Chips, Chips, & Salt

The first day in the field was absolutely fantastic.

Before going to the field, even having seen the site last year, I worried about how our samples would be affected by site disturbances caused by previous researchers and visitors, and about being careful to leave the best areas for the most detailed analysis. And then I saw the site again. HAHAHAHA. It is mind boggling how much material there is here. We can bulk collect a few 1×1 meter areas without even making a dent. We will still have a field of options available for future point provenienced recording and even after that there will still be more left for future researchers.

Here is just a taste:

Felix, one of the team members new to the wadi this year  said Michael had prepared him, and he was ready for a lot of material, but then he saw it…. He couldn’t even believe it: “An indescribable amount of material”

Alex  our surveyor estimated that just one of the localities is approximately 80-100,000 square meters. And projecting from what we have surveyed so far there  may be over 100 such localities- 10 million square meters of landscape full of artifacts. And so far we estimate the wadi at somewhere in the ballpark of 54 million square meters, so there may be even more of it with artifacts. Of course not all of it is the same density as the above photo, but much of it is. Any way you look at it it is a S*&$-ton of artifacts! Unfortunately Christiana says I can’t use S*&$-ton as a technical term, but it really is apt.

‘Chips’ are flakes from making stone tools that are below 1 cm in size. And granted most of what we surveyed today was much larger than 1cm, but taken loosely, you could say we saw a lot of chips today.


Since the project is just in its first few days, and it is a new project, the lunch details are still getting worked out. We ended up with a lot of sweet things and few savory items for lunch- pretty much only chips and bread for the non-sweets. So Mohammed brilliantly put the chips in the pita bread! It was surprisingly good. I thought that the french-fries-in-pita sandwiches at Abydos were innovative, but this takes carb-on-carb  a step farther. No photo. I was too hungry.


To finish the day we visited another field of quarry pits that we had seen on google earth. Very different from the other pits we have so far seen.

Luckily Omar, a man from a nearby village, was with us and knew all about them. So I carried out some spur of the moment ethnographic interviews and learned all about about modern quarrying practices for salt extraction. (I knew all those years of studying Arabic would come in handy.) remember that scence in the English patient where Ralph Fiennes is interviewing the old Bedouin man about desert routes? Yeah that was pretty much me yesterday 😉 I’d love to insert a link to the clip, but that is really beyond the capacity of my internet access.


But seriously we learned some very important information from which we can construct a model for of independent small scale extraction. It is very clear how this approach plays out on the ground in terms of the size, distribution, and organization of the pits, along with the meager infrastructure. So although the pits were not chert, and they weren’t as old as we thought, they are certainly interesting and expand the diversity of quarrying activity in the wadi and help us to understand and interpret other pits.

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