What’s the best part of doing archaeology? Surveying. (Barring shovel test pit survey of course, which is horrible.) Crossing vast new landscapes everyday, new finds and discoveries, stunning views.
The silence in the desert is a stark contrast to the honking horns, barking dogs, booming weddings, and random shouts that make up town. The locality we are working on now is two kilometers long, long enough that all 7 of us can spread out so far you can’t see or even hear each other. Walking across the expanse, with the wind blowing, and the sun in your eyes, surrounded by absolute quiet, makes it feel like you are the star of your own silent film.
Well, survey is over. We are on to phase 2: test excavations. We could spend months surveying the wadi, but unfortunately, we don’t have that kind of time. Our goal is to give an initial characterization of the extent and variety of sites in the wadi, and then look more closely at one site to demonstrate the diversity and context of the lithic production and mining within a single site. In short- there is a lot more going on in Wadi el-Sheikh than has so far been known.
Phase two consisted of collecting surface material and the top 2 cm of soil from four 1 x 1 meter test units. This excavation part is probably what comes to mind when most people think about archaeology- I mean besides rescuing golden statues from the hands of scheming Nazis. However, this was actually the shortest part of what we are doing this season. Collecting the material only took two days! That is because there is so much material that I won’t be able to analyze more than that in the time remaining.
And that wasn’t even the biggest one!
Because of the orientation of the site and the topography of the plateaus, we can’t get the car into the site. That means we had to carry down 15 large heavy bags of rocks, along with our regular equipment yesterday. We earned our cheese and chips sandwiches that day.