We are now nearing the end of our field season, with only one week to go! The time has been passing incredibly quickly, with everyone busy working in the lab or in the field each day. On site we are still chasing the edges of Structure 2, sometimes thwarted by rodent burrows. I hope that by early next week we will have a better sense of where the boundaries of the structure are so that we have time to map the surface. Some interesting artifacts are already beginning to appear; we have several horn cores (perhaps gazelle?) lying within the deposit, included some articulated burnt horn cores.
We also continued to work on the high resolution photography of the site, using the camera pole to capture the artifacts on the surface. Next week we will finish this photography so that the entire surface of the site has been photographed.
This Friday, our day off, we decided to stay in Azraq to relax. Some of us have gone to Jerash for the day, others are working, and some are just relaxing in the sun with the puppy. Hopefully we will all be recharged for our final week of excavations next week!
I spent last week digging a hole with a spoon. Really.
This is my first season at Kharaneh IV. Over the last three weeks I’ve been helping out both on site and in the lab. Last week, I was excavating, and the biggest difference between digging here and other sites I’ve worked at — from later periods — is its meticulous pace.
Excavation at Kharaneh IV is like a forensic investigation. But instead of a crime scene, we are trying to work out what happened at a camp site twenty thousand years ago, using the ephemeral traces that have survived in desert sand. In those circumstances, it is important to pay attention to the smallest detail. We peel back — with spoons and brushes — deposits that may only be centimetres thick, each capturing perhaps just a few weeks or months of human life, and compressed under the weight of thousands of years of subsequent activity on top of them. This has been a lot of fun as an excavator: we each dig a 1×1 m unit which is subdivided into 25×25 cm quadrants. Each one is an excavation in miniature, where we’re tasked with unpicking stratigraphic puzzles that at times, given the fragile and complex nature of the deposits, can be quite challenging.
This attention to detail ‘at the trowel’s edge’ (or spoon’s edge) is matched by a painstaking recording system. About half of our time on site is spent documenting the deposits we excavate in minute detail: their location, extent, and depth; how they relate to other parts of the site; the nature of the soil; and the precise coordinates of any artefacts on its surface. And as Adam wrote last week, this is matched by yet more time spent processing and analysing material back at the lab. All this information is recorded so that when the time comes, the big picture of activity at the site, and its important place in world prehistory, can be pieced together from the detail.