Thursday, June 21, 2012

All Your Database Are Belong To Us

I promised to keep you updated, so here's what I'm currently working on. We don't yet have a database set up for the blocks (there's a meeting to create it next week), but I've made do with a wonderful invention called Google Docs. If you have not used it for a group project, I highly recommend it! For us, I set up what is essentially a Powerpoint presentation, with each slide containing a different block:

Sorry, for publication reasons you can't have one of the inscribed blocks, but here's one with Kiri on it!
To set up this database, I had to go through 5 years of photos, finding the best photo of each block from each year, then comparing it to the other years, seeing if the block still exists throughout time, or if something might have happened to it. Of course, the photographers each year had their own numbering system, so I had to re-number and organize everything completely anew. It wasn't too hard, but man I wish I had a computer screen that was bigger than 15"!

Now that all the photos have been organized and put into our makeshift Google database, I'm slowly going through each block and filling in the information we want, some of which you can see in the photo. Unfortunately, none of the blocks have full texts, so it's a lot of sentences that could go multiple ways. Imagine if English didn't use spaces and you got a sentence like this: [...]hthe[...]. Is it "that he", "what he", "[...]h the"? There's just no context to tell. And the fact that some of the photos aren't very clear doesn't help.

Once I've gotten all the information I can from the blocks and my co-worker Jonathan (who is currently studying for SIX comps, which is why I'm doing most of the work for now) has double checked my work, we'll start trying to figure out how we want to put these on mastabas (the order, not the method- apparently, we get a crane! If you remember how excited I was about the hand ax, you get an idea of how excited I am about power tools!)*. We're thinking that even the most meticulous planning on that part is just going to be shot to hell once we get to Egypt, though. We have no idea how many of these blocks will still exist once we get there, or how many new ones might show up! Plus, the previous photographers (myself included) were more interested in documenting the blocks with inscriptions or at least images, so there could be a ton of blocks that we didn't know have been there all along. We only get 4ish weeks to work on this, so we need to have a solid plan, but that could be quite difficult.

Anyway, that's what's happening at the moment.

*Can someone please explain to me how I went all last season and did not show you guys the picture of me with the hand ax? Probably because I look like a dude, but there really needs to be documentation of the fact that 1) I got to us the coolest tool in archaeology and 2) I hurt neither myself nor anyone else in the process:

P.S. If you don't get the title, it's reference to a real video game intro with a really bad Japanese-to-English translation. You can find it here.

P.P.S. No permits yet, but the plan is to arrive in very early October. The countdown on the side is approximate.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

And We're Back

Many of you have been curious about the next Tell Edfu season, when/if I'll be heading back to Egypt, and what I'm doing now, so I thought I'd throw up an FAQ.

When are you going back?
We don't have exact dates yet, but I'll be leaving some time in early October and coming back early-mid December. We are going to have an overly-packed crew this year, so we'll have kind of a rotating group of people coming in for a few weeks at a time, but I'll be there the whole season.

What are you going to be doing this time?
I'm currently scheduled to work on 2 projects this fall. The first is to help out my fornana Natasha with drawing pottery. We're finally getting into the pottery she wants to study for her dissertation, so the goal will be to get as much drawn for her as possible this season.

The other project I'll be working on is the organization/publication of the block yard. This area has been a dumping ground for blocks found in and around the tell. Most of these blocks have never been studied and are currently in such a heap that tourists think it's ok to stand/sit/crawl/pose on them. So when my dear friend Jonathan (with whom I co-taught a class in 2011) arrives, we'll be looking at drawing the blocks and getting them set up in a better system.
Some of the blocks in our block yard.

What are you doing in the dig off-season?
This summer I have 3 projects that will be keeping me busy:
1) Dissertation proposal: We have this pesky thing called a "proposal" that we have to do before we can write our dissertation. Basically, I have to write and defend a paper convincing my committee that I should write and defend a dissertation on a given topic. My topic, as I mentioned last season, is bread in the economy. I've had a bit of trouble getting the whole thing done correctly, but I'm on track to defend my proposal literally days before we leave for the season.

2) Arabic: For Christmas last year, my in-laws got me an Arabic learning system. I've been holding off using it until it got closer to dig season so that I didn't forget everything, but my goal this summer is to go through the system and at least be able to give simple instructions to the workmen who will be helping us.

3) Block Prep: Since Jonathan and I will only have 4 weeks (at most) to catalogue and move the blocks, I'll be spending the summer doing some prep work. There are a lot of pictures of the blocks from previous seasons, so I'll be using those to start translating the blocks and putting them in some kind of order.

While I won't be publishing every day this summer like I did while in Egypt, I plan on keeping you all updated here on the blog throughout the summer about Egypt-related things that I'm doing (including the weddings of Kat and Lindsey, both of whom you met last season).