It’s Not Over ‘Til the Post-Ex is Over

The final Sunday morning of the Wadi Dabsa 2017 field season and we’ve entered that odd, not-quite fieldwork phase of fieldwork, where we leave the dust and dirt behind us, but not the artefacts, as we start post excavation or ‘Post-Ex’. To start post-ex is to enter a kind of limbo in which it feels like you should be headed home (and some of our team members have indeed headed home!), but there’s still a whole load of boxes and word files of important work to be done before you can actually hop on that plane.

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Lithic artefacts singled out for further study. Photo: R. Inglis.

In our case, we still have a week before we sight the frozen green fields of Britain, after a whole month amongst the (for Saudi very green) hot Asir landscape. Life gets easier in the respect that we now have hot showers, continual access to coffee, and can start scoping souvenir potential (coffee shop located, still on the hunt for cuddly camels), but the work definitely doesn’t abate, and the clock to departure ticks ever louder.

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Harry and Anthony hard at work in Abha Regional Museum at five to lunchtime – lithic analysis on the right, photography on the left. Photo: R. Inglis

All the artefacts we collect, for ethical, storage and financial reasons, remain in country, tucked away in store rooms in one of Saudi’s regional museums – at the moment we are working in Asir province, so we are based out of the Asir Regional Museum in Abha. Leaving the material in the country means that its analysis needs to be carried out whilst we are there, a task that can be quite stressful at the end of a tiring season, but also focuses the mind to avoid leaving the material languishing un-analysed.

So what does this post-excavation analysis entail? Well, the main aim is the recording and analysis of the attributes of the stone tools we’ve collected in our survey, including photography of all the pieces for further reference. Yet there is also an awful lot of admin to be done in tying up a season – leaving aside the logistics of the analysis of 40 odd bags of lithics that have to be ordered, lined up for the lithic specialist, opened for analysis, retied and packed away for storage, there is also a long list of paperwork necessary to comply with the SCTH guidelines – preparation of applications for exporting geological samples, exporting special artefacts for analysis, and reporting officially on the field team’s activities. Alongside this is the catching of all the ‘later’ jobs we’ve been putting off, locking down registers of samples and photo logs from the last hectic few days down on the coast, before our ability to interpret our notes and remember details fades.

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Analysed and photographed lithics, ready for the store room! Photo: R. Inglis

So today, as tomorrow, Anthony will be ploughing through the jebels of lithics, Harry will be running through memory card after memory card on his camera photographic the lithics, and I will be writing, writing, and writing some more to tie up the loose ends and fulfil our reporting obligations to the SCTH, who have done so very much to support our work, and in whose lovely Asir museum offices we have made our 2017 post-ex base.

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