Pot day

Black on red painted Middle Bronze Age (about 2000 BC) jar from one of our burials

Black on red painted Middle Bronze Age (about 2000 BC) jar from one of our burials

Our first two weeks of excavation were frustratingly uneventful. I really had nothing to report. Very hot days for work with rainy afternoons, little sleep (and some mandatory camp bouts of stomach bug), combined with no finds of any importance made everyone testy and on edge. We had set up 4 different trenches: three where we thought there might be some domestic occupation associated with the palace/fortress we had excavated in past seasons, and one over a circle of stones that we were pretty sure was a Bronze Age (2500 to 1200 BC) burial mound. But after two weeks of excavation in the “settlement” area we were digging through a massive mud-brick platform footed (we thought) with large stones, and in the burial mound…nothing…more rocks, dirt, and pebbles. Then two days ago, all in one day, we uncovered 13 complete Bronze Age pottery vessels, 10 in the burial mound and 3 as a complete surprise in the deep test trench in the “settlement” area that I had been excavating with increasing frustration. Turns out that what I had thought was a stone foundation to the mud-brick platform was actually the marker stones for a Bronze Age burial mound on which the platform had been built at least a thousand years later.
So far we have 17 complete vessels, 4 partial human skeletons (although the salty soil makes bones disintegrate easily) and a lot of animal bone (lamb, goat, rabbit) that we assume was buried to accompany the dead in the afterlife.

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New “pot shelf” was added to our store room to hold all our complete vessels

In my burial there was also a meter-deep roasting pit full of charcoal, ash, and many, many animal bones (we await our zooarchaeologist, Hannah Lau, who is due to arrive tomorrow and can tell us more exactly what they were cooking for their burial feast). In my trench, one of the bowls had been placed directly in the arms of the deceased, and on emptying the dirt from it back at the house I found the remains of a nice chunk of leg of lamb which had apparently been stuffed into the bowl for future consumption.  The fact that we smiled in shared recognition of the joy of a good meal when we found it some 4,000 years later reminds us why we go to all this trouble.

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The deceased’s arm reaches around a jar and into the bowl containing a nice portion of leg of lamb

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Lamb leg bone wedged into a bowl in the burial. We will do flotation on the dirt around it to see if we can find out what herbs were used to cook it with.

 

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Beginning the dig

We arrived about a week ago in various groups by plane from around the world. There is one airport in Naxcivan, and it isn’t large. They oddly have a classic airport shuttle  though to take you the 50 yards to the terminal. It took us a few days to unpack and organize the house and buy the long list of needed supplies in the Naxcivan City bazaar,  including anything that was too big to bring from America (shovels, tables, plastic chairs, plastic shelves, plastic drawers, plastic…well you get the idea).  

At the beginning of this week we finally could hire 16 local men (many really boys doing a summer job) and begin excavation. We opened four different areas of excavation: 3 in the valley to expose what we hope will be the houses of an ancient village, and 1 in the hills in an area peppered with kurgans (piles of stones that mark burials).  So far, we have mostly cleared surface areas, but in the next week we hope to figure out what is really going on.  The kurgan excavation (directed by our senior grad students Selin Nugent (Emory 2012) and Susannah Fishman) are particularly intriguing as today while cleaning to outline the stones of the potential burial Selin found a phalanx of a young child which had gotten worked to the surface by rodent activity probably.  We have high hopes for an intact grave with grave goods.  As always in archaeology we end the day saying…we’ll find out more tomorrow.

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Getting ready to go!

Many large Amazon boxes in my living room. Two days left to pack them in crates and get to the airport. We suspect we just might be overweight in our baggage….

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