The City Tour & Weeding

I can safely say that I’m healthy now. I’m back to normal and and hoping it stays that way until the end of the trip.

Shopping around here has been a lot of fun. I haven’t purchased much yet, but it’s always an interesting experience. The open-air markets are called “suqs,” and there’s a different one depending on what you’re looking for. Want clothes? There’s the clothes suq. Want art? There’s an art suq. Recently, we went looking for the gold suq and nearly caused a riot.

There was a large group of us, so it made sense to ask some of the local bus drivers to see if we could rent the whole one for a trip back to camp. We started asking around and selected the driver that offered us the lowest price. This ended up being a problem, since the drivers took turns on who got the next fare and our chosen driver was second in line, causing the first driver to get pretty mad. So they start yelling at each other in Arabic until somehow we all reached an agreement. I really don’t know how it happened since I only understood a handful of words, but it turns out that body language is universal.

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This carried forward to one of the days on the dig when I was not feeling well. Our workers have been incredibly nice to me and they definitely noticed that I wasn’t doing well. As I was standing waiting for a ride back to camp, they brewed up a sweet mint tea just for me. They said the mint would help my stomach and it was so nice of them. Just the gesture made me feel better, since I felt like people are looking out for me.

I was only out of commission for Friday, so by the time Canada Day rolled around, I was ready to join in on the celebration. Our head chef, Mohammad, baked us a pineapple cake covered in little Canadian flags. I couldn’t eat it, but we performed out rendition of O Canada – off pitch end sung with too much enthusiasm – for our American crewmates. They outnumber us five to one.

Yesterday, we toured the city and some nearby sites. We began the day at a Roman amphitheatre. I made the mistake of climbing all the stairs to the top, only to look back down and be smacked in the face with how high up I was. Those stairs are pretty steep!

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From there, we headed to the old citadel, which held several great ruins: a temple of Heracles, an Islamic period mosque, a byzantine church, and a little archaeological museum.

The last stop of the day was to the American Centre for Oriental Research (ACOR), where we got to take a look at their conservation lab. They had a large amount of papyri being conserved, which had come from the Church of Petra. They were all legal documents (wills, ownership rights, arbitration records), which may not sound very interesting but offers so much information about the daily lives of ancient people. So much of the archaeological record is biased towards the big events (wars, treaties, etc.), so a find like this is actually a source of incredibly valuable information.

This morning was my first full-day in the field. We woke up at 4:15am and were at the dig by 5am. The work was fairly tedious to start, considering that we spend the first half of the day clearing weeds that had grown in since 2004. Lots of thistles!

Tomorrow will be more of the same to start, but we’ll start digging down as soon as possible. We need to remove a cobbled floor to see what the next layer holds. We’re all hoping for some interesting grave site, and not just another cobbled floor. One of these things is more likely than another!

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