My third week at Abel was just as varied as my second week had been. I had the chance to work in multiple squares in Area A, in the office, and even in Area F. This week offered new challenges and gave me the chance to work with new people. I especially enjoyed my diversity of work because it it gave me a greater sense of the larger picture both in the field and in the work that takes place in the office while everybody is off digging. Looking back now, my third week was just as crucial as my first two and even though at times it seemed to drag a bit, looking back at it, it was just as fun.
On Monday I started in my usual area. The goal for this week was to find the level at which we had found the pot bellows last season in order to see if we could find additional evidence of metal production in the same area and stratum. Initially, we were very hopeful that we would expose exactly what we wanted due to the ashy patches that seemed to be turning up with each stroke of the pickaxe. But, when we called in our archaeometallurgist on Tuesday, she was unable to find the sort of magnetic resonance that is found with metal. This was frustrating because the whole reason we had opened the square was to find evidence of a larger metal production area which may have been indicated by the finds last season. Eventually though our registrar realized that she had miscalculated the height of where we had found the start of the pot bellows. This was encouraging because it meant that we could still find evidence of the metal industry in the square. The unfortunate thing though was that the supervisors felt that we didn’t have enough time to get to an appropriate level by the end of the season. So, the question of the metal industry will have to wait until next season. This was the end of the square I had been working in and it was kind of sad to know that I wouldn’t be working with the people I had enjoyed digging with so much anymore.
The third week certainly feels like the longest on a four week dig. As a result, I decided just as I had last year, to take Wednesday off of digging for an office day. Although last year taught me that I’m not cut out for labeling pottery…or really most archaeology office jobs, I felt like just being in the office gave me a greater depth of understanding into the many facets of an archaeological dig. Additionally, there are many hours worth of busywork which I knew I could help out with. My office day began with bone washing. Instead of the harder brushes we use for washing pottery, bone washing requires something much more delicate, like a toothbrush. It’s interesting to see all of the bones gathered together in one place because it demonstrates the amazing variation of living creatures which had, at one point in the distant past, populated our site. After bone washing, I went back to the office and started cutting strings and labels for pottery tags. Pottery tags are something we take for granted in the field. But, it takes a whole lot of busy work in order to make sure we always have a ready supply. I was more than happy to take this monotonous and at times boring task off of the hands of our ever busy office manager. I also had a chance to use our flotation machine in order to help separate our busy soil samples. The advantage of using a flotation machine is that it helps to divide up the many varieties of materials you get in a soil sample. While wet sifting gets all of the dirt out, it leaves you with a larger and more difficult portion to work with than the more precise flotation machine does. After picking through a soil sample, I know that I would much rather work with one that had been floated rather than sifted. After this, everybody came back from digging and the day continued like any other with the usual pottery washing, sorting, and lecture.
On Thursday I was moved back over into the northern square I had worked in last week. The goal in the new area was to keep going down as far as possible by the end of the season and to expose any and all of the architecture which we could. This day basically consisted of my supervisor making square wide pick passes and me picking up the incredible amount of dirt that he created. The only breaks I had were when I had a chance to clarify one of our walls and when I trimmed our balks. Even though the day was one of my more exhausting ones, looking back on it, we got a lot of work done and I’m really proud of the way the square looks.
On Friday I was moved to area F at the most southern part of the tel. Area F is is mostly made up of various large defensive structures such as numerous walls, an MB IIB rampart and even an MB IIB tower. This year only a few people were ever digging in Area F at one time. As a result of their limited numbers, area F was only digging down in a very limited area in order to better date certain structures. The reason I was moved to the Area was because Nava had conceived of doing a blitz dig in order to date our MB IIB tower by the end of the season. Although this went well at first, we eventually started hitting a bunch of pottery concentrations which slowed us down and eventually a tabun(oven) that ground our progress to a halt. A tabun is something that has to be carefully excavated and usually is accompanied by the taking of several soil samples. We knew that with all of this careful work, it would be impossible to achieve our goal. Everybody was pretty bummed about this, but archaeology is unpredictable and archaeologists can’t choose what the ground happens to turn out(even though they can interpret it or ignore it…). Even though things went differently than we had wanted, I still had a great time working with new people and I enjoyed working in a new area.
It’s hard to believe my third week is already over and that I’ll be in Greece next sunday. The fourth week always go by so fast and it’s hard to think that my season is basically already over. Next week all we really do is cosmetic projects, small projects, and cleaning and then my 2016 season in Israel will be over.