The 2018 dig season is a wrap. The last of the die-hards departed early this morning; some off to dig at Zincirli in Turkey, some to home – and I to continuing adventures.
Nearly three weeks have flown by in a blur of early wakings, lengthy days and plentiful strong coffee. A steady supply of new artifacts has been appearing on my desk, nearly the number I would expect in the usual longer time in Turkey. I nearly made it across the finish line, but some hours of work remain to close out the season.
Somewhere in there was a morning outing to a sea cave on the Lebanon border, two field trips and an evening stroll to the Mediterranean shore to feed the mosquitoes. I dipped my toes in the Sea of Gallilee, looked over Jordan, clambered through a crusader castle and strolled Roman pavements. The highway signs are laden with story: Nazareth, Bethlehem, Tiberius, Jordan. History lies thick on this land and beneath it.
And today I am in Jerusalem.
That’s a story for another day. Time to tuck in early in my cool stone-lined nook of a room and try to replace a few of the hours of sleep I’ve been missing.
I’ve been here on the dig for three weeks and we’re already past the half way point of the season. Spare time seems to be at a premium. I’m using my afternoons to catch a nap rather than socialize or write. The usually punishing schedule is particularly punishing this year; could it be advancing age??
If the pattern holds, we’re easing into September weather. Temperatures are in a slightly more comfortable range – in the morning and evening, certainly. Our start time has been dialled back to account for a later sunrise, and we ended our evening meal after dark tonight. I have a full crate of artifacts collecting beneath my desk, awaiting attention: an assortment of partial stone vessels, clay weights and such. Nothing that you would recognize as ‘treasure’ but it all tells a story. I’ve drawn about half of what is on my “to do” list, and more comes in from the field each day. Maybe that accounts for the lack of free time more than my age?
While I continue to play catch up here, I thought I’d hold you at bay with a few photos from a recent trip to the Gaziantep museum. The stele I’m posed with and the orthostat were two of the very first finds that I was assigned to draw in 2008. I was only here for three weeks that first season – a “try out” for the position of illustrator. I cut my teeth on some major material and passed the test, so here I am nine years later. The museum case may not seem like much to you – but it’s the first time ever that I’ve seen a collection with which I’d been up close and personal: I’d drawn (and handled) every artifact in the display!
I’m sitting at my desk mid-morning. It’s that time between second breakfast and lunch when I re-open the curtains I closed against the glare of dawn to catch what might be left of a morning breeze. It’s hot and I’m feeling slightly stressed. The final objects are here in front of me, waiting to be carted off to the museum in the morning. All the drawings need to be completed today. If I stay on top of it, I may have all the drawings for the 2013 season scanned and cleaned up digitally before I leave on Friday.
I confess, I was irritated by these objects of stone and clay – simple, rough things that a moment ago didn’t seem worth this frantic rush to draw. Studying a featureless clay pellet – I don’t know what it is or what it’s for – dutifully pulling out the magnifying glass to look a little closer to be sure I’m not missing something, there it was: a thumbprint.
Nearly three thousand years ago, someone shaped this – whatever-it-is – and impressed a singular mark of their presence into the clay. Someone – who? – took time to create this object. I will take time to draw it – properly.
Humble reflection is in order here: my irritation – and my own creative act – will be gone long before another three thousand years have passed.