Buried again

April 14, 2009

As I packed my bags to leave Egypt today, many of my AERA teammates were still buried in work. It’s archaeology but it’s not in the dirt, which brings up a question I’m sometimes asked.

What does the team do with the excavation site once the season is over? They bury it (backfill) with clean sand. To leave the site open to the elements and foot traffic would be irresponsible, as we’d likely come back to much less archaeology than we left the previous season. The Giza dig site is now completely backfilled.

Workmen backfill the dig site.

Workmen backfill the dig site.

 

But the heavy lifting goes on. Digging is only one part of the process in archaeology. Excavation is pointless without written reports of the work. AERA’s archaeologists and specialists use reports written by previous excavators to understand features that are sometimes no longer in existence. Future generations of diggers will need to know what AERA has done at Giza. For the rest of April, some of the team members continue their work here in Cairo writing reports.

Freya Sadarangani, James Taylor, and Hanan Mahmoud do post-ex work.

Freya Sadarangani, James Taylor, and Hanan Mahmoud do post-ex work.

Word processors, databases, and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) are as important to modern archaeology as are trowels, brushes, and total stations. It’s a tremendous amount of work for already-tired people working in the non-air-conditioned dig house during Cairo’s soaring April heat.

Amy McMahon digitizes hand-drawn site maps for GIS.

Amy McMahon digitizes hand-drawn site maps for GIS.

The team size is slowly evaporating as people complete their work and leave for other jobs and other lives. At the end of the month, the dig house will be emptied and all equipment and records put into storage for next season. This is one of the reasons we’re thrilled about AERA’s new home in Cairo, which will hopefully be ready for next season. The team won’t have to disassemble and reassemble everything every year.

I’ll be getting on a plane early Wednesday morning for the States. It’s been my privilege to be with the team and report on their work from the ground this year. This is one of the best teams in archaeology and they’re tremendous fun to be with.

My thanks to Mark Lehner and the AERA publications team for their support of this blog.

Thanks to Ana Tavares, Mohsen Kamel, Mary Anne Murray, and Richard Redding for reviewing the posts when Mark was unavailable.

Thanks to the team members and students who put up with endless questions about their work and allowed me to use their pictures in the blog.

Finally, thanks for the interest of all the people reading the blog. The blog is really for you.

Brian Hunt

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