Breakfast is the most important meal of the day – second breakfast that is. After entering the field just after sunrise at 6AM, the team puts in a full 3.5 hours before they get their first prepared meal of the day.   Often before entering the field, the team only has time for a piece of pita with peanut butter, maybe some eggs for those lucky few who identify as “morning people,” and some coffee those that are caffeine addicted among us.

 

Working hard on the site in the sun

Working hard on the site in the sun

In other words, by the time 9:30 rolls around, we are all more than ready for good food and some shade.  At 9:30 on the dot there is a mass exodus from the field to the little tea shop down the hill from site.  There, we find everything we need: shade, food, water, bathrooms (sometimes), pop for purchase, and good – if somewhat tired - company.

In the colorful second breakfast shop

In the colorful second breakfast shop

The little tea shop is a light-filled, vibrant, and cheerful place, with saddle bags of local wool handing from the ceiling, bright colored flags all about, colorful benches also in the same wool as the saddle bags, and a delightful family of cats.

Heather Beals shares second breakfast with a friend

Heather Beals shares second breakfast with a friend

Mamma cat and her kittens, guarding the silver jewelry

Mamma cat and her kittens, guarding the silver jewelry

As the shop owner kindly explained, he keeps cats to chase away the snakes.  The mama cat and her two older kittens (four months old) have quickly made friends with the students, eating leftover egg yoke after the shop owner has given them yogurt for their own second breakfast.  The newest batch of kittens, born about a week ago, are just starting to open their eyes.

Tom's birthday 036

Mamma cat and he youngest litter

On the other side of the site, some Bedouin take second breakfast in the black tea tent they set up at the start of the project.  Sometimes providing the only shade on site, the rest of the team has quickly learned to take advantage of it as well.

Bedouin tea tent

Bedouin tea tent

Helicia, Ed, Jana, and Tom  Parker take a tea break

Helicia, Ed, Jana, and Tom Parker take a tea break

The half an hour goes by quickly and soon we have to return to work.  But the break both refreshes us and gives us the stamina to finish the day.

Our canine friends take a break too

Our canine friends take a break too

Plaster Master!

Susanne Grieve

Now that we are in our third week, the lab has been in full swing! We have several people working with the project including specialists in botanical materials, faunal remains, pottery, conservation, architecture, bioarchaeology, and geoarchaeology. In addition to…ahem…interesting discussions on bone decomposition, there is dialogue on the interdisciplinary nature of the project. As an archaeological conservator on site, my role is to stabilize and preserve the artifacts that have been excavated from the tombs and domestic areas of the North Ridge.

Most of the excitement in conservation comes the fact that you never know what will come across your bench from the day’s excavations and some days you may be doing the excavating! Because of the site conditions, many of the metal materials are covered in sediment and a compact material we call concretion. These can mask any surface details on the object and it isn’t until they are cleaned and stabilized that you can read inscriptions or see details. For example, some of the coins that we have found so far are heavily concreted, but after conservation, we can identify a date range for that particular locus. Coins always produce the best reactions, but my favorite material to treat so far has been several fragments of plaster.

As you can imagine, even when it is decorating modern walls, it is a fragile material. Combine this with almost 2,000 years of burial and it becomes really fragile! Since our fragments are disarticulated and are found separated from the wall we can relocate them to a more controlled environment such as the lab to treat them. But, transportation of objects has the highest risk of damage so to prevent anything from affecting their fragile painted surfaces, we placed them in buckets and covered them with sifted soil from the trench. This ensured that there was minimal movement of the object and that nothing would abrade the surface of the plaster. (Side note: Conservators often deal with painted surfaces that are still intact and use a technique called “facing” if the surface has to be removed from its in situ location). Once back in the lab, I could take a closer look at the extent of deterioration and determine the best approach to treatment.

In Action A

In Action B

As I examine the object, I like to envision what the room would have looked like. Many of the fragments contain layers of paint in red, black, green, and yellow, but with all of the surface dirt adhering to the paint, it is hard to interpret the designs and colors. My first step is to clean the surface of the plaster in preparation for stabilization techniques and to determine how loose the surface is. This proved very difficult with these pieces, as the paint was loosely adhered. In the end, I had to clean the fragments with very light brushing using a soft brush on unpainted areas and a light flow of air over the painted areas. This worked well to remove the lightly adhered sediment, but left the painted areas in tact.

This particular plaster section also had some fascinating construction details:

Plaster Layers Obverse

Reverse AT With Terminology

Since the paint was so fragile, it was decided that the next step should be to consolidate it before any losses could take place. Luckily this step also brought out the beautiful paint colors and allowed us to see patterns that were nearly invisible before. The end result? A stable plaster that can now be used for study!

Obverse BT Low Res

Before Treatment

After Treatment

After Treatment

Before Treatment

Before Treatment

After Treatment

After Treatment

While it doesn’t produce the wow factor of coins, it is such a great feeling knowing that you helped stabilize a very fragile object. Next up on the bench: clay figurines!

As the second week drew to a close, the students and staff at PNRP were delighted to reflect on the progress they had made.  Having finally recovered from the various illnesses that plagued the start of the summer, team members made significant strides during the second week. Area C continues to develop, revealing further walls and floors.  Trench Supervisors Maggie, Cassie, and Jordan  all removed over a meter of dirt from their respective trenches.  As most of their loci are tumble layers, this often involves the removal of large, heavy stones.

Maggie cleans the balk as  Marie Rogers, Jonathon Parker, Area Supervisor Carrie Duncan and Co-Director Megan Perry discuss the findings

Maggie cleans the balk as Marie Rogers, Jonathon Parker, Area Supervisor Carrie Duncan and Co-Director Megan Perry discuss the findings

Students Jana Lanier and Lindsey Nolen clear the heavy stones from their trench

Students Jana Lanier and Lindsey Nolen clear the heavy stones from their trench

In Area B, the tomb teams (under the direction of Nicki, Kelsey, Alex, and Eva) have mostly removed the fill and disturbance layers in B.5 and B.6 and are not working directly with the articulated and commingled remains.  B.7 and B.8 have also removed a significant amount of material.  B.8 in particular contains much later ceramic material than the other tombs, suggesting a possible Early Byzantine occupation or use as a dump site.

Trench supervisor Eva Falls stands in tomb B.7

Trench supervisor Eva Falls stands in tomb B.7

Area Supervisor Jessica Walker documents commingled sketal remains in B.6

Area Supervisor Jessica Walker documents commingled sketal remains in B.6

In Area D, the Nabataean / Roman city wall (early 2nd century AD) continues to be articulated in trenches D.1 and D.2 while the possible Byzantine wall is explored in D.3.  Trench supervisor Sophie Tews was shocked to discover human remains in her trench – D.1 – especially as it does not seem to contain an architectural feature.  D.2 trench supervisor Alex Zarley appears to have more architectural features – possibly domestic in nature – which included donkey skeletal remains.  D.3 continues to be a mystery, with Area supervisor Russell Gentry and trench supervisor Ashley Jones attempting to puzzle out the multiple intersecting architectural features, only one of which appears to be the expected Byzantine city wall.

Sophie Tews and Pamela Koulianos discuss a ceramic find with Sophie's trench

Sophie Tews and Pamela Koulianos discuss a ceramic find with Sophie’s trench

Finally, PNRP architect Anna Henderick continues to draw the city wall between trenches D.1/D.2 and D.3, hoped to be completed by the end of the season.

Anna Henderick draws the Petra city wall.

Anna Henderick draws the Petra city wall.

What happens when one of the co-directors celebrates a birthday during the dig season? The whole team celebrates!

Dr. Parker insisted that his birthday be kept low key but luckily his team knew how to celebrate despite the restriction.  So Dr. Parker received various gifts and cards throughout the day.  The first gifts were smaller, including a door sign from his senior staff and a birthday note on his desk made out of sherds.

"Happy Birthday Tom" in his favorite material: sherds!

“Happy Birthday Tom” in his favorite material: sherds!

Tom's birthday door greeting

Tom’s birthday door greeting

After dinner, he was surprised with a beautiful cake made by Badriya in his honor.

Tom's birthday 014His final surprise came after his lecture on Nabataean Petra.  When asked for questions, the team played the Beatles song “When I’m sixty-four” and gave him small gifts - a do-it-yourself Petra wall (to be constructed from legos), and an Angry Birds dart gun and blow-up bat to defend off the invading Romans.

 

Excavation is now well under way in all three areas. The team drives down to the field at 5:45 AM in order to beat the heat. This has been hard for the last couple of days, with the weather reported to have been over 110 degrees on Sunday and Monday.  Because of the heat, we leave the field around noon, after a second breakfast at 9:30.
Everyone is hard at work.  In Area B, Area Supervisor Jessica Walker oversees the excavation of four tombs, two of which – B.5 and B.6 – were partially excavated in 2012. But despite almost a meter of backfill, looters attempted to rob the B.5 tomb, disturbing the sealed contexts and necessitating the use of a sifter. But the B.5 team remains in good spirits and laugh at the amount of dirt which comes back in their boots.

Amie Goerlich excavating in B.5

Amie Goerlich excavating in B.5

Pulling guffahs from the tomb

Pulling guffahs from the tomb

The other Area B trenches are new this year. The teams in B.7 and B.8 have removed almost one meter of sediment and hope to soon reach bedrock.

Sifting in B.7

Sifting in B.7

In Area C, Dr. Duncan oversees three new trenches and one old trench from the previous season. Area C is further south than the excavation areas of previous seasons, but the team has hopes to identify Byzantine domestic occupation in Petra in the new area based on the presence of a Byzantine wall. The three new trenches have yielded several large stones which may be toppled walls.

Hard at work in Area C

Hard at work in Area C

Dr. Duncan’s trench from last season has been completely cleared already.  Trench supervisor Carlos Santiago Marrero and his team are now documenting and drawing, and hope to move to a new trench soon.

Carlos Santiago Marrero explaining the next steps in excavating to Helicia Chiang

Carlos Santiago Marrero
explaining the next steps in excavating to Helicia Chiang

Area D is a completely new area, north along the Nabataean city wall. Russell has three trenches, two directly north and south of the wall and another several hundred meters east along the wall. Excavation in these areas is moving fast, with most trenches at the drawing and photography stage already.

Trench Supervisor Ashley Jones drawing her trench with Tony Scialabba

Trench Supervisor Ashley Jones drawing her trench with Tony Scialabba

Russell Gentry photographing his area with the help of Trench Supervisor Alex Zarley

Russell Gentry photographing his area with the help of Trench Supervisor Alex Zarley

But those in the field are not the only ones at work already. In the house, pottery in being processed, small finds are being documented, artifacts are being conserved, and human remains are being analyzed.

Pam Koulianous and Sarah Wenner processing ceramics in the house

Pam Koulianous and Sarah Wenner processing ceramics in the house

Anna Osterholtz analyzing the bones as they come in

Anna Osterholtz
analyzing the bones as they come in

Now onto the next locus!

 

The PNRP 2014 Field School and Excavation has officially started. On Thursday, June 26 the team left Amman to travel down to Wadi Musa, where we stayed the night. The next day we were officially introduced to Petra. Staff went directly to the North Ridge to discuss trench locations while field school students walked down through the Siq. After, Dr. Leigh-Ann Bedal (Penn State Erie) kindly offered a tour of Petra Garden and Pool Complex, visible from the North Ridge on the other side of the Colonnaded Street.

Dr. Bedal gives a tour of PGPC

Dr. Bedal gives a tour of PGPC

On June 28, after setting up camp at Dakhilallah’s house in Umm Saihoun, the entire team went up to the North Ridge for a special tour specifically of the other sites nearby. Dr. S. Thomas Parker (North Carolina State University) provided commentary on the Blue Chapel and the Byzantine Church.

Dr. Parker gives a tour of the Blue Ridge Chapel

Dr. Parker gives a tour of the Blue Ridge Chapel

Dr. Megan Perry (East Carolina University) then gave a summary of the Ridge Church and specifically the tombs found there, known in publication as the Petra North Ridge Tombs 1 and 2.

Dr. Perry gives a tour of the Ridge Church and associated tombs

Dr. Perry gives a tour of the Ridge Church and associated tombs

 

After, the PNRP areas were examined. Dr. Parker spoke briefly about the city wall and how he hoped to further explore it, and Dr. Perry spoke to the tombs excavated in 2012 and the special finds they yielded.

Dr. Parker stands on top of the Petra city wall

Dr. Parker stands on top of the Petra city wall

Finally the three trench supervisors – Dr. Carrie Duncan (University of Missouri at Columbia), Russell Gentry (North Carolina State University), and Jessica Walker (University of Pittsburg)—introduced their respective areas and trenches.

Russell demonstrates where his trenches will be placed in Area D

Russell demonstrates where his trenches will be placed in Area D

Dr. Duncan introduces Area C

Dr. Duncan introduces Area C

On June 29 – the first day of Ramadan – field work officially begins.
Staff
1) Parker – co-director
2) Perry – co-director
3) Grieve Rawson – conservator
4) Lowrey – faunal
5) Kanellopoulos – architect
6) Hendrick – architect
7) Duncan – area supervisor
8) Gentry – area supervisor
9) Walker – area superior
10) Osterholtz – human osteo assistant
11) Koulianos- ceramics assistant
12) Rucker – geologist and camp manager
13) Wenner – program assistant/ceramics assistant
14) Brigham – trench sup domestic
15) Jones – trench supervisor domestic
16) Karlis – trench supervisor domestic
17) Tews – trench supervisor domestic
18) Marrero – trench supervisor domestic
19) Zarley – trench supervisor domestic
20) Eno – trench supervisor domestic
21) Garcia-Putnam – tomb supervisor
22) Falls – tomb supervisor
23) Smith – tomb supervisor
24) Roepe – tomb supervisor
25) Rosenwinkel – assist tomb supervisor /small finds
26) Ramsay – archaeobotanist /first guest lecturer
27) Hedges – archaeobotanical assistant

Our 2014 field season is now underway!  We will be excavating until August 3 – stay tuned for new information!

Dear Petra North Ridge Folks of the past, present and future,

This is Pamela Koulianos here, and I just wanted to share with you guys a website that my friend Jayd Lewis created in order to discuss formal subjects informally. Our goal is to provide students, non-students, anyone really, information about history through archaeology without the pressure of a classroom. We encourage people to ask questions about the topics we discuss or our research we share. It is important for everyone to gain a better understanding of what and who we were. And this is our small contribution :)

Enjoy!

http://www.antiquorumetpraesentis.com/about-us/

 

One of the most exciting parts of field work is getting to discover objects that haven’t been used or seen for thousands of years, but the second best part is getting to preserve them so that they can be used for research or appreciated as part of human history. Artifacts often require some degree of stabilization once they are excavated. The process of excavation introduces oxygen which can also accelerate decay and corrosion. Because of this, it is important that each object is examined and its condition noted to ensure we can prioritize which artifacts require treatment first.

One of the most exciting finds this summer were several bells that were excavated from a burial context. These were brought back to the East Carolina Conservation Laboratory for further examination and preservation.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Two bells from a tomb context. The left bell is conserved and the right is untreated.

Photo by S. Grieve.

Conservators complete a thorough examination which documents areas that may be damaged or look for signs of use. We then go through a process of mechanical cleaning to remove surface dirt which could also be masking features. We often look for evidence of maker’s marks, surface decorations or residues; therefore, extreme care must be used to only remove material that will cause deterioration in the future! This is often done under a microscope to ensure we have a thorough understanding of the metal surface.

Microscope

Conservators using a microscope to assist in cleaning the bells.

Photo by East Carolina Conservation Lab. 

 Since the bells were made of such thin copper alloy metal, we had to be careful during handling and cleaning. Early metal processing of copper alloys, in particular bronze, often demonstrate characteristics such as cracking and fragmenting. While we have confirmed that the bells are copper based, we suspect that they may be alloyed with tin to produce a bronze-like metal which was strong and easily cast. Further analysis with X-Ray Fluorescence may reveal the exact composition and assist archaeologists in determining the origin of the metal production.

During the mechanical cleaning process, we discovered a strange substance in the bowl of the bell. The substance resembles an inorganic material to the naked eye, but upon manipulation, it behaves like an organic material. We also didn’t find any evidence of a clapper that would have been present in the bell (based on our type of bell). These two factors indicate that perhaps these aren’t bells at all! If they are not bells, what are they?

Further testing with organic residue analysis techniques may reveal more details about use. Samples will be used from pieces that were already detached to determine what the substance may be. While our analysis and study is ongoing, one thing is for certain: these artifacts continue to tell stories long after they are removed from the ground and we’re here to listen!

 Written by Susanne Grieve, Director of Conservation, East Carolina University

The end of another academic year is approaching and Tom and I, along with other staff members, have been busily analyzing the ceramics, human bones, and other artifacts recovered during the 2012 season.  We will continue our work this summer at our home universities. One of the ongoing activities has been conservation of the artifacts by ECU’s Conservation Laboratory, directed by Susanne Grieve.  Here is a video documenting the conservation of a kohl stick found during last summer’s excavation.

-Megan Perry

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