Just to recap, the past 3 weeks have been devoted to survey, meaning walking around and picking up pottery in various places in order to learn more about a series of existing sites. We actually ended up discovering a new site! The report should be finished by the end of the summer, possibly sooner, and once it is I’ll try to somehow get it up on the blog.
But survey ended this past weekend, and we have been officially excavating since Tuesday! It took about 3 days and 45 workers to clear Tell Atchana of brush and debris accumulated since the last season. It was hard work but it was pretty satisfying to see the site in all its glory.
The trench that I work in is rumored to be the hottest trench on the site because of the lack of wind that the area receives. I was pretty scared on my first day out there, but we have a shade tent off to the side of the trench, and as long as you drink enough water it’s not much worse than the other trenches… plus my farmer’s tan is coming along nicely!
My official title is Trench Assistant, and I work under the Trench Supervisor Luca Tepedino, a volleyball-playing, spicy Italian gentleman. Aside from Luca and myself there are 6 Turkish workmen who do a fair amount of the digging and heavy lifting. I have to say that ours are pretty well-behaved compared to some of the other trenches. Most of our entertainment during break comes from exchanging stories about what weird activities they are up to while working, what colorful new vocabulary has been acquired, and who has earned a new nickname.
Our goal for the season is to uncover the floor of a courtyard surrounded by three walls in our trench. On the first day of digging we began by picking down 5 cm when we discovered a bunch of burnt material in one corner and a line of burnt mudbrick lined in plaster. It was very exciting, nobody expected us to find anything so soon! However, our find slowed our progress down to millimeters a day instead of centimeters. One of the workers spent almost 5 hours uncovering the fragile plaster with a dental pick usually used on human remains! I mostly work with a trowel scraping off the very top of the sun-baked soil in search of the faint outlines of mudbricks, then brushing it off. Scraping, brushing, scraping brushing. It sounds monotonous and can be at times, but when you find something it feels extra-satisfying!
A typical day starts at 4:45 am when we wake up. Breakfast is at 5:00, and we are on the site working by 5:30. We have a break from 8:30-9:00 with more food, and a Cola Mola (mola is Turkish for break) around 11:00. Work stops at 1:15 for lunch and a siesta, only to resume at 4:00 for processing and data entry. We usually finish work at 7:00, so days are very busy. Nobody really complains though because we all enjoy what we do, being out in the field is generally the highlight of an archaeologist’s year!
Today was a half-day and tonight we are celebrating the 4th of July early so that we preserve our day off tomorrow to go to nearby Antakya (Biblical Antioch) for some sightseeing and supplies. The BBQ starts soon so I should get going! Gule Gule!