The school year’s starting. Last Wednesday, the summer ghost town campus succumbed to clumping freshmen and swerving bicycles, and this past week was move-in week. As I tried to fall asleep under an unfamiliar popcorn ceiling the first few nights, it still seemed strangely limiting to sleep a few layers of insulation removed from open sky. Alaska was on my mind, instead of sheep.
I had a number of random thoughts. First, what were my comrades doing at that very moment? Quite a few had stayed on for CRM projects, some lasting into September, so probably they were huddling in tents somewhere along the Tenana River and using the last rays of 16-hour sun to write up their pits. Later when it was totally dark, they might take “smoke baths” to keep the skeeters at bay – it’s when you stand over the campfire and flap your shirt and underwear to fill it with smoke. This is actually very legit! I will never forget the looks on the other customers’ faces when we strode into the grocery store pre-shower, post-smoke bath and began mass ordering steak fries.
Lest too light winning make the prize light, this only happened on Saturdays
Some people stayed in Alaska because they live there. “I live in Alaska” is in fact a loaded sentence. Debate rages over whether one, two, or more years of residency constitute valid Alaskanship because the mental sheet foil one initially brandishes against the long, hard winters may turn out to be a specious banner of bravado, flown only to advertise one’s own machismo. Then one gets SAD and must seek tanning beds, and then one surreptitiously slithers across the border to Washington. Of the indisputable Alaskans, one friend signed onto a helicopter survey, so I hoped she had not gotten airsick while dangling equipment over the Tangle Lakes mountain ranges. The lakes provided our TA’s gambit for his powerpoint to recruit people for a weekend camping trip: “As you can see, archaeology is a thankless job, I mean, can you believe I have to hike across all this endless terrain and take pictures of all these boring landscapes?”
"Archaeology is a thankless job"
If the survey had already ended, she was probably helping her dad make reindeer sausage or hunting for moose. You can hunt as much moose as you want in Alaska, but what you can’t finish, you have to give away. It is illegal to sell moose meat.
Regarding family life, the dogs of Alaska rated a thought there. Almost everybody had their own lovely mutts at home, and eventually we had all talked to each other’s dogs on the phone. We also had a camp dog, Bella, who belonged to one of the TAs and hung out under the equipment tarps while the rest of us sweated in the hot sun. Well, no, I don’t want to be misleading – it was around 80 degrees – but eventually I came around to the Alaskan way of thinking and marveled at my own ability to wear long sleeves in weather hotter than room temperature. Other than Bella, there was a muddy stray who clambered up our bluff one morning, and whose collar tag bore an address from 20 miles away! Reasonably, she collapsed on top of my neighbor’s quad – crumbling the corner he had just spent the last hour straightening.
I wondered what had become of our dig site. Right before we left we worked on drawing the soil profile, but a sudden hail storm halted work for that day. As we left it, if it were to be discovered by archaeologists thousands of years in the future it would have looked like the dwellings of a rigidly controlled and psychologically anal society, based on the straightness of our walls. Volunteers were supposed to keep digging after we left, however. An unexpected benefit of going to this field school was meeting many nontraditional students, people who had started college in their twenties and thirties or gone on personal adventures in the middle of their undergrad years, and for whom “archaeological technician” would just be the crowning title on a resume listing ranch hand, concertmistress, U.S. geological surveyor, and work-study painter. I miss being around such an academically diverse student group and the learning environment that forced us into close quarters, smelly or not, day in and day out.
I also miss our camp chef’s Southern cooking. She was a smoker and made dishes too salty and spicy, which counteracted the taste of silt in our mouths.
Overall, I learned a lot. Sometimes by completing the reading about Paleoindians, other times (when I had not completed the reading) by looking out the door of my tent.
Room with a view
Hi all! So I only have ten more days to be out here at Atchana! It will be a bittersweet paring–but I am definitely ready to return home to my own bed after being abroad for 2.5 months!!!
On one of our well-earned days off we went to Harbiye (a waterfall village outside of Antakya) and had a great day. We ate lunch with our feet in a running stream and bought all sorts of overpriced knick-knacks. It really reminded me of Hasankeyf!
Anyway, here is a photo of us hanging out…and I already miss some of these guys who went home already!!!
Salihe, Liz, Gokhan, Lexy, Aycan, Su, and I at Harbiye
T-minus 4.5 days until I a.) finish with the Getty b.) have to start getting ready for school c.) have no summer left (classes start on the 24t). It might be too early to start reflecting on my experiences here, but I’ve really had an amazing time here. I have a bit of down time right now, so this will be a fairly long entry (but interesting! always interesting…)
The Getty Villa, a 1:1 recreation of the Villa of the Papyri, the most luxurious villa in Herculaneum
Yesterday the interns made the arduous journey to the Getty Villa in Malibu. I’d only been there once before for College Night last October… I actually got the info about this internship from Angie Kim, the program director who was there promoting the graduate internship (and scared me with statistics about who actually gets the internal undergrad Getty internships– it’s basically a 13% chance). That night there were plenty of epicurean delights and tours of conservation labs, and I think I spent more time ogling the colored marble inlaid floors/peristyle architecture than looking at the antiquities, wondering how you would ever furnish such a large estate… Given that experience, it was pretty amazing to have the opportunity to have a tour given by Marie Svoboda and Allison Lewis of the Antiquities conservation department, a nice introduction to the Georgian site of Vani graves’ excavation exhibit by the curator David Saunders, and a grounds/architecture tour by Ken Lapatin (who curated the Pompeii exhibit).
Ken’s tour was really something because we got to head off the public campus, see the remnants of J. Paul Getty’s zoo (a bear pit!!), and pay our respects to the man who pays our stipends. Yes, that’s right, we visited THE J. Paul Getty II’s and two of his sons’ grave sites. For a man who insisted on precision, classical grandeur, and made outrageous, lavish requests, his grave was incredibly simple– three large pieces of granite placed over him and his kin, plain, with a terrace wall made of similar granite behind him with their names listed. No sentiments, just names. The grave is located behind a moderately elaborate, small iron gate in a secluded grassy knoll surrounded by eucalyptus trees. Before the trees grew so large, the site must have had had incredible views. Here Ken gave us a lot of background on the man and how he worked his way from the OK oil fields to a Ranch House in the Malibu hills. He was basically Bruce Wayne (Batman for you who know not of DC Comics)– a young billionaire playboy, industrialist, traveler, and philanthropist. Secret moonlighting profession is unconfirmed.
Click Here for a short movie on Bronze Lamp Conservation (Getty Villa)
I’d seen the conservation labs before (the organics, metals, stone and science), but the projects are always intriguing. Currently they are working on some Dresden Museum vases excavated from South Italy in the 19th century and analyzing prior restorations and original creation of the vases. The FTIR, X-Radiographies and UV photos are showing them amazing things about a 19th century restorer’s skills, and how he was making a genuine attempt to make blanks (to fill in holes in the vases) that were as close to the original pieces as possible. This makes me wonder about USC’s artifacts… The Getty’s current Vani exhibit brought them an Erotes lamp (lamp with a bunch of little Cupids) that was found in a cut rock pit. The Eros figures had corrosion all over them, to the point that the figures themselves looked like they were carved out of the rust. Some figures had spearpoints adhering to them because the corrosion had glued them together. The before and after cleaning is remarkable, and they left some corrosion on the lamp in the exhibit to show its history. They are also overseeing the objects for the upcoming exhibit on Aztec art and its connections with Greco-Roman art that is opening in March 2010., and monitoring this magnificent Roman eagle that suffers from “Bronze disease”, which is kind of like leprosy for bronzes. I met with Marie and Allison afterward for coffee to talk about antiquities conservation and their choices/career paths. It was great to learn about objects conservation in this context– now I have a pretty good picture about my options in this field… I should have popped in and picked up info about the UCLA/Getty Program.
The Vani exhibit is pretty. It’s like being at Tiffany’s but better, since it’s from Vani. Everything is extremely delicate gold with granulation. This made me reflect on the realities of archaeology and the difference between what is important and what goes in a museum. Not to say they are mutually exclusive, but animal bones and ancient poop would never be displayed in a high class joint like the Getty. There is a beautiful Romano-Egyptian mummy in the exhibit… Sigh. This trip made me excited to go back to school and learn more about Near Eastern Archaeology, of which I am woefully ignorant. But not too excited.
Other things that have gone on: My website is on a server so I am just inputting data. The Frenchies who have been building it are now on vacation
so I am putting whatever I have here online. Joanna, the Paintings Curatorial Department Intern, set us up with Peter Bjorn Kerber and Mary Morton, curators specializing in the pre- 18 c. and 18c.-present paintings respectively.
"A Titian in Good Condition" - Peter Kerber
Peter’s talk was hilarious and informative. For those of us who have no curatorial experience, it was fascinating to learn about what sorts of decisions need to be made about purchase, quality, value, etc. His selection of works to illustrate his points were amusing, as he made sure to show us works by painters who are unknown and no one cares about but have amazing preservation, the value of a name (Titian), the importance of a piece to a collection rather than its value on its own, the importance of showing a school of painting, etc. When we came to the painter whose name is unrecognizable, Peter looked at us and asked, “Who do you think are the most requested painters by the public? As a large museum, which painters do you think they expect to see but aren’t here?” (The security guards were surveyed about the most asked questions that the public asks them). Everyone mentioned the Old Masters– Da Vinci, Raphael, Michaelangelo… Peter nodded yes, and added “Donatello”. To those of you who haven’t taken an art history course, Donatello is strictly a sculptor. Apparently, since he was part of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, they assume he was a painter. Too funny.
Peter took us around to a few other paintings, including a beautiful portrait of Jesus by Reni on copper. I’m not too interested in the symbolism (I was personally tired of seeing Jesus– no offense Big Guy, but you’ve got galleries here in the Getty) but the use of materials was amazing– the choice of copper to illustrate the symbolism, the physical properties that ensure sustainability, the glowy-ness of the painting and the richness of the color because of the medium. I like that, back in the day, artists were chemists and understood their media. In that respect, art has an understanding with science, and they work together to create something beautiful.
- Marquise de Miramon, née, Thérèse Feuillant, a painting shown by Mary Morton
Mary Morton is leaving the Getty for the National Gallery to be Curator of French Paintings. She’s that good. I like her sass, and she gave great talks on the pieces that she’s recently acquired and further elaborated on value and the process of creating a comprehensive collection. I also like that she didn’t take us straight to the Irises, or the Waterlilies, but to a Degas that didn’t have to do with ballerinas. And then to a Gauguin that they chased around Europe for 8 years, and finally have it up… Only to be oddly received. It’s pretty morbid, the subject matter being a decapitated head on a silver platter in Tahiti. I liked the choices of work to present, mostly because I can read about the Irises until I’m cross eyed, and each painting, though it may have been banal subject matter, had a fascinating story behind it. Hooray.
Wow that was a lot of typing… Kristin and comes home today from Israel/Palestine. Maybe I can get her to blog about it. We’ll see.
I have so much to say about my experience here in Palestine. Unfortunatly I think I am still processing many of the experiences and will have difficulty putting them into words here. So for now, pictures can help tell the story.
1. The dehumanizing nature of the setup of the checkpoints between Israel and the West Bank
The check point coming from Palestine to Jersualem in Israel
2. The streets in the old city of Nablus are littered with posters. These posters show the faces of Palestinian men, women, and children all killed by Israelis in this last intifada (since 2000).
The faces of those martyred since 2000
3. The Separation Wall. At some points in the wall, it is only a barbed-wire fence. But, some places are linked with sensors that automatically shoot if triggered.
The wall separating Israelis and Palestinians
just some things to think about…
I’m officially halfway through my field school experience and am currently sitting around waiting to see if the rain decides to let us work today. We’ve finally collected enough information to start forming some ideas about how this site was used in the past. The size of the structures in combination with the amount of lithics present as well as the varying sizes of lithics being found are leading us to believe that this could possibly have been a lithics production site. This would be really interesting for Mayan archaeology because there is only one other known lithics production site. Over the years people have said a lot about the Mayan elites and lower class, but not so much has been said about a middle class. If this is indeed another production site, the professors think this could be the perfect site to learn more about this proposed middle class. The only problem is we’re running out of time to collect more data. Working on a new site has been exciting for its sheer unpredictability, but at the same time frustrating because everyone is so hesitant to make definite statements about what went on there. Bottom line, I want to know more!
happy thoughts and fun times,
Kristin and I presented our session at the World Archaeological Congress today in Palestine and it went very well! We started with a powerpoint presentation outlining our project. We then opened the floor up to questions and we steered the dialogue via specific conversation topics that we had prepared. In all, our session had a lot of participation and lasted over an hour!
I feel like the entire room (but especially us) learned a lot. We also met and had lunch with about a dozen Palestinian archaeology students, as well as creating connections with their professors. It was an amazingly beneficial day–and–Aaron had a day off from excavation and he came and watched our presentation!
Four Trojans in Ramallah!
Posted by Ashley Sands under Conferences Leave a Comment
Kristin and I deliver our session at the WAC Ramallah conference today! Wish Us Luck!
More updates to follow, but if you are interested in learning more about the project we are presenting today, check it out here:
Getty-ing better all the tiiiime!
Pretty lame, I know, but daaaang my internship just gets better and better. Today, I had the privilege of attending an extremely rare small convention (~35) of conservators, curators, scientists and arts officials from four places: the Getty (Museum Conservation, Curation and Conservation Science sectors), the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth, the St. Louis Art Museum and a private collector-scholar from England. All the buzz and travel was for three bronzes of Saint John the Baptist (you know, the one who was beheaded?) coming from the two out-of-state art museums and the art collector. Getty Conservators (in Dec Arts and Sculpture Conservation– that’s me!) have been doing technical studies of bronzes of all kinds, but these three that are strikingly similar are a bit of a mystery.
First, everyone met in the lab and got their first glimpses of all three together. After some preliminary discussion, we watched presentations of the methods used by the Getty to analyze the bronzes: X-Ray, X-Ray Fluorescence, CT Scans, X-Ray Defraction and 3D Scanning. There was a lot of rabble going on by the time we got to the 3D scanning, as it’s probably the first time a lot of people have seen this kind of technology. Most of the comparison in the 3D scanning came through millimeter measurements of differences in the composites of the bronzes when they were overlaid. The company and discussion was pretty epic– but not so epic that a little ol’ antiquities enthusiast couldn’t keep up. I learned an incredible amount of information about bronze casting, small details, how to look for them and what they imply, and about the latest technologies that we use even in archaeology. The data was a bit time-crunched and some of it had significant margins of error due to faulty software and Italian holidays (oh the woes of technology and Europeans!), but overall the data put together was pretty amazing– nothing conclusive yet, unfortunately. I am extremely impressed with 3D scanning resolution on a small scale, and really looking forward to the data that will further come from CT scanning certain sections of interest (especially the threaded lugs).
During a break, I spoke with the conservation labs manager David Carson and the chief of conservation science about imaging techniques and PTM!!! Giacomo Chiari is the chief of conservation science and quite an inventor– he invented the Duetto, a device that XRFs and XRDs at the same time. He also tinkers with PTMing, and actually removed the small perfectly cylindrical ball from a fine point Sharpie and used it as a ball for PTMing under a MICROSCOPE. I heard about him from Mark and Carla of CHI, but now that I meet the man I can tell he’s a pretty kooky Italian guy who really just has a passion for gizmos (scientists are so cool!). I’m not going to get my hopes up too high, but he mentioned us taking some PTMs together. Not gonna get my hopes up… Not gonna get my hopes up… But I really hope it happens!
Anyway, as my internship continues to move forward, I feel like the answer to the overarching question that I’ve heard many times these ten weeks is becoming more and more clear. “What are you doing in an internship that deals with 16-19th century European decorative art when you’re an archaeology major with an interest in Asia?” The past two days I’ve been learning about a lot of stuff to do with Japanese lacquer and importation from Burma, as well as reading about archaeology notes from an excavation of a lacquer shop in southern Japan. Today, I learned details about technology that I never deal with at USC but have an opportunity to become intimate with here at the Getty– technology that is very relevant to archaeology. I’ve had tours of all the GCI labs, met the crazy people who work there, had my mind blown by the crazy equipment, observed the quirks between different conservation specialists, and next week I get to go to the Getty Villa for a tour of the labs there, galleries, and am meeting with a lab conservator there and their UCLA/Getty graduate who is a current intern. I’ve met with people who work on the Mogao Caves, on wall paintings in Turkey, and conserved a then-freshly excavated pyramid in Guatemala with wall art depicting a creation story chalk full of runes that pre-date Mayan writing and no one has figured out. Overall, I’ve explored a very real career path possibility sort of as a side track.
I should also mention that the database I’ve been working on is almost live! To beat all the people who are going out of town, we had a farewell lunch for me yesterday and I got a very sweet card from the department and some REALLY COOL books: One is the GCI publication about their work on sites along the Silk Road (from 1993– they had to pull some strings to get me one!) and their published results of their Mogao conservation years. I am going to go home and read them now…
Super exciting news! A couple of days ago the 2 main guys in charge Samuel Connell and John Morris got lost while trying to find another route to Aguacate and ended up accidentally finding an entirely different/new site about 2 1/2 km away. As of yet all of us students have yet to see this new site because they are trying to negotiate with the Menonites who own all the land to convince them to let us excavate that site too. So cross your fingers for me because the professors said this site was just as big if not bigger than the one we’re currently digging at and I really want to see it!
At my excavation unit we’re still finding mostly flakes and sherds but today we also found several hammerstones and have uncovered a surprisingly intact stair-step. We also have collected enough sherds to tentativly date the latest occupation of the site to the late classic period.
More info to come as soon as I have it and the internet decides to work!
I am counting down my last days here at Tell Atchana and I have to admit that I will miss it here! I only have 3 more days in my trench, but luckily we removed most of the in-situ pottery today so I will get to see it all before I leave! In the past week we have been piecing together some really beautiful Syro-Cilician painted wares that will eventually be restored by our loverly conservation team!
Today we took final photos of this phase of our trench (3c in case you were wondering), and now we are beginning to take down some of the main features in order to see what is underneath… I can’t quite decide how I feel about this. We have spent the past month exposing all these interesting, beautiful features, and now we’re just going to destroy them all?? I guess that’s the whole idea behind archaeology though, you find something, study it, and keep moving. Which brings me to my next topic: documentation
The Alalakh documentation system is a beast. Every day we keep a daybook detailing what we dug and how we did it and describe EVERYTHING down to what color the dirt was, all while recording seemingly insignificant millimeter changes in elevation. On top of the documentation that takes place on site, we spend several hours each evening we do things like sorting pottery, entering lot and locus information into the database, and writing photograph descriptions. Some days I really dread this, but it is definitely the most important part of our job. Anyone can dig a hole in the ground and pull out some buried treasure, but we aren’t a bunch of Indiana Jones wannabes running around the desert (well, maybe some of us are). I would say I only spend 40% of the work day playing in the dirt, and the rest of my time is spent sampling, observing, and describing.
I know have mentioned before that I have become really attached to my trench and everything in it, so I am very sad to see it get big-picked into nothing. But thanks to the sickeningly thorough and precise nature of archaeology, I know that every single detail of its existence is neatly organized in the Alalakh database if I ever want to visit it. And who knows what we’ll find next? I’m sure that just a few centimeters under my beloved kitchen there is a whole new context just waiting for some caring archaeologist to tear it apart!!
Sadly though, I leave in 4 days… so it won’t be me. Probably Luca.
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