stuff archaeologists do

what do archaeologists do.....

when they're not getting tied up

being chased by huge boulders

or cracking their bullwhips?

good question!

we ordinary non-cinematic archaeology types do more mundane things.....

like take samples of dirt from each locus 

and record it using a munsell soil chart

if we find a large object broken into numerous pieces, such as this storage jar - called a pithos - we number the pieces before excavating it so the folks in the lab will have an easier time piecing it together.

we take photographs of any major find, as well as photos of each trench at day's end (and hope to goddess we don't fall off the ladder when we have to stand at the very top and the wind is blowing - this is as close to indy's level of action as i get)

we record everything that is going on in the trench - we make sketches of every find and locus (distinct areas within the trench) as well as record soil samples. we also keep lists of everything that is bagged, including pottery, soil, bone and shell, botanical remains, charcoal, changes in the soil color, composition, and if we're lucky, note any architectural features

pottery and most other finds get bagged in plastic and tagged with those shown below, but fresco and other plaster as well as special finds (intact pots, coins, figurines, etc.) each get stored in a foil tin.

whenever a locus is opened and closed, and for every significant find, an elevation reading is done, using the stadia rod and target (shown below)

which picks up the light from the laser level - a little thing that looks like R2D2 -  (still in its box) is installed on top of the tripod - here's one of my fellow supervisors setting it up first thing in the morning

sometimes we take pictures of cool bugs that land near our trench 

or objects we find, such as this base of a stemmed cup

 intact bowls which we hope to excavate.........intact

or of our team having fun

we take time during the day to consult with the boss

or work in the 'office' 
(do you like what i've done with the place?)
so while the life of an ordinary archaeologist is not as dramatic as indy's, we have as much excitement as we can handle!

the dig wound up several weeks ago, but it's been a busy summer and i'm just getting around to posting about it. because we have uncovered so many artifacts, including major architecture, it is important to take time off to publish the finds. as such, next year is a study season, and digging will resume once that is completed. 

until then, my work shoes (and bullwhip ;-) are on vacation.....
top 3 photos courtesy of Google images 


  1. What an incredible blog, Amanda. You're on the cutting edge of unearthing history and I can just log onto my computer and read all about it-- with very clear images!

    I find it interesting that you would go on a dig, very practically-dressed with a stack of bangles on your arm. To me, this speaks much about your invisible energy.

    I look forward to ensuing posts about the discoveries of your productive summer.

  2. suze - thank you♡
    the bracelets are a part of me (actually they are cuffs - i can't wear bangles) i wrote a post about them called
    geography of a wrist
    if you are interested in reading ;-)

  3. A fascinating and informative post! You are in the perfect milieu! I love how you are able with words and photos to describe a bit of what you do and why you do it.

    I love your silver bracelet.....and I do remember when you first posted about it!
    It is part of YOU...even in a far-off photo, with many people,
    I look first for that glint of silver so I can find you first!

    You have had another memorable Summer...and I felt like I travelled a bit with you!

    Love from a proud "Spear-Carrier" in YOUR Opera! ;)

    ♥ Robin ♥

  4. tacking up a note to say i stopped by and while you would not know this, your energy and your cuffs and the embracing details are just the ticket for me. (and love this: hope to goddess).

    thank you for sharing the way you do!


  5. (Ditto, Robin) Your photo-journalism is enchanting with the tales of real-life archaeology, on a dig. Your silver cuffs are so much a part of you and your history. How wonderful that you were able to share this time with your son (right?)

    I look forward to more tales from Indy-Amanda!


  6. It looks like such meticulous work but so very interesting - unearthing life as it used to be. And I love your silver cuffs. I like to have bangles and bracelets jingling on my arms.

  7. Cuffs are also my favorite to wear. You show the tedious, but necessary, function of your job. Are you not just swept away sometimes when you touch something that hasn't been touched in so long?

  8. It may not have the life threatening aspect of an Indiana Jones flick, but I'm in awe just the same. What a feeling to be bringing history back to the surface, to imagine what daily life must have been like! I have job envy.

  9. So nice of you to break it all down for us.
    Where was this dig?

  10. All in a day's work, you say? Indeed! But so beautifully told. Great information in a delightful story.
    Thank you for sharing more of the adventure. I really dig it.

  11. A fascinating and exciting job full of satisfaction I suppose in the end!

  12. Dear Amanda, I savored this post!! Oh, now I really wished I would have become an archeologist.;) I think I would love your profession, one that was my childhood dream.;)) I do not know if I ever told you, but when I was about 8 years old, I read about Heinrich Schliemann and his discovery of Troy and I was hooked. Unfortunately destiny wanted differently and thus my dream was abandoned.
    Next life then.;)
    Great images indeed.;)
    Have a lovely week dear friend,

  13. wow amanda! you are a real life indiana jones, although much prettier! i imagine this is a lot of hard work that involves long hours and much concentration. i love the passion you bring to it and the world and history is lucky to have you.
    such a life you have!

  14. Yay Amanda..Super-Fabulous post...always a treat to visit your intriguing realm and explore alongside with you! Shine on..

  15. robin - hehe - i love that spear carrier quote - so funny!

    thank you dear - i'm happy our earth-y adventures are entertaining to read!


    sherry - woohoo! that's a grand compliment - thanks! not sure i deserve it but am happy to hear it of course ;-)

    genie - yes, my son was along on this trip - we had a wonderful time. he enjoyed seeing mom's work in person and while it isn't for him, he got a kick out of the experience and seeing greece (not to mention the abundance of really good gyros!)

  16. loree - the work is meticulous - as such, it's not for everybody. but what you say about unearthing life as it used to be - so true - that's what makes all the detail work worth it~

    farmchick - yes. absolutely. it's always amazing to imagine - when i see a simple bowl appear in the earth for example - who was last holding it in their hands? did an earthquake knock it off a table? when it's all brought down to the level of people, it becomes less a science and more of a life story.

    julie - no, not life threatening things - but our share of snakes and scorpions. it's not fun to have one of those run up your pants leg! ;-O

  17. rosaria - the dig is near the town of pylos, located at the southwestern part of greece, on the ionian sea. it's near the palace of nestor in a lovely setting. i feel really lucky to be able to work there.

    r-bear - thank you♡

    and as far as digging is concerned, i would imagine you bears are experts!

    philip - i feel very satisfied to get a shower at the end of the day ;-) (actually it's very rewarding - esp after several seasons when all the data comes together and the layout of the site starts becomes clearer)

  18. zuzana - you were awfully young to be reading about schliemann and troy at 8 years old! he's quite the controversial character in archaeology - but there's no doubt he left his mark on the profession by discovering troy and mycenae - but ithaka always eluded him...

    lori - thanks so much♡♡

    i have to say, i'm a big indy fan - but only of the first movie - the rest of them don't do that much for me!

    victoria - good to see you - thanks for dropping by!

  19. major architecture????!!!

    like what? columns? foundations? doorknobs? fiestaware? :^)

    amanda, i find this wholey holy fascinating. so this is your work and you love it.

    for some odd reason this reminds me of the first short story i wrote a few years ago, perhaps because my character vanessa entered a deep hole. it's not so short that i would post it, but i like the connection you've brought me too.

    always nice to visit here, amanda. btw, the first thing i noticed were your shoes. so i laughed that there got center stage at the end.


  20. it still all seems romantic to me

  21. kj - fiestaware of course! ;-)

    actually the dig has uncovered the remains of what looks to be a mycenaean palace, which is unbelievably cool - the existing foundation shows it was constructed with really big walls (they are called Cyclopean after the Cyclops in The Odyssey) on top of which are remains of later structures - still big but not as substantial as the previous levels ~

    i love your phrase wholey holy - you have no idea how pertinent that is..

    and yes - i would love to read about vanessa — she enters a deep hole? is she based on a persephone type character by any chance?

  22. ah mim — yes, romance. (if i were to tell the truth i do catch myself daydreaming about plotlines at times when i'm sitting on the edge of the trench)

    sort of hard not to when you can see homer's wine-dark sea off in the distance and realize you're standing on top of the remains of a civilization that flourished 3400 years ago...

  23. Don’t you carry a bullwhip? I wonder how many freshmen bumble into an intro Archaeology class with romantic misconceptions.

  24. Some people have all the fun ... What a great post. I love digging in the dirt. - Brendan

  25. You lead such an amazing life! I think a story should be written about YOU, the female Indy! Those photos were amazing, and I can't believe that bowl...still intact. Awesome.

  26. I noticed the cuffs, too! Wish you could come on a dig in Lebanon...we can't go into the garden to plant anything without digging up some relic or another!! I feel like there is so much there left to be discovered.

    I am always curious how archaeologists know what a thing is or might be - must be years of training. I wouldn't know a bowl from a hat! (Ok, maybe that...)

  27. So you mean you don't shoot Nazi's? Well that's okay. I still think what you do is pretty badass.

  28. Fascinating insight to your life. Loved the images.

  29. sarah - ah, the bullwhip. it wouldn't really come in handy in the field - unless a trench gets really deep!

    yes, an intro to archaeology class would definitely weed out who are the diehards, that's for sure..

  30. brendan - thanks for stopping by ;-)

  31. julie - haha! i think a story about our dig wouldn't be as action-packed as indy's adventures (unless you accompanied the younger team members into town on their night off ;-)

    maggie - you would definitely know a bowl from a hat ;-)

    hey - i want to dig in your garden! I've dreamed of excavating in lebanon - such a beautiful country...

  32. elliot - nope, no nazis - but happy to know you think my job is badass - my son was along for the dig this season and he thought so too ;-)

    glynis - thanks ~ i imagine you come across quite a few archaeological sites in your neighborhood!

  33. I feel so blessed to be able to tag along on your dig..I have to admit I did not realize there was so much to...I mean the tagging and bagging and writing.I think your right, we see or I see archeologist thru the Indy lens..but I can tell you..that when I saw the photo of the base of the cup my eyes almost popped out of my head...I was so excited..and almost felt like I was Indy..seeing it for the first time after it being covered in the dirt for years and years...OOOOOOHHH I see how you love what you do sweet Amanda..and I am thrilled to know you so that I to can experience it..from a far...yes..but its still exciting for me.Big Hugs,Cat

  34. cat - there can be a lot of tedium involved with digging that people don't realize - we have to bag and double tag everything we take from the earth, record every detail - but when you have a chance to hold a piece of pottery like that cup stem, it all falls into place. as it turns out, what we were digging was a shrine, which makes it all the more fascinating to me....

    thanks for visiting dear cat♡

  35. Dear Amanda, just returning to read your answers to comments, it is so nice that you answer individually.;)
    Yes, yes, it was a heavy book, both in the abstract and literally sense but somehow it fascinated me incredibly even at that young age and i sat up in the nights with a flash light reading it under a blanket.;)I found it nevertheless easy to read. It was an old book, I think belonging to my father, printed in the early 50's.
    I did not know his work was controversial.
    Have a great midweek.;)


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