Close encounters

It’s Friday afternoon and we’ve concluded our third work week here on the dig. I’m comfortably seated with a glass of Turkish tea, enjoying a cooling breeze after a week that saw temperatures hover in the 40’s.

The work pace is picking up. Small finds are starting to flow in and find their way to my desk by way of registration and then conservation. I have to wait a few days to see notable items while they are cleaned and notated, but the most interesting come to me for drawing eventually. That is when the object and I enjoy some serious one-on-one time.

I have the work room to myself most mornings, so I plug in to iTunes or queue up a podcast and get down to work. While enjoying the tantalizing sounds and smells of meal preparation in the dining hall adjacent, I get acquainted with the item before me. It feels like quite a privilege to be trusted with finds that are nearly three thousand years old!

Earlier this week I began listening to a BBC podcast series: “The History of the World in 100 Objects”. I’m only a few episodes in, but I’m hooked. In the second of the series, the host considers a stone tool from the Olduvai gorge in Africa – the oldest object in the British Museum shaped by humans. He describes how the axe fits easily in his hand, allowing him to imagine life in that far away time and place. I know that experience: being handed a stone tool to draw, an object that looks like nothing more than a rock selected at random, then surprisingly, the heft and contour “fit” my hand – not just usefully, but pleasingly. Instantly, it becomes easier to imagine the original user of the implement being not too different from me – like a miniature time machine.

Along with the usual small finds drawings I’m expanding my skill set some this season as we’re short-handed in the ceramic drawing department. Lucky for me, some of the most beautiful pottery we’ve seen in several seasons is showing up on my watch. I’m not only reviewing how to reproduce the contours of fragmented pots, but learning also how to depict varied finishes and record complex decorations. I’m quite excited by the loveliness of some of the vessels that are accumulating and hoping I’m up for the challenge.


Meanwhile, it’s Friday and a weekend in the village. If you’ve been following this for a while you’ll know what that means: the wedding music has begun – and all of this year’s celebrations have included fireworks. Finishing the week with a bang!

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