Saturday, February 7, 2009

Da Nile isn't just a river in Egypt

I haven’t been writing because I'd like to stay in denial. We haven’t gotten our permit to excavate yet, and it finally being two weeks late, the odds that we will are dwindling rapidly. The last couple weeks have been frustrating, but we’ve filled the days with lots of interesting things. People from both houses have been coming to lecture to us on their work, we’ve begun learning middle Egyptian hieroglyphs, and on a rotating basis we’ve got to go out with Ellen and Johanna the geologist to do non-survey around the site. Where we can we’ve been pitching in on projects to clean up the artifact database, wash-draw-sort pottery, fix maps, and the like. Everyone’s been a good sport about it, and it’s obviously been harder for the folks who’s year’s work depends on new material that comes out of the excavation. If permission doesn’t come within the next week, we’ll head out to the Nile Valley early, which certainly won’t be a bad thing! We’ll have lots of extra time to see sights off the beaten path and may even get to take a side-trip to the red sea.

We’ve also been taking some incredible field trips. At the beginning of the week we went to the Medieval settlement of Balat. The dark and windy streets are the same as they were hundreds of years ago and the people that live there today live largely the same lives as those at the turn of the first millennia.

Yesterday we climbed the escarpment on the edge of the oasis up to the Libyan plateau. This hike was the most amazing trek I’ve ever made. We got driven to the base of the scarp near the Medieval settlement of el Qasr, and started up the gradual slope. Eventually it turned into giant sand dunes interspersed with limestone and quartz outcroppings. The rocks are amazing and alive and its clear where water or wind have given them wrinkles and winks. All the way up I was stopping to pick up crystals, bright purple rocks, and stone tools.

When we got to the top it was like looking at a satellite view of the oasis. Little swaths of green and yellow and white salt fields. I swore I could see the curve of the earth. After we ate lunch on a ledge we tromped around the plateau. So flat and covered with wind-polished lime-stone that it looked like tundra… snow in the desert. There’s also millions of outcrops of chert cores, which are the smoothest most beautifully mottled stone you’ve ever seen. You just want to rub the stones over your skin all day. The plains look like another planet, covered for miles with perfectly round bowling ball sized rocks.

Eventually we headed down -- running and sliding and falling down a sand-dune the ran the entire descent. There is nothing like falling fast without fear. Honestly the most joyful laugh I think I’ve had since I was three and saw the beach for the first time.

So, despite the real possibility that the future is dig-less, we’re working on some child-like wonder.

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