Washing artifacts in the desert

I’ve washed my fair share of artifacts over the past 10 years or so. Groundstone in New mexico, ceramics in Mexico, rocks in California, lithics, lithics, lithics, in Armenia, France, and Egypt. But always, there has been a faucet.

We are only authorized to store and work on artifacts at another site that our project is also working on. They are team Sheikh el Fadl. They have matching sweatshirts with their team logo:

We are team Wadi el Skeikh. No matching sweatshirts, we just coordinate accidentally:

I know that is a Darkside joke in there somewhere…

The reason we have to cross over from the dark side and join team Sheikh el Fadl is because there is no storage magazine nearby at the moment. The director Christiana is working on having one built, but you need a bulldozer to get through all that red tape. In fact here is the bulldozer that is supposed to be digging the trench for the magazine. Apparently even it was stymied by more red tape.

In the meantime, we do all the analysis on site, which is on a small mountain.

Here is my office:

It is filled with flies in the afternoon, but that is neither here nor there. What matters is the water. Artifacts need to be cleaned to be analyzed, and artifacts need water to get clean. All the water comes up each morning in a few 30 liter jerrycans, most of which are for drinking. The car can only bring them up so far, then they are carried the rest of the way. Clearly, supplies are limited.

To complicate matters more, our 4- wheel drive desert-traversing Land Cruiser had to go to Cairo with the director to try to extricate a piece of equipment that literally got sealed in customs due to all the increased security after the Russian plane incident. Apparently there are also whole new security departments that have opened with the most recent government, who require special paperwork for such items, and don’t accept authorization from the antiquities department. But that’s also another story. The upshot is that on the first day of washing we also didn’t have a vehicle to bring the water up. Luckilly a small 3-wheeled vehicle like a motorcycle with a tiny truckbed, called a tricycle, was arranged, and at some point water appeared. Yay!

We devised a dry brushing preparation method to conserve water and dirty it as little as possible. Mohammed has been stolidly washing away each day, which he says he prefers to carrying buckets and screening. Here’s the set up:

In the end, we got the artifacts washed, I harranged and cajoled people into doing some initial sorting for me, and a few days later I already have over 1500 lithics anyzed!!!

Since we also don’t have electricity at the site, I also have to record everything by hand, then enter it into the computer in the evenings. Endless data entry. So, I should probably get back to it!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s