Two pieces of good news. After two solid days of very complicated negotiations with a variety of local authorities ranging from the town mayor of Tepe to the local school masters and the kaymakam of Bismil, we finally managed to secure accomodations for the season. Our first choice, our old dighouse of ten years standing, was not an option as it was already rented. Our second and third choices, two schoolhouses in the village of Tepe next to the ancient site, were also not available for various reasons that emerged over long discussions. We also looked at a few large private houses in Tepe but in the end none were suitable: either in size or by the fact that they were still under construction! In the end, the Museum helped us gain access to a somewhat new schoolhouse on the near edge of the closest large town to Tepe, a place called Bismil, population 56000. The town has grown remarkably over the past decade and a half and, in fact, the location where we are calling home now was an independent village called Kooperatif just a few years ago but is now a suburb. We are about 15km from Tepe, adding significant time to our commute to the site, but this was clearly the best option available.
The dighouse is a residential school so it is set up to handle a few hundred students and their needs. We have no shortage of bathrooms, bunk beds, or space for laboratories. As the pictures will show, the building is in excellent repair and boasts some important features, like a steady electrical supply, plenty of water, and an internet connection. For those of you who followed last year’s blog, these were occassional sources of inconvenience for us during the 2011 campaign. (I’ll post the pictures separately as they are taking a long time to upload.) Of course, we miss our small village setting and the chance to wander into the village after dinner to visit the internet cafe, or drink tea with our workmen. Sitting out on the veranda in the evening in Bismil we can hear the traffic from the nearby highway and there’s not much charm to the place. Still, it is a good functional workspace and everyone is eager to get started.
We moved in on Tuesday night with nothing but our suitcases. On Wednesday, we rented a large truck (kamyon) about half the size of a semi in the US, and filled it twice bringing all of the equipment to Bismil. All of Wednesday and most of Thursday were dedicated to cleaning, repairing, setting up workstations, the library, putting up shelves, inventorying equipment, and making lists for shopping. This place was a hive of activity and the newcomers got a good introduction to all that is involved in setting up an expedition camp. Today (Friday), we went to Diyarbakir and picked up our government representative (temsilci), Murat bey, from the Diyarbakir Museum, who will serve as our official connection to Ankara and the Ministry of Culture. We also gave a list of our workmen to our accountant so that he could complete the necessary paperwork so we can start digging tomorrow. Another round of shopping and it was home to a cold beer, dinner, and an early bedtime. Tomorrow the real work begins when we meet the workmen at 4:30am to start clearing away the debris that has accumulated in our excavation areas since last September and to lay out the new excavation units.