Friday, February 27, 2009

Where do babies come from?

My physiology class has been very enlightening for my 7 year old son. My book was opened to a page showing the progress of a baby moving from the uterus, through the birth canal, and out into the world. Fortunately, the picture didn't involve the mother (on this page), simply the baby.

My little guy looked at the picture (this isn't the exact one, but close), and said "Wow. So that's how I got squished out. No wonder I get headaches!!" There you go - migraines explained. Andrea (age 5) chimes in from the table across the room "Yea, I got squished out too!" Then Derek turns to me and says "Now all I need to know is how I got IN there." I told him that I would be happy to explain how he "got in there" anytime he wants to know. He thought it over for a second, then said "I think I need to be a lot older before I find out about that." He turned and wandered away. I have been giggling about it ever since!

Monday, February 16, 2009

Words from the sand

King Father
Egyptian Valentine shop

Camel Spider...And I will pet him and feed him, and name him George!! Perhaps I can put him on a leash and take him for a walk. He will dine on dogs and small children - very friendly, really.

Who's turn for dish night?

Children's chores.

Dear Family, Once again the sands of time have noted the passing of a week since I last wrote. It would seem that the routine of this project would preclude the necessity of writing about our work because of repetition, but each day is different from any other. Nevertheless, if you wish to save time and not bother with these notes, you know where the delete button is. If not, it is in the upper right hand corner of your keypad, and is clearly marked. As the work began last Saturday, we studied some of the burials which we had taken to our lab and storage building a few days before. I believe I sent a picture of the 'family' of four, all buried in a vertical stack---one on top of another. There were two children on top, and an adult was next, with a wreath woven from palm leaves around the neck. The bottom burial was also an adult. As we studied the children, the two textile people (Joyce and Kristin) noted that they were dressed very similarly in shrouds or tunics with nice colors. I was doing the pathology, and I noticed that both mandibles were exactly alike---with the same tooth eruption and formation of the jaw, etc. It hit me that they were the same age, and therefore most likely twins. I went to the field book, and they were the same length. I am now very confident that they are twins. The adult just below them is a woman, and she was about 18-22 when she died. The twins were 6 years old at death, so she was quite likely their mother. The bottom burial was also a woman, aged about 45 at death. Was she a grandmother? The likelihood of all four being related is high, since ages, being buried one on top of another, similarity of clothing, and other details indicate they were of the same family. When we do DNA analysis of the samples I took, we can be even more certain. I gave a lecture on Sunday night to a group of expatriates, though a few Egyptians also came. It was okay, though I was rather tired when we got back to the hotel. Running my miles every other day adds to the length of the days, and I would like to relax once in a while. On Monday, we found two 'reversals', or burials with heads to the east (from the normal head-west burials down to the bottom of each burial shaft). The head-west burials are Christian, and the older head-east burials at the bottom are pre-Christian. Questions arise: Is there a new population which moved in with Christianity and used the old burial ground? Was there a great conversion by the end of the first century after Christ which accounts for the change in burial direction? Are people buried in the same shaft (usually 4 or 5 in a shaft about 10 feet deep, with about 2 or 3 feet of sand between each burial) related, or is there some other procedure for determining who goes where in the cemetery? These are fun questions, but I know of no way except DNA analysis at this point to answer any of them. Finding reversals means that we are getting to the end of excavating in the area. Good thing, since we have found 55 burials and counting in that area. On Tuesday we had a medium sand storm. The sand blows across the highway like blowing snow, and the visibility drops to a few hundred feet. I have been in sandstorms with zero visibility, so this one was not too bad. Still, the fine sand gets into ears, eyes, mouth, nose, and in clothes. Taking a shower in the evening results in watching brown water go down the drain for a few minutes. We still got some work done, though in less-than-optimum conditions. While I was changing money one evening, I was impressed that my 'teller' interrupted his transaction with me to say his prayers on a small prayer rug in the teller's area. I waited the five to ten minutes for him to finish, and we went on with our business. It is a different way from ours, but one cannot help admiring devotion and commitment to belief in such instances. I met with government officials on Thursday to make certain that arriving engineers with equipment will be helped through customs, etc. The officials seemed to be at a loss concerning my needs, even though we had gone through it all a couple of weeks earlier----I had even written a detailed letter relating to the arrivals and equipment clearances, and the letter was signed and approved. So, I had to do it all agian, and now I am interested to see what will happen when they arrive tomorrow. There are three arrival times for the various people, so the results could vary from person to person. I only change plans every hour or so during the day, and the system requires that I not put too much confidence in any plan. Still, it all works out in the end. There is a party tomorrow night, and the men are supposed to do all the cooking and cleanup----and the dish is supposed to be chili. I have help from the Marriott chefs, and I expect to have a very good chili as my entry in this contest. We shall see. I will forward some of the nonsense (trash talk) which some of the contestants are sending around in e-mails. One has taken me on as his partner, and we did spend some time today cooking the meat (sirloin) for 'our' joint entry. I really have little to do with all of this, and I am not into the trash talk, but my name seems to appear a lot in the e-mails. Oh well, this too shall pass (double entendre intended). Many of the burials have 'face bundles', consisting of folded linen strips and often a twisted linen strip placed over the nose. I have stated in conferences and publications that I think the twisted strip symbolizes the breath of life, indicating a strong belief in the afterlife and the need to have continued breath in the transition period. It is fun to make things up and have other people believe them---archaeologists do that a lot. I hope you are all well, and I look forward to your notes telling me what is going on. May you continue in health, happiness, and success. love, dad

More Pictures

wrapped mummy
Checking out the buried family

Good teeth


Twin jaws

Friday, February 6, 2009

More pictures


Something new, something interesting!

So, it is obvious that right now, I am just not going to have much to say that isn't physiology related. Do you want to hear all about it? No?...So, my dad is in Egypt and sends us weekly updates. His stuff is great, and the work is facinating. I will just copy his note over, then my blog will get something new, and I don't really have to come up with it. It may take me a day or two to figure out how to get the pictures over from email. Great plan, eh? After all, emails come and go, but a blog is, right?

Dear Family, Much water has come down the Nile since I last wrote to you. Although, since the current is only about 5 knots per hour, or approximately 120 miles per day, the water from Aswan has just about reached the Mediterranean since my last missive. Time seems to move by much more rapidly, and the last week has been filled with a lot of interesting experiences. The ADC (2nd in command) of the American Embassy invited us for dinner on Saturday, and his family live in an old mansion which has been owned by the US for some 60 years. It is Italian in style and decoration, and with its four huge floors it was quite an outing for us. Servants took care of the meal, and it was much like watching an old (1930s-1940s) movie. Matt Tueller is well-informed about the Middle East, and he gave some insights into what is going on out here. He served most recently in Baghdad, and was offered the Ambassadorship there. But, for family reasons, he elected to take the number two post in Cairo. Progress is being made in the ME, but it will take some time for all to work out. The elections in Iraq went well on the regional level, and national elections are scheduled for the end of the year. Good luck to them. Sunday was a strange day. As we left Cairo on the Ring Road (a freeway going around the city), we were slowed by very heavy traffic. A large petroleum truck had lost its load of oil on the road, and since Egyptians are not accustomed to driving on slick surfaces, the pileup of trucks, cars, buses, and donkey carts was quite a sight. I watched 2-ton trucks spinning around on the oil-slickened surface like they were in a huge ballet. It was very interesting to watch. We got through that, and then at a checkpoint my driver lost his license because the inspector did not have his seatbelt fastened. We stopped a bit further on, and the inspector got out, walked back to the checkpoint, and a few minutes later came to the car with the driver's license---and no penalty. It turns out that the inspector's brother is a captain in the Cairo police force. Good connections can work wonders. We then had to wait for a long train to pass a crossing (it was an iron ore train from Bahariya, the oasis in the western desert I visited a week or so before). Finally, we got to the site and had a good day's work (shortened by all of the above). The guards' house (mudbrick hut?) on the site now has electricity (I paid well for that). I was requested to join the guards and security people for tea in the newly-lighted place. We sat on mats, talked, and they drank tea. I had some water. They praised me for the power, turned on and off the lights, both inside and outside, for a while (halogen lights which are bright), showed me the switches where they want to put a radio and TV, and also pointed out where the two ceiling fans will be placed to cool them somewhat during the summer. Then, they gave me a political lecture on the US. They stated that Pres. Obama has a black face and a white heart, while Pres. Bush has a white face and a black heart. Interesting commentary. I also learned this week that I have been assigned a personal bodyguard. He is young, well-dressed, and carries major weaponry on his body. He took me through his assignment to protect me at all costs, and told me how to react should any problem arise (I am to get low quickly and let him take out the troublemakers). He assured me that he is to place his life on the line for me and keep me out of danger. After all of that, I went to work at the dig and he went to the guards' house to take a nap. In the 5X5 meter area we are excavating, we have found 45 burials so far, and some are quite nice. One woman had a lovely pair of leather sandals placed near her feet, and also had two pull-string bags placed on her legs. There was a bundle of flax fibers and wheat stalks placed all around the body, and she was dressed in green and purple robes. There was a spindle on the body, but no whorl (was she a weaver?).There are many cluster burials, often comprised of 4 - 5 children buried with one adult. Was the adult a guide or guardian in the next life? With all the children being about the same age, they cannot all be from the same family. On the other hand, we found one cluster of four, all placed on top of one another. Two children on top, an adult (with a nice large necklace made of woven and plaited palm materials, making me think this is the mother) beneath the children, and another adult on the bottom. This would appear to be a family, but it would be interesting to know how they all died at the same time. One burial had a 'walking stick' and a bronze bell placed on the chest. He could possibly have been a priest, though that is simply a guess. I took Dr. Gaballa A. Gaballa and his wife, Genny, to dinner last night. He was in the delegation from Egypt when we opened the Ramses II exhibit, and I invited him later to visit BYU to lecture. He was Dean of the Faculty of Archaeology then, and later became director of Antiquities and Undersecretary of State. He has health problems now (heart), but it was fun to be with them for the evening. This is the last time I will mention my running, but I am now up to 7 1/2 miles per outing, so am getting back into decent physical condition. The weather continues to be nice, and is even a bit warm for this time of the year. The haze in Cairo makes it nice to get away into the cleaner air of the Fayum. The spider is still alive in its bottle, though it seems to be mad when I look at it. I wonder why. I took the crew to Andrea's for dinner the other night, and it was great Egyptian food. The chicken, hot pita breat, hummus, tehina, babaganoush, salads, chicken livers, stuffed vine leaves, etc.----a nice way to have a meal. I hope I can succeed in sending some pictures with this rather long note. I know I will succeed in sending you my love. I hope this finds you all well and happy. love, dad