We have a number of new team members this season bringing fresh perspectives, skills, and experiences to the Ziyaret Tepe project. From previous posts, you know that ours is a very diverse project and, over the years, scholars from over two dozen countries have participated in surveys, excavations, and analyses conducted in the field annually since 1997.
We are very fortunate this summer to have a group of ceramics experts joining us from the Institute of Archaeology at the University of Warsaw, led by Dr. Anna Wodzińska. Anna’s specialization is in Egyptian archaeology and she has worked for many seasons on the pottery of Giza. This season, she has been working to learn Assyrian pottery with our senior ceramicist, Azer Keskin, a long-time Ziyaret team member and Ph.D. candidate at the State University of New York in Binghamton. Anna has brought a team of her students from Warsaw to help with the large backlog of pottery that needs to be processed: Agnieszka Poniewierska, and Barbara Jakubowska are Master’s students at the University of Warsaw. Natalia Kadzidłowska is completing her Bachelor’s degree there. Their job is quite daunting, namely to describe, draw, and process as much of our stored ceramic material as possible.
Their work with the pottery sherds – by far our most common artifacts – allows us to interpret the date, function, and development of the buildings, fortifications, pits, graves, and other contexts that are excavated by the field crew. This work demands a great attention to detail and is as tiring as any at the site. Anna and her students fill out standardized paper forms for each group (“batch”) of pottery recovered from the excavations. They code the fabric (= the characteristics of the clay from which the pottery is made), decoration, and shape (or “form”) of each of the pottery sherds, entering the data into our integrated central computer database. We can then analyze the spatial and temporal distribution of different pottery types as part of our broader interpretive project.
Although such work is not glamorous, it is the backbone of all archaeological interpretation. Anna and her team have made impressive progress and as they gain familiarity with the Late Assyrian pottery, they have been working more quickly and efficiently each week. On a good day, they can process between three and five tomato crates of pottery. (Note: our standard unit of measure for quantities of pottery is the wooden crates used to move vegetables to market). Each crate holds plastic bags containing anywhere from a few dozen large pottery sherds to hundreds of smaller fragments. There are about 900 tomato crates of pottery from previous seasons in the depot at the moment, some fully analyzed, others awaiting attention.