Friday, June 4, 2010

Helicopters, Bones and Motorcycles/Camels - The Slow March Forward

Well, after a nice and relaxing weekend in Madaba and Amman, we are back to work for our third week of digging – how time flies! We had a great start to the week. After a really quick clean-up on Sat morning, we had a helicopter fly-by by David Kennedy’s team, who did a few fly-overs of the site while we were digging (although, I couldn’t convince people to get into their trenches and pretend to dig, so instead we all stood and stared up at the low-flying copter)

Later that day we had Louise Martin, who was with us for the week working with Anna Spyrou on her dissertation plans with the Area A fauna, come out to site and meeting her there for a tour were Gary Rollefson, Carol Palmer, and Isabelle Ruben. They came to check out the progress on our excavations since last year and scouted out the blooming plant life in the very green wadi. Actually, this year the area has received more water than in the last ten years or so and it is really noticeable at the site where the wadi is very green and lush. In fact, the guys at the Bedioun tent by the castle showed us a video of the overflowing, raging river in Wadi Kharaneh after a rainstorm about a month ago. The flooding lasted two days. So, amongst the flora of Wadi Kharaneh, Isabelle and Carol even found us some very tasty wild rocket.

Our guests stayed for lunch and then sadly took Louise with them back to Amman for her return the next day to London. A short trip, but well worth it – especially because we even had some faunal excitement to show her on-site. In Area A, the A-team had exposed a large equid (onager?) pelvis and in Area B we excavated a complete fox skull from the section of one square (see pic) and nearby found a set of articulated, completely burnt gazelle horn cores still attached to the frontal bone! Lots of fauna for one day. Actually, today added to the excitement as another set of articulated gazelle horn cores was found in Area A. Sunday we spent digging much more slowly than our pace in previous days, partly because of the faunal remains that keep popping up, hearth features in Area A, and the complicated stratigraphy in Area B. We spent most of today in Area B just sorting out our contexts.

On Monday, we had our third School Day of the year – a group of 5-7 year-old children from the local schools in Azraq, who came out to site to check out our work, learn about prehistoric archaeology in Azraq and learn how to excavate. It was the beginning of a very hot week – it reached 40 degrees today and is supposed to get hotter tomorrow, but the kids were still a bundle of energy and put us to shame.

Every time we looked over at the kids groups they were running around in all directions! We also had some visitors to site today – a very large herd of about 100 camels that hung around the wadi beside the site eating everything and anything green. I’ve included here lots of pictures of the kids enjoying their day as archaeologists and the camels hanging out watching us.

Because of the excitement of the school day and camels and the heat, we had a bit of a slow day excavating, which is giving Elizabeth a chance to catch up with flotation. Today the flotation team did a record number of buckets at 32! So, on-site we tidied up some complicated and small contexts, including removing the horn cores in Area A, and started drawing some of our sections – if we wait until the end it all looks like brown silt from top to bottom!

On Tues the East Side continued to draw sections, while Bryn and Jen excavated a compact ash deposit that may be capping the pit we found at the end of last year containing the human and gazelle bones. So far they are finding a lot of faunal remains, but are still just above the level of the pit. Area A continues to remove a different compact ashy deposit, and Jen Everhart and Alison are excavating a deep trench to sterile deposits in this area to see if we might have Middle EP overlying Early EP here. The camels were back again on-site today, and apparently are quite used to us now as two of them decided to wander onto the site to check out our trenches and we had to practice our hand at camel herding and get them off the site (which is not easy as the site is fenced off and there is only one small gate). It was also incredibly hot today on-site (somewhere around 45 degrees!). This means of course that excavating is made challenging by the fact that our tools are too hot to hold onto. We did try to fry an egg on a dustpan, but we think it was still not hot enough – more on this if successful later…

Wednesday was a bit of a slow day in Area B because everyone was excavating in situ faunal remains. Bryn was excavating an equid skull, broken in situ alongside a collection of blades, a fox mandible, and several tortoise carapaces. Immediately beside Bryn, Maria is excavating a (another) complete fox skull found upside-down within the same context as the equid skull. And, just one metre away Hilary is excavating the completely burnt articulated gazelle horn cores discovered the other day that are sticking straight up in through two contexts (081 and 165). Steve is right beside Hilary excavating the remains of a hearth deposit from 2009). In area A, things were also moving fairly slowly as in-progress sections were drawn and Clareana and Rebecca are tidying up around several hearths and postholes. Alison and Jen E, however, were moving dirt in their test trench looking for sterile deposits in this area. By the end of the week, we had determined that there is a small Early EP occupation below the Middle EP one here!

In the evening we all packed up the trucks and went to Qasr Usaykhim (ruined Roman Fort with Middle Palaeolithic site underneath) for a BBQ. Ismael grilled some kebabs and we enjoyed a beautiful sunset and star-filled evening in the desert. Thursday had a very slow start – a late night the night before and only a few hours sleep made everyone pretty groggy, but luckily, we had mostly extraction of equid and fox skulls in Area B. For this day off, Danielle and I went to Madaba for more R&R while most of the rest of the crew went eastwards further into the desert to Qasr Burqu – more on this next week.

1 comment:

Cate said...

Hello to Rebecca from her brother Philip and sister Catherine (plus little Immy)!
It looks like you're having a great time in the sand, but we can't wait to see you again.