The alarm rang at 3am but, to be honest, I had been awake for an hour already working through all the details of the day’s agenda in my head. The first day of excavation was Saturday and we were up early for breakfast and packing all of the dig supplies into the minivan with our driver, Mehmet. The first day of work is always a bit chaotic. Thirty-four workmen from the village of Tepe met us at our depot, where the equipment like wheelbarrows, picks and shovels, shades, and the like are stored, well before sunrise. We loaded the village’s municipal tractor with gear and headed off to the mound. About half our workers are new to Ziyaret Tepe, so there is a lot of explaining to do.
We have a foreman, Süleyman Altun, who has worked for us for many years and his job is to organize the men into work teams, to take role, and to make sure that everything proceeds smoothly. His whistle marks the start of tea breaks, as well as the end of the workday. We spent the morning putting up shades for the team and workmen, clearing away all the debris that had accumulated since we stopped work last year, and scraping the surfaces cleaning our new trenches in the Bronze Palace area of the citadel mound. This photograph shows the first day of the excavations. Dr. Dirk Wicke, who directs this work, is on the far left.
One of the first discoveries we made was a human burial, right below the surface, at a place on the mound where there was considerable erosion. Nothing remained at this point of the later medieval village and, it would seem, the burial was part of the Assyrian deposits, although the context is very poor. The body was badly preserved, as we would expect for remains so close to the modern surface. Only the legs, pelvis, and a few other bones survived. There was no skull or upper part of the body surviving. This picture shows three of our team members at work cleaning the burial prior to drawing, photography, and removal. From left to right: Judith Dosch, a PhD candidate from the University of Mainz, Zuhal Alcan, a student from Diyarbakir, and Dr. Paola Pugsley who serves as project illustrator.
Today we secured permission and a land rental agreement with two landowners in the lower town, so we will start two new excavation areas. Prof. Kemalettin Köroglu will be directing work in Operation M and Dr. John MacGinnis who is charge of the Lower Town project will direct work in Operation V. Operation M is meant to be an excavation of Assyrian private houses, while Operation V is the “barracks” area I mentioned in a previous blog. Tomorrow, we break ground at sunrise.