Saturday, January 23, 2010

The Archaeogoddess takes no prisoners...

Oops, that's a typo... should read "the Archaeogoddess takes no pictures"!

This is a photo free blog until the end of March.

Why?

Because I am finally having a day off and I'll be damned if I'm going to spend it editing, resizing, and uploading images.  Add to that the time I put into making sure that any image I want to post is not going to upset the museums authority, various persons that appear in photos, or infringe on copyrights.  All in all, it is a VERY LONG TIME INDEED.

I'm only getting a chance to post this now because I'm in a hotel with sturdy internet.  Camp is not the place to try to post.  That last post took forever to load and if I hadn't typed it up first and then cut and pasted into Blogger, I would have lost it for sure.  Our internet connection does like to come and go like camels in the fog.  One minute it's free sailing and I'm reading an email, the next I've got my email server telling me that no, really, I can't see the next email as the connection is lost, please try again later.

So, instead of finding myself cringing whenever I go to read the comments and then neglecting to post things because "oh I don't have any pictures to post, my readers are going to be so mad at me"- I'm going to try to write more and not worry about photos.  At the end of the season, when I am back at home with FAST and RELIABLE internet, I will try to post photos.  Maybe I'll do a flickr page or something and link that in.  But for now I'm not going to stress about it.

So don't comment about it anymore or I'm going to send you an angry email and stop posting all together.

This week was a trying week.  We lost power in the bathroom which means no hot water, no washing machine and no lights to pee by.  If we are lucky we might get an electrician out some time this week.  The kitchen septic tank is full and overflowing and we've been told that we don't need to have it emptied, we should just dig a ditch through the middle of the camp out into the desert where it can drain.  We are also having a cash flow problem where we need to have more cash than the accounting office can keep up with.

Vacation time, once seeming so full of potential, is now proving to be more difficulty than it's worth.  Anyone going to the UK comes back with a cold that they then pass around camp.  Thanks guys, thanks a lot.  Meanwhile, three people in our group want to go to India... they've spent the last two weeks playing a run around game with the Indian Embassy.  Now they need an official letter saying that they will not be doing research while they are there for 5 days.  Eh???

Is it something about this place that means that nothing can actually ever happen or get done?  We haven't been able to even enjoy a day off at the camp because we keep getting overrun by tourists and so lounging around is right out.

This weekend our field director enforced a two day weekend.  He cancelled our workmen and told us to go away.  Myself and my co-registrar and another archaeologist (all of us are in the same tent) booked ourselves into the Ritz.  It was fabulous.  Being away from camp means no one can ask us about stuff or when we'll be done with the internet so they can have a go and you can have food not covered in flies and take long hot showers and wear tank-tops and skirts and not be stared at by passers-by.  Someone else can spend today throwing tourists out of our camp.  We have been the watch-dogs for long enough!

Thankfully, everyone is back from vacation and new people arrived so the camp is buzzing with activity again.  For a while it was just a few of us and then we couldn't go away because it needed to be defended.  Talk about cabin fever!  All day, every day, in the same 40 meter by 40 meter compound.  Stared at by visitors (who drive by slowly with the windows down and STARE at us).  Showering in the public toilet....

The three of us think we should Ritz it EVERY WEEKEND.  It's not like we really have the time to take all that vacation we've built up by working six day weeks.  But if one morning a week we could get out of bed and not shake out our shoes for small crawlies, we'd be happier people all around.

And if it means I can finally start writing emails to all the people who have emailed me, I know I'd stop feeling guilty every time I looked at a computer (I look at a computer all day... imagine the ulcer I must have)!

If it weren't for the fantastic weather we are having (did I mention the tank tops and skirts?) and the fact that I really like all the people I work with quite a lot (I'm going to adopt our computer specialist and I think the illustrator and I were separated at birth) I'd be completely miserable here.    If you've got to be stuck in an insane country, tilting windmills, make sure you can do it in light cotton clothing surrounded by good people.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Things I didn’t know I needed to know for archaeology

When you first start off  trying to become an archaeologist, you worry a lot about what classes you should take.  Geology?  Anthropology?  Aramaic?  You end up taking classes like “Stone Age Archaeology as Seen Through Fiction” (true story, and it was a great class, oodles of fun) and “Anthropological Theory” (aka One Dead White European Male a Day).  You may even take “Archaeological Field Methods” or some other method and theory class that tells you how older stuff is under newer stuff, but leaves out the bits about double bagging and double tagging, which as a registrar I consider to be Quite Important, Thank You Very Much.

But I find that out in the field you draw on knowledge of all sorts.  Some of which you didn’t know you knew and some things that you knew you knowed (new word, watch for it in Webster’s) but never thought you’d use.

Like changing tires.  Everyone should know how to do this.  Why?  Because if you are digging there are bound to be rocks and where there are rocks there are tire punctures.  Or rakes used to rid your area of rocks are left in roadways turned the wrong way up and there are not only tire punctures but also the sudden loss of rakes.

I am a champion tire changer.  NASCAR could use a person of my skills.  Only NASCAR has nice areas where you park your vehicle and I doubt any pit crew has ever had to move finds bags out of the way to get to the jack.

Fire starting is also a handy skill.  Whether you are trying to clear a site of flesh rending thistles or find yourself in the desert in the winter where it is colder than you recall deserts being, being able to light a successful fire is a welcome skill.  

Being surrounded by other archaeologists that have spent seasons digging in all sorts of places is a learning experience.  Just about everyone has a skill learned on a site that comes in handy.  The amount of baking that has taken place on an open fire… yes, baking.  Apple crumble was successfully made using a large pot, some tuna cans, a baklava tin, and an iron wok.

Soda cans have been sculpted into fantastic light fixtures, furniture has been built, and we may have to write a book for 1001 things you can do with string.

But now you’ll have to excuse me, my fire has been left to smolder and it’s gone all smoky on me.  I wonder if there are any marshmallows left….