave them each certificates for participating in the North Azraq School Archaeological Field Day. It was really good fun and something we will continue to do!

To all of you "pros" out there - please ignore the prehistorical inaccuracies of the "attire" being worn here. (note - no Gazelles were harmed in the production of this photo!)