Excavation

Waterlogged wonders from Must Farm: Bronze Age boats, bowls, boxes and buckets

As an independent wood specialist, I’m spending the day sat at my computer, finalising the text for the waterlogged wood assessment report for the timbers excavated from the Late Bronze Age pile dwelling at Must Farm in Cambridgeshire, UK. The excavations at Must Farm and in the surrounding landscape over the last ten years have been truly astonishing, turning up the remains of nine Bronze Age log boats, and – most recently – a breathtakingly well-preserved settlement, built on piles above a river channel. Must Farm is one of those archaeological sites that presents a tangible snapshot of how past lives were lived, beautifully preserved in the anaerobic conditions of the river muds.

Overhead view of the excavation (Courtesy of CAU)

The document I’m working on needs to outline all the waterlogged wood that was excavated and recorded on site, assess its significance as an archaeological assemblage and lay out the case for the analysis that could be carried out. I’m dealing with remains of the wooden structures that once stood at the site, the tools and wooden artefacts that they used in and around their homes, even the woodchips that resulted from building the settlement. All the different material types – pottery, metalwork, bone, textiles, and many others – will have a specialist assessment which will be brought together to produce an overarching document summarising all the discoveries made at the site. The archaeological contractor (Cambridge Archaeological Unit) will then work with Historic England and the developer (Forterra) to decide how to move the project forward into the analysis and publication phase.

Although we’re not carrying out any detailed analysis at the assessment stage, it’s already proving to be a fascinating process. The spatial information is starting to be pulled together in GIS, so we can now ‘see’ a lot of the settlement’s wooden structure on the computer screen. This is essential as it’s a really big assemblage, with about 5000 pieces of wood recorded. I’ve been working closely with Iona Robinson Zeki, one of the site supervisors. Although I was on site a lot, it’s not the same as being there every day and it’s that fine-grained knowledge of the excavation which is now helping to bring the construction of the settlement into sharp focus.

Some of the plan data for Roundhouse 1 (Courtesy of CAU)

We spent a lot of time as a team, talking in the trenches about how the roundhouses were built and, although there’s still a lot we don’t know, it’s great to see some of our ideas and theories down in black and white on the page (well, screen).

Key Structural elements of Roundhouse 1 (Courtesy of CAU)

There are around 170 wooden artefacts which Vicki Herring, CAU’s fantastic illustrator, has drawn. As the artefacts are now all in conservation at York Archaeological Trust, the illustrations are proving an essential resource while pulling together a catalogue of the material.

Wooden beater (Courtesy of Vicki Herring / CAU)

I’m really looking forward to reading the full assessment document and beginning to see all the different strands of evidence come together. Then it will be time to crack on with the analysis, and really get to grips with what the wooden remains can tell us about the lives of the people who lived in this settlement 3000 years ago.

Being Better Gatekeepers of the Knowledge Bank

This summer was my first not in the field in over a decade (I know an apt time to write a Day of Archaeology post but it is the first time my brain wasn’t fried by the sun). While it has been challenging not to work in the field, sweating digging, troweling, and picking, it has afforded me time to engage in other things archaeology: finishing research, attending conferences, attending archaeology classes and thinking, lots and lots of time alone thinking.

However, the best thing that my time off from field work has given me is time to travel with my fiancée, a non-archaeologist but avid learner of everything. We have seen everything from National Parks and Ancestral Puebloan ruins to Parchi Nazionali and Roman fora. Just because I wasn’t excavating didn’t mean I was avoiding archaeology, just engaging with it in a different way.

Being trained as an archaeologist since undergrad, visiting such sites and understanding them is a well practiced skill for me. I have learned how to navigate the stones, pits and poorly written signage well. But as my fiancée has not spent years in school for archaeology, she found it incredibly frustrating (and made sure I knew it) to visit poorly signed sites both home and abroad. Faded state plans surrounded by blocks of text made no sense to her until I was able to decipher and focus the information. Sometimes even my own excitement got ahead of me and caused confusion, that was till she lovingly told me to slow down – after which I focused my slew of information to create a richer tour for her without beating her over the head with every foundation stone and pot sherd. And while she loves having her own personal archaeologist tour guide, not all people visiting our beloved sites will have one on hand (unless we start going on a lot more dates with non-archaeologists).

These experiences demonstrated to me that we archaeologists need to be better stewards of the knowledge that we uncover every summer. This is more important now more than ever with sites coming under attack from governments, militaries, and too much love. This is not to say that we should be more restrictive in who sees the knowledge or even dumb down any of the facts we share, but the flood of information needs to be better managed. Archaeological parks and sites need cohesive Cultural Interpretation Plans (CIPs) that will help guide creating focused signs and thematic units for parks. Every time a person leaves a site thinking that was just a bunch of rocks or worse yet, a person chooses not to enter a site because all they think they will see are a bunch of rocks, we lose. We lose the voices and support we need in the public to save these places, find new ones, and prevent looting. With increasing pressure to be relevant and useful, we need to show how irreplaceable the sites we cherish are. The time to move on from archaic old styles of sharing information is now. For if we wait longer, will there be any sites left to save?

Andrew Carroll

@MagisterCarroll

Tintagel II – a not as wet as I expected festival of archaeology

If you don’t know about our English Heritage research and excavation project at Tintagel, have a look at my Day of Archaeology post from last year, or catch up with the work so far during the 2017 season on Twitter or Facebook.

Checking the weather forecast the day before, it looked like it was going to be a very wet visit.

I even went out and bought a new large umbrella.

The purpose of heading to Tintagel was to see progress on the research excavations, where the fantastic team from Cornwall Archaeological Unit and their volunteers have been uncovering a series of inter-linked early medieval buildings, dating from the 5-7th centuries AD. The team has been commissioned by English Heritage to try and understand more about the site at this time. It seems there was an elite settlement, fortified town and trading post there but a full set of buildings from this period has never been excavated with modern archaeological techniques before. I was keen to see how they were getting on!

Secondly, I was also taking a new colleague, Dr Nick Holder, to the site for the first time. Nick has recently joined my properties research team at English Heritage and will be taking over from me on this particular project as it goes forward. So this was a good chance to show him the site, introduce him to people and discuss the various research and visitor projects currently taking place.

And finally, it is our Festival of Archaeology week at Tintagel, and various members of staff and people involved in the project have volunteered (or been volunteered) to lead tours for our visitors as part of the week of activites. I was due to be leading two tours, one at 12noon and one at 2pm. I’d chosen to focus my tour on the headland plateau, taking people around the various ruins and buildings that tell us about the early medieval settlement on the site.

The forecast had improved dramatically overnight and on arrival in Tintagel village it was spitting with rain but not too bad. We headed straight up to see the excavations, bumping into James (excavation site manager) and Doug (visitor site manager) on the steps on the way up.

The trenches are looking absolutely fantastic. James and Brett showed us the key discoveries – both interior and exterior surfaces, a possible hearth, really well preserved stone walling and all kinds of exciting finds. We had a discussion about possible changes to our backfilling and preservation strategy, about radiocarbon dating and environmental sampling, potential floor surfaces etc. One new interesting discovery is that the walls are held together with a firm grey clay, so these weren’t just drystone wall buildings.

Photograph of the Tintagel excavations 2017

The well-preserved wall and doorway at the upper level of the excavations.

Photograph of the Tintagel excavations 2017

Here you can see that some of the walls partly slipped down into the building as it decayed. And you can see the grey clay matrix which holds the wall together.

Photograph of Tintagel excavations 2017

Overview of the excavations, with volunteers hard at work! A possible hearth lies under the black plastic in the left-hand corner and a nice paved floor is in the central trench.

Photograph of Tintagel excavations 2017

The view from the excavations takes some beating. Even on a wet and windy day like today! That’s Tintagel parish church on the mainland, where certain elite people from the settlement were buried in the 6th century AD.

My tours of the early medieval settlement went really well – about 15 people for the first one and 6 for the second (it was pouring with rain by then!) but all interested people with good questions. Managed to make the kids make faces and say ‘eurgh’ at the mention of fish custard in the amphorae! Luckily I had a radio mic so not all my words were blown away in the wind.

The weather worsened in the afternoon so it was a bit of a battle against the wind and rain as I showed my new colleague around Tintagel properly, discussing various future projects, publishing my research on the site and decision-making behind the interpretation project we delivered last year. Then we returned to the excavations to see some of the key finds. Some of the volunteers were asking why I wasn’t in the trench with them – I wish!

On the way back up to the village we bumped into Neil Burridge, master metalworker, who had been doing silver smithing up in the mainland courtyard all week for our visitors as part of the Festival of Archaeology. He’d had a fantastic week so I was really pleased to have asked him along to help out. Giving us a lift back up in his van, we talked about the lead and silver (galena) mine under the island and the fact that the excavations have turned up some crucible fragments this week – so metalworking was certainly happening at Tintagel in the early medieval period, as well as in 2017!

After a long drive home with no voice left and tired legs after all those steps, I’ll be glad to have a hot bath! Although I’ll be handing over responsibility for the Tintagel research project to Nick, I’ll certainly be keeping up with the key discoveries and analysis over the next few years – there will be lots more to say about this magical site.

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As this is the last ever Day of Archaeology (sob!) I just wanted to say a huge THANK YOU to the volunteer team who dreamt up this wonderful idea and give up their own days of archaeology to edit, monitor and publish posts. May we all have many more days of archaeology in the future.

 

 

 

“Comfortably seats 12”

Alice Beasley, Project Archaeologist

You will just have to trust me but us 12 archaeologists were NOT comfortable, but at least we were warm. The all inclusive groundhog cabins provide running water, heating, a toilet, storage and the all important kettle but one thing they don’t provide is much space for people in their high visibility coats. Especially not 12 of them in thermals, jumpers, coats and anything else that looks vaguely warm because it is -5 outside and raining/hailing sideways. These cabins also aren’t very mobile so for large linear projects such as roads or cable lines you can end up miles away from your welfare in a short time. So on the day of archaeology I am taking a short 3 hour drive to collect a cabin on wheels which has all the benefits of the groundhog’s but can be moved! let’s see how many archaeologists we can comfortably fill it with!

welfare van

Shiny new van

the kitchen

All mod cons

bathroom and store

…yup, all of them…

Seats

Comfortably seats two


Monte Miravete: 19th century miners-farmers communities at Murcia (Spain). An Art-Archaeology project.

Hello everybody!

I am JoseAnt. Mármol from the fieldwork at Monte Miravete site at Torreagüera (Murcia, Spain). Here we are looking for identify the remains of the mining activity of the local farmer communities, their ‘hidden face’. The site contains 100 structures (mainly gypsum kilns) and 35 quarries, making the site one of the most big archaeological site in all the entire Murcia region with the best known remains of this activity in Spain. We are working with a chronology dated back to the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries.

This campaign we have been surveying around 23 structures and 10 quarries, and the next week we will start the excavation of one of them, the structure MMIR-E1089, which seems to be a former quarry with a kiln associated with it, later transformed into a space for storage or living. One of the aims for this excavation is to know more about the chronology and temporal phases of the site, especially before the 19th century. Will we find something medieval? That’s our dream for now!

 

The research of this site lets us know more about the farmers communities of Murcia, who represent the origins of the very identity of this region. But, the understanding of the suffering of these farmers climbing up to make lime for its houses and facilities, helps us relate to the current children lime miners in India, for example. This is a reflection also for contemporary world about the unsustainable exploitation of the landscape and the human capacity to transform and survive.

We are not only seeking for archaeological data. Since our team is an interdisciplinary young team and we don’t have so much economical support, we can be so creative as we want. So, we have done archaeological ethnography, poetry, artistic works with and at the site, and a long list of interesting papers and crazy interpretation of the site.

Maybe this is the unique project in Spain with an strong interest in developing an Art-Archaeology approach.

Our team is composed by: JoseAnt. (creative archaeologist), Manu (prehistorian interested in cinema), Javi (archaeo-botanist), Martín (interested in contemporary history), and some volunteers who will come the next week.

Here you can see a short video of the 2016 campaign:

 

Happy summer and enjoy the 2017 DAY OF ARCHAEOLOGY!!!

Best regards,

JoseAnt. Mármol

 

 

Archaeological Analytics for American Archaeology

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Making North American Archaeology Googleable … 
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What is Archaeological Analytics?

Archaeological Analytics promotes public outreach on the web and social media for Archaeologists in the U.S. and Canada. Our goal is to turn our experiences into trending topics and shareable content. Hey- if a cute dog can have over a million Instagram followers,  SO CAN ARCHAEOLOGISTS!

Turning Archaeology into a Social Phenomenon

That’s easy… sort of! We know that managing websites, blogs, and a Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / Pinterest page is a lot work… IF YOU WANT IT TO WORK FOR YOU. Web platforms are great tools for archaeologists to interact with the public at large. For example, a single post can reach thousands of people within a few hours. But, getting that kind of traffic depends on what your post, how often you post, when you post, etc.

You Photograph It, We’ll Make it “Googleable”

Archaeological Analytics created platforms for Archaeologists to share IMAGES of artifacts!  Images, in contrast to reports or academic articles, have higher ranking in Google searches and are one of the most shared formats in social media. Follow American Artifacts Blog for daily features of recently excavated artifacts. If you’re a professional, student or researcher, subscribe to Open Artifact and learn more about North American material culture through open access collections, forums and analysis guides.

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Cotswold Archaeology: A typical (start to the) day on the front…

As an archaeological site manager, I like to arrive on site in advance of the team, open the access, welfare cabins and tool stores and prepare the daily briefing. Gradually, my colleagues will start to arrive on site; the fresh-faced, enthusiastic trainees, keen to crack on and get out on to site as soon as possible, then the crew bus carrying all the necessary equipment, cameras, GPS units, laptops, milk (possibly the most crucial item on site!) and the all-important site archive. This is followed by intermittent arrivals of the older, more experienced individuals who time their appearance to the last minute and then the odd one or two blurry-eyed latecomers who may or may not have been out late last night…

The daily cat-herding ritual ensues and then, once we’re all together, I deliver the daily briefing which can contain elements of weather forecast, site conditions, any specific health and safety considerations, progress on site, delegation of tasks, new demands from clients, feedback, praise or criticism from project managers or curators, details of the latest site interpretations and any interesting recent discoveries. In an effort to keep the team engaged during this meeting, I (usually vainly) try and keep things as light-hearted as possible where I can!

My briefing over, there’s a bit of nervous shuffling as I decide on which of the lucky site supervisors gets to deliver the requisite toolbox talks; this week it’s ‘Sunburn’ as, although we’re currently standing in a mist of fine drizzle, it did get a little bit warmer towards the end of Monday afternoon, and the old favourite ‘Personal Hygiene’… cue the inevitable banter. Toolbox talks delivered by a relieved supervisor, I wrap up the assembly by asking if anyone has any questions or concerns, issue the rallying cry of ‘Okay, let’s archaeologise!’ and we’re off onto site, a small, ragtag group of bright yellow troopers.

At some point I hope to be able to leave the paperwork and turn my attention to the fantastic archaeology we’re turning up. Perhaps I’ll get a brief slot around 4 this afternoon…………..

Mark

Ontario Heritage Work: A Day in the Life of ASI

ASI is the largest archaeological and cultural heritage consulting company in Ontario, Canada, with over 35 years experience in the production & dissemination of knowledge concerning our past. We offer an array of services, including research, planning, design and management of all types of cultural resources.

We put together a photo essay showing the wide variety of work we get up to on a daily basis, and what we love about doing heritage work in Ontario!

(more…)

Veau, vache, cochon… castor : le quotidien d’une archéozoologue

Je m’appelle Charlotte Leduc et je suis archéozoologue à l’Inrap. Pour ce Day of Archaeology, je souhaite partager avec vous plusieurs aspects de mon travail et de « mes » quotidiens d’archéozoologue.

Il est 8h, et je viens d’arriver au centre de recherches archéologiques Inrap de Metz, où je travaille depuis maintenant deux ans. Je découvre en pénétrant dans mon bureau, un crâne de chevreuil, trônant sur ma table de travail, avec un post-it laissé par un de mes collègues « cadeau pour ta collection de comparaison » ! Et oui, c’est le genre de cadeaux que l’on me réserve à l’issue de balades forestières dominicales. J’en suis ravie, car j’ai toujours besoin d’étoffer ma collection ostéologique de référence. Je dépose donc le nouveau venu aux côtés de ces congénères. Ce spécimen est intéressant car ces bois (il s’agit donc d’un mâle) sont bien conservés.

Collection ostéologique de comparaison © C. Leduc, Inrap

Je reprends mon travail du moment, l’étude de la faune d’un site d’habitat daté du Premier Moyen Âge, découvert sur la commune d’Obenheim (67) en Alsace.

Les fouilles, réalisées par un collègue P. Dabek, ont notamment permis de mettre au jour les vestiges d’un habitat rural daté du Haut Moyen Âge. Plus de 1300 restes fauniques y ont été découverts. Aujourd’hui, je continue la détermination des fragments d’os. Je trie la faune par espèce afin de faciliter l’enregistrement dans ma base de données. Celle-ci rassemble tout un panel de données : espèce, os, parfois l’âge et le sexe de l’animal, état de conservation, présence de traces de découpe… Les principaux objectifs de cette étude sont d’une part de caractériser les pratiques d’élevage et les modalités d’exploitation des animaux mises en œuvre par les occupants du site et d’autre part de documenter la diversité des activités humaines qui ont pu s’y dérouler.

Au cours de l’étude, je découvre la présence d’au moins quatre probables spécimens de patins à glace réalisés sur os. Il s’agit de radius ou de métapodes entiers de cheval, qui présentent une face aplanie dans l’axe longitudinal de l’os, résultant du frottement de la pièce sur la glace, et parfois des aménagements de chanfreins aux extrémités. Ce type d’objet est fréquemment documenté pour les périodes antique et médiévale, notamment en Alsace. Les quatre exemplaires d’Obenheim viennent donc enrichir le corpus et confortent l’hypothèse d’une particularité régionale déjà soulevée par d’autres collègues archéozoologues.

Patin à glace sur métatarse de cheval découvert au sein de l’occupation du Haut Moyen-Âge à Obenheim (67) en Alsace (France) © Photo : F. Verdelet, Inrap ; PAO : C. Leduc, Inrap

Cela entrainera certainement un travail de synthèse collectif  afin de mieux les caractériser et de comprendre leur valeur culturelle régionale.

Après la pause de midi, changement de programme. Je vais maintenant me consacrer à la préparation d’une mission à l’étranger dans le cadre d’un projet de recherche que je développe avec Louis Chaix professeur émérite au Muséum de Genève et qui porte sur l’exploitation du castor européen au Mésolithique en Russie. En effet, si l’essentiel de mon travail consiste à analyser les restes de faune issus des fouilles préventives réalisées en Grand Est, toutes périodes confondues, je suis également une spécialiste du Mésolithique (environ -9600 à -6000/5000 ans av. J.C.). Je m’intéresse tout particulièrement à l’exploitation du monde animal par les sociétés des derniers chasseurs-cueilleurs qui ont occupé l’Europe avant le Néolithique et le développement des sociétés agro-pastorales. Je travaille sur des groupes culturels d’Europe du Nord et de Russie et notamment sur un site exceptionnel, Zamostje 2, localisé à 150 km au nord de Moscou et fouillé depuis 1989 par V. Lozovski (†) et O. Lozovskaya (Institut d’Histoire de la Culture Matérielle de Saint-Pétersbourg, Académie des sciences de Russie ; Musée d’état d’histoire et d’art de Serguiev Posad. Le système économique des chasseurs-cueilleurs ayant occupé ce lieu de 7000/6500 à 4800/4300 av. J.C. reposait en grande partie sur la pêche et sur la chasse de deux espèces : l’élan et le castor. Le castor y a été exploité de façon très intensive, pour sa fourrure, sa viande et aussi pour ses mandibules qui étaient prélevées pour être utilisées comme outils pour travailler le bois. Des milliers d’exemplaires ont été mis au jour au cours des fouilles à Zamostje 2. Ils témoignent d’une exploitation quasiment industrielle et très standardisé de l’animal, c’est tout l’objet de mon projet de recherche.

Outil sur mandibule de castor, Zamostje 2, fouille 2011 © C. Leduc, Inrap

Je dois donc aller régulièrement à Moscou et à Saint-Pétersbourg pour étudier ces restes de castors et procéder à de nombreuses analyses, notamment ostéométriques pour mieux comprendre les stratégies de chasse.

Enregistrement de données ostéométriques sur des castors modernes au Muséum d’histoire naturelle de Berne, Suisse, en compagnie de Louis Chaix © A. Rehazek

Et puisqu’un tel travail nécessite de bien connaître cet animal, quoi de mieux que de s’y intéresser également lorsqu’il est encore vivant ! Le castor ayant été réintroduit dans les années 80 en Lorraine, je participe également au suivi des populations locales. Je réalise des prospections annuelles en parcourant des tronçons de rivières, en enregistrant et en géo-localisant tous les indices de présence de l’animal, avec le Groupe d’Etude des Mammifères Lorrains (GEML). C’est l’occasion de rencontrer des naturalistes passionnés, fins connaisseurs du monde animal et d’observer les talents de bâtisseur du castor.

Barrage construit par des castors sur un petit affluent de la Moselle © C. Leduc, Inrap

La journée de travail se termine… J’ai maintenant rendez-vous avec plusieurs de mes collègues pour un entraînement hebdomadaire de football, puisque nous avons décidé de participer à la Winckelmann Cup, la coupe internationale de football des archéologues, un moment sportif et festif annuel à ne pas manquer et qui permet de découvrir ses collègues sur le terrain … mais avec du gazon !

Winckelmann Cup, coupe internationale de football des archéologues © Inrap


Anglo-Georgian Expedition to Nokalakevi – 2017

The Anglo-Georgian Expedition first excavated at the stunning, multi-period site of Nokalakevi (in Samegrelo, western Georgia) in 2001, when a handful of British students travelled to a relatively unknown corner of Europe and were taught archaeological skills by an equally small number of British and Georgian professionals. Going from strength to strength – helped, it must be said, by the huge improvement in the stability of Georgia and its economy since 2001 – the expedition is now the longest-running international collaboration in Georgian archaeology, with a team this year of about 30.

The site itself is most well known for the surviving fortifications, dating to the 4th to 6th centuries AD, which still dominate the landscape. The eastern fortifications add to the impressive natural defences provided by a steep hill to the north, and a deep limestone gorge carved by the Tekhuri river which meanders in a loop around the west and south of the site.

The site of Nokalakevi at the base of the steep hill (left) where the Tekhuri emerges from the gorge onto the Colchian Plain

Since 2001, the Anglo-Georgian Expedition has worked in six trenches. Complete sequences from Trenches A-C have revealed 3.5m of stratified deposits, with settlement at the site having begun at the latest by the 8th century BC, and some evidence that it was even earlier.

This season we are working in Trenches F and G. The first is revealing a large Hellenistic-period building, terraced into the lower slope of the hill where it begins to level out onto what we refer to as the ‘lower town’ area. Constructed in clay and timber, the bases of the walls consist of lines of unbonded limestone blocks – presumably providing a waterproof sill to prevent groundwater in this very wet and humid part of Georgia limiting the lifespan of the buildings. Having found fragmentary remains of Hellenistic-period structures in Trench A in 2007, this is the first time we have been fortunate enough to find an apparently complete structure. In the last few days a burial was found close to the structure, complete with ear-rings and a large number of intricate glass beads.

A large Hellenistic-period building being revealed in Trench F

 

Work beginning in Trench G towards the start of the 2017 season

Trench G was only opened this season, and so far it has taken a great deal of effort to remove 1980s conservation deposits; overlying a large quantity of limestone blocks that fell from the fortifications once they ceased to be properly maintained. Having excavated through these deposits we have revealed post-medieval features, including part of a ‘qvevri’ – a distinctive variety of large ceramic vessel in which Georgian wine has been made for thousands of years, in a process now on the Intangible World Heritage list.

Remains of the large qvevri in Trench G, perhaps once full of wine

Trench G had one last surprise for us, however. Just as we were cleaning up ready to draw our sections in the middle of the last week, a coin fell out of the section and was spotted by Giles, one of our trench supervisors. Although it needs to be properly cleaned by our colleague Nino at the Janshia Museum laboratory in Tbilisi, it appears to be a 30 nummi coin of the late 6th century AD, probably dating to the reign of Byzantine Emperor Tiberius (578-582).

The obverse and reverse of a 6th century 30 nummi coin

This year’s ‘Day of Archaeology’ falls on our last full day in Nokalakevi before we head back to Tbilisi tomorrow after a month’s excavating. Today we will be tying up loose ends, and protecting the archaeological remains with sheeting and backfill so that we can return to it next year.