Thursday, October 25, 2012

Notes from the field

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Baths at Marea (I)
Baths at Marea (I) (Photo credit: isawnyu)
These are from a field trip we took yesterday to a nearby site called Bachias. There’s not much out there on it, but it’s a pretty neat site. A small Italian team has been working there since 1993 or 1994. It’s Late Period through Roman. These are just a few little shots that I thought were interesting from a more general archaeological perspective.
A nice example of what you often find at tell or mound sites when building episodes take place on earlier remains. In this case a later wall was built on top of earlier rubble, much of it old ceramics. Note the slope of the underlying deposits. Also an example of a section of a wall that has somehow survived while the rest of it has fallen down and largely disintegrated into essentially melted mud brick.

A similar wall section, but this one has recently collapsed. This is what makes up a lot of the deposits at tell sites: collapsed mud brick walls in some state of decomposition. Often in dry sites like this one (and ours) you get the mud bricks staying largely intact, but in wetter sites — even in Egypt, such as in the Delta or nearer the Nile where the water table is higher — the bricks decompose to such an extent that you just get a mass of undifferentiated mush.

Another section although this is a baulk with a standing wall. This photo just to show the kind of stratigraphy you find around here.
Interior doorway of a very well-preserved house. I’m not really sure how that doorway is still standing because you note that it isn’t arched and doesn’t have a lintel or anything: it’s just bricks stacked along the top. That supporting post in the center isn’t in the doorway. The bricks, btw, are quite large; although I didn’t measure them, they’re probably 18×8x6″ or thereabouts and probably weigh up to 15-20 pounds each.

A nicely preserved Roman bath. These are fired bricks as they needed to retain water and also some of them were exposed to heat. The three rooms, IIRC, are the frigidarium (cold water), tepidarium (warm water), and caldarium (hot bath) — I think they are clockwise in that photo. They would typically spend some time in each one, starting with the caldarium, but don’t quote me on that.

This last one is a neat little mural that was preserved in the bath area. Much of the bath, and the site generally, has been gouged out by farmers sifting through the deposits for fertilizer — they call them sebakhin and the fertilizer itselfsebakh — but fortunately, murals such as this weren’t useful for anything so it was left. In fact, much of the site was quarried of bricks for a nearby village.

It’s a 4-day weekend here for a big Muslim holiday, so we’re not in the field until next Monday. We’ll be visiting a couple of sites in Middle Egypt and I will try to get photos from those up as quickly as possible. This afternoon has been kind of lazy as half the people are ill (yesterday’s lunch, I think), so we’re mostly just hanging out, surfing the Internet, sleeping, reading, etc. I was going to stay here over the holiday but I have nothing really productive to do and no means of transportation out. And besides, it will be nice to HAVE A HOT SHOWER FOR A CHANGE. *ahem*