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

1 comment:

Our Blog said...

Wow. This is a phenominal blog! I love your writing style. The story of the little boy with the tumor makes me stop and think. Thank you!