animal bones

Day of Archaeology – a little of this a little of that

Yo and Mo

Yorke Rowan and Morag Kersel at Marj Rabba

This day of archaeology was filled with not one single task but a variety of “to dos” in the lives of archaeologists. This is a study season for the Galilee Prehistory Project. We are not excavating, we are analyzing and writing, working toward a timely publication of the Chalcolithic (c. 4600-3600 BCE) site of Marj Rabba. It is sometimes difficult to get motivated each day to head to the containers to get boxes of flint for analysis or to comb through field notes and databases pulling together descriptions. We miss being in the field. But a large part of our commitment to the discipline is our obligation to publish the results of our research.

Artifacts from Marj Rabba in storage

Artifacts from Marj Rabba in storage

Yorke studying the lithics from Marj Rabba

Yorke studying the lithics from Marj Rabba

Natalie Munro and Ashley Petrillo taking samples of Chalcolithic animal bones.

Natalie Munro and Ashley Petrillo taking samples of Chalcolithic animal bones.

In the morning Ashley Petrillo, a grad student from the University of Connecticut, dropped by to look at some animal bones – she’s getting samples from the Chalcolithic for her dissertation work. Later in the day we met up with a group of archaeologists at the American Colony garden bar. In Israel it is legal to buy archaeological material from one of 60 licensed shops in the country. One of the licensed antiquities shops is located at the American Colony, so I continued the Day of Archaeology by stopping by and checking on the material for sale or “not for sale” in the shop.

Archaeological artifacts "not for sale" at the American Colony

Archaeological artifacts “not for sale” at the American Colony

My day started with a query from a museum professional about a potential donation from a private individual. The items for donation were purchased from a licensed antiquities dealer in Israel but there were still questions about the legal and ethical dimensions of accepting artifacts purchased from the market. The day ended as it began thinking about artifacts for sale in the legal marketplace in Israel. Truthfully the day ended with some martinis in the American Colony garden bar and a lively discussion about “diseases you have contracted while on excavation”… additional martinis were required.

Archaeologists and drinks at the American Colony

Archaeologists and drinks at the American Colony

A reminder from my Day of Archaeology last year – protect yourself from the sun!


A Day of Statistics, Isotopes and Drilling Bones

I’m Richard Madgwick,  a zooarchaeologist employed as a British Academy post-doctoral fellow at Cardiff University. So what’s my day of archaeology been like? Having just left Çatalhöyük on Wednesday after nearly three weeks in Anatolia, I’m very much playing catch up on research that has had to take a back seat since I’ve been away. I’ve spent much of the day feeling envious of the remaining Çatalhöyük faunal team who are all enjoying a trip to Göbekli Tepe today – I picked the worst time to leave!!

Me staring a bone out

Me staring a bone out

My day has been split between two research projects – one tedious (but worthy!) and the other more practical and interesting. I spent the morning doing some multivariate statistical analysis on a large dataset of around 25,000 animal bones. I’m using a snappily named approach called backwards stepwise binary logistic regression to assess what factors impact on the preservation and modification of animal bones in the archaeological record. This follows on from my PhD research and I’m currently looking in to the causes of abrasion of archaeological bones. Trampling, exposure to acidic conditions, utilisation, earthworm activity. bioturbation, boiling and roasting and water action have all been cited as causes of abraded (or polished) bone but until we know the factors that are important in its occurrence it’s difficult to make any sense of patterns.I spent the afternoon drilling, abrading, weighing and demineralising bone samples from the late Neolithic site of Durrington Walls, next to Stonehenge. I now have 50 chunks of pig jaw happily fizzing away in weak acid in the lab. This is the first part of the sample preparation for isotope analysis – in this instance I’ll be analysing the samples for carbon, nitrogen and sulphur isotopes. Later I will also be testing the teeth from the jaws for strontium isotopes. This aim of the game is to understand more about how pigs were raised and where they came from. Durrington Walls is a huge feasting site and we know some cattle at the site came from Scotland thanks to the work of Sarah Viner and Jane Evans. It’s much more difficult to drag a pig over such distances, but I’m hoping I can get some evidence for long distance movement – pigs were of great importance to the feasts here and I think there’s a good chance they were sourced from a wide area. This will provide us with evidence of where people came from to take part in these great feasts.