Photos from the field

I’ve been working on an archaeological project in Cambodia for several weeks now and have been wanting to blog about it for awhile.  I agree with John Hawks who argues that there should be more open sharing of information with the public and that some kind of “live-blogging” of archaeological projects is a great way to disseminate that information.  On the other hand, this is not my project and so it seems some how inappropriate to share intimate details about it without discussing this with the project directors first.  There are also issues with discussing the project’s location in detail, in order to discourage looters or uninvited visitors.  With that disclaimer, I wanted to share some photos of what I’ve been working on that I think will be interesting (I hope!) but not “over-sharing.”

Using a Total Station to make a topographic map of our site

I am working with the Greater Angkor Project and our current research project is focused on understanding Angkorian/Post-Angkorian occupation.  To that end, we’re currently digging a few test units at a location within the Angkor park.  We’re working in rice fields and there are farmers who live nearby.

Our research area (cows not included).

We visited this site last June/July and others have already made note of it due to very dense surface ceramics.  As we started, many farmers had been plowing their fields, churning up even more ceramics.  It has also been suggested that this site had both ceramic and brick kilns. These are fascinating, but outside our research question so we’ve been trying to avoid them.

This unassuming mound is covered with brick, and may be a brick kiln.

We’ve started our work by making a map of the site using a Total Station (this is still ongoing). One of my Cambodian colleagues is also putting a large grid on the site and doing a systematic surface collection of the ceramics to look at the density and type of ceramics. This information is important for understanding what might be underground. Many of the ceramics are known, identifiable types (especially Chinese tradeware ceramics that have been extensively studied), which can help with dating the site as well.

These surface ceramics are not from the site where we are excavating, but one nearby. We are finding many similar ceramics on the surface of our site as well.

The site we’re working at is made up of multiple mounds.  We’ve decided to put in three units along one N-S transect.  You can see some of our units below, along with our lovely palm-leaf shades.  It is so hot and there is hardly any tree cover, so these roofs are really important.  We move them around the unit throughout the day.

A lovely thatch roof covers an excavation unit.

We’ve also been joined by 8 2nd and 3rd year archaeology students from the Royal University of Fine Arts in Phnom Penh.  Several have never been to Angkor before and many have never really done archaeology.  It’s been so fun to work with them and they are amazingly bright and enthusiastic.  They’ve also been giving my Khmer a good workout.

RUFA students and one of our experienced workmen measure in an in situ artifact from an excavation unit.

In the past week we’ve excavated about 1 meter down in the unit that I am supervising.  A second unit has already been finished, and you can see the stratigraphy of the mound.

This unit is finished, you can see the different layers in the wall profile.

So far we’ve found a lot of ceramics, a spindle whorl, some clay balls (used in sling shots) and recently an in situ iron knife.

An in situ iron knife.

Our excavations are ongoing.  I should have more updates soon!

4 responses to “Photos from the field

  1. Nice to see some real science in Cambodia…many things to learn for the historical record, concerning Khmer Kingdoms.

  2. Thank you! Very interesting. Beads?

  3. @Diane- no beads here but some at another site a colleague is excavating.

    @Ray- thanks- see the “Archaeological Projects in Cambodia” Tab (above) for a whole list of scientific archaeological projects in Cambodia. There is a lot of great research being done by both local and foreign archaeologists.

  4. Hello Alison,
    A long time a go that i can’t meet you, i hope you and your family is well. i like what you have been posting, because it’s sharing more archaeological information in Cambodia to other researchers. i meant that previously, had many archaeological researched and excavated too but most of them didn’t public or sharing as well.
    Thank you so much because all the time that i met you, you taught me a lot.
    Good luck and health.
    Best regard
    From Sreang