Saturday, May 30, 2009

Archaeologist's Tool Box: Trowel and Shabbat Shalom

The other major, “stereotypical” archaeological instrument is the trusty mason’s trowel. Trowels are handy for scraping off surfaces (walls, dirt, etc), poking around between rocks and features, scooping up or maneuvering small piles of soil, trimming baulks, testing material and hardness of soil composition (like when looking for a floor), and various other small tasks. The trowel is perhaps a bit more refined than a patiche – which may be why I don’t like it as well. It is not particularly handy for loosening a lot of soil, and can often make soil look like a hard, packed, defined, level surface when it isn’t.
A trowel is actually the first tool I bought for archaeology, way back in 2004 before I first went to Omrit (we were all carefully instructed about the difference between a gardening trowel and a mason’s trowel). My particular trowel came from a Menards or some such place oh so long ago, and my favorite thing about it is the signature red handle. Most trowels (including Marshalltown trowels, which are the gold standard for archaeological equipment) have wooden handles, resulting in the identical appearance of numerous items and complicated systems of marking and burnishing initials. I can always spot mine from meters away.

Today is Shabbat, the Jewish and Israeli day of rest, which means we have the day off from excavating. I celebrated by sleeping in (until 9:00!!! Oh, the luxury!!), doing some light paperwork, and reading the final excavation reports for areas around where I am digging this season so as to learn what I should be looking for in terms of stratigraphy, pottery, and architecture. We have several undergraduates here working as assistants in varying capacities, many of whom were confused to see so many of us working on our day off and marginally guilty to not be doing so themselves. I explained to them that 1) we are all complete and total workaholics who don’t know what to do with ourselves when not working, 2) this is the work to which we freaks look forward the remainder of the year – I’d honestly rather be calculating elevations or recording pottery readings than reading a junky novel, and the promise of this work sustains me through the drudgeries of translating Greek in the middle of February, and 3) we know how much work there will soon be, and how it will pile up if not done now.

The last two or three days have been beautifully clear, allowing a brilliant view of the snow on Mt Hermon to our northwest and of the Lebanese villages to the northeast. The accompanying wind has also kept the gnats away. But the right side of my face is exceptionally dry and chapped, and I couldn’t figure out why it would be so much worse than the left until someone pointed out that I stand in the same position on site for several hours (while I’m sifting dirt), with the right side of my face oriented in the direction of the wind. Another team is also working in that vicinity, thereby sending gusts of fine sifted soil down in my direction. So my poor poor face is abraded from wind and dirt.

Also, did you know there are three kinds of heat rash??? At least I only have the one. Hot.

1 comment:

  1. I have been stuck in the house with flu all week, so I can't tell you how nice it is to live vicariously through you as you relate your Israel adventures :) I'm so happy that you are able to do what you love. It is refreshing to hear genuine enthusiasm about one's vocation. I think I've been feeling a bit burned out about speech pathology lately.