Well, this summer’s wonderful archaeological experience is now officially over. I arrived back in the States on the 26th, and while it’s nice to have hot water and deliciously awful food again, I really miss Turkey.

This summer was long and full of hard work, but in the end we all learned so much about how to survey, excavate, and perform archaeological analysis. I ended up spending most of my time with the home team, drawing and inking pottery illustrations. I’m now quite proficient at inking despite a few days of horrific failure and periodic pen explosions. Some of my illustrations may be used in future publications, and I can’t wait to see them in print! I plan to return next year for the Alalakh study season to draw EVEN MORE pottery and help out Mara, the amazing local pottery specialist, with her work.

Now the fall season of fellowship applications, grad school apps, GRE preparation, and all the rest of senior year responsibilities has begun, and Turkey has changed from a fascinating and complicated reality to a wonderful memory. In fact, I am currently sitting in the ARC lab at 9:30 AM, thinking about the things I miss about Turkey and preparing to begin my draft for the Provost’s Undergraduate Research Fellowship (which all USC archaeology students should apply to!)

Soon it will be time for the first STARC meeting of the semester… get excited!!!

I’ll add some pictures later… right now it’s time to work.

-Sarah Hawley

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.

-Lexy Sinnott

Hello loyal readers (however many of you there may be)!

It’s been a long time since I’ve posted, so let me take this opportunity to update everyone on what’s new.

Basically… not much.

Just kidding. We’re halfway through the dig season, and I am now officially on the home team every day, drawing and inking and creating an illustration master list.  My 14-column Excel chart of drawn sherds from the last four years is now 828 lines and counting. I’ve been working on it all morning after discovering more scanned inkings on the server. Organization hadn’t been the greatest until this year, so a large part of what Ashley and I are doing involves making lists and compiling information on what exactly has been analyzed and what hasn’t.

Aaaaaaand the power just went out. Whee! That means it’s over 100 degrees with no fans!

Anyway, besides working on the sherd chart, I’ve also spent the last week learning how to ink my drawings! I actually find the process strangely soothing, probably because I’m a little crazy. But there’s nothing more satisfying than a perfect ink drawing after the long process of illustration. Once I finish inking everything I’ve drawn this year, I will scan them into the computer and create a folder on the server in which ALL THE ILLUSTRATIONS AND INKINGS AND SCANS FROM THE LAST FOUR YEARS AND MY WONDERFUL CHART are beautifully organized. Yes!!!!!!!!!

I did get to go out to the field for a week or two. I got to work with Lee in her trench, supervised by our good friend Marjie. We had a wonderful time getting hot and dirty and joking with the workers. I even got to excavate some awesome pottery pieces! (Top secret, naturally). I also learned how to take levels, bag finds, and identify mudbricks, skills that will be essential in everyday life once I return to USC. Or maybe not, but I’d love to come back next year and put them to good use!

Lee, Sneh, Nancy, and Su left yesterday, and I already miss them. The excavation team is getting smaller every week as people drift off to school and the “real world,” and I’m sad to see them go. Today was especially hard because Ashley is going to an AWESOME CONFERENCE in Ramallah where she will be heading a session on youth and the future of archaeology. It’s a great opportunity, but I’m going to miss her 😦  We’re home team buddies who keep each other sane during the long days. Now it’s just me, sitting in this mudbrick house, getting way too excited about pens.

I’m having a wonderful time here, long hours and (occasionally) monotonous work aside. The people are wonderful, the surrounding area is beautiful, and I feel proud to be a part of such an extensive and impressive project. If my inkings are good enough, they may someday be included in a publication, which would be absolutely wonderful.

I do miss things about the real world (best friend/current Peruvian archaeologist Jenny, pizza, really cold soda, butter, sleeping in, pretty clothes), but I’m going to be very sad when I leave Turkey to go back to school. This experience has been amazing in so many ways, both professionally and personally, and I’m so happy I decided to stay for the entire excavation season.

Now why am I getting maudlin? I still have a month left! Plenty of time for Turkish escapades and exciting archaeology. Also plenty of time for more blog posts… so consider yourselves warned.

In the meantime, here’s a picture of me in the illustration lab, once again hard at work!

Hard at work

Hard at work

More updates to follow!

Good morning world!!!

It’s about 7 AM, and we are in the midst of the last work day of the week. Only 6 1/2 more hours of pottery drawing and Fun With Excel before lunch!

I am currently caught up with all the pottery drawing–today I have one more pot to draw, and then I get to continue my latest exciting project: creating a master list of all the sherd illustrations from 2006 to present. Once this is completed, the information will be added to the database where it can be accessed easily.

Im proud of my pottery drawings!

I'm proud of my pottery drawings!

I’m in an excellent mood today, probably because last night was so fun. As Lexy posted, we went to a wedding at Atchana and danced non-stop. It was great to interact with the villagers in a context other than that of excavation. The music was loud, the clothes were beautiful, and everyone was very welcoming and enthusiastic. When we got back to the compound, Wuthering Heights was playing on the projecter, complete with Turkish dubbing. It was entertaining to watch without understanding what the actors were saying.

Speaking of understanding… I have officially begun my quest to learn Turkish! I’ve been studying during breaks and talking to Pinar, Neslihan, and Ferhat, three amazing people from the home team. They’ve been very sweet and helpful and have been kind enough to teach me a few raunchy things to say as well, just so I’m not limited to “Hello” “Goodbye” and “I go over there now” 🙂 With any luck, I will be able to have basic conversations before the season ends.

Time to get back to drawing!

-Sarah Hawley

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