ArAGATS and T27 2010: A Review

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August 21st 2010
Published: July 19th 2011
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I'm up early on my last day in Armenia for two reasons: to take a shower (check) and to write a brief blog entry before we dismantle the internet (which, with a bunch of 21st century archaeologists and scientists, is the last thing to get broken down, a truism I am thankful for). In some ways our last week here has been "business as usual." Up early and out to the field, home around 4 pm, a few hours of data entry over a beer or two, dinner, socializing, bed. Then again, in some ways, our last week was much different. We all began to write our final reports, to draw our "sections" (drawings of one of the four soil walls in our trench which show the different soil layers --created by natural and cultural means-- that we encountered during our excavation), and to clean for final photographs.

In T27 things had returned to confusing. After discovering two small pits dug into the bedrock, and which sat beneath the large assemblage of pots, Adam and I both figured we had reached the end of excavation at least in the upper portion of T27, so I moved my crew down the slope to begin to excavate the much steeper part of the trench. It soon became clear that the downslope portion of the trench was mostly rockfall and rubble. In some places if I squinted hard enough a line of stones began to take shape perhaps indicating a wall, but generally stones were strewn all over the trench without any clear purpose. In two spots it was clear that the bottom course of a terracing or fortification wall had been set in place. The more we cleared the topsoil and overburden --this is the archaeological word for the soil above a "cultural layer" occupied by people in the past; also referred to as "wash," "fill," and a number of explicative-laden terms that should not be repeated here-- archaeology is a lot of "hurry up and wait," especially when dealing with the overburden layer which needs to be dug carefully because it could, at any moment, turn into something interesting, but I shouldn't complain, the overburden in T27 was 40 cm at its worst-- at Tsaghkahovit Katie, Lori and Elizabeth had to dig through almost 2 m of it before reaching something interesting-- the more I thought we needed only to make it through the next 20 cm of topsoil and overburden, clean for photos and be done. This would be an easy week. Famous last words... next thing I knew Adam and I were talking about how we really should excavate the whole upper part of the trench to bedrock... well at least the spot where what we thought the clay floor was nonexistent, after all, if the other parts of the trench were any indication, it should only be another 10 or 15 cm before bedrock, plus if we put our sounding right next to what we thought was a wall, we could investigate whether the wall continued beneath, and excavating such a small area should take less than a morning to complete. So, there I was, trowel in hand expecting to remove at most 20 cm of soil, hit bedrock and call it a day. Let's go to the video tape:

Adam (sauntering over to check on the progress of T27): "Hey Jeff, how goes it?"
Jeff: "Uh, Adam? I'm down about 25 centimeters, and still no bedrock, just this light brown, loamy soil."
Adam: "How about the wall?"
Jeff: "One more course at least, I think it's a legitimate wall."
Adam: "Ok, shouldn't be much further until bedrock..."

10 minutes pass,
Jeff: "Adam? It's still going..."
Adam: "Ok, why don't you just excavate a small 10 cm x 10 cm square and see how far down it goes."
Jeff: "Good idea, can't be much longer now..."

20 minutes pass.
Jeff: "Adam, I've got a third course of stones here, and no sign of this thing stopping. I've got to be about 35 centimeters down by this point."
Adam (climbing up from the lower part of T27 and taking a look): "Yeah. Interesting. Very strange."
Jeff and Adam looking at each other, at the same time: "Couldn't be a pit, could it?"
Jeff: "Nah, this would be a very strange place to build a pit, right up against a wall..."
Adam: "True, it would really take away from structural integrity wouldn't it? Well, time will tell."

45 minutes pass. Adam returns from checking on other areas of the site
Adam: "Jeff?" (Turns to Arthur, one of Jeff's workers) Vortegh Jeff e?
Jeff: "Down here Adam!"
Adam (looking down from on top of the baulk into a 1 m wide, 2 m long pit that has emerged in the corner created by the wall and the baulk, and sees Jeff looking back up, smiling sheepishly) "Another pit!? And of course, it extends beneath the baulk...for God's sake..." (begins to laugh)

All told, the bottom of locus 64 (our new, gigantic pit) was 1.40 m (~ 4 ft, 7 inches) below the ancient floor level dug right into the bedrock, about 1.60 meters (a little over 5 ft) from east to west, and we estimate about 6 meters (6 1/2 feet) from north to south, though the fact that the pit extends into our baulk (the artificial soil wall that we left between T22 and T27) makes it hard to know. At least two (and more probably three) large ceramic storage jars were in the pit when this area of the hill was destroyed and burned, and we have recovered as many of the fragments as it was safe to remove (when digging a pit which is half beneath the baulk there is always the slight danger that the baulk itself will collapse into the pit while you're excavating so we were very careful to leave anything we thought contributed to baulk stability). Needless to say, one of next year's prime objectives will be to remove this baulk and recover the remaining ceramic fragments so the vessels can be fully restored. This pit took three days to finish and really chewed into the time I was planning on using relaxing, climbing a couple of the small peaks behind Gegharot, and enjoying m final week in Armenia. Oh well, another fascinating situation brought to you by T27.

In T22, also hoping to reach bedrock, we had removed what was clearly a Late Bronze foundation platform, and we were digging through something that resembled the gravelly bedrock. But, to me this soil matrix was a little too loose to be sure. Suddenly, very distinctive Early Bronze Age ceramic sherds began to emerge, some with beautiful raised designs, and it was clear that we were not digging through the bedrock (unless you are in some sort of subterranean construction such as a pit, which should itself be filled with soil and not bedrock, it is impossible to find artifacts suspended within the bedrock matrix). A day more and it was clear that what I had first thought was very loose bedrock was actually an LB construction fill used to level the EB surface and create a flat plane to build on. Sure enough, beneath the EB ceramics, sitting on the bedrock, and with this LB fill on top and behind it, was a small EB wall.

Well, there is more to tell (there always is), but not enough time this morning. The internet is going down in a matter of minutes, and soon we'll be heading off to the airport to fly home. I hope to write one more retrospective (and introspective) blog once I'm back. Looking forward to seeing many of you once I'm back, and thanks again for joining me on my journeys.
All the best,


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