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Season Six at Marj Rabba - The ASOR Blog

Season Six at Marj Rabba

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ASOR Fellowships (5)

By: Joyce Fountain, G. Ernest Wright Excavation Fellowship Recipient

My name is Joyce Fountain and I am currently an undergraduate student at the University of Connecticut in Storrs, CT. This year I was a recipient of the G. Ernest Wright Excavation Fellowship to fund my participation in the Galilee Prehistory Project’s excavation at Marj Rabba, a project supported by the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago. Marj Rabba is a Chalcolithic (c. 4500-3700 BC) site located in the Lower Galilee region of Israel. This season marked my second opportunity to work with directors Yorke Rowan, (University of Chicago) and Morag Kersel, (DePaul University) at the Galilean site.

Partial photograph of Area BB from the final day onsite.

Partial photograph of Area BB from the final day onsite.

The 2013 season had originally been intended to be the last time the GPP would excavate at Marj Rabba, but with many questions left unanswered (particularly in this year’s focus, Area BB) the directors decided one shortened season may be in arhaeolgy’s best interest. The team went into the season with the intent of focusing primarily on reaching the floors and wall foundations in a section of the site that held a large amount of promise by the end of the 2013 season, and with a team of 8 we managed to achieve the goals by the third and final week.

Joyce Fountain gathering volumes of the soil samples using a Liter measuring cup.

Joyce Fountain gathering volumes of the soil samples using a Liter measuring cup.

My own personal goals included gaining more experience in field techniques with a concentration in the complete processing of soil samples, as my current research questions involve archaeobotanical remains in Near Eastern prehistory. In my three years at the University of Connecticut I have worked on various projects, completing a wide range of tasks that have rounded my education in archaeobotany. However, my experience up until this summer focused primarily on processes within a lab setting, post-excavation. In the 2013 season I had been allowed to participate in some of the activities involved in processing soil samples, but this year I looked forward to more involvement, in the hope to amplify my knowledge of the subfield.

In the three weeks that the team excavated at Marj Rabba we extracted 31 samples from the field, processed them using a modified Siraf-type flotation machine, and after the fractions were completely dried, packaged them to send to archaeobotanist Dr. Philip Graham for further analysis. I was granted the opportunity this year to direct each step of the botanical processing, from preliminary identification in situ to the final packaging of the light and heavy fractions. With the help of on-line communication with advisors I was able to complete the steps to the best of my ability and hope that the information gathered from this season’s archaeobotanical remains will help in understanding the everyday lives of the peoples that once lived at Marj Rabba.

The excavating team. From L to R: Joyce Fountain, Blair Heidkamp, Jocelyn Rodriquez, Gabby Borenstein, Yorke Rowan, Morag Kersel, and Chad Hill.

The excavating team. From L to R: Joyce Fountain, Blair Heidkamp, Jocelyn Rodriquez, Gabby Borenstein, Yorke Rowan, Morag Kersel, and Chad Hill.

This final season at Marj Rabba not only provided me with further experience in the field of archaeology but also allowed for insight into the complexity surrounding the closing of a site. At the end of the season I left with new found confidence – derived from the sample processing, experiential knowledge – gained by observing the directors’ struggle to part with the site after six years, and unforgettable memories born out of a common drive to meet the project’s final goals. Thank you to all at ASOR for making this experience possible!!

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