Today was our last day on site. I spent the day mostly using a turrea to shovel dirt back into a bucket, to recover the mosaic that we uncovered to take photos and taking rocks out of the dirt before covering the mosaic with it. The remainder of the day was spend dusting off roads and pillars and the main coffin of the site.
This last experience gave me an increased understanding of archaeological work. I never suspected that once uncovered, parts of a site should then be re-covered but then I never factored in the threats posed to archaeological sites by looters and threats that natural factors could present for the quality of the mosaic. Moreover I learned from this site that one does not just shovel soil on a mosaic, there is a pattern of different earthen materials which has to be used to preserve the mosaic, one layer might have sand and the other soil and a third layer might have something completely different, the purpose being to come up with the right combination to best preserve the mosaic or valuable structure.Likewise, the more dusting I do in an archaeological setting, the better I become at it. I have gained increased understanding of the type of technique necessary with brushing. When dusting it is important to not brush against the wind otherwise the dust will be carried to the places where the archaeologist just dusted and he will have to clean them again.
All of these types of little hints and techniques will be useful to me if I would like to continue archaeological excavation in the future. Knowing the best ways to clean with a brush will make me more efficient at uncovering areas of sites which have to be photographed. Also, realizing the importance of covering certain areas and realizing the importance of getting the right combination of layers to cover those mosaics will help me in the future should I have to make a decision about the best way to preserve a certain valuable part of a site.
Today I stayed down working on a new form of data entry that had to do with small finds. This type of data entry is in many ways a lot shorter because all of the information that occurs under a given basket number of pottery automatically shows up when the number is entered.
The type of work I was doing involved describing finds in terms of their dimensions, what their subject category was, as well as their texture and color. These types of categorization gives me a whole new interpretation of the process. I had no idea that special finds went through another layer of categorization so that they might be more apparent and better documented for the archaeologists. This is an amazing insight into the process.
On the whole, small finds and item categorization is kind of the icing on the cake for this experience because through that I gained the full experience of the categorization process, which is invaluable. Small FInds, because they tell the team more about a given location and often have cultural implications or at the very least provide objective data as to the layout of a site are overwhelmingly important. Spoons can help establish the identity of a monastic site as one of healing and oil lamps as one of reverence. The possibilities are endless and knowing these possibilities greatly increases my ability to interpret finds.
Today I mostly worked with data entry. Data entry is a fascinating area of the archaeological process because it is through this practice that one gets a feel for how to analyze finds like pottery, extraordinary finds, and the like.
During my data entry, I categorized finds in terms of location, color, shape, condition and the like. Different finds, if recorded correctly, can tell an individual a lot about a given area of a site. Pottery is not only used for dating, but it can determine what kind of eating habits and cultural habits people had. Pottery, if it comes in the form of a storage jar or an amphorae, can give details about trading patterns and water and grain storage patterns on a site. Metal finds like doornails are consistently significant because they help identify the former structure of the site allowing the archaeologist with accuracy that a door existed in a certain place. Oil lamps and spoons are also significant and they have likewise been found on the dig. They can tell our group about the monastic community that lived here during Byzantine times. The spoons are most likely for medicinal purposes and the oil lamps for revering things. Today, while categorizing I also learned that pottery with swirls on it is typically Umayyad pottery.
Taking a step back, all of this information which I have layed out in the previous paragraph is helping me become a better archaeologist. I am now starting to identify things like storage jars. They are thick and coarse. I can identify Umayyad pottery as it contains swirls. I understand the purpose of oil lamps and spoons in certain contexts. All of this will help me should I chose to work on an archeaological dig in the future.
Today I worked with John and Glen in the group that had the cistern in it. We found the first ever example on this site of an ostracae, or a piece of pottery with writing on it. While pottery here is usually often problematic to use for dating purposes because of the degree to which the ground has been tunneled through and disturbed by the IDF, this pottery is especially significant because it contains Greek writing which may give us insight to the use of the site even if most of the pottery has been mixed at different layers and does not provide an entirely accurate method of dating. We also got closer to the floor and found some significant pieces of diagnostic pottery, complete with handles and lip/edge pieces.
Today I am discovering so many things about archeology and much of it in talking with archaeologists. It turns out that the best finds for dating are actually coins, because since this site was disturbed so much, most of the pottery does not belong to a clear layer. Coins on the other hand have a clear date, they indicate government structure and who ruled at the time and they can even give clues as to where the nearest minting center was, relative to the rest of the site. Also in archeology there are extraordinary finds and constant finds. Constant finds are those things like door nails. They do not stand out but they give us immense objective data that we can use to identify things. Door nails identify a door was here even if it cannot be scene anymore in a situation where archaeologists would have to guess. Another find in this category are coins which as we have just stated, even though they are often ubiquitous, they are more helpful than pottery in the dating process and in telling us about the site.The rarer finds tend to have more subjective than absolute value. While consistent finds, like coins, markedly date a site, rare finds like an alloy cross necklace gives us a more personal and subjective view about life on this site. We know that someone, probably in a monastic community, on this site, wore that necklace and from this we can determine a bit about how these people lived. another rare find at this site was an Unguetarium which is a personal hygiene flask of oil for men. Probably at this site, overexerted men would use this flask with oil in it to freshen up.
Knowledge about these different kinds of finds gives me infinite and much needed help in understanding the significance of finds in an archaeological context. Now when I find a piece that is useful to the dig site, I will be able to immediately determine what type of value it has in our overall characterization of what went on in this place in the past.
I have been debating whether to post an entry for today or not. Basically I remained all caught up on Database entry. I remained caught up on pottery washing. The only thing which was left for me to work on was homework for the courses I am taking here. Therefore that Sunday I wrote a paper on the excavations done at the Herodium and whether their conclusions are valid or not.
Doing such work helps me understand the academic process and the subjective side of archeology. Not only am I learning how to objectively date and characterize things and work in a process that caters to this kind of objective categorization, but now I am learning how to make somewhat subjective conclusions based on the analysis of various finds and excavations.
If i pursue archeology in the future, this kind of archeology will be immensely useful to me in the future when I try to actually interpret the big picture of what all of the small finds, pottery, and architectural peices actually mean.
Last Wednesday has no entry. This is because I was all caught up with computer entries, pottery washing, and I tried to to homework on the main computer in our building complex, but microsoft word was on the fritz. I therefore spent the time that day fixing word. I eventually managed to fix word when I defragmented the computer.
Today I worked most of the time in a square with John and Daryl. We managed to find 3 capitals and 3 columns one of which has yet to be removed. One of our capitals was absolutely beautiful. It was made in Corinthian style with several small flourishes in the design which protruded off of the object. It is absolutely amazing that none of the capital had any broken pieces given all of these unique designed flourishes. Most of the work in this site consisted of using turreas and spades to remove dirt into buckets. Once we had found the capitols and pillars, one of the Palestinian workers on this site managed to skillfully remove them using heavy duty machinery
I learned several things about archaeology from working in this square. Until this point I did not realize that the top of a column or pillar was called a capital. I am learning new archaeological jargon everyday. I also did not realize until I worked here how much archaeologists rely on heavy machinery to move objects on a dig site. I also gained a great deal more experience dusting and sweeping the archaeological square in which we worked. In our site I was sweeping and as I did so , I did not realize for a while that I had been sweeping against the wind which in effect blew the sand back on the steps which I was uncovering. Now I know never to use this counterproductive tactic again.
As I look over the whole day's experience I can see that I gained a lot of information that I can use in future archaeological work. I know now what a capital is. I know how to use proper sweeping technique and I am fully aware of the value of having a person on a dig site who is skilled in using heavy machinery which only gives me more confidence about the necessity of a multidimensional approach.
Today I stayed down and washed pottery and worked on the dig database entering information about all our finds. Our excavation is yielding a lot more pieces of amphorae which can yield a lot more information as to trade patterns on our site. Arnie's group also managed to find an inscription on the stone floor that I cleaned on Thursday, which we think may have served more or less as a welcome mat. Having started database entry, I now have a much greater understanding of what is needed in the small finds and pottery cleaning process.
Today I realized what the dig administrators are looking for in the small finds and pottery cleaning process. Before information can be entered into the database, each find has to be measured and described in terms of its color and its historical usage. The place from which it was found must be carefully cited or the find will be of no use. As a result, when cleaning pottery it is vitally important to make sure that all of the years of dirt accumulated on the sherds are removed in such a way that their true color is revealed the best way to do this is by cleaning the sides of the sherds, as dirt is not as calcified on the edges of sherds as it is on the faces of them. If sherds are not properly cleaned it is not only difficult to categorize them in terms of color but also in terms of accurate measurments. A thick layer of calcified dirt can make an object seem far larger than it is given the precise and small unit of measure we are using. Properly cleaning pottery also exposes markings and indentations and intricate edges that could give the archaeologist clues as to how the product was made.
Taking a step back I realize there is still so much I have to learn about classifying finds. I now know that the tessrae of the Romans are much smaller than those of the Byzantines. Yet I still am not sure how to classify pottery on the basis of its edges. Many of the staff here are able to easily classify pottery by usage. From only the edge pieces of pottery, the staff here are able to tell whether it is cassarole pottery or not. In the future I would definitely be interested to learn more about how to classify a lot of these finds.
Today was the start of a new week. I started working to reuncover the chancel area with Linda's group. We used turrea to remove thick piles of dirt from a tarp and a spade/trowel to remove sand from the layer over the top of the mosaic piece. We are re uncovering this area so that pictures can be taken and the area can be digitally reconstructed.
Today was a completely new experience for me. I had absolutely no idea that archaeologists re buried certain excavated sites on a dig and then re excavated them. I learned that this phenomena takes place to prevent the site from being looted and also to protect certain vital areas, like the the tomb of the important woman, from destructive natural phenomena. I also did not realize that a certain type of sand is the best to use when preserving areas of these sites.
I gained an incredibly valuable insight into archaeology looking back on this day. I realized that archaeology is just as much about preserving history and artifacts as it is uncovering and meticulously documenting them. I also gained insight on how to work around mosaic and that in those instances only hand shovels, trowels, dustpans and the like may be used while heavier equipment is not used for risk of damaging highly sensitive material.