Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Week 7 - Over and OUT!

This week we had Toby back with us in Area B – yeah! We are spending this week working on those two dark layers I mentioned last week, and excavating the last little bit of a pit where we found human bone in 2009 on the last day. Saturday and Sunday we worked on trying to sort out some of the fill deposits sitting directly on top of the dark layer to the north. Toby found a very lovely basalt handstone while excavating in Steve’s square while he was back on flotation rotation.

At the moment we are focussing on getting the boundaries of the feature exposed, photographing and mapping. Then, we will dig it in small 25x25 cm areas.

Area A is continuing to excavate a series of compact surfaces with large articulated bone sitting on them. We have halted work in the deep trench because it was getting unsafe for Jen and Danielle to keep working there. It is a little sad because we still have NOT reached sterile. So we may need to open it again in the future. But, for now, we are drawing the sections and stopping. Kevin may have also reached sterile deposits at 1.3m. We’ll dig it a bit tomorrow to make sure.

Sunday Jay arrived – woohoo! And, bearing lots of chocolate… He’ll be with us until the end, although he will manage to miss backfill day, which is usually his speciality. We also had Annlee, Chris and Jon visit us on-site and come back to Azraq for lunch. Iron Age and Roman archaeologists rarely make the trek out to our mound of lithics and bone, so yeah to them for coming out and at least faking interest in the Epipalaeolithic. World cup fever is in full swing and we are now regularly altering lab times so that games can be watched. As I write this Germany and England are playing and the lab is quite empty as everyone is at the game…

We had two other groups visiting us this week too. Nigel, Ofer and Nahal swung by on a serious driving tour of the sites – they stayed a night in Azraq and came to visit us on-site on Saturday for the grand tour. Actually, the timing was perfect as we had lots of good stuff open and ready for viewing. It was quite fantastic to hear their thoughts on some of our deposits. A few days later we had Aaron, Liv, Trina and their crew from up north come for a tour – and once again we had some exciting things open to show them.

This week we closed the deep trench in Area A and spent the last few days drawing its profiles and sampling for bulk soil and OSL samples. We also closed Kevin’s trench in Area E after he had dug sterile deposits for a while and then was almost 2 m deep. We did discover that there are excellent occupational deposits sitting right on the sterile sandy clay – indeed several post-holes were dug into sterile deposits. So, an area we thought we be a quick-and-dirty test of how fast we could hit sterile has turned out to be much more interesting and an area we will definitely open up further in future. But, for now, sections here were drawn, OSL samples taken, and then it was backfilled. The other areas all proceeded quite well over the last week of excavation – with Area A focussed on removing several compact deposits containing large amounts of semi-articulated bone in the southwest portion of the excavation trench, Area B focussed on cleaning up and documenting one of the dark layers, which we believe to be the traces of a hut feature (actually, we think both are, but we were only able to document one of them this season), and in Karl’s area (Area F), we excavated quite a few interesting features that are very similar to those in Area B, while still not hitting sterile deposits.

The finds in this area are quite interesting and look very much like what we are finding in Area B, so this is definitely an area in which we are not finished, and indeed, would like to expand further next excavation season too. Area B did take quite a bit of effort this week, as we uncovered what we believe is a semi-subterranean hut feature. In fact, Toby and others did several double-shifts of digging this week. The features seems to have several fills and the features and its fills are identical in another adjacent area where we suspect is a second of these hut features, although we will need to dig it next time to be sure. Within these fill deposits we found several very interesting caches of red ochre and pierced marine shell – each cache holding at least 200 shells! It is very cool, but very complicated and thus slow-going. We did what we could this year, but so as not to rush it, we will have to continue next year.

Anyways, digging, drawing, and sampling was all done on schedule, leaving us two days for backfilling – which was really quite painless this year! Weather was good, sand and backfill was pretty close to the trenches, and we had lots of help – so all went smoothly! Back at the house, we spent the week trying to wrap up as much analyses as we could, plough through flotation samples (although we have a small backlog), and start packing up. We did have some windy days again – including one day where our shade tent came down again and Bryn got a good knock to the head while trying to rescue it (see pic). Luckily he was alright and they only shaved a very small patch of hair for the stitches, plus he’ll have a good story to tell. We also had a few other ‘injuries’ at the end – well, some tummy friends for Susannah, sprained ankle for Jen, and bad knee for Rebecca – but despite all these, everyone still hobbled along with smiles on their faces…

While doing all of this, we also had the 1st Annual ‘Mandatory’ Azraq Talent Show, organised, advertised and hosted by Bryn (thanks – awesome job!). It was excellent and everyone contributed something, including the competent although chaotic judging by Anna and Clareana. We had a musical number with various Jordanian (and made-up???) instruments, a hearth-wrenching rendition of Celine Dion’s ‘My Hearth Will Go On’, a juggling act, hand-outs of ever-present flint, a tribute to Stompin’ Tom, and the winning act – a Kharaneh IV rap! The evening was a huge success and there was even a trophy (see the pic). Hope these videos come through…

We also had a BBQ with our workers and neighbours on Sunday night, where Ismael, as usual, created a virtual feast. We even had the giant speakers pumping music, like at weddings. I think, for once, we actually kept the neighbourhood awake instead of the other way around (although most neighbours were at the BBQ, so not sure if that counts).

The rest of our days went by in a flash – packing, packing and more packing. Bryn and Anna had to leave us a bit early, which was sad because they were the first to leave. Things were pretty hectic, and there were points when I though the packing and moving would never end, but somehow everyone pulled together and we even got things ready to head back to Amman on the 6th slightly ahead of schedule! We all stayed together in some apartments in Amman, with one last hurray end-of-season dinner in Amman at the Blue Fig (although sadly, missing Christophe and Ismael). We had so many people coming and going over the last few days that we never did get a good group photo, so I will have to photoshop something together and send it round later…Then, the next day most people headed their own way – some back home, some travelling in Jordan, and some travelling in the region. Myself, Kevin, Danielle and Jay headed up north to Irbid for a day to visit the Yarmouk museum and scan the human bones from Kharaneh on display there, then to Madaba for lots of R & R! Both Danielle and then Jay left from Madaba, as did Kevin and I a few days later (and after a side-trip down south, including to Aqaba where Kevin discovered he loves snorkelling! As for me, I prefer just eating really good seafood…).

So, farewell to Azraq and Jordan for another year and back to the real world now…Thanks again to the crew for making this such an amazing season!

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