I’ve been in Fayum for the past six weeks, working with the UCLA/RUG excavation of the Greco- Roman site, Karanis (Kom Aushim). This is my third season working in the Fayum, but it’s the first time I’ve worked at Karanis and by far my longest season in the field.
My first season in Egypt, quite frankly I was overwhelmed. Things in Cairo, at least, are epic on a scale you don’t really anticipate. Other things that really threw me when I first arrived at the camp were plenty. Most of my previous field experience was based in Western New South Wales, a semi-arid basin, but this was a completely different arid desert landscape. It was vast and really beautiful once you get used to its immensity. Also, I wasn’t used to being in an environment with so many other academics, coming from different research backgrounds and in particular classical specialisations. But of all the things I feel I’ve learned from my three years working in Fayum, the skill I value most at the moment is how to choose a good tent. While jaunty angled tent poles and structurally unsound walls (only in windstorms) make for an entertaining experience throughout the season, this year I finally managed to choose wisely. Just in case you were wondering, a low tent flap, and double checking that your tent pole is the correct height for the canvas, ensures that you have great headspace, and commodious lodgings for the duration of your stay! Pictures coming soon.
Currently, excavations at Karanis are finished up. My work involved creating a geodatabase for the mapping of the excavations this year. Basically I mapped in every stratigraphic unit and artefact and built it into a digital map for UCLA/RUG Project. Last year two of our team mates worked on this, however this year I managed to produce the geodatabase and create another database specifically so that Trench Supervisors could begin making their own maps. It’s been incredibly physically challenging. At the beginning of the season in September, the temperature reached as high as 40 degrees. With a field day that starts at 5am ends at 2pm and when you process data until around 9 or 10pm, repeat for six weeks, you tend to wear yourself a little thin!