May 2009

As much as I loved my first week of field school I was excited to see what weekends would be like. Turns out weekends are wonderful and another (totally non academic) reason to go to field school! Saturday our group went to a beach on the other side of the island and it was a postcard perfect beach: turquoise waters, white sand, cliffs you could climb…

Gorgeous beach on Menorca

Gorgeous beach on Menorca

Saturday was perfect but today (sunday) it decided to rain. Last year, the first couple weeks of the season were entirely rained out but we’ve been lucky and have had wonderful dry, warm weather. Since it rained today our site will be too wet to dig at tomorrow, which stinks since we haven’t been able to start excavation yet. Instead we will probably do some work washing pottery and sifting.

That’s how it goes, no schedule is set in stone here.

I have been thinking a lot lately about visas/permits/etc. There are different requirements to work, research, live, visit, or anything else you may be interested in doing in a country. I mention it now because I am currently in Los Angeles waiting to head off to Turkey. Hopefully. You see, we want to start working on June 10th (that’s about 12 days from now). But, the research permit has not been officially approved and therefore I haven’t bought a plane ticket…

The Aya Sophia (Hagia Sophia or Saint Sophia's) in Istanbul, Turkey

The Aya Sophia (Hagia Sophia or Saint Sophia's) in Istanbul, Turkey

This is a¬† pain that happens every year that we want to research in Turkey. It always comes right to the last minute, but somehow, things always turn out okay. (Hopefully I’m not jinxing this to be the first year of change…).

But, this type of stress isn’t just limited to working in a single country. I have a friend planning to excavate in South America and their permit has not come through either. He is planning on heading down there 2 weeks before excavations are supposed to begin in order to stand at the embassy and request (incessantly beg) to have the paperwork go through.

I am also preparing for a trip to both Israel and Ramallah (a large city in the occupied West Bank). So, I have been reading up on the realities of living in occupied territory. The book Sharon and My Mother In Law was a particularly interesting read as it focused on the life of a Palestinian woman living in Ramallah during the 80’s and 90’s. One of the major issues that she encountered was that she was not born in Israel or Ramallah even though she had lived there her whole life. Therefore, she was considered an outsider (just like I am when I go to work in Turkey each summer). Just like me, she had to constantly (every few months) apply for a new residency permit–just to live in her own house with her own husband. Just like my friend working in South America, she had to spend days and weeks standing in lines at the govt offices just to get her permit renewed–so that she could spend another couple of months as a guest in her own home.

Location of the West Bank and Israel

Location of the West Bank and Israel

The more I am annoyed with waiting to hear about whether my permit will be approved to research in a foreign land each summer…The more I am thankful that it is not something I have to do every few months in order to live in my LA apt with my sister and two cats.

–Ashley Sands

Spain, Alaska, Mediterranean views, Cheetos in a tent a zillion miles from civilization… Pish. This weekend Ashley and I made the exotic trek to Bakersfield, California to present at the American Rock Art Research Association (ARARA)– a trip filled with views of cattle, caravans of trucks huffing and puffing their ways up the Interstate 5, and rolling brown hills. Bakersfield is usually about 1.5-2 hours away from central LA, but the traffic was so bad leaving Brentwood that it took us nearly FOUR hours to get there. In-N-Out was desperately needed by the both of us, and we finished both our meals on the road, before we’d even gotten 8 miles out from the parking lot. The conference was held at the Doubletree Hotel, a small hotel near the exit for the 5, and about five miles from my aunt’s house.

Sarah working out her nerves before presenting at ARARA

Sarah working out her nerves before presenting at ARARA

Upon arrival to drop off our presetation the night before, the presentation coordinator looked surprised to see Ashley and I standing in line to have our powerpoint checked… I was confused as to why she would be surprised, but realized that Ashley and I are probably about 40 years younger than everyone in the organization. At first this was a little disheartening, but I soon found that it was more scary– that just meant that everyone else was 40 years more experienced than me in the field of rock art! Luckily my aunt’s house always brings happy memories for me, like Thanksgiving and housesitting with HDTV, and proved to be a nice, calm place to crash before the conference frenzy.

We woke up bright and early to the smell of bacon and croissants, and headed out to the conference for Donna Gillette’s (a Berkeley anthropology professor and strong supporter of the NACL project) paper, and a few other papers about California rock art, of which there is no dearth. I want to PTM everything that was discussed, of course, but I’m looking forward to exploring the Coso Range petroglyphs… Any volunteers to help? ūüôā¬† We stayed through a BLM panel on site visitor impacts and their methods of controlling vandals, which was interesting in that there really is no way to control visitors aside from restricted access to guided tours. Plenty of condemnation of vandals, and the presentation of rock art descriptions on advertising websites/guide books (“doodles”? oh please…) came up. Ethical problems were discussed mostly– the same ethical problems that come up in other archaeological discussions come up in the case of rock art.¬† True, no UNESCO agreements govern the exportation of rock art panels and boulders (because they cannot be moved), but the American people own the sites located on public land. That being said, how does the government protect these sites while still allowing the owners access? Is restriction ethical on a legal basis in this case? How can we allow appreciators of rock art access while filtering out vandals and other criminals? The answers aren’t so easy…

Our session was up next, and I will stop here for a second and just mention that public speaking is not a very strong point for me. Yes, I took drama in high school for four years, and was in plenty of productions. Yes, I helped write the paper. Yes, I’ve explained this project about a zillion times in other papers and grant proposals, and to curious friends and family. And yes, I’ve even somewhat presented this paper before (I clicked up the powerpoint while Lucy presented). While I know this project back and forth, upside down and inverted, the clammy palms and asthmatic tightening of my chest was intense. And my entire script was already written… Sheesh.

The first paper of our session was AWESOME. It was a rock art database, similar to ours, but using a Python database (30,000 lines of code!!) instead of a GIS base. While it seemed complicated the way the presenter explained it, it looked very user friendly. Check it out:

The second paper was about XRF dating rock art. “What?” was mine and Ashley’s reactions. It seemed viable, but still somewhat… Complicated? It was several parts using spawled samples of paint, etc. I couldn’t really see his powerpoint (we were off to the side) but he didn’t really give too many results/data about his conclusions.

And then our paper. Ahh… I had to stand on a stage alone with a podium, mic to my face, staring into a sea of scholars’ faces (250!!) . Deep breath and… go. I was focused on enunciating and speaking slowly, and did well until I looked up and saw the wrong video was playing. I panicked a little, but kept going. I have faith in Ashley… And so that was it. Just reading a 6 page paper while Ashley clicked up videos. I was more nervous giving this paper than I was skydiving! Crazy…

Ashley and the banner at ARARA

Ashley and the banner at ARARA

After our session, Carla Shroer and Mark Mudge of Cultural Heritage Imaging (CHI) came and spoke to us. They came up behind us and I got scared for a second, partly out of surprise and partly because they look exactly like their pictures from our powerpoint. They spoke to us about a lot of technical things that most people (sometimes including Ashley and myself) wouldn’t understand. The exciting thing is that they’ve set up the Gizmo in our lab! And new software is being produced for better quality, easier to use RTI (PTM) processing/viewing!

And then Ashley and I booked it back to LA, where I slept like a baby after my adrenaline rush. I love conferences! Now to publish the proceedings…

~Sarah Butler

This is my first field school experience and it’s hard to imagine a more perfect location than the island of Menorca. Smack in the middle of the Mediterranean, Menorca has been ruled and used by the Greeks, Carthaginians, Romans, Moors, British, French, and now it’s part of Spain. The site I’m working on is part of Torre d’en Galmes and is one of the largest sites on the island. All of Menorca is actually a biosphere, which means it’s totally protected. This is my first real day of excavation, so we’ll just be cleaning up the site and removing back-filled dirt. The field school is currently excavating a house that dates back to the Talayotic culture (about 800 B.C.).

Site visit in the few first few days at Menorca.

Site visit in the few first few days at Menorca.

If I’m going to be honest, though, you should know that Boston University is extremely kind to their field school students and eases them into the daily schedule. That means we’ve had lectures and toured the site but we’ve also slept in and toured the town. Tomorrow the early mornings begin.

–Cara Polisini

Two days ago, I was eating a bag of Cheetos in the cook tent and noticed that each time I wiped my mouth with¬†a napkin it left¬†chocolaty¬†smears on the paper.¬† It wasn’t the radioactive orange you usually get from dyed cheese–I wondered if being in the sun all day had blurred my vision, since there wasn’t a chocolate bar within 20 miles of our camp site.¬† Wiping away a fleck of Cheeto that had landed on my backpack, I noticed the same Munsell shade of brown coming off the cloth and realized that my entire face was covered in a patina of dirt.¬† Chatting with my pit neighbors, I had forgotten to watch the wind direction while screening my buckets of loess!¬† It being the fifth day I had rooted around in dirt for eight hours, though, nobody really remembered what I looked like originally and didn’t think to point out the grime around my lips.¬† They were as dirty as I was.

Yesterday, Saturday,¬†was a big day: We had our first¬†shower of the week!¬† All 23 of us piled into University of Alaska vans and drove to the nearest town, Delta Junction, where there were RV parks with laundry machines, flush toilets, and showers.¬† It was glorious.¬† This morning I woke up with a headful of individual¬†glossy black¬†strands,¬†not Twizzler-like clumps,¬†and had to¬†muss it around several times just to make sure I wasn’t dreaming the miraculous 10 minutes of running water each of us had witnessed yesterday.

Now we are sitting in front of the Delta community library and using the free wireless.¬† Everything is closed because it’s Memorial Day weekend.¬† My power is about to run out so more later!

–Tiffany Tsai

Ah, End-Of-Semester-Madness. Strangely, this is never seen as a pandemic though it affects thousands of college (and to some extent high school) students throughout the world every Spring and Fall. Definitely much more widespread than this N1H1 virus. Symptoms include insomnia, delerium, anxiety, panic attacks, and a tendency to waste time watching Youtube ridiculousness with a slight haze of guilt.

The lab is pretty much dead around this time, other than the poor soul wandering in who has not started their ancient vessel research for Anthro 310. You can hear Ashley watching Stephen Colbert, and Professor Dodd’s conference calls become longer since she’s been alleviated of undergrad nagging (though her absence at the moment makes the lab seem eerily quiet). Meetings with her have ceased for the semester, though many have not really seen the interior of the lab since the Symposium.

I suppose the most notable thing to write about at the moment is the distant feeling of excitement for summer– being lazy, eating Chips Ahoy and watching a marathon of Flight of the Conchords, lazing about… And then, you know, jumping into a muddy hole somewhere on the other side of the world, using a latrine, taking malaria pills and hanging out with dead/old things way cooler than your grandma. I am the only person on the executive board staying stateside this summer. Though I feel disappointment for not being able to live with the danger of contracting typhoid for two months, I feel confident in that I could possibly kill myself while databasing historic screws and nails. Yes, you got it, screws and nails.

To liven this entry up, here’s where everyone else is going:

Ashley, Kristin, Sarah Hawley, Lee, Ethan, Lexy, Christian, Aaaron: Turkey (Professor Dodd)
Aaron: Ramat Rahel, some other place in Israel (someone else remember please?)
Tiffany: Alaska for a CRM/Field School with U. Alaska
Sara Pitts: Belize (UCLA)
Jenny: Peru (Dr. Boytner, UCLA)
Jacob: Peru (School?)
Cara: Menorca, Spain (Boston U)
Kelsey: Tuscany, Italy (School?)

And I’m at the Getty, interning… For some screws and nails.

~ Sarah Butler

The duality of the blacknesses in the hoodie and blazer makes an interesting composition.  (The bluenesses, though, not so hot.)

The duality of the blacknesses in hoodie and blazer makes for an interesting composition.

Just like companies have quarterly meetings where they look over their checkbooks and decide who to lay off, we had our last Society for Trojan Archaeologists (STARC) meeting of the year today, over free pizza and soda from the ARC lab. ¬†Fortunately it appears that we are doing a lot better than corporate America. ¬†Thanks to the administrative genii who run the lab, we managed to secure funding for a lot of the trips and guest lectures that enhanced our¬†program this¬†year, and our WMD-sized bevy of research projects, conference papers, and symposium entries have detonated squarely in the line of sight of the Powers that Be. ¬†We were unable, furthermore, to think of any other lab which was handed as much money for undergraduate activities in 2009 during¬†a few moments¬†of silence while¬†everybody¬†thoughtfully chewed their crust. ¬†It might have been the carbohydrates going to our heads–but if you can think of just one, kindly leave a comment and I’ll definitely¬†treat you to some leftover pepperoni slices.

No one was laid off this quarter–granted, a lot of us are volunteers but even those have gotten $$$ from said Powers–and we actually hope to hire more¬†indentured servant-students¬†in future.¬† With an archaeology minor in the works and open positions for work-study students, the lab is set to grow like a giant spaghetti monster, implying that it may consume your life BUT in a very delicious way!¬†¬†Our funding officer Sarah, v.p. Aaron, and president Sarah received blue t-shirts and a black zip hoodie today with “Archaeological Research Collection” across the back, in commemoration of how much¬†history the current Archaeological Research Center already has.¬† Sarah B. buried her face in the blue fabric and reported that it smelled of that school-which-shall-not-be-named.¬†¬†No more are those dark days¬†when Its evil¬†sphere of influence¬†seeps into our psyche!¬† (Although those Cotsen hats are kind of cool.)

So as the year is winding down, many of us are preparing for a life-transforming¬†experience: the Field School.¬† Field schools are like the archaeological equivalent of an internship, except when you embark on the latter no one gives you the horrified,¬†pitying¬†shriek¬†my best friend¬†emitted into¬†the phone¬†when I told her I was going camping in the Alaskan Subarctic for five weeks. ¬†Among the other destinations of our cadre are Peru, Belize, Menorca, Tuscany¬†and Turkey. ¬†Quite a host is going to Turkey since that’s where Professor Dodd works. ¬†In the weeks forthcoming, look for posts from around the world about our new and exciting lives in the field.

–Tiffany Tsai

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