Friday, May 28, 2010

Week 1 - Over and Out!

Welcome back to the 2010 excavations at Kharaneh IV! It is now the end of our first week of excavations and things are moving along very well. Most of the crew arrived on the 12th and 13th of May and stayed a night or two in Amman at the British Institute (see the city view of Amman from the British Institute on a dusty day). On the 14th we loaded up a very large truck with excavation and house equipment from Amman and drove out to the ‘metropolis’ of Azraq to get the dig house set up. It was a bit of a long and hot day, but we got pretty much everything done and organised to start on-site the next day. We had our first falafel sandwiches of the season in the only restaurant in Azraq without a history of making crew members sick. We got ourselves settled into Azraq and bought the town out of plastic supplies...

The 15th was our first day of work at Kharaneh. We had a nice and leisurely start to the morning, leaving the house at 6:30am. We got to site after a half hour drive in the desert and I gave a tour of the site to the new guys. After everyone got used to crunching around on the flint pavement covering the site and saw our previous excavations, we decided to get straight to work.

We began by removing the backfill from Danielle’s area – Area A (Middle Epipalaeolithic) – which was a nice and easy task and one that we had pretty much completed by noon. We removed the backfill from the northernmost and westernmost squares where we concentrated excavations in 2009. It is here that we are going to continue our work this year to try and further expose some living surfaces, hearths, and post-hole features, representing several overlapping occupations. We had only excavated to a depth of about 50-60cm in 2009, and want to open a larger area around this to the same level before going further. The other pictures from site are some general shots of lunch-time by the trucks and of the desert to the south from the site. On the way home from site the crew stopped at Qasr Kharaneh, which is actually a caravanserai, and Qasr Amra, a hunting lodge/bath house with beautifully preserved frescoes (see last post).

Back at the house during lab time we organised the chaos that was the field lab, made sure all equipment was operational, and set up the flotation system. Elizabeth is back as the ‘Queen of Flotation’ this summer and she has got all coordinated for a season of speedy flotation. In fact, after getting the system all ready to go she started processing the few leftover samples from last year during this first week and we are pretty much all caught up. Every day we have people in the field lab while the remainder of the crew are excavating on-site so that flotation can keep pace (roughly) with excavation.

On the second day we had a few people helping Elizabeth with flotation back at the house while the remainder of us went out to site to continue removing backfill from the other excavation trench – Area B (Early Epipalaeolithic). Again, we really moved dirt and got the entire area we wanted re-opened, including the deep trench where we will continue digging slowly through the very complicated and fine-grained stratigraphy. After moving lots and lots of sand in the hot sun – we had the full force of the desert heat on un-backfill days – we stopped a little early to come home and shower and rest. This area is a little more tricky because of the deep trench, and so we spent the next day in two teams. Danielle, Bryn and myself re-established the site datums and grid (the re-bars had been pulled out and taken), and laid out the new excavation squares in Area A and B.

In Area A we are concentrating right now on the western edge of our 2009 squares – opening up another adjoining 9 m to fully expose a hearth feature associated with two compact surfaces and several post-holes. In area B we opened up 10 m in the southernmost portion of the trench to fully expose a pit we found in the last day of excavations last year to see if it contains any more human remains (last year we found one isolated human tibia). Luckily, we found our off-site datum upon which we established the entire site grid and no one had touched it at all. So, we easily used it to re-establish our on-site datums (whose old re-bar holes we found immediately). While we did this the rest of the crew shored up all the sections in the deep trench in Area B with an expertly built sand-bag wall. Then, we started digging – removing the surface disturbed deposits.

The rest of the week was spent removing all the disturbed deposits (to about 10-15 cm depth), and then digging for real! We started flotation as soon as the disturbed material was gone, and so by the second day of digging everyone was digging good deposits. Area B – the East Side – is moving along very well – already we have uncovered several discrete loci representing hearth cleanings, ash dumps and other refuse-like material. In Area A the A-team is already exposing post-holes and associated refuse-like deposits.

So amazing progress in the first week! And, because we all earned it, we went to Amman for the weekend (Thurs night until Friday evening) and stayed in an apartment there. After dinner at the Blue Fig CafĂ© we all went out dancing at a club called ‘The Cube’ – closing it down at about 4:30am. A dancing good time was had by all!

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