My second week at Abel was markedly different from my first in that it lacked any real sort of consistency. Every day offered a unique challenge as I worked in new areas and learned about the time and work that goes into the various field jobs. Although at times I found myself wishing that I was working in a single square, looking back at it now, I’m more than satisfied with the diversity of experiences my week provided.
On Monday I continued my work from the previous week exposing the wall and beating back the strange white plaster. This task continued to be frustrating due to the extreme care it required and due to the difficulty in making the plaster surface perfectly level. Since we had already exposed half the wall, we started by going down in the areas where stones had not yet been exposed. Even with knowing exactly where the wall was going, there was no way to tell how far down the plaster layer went over the wall and so I knocked out a couple more stones than I wanted to. The nice thing about walls though is that they keep going. So, no harm done. After I exposed the stones, I next had to articulate them. This is so that we’re able to look at how the stones relate to one another. The process of articulation involves patiching around the stones and then brushing off the dirt and wall plaster in order to clarify the wall. Once this was done I started trying to level out the rest of the square with my small handpick and trowel. This took time because I was trying to get it perfectly flat and while this in itself is difficult, doing it on the plaster surface was even harder. But, by the end of the day I had succeeded in both tasks.
During the previous week I had asked our registrar if I could shadow her at some point. She had said that I could help her out on Monday. But, due to her being bogged down by the opening of new squares, we rescheduled to Tuesday. The first thing that I learned about was the the specific record keeping process involved in writing bone and pottery tags. After this I had the chance to assign numbers and write up a bone bag and a pottery tag. We also discussed the process of drawing top plans and other material related to the job of registrar. Just sitting with our registrar gave me a chance to listen and learn and I left went back to work after breakfast with a greater understanding of the record keeping involved in our day to day excavation.
Later that day I had a chance to work on the section of the area I had been digging. The balk in the area was particularly sloped and so fixing the section was essential in order to get any sort of stratigraphic understanding of that particular balk. Since this was a big fix, I got to use the pickaxe to wail on the wall before switching over to smaller tools like my patiche and trowel to get it as straight as possible. I really enjoy doing cosmetic work and so this was a particular treat for me. At the end of the day, I was satisfied that the balk was mostly straight.
At the start of the day on Wednesday, I worked on a couple finishing touches to the cosmetics in my square. After this though, I was assigned to one of our new squares to the north of the areas we had previously dug.
My assignment was to find the continuation of a wall which we had already uncovered to the south. Although it was kind of cool to be in a new area, the downside was that I was working completely solo for most of the day. This really isn’t my preference because one of my favorite things about excavating is the ability to meet and socialize with people from all sorts of places and backgrounds. Socializing also makes the time pass by much faster and so I was kind of disappointed that the only person I talked to for the rest of the day was my square supervisor. Since I was starting in a new area, I had to move a bunch of rubble which the bulldozer had created. Doing this took much longer than I had hoped it would and pinned me down for the rest of the day. Eventually, I was able to clear away the excess dirt and find the continuation. Once the wall was exposed, it became clear that it ran parallel to a wall just a bit to the west. We opened up these new squares with the intention of seeing if there were continuations in our architecture and after a week of digging, it is all too clear that the architecture continues to the North in multiple places.
On Thursday I cleaned up the work I had done the during the previous day. After this I was assigned to work in the “pot bellows square” that I had worked on at the end of last season. I was told to lower one of the walls and remove the stones in order to clarify the construction of the room’s threshold. This was essential because with the new squares being opened, our understanding of the entire area could fundamentally change. As a result, it’s necessary to clarify certain features in order to confirm their respective purposes. Once I finished with this, I was sent around from area to area in order to help clean up for the photos we would be taking on Friday.
Friday began with everybody sweeping their areas in preparation for mid-season photos. Although I would’ve liked to have swept more, I wasn’t able to due to our deadline for photographs being set by the sun’s rise. At first we only did photographs with ladders, but once the morning wind died down we were able to pull out our drone to take birds eye pictures of our sites progress. After the whole picture taking process was complete, I was lucky enough to receive instruction in section drawing. Section drawing is a way of measuring and drawing stratigraphy by hand in order to provide a simpler record than a photograph can provide alone. Measuring and drawing was a welcome change from excavation and it was great to learn another essential part of the excavation process.
The past two weeks weren’t the best for me in terms of finds. Most of my time had been spent in crappy soil or above a wall and nothing I found was particularly notable. However, fortuna smiled upon me in my last 15 minutes digging on Friday and I was lucky enough to find a nice concentration of restorable pottery which included several large pottery sherds and a strainer which was cool because I’d never touched one before. So, even though it wasn’t a significant find in any way, it was still nice to feel like I’d found something.
All in all, my second week was fantastic. It’s hard to believe that my time at Abel this summer is already halfway over. I’m looking forward to meeting all of the new people that come next week. Below are mid season drone photos from the tel.
Until next week all my best,