June 2009

Ah… While people slave in the Anatolian peninsular heat and take their malaria tablets, I bask on the terrace of the J. Paul Getty Center sipping beverages in the late afternoon sun, a light breeze coming from the west. It’s a small party of about 25 people, all who have worked hard to install the latest Dec Arts and Sculpture exhibition, French Bronzes: From Renaissance to Revolution. With enough Ella on the speakers, you can ignore the 405 and enjoy the conversation. The Lourve’s representative curator has made cheesy puffs that are delightful, and the head of conservation is pouring out the wine. On Monday, I am attending the private opening of the exhibition, which opens to the public on Monday.

Yesterday I made my rounds of the Getty Research Institute, which is phenomenal in its size and scope. I passed a beautifully bound 40-volume set of Buddhist texts. My current project (the database) has facilitated incredibly obscure knowledge about the obscure industry of 19th century cut nails and lathe-cut screws. I love factoids, and my research over the past few days has made me appreciate the art of forging, cutting, machinery, mechanical engineering and the ingenuity of the human race. Once again (I must sound like a broken record at this point!), it’s the little things that make you really consider the depth of human history– the published bits at least. And then it’s up to archaeology to fill in the other pieces! Hooray.

I was given the Getty-published conference proceedings from the WAC conservation meeting in 2003. I opened it up at lunch and behold! An article by Brian Fagan, the man who says archaeology is dead. His paper this time was more a (excuse me) bitchfest about ethics in archaeology, and the need for conservation in the field of archaeology. He mentions some of the older archaeologists, like Flinders Petrie and his book Methods and Aims in Archaeology, and their stance on ethics in their study. It was a tad soap-boxy, but still a very nice paper, both stylistically and in the way where it shows what archaeology lacks (had lacked in 2003?): a comprehensive approach to conservation of everything, and a conservationist approach to academic research. What he meant by this was, instead of just the “excavate, research, publish”, train academic archaeologists to have a similar conservationist attitude, as a CRM firm would have but without the “dig it up before someone else destroys it” mentality.

I love my job. That is all.

On another note, Michael Jackson died today. Cardiac arrest. Farrah Fawcett kicked it as well. Ed McMahon yesterday also passed. A bad week for the 1970s indeed…. On another (not disrespectful in any way) tangent, I wonder what MJ’s remains will look like to future archaeologists. Just a passing thought.

I´m not going to lie, I´m having the time of my life here in Cuzco. Yes, I haven´t started my archaeological work yet (early July-August 15th) but exploring the archaeological capital of South America and meeting AMAZING people along the way has truly been an incredible experience (and it has been only 4 days!!!!)

June 19th 2009-Today was my first eventful day in Cuzco. I took a taxi to the Avenida del Sol and exchanged some US dollars for Sols (the Peruvian currency). There was a massive parade of dancers dressed in brightly colored clothing that passed through the Avenida. After taking a few photos, I stumbled upon the central Plaza de Armas. It was a beautiful sunny day (SoCal weather!) and numerous tourists and police officers were strolling through the square. The views from the square are very nice-you can see the towering mountains and numerous Peruvian neighborhoods in the distance. My goal for the day was to see as many cathedrals as possible and that is precisely what I did.

I went inside the La Compania cathedral first and met a very friendly guide who gave me a tour of the church. The cathedral is very ornate and contains numerous colonial paintings depicting important religious and celestial figures. At the far end of the cathedral is a massive structure made of cedar wood covered in gold leaf. One half of the structure is of the Baroque style while the other half is of the Renaissance style. The tour guide and I spoke about how the Catholicism draws inspiration from other religions (Hinduism and Egyptian religion for example). After the tour, I spoke with the guide for a few minutes about life in the U.S. and breakdancing (which I find hilarious).

I then walked around the main Cathedral for a while and saw the famous Last Supper painting with the guinea pigin the middle. Although much grander than the La Compania, the main Cathedral is similarly very ornate and overall very Baroque. Afterwards, I walked through the Hatun Rumiyok and saw the famous the 12-angled Inca stones. The precision used in the stones´ construction is jaw-dropping (you cannot stick a piece of paper through). I then had an Asian tourist take a photo of me and a man dressed in Inca clothing standing beside the 12-angled stones. I then stopped at a restaurant and ate an alpaca sandwich for lunch (absolutely DELICIOUS).

In short, I explored some other cathedrals (San Blas, La Merced, and San Francisco). They are all very similar-intricate colonial facade, baroque interior, and colonial paintings. Walking through Cuzco´s streets is really interesting-there are very narrow streets, street vendors trying to sell you unoriginal tourist objects, numerous Andean women wearing traditional Peruvian clothing and carrying their children in cloth bundels wrapped around their bodies, and colonial buildings are everywhere.

I also saw a parade of very young dancers (5-7 years old) wearing traditional Andean clothing in the main Plaza de Armas in between visiting Cathedrals. The dancers wore a variety of different clothing-I saw feathers, masks, army outfits, and more.

During dinner, I met an awesome tour guide, who arrived at the restaurant with his group of trekkers. I spoke to a couple trekkers from NYC and exchanged stores for a good hour and a half. Overall, it was a very fun-filled day!

Overall, a very fun-filled day!

–Jacob Bongers

Quote of the day: “Archaeologists are the cowgirls of science.”

Pottery pun of the day: Did you hear about the shell cookpot that got in a fight?  I heard it had quite a temper!

Today we surveyed the bowels of hell.  No, really.  We were checking out a Middle Bronze Age site, surveying a field next to the tell.  However, due to the aforementioned field burning that has been going on throughout the area lately, the field was nothing but an endless expanse of ash.  Between the burning heat, the clouds of fine ash, and the high winds, the field began to feel like a never-ending wasteland.  We walked transect after transect as flurries of ash blew into our eyes and filled our noses.  Lee found some pretty cool pottery, but the rest of us didn’t have much success.  By the time we got back to the compound, we were filthy, smelly, and covered in a layer of black dust.

Survey is often frustrating, as usually we only find three or four sherds per ten meters, and sometimes not even that many.  Music makes the endless peering at the ground easier, so I started out my day with an optimistic “Drops of Jupiter.”  Six hours later, it was blowing ash and Nine Inch Nails blasting from my headphones.

After survey, we ate, showered, napped, and then reconvened to sort the pottery we’d found, wash it, bag it, and all the other necessary tasks before pottery experts can properly analyze the sherds. Then it was a (highly competitive, full of trash talking) game of volleyball. Score of Game 1: Nuri 15, me 9.  But it’s all right.  Next time I will destroy him.

-Sarah Hawley

The survey and excavation have yet to begin here at Tell Atchana, so we have spent the last few days learning some vital basic skills.  Sarah gave a rousing lesson on the art of pottery sherd drawing, a task that brings out the OCD in us all.  By the end of the day, we had spent so much time looking at rim types and inclusions that we became a bit delirious.  Obviously, punning ensued.

What did the potter say to the simple ware shallow bowl? – Don’t “Slip”

What kind of rim types are the most overworked and underpaid? – The ones that are “Inturning”

Why did the amphora think it was fat? – Because it had “Lug Handles”

After a good night’s sleep, we regained sanity and moved on to survey methods, the lesson that just kept on giving.  Have you ever seen those city workers in snazzy orange vests that stand in the middle of the street looking through little boxes on tripods? Well, today that was us! First we had to work our way across the compound to find the elevation of a post in the ground, which sounded scary but wasn’t too bad.  We finished in a timely fashion, and to everyone’s astonishment, we had the correct answer! (81.55 m above sea level, in case you were wondering)  Just when we thought we were done, Murat “the Monster” informed us that we would be taking measurements of 3 buildings using the terrifying $15,000 Total Station.  This machine uses an infrared signal and prism to read the distance and elevation of your desired point.  It was getting very hot and we had already heard 2 calls to prayer, so we were eager to finish quickly.  We got all of our readings in before lunch, and afterwards entered them in to a program to make  an aerial map of the buildings…. unfortunately, once our data was entered into the computer, ou rectangular buildings looked more like a scatter chart.  Oops!  Hopefully we’ll do better tomorrow on our first day of survey!! 🙂

-Lexy Sinnott

p.s. This was written several days ago, but the internet has been cutting out lately

I’ll be honest: my site doesn’t find much that would inspire masses of people to flock here. On our daily log sheets the cultural materials found part can almost always be filled in like this: pottery, bone, charcoal. sometimes the odd shell. maybe some slag. sounds like a dull dig. then we have these days where special finds literally fly out of the dirt.

the other day one of our students found a Roman coin. Covered in dirt we couldn’t read it so we sent it to a conservationist to clean it and analyze it.

So who was on the coin? Sabina, the wife of Hadrian, which made me ecstatic since I just spent all of last semester researching Hadrian and his economic policies.

So even though my site isn’t finding lost classical statues or rare forms of jewels I wouldn’t go back and pick another field school if I had the opportunity to.

June 18th, 2009

I have arrived in beautiful Cuzco, Peru!

The first thing that struck me about Cuzco is its beautiful location-it is nestled high up in the gorgeous Andean mountains. Everywhere I turn, I see the tall, snow-capped cliffs peering down on me. The city itself is also very beautiful, displaying a mixture of Spanish Colonial and Inca architecture. During my drive to I witnessed young students running happily to their classes, street vendors selling their hand-made crafts, and brightly colored buildings. Traffic was pretty bad during the drive but we made it through.

The hotel itself is absolutely perfect for me-It is centrally located (2 minutes walk from the central plaza) has free breakfast, and has very spacious rooms. The hotel representatives are super nice (my spanish isnt as bad as I thought!). I spoke with one of the representatives for around 45 minutes about my trip and she graciously offered her expertise and made excellent suggestions. I took it easy the first day in order to acclimate to the conditions. I rested and drank lots of coca tea in order to prevent altitude sickness from gripping my body. I had a wonderful chorizo sandwich for lunch and delicious hand-made pesto spaghetti for dinner. I will soon post about the EVENTFUL day I had today (June 19th, 2009)!

I dont know if internships are necessarily designed to be educational, but I feel like I learn some insanely large amount of knowledge every day. I say insane because my brain is shifting a zillion gears to keep up with all of it to the point where I go home and watch cartoons to shift into neutral for a second. I don’t feel overwhelmed though. In fact, I was just offered some cookies and another chance to take a look at the installation upstairs.

But wait, I am an archaeology student working in a department that specializes in 17-19th century European art at a desk with a couple books of screw and nail manufacturing manuals scattered about (delightful reads, really). What could I possibly learn that’s relevant?

Yesterday I had a private tour of the permanently exhibited French decorative arts collection before the galleries were open to the public with a guy who could tell you the aspirating something or rather about the lacquer on any of the pieces of furniture in that entire building. It was so fun to learn about the science of making that kind of furniture, the cultural elements that were necessary for those kinds of developments to happen… It was very similar to the kind of things you hear about in archaeology classes. We discuss irrigation a lot in archaeology, and the implications of finding certain materials in a dig (glass, bronze, etc), elements of one culture’s art in another culture. The evolution of technology, I think, is something we take for granted in this time. I mean, think about it– some dude 300 years ago had to FORGE a screw. And trust me, you did not want to make your living doing that (talk about boring).

All of this was inspired by a certain pendulum clock in the South Pavilion that had a mechanism for keeping track of solar time (not mathematical time) and I learned all about how they had to go through a really complex process of setting a clock properly until they realized that it does not take 24 hours exactly from one noon to another noon. Some days are shorter, some are longer. So they compensated by creating two clock devices in one– one for 24 hours, 60 minutes, 60 seconds, etc and one for the actual movement of the sun (there were four hands on the clock face). I say “were” four hands because a “restorer” took the mechanism out because it caused too much friction between all the hands and would be difficult to maintain. Wow, talk about professionally unethical… Which is also a problem in archaeology and maintaining original context etc etc blah blah.

It’s a damn shame that they don’t tell you some of the other things that I heard in that tour– it made my (foggy recollection of 10th grade) AP European History come alive. Like learning about how the French would purchase Asian lacquered furniture (which was usually on a flat surface), chop up the piece, cut off the thin piece of decorative art on that piece, and then glue it on to a more desirably/fashionably designed piece, as well as the labor it took to put that art on surfaces that were curved in any way (they would make cuts, similar to darting in clothing manufacture).

And today I had my fit test for a respirator (that I get to keep!). They let me take home a P100 CL/HC/SD/CD/HF/Organic Vapor cartridge so i can take it apart and look at what keeps the harmful stuff away. I also sat through hazardous chem/waste/respiratory equipment training that was actually pretty cool. Since I am not a scientist, I often forget that there are insanely poisonous chemicals out there.

At least I’m safe in the event of a chemical catastrophe. I’ll maintain a storage case of cartridges!

~Sarah Butler

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