On Thursday, I was invited to give a lecture on ancient Nubia at Appalachian State University. When I talked about life on the dig at Dangeil, I mentioned Jabba the Toad and his other amphibian friends who live in our shower room. Jabba is a really big toad, but the others are smaller and hang out by the water drain. They sit there, covered in suds, staring at us with their big googly eyes while we’re showering. Jabba turned out to be of great interest to a young, budding archaeologist who attended the lecture.
Here’s Jabba the Toad… as seen on the Dangeil Twitter feed (where I got the photo for my presentation).
After having spent most of the past year being buried up to my neck in Art Deco automobiles and motorcycles, I was more than delighted to get back in to the ancient groove in November and December, even though I worked evenings and weekends to make sure everything was done in time. This involved mostly lectures, talks and PowerPoint presentations, but it was all related to ancient things…
On November 19, I taught my Egyptology Seminar (it had been rescheduled from the spring because of the various deadlines for the exhibition). Also, due to this same lack of time, it was only a half day event instead of a full day affair, but it was very well attended nonetheless. The theme (well, title, really) was “Taking Care of Business at Pharaoh’s Court” and I presented with short lectures a number of important individuals who helped shape Egypt during its long history–Imhotep and Hemiunu (both from the Old Kingdom), Ahmose son of Ibana (New Kingdom) and Mentuemhet, the mayor of Thebes during the Third Intermediate Period and the Late Period. Luckily, Dr. Bonnie Sampsell—the author of the Geology of Egypt, who happens to be not only a geologist but also an amateur Egyptologist—kindly helped by giving one of the seminar talks. She presented Senenmut, Queen Hatshepsut’s trusted architect and royal nanny. That gave me some time to breathe…
On November 21 I spent the whole day at North Carolina State University as guest speaker, invited by Dr. Dru MgGill, archaeologist at the Department of Sociology and Anthropology. I presented the scientific methods used in museums to study ancient ceramics for the students taking Special Topics in Anthropology, Pots and People: Ceramics Analysis in late morning. Then, after a tasty lunch with my colleague, I spoke to two groups taking Unearthing the Past: Introduction to World Archaeology. I introduced them to the archaeology of ancient Sudan (Meroe and Dangeil) and mused the work of an archaeologist employed in a museum. Few students actually think of this option when considering jobs related to archaeology and material culture.
These were intense and very tiring months, but at least I was back into the ancient groove!!
I bet you’re wondering why I’m posting something completely unrelated to archaeology. Strangely enough, it is related to archaeology. Team Canada’s early morning victory in Men’s Hockey actually brought back a very vague recollection from my early dig seasons at Dangeil.
In the early days, the excavation team was pretty much half Canadian, half Sudanese. Those were also the days when we didn’t have electricity (not even a generator) and we had to go fetch our water from the artesian well. Cell phones didn’t work well and we rarely got news from home. Somehow we had found that Team Canada had won Olympic gold by beating Team USA (this has to be our 2002 season). Julie and I were ecstatic, but everybody else thought we were nuts. (We had to explain to our Sudanese colleagues what ice hockey was… they thought we were even more nuts, but were happy we had beat the US.) I’m pretty sure it was the Olympics because Julie and I don’t cheer for same NHL team: she roots for the Toronto Maple Leafs and I am fan of the Montreal Canadiens. (Go Habs, go!) We couldn’t have been both cheering if it had been a regular NHL game!
In any case, the point of this blog post is that even when we’re on the dig we still cheer for our favourite sports teams. This has been made easier over the years now that we have better (but still not great) cell reception, internet connection, electricity and, in general, better living conditions. We dig more often than not during the fall, so we don’t have Olympic victories to celebrate anymore. Julie and I will watch out for the score of Habs vs Leafs games. And we have British colleagues on the dig, too. Our Sudanese and British colleagues who love soccer follow the Africa Cup games as well as UK games. When our team wins, you bet the rest of the dig team finds out!
Julie’s actually on the dig right now. I’ll e-mail her to let her know that not only we beat the US a few days ago, we won gold against Sweden this morning.
Go Team Canada!
I thought I would transfer some of the ‘questions answered by an archaeologist’ from my old site as blog posts. This is one of the very first ones I ever got when I started my website back in 2002.
What do archaeologists eat while in the field?
Eating sugar-sprinkled spaghetti noodles with one’s right hand is harder than it looks!
All sorts of things! Obviously, it depends on where you work and where you stay. The food on a dig near the Fifth Cataract in Sudan is very different from that on a dig just outside Rome! Generally, in far away regions, we eat products available at the local market that are prepared by members of the archaeological mission or by a hired cook. This therefore means that these meals are not what our Mum used to prepare for us! The most difficult is to adapt yourself to the local dishes and products (you might grow fond of some of them). These are supplemented by any packaged food we buy or bring from the big city or from our respective countries. As long as it’s not perishable, you can bring it. People who are fussy about their food and those who only like very specific things might sometimes find it a bit depressing on a dig in a foreign country.