Half Time at Wadi Dabsa

Halfway through the 2017 field season and we are well into the rhythm of our daily drive to site – leave at 6:30am, ten minutes along the smooth road to Dabsa village then another 20 mins over a narrow, very rough track through the basalt flows. Once at the site, we work until around 1-1:30pm, when the ~35°C heat forces us to retreat to the cars and head back to base (maybe with a quick stop for ice cream on the way…) for an afternoon/evening of downloading data, tidying up field notes, filing pictures from the day, packing up samples and, of course, washing collected lithics (and we have a few bags of them!).

Topographic survey of the artefact recording grids on the tufa surface. Photo: P. Fanning.

So far in this season we have:

  • Carried out a general survey of the tufa exposure basin to understand the present-day landscape and clues to its development.
  • Laid out two 50 x 60 m grids over the densest area of lithic artefacts on a low tufa rise, with 5 x 5 m quadrants marked out.
  • Surveyed the corners of these grids using a GPS to give a high-resolution model of the shape and elevation of the surface where the artefacts lie.
  • Mapped the different landforms and surface cover across the two grids to understand further how the landscape and sediments within it are controlling where artefacts are preserved and visible.
  • Collected surface artefacts from a 20 x 50 m grid extension of the 2015 area.
  • Cleaned the collected artefacts in in preparation for post-excavation analysis.
  • Excavated two very small (0.5 x 1 m) test pits into the sediment underlying the artefacts in order to understand their setting and relationship to the tufa.

So with one week to go in the field we have made major progress already, but still have a lot to do! Geoff and Trish will be leaving us after a hard fortnight’s work to take on other international engagements, and will be missed. But with the arrival of Anthony Sinclair, we will shift to recording artefacts in situ across the Western grid, whilst Abi Stone and Dan Barfod focus on the recording and sampling of the tufa and basalt flows respectively to understand more about how the Wadi Dabsa landscape changed over time. Onwards!

The UK-Saudi field team for the first fortnight. Photo: R. Inglis.

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