Saturday, July 21, 2012

Week Two

We’ve finished our second week of excavations.  We put our excavation skills to work clearing a runway for the model airplane which will be used for aerial photography of the site.  After excavating, we attended a few lectures – Dr. Dina Shalem told us about Chalcolithic pottery; Dr. Yorke Rowan told us about the Chalcolithic Period and how to mark lithics; and Dr. Samuel Gazit of Ort Braude College told us about the College’s study abroad program for engineers (check out

We had some fun too – we took a tour of Tell Akko (known locally as Napoleon’s Hill).  After the tour, some of us went to explore Tell Akko, some of us went to Tel Aviv, and some of us hung out at Ort Braude College to catch up on our sleep.

Fun with Flotation with Dr. PG!!

Dr. PG demonstrates flotation

This year at Marj Rabba we are very lucky to have an archaeobotanist (someone who studies seeds and other plant remains from archaeological sites in order to understand the relationships between plants and people in past cultures) working with us (Dr. PG is also acting as an area supervisor, no down time for him). A recent graduate of the Old World Prehistory program at UCONN (, Dr. PG is taking the project to new heights with insights into the plant remains at MR. After some trips to Sahknin, some photos, some pantomime, and some luck, we now have a state of the art flotation system.
Flotation in action
We hope to take soil samples from each of our discrete loci and then float the samples, collecting the heavy and light fractions (the stuff we skim off of the top and the stuff that sinks to the bottom) for analysis. Dr. PG brought his handy-dandy traveling microscope and he'll be looking through the flot (seeds etc... that rise to the top and get caught in the cheesecloth) for evidence of what was growing in the region, what was domesticated, what was wild, perhaps helping us interpret the various areas and structures at the site.
Dr. PG sets up the flotation machine

Last week Dr. PG gave us a hands on tutorial where everyone played with dirt and water.

Dr. PG with the flot in cheesecloth

 Thanks very much to Dr. PG for bringing more science into our lives!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Up in the Sky

Here is a photo of our celestial companions who have been following us on our drive to the excavation site these past few days.  On Sunday, Jupiter appeard to be sitting in the crescent moon.  We have binoculars powerful enough to see the moons of Jupiter strung out like pearls around the planet.

Thanks to Adler Planetarium in Chicago for the photo.

3d Photogrammetry and Archaeology

One of our projects for the 2012 season is to begin utilizing 3d photogrammetry to record our excavation units and individual features preserved at the site. This is done using exciting new software packages which can build highly accurate 3d models from sets of two dimensional photographs taken with regular digital cameras. Here is one of the first examples of a 3d model of a single feature at the site. This is a stone lined pit that was excavated in 2010 and 2011. To best view the model, click the full screen icon in the top right corner and then click and drag anywhere to move the model around: