It has been almost a week since my return from the trip to Kharga Oasis and my life here has substantially changed gears in the past couple of days. This past Friday marked the end of our first class here entitled “the Oases of Egypt” as well as our daily Egyptian Arabic instruction. The past month has been a wonderful blur of intense academics, trips to sites, research projects and presentations, daily classes, and no days off. So, needless to say, we were all ready for a breather when Friday came and we had the day to relax and prepare for the upcoming excavation. Originally, plans were set to begin the field season Saturday, however, archaeology in Egypt is no simple or straightforward day in the desert with a trowel; it is an arduous process involving many time consuming preparatory arrangements and much paperwork. Despite excellent and timely submission of permit forms and many other bits of antiquities red tape, our dig at Amheida only received 2 of the 3 necessary permits to begin our excavation this season on time. As far as we know, nearly every excavation had been delayed due to this very reason this winter, and the delay ranged from only a few days to more than a week: a probability that is both disconcerting and frustrating to a house full of internationally renowned archaeologists eager to begin their work and to have a successful season. As of this moment, since we have yet to receive this from the Egyptian Military (the missing permit; this is absolutely vital since the Oasis is classified as a military zone in Egypt) we are at a bit of a preparatory standstill in the dighouse. However, everyone is upbeat and all smiles and appears to have made an unspoken yet collective commitment to stay positive and hopeful, and do everything we can to prepare for the season doing whatever there is to do in the magazine, database, and with the small finds and ceramics we have in house.
As students, we have begun training for the tasks ahead by learning how to accurately and properly fill out the forms we will use on site as well as how to enter them into the database, and have been taught how to identify, sort, weigh, and catalog ceramics. These skills are invaluable to us as students of field archaeology and will prove to be essential as we contribute what we can to the team and to the excavation as a whole. Tomorrow, I begin my first assignment working on pottery here, a task very much to my liking as so much about the lives of the ancient inhabitants of Amheida can be used from the clay vessels left behind. Also, (and I recognize that this officially makes me even MORE of a nerd than you already know I am if you have been reading this blog haha) during training I realized that principles of geology greatly apply to identifying pottery as one uses grain size, mineral presence, identification and form, fabric, luster, hardness, and texture of the material to determine its individual identity, date, use, and place of production; characteristics that in turn speak volumes about the individuals and society that crafted them. In case you did not know, I am a self-declared rock nerd; I love all things related to geology, earth systems, minerals, rocks, etc. and am eager to apply my training in these subjects to the best of their ability. Therefore the chance to further my training in this area by applying these principles to antiquities is a thrilling prospect for me, and I cannot wait to begin my real training and work in the morning! More to come on this as things develop… Sadly, that’s all for now, I must return to the magazine, but bokra (tomorrow) I hope to chat a bit about life here (the boring stuff) and give a brief overview of daily life here. So, until tomorrow: Salamu Aleekum!