Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Extreme Epigraphy

Happy Halloween, everyone! Unfortunately, we can't really celebrate too much, since superstition and black magic are very real  here, so putting up witches and whatnot is not really a good idea. I did wear my monster head scarf on Monday, my jack-o-lanterns yesterday, and my cats and bats one today. Plus, we're going to have candles and drinks on the roof tonight, then go to Chicago House tomorrow for their party, so we aren't totally without celebrations. But no trick-or-treating. I'm really bummed that I have to miss my favorite holiday every year. Oh well.

Today was a day of Extreme Epigraphy. Normally, the blocks are turned upright so that the face we are drawing forms a relatively flat surface on which we can draw. We can easily move around the block so that we get the best light and can draw easily without our hands messing up already-drawn lines or falling off the block. But over in the corner of our block yard stand some really cool Saite blocks that are gigantic. They can't be flipped because it takes about 10 men to move them and there isn't anywhere for them to go. We were really bummed that we couldn't draw them this season, especially because one of them is cracking badly enough that we aren't sure it will still be here next year. Insert my adventurous self. I decided to get down and dirty and draw. I figured that as long as I could get the paper to stay, I could contort myself into a position where I could draw everything.

Aside from the really badly brokenness of the block, the first one wasn't too bad:

The block was at an angle, so I had to lay down to get the very bottom:

Ever the trickster, Greg decided that I needed some cooling off. Too bad I was told that I'm not allowed to take revenge on the co-director.

The second block I did posed more of a challenge. It was on it's side and flat on the ground, so didn't give me a nice slope. Plus, it was lumped in closely with a bunch of other blocks, with very little room to maneuver. On top of that, the first block I did was, like I said, cracking really badly, and it was right behind my back while working. I needed to make sure I didn't put too much weight on it (even though I'm a lot lighter now) and risk damaging it further. After a lot of finagling, I got into a position that worked. Sure, I was on my side, my knee wedged between two blocks and my legs straddling another block. Yes, the blood ran to my head the entire time I was drawing. And yes, my right arm was either completely on the ground (on top of sharp stones) or I was holding myself up by putting all my weight on my left arm on top of the block and quickly drawing with my right. No one can say I don't give everything for this project.

If my massage therapist ever gets ahold of these, she's going to wring my neck for risking my back like this. But the funny thing is, I actually felt better after getting up.

Stay tuned: I get to do one completely upside down on Saturday!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Benches and No Benches

The smell has been... interesting, but one nice thing our ja-poo-zy has given us is this wonderful bench that Greg designed!

It's a nice platform right up against the new wall that will serve as a shaded pottery drawing and eating area. And yes, the floor is covered with dung-filled muna.

In other news, our benches have been delayed. In the Old Kingdom area they found evidence of some old enclosure walls. Since they have part of the same walls running perpendicular in another part of the tell, they are going to look for evidence of the corner... which is right underneath where we'd planned to put benches 3 and 4. So instead of benches, our area looks like this:

Oh well, such is archaeology. I can't decide whether I'm hopeful that they'll find something, or if I hope they give up and give us our bench. We'll see. So instead of putting blocks places, Jon and I are frantically trying to do some more epigraphy before he leaves. We won't be able to get all the Saite blocks done since a lot are too big to move into a position where they can be drawn, but we'll have all of our joins drawn.

Nothing else new to report! Time for a shower!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Sun and Shadow

It was back to work today. I spent all day working on sun and shadow lines on our epigraphy. There's a lot you can learn just from the published drawing, and Chicago House reminded us of a big one: telling if it's raised or sunk relief. We do this by pretending the sun is always in the upper left corner and marking if a line forms a shadow or is fully in the sun. The straight lines are easy, but if it curves at all you have to whip out a 45* angle and figure out where a sun line turns to a shadow line and vice versa. In the end, your pretty drawing is full of little notes, like this one I showed you earlier:

All the green marks are sun and shadow notations.
I got all but 3 done, so I'll finish that up tomorrow and keep working on drawing our Saite blocks. Jon stayed home sick today, so it's a good thing I had other forms of supervision:

Patches was really only looking for more food. Once she found I wasn't going to give her another handful of food, even after she put on all of her cuddling charm, she left me.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Back to Edfu

Like I mentioned, we're headed back to Edfu today. I still don't have some of the fun pics from our hike from Aaron, but I can share a few more I do have. Check back this week, when I'll have them for sure and can post some more!

We went to our reis' house (Eslam) last night where we had an amazing authentic Egyptian meal (really my first in the three times I've been here). There was so much food:

Let's see if I remember it all: a whole roasted chicken, a salad of cucumbers and tomatoes, cabbage stuffed with rice, a tagine full of potatoes with tomatoes and goat, goat/sheep all on its own, the most amazing potato/tomato/okra bake, some other kind of large vegetable full of rice, bread, and mulakheya (it's kind of like a pesto, made from the mulakheya plant and oil. it's really gooey and people like it on bread. it's not really my kind of thing.) For dessert, there was bassboussa (the coconut and honey thing) and kunaffa, one of my favorite desserts (it's finely shredded filo dough, drenched in honey and baked). Then there was mint tea. We all had a really good time, even if Kat had been up since 3am and was quite jet-lagged.

For now, it's grabbing some McDonald's (I'm going to try the chicken sandwich wrapped in a pita- they advertise it as "all that meat wrapped in all that culture". Who can resist? Not I, nor my camera- there will be photos!) We picked up a few team members, including Kat (whom I've already introduced) and George, who will only be staying with us for a few days. George is a lawyer from France and got his PhD over his lunch break. I know, I feel like a total slacker now. :P

Me at the Ramesseum. I'm standing between the feet of a statue that is obviously no longer standing. It's all there and you can tell it would have been HUGE!

Janelle, destroyer of temples, made her return. Can you blame me?

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Luxor Luxuries

We're having so much fun here in Luxor! Here's what we've done so far:

Wednesday- after work, we piled into a van and drove the 2 hours to Luxor, arriving about 4:30pm. We checked into our favorite hotel (the Sonesta St. George) and immediately took some long, hot showers. Then we headed out to Television Street, one of the busiest in Luxor. There, we got internet and phone credit (I now have my own stick for internet), then got some really good Chinese food. The place is owned by the same people that own Oasis, the British cafe we go to all the time. They also have an Indian place that's pretty good, a pub we've never been to, and the Chinese place also has a whole separate Thai menu. Because they are owned by Brits, the food is usually pretty good and safe to eat.

Thursday- We got up early (well, 6am is still sleeping in for us) and took the ferry over to the West Bank. We love taking the ferry because it's only 1 Egyptian pound (which is something like $.15 in USD). Once over there, we contracted a taxi for the whole day, which is cheaper and easier than trying to find taxis at all the places once you're done. They are really starving for tourists this year, so we got a great deal and the driver is really nice. He took us to the Valley of the Kings first, where our special cards got us in to as many tombs as were open, instead of the normal 3. Nothing exciting was open, but we went through all we could nonetheless. After KV, we hopped over to the Ramesseum, which none of us had ever been to. I can see why tours don't go there, but it was really pretty. There were the famous scenes from the Battle of Kadesh and I even found some bakeries! I can't wait to get back and take a look at the publication of the site more closely.
King Ramses II tramples me with his mighty stallions.

Bakery units on either side in mud brick, the Ramesseum in the background. Lindsey (in pink) waits while I photograph pretty much every single room.
After there, we went to the Valley of the Queens, another place none of us had been (sorry, no cameras are allowed in KV or QV). Only three of the tombs were open, but they were really pretty. They even have some of the side chambers open to walk into. I was the only member of the group to be able to fully stand up in them, as they were only about 5'5" tall. That evening, we washed up and went to Chicago House for dinner. They gave us a nice tour of the place (which I've never seen without it being full of people for the Halloween party of Thanksgiving).

Friday- It was another early and busy day. We headed to the ferry again and found our taxi driver. He took us first to Medinet Habu (remember my smiting photos from last year?) so the new team members could get smitten. We also did some other fun ones, but I've been told I put them up at my own risk (which is death, according to Tasha). Then we walked over to Deir el-Medina, the village of the workmen who worked at the Valley of the Kings. We saw those few tombs and even got to visit the Ptolemaic temple at the site, which was really neat and I'd never been to before. Then it was up the 500+ stairs (I stopped counting at 513, but we continued to climb higher, just on an area without stairs) to hike the gebel over Deir el-Bahri again.
The views were gorgeous, as always. And yes, that is the shirt I wore last year. And yes, it is quite a bit looser. Though the food, especially in Luxor, is making it fit more snugly...

I got brave and went all the way out so I could swing my feet over the edge. It was only like a 200 foot drop.

There are some really fun photos that Aaron took of us, so when I can get those from him, I'll share. I know this was a repeat day from last year, but it will never get old. Afterwards, it was back to the hotel for showers and kindles. We made a quick stop on the way at a brand new grocery store, where I got a banana, mango, and soda for about $3. After an afternoon of relaxing, we tried to eat pizza, but a lot of the restaurants were closed for Eid. So we found the Indian place that we like and ate there. Then I got to skype with Dan: my favorite part of the whole day. :)

Today is a pool and shopping day for the most part. We slept in, enjoyed the amazing breakfast spread, and are now taking our kindles out to the pool for some relaxing R&R. Sometime in the afternoon we're going to go over to the tombs of Gourna, then our reis Eslam has invited the whole team over to his house for dinner.

Tomorrow, alas, it's back to Edfu. I'm sure there will be some shopping and McDonald's in the morning, but our van picks us up around 2, so we'll have to say goodbye to the A/C and nice showers. At least until next Thursday when we come back for a night for the Halloween party. I'll try to have something auto-post for tomorrow.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Tools Of The Trade

Today I’d like to tell you about a few things you might not have expect to find in our box of epigraphic and conservation supplies. Apologies if this leads to some awkward conversations for parents out there, but I can only do so much.

1) What is the best way to get stuck-on bird poo off of a block without damaging the relief or stone? You can’t wet the block, that’s really bad for it. There are no solvents that are safe. Knives are too big and sharp (and seriously, do you trust me with a knife?). I bet the only one who might guess what would be good to use would be my father-in-law. A dental pick! Greg talked to our local dentist and got a nice collection of old dental picks and they work really well. Granted, you have to sit there a get the poo off little bits at a time, and flecks of poo will fly up and stick to your chapstick, but otherwise, it’s not half bad. It still will leave a thin layer of color, but that’s better than a wad of guano.

2) Blocks with paint on them or with really deep carving can harbor dirt that can’t be easily removed with a brush. We need something that blows the dirt away gently and doesn’t require us to go all big bad wolf, huffing and puffing and blowing houses down. So we have a helper for this, affectionately known as “le poof poof”. What it actually is, well, how shall I put this gently. If you remember your French, it’s the word for shower. If not, it’s an object found in the feminine care aisle of the pharmacy. And that’s as much as I’m going to explain about that, ok? Let’s just say all the ones we use have never been used for their intended purposes.

3) Speaking of paint on blocks, it’s not always visibly to the naked eye. Pigment can stick in minute amounts and be impossible to spot without help. We thought most blocks were devoid of color until Chicago House taught us a little trick. Again, we never want to damage or stain the blocks, so we have to be careful with what we use. But ethyl alcohol evaporates quickly, leaves no color behind, doesn’t damage the blocks, and brings out the color brilliantly! Just spray some on and POP! the color appears. I wish I could show it in a photo, but it just doesn’t show up. Sorry. Just know it’s really cool. Science: it works (I’m just not totally sure how).

Everything else you wouldn’t find all that surprising: tape measure, calipers, pens, tape, bubble levels, etc. But I thought you’d find these things interesting!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Everything Poops... And Then It Gets Reused

Since I wasn't sure about the internet situation, I had this post (and tomorrow's) pre-planned. I promise you'll get an update with photos about our fun times here in Luxor on Saturday.

I’m going to put this right here on top: don’t read today’s post if you get queasy easily or have recently eaten. We’re going to talk about poo today. Not my poo, if you’re worried. The only person who probably actually cares about my poo is my husband, and only then because it’s a good indicator of whether or not I’m drinking enough water. He’s the son of a doctor, he can’t help it. I’m hydrated, by the way. But enough with this tangent, I told you this story is not about my poo and I mean it.

Let’s start our story from the beginning. Several years ago, the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA) built a mud brick wall around a section of the tell that would otherwise have made the tell easily-accessible to tourists. It’s not that we don’t like tourists (though seriously, why does everyone seem to think that when they’re on vacation they can leave their morals and common courtesy at the airport?), it’s just that they don’t know what they can and can’t step on. Anyway, the SCA put up a wall and it kept people out while we worked high up on the tell in the Second Intermediate Period silos over the previous seasons. Well this year, now that the silos have given up enough secrets, we shifted our focus to the Old Kingdom area. This was the same area that I talked about last year when the guys cleaned over 5 feet of rubbish dirt off the area. Last year was cleaning, this year is excavating. But the Old Kingdom area just so happens to be the same area that was deemed too easily-accessible for tourists.

So what do you do with a pesky wall that is just a bit too close and you need a little breathing room to throw trowels around? You tear it down, of course! But we can’t just leave it that way; I mean, if it was too easy to access before, imagine what it’d be like now when there’s a good 7 feet less height to the thing. Ok, so we tear down one wall and build a new one (which utterly confused a British tourist, by the way. He was extremely concerned that the guys were tearing down a wall, which he assumed was ancient, and then putting a new one up literally 3 feet away. I explained with the story above). So what do you need to build a wall in Egypt that doesn’t have to support any weight? Mud bricks, made from dried mud (easier and cheaper than the stronger fired red bricks used in buildings and houses) and some kind of mortar, right? The mud bricks are easy, since we already had them from the old wall. And for the mortar... well, I did warn you... it’s a sloppy mixture of mud, straw, water, and you guessed it: poo.

We start off with our daily delivery of donkey dung delivered by donkey driver:

This gets added to the pit. It is a stinking cesspool of fermenting nastiness. There’s really no other way to put it. It’s been there since the first real day of excavation and every day they use some and add some to it. We’ve got a few names for it: the poo pile, poo pool, the ja-poo-zzi, “it”, and some other names based on synonyms for poo (use your imaginations; again, children read this).

If you haven’t lost your lunch yet, don’t think it’s over. Remember, the poo just mixed with water. The key word being mixed. And a spoon isn’t going to do it. The best thing is a dude, his arms, and his legs:

(By the way, this was just the leftover from yesterday- they hadn’t added today’s shipment of water and poo. The pit is usually twice as big. I really think the sign is unnecessary if you know what’s in there.)
He spends all day in that pit, churning the muck, filling up buckets that another guy carts over to the wall, where they use it to stick the bricks together. It does form a very nice wall, though, and looks good when it dries:

I guess the moral of this story is: when in Egypt, don’t touch the walls, they might give you pink eye. 

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Our House Is A Very, Very, Very Fine House

We're headed to Luxor today immediately after getting home from site, so I thought I'd have a post ready for you. I've been promising pictures of our apartments for some time now, so here they are! These pictures were taken after we've been living here for a few weeks, so disregard the general clutter. I think you'll all agree that it's better than last year's place!

Here's our bathroom (we have 2 this year! Each has its own hot water tank). Two things you should not about this: 1) there's a shower curtain, and 2) there's a holder so that we can actually take a shower, as opposed to sitting in the tub and holding the shower sprayer over us while we bathed. You take those for granted at home, but here, they are a luxury. The thing at the bottom right is the agitator, where they wash our really dirty site clothes. You basically pour boiling water in with the clothes and detergent and it, well, agitates the dirt out.

The kitchen in the other apartment. The one in ours isn't finished yet (which isn't so bad- we've been using it as a bedroom, though I feel bad for Lindsey, since it's terribly hot in there and there's only a curtain as a door). The appliances and cabinets are actually nicer than mine in Chicago. Just at the bottom left, you can see a washing machine! It's a really finicky European one that takes 3 hours just to run a wash cycle, but hey, there's a washing machine for our nicer clothes!

This is the living room area of our apartment. See our super comfortable chairs? (Psst they are not comfortable). The bathroom is just to the right, the red curtain is the kitchen area where Lindsey is sleeping, the door straight ahead is my and Tasha's room, and the door in between mine and the kitchen is where Jon and Aaron are staying. Of course, this will all change after Eid (except for me and Tasha) when we get new members and lose other ones.

Here's what my room looks like! Mine's the far bed, though I know it looks like we just share one big bed. The beds are VERY close together. The big brown thing on the side is a room-long closet thing. Plus we have a dresser AND a nightstand. This is totally different from us living out of suitcases and using old boxes for our alarm clocks like last year.

This is the living room in the other apartment. The pink couch actually is quite comfortable. The closed door is Nadine and Greg's room. The open door is another bedroom.

This is the inside of said other bedroom. The main reason I took this is to show you two things: 1) see the Winnie-the-Pooh border paper? Yeah, that glows in the dark. 2) The yellow wall paper in the back has animals on it, but the rabbit is super creepy. He seriously looks like he would eat someone. I would not feel safe in there as a child.

And those are our apartments! We have a big room on the ground floor where we eat meals together.

As I mentioned, we're in Luxor for the next few days. I've got a few things pre-planned to post (like this one), but I might have to save some of the Luxor photos and posts for next week. We do have a lot of fun things planned, including hiking the gebel over Deir el-Bahri again, visiting the Ramesseum, probably hitting Medinet Habu and Deir el-Medina before our hike, having dinner at Chicago House, and having a meal at Eslam's (our reis) house on the west bank, plus some stocking up of supplies from our favorite import store. It will be a busy weekend and I'm sure I'll have lots of fun stories and pictures to share!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

More Connections

Every year, the weather in Egypt changes: the winds pick up, clouds roll in, and the weather starts to drop. It happens suddenly and ushers in cooler temps. Sunday (the day I stayed home just to make sure I was recovered) was that day. It’s been steadily getting cooler and cooler and last night, I woke up and pulled my sleeping bag over me. Granted, it was still 84 in the room when I got up, but it feels so gloriously cool. It does get hotter during the day still, so I’m drinking plenty and staying in the shade, but this cooler weather is a welcome change from the 106s we had last week.

Today Jonathan and I did a bunch more pictures and a ton of recording. We even found some joins for our Saite/Kushite building and now have a name of the builder: nrf-ib-ra. There are about 10 blocks out in front of the temple that the SCA had already put on little benches, and they go to our stuff, too. We thought they looked similar, but when we really examined them today, we noticed that the bottom of a cartouche out there matched the top part of a cartouche we had, and voila! Shortly after, we found a full cartouche that confirmed our suspicions. Jonathan also found a join with 2 Saite blocks we already had in our block yard. We think we have another one between our block and one in front of the temple, but we ran out of time. Super cool! We might get an article out of this yet.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Back In Action

I felt so much better today and was back on site. I've been drinking lots but slowly over the course of the day and most of our work today was in the shade. After our chat with Chicago House (well, Jon’s chat), we decided that we’re going to hold off on doing more epigraphy for the moment. They were very clear that our drawings were actually really good (not even just because we had only done this for a few days). They had some good ideas of things to add to make our drawings clearer when we ink them later, but nothing needs to be re-done.

However, epigraphy takes forever and what’s more important for the next few weeks while Jonathan is still here is to record everything fully. And I meant fully. Obviously we need the photos that are as level as possible with as perfect raking light as possible (oh so easy to do when you have no tripod for holding the camera over the block, the sun moves without you being able to control it easily, and the blocks not being flat on the bottom side- oh wait, no, it’s extremely difficult). We also need a full description of every single side of the block, not just the face, including chisel marks and evidence of reuse. The other sides tell us what kind of block it might have been: a smooth side face is very characteristic of a door jamb, a smooth bottom indicative of door lintels, and chisel marks on unfinished sides help determine if any blocks connect. So we measure and log everything and clean all the crud off while we’re at it. Personally, I hate the data entry. It’s not that I find it tedious necessarily, Jonathan is just really detailed in what he wants us to include, and I’m more interested in getting as many done a day as possible. He’s totally right that it all needs to get put in this way and I don’t blame him at all, but he’s more of a tree guy and my mind prefers to see the forest. So we’re trying to compromise by putting in as much detail as he wants while letting me pick the block we do next based on how much patience I have left. For better or worse (and in many cases, it’s worse), God did not grant me much patience when there is lots of work to do and snippy starts to fill the void (ok, it’s another synonym for that, but children read this blog), so this system is best for everyone.

In other news, there are some really interesting things being found in the 2 areas that are being excavated by the real archaeologists (the Old Kingdom area that Greg is in charge of and the First Intermediate Period wall where Lindsey and Nadine are working). If you get a chance, you should check out our more official blog at I’m not sure exactly what I’m allowed to publish here, so I’m not going to give up anything I shouldn’t, but especially over the weekends Nadine tries to write up a general “here’s what happened this week” post and Lindsey or I do more specific ones throughout the week.

They also began digging the trenches for benches 3 and 4 today. No pics, though, because our internet is out again (surprise surprise). I’m only able to log on here through the niceness of Aaron and his personal internet stick (one of which I will procure for myself while in Luxor because seriously, this is silly and I just need to spend my own money to have reliable internet. Peter, you would shudder to see what they are doing here. Maybe I'll get a photo of that, too...). Hopefully (Insha'allah), we get internet soon because I have some fun posts planned for you for while I'm in Luxor that really need photographic details.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Sick Days

Sorry there was no post yesterday (though I guess this is theoretically still today for you the US), but I came home from site early. I wasn't feeling well again when I got up, but Chicago House was coming, so I headed to site. By 10am, however, I couldn't stand without feeling like I was going to pass out, and I got a little sick, so it was back home and to bed with me. I spent all last night feeling really terrible and nauseous. On top of that, I wasn't allowed to eat anything since everyone was scared I wouldn't keep it down, so I was also dealing with a stomach that hadn't had much food in 48 hrs. But our guys took good care of me, making me anise tea, plain soupy rice, and un-fried beef (it was a lot like leftover pot roast). With some of that in my stomach, I was able to sleep pretty well. I'm feeling a lot better and can stand up without everything spinning, but I'm still spending the day at home, away from the heat. I should be good enough to go to site tomorrow, where I will make sure to drink plenty of water (I've been trying to do 3L on site every day) and stay in the shade (Chicago House had a method for drawing that allowed us to be in the shade, instead of in the sun like we were doing!).

To make up for not posting, here's a really awful picture of what I found at the Munich airport (after 10 hrs of travel and very little sleep, mind you).

Friday, October 19, 2012

A Much-Needed Day Off

I'm feeling better today, thanks for all the concern! I'm not 100% and still feel a bit queasy, but I've kept down breakfast and have spent all morning in bed reading. Hurray for days off! It's not quite as hot today- only a high of 102 outside (though currently only 95 in our bedroom)- so I think that's helping. Tomorrow could be tough, but I can't take the day off because we're having special visitors. Some of the really good epigraphers from Chicago House in Luxor are coming to site tomorrow to help us with our drawings. Jonathan and I had a mini crisis yesterday, feeling like our drawings weren't anywhere near good enough and that it was going to be a big waste of time, since we'd have to throw everything away. Thankfully, Greg found us mid-breakdown and gave us a pep talk. He has a great idea for talking really level photos of the blocks (though that could be easier said than done) and using the photos to help us get more accurate final drawings. We can "ink" what we currently have in Illustrator, then overlay that with our photos and make any corrections necessary to produce some drawings that should be really good. We also decided that at the end of the day, this is kind of a salvage operation, we got no real training other than the 45 minutes we spent in Nadine's office a week before the season, and we're doing this as quickly as possible. So hopefully, Chicago House can tell us that the drawings aren't as bad as we think and give us some pointers for some of the harder ones we'll be dealing with in the upcoming days.

So yes, I'm both physically and mentally feeling better. I'm hoping that another night's sleep will see me good as new. It's amazing how quickly that heat and sun can get to you, and unfortunately, you don't realize it until it's too late. I've been going through 3 liters of water a day just on site and even that wasn't enough to keep me hydrated to the point where my body could handle things. But I know that I'm not the first, nor will I be the last to experience this. The goal will be to try to recognize it sooner and take preventative steps. According to the weather, we should be seeing a 10 degree drop in ambient temps some time this next week, so that should help. Just have to make it through a few more hot ones. We also get a long break next weekend (Wednesday night through Sunday night) for the Eid celebration I mentioned last year. We'll head to Luxor for some much-needed R&R and I can hardly wait!

And now back to my book (and maybe another cold shower). I've gone through 4 books already and am 35% done with the one I started this morning. Thank goodness for the kindle! I really should be doing some dissertation work or something with my day off, but where's the fun and relaxation in that? :P

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Under The Weather

Sorry this will be a short post. After 3 trips here, I finally came down with something. We're thinking it's heat-related, so I'm resting and hopping in the cold shower every so often to cool down. I've felt like throwing up all day, and now that's mixed with hunger pangs, but the thought of eating something makes it worse. At least tomorrow is my day off and I get to skype with my husband (though on Lindsey's computer, since mine apparently doesn't like the internet cord. If it's not one thing, it's another).

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Fish Lips of the Ptolemies

I can’t believe that I forgot to mention that I went in the pylon yesterday! Tasha needed more boxes of pottery, so Aaron and I grabbed our flashlights and headed inside. I’ve never been one of the first to enter the pylon until this time, so I finally got to see all of the wat-wats (bats) and chase them out of the rooms we needed. The bats are really cute, but the 2 inches of guano on everything is not so cute.

Today saw more epigraphy and bread mould stats. There were lots of tourists at the temple today, so I had my picture taken a lot as I worked. Today I tried my hand at a few blocks with pictures on them. Jonathan and I had to go do a recon mission to the temple to figure out how in the world the Ptolemies draw their lips. It’s weird. They only do the profile of the top lip, letting the nose act as an upper boundary. Then they draw a fat oval for the bottom lip. Very odd. I think I like doing the picture blocks more than the glyph blocks. But I did do one of my best epigraphic drawings to date on a text block today. Here’s the block in progress:

The light is actually not really good, but the block is really deeply carved.

And me drawing it:

The sunshade is sort of helpful, but we really need the block to sit in the sun so we can see the lines. It has to be tilted just enough that there’s a bit of shadow so we can see the lines, and we have to be careful about not getting out heads or hands in the way of the sun. Needless to say, this leads to a lot of moving around the block, holding our hands at funny angles, and cursing the sun when it moves before we can finish. I’ve never wanted to be ambidextrous so much in my entire life. We must look like total goofs: scooting to the other side of the block, then putting our hand down, immediately picking the hand up and moving to another side of the block, only to have a head in the way, so moving back to the first side we were at. The worst is when we’re at the side of the block so your hand has nothing to rest on, but you can’t do it upside down because then your hand forms a shadow. It really is quite a game.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Second Verse, Same As The First

There’s not very much to report from today, since I mainly did a repeat of yesterday. We took pictures from 6-7:30am, then we moved on to epigraphy. My drawings are getting better, but I’m still only doing easy ones. I got to do one of my favorite blocks today- a limestone piece that is really intricately carved. The “m” owl bird even had little claws on his feet. Around 12:40, I decided that the light was getting too bad to really see anything, so I moved over to do more statistics on my bread moulds until lunch at 1:30. After eating, I finished up the stats.

Here’s Jonathan working on the Psamtek block that took him pretty much all day (not because he’s bad, but because the signs were pretty intricate and there’s a whole other inscription on the other face). It’s actually a pretty interesting block, as it talks about campaigns into Syria.

The one new thing that happened was that they started digging the foundation trenches for our benches today. There will be 4 benches in all, with smaller “showcase” benches on either side of each one. The first bench will have 2 tiers so we can showcase twice as many blocks.

In other news, Lindsey clocked today at 106*F. Add that to spending all day in the sun with only a few shade breaks and you can see why we were all a little loopy today. This was probably the hottest day so far, but thankfully, I think we’re now on a downward trend. Apparently, it will only be about 95* this time next week and we’re all very thankful for that. It’s hard to sleep when it’s 93* in your room during the night. Tasha and I have a ceiling fan in our room, but there’s only so much it can do. At least we have one, though! Poor Lindsey got relegated to the kitchen where there’s only 1 tiny window and the boys have no ceiling fan either. But don’t worry, we’re going through water like it’s, well, water.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Learning New Things

I forgot to mention something yesterday. Jonathan and I (before our photo shoot) tried to figure out the blocks that we wanted to go on our first bench that everyone will see. Oh dear, it’s too bad I thought I’d never need math if I wanted to be a humanities major, because we were having trouble with addition and subtraction and we even had a calculator! Don’t even get me started about what happened when we tried calculating volumes. Stay in school, kids, and do your math problems!

I tried a whole bunch of new things today. We spent the morning taking some nicer, publishable (maybe) photos, so I got to learn all about how to take photos with a nice SLR. Dan and I own one, but I’ve never sat down to play with all the fancy settings. Mainly, we just toggled the F-focus and the light meter, and I don’t really know what the different settings will do, but I know how to change them! Once the light got too strong for good photos, we switched to epigraphy (though to be honest, the light wasn’t much better for epigraphy, either). So basically what we do is take clear, thick paper (kind of like what teachers use on overhead projectors) and lay that over our block after it has been thoroughly brushed clean of any and all debris. Nadine, Greg, Jonathan, and I probably spent an hour just trying to figure out which of the various sticky things we had would work best to keep the paper down. In the end, we went for ticky tac, but late in the day that starts to melt and slide. After the paper is stuck down, we VERY carefully trace over any intentional lines and large breaks. Eventually, this will get scanned into the computer and “inked” in Adobe Illustrator so that it can be published. The hope is that we’ll be better able to read the inscriptions on some of the more damaged blocks using this method. I’d love to skip the middle steps and just ink it from a photo, but it’s not nearly as accurate and it’s sometimes difficult to figure out what marks are intentional and what are just scratches if you can’t touch the block. Greg thinks he has in idea for how this could work, but we’re still going to draw as many as possible by hand while here. I must say, I thought a lot about Christmas a few years ago when I read Elephant and Piggy books to my nieces and nephews over and over and over again; epigraphy is a craft that requires the motto “we will try again” in order for you to stay sane. I had to completely throw away my first attempt, but to be fair, I apparently picked a super hard one to start. But my second one was much better!

The block.
My epigraphic drawing.

The red areas are broken parts. I know that not all of the lines are correct and that I’ve made little correction notes, but it was 102*F today, I did this in the afternoon, and it’s only the 3rd one I’ve ever done in my life, so no laughing at it!

The other new thing I learned was how to do pottery statistics. For the most part, I pretty much only drew pottery last year (for more info on this, see basically any post from last season). We don’t actually draw every single piece of pottery that we find, but we do want to have some kind of a record for all of it. That’s where statistics comes in. I just take some quick notes on things, including shape, fabric (e.g. type of clay), diameter, and number. The best part is that I’m only in charge of doing bread mould statistics, so I can contribute to the team effort, while collecting data for my dissertation. My current plan is to do block yard stuff until lunch at 1:30, then I’ll switch to bread mould stats and drawing after lunch.

PS. Addie- I hear you like to figure out what’s on my blocks, so I’m giving you homework! This is one of the blocks that we think comes from the Saite period and belongs with the chapel that we have many blocks from. Be careful about where you start! Your Dad should have a list of all the signs, so see how many you can find (look at the very last few pages of the sign list, which lists them all by shape and type). I know the bottom is broken off, but the text makes sense as it is if you also want to try to translate it. :)

Saturday, October 13, 2012

So Many Blocks

(PS- If you checked yesterday’s post before 9:30am yesterday, check it again, b/c I added a photo).

Today was extremely productive for the block yard. Jonathan and I were able to get all 300 blocks into the database on our field iPad (yep, we get an iPad!). We took pictures of everything and now we’re going around measuring everything. We’ll finish that tomorrow, and then we can start epigraphy! I’m extremely glad that I brought the knee pads- they make the up and down, crawling over things and kneeling on top of stones much easier. Even though I’ve only used them for a day, they were well worth the $15 I spent on them. I tried to take a picture of how beautiful archaeology makes you, but I couldn’t figure out how to get it off of the iPad, so I’ll have to try it again tomorrow.

Today was also the first day that we stayed late. Typically, work starts at 6am, then we end at 1:30pm and are done for the day (at least on site; later in the season people will do work on their laptops at home). The pottery people, however (and now us block yarders) will start staying until 4pm. There’s just too much to do to go home early, alas. So instead of napping like everyone else, we’re still working.

One of the best parts of our day was that our inspector (who is the wife of our awesome inspector from last year) made us homemade bassbussa! Bassbussa is a confection made basically of small pieces of coconut held together with honey and sugar, then baked. Now, my dear husband is currently saying, “But you hate coconut!” And he’s not wrong- I do hate coconut. But there’s something about the coconut in bassbussa that is just tasty! Lindsey and I are going to a fabulous bakery in Cairo at the end of the season, so I may have to see if I can get some to bring home for Dan. It will be payment for him taking care of the house while I’m gone. :)

Friday, October 12, 2012

A Roof With A View

As I’ve stated, I’m not yet ready to show you the inside of our apartment, but I do want to show you one of our favorite hang-out spaces: the roof. Roofs in Egypt are basically just an un-finished upper floor for 2 reasons: 1) there is very little space to move horizontally, and people often live in the same building with family members, moving to a higher floor when they marry, so the upper levels are just added to as needed, and 2) I don’t think you have to pay property taxes unless the building is finished. Thus, most roofs are perfectly suited to hang out on as the sun sets. Around 5pm, we grab a cocktail and head upstairs to watch the sun set in a much cooler environment than our un-air-conditioned apartments while we wait for dinner.

This is our view:

It basically looks like that all the way around, but in this picture, you can see our dear friend The Mosque, as well as the temple pylons (just to the right of the minaret).

This shot is looking down almost straight down off of the roof. The mosque would be to the left of this picture. Notice the goats hanging out. A cat came over and played for a while, too. The little garden at the bottom of the frame is actually quite large and green. We don’t really know to whom it belongs, but it forms quite a juxtaposition with the trash-heap.

The exact other side of the roof houses our neighborhood farm:

He has ducks, chickens, a turkey (I have no idea what that’s doing here), a possibly pregnant white horse, 2 donkeys (one’s a baby), goats, cats, and some cows (under the thatching in the upper right). It’s kind of cute to watch them all chase each other.

Bonus points to whomever can figure out what’s missing from that last photo. Yep, that’s right, it’s an edge to our roof. It’s enclosed on almost three sides, but that one is open to the 4-storey drop. My mother would hate it (though to be fair, you’d hate this country for a lot of reasons, mom).

Yeah, those are my awesome capris that have Egyptian stuff on them. I got them from a family friend and they are kitchy and AWESOME!

While the surrounding town may not be much to look at, the sunsets here are fantastic. The sky is always so clear that we get striking reds and oranges all over the sky. And since we’re right at the edge of cultivation in this apartment (it’s only about 3 houses from the farm next to us to cultivation), we get to watch the sun set over hills, trees, and crops, which is a great end to a hard day.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Making Connections

Today was the last day of the week for us, and it’s a good thing, too- we’re all a little loopy and in need of some rest. Jonathan and I started matching the blocks on site with what’s in our database. There are many, many more on site that will need to be added, but we’re starting to get a good handle on things. It’s pretty clear that all the epigraphic work for a future publication won’t be getting done this season, but we do think that we have several blocks that form part of the Greco-Roman mammisi structure* that already exists in front of the temple, as well as several blocks that might form a whole new Saite chapel! There’s not nearly enough to rebuild the whole thing, but we can learn a lot of interesting information from them. Greg (the co-director, married to my advisor Nadine) has done most of the math for us and figured out how many bricks we need and what size the mastaba benches should be. It sounds like we’ll be getting something like 20,000 bricks for 4 very large mastabas.

A block from the mammisi structure.

One of our blocks that might come from the mammisi.

One of our blocks that comes from a Saite chapel.

Life is getting a little hectic around the house. The guy who owns the building is letting us use the large downstairs room and kitchen for free. It’s a nice place where we can all eat together and a much crappier kitchen than what’s in our apartments so that our workers don’t screw anything up upstairs where we have to pay for it. We also can store a lot of our work gear down there. But starting today, the owner’s family is coming into town for a week and we’re forced to move upstairs to our apartments. We can still eat in the big room, but all of our work gear and the cooking have to be moved up to our tiny apartments. On top of that, we’ll be having a team member joining us tomorrow who is married to Eslam, our reis (chief Egyptian in charge of the workers), so both she and the reis will be moving in with us... somewhere. It’s going to get a little crowded around here and poor Lindsey has to start sleeping in the unfinished kitchen in our apartment (we have 2 apartments, I know it’s confusing- I’ll post a big thing about it once everything calms down and I can get some pictures).

I’m not sure what’s on the agenda for tomorrow, but I’m guessing sleeping in will be high on everyone’s list! We get up at 5am every morning and spend all day in the sun working, so having Fridays to sleep in is very nice. We also have TVs in our apartments this year (crazy!!) and they get the Arabic music video channel, which is always super entertaining, so we might watch some of that.

*A mammisi is a chapel that became popular in the Greco-Roman period. It was dedicated to the baby god. It literally means “birth house” and typically has scenes showing goddesses (usually Isis or Hathor) suckling the baby god.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Another Kitten

Work began a little more in earnest today, especially with our project! Since we won’t start digging work until Saturday (side note: we take Friday as our day off since that’s the Muslim holy day, but work every other day), we had all the guys we brought from Luxor (our specialists who dig-hop for a living) available to move blocks. We had a lot to move and thought it’d take several days, but we moved well over 300 today and are almost finished! The guys were awesome and even understood most of my Arabic (though apparently, I don’t write Arabic numbers so well). Tomorrow we’ll finish moving the smaller blocks, then Jon and I will start epigraphy while some local Edfu workers build us our mastaba benches. The bricks and sand and concrete still need to be purchased and delivered, but we’re hoping to have all the mastabas finished in the next 2 weeks. While I haven’t done all the calculations yet, I think those of you that donated will be surprised at just how far your donation is going to go. Let’s just say that I’m going to have to re-think how I take pictures for you guys, because there’s no way I can count out hundreds of bricks for each of you!

This is what the block yard looked like this morning from the top of the tell (for reference, the temple is to the top of this photo, and where I drew last year is in the upper right-hand corner).

This is standing there where I drew last year this morning:

And this afternoon:

Look at the difference! That’s 312 blocks moved. Some were trash, some were architectural elements, and some were pieces to the same block, so I don’t have quite that many to record and draw, but it won’t be easy. The big ones will probably be left there for the most part since they are too big to move. You can just make out where we’ve moved the blocks to: to the right of the path and steps.

For those of you that were worried, both Kiri and Afrit showed up for breakfast this morning, and Lindsey and I couldn’t be happier! Kiri seems to remember us and was fine with cuddles almost immediately. Afrit was still his skittish self, but was grateful for the food. And as Lindsey and I were heading to the bathroom, we heard the unmistakable cry of a kitten. We turned to find an extremely thin, scarred, scared 4ish-week-old orange tabby trying to follow us on wobbly legs. Of course, we immediately brought it back to our spot, fed and watered it, and let it fall asleep in the shade. It purrs like mad when you pick it up. Oh dear. It’s so great that our friend Tina from Chicago House was willing to give up a bag of cat food for us- we have lots of mouths to feed! Lindsey, Nadine, and I also moved the puppies today. They are very adorable and don’t even have their eyes open yet. We moved them to where no one will be working and chased the momma dog until she found them. Unlike the cats, all the tell dogs are wild, so we had to be careful not to make the momma mad, but she never even snarled- I think something in her knew we were just trying to help. On top of that, the bathroom window dove at the house has a little egg in her nest, and our photographer from Hungary (who also works at Chicago House) is pregnant, so won’t be joining us this season. What is with all the babies?! At least I’m not missing my own furry babies so much...

Mohammed and Taib are still our chefs, so meals in the house have been pretty good. I’m still not excited about second breakfast, but I’ve been bringing fruit and ketchup from the house so that I can drown 1 pita in ketchup and have a piece of fruit, which holds me over until lunch at 2. I’m also a big fan of the water flavoring that I brought. I’ve gone through a whole liter a day on-site because of it, whereas I only did about ¼ of a liter last year. Seeing as I’m out in the sun all the time now, it’s probably better than I want to drink more. I’m hoping that my immune system is still as amazing as last year and can handle the change in food, and so far, it has. Knock on wood.