Archaeology Dig- a Day in the Life

Ok, so we have not posted as much as we would like over the course of this dig, and this post will help explain why.   This was also requested in a comment a few weeks ago (!).

4:30 a.m.- Wake up call

Yep, 4:30. Or 4:00, depending on how much you love sleep and how badly you want to be on time for the bus.

4:45 a.m.- First Breakfast

First breakfast is more like a morning snack.  This is what will give you the energy to get on the bus, arrive at the site, and begin making your way to the grid.  This will also carry you through the first 3.5 hours of digging.  Not sure how it is with other digs, but here in our hotel, this breakfast consists of bread and butter, honey or marmalade to spread on the bread, cookies or crackers, coffee, and tea.  We usually have to supplement with fruit and other healthy snacks. This is also when staff members will get their top plans reflecting the previous day’s work.

4:55 a.m. – Bus to site

The 5 am Bus

The 5 am Bus

For our dig, the hotel is only about 1.5-2 miles from the actual dig site, so the ride is just a few minutes. Other folks have longer commutes.

Yes ladies, this is all of 30 minutes from the time you wake up until the time you have traveled to your site….not much time for hair 🙂

5:30 a.m. – Begin digging

While not an official scheduled time, by the time we have entered the “pottery compound” (explained later), retrieved all items needed to dig for the day, made the trek to our grid and set up shop, it’s about 5:30 and the digging commences.

So whether you are tracing floors, using a pick-axe to remove fill, conducting a two-handed trial scrape to expose mortar lines, or using a wheelbarrow to take dirt out of the grid, these first few hours are usually filled with lots of good ol’ fashion manual labor.

Trent cleaning. As usual.

Trent brushing after tracing a shell floor.

9:00 a.m. – Second Breakfast

No sound as sweet as the breakfast call...

No sound as sweet as the breakfast call…

Given the name of this time period, we feel a little like hobbits (pun intended).  Anyway, since the 4:45 breakfast is not super substantial and you have worked 3 hard hours of manual labor (and it’s another four hours until lunch), you need breakfast again.  With this breakfast, you have your breads and spreads again, but throw in a few more items like cereals, yogurt, and a little protein (tuna and eggs–it’s not kosher to mix your meat and dairy).  Interestingly enough, tuna sandwiches on hoagie style rolls are a typical breakfast item here.  It may sound a little odd, but it’s really not that bad.

9:30 – Back to digging

Just before breakfast, did you hit with a patich and uncover the edge of a piece of pottery?  Did your soil color change with the scrape of your trowel to reveal a mortar joint that may be a newly discovered mud brick wall?  Did you strike down with your pick-axe and rattle your teeth on a large stone below the surface?  For any of these new discoveries, which could potentially unlock new secrets of the Byzantines, Persians, or the Philistines, you now have 3.5 more hours to unearth the big discovery.

11:00 a.m. – Fruit Break

TIme for a break, the breeze is nice!

TIme for a break, the breeze is nice!

With all of the heat and sun, you need a break once again.  So drink plenty of water and have an apple or pear.  Conveniently in Trent’s case, fruit break also come with a view of the Mediterranean.

1:00 p.m. Bus back to the hotel, and lunch!

Time for a shower and lunch.

Time for a shower and lunch.

After you have finished uncovering that newly discovered Philistine house, you are now hungry.  You also stink, so shower first and then lunch.

1:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. – Siesta!

While 1-4 is “free” time, when you include lunch and other activities that are always popping up (like running to the Russian market for bandaids, catching up on journals, and school meetings), this three-hour period goes quickly every day.

4:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. Pottery compound

Pottery!!

Pottery washing: Red buckets contain pottery from the grid and the black bucket is the clean washing water. The washed pottery is placed in cardboard fruit crates to dry.

Ever wonder what they do with all of the pottery found on an archaeological dig?  Yes, every piece is washed, classified, and stored away.  Ok, so maybe not truly every piece, but most found pieces are processed in some way.  This washing and sorting process is actually quite fun as you learn about pottery and how to identify different styles of it.

6:15 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. Lecture

As this dig includes several summer school programs, there are usually lectures just before dinner.  From a general introduction of our site, to information about other sites in the area, archaeology methods and techniques, the lectures are always packed with good information.

7:00 p.m. – 8 p.m. Dinner

Long day, need food.

8 p.m. – 9:30 p.m. Catch up

Work on journals again, email family, perform any other administrative tasks, and hopefully try to go to bed as soon as possible. If you’re on staff, this this is time for writing up your notes, checking your top plans, and thinking about tomorrow’s work. You may have a late night.

That’s a day in the life of a dig participant.  It’s a full day from 4:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. of the workweek.

Throw in a weekend excursion or two, and that is the reason for so few blog posts during this dig!

You can read about one of those excursions on Luke Chandler’s blog.  We had a great time with him, almost two weekends ago now.  Check out his post here.

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9 Responses to “Archaeology Dig- a Day in the Life”

  1. What is a Typical Day Like on an Excavation? (or, A Day in the Life… Again??) | Luke Chandler's Blog Says:

    […] Dutton has a new post titled “Archaeology Dig – A Day in the Life” describing a typical dig day at Ashkelon. It may be fun to compare it with this post of mine […]

    • trentandrebekah Says:

      As I’m catching up on comments a few weeks late here, it’s funny how similar these posts are, formatting and everything 🙂
      Now we’ll have to start searching your titles before we post 🙂

      T

  2. Lori @ In My Kitchen, In My Life Says:

    Thank you! Fascinating!

  3. Mike Coward Says:

    Thinking and praying for for both of you. Thanks for the updates. Mike Coward

    Sent from my iPhone

  4. ferrelljenkins Says:

    This is similar to the schedule we had a Lachish back in the Late Bronze Age. Glad you are enjoying the experience while learning

  5. Ferrell Jenkins Says:

    I’ll never tell.

  6. teamactivities Says:

    Wow, this post is good, my younger sister is analyzing such things, so I am going to inform her.

  7. Unearthed: 21st July 2013 | The Archaeology of Tomb Raider Says:

    […] Archaeology Dig- a Day in the Life (Trent & Rebekah) […]

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