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Interdisciplinary Majors Grow (article)
By Erin Durkin. Spectator Staff Writer
March 02, 2006
"Google Earth and Some Practical Applications for the Field of Archaeology" by Lee Ullmann and Yuri Gorokhovich (Columbia University) Newsletter
Report from the Field
Columbia Field School in China
In summer 2007, our fieldwork in Guicheng (Shandong Province, China) focused on determining the area of its inner city. Through systematic sample-coring, we were able to secure the location of every remaning section of the inner city wall. In winter 2007, our coring team moved to the interior of the city, discovering the central avenue of the city together with two building foundations and a large number of burials. The research for the outer city of Guicheng has also made significant progress, bringing to light as many as fourteen previously-unknown sections of the outer wall. These works make an important prelude to the upcoming regional survey in Guicheng and beyond.
Columbia University excavations at Amheida, Egypt
April 4, 2006
The 2006 season of Columbia University's excavations at Amheida was carried out by a large field team, directed as last year by Paola Davoli, and the house bulged at its seams. (What we didn’t do is to take showers very often; a sewer project in the nearby village led to broken pipes and frequent cutoffs of our water supply. Construction was to end as soon as we leave town! The bright side is that we will be able to connect to the new wastewater system by next season.)
We worked this year in four areas of Amheida. New this year was the early Roman pyramid, Amheida’s signature monument but one in obvious danger of collapse. Our architect, Nicholas Warner, has directed the rebuilding of the base of the pyramid on its east side, where the mass of the pyramid is still basically sound, in order to close up robber holes in the corners and support the masonry. Next year we will take on the dangerously precarious west side, where it now looks possible to save most of the masonry by giving it adequate support. The new brickwork looks very good.
Recap: Senior Archaeologist, Eugene Ball, Barnard student Irene Sanpietro (center right), review the season's progress in reports made in ceramics
Area 2.1, or the "Villa", for the team." Analysis during the 2006 campaign in front of our own Monte Testaccio (pile of discarded sherds to the right.)
On Temple Hill, where centuries of stone-robbing, treasure-hunting, and removal of earth, compounded by wind erosion, have left only the scattered blocks of the Temple of Thoth amid deep pits in the foundation platform, the picture is starting to come into focus. Parts of the temenos wall have been traced, more inscribed and decorated blocks have come to light, and the platform for what may have been one of the gateways of the complex has been excavated. (The builders amused themselves by writing their names on the stones in places where no one would see them.) A block from the Roman temple gave us our first really good representation of our patron deity, Thoth, in his form as baboon. Meanwhile, Olaf Kaper led the study of the hundreds of relief blocks found last year.
The small house in the north part of the site begun last year was completed this year. Although lacking the wealth and culture of the “villa” with which we began in 2004, it was full of complete pottery vessels and other small finds that give a vivid picture of the way of life of its inhabitants, along with built-in features like ovens, trap doors to storage, and the like. The contrast with the villa, in fact, helps to reveal how different the world was for the upper class and more middling folks. No wall-paintings here!
The villa, already distinctive for its wall paintings excavated in 2004, had two big surprises for us this year, just when we thought it was nearly done. One of these, in a large courtyard on the north side of the house, is a circular structure that seems to be older than the house and was eventually filled in and buried under a later floor level. It had a wooden platform held in place by nails in its side and baked brick supports in the air-space under the plastered floor. What was it? The mud bricks and thin plaster don’t support most possibilities we have thought of. It will be next year, if then, before we know the answer. Just to its west was a long room, on the walls of which were five columns of Greek poetry written in red paint, the first two well preserved, with elegiac couplets. They are the exhortations to his students of a teacher intent on making sure that the students learned to compose Greek verse, for they have not only accents and breathings but also long marks and indications of metrical pauses in the line. As far as we know, there is nothing like this anywhere. The themes resemble those of late antique rhetorical authors, but with a distinctive poetic twist. Who thought there was a professor of rhetoric in late antique Trimithis? Of course the patron of rhetoric was Hermes, the name the Greeks gave to Thoth. So perhaps we should not be surprised. Raffaella Cribiore arrived soon after this extraordinary discovery to study it.
We mounted a small side excavation in January at another site in the oasis, Ain el-Gedida, in collaboration with the local antiquities inspectorate. This fourth-century site has been suspected of being a monastery, which would be extraordinary if true. For now, we suspend judgment on that point—it seems unlikely that the whole site can be a monastery—but the team led by Nicola Aravecchia and Kamel Bayoumi did find a church created by slapping an apse on the end of an older rectangular room and a couple of Coptic ostraka along with some Greek ones. Work will continue next fall to try to determine the nature of the settlement.
In short, it has been another season of surprises, things that one couldn’t go out and look for but that lie in ambush for archaeologists. Except for the termite invasion of the painted room, which has preoccupied our conservators, the surprises have been good. We expect more of them to come.
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On tour: William Lyster from ARCE (right of From left to right: undergraduates center) explains the architectural history of the Elizabeth Warkentin, Marina Nuovo and Mosque of Sultan Hassan in Cairo to the group.
Sharon Thompson ascend along desert (from left to right: Marina Nuovo; Ashraf path to inspect the uins of the Barakat, our Egyptian guide; Sharon Thompson; so-called "Monastery of the St. Vanya Visnjic; and Irene Sanpietro). Symeon" in Aswan.
Photographs by David M. Ratzan