Friday, July 17, 2009

Where to Dig??

We pick a place to dig based on survey, landscape and any information we have been given by local landowners, shepherds and archaeologists. In this area our colleague DS (Northern Chalcolithic expert) had identified the site as part of a survey in this region. Once we have the field cleared (by goats or modern machine - see previous post) we lay a grid and then start to dig. This is the early stage of square L1:
In addition to the students we have three workmen from the nearby village of Sahknin. They have been working in L1 and so has Mo. We speak a mixture of Arabic, Hebrew and English in the square and usually we can come to an understanding, although Mo is not always sure what it is. Last week had a conversation about one of the guys getting married: either he was getting married or meeting with a Russian prostitute, turns out he did actually get married.
During the course of day we collect up all of the pottery (broken pieces of pots) and flint and basalt and take it back to where we are living to "process" - that means we wash, record and sort all of the finds. Below is a bucket of pottery ready to go back to the lab.
In order to entice people to pottery wash, which actually isn't that much fun, we put out coffee and tea. Not that the coffee is that great - Elite - a famous Israeli brand that I think only our pals J and M enjoy.
Here we are bagging up the dry pottery from the pervious day. Sometimes there are some interesting nuggets in the very dirty pottery - painted decoration, incisions and appliques. At times it is a bit like a treasure hunt, but mostly it is just a tedious part of the life of an archaeologist. Pottery washing is a good time to sit around and talk about the days events, or how we are going to proceed the next day and how we could improve on aspects of the recording system or excavating methodology. We try to be as inclusive as possible and ask for and encourage input from the students (both positive and negative). Sometimes we just argue about the merits of Harry Potter - preparing one of the students (AB) for her year in Cambridge. Or we just discuss the differences between Americans and Canadians, apparently there are many.
We have had a great couple of weeks. Everyone cheerfully carries out their assigned tasks. Last night we had movie night with popcorn and everyone crowded around Yo's laptop. We watched Star Wars (movie #4) but it was missing the final crucial Death Star scene - not sure it mattered since we had been playing a Star Wars drinking game . . . More adventures soon.

Marj Rabba Weeks 1 and 2

We have been remiss in reporting on the results of the first two weeks of our field season at Marj Rabba. We know there are 100s of diligent readers who are longing for an update, we apologize. We have had a great beginning of the season, finding walls, pottery, flint and basalt (which makes Yo very happy!). In case you need a reminder of what we are doing and why here's the low down.

By launching excavations in the Galilee, at large and small settlement sites (including Marj Rabba), specialized sites and caves, we hope to answer a variety of questions concerning the Chalcolithic period in northern Israel:

· What is the nature of Chalcolithic material culture in the Galilee? What are its hallmarks? How similar is it to the material culture in the Golan and in Lebanon, or the sites in the Negev and Jordan? Is it unique?

· What connection does the Galilean Chalcolithic share with tangent regions (Golan, coastal plain, Jordan Valley) and with places farther afield (Sinai, Egypt, Syria, Lebanon or Turkey)?

· What were the foundations of Galilean Chalcolithic subsistence and economy?

We are a small team of 8 people - Yo and Mo, 2 students from the University of Chicago, 2 from the University of Toronto (yeah! there is a big US vs. Canada rivalry at the moment), a PhD student from the University of Connecticut and one student from the University of Washington at St. Louis (she and Mo worked together in Turkey at the beginning of the summer, more on that later).

So before we could start we needed some help with weed/thistle clearance. We hired a local kibbutznik (young guy who had just returned from "finding himself" in Spain), with a weed whacker. But he was defeated by the stones, weeds and thistles. So we asked the local shepherd to bring his goats and cows through the site, which worked wonders. Of course they also left a lot of "special" presents.

We also needed to comply with some of the landowner requirements, so we rented a port-o-potty for the season. Here is Yo and the delivery guy setting up the site bathroom!

We also needed somewhere to store our tools and finds on site that we could then transport to Jerusalem for the post-excavation analysis. Here is our container being delivered to the site.

Goat herd eating weeds, you can just see Ali, the shepherd off to the far left.

Cows passing through the site, as we discuss where to place the container. Okay Mo is having some issues with uploading images, so more in a minute.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Michael Homan was right!

Our good friend Michael Homan after seeing our post about Yo's new position at the OI stated "Mo and Yo in the same city, let alone the same state and/or country was too good to be true". He was right. Last month Mo was offered a one year post doctoral fellowship at the Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology in the Ancient World at Brown University 
( For many of our non-American readers Brown University is in Providence, which is in the state of Rhode island - about an hour drive from Boston. 

This is an image of the new home of the Joukowsky Institute
Mo will be teaching a class on museums and policy in the fall and a class on Middle East Prehistory in the spring - good thing Yo is an an expert in the prehistory of the Middle East and Mo has at least studied prehistory and works in the Middle East! We have checked into flight schedules and Southwest flies direct from Chicago to Providence, so once again we will be a commuter marriage. Come visit either Chicago or Providence!!