Diana Craig Patch
Yesterday, Catharine and Chris Gray, the surveyor working with us for the first half of the season, laid out squares in two areas. One is immediately west of the North Village and the other is west of the Audience Pavilion’s enclosure wall. Last year Joel Paulson, who joins us every year for several weeks to tie in all our work to the overall plan of Malqata, set a number of grid points so we could lay out squares as soon as we arrived this year. To our amazement, last year’s stakes were all still in place. Often kids see a survey stake and pull it out for fun. I guess that the heavy reed stakes were unappealing or possibly difficult to see, either way lucky us. This morning Catharine and Chris subdivided the 10 m squares of Joel’s grid into 5m ones, which are more manageable as squares for excavating, and we were ready to start.
The area to the west of the Audience Pavilion, a large mud brick platform, has small spoil heaps or dumps that were created by archaeological waste removed from the area around the platform. The earlier archaeologists put their spoil heaps just past (literally only 50cm) the west enclosure wall for the Pavilion. Back in 2008 when we started working at Malqata, Ray Johnson, the Director of Chicago House, mentioned to me that he had noticed small flakes of carnelian on the surface of these dumps. I have kept coming back to that piece of information over the years and I too found carnelian on their slopes. So we decided this would be the season to explore the area and see what it might contain. The dumps of course are in the way, but we located our squares in a few areas that must have been pathways through the dumps to the Pavilion. On these paths there is less archaeological waste so we can reach the undisturbed strata faster.
To begin work here, I had Azib, the head workman, and his two assistants first pick up everything on the surface of the new square. Since there is a lot of disturbance in the area, I wanted to be able to see immediately when we reached in situ material and I wanted an understanding of the types of debris we would find. I found it quite fascinating and the material much more varied than anticipated. There were of course pieces of stone that are part of the natural desert and these were easy to set aside. There were lots of pottery sherds too. They also are expected; these were interesting in that they were relatively small in size and looked a little worn. Generally sherds on a dump, especially in association with a royal structure like the Audience Pavilion, are large with edges that look freshly broken even though they are 3000 years old. The small worn sherds are part of the puzzle of this area of Malqata. We also found fragments of stone, none of it worked, but the types of stone –diorite, granite, sandstone, red quartzite− are not local to the region, meaning these were imported for a purpose. And we got carnelian. Chunks and flakes enough to fill a small bag! I am excited and hope the interesting material on the surface of this square is a small reflection of what lies underneath. More to come…