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I mean this may sound like a, a dumb

question in the land of the pyramid.
But, you know, how do you find things in
How do you find things in this kind of
sandy or very green landscape?
I mean how?
>> That's an excellent question and
it's of prime importance to us obviously
and the fact that Abydos is a known site
and is always been a known site.
Well, you know it's there.
So, what
>> Right.
>> You know, what do you have to do to
find things?
>> Right.
>> It's huge.
And you're not looking for just anything.
>> How big is it?
>> it's several kilometers long and and
a few wide.
So depending on how you define the site.
But at least
>> Which is always tricky.
We've talked about site definition and
it's like,oh.
Where does the site end?
>> Absolutely, and in many ways it's
many sites, as opposed to a single site.
I mean, what ,you've got a town site,
you've got multiple town sites, you've
got a cemeteries, you have temples.
>> And in different periods, there.
So does Abydos start small and get
big and then
>> That's an excellent question too
both horizontally and vertically the
extent of the site is still something we
are struggling to define in many ways.
And, of course, what we want to find we
are going to asking specific research
questions and then going after things
what the answer those.
So it's not just hey, where is something?
Can we brush it off?
It's hey, where's the thing that's
going to tell us what we want to know.
>> Okay, so you start with a question.
>> We start with the questions
absolutely and then, and target out
And in terms of how we find the things
that, that answer the questions I have
been asking.
>> Right.
>> There are a couple of mechanisms we
Ultimately almost everything I'm doing
relies on excavation.
>> Okay.
>> But even to decide where to excavate
you have to have a first step again its a
huge site.
>> I was going to, yeah, one of the
things how you know.
Since I'm not a big digger I was so, how
on earth do you know where to start you
>> Sure.
>> So, what do you do?
>> Well you can do survey as a, as a
prelude to, to excavation.
And survey can take a couple of forms.
Simply walking the ground and seeing
where concentrations of artifacts are.
Where the artifacts from the particular
period that you are interested in.
>> gotcha, okay, alright.
>> Like, this can be of enormous help.
>> Okay.
>> Telling you where to look.
We also in Abydos have recently been
using a magnetometry survey, which is a
sub surface survey.
>> Remote sensing?
>> Absolutely.
>> Magnetometry.
>> It, it, it and it's wonderful and
it's fantastic in this case, magnetometry
is so good at differentiating between mud
brick and sand, which is what we're
really dealing with here.
>> Oh, cheating, cheating lucky you, of
course, yeah, cause the density must be
so, the makeup is so different.
>> So the anomalies just pop out?
>> They pop up, you get this beautiful
But then you, that's wonderful right?
You have a beautiful map of an area
that's far greater than you could ever
excavate practically.
But you don't know what you're looking
You still have to excavate in these
>> Ground-truthing.
>> Absolutely.
>> Okay, alright.
>> And so, for instance we had a
magnetic map of a dense urban area.
We thought that it was late roman in date
until we started excavating it.
It turns out it was Ptolemaic and even
earlier than Ptolemaic.
So, so a difference of more than a
hundred years, in some cases.
>> Alright, so you can see it but the
date, the what, you still have to dig.
>> Absolutely.
>> So, it's remote sense, surface
survey, remote sensing, and then into it?
>> And then excavation.
>> Okay.
>> And for us excavation is a really
important tool.
It's also a very intensive thing to
undertake in Abydos.
The areas again are very large.
And because we're dealing with sand, sand
has many particular problems.
>> I was, yeah, digging in sand, so
you're [SOUND].
Yes, no, I've never done it.
>> It's, it's, it's a lot of fun, on
one hand, it's very easy, right, sand is
You can move sand.
>> Yeah.
Yeah, you're not picking your way through
mud or clay.
>> No, so you're not endangering
destroying things, for the most part, as
you do at.
But its also there is a lot of it.
I mean the sand blows in.
>> Uh-huh, uh-huh.
>> And we are looking usually our
excavation units are ten by ten meter
There can be a meter or two of sand on
top of the architecture that we are
looking for in some cases.
>> So who's, so you're lugging it away
>> Physically.
>> You can't have like a big vacuum?
>> I wish we could.
That'd be fantastic.
Although we wouldn't then see the
transitions between layers.
We would also still looking for
>> Oh.
>> Amongst the sand layers.
>> Even in sand you can, even in sand
sometimes you can.
It can be very difficult.
>> Mm-hmm, mm-hmm.
>> And often times it's the artifacts
in the sand that tell us when we've hit
something different as opposed to the
sand itself.
>> So, even with windblown, even with
sand you have to be careful.
All right.
>> Absolutely.
You've got to be careful.
>> So as you're going, tell me a bit
more about the structure of the day.
You get up at.
>> We get up at about five thirty and
the donkey cart comes to get all of our
equipment at the house and take it out to
the site.
But we have a very large team and that's
partly necessitated by the sand and by
the need to excavate, so I often hire
more than 100 people.
>> Okay.
Hundred, hundred local.
>> A hundred, yes, a hundred local
people, many of whom, so I have sort of
tiers of workman as well.
I have very highly trained specialists
who work with me, some of whom are
academically trained so my conservator
for instance my ceramicist are local
But then I also have trained overseer
workmen and in every excavation, there
will be a man from Quft (Qift), it's a city
where in fact.
>> Oh, the, I've heard of the Qufti,
this is the Qufti.
So a Qufti, it's it's these guys are
worker's skilled individuals who come
from a particular place, okay.
>> And the history of trained Qufties
goes back more than a hundred years now.
As archaeologists they frequently know
more about excavating and how to deal
with this, this sand and these mud
bricks than I do.
>> You see this in a lot of countries,
you know, where there's local families or
local villages where sort of trained
excavators, you know, sort of emerge and
it's, it become dynastic in some ways and
it's probably the same way here too.
>> Absolutely.
But then I hire local people.
This movement of sand is done mostly by
guys with their hoes.
It's an agricultural tool.
You scoop the sand into a bucket with a
hoe and then you go and sift the sand.
We sift absolutely everything we remove.
>> That's impressive.
>> It's time consuming but again the
recovery of artifacts is really what's
going to tell us about the stratigraphy
since its so hard to observe in the sand.
So total recovery is very important.
>> Do you see as you're, as you're,
hoeing will things pop up or do you tend
to find most things in the sieve?
>> It depends on the size of things
[CROSSTALK], and also even the color.
You have faience which is blue, it's
going to pop right up, you're going to
see it.
>> Differential visibility is, is blue
things in sand, good, brown pot sherd in
>> Yeah.
You might find that in the
sieve instead, whole pot you're going to see.
And ideally we like to see the artifacts
in the ground, of course, because we like
>> Mm-hmm, mm-hmm.
>> To be able to locate them precisely
on a plan using the surveying.
>> Mm-hmm.
>> but if we don't at least because we
dig stratigraphically we can associate
the artifact with the layer.
>> The layer and the area within your
ten by, ten by ten.
>> Absol(utely), you know, it starts with sand.
It starts out as a ten by ten.
>> Yeah.
>> [LAUGH] And then by the time you
grind down a meter, you're down to a five
by five, because you get these sloping
There's no such thing as a baulk.
>> And but do you ever hit floors or I
mean or wh, walls.
Floors, other feat, what you know,
what's, what's the range of features you
find when get, you know, can't all be
>> It's not, it's not all sand.
And there is, it's not really bedrock
when you get down to the bottom.
But there is a hard compact level of sand
and rock that, that is equivalent to
We call it gebel.
>> Gebel?
>> But.
>> Is that sort of sterile is another
term for it?
>> Yes.
>> Virgin soil it's like.
So anything below that.
>> Was put there.
>> Ge, geology.
>> Yeah.
>> Yeah, okay.
>> Yeah, exactly so there's no need to
dig that.
>> Okay.
>> But very often we come down on the
remains of cultural activity.
So we'll have a unit, a 10 by 10 where
the, you know, where you come down on top
of a buried building, so it looks like
your on the floor, but your really on the
ceiling or the roof.
And, it will, it will cover the entire