A Travellerspoint blog

Entry #13 Archeology first weekend in Phimai

Volunteer Work

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Sat, Feb 25 – Beginning the chronicle of Garyisms

I have decided to try and chronicle all the Garyisms that we come across. From yesterday, we have a beaut.

We are called to and from tea beaks and lunch with the ringing of a bell. Usually Charles does it and Gary happened to be in the pit when Charles was calling us back from lunch. Charles had forgotten to ring the bell at the top of the pit, so he picked up one of the hoes and began hitting it as a bell. Gary said that he relayed to some one that Charles was banging on a hoe to get us back to work. The person as the time did not see the joke but Gail did.

I was resolved that today would be a better day than yesterday and it was because I declared it.

We breakfasted and Mrs. Kitty received ham from me and fish from last night dinner from Meph. I saw second resident kitty, grey and white that very much resembled my sister’s cat Fagin. She was very skittish. Hopefully I will see her again.

The partial exodus began with Tara leaving this am. We will loose several others tomorrow. I can’t imagine coming all this way for only one week, but it is more important to come than not too in my mind. If they had not come, I would have missed some lovely people. Tara will remain ever in our minds for her happy laugh, her contribution of Jack Fruit for dessert last night and for her lying down next to one of the skeletons to be photographed. Safe journey home to you, Tara.

This morning we played hooky from work for a short time to visit a near by archeological site called Ban Prasat. Actually, I think we were purposely sent on this trip so that they could have a few hours to get some work done without us. This site was excavated by the Thai Dept of Fine Arts and is comprised of three open-air pits that had a roof and were open to the public. Since they have easy access from a major highway, they receive lots of visits, which is excellent for the village. Most of the houses in the village are in the home stay business, and you can stay with a family and receive two meals a day for as little as $1 a day.

During our stop, a woman from the village accosted Gary and Mr. Hiroshi. She appeared to be a little in her cups and kept hugging them, sidling up and putting her hands in their pockets. She was not successful in developing friendships or picking pockets.

In the village there was a woman’s cooperative and I bought some lovely hand loomed Thai cotton. They also did traditional weaving of the mats and wonderful handbags.

My morning tasks, such as they were as we arrived late was back with Meph cleaning and washing pots.

Lunch was chicken curry, veggies, and the fruit of the day – corn on the cob. Hmmmmmm?
Also at lunch was another ice cream experience. I bought the ice cream in the green hot dog bun concoction, which was amazingly good and refreshing.

This afternoon, Charles had asked us to push to get the shells cleaned that had covered one of the skeletons. There were lots, so be began the task and luckily these shells tended to be a little bigger and all of one type so they would not take too long. We were also visited by many more buses of school kids.

still more students.JPG

All the schools have uniforms, so when the bus arrives, students in the same outfit surround you, normally bright yellow or orange shirts. These groups were mainly interested in the pit and had a lecture from Professor War.

Have I mentioned the potty at the site? Inside a square shack is a squat toilet. Next to toilet is a cement sink that holds water and a green plastic pot. After you are done, you use the green pot to lift water from the sink and send it down the hole. The tissue that you have used goes outside in the large sack that is hanging on the tree. Out side the shack are two huge jars, which hold water with plastic bowls and a wooden ledge for the soap. Karen and I had several discussions of the logistics and decided that facing the wall is the correct orientation. She indicated that she had used a similar toilet in China with an audience who found her hysterical. She realized now that she was backwards in China and understands the laughter. It may sound rather primitive, but is not as bad as it sounds and in fact is smell free.

The first time I needed to use the facilities, I entered the shack to find a small frog, doing laps in the water of the potty. I fished him out with the green plastic scoop and put him to the side. Several days later, Erica indicated that after she had assumed the position, she noticed a small frog sitting on the cement sink watching. What a voyeur! I visited the facility the same day and saw the same frog. He was three times the size of the last one.

Ice cream on the way home – chocolate ice cream, covered with chocolate on a stick.

The evening entertainment was two short films again staring Charles. The first one was from last year, when Earthwatch sent a film team to record three high school students doing 10-12 successive Earthwatch projects. This entire project was financed by one of the kid’s dad. Hummmmm – Can I be adopted?

The second video was about another site where Charles was a co researcher and was about he grave a woman in Thailand who was a master potter and was buried with her 15-month-old daughter. Also very interesting.

What I find a little exasperating is the films that are made for the US audience seem to think we all have the attention span of a two year old. Everything has to be a mystery to be solved, with lots of mysterious music and endless repeats to bring us back after the commercial breaks. Charles says that a filmmaker explained that this technique is used a lot in the US because so many of the viewers are surfing and if you don’t catch them in 10 seconds, they switch to another channel. Sigh, they know us pretty well.

Tomorrow we lose 5 – Joan, Karen and Christopher, Hiroshi and Lisa from England.

Team A .JPG

Sun, Feb 26 – Dirt on my chin

It is with much sadness that we said good-bye to Joan, Karen and Chris, Lisa and Hiroshi. They added so much to the team. No matter where you were on the site, you could always tell where Joan was by her infectious laugh. She made friends with every body, whether they understood her or not.

I started the morning with a bit of a tummy. I suspected the hot dog bun ice cream until I heard that others were also suffering who had not eaten it. Pepto to the rescue and not further incidences, thank you.

Most of our morning tasks were getting 5 graves in the line ready for photography. As the graves are about 2.5 feet below the main level, you can reach them on your stomach, or by sitting and crouching over. The preparation involved brushing all the loose dirt away and lightly cleaning the pots with water. My grave had some live and some dead residents. Live residents included one cricket, one cockroach and one chin chuck. Dead residents, besides the skeleton, were two dead frogs with their bodies, one frog skeleton and a line of red ants. I had forgotten how efficient the ants are reducing a dead thing to a skeleton in less than 12 hours.

We had all the graves ready to go within one hour and after the photos, it was time to get the pots out. We had thought we wouldn’t get to them until next Tuesday, but here we are. Charles feels there may be something else underneath and there is only one more week with our help to see what they can find. While they will continue to work after we are gone, now that we are sort of trained, they want to use us as long as they can.

The space was tight with 4 of use working on one grave, so I was on my stomach on a grain sack with a small brush and my bamboo stick, moving dirt away from a pile of pots to have Sarah determine which one would come up first.

My first two pots were nicely separated, so they didn’t take very long and they were both out before lunch. My third pot was a big one, with the lid already in pieces and lots of dirt to move.

Lunch fruit – chom poos – I had two!!

My afternoon found me at the same gravesite working on pot number three. I managed to get it extracted just before afternoon tea break, and boy I needed a rest, as I had spent a lot of my time either on my stomach on with my feet in the depression and bending over with my head between my knees. At tea break, Erica said that I had dirt on my chin. Frankly, I don’t think there was a part of me that didn’t have dirt on it, and all my work clothes go the laundry tomorrow so I will be ready for next week. After tea break, I began working on the dirt around pot number 4, but that one along with the other two will have to wait for Tuesday.

Grave count to date – 462

We were dropped off in the village after work, as Erica had to pick up her pants that were being hemmed. They were cute, but when she put them on, one leg was longer. I told her she could either cock a hip to get them level, or we would have to try again. It was a bit of a comedy of errors to ask for a pin, but they did manage to redo the hem while we waited. $.50 to have her pants hemmed twice. Not bad.

We had an evening off and dinner as on our own. The group decided to go out, but it was a 45 discussion on where and collecting everyone for the trip. 9 people were involved and at times there were 10 different opinions on where we were. We finally arrived at the Restaurant Baiteiy. Dinner was very drawn out and people’s meals arrived over the span of about a half hour. Mine was Phimai noodles with beef that were excellent.

Several of the people were going on a day trip the next day, so we made it an early evening.

Posted by ladyjanes 01:49 Archived in Thailand Tagged postcards Comments (1)

Entry #12 Archeological Dig week 1 in Phimai, Thailand

Volunteer Work

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Tues, Feb 21, day one on the archeological dig

Things I learned today included how to remember the toilet paper, that the front desk has a can of bug spray that is very effective against the uninvited guests in your room and that archeological digs are VERY INTERESTING!

Breakfast was on the patio restaurant and included a very pregnant black kitty that was very sweet and wanted to share everybody’s breakfast. WE HAD CHOM POOS FOR
BREAKFAST! PHOTO

We piled into three vehicles to transport the 15 volunteers and the staff to the site, about 45 minutes away.

Along the way you could see Brahma cattle, water buffalo, lots of birds, temples (called Wat’s in Thailand) and lots of dry rice fields. This area of Thailand has had droughts of the last few years and the project has allowed farmers in the area an opportunity for extra work on the site. So many memories of Thailand came flooding back and we traveled down the sometimes very dusty roads towards the work area.

Our schedule for 6 days a week would be as follows.

7-7:45 Breakfast
7:45 – 8:30 Bus to the site
8:30-10:30 work
10:30 tea break
10:45-12:00 work
12:00-12:45 lunch – supplied by the hotel and transported in one of our vehicles
12:45-2:00 work
2:00-2:15 tea break
2:15-4:00 work
4:00-4:45 bus to the hotel
7:00 dinner at hotel
7:30 lecture or video about the work at the site.

We tumbled out of the vehicles and walked through our eating area, which was a patio underneath a house on stilts next to the site. All the areas we would work in had tarps and tents, so we would not need to worry about direct sun all day. This was a wonderful thing and I found that I did not need to wear bug spray or sun block while I was at the dig. I do have an amazing farmers tan on my face, upper neck, arms below my elbows and feet where they show under my sandals.

We approached the dig area, which was a huge pit 11 X 12 meters and 3 meters deep. There were sand bags at the top edges of three sides with the forth side formed a ramp for us to descend on to the dig floor. We had a brief tour with Charles (Higham) of the 3 X 3 grid on the floor of the dig. There were strings laid out that separated the site into 9 specific areas. While Charles constantly moved between all the squares, we were told that when we were on the floor, all of our questions were to be directed to the researcher in charge of our square.

Floor of the pit.JPG

We learned that the dig was run by Dr. Higham from NZ in partnership with the Thai Department of Fine Art. While both agencies were working at the site, all the artifacts would remain in Thailand, so Dr. Higham and the other researchers would be taking computer data away with them to continue their research. This site has been under excavation for 6 years and next year will be the last year that they will work at this site. As a previous site for the teams, excavated over 10 years ago is only now finally starting to produce results, I imagine you have to give up collecting more data and start analyzing what you have already found. I was glad then that I was here during this specific time for two reasons; one, the last team of each year usually has the most exciting finds and second, this would be the second the to last year it would be offered by Earthwatch.

The researchers have found distinct levels of remains in this burial mound from top to bottom – current age, iron age, bronze age and lowest Neolithic. The current depth of the dig showed the lowest two levels, with at least 8 burial sites exposed when we arrived. Some of the graves were thought to be very rich people. All of these had bangles of either shell or marble on the arms, bivalve shells, sometimes earrings or necklaces and a profusion of pots at the head and the feet of the skeletons. Other burials had a row of pots to one side. Other items that could be found in the graves included anvils for pot making, adzes or tools, spindle whorls for spinning thread, round pellets possibly for slingshots and conical rollers (which they aren’t sure what they are for). Both sexes had a variety of these grave goods including the children, showing that almost everybody were involved with spinning thread or pot making, even the children and that both sexes had elevated status. One of the graves had the body almost completely covered in snail shells. They were just like the pictures in the brochure showing an exposed skeleton with bangles on their arms and pots close to their heads and feet. There were also numerous holes in the ground, which turned out to be old postholes from various periods within the history of the village. Some of the postholes were directly into graves, thereby destroying some of the remains.

shells.JPG

Some of the sections in the grid were at significantly different levels, as certain sites were taking longer to excavate, clean, photograph and remove. I found it hard to believe that the volunteers were allowed to handle actual artifacts. The only things we were not allowed to do were the delicate excavations and anything to do with the human bones.

Out of the pit and on the top of the ground are two different stations for cleaning and sorting. My first assignment was helping wash the pots or sherds (broken bits of pots) to prepare them for reassembly. I have learned from Meph, the woman in charge of the pot cleaning, washing and reconstruction area, that shards are pieces of glass; the sherds are pieces of pottery. Pot cleaning involved removing a pot and it’s fragments from a bag listing all the specifics of where it was found, its numbers and description and putting it into the double lined pail of water to loosen the dirt. Once soaked, with a toothbrush or bamboo shish kabob stick, you clean away the dirt as best you can. Then into a plastic tray with holes and into the sun to dry. Once the pots were dry, then you get to piece them back together. (I may get to do that later.)

Washing pots.JPG

After a yummy lunch and more Chom poos, I moved over to pot cleaning which is the step just prior to pot washing. When a pot comes up from the site, it is catalogued and bagged ready for cleaning. Most of the pots are crusted with dirt both inside and out and you have to carefully remove the dirt in case there is something interesting in the pot. Your tools are bamboo skewers, dentist tools and small spoons. As you carefully remove the dirt, anything interesting such a bone or sherd is put into a separate bag and labeled. Interior dirt goes into another bag and is labeled. Empty pots and sherd go back into the original bag and go into the inbox for the washing table.

The one item we kept finding was small, round clumps with a central depression like a crucible. These turned out to be ant’s nests and were of no value, but we were new to the process that we painstakingly gave them our attention until we knew what they were. I found a bone remnant in one of the pots I was cleaning and was pleased I knew what it was and that it was important to keep it separate.

We loaded back into the vehicles and were back at the hotel by 4:45. The Phimai Inn has a lovely pool and most of us felt very dirty, so a dip felt great. We have found that the hotel has several situations that need to be worked around. Water pressure and hot water was not always guaranteed, so showers may have to be delayed. There are times that the phone rings mysteriously (with no one on the other end) and the best course is to unplug it. (I didn’t figure that out until I had been woken up three times in the middle of the night. I finally unplugged it after the third time, but was up for the night at that point.). The power is not always on when you get to your room. It was usually just a blown fuse or breaker, so you don't usually have long to wait. Flexibility is the key to a happy and successful volunteer, no matter what agency or country you are in.

Dinner was family style, normally with white rice, three different entrees, and fruit for dessert. This evening, we were given a short lecture by Charles on the sites he has been involved with in Thailand for the last 30 years. Very interesting.

I now know that in Thailand the following periods were excavated on this site.

Neolithic 2000-1300 BC
Bronze Age 1300 – 400 BC
Iron Age 400 BC – 400 AD
Current Age 400 AD forward

I was pooped, having had the mysterious phone calls the previous night, and turned in early.

Wed, Feb 22 – How can you tell they are women?

I opted for the poached eggs for breakfast and they came in a large bowl with two poached eggs in the bottom. Toast, coffee and fruit was self-serve.

Today as we arrived at the work site, Charles asked more of us to be in the pit helping to excavate certain areas or working on specific features. My assignment was to excavate around a pot that was at the top of column of dirt. This was called a feature and generally is a marker of a burial underneath. Before they can excavate below, most of the dirt needs to be taken away from the item in the feature, so that it can be cleaned, drawn, numbered and photographed.

Most of the items in the features are fragile and already broken, so taking away too much of the dirt may totally destroy the image of the pot. Take too little away and you can’t see the item. So, with my favorite excavation or cleaning instruments (a bamboo stick, garden kneeler pad, paintbrush, and painters spatula), I began to gently remove the dirt around my pot. It was about 3 inches in circumference and the lip had already been broken into 4 pieces. The sherds were to be added to the bag once the pot was removed.

My foreman was Ollie, a British PHD candidate, who will give us lecture on his Masters work later in the week. Ollie was very focused on other things, but as he whizzed by, we could get in a question. I was to slice down through the soil vertically, not undercutting too much so that the pot would be highlighted at the top of the pile. My pot was pretty straight forward as a single pot, while others had jumbles of different pots all mashed together. My major challenge was it was my first pot and I didn’t know exactly how hard I could dig at things. Also, I was right in the center of the major thoroughfare for the brigade that sent buckets up the wall on a pulley to be shifted from the various squares in the dig. There were a constant stream of people going past me, but I was finally able to tune them out and focus on my beautiful pot. (I didn’t get a picture, sorry, but I will try and get one later to show you an example of my pot).

Once Charles came over and said the pot had been excavated sufficiently to be photographed, my next assignment was to brush all the dirt away and then gently sponge off the surfaces so that they would be clean for the photo. Photo completed, it was time for me to lift the pot and put it in the numbered bag and take it up to the pot cleaning area with Meph where I worked yesterday. Again, I could not believe that I was being asked to handle an artifact without a professional standing by. It was an easy lift and off I went up the ramp with my pot, proudly displaying it to anyone who happened past.

Back in the pit, Charles then directed me to another pile that contained 6 pots, at various angles and none of them intact. Yikes! Believe it or not, I did accomplish getting these pots excavated and cleaned before we ended for lunch.

Lunch today we had the wonderful strips of pork that had a glaze and were partially dried. Fruit at lunch was green mangos. MY FAVORITE!

After lunch and the photograph, I asked if I was to lift them, and Ollie indicated that they were to wait until later.

second set of pots.JPG

With another job completed, Charles put me to work around a pot that was emerging from below to see what else we could find. He suspected that there might be a large burial underneath the area. Myra and I sat on the ground and would dig down about 2 inches to see what we could find, sift it with our fingers, putting pot sherds and hard items of unknown identity into a bucket for sorting. The loose dirt was then put into another bucket and sent up the wall for shifting. Occasionally a member of the brigade would bring back a piece we had missed and add it to our pile. The longer we did it; fewer and fewer missed items were returned to us by the bucket brigade.

I came across what I thought was a bone just as Charles came past. Nothing huge, just a pig bone. Drat! By this time, it was late in the afternoon and I had been sitting in the shape of C all day. I decided tomorrow, I wanted a job that would allow me to be in a U shape all day.

On the way back to the hotel, Gary, Gail, Diane, Erica, Lisa and I were dropped off in Phimai to see the Prasat, a Khmer site, built 100 years prior to Angkor Wat. At the entrance was a chance for tourists to feed sugar cane to an elephant and a photo opportunity for 20 Baht ($.50). Erica bought some and feed the elephant. The elephant was very sweet, but was only interested in talking to you if you had sugar cane. But I did pet her trunk that was very rough and hairy.

The Prasat was lovely and was basically a central main tower temple, surrounded by four minor temples. There were also several other stand-alone buildings; all ringed by a wall with 4 gates indicating the four directions. In its original state, the major temples would have been covered in gold leaf with many statues and faces of the ruler. As it stands today, most of the statues are gone as is the gold leaf. What remains are the sandstone brick buildings, that were reconstructed in the 1960’s, some with the original lintels and inscriptions. Still very impressive. Many of the artifacts are in the local museum that we will see another day.

The lintels, doorways and arch supports still had original art and each one was different, so you had to go through as many doors as possible to see them all. At one point, our group was all in one area at the site and I commented there was art on one of the lintels with a line of big breasted dancing girls. Gary pipes up with the question, How did I know that they were girls? Hello Gary!! Needless to say that we all had a good time with that question and Gary turned very red.

DANCING WOMEN.JPG

Mr. Nim, our intrepid driver, returned to pick us up at 6:00 pm, so we were back at the hotel in time for a short swim before dinner. The pool is lovely and cool without being cold and 25 meters long so you can do laps if you are inclined.

I believe the daily routine will become the basic work schedule from yesterday and upon returning from work - a quick dip in the pool, shower, spray the room for mosquitoes, dinner, lecture, internet, blog and sleep.

This evening, the after dinner event was lead by Charles. We saw the National Geographic video starring Charles entitled The Guardians of Angkor Wat. Three years ago, an NG film crew asked Charles to help with this project. It had been filmed with a French crew and was not up to the NG’s standards. They wanted to re-shoot parts of it with Charles as the expert commentator. He agreed and the video went on to be published by NG and won an award in the US.

From the title, I would have guessed that the Guardians would be some of the statuary around the temple. Not so, the Guardians were the land mines used over the last 20 years by the various armies in Cambodia during the war. While they were in place, the Angkor Wat, and all the other Khmer sites were relatively safe from looters. Since the mines were taken away, which is not a bad thing in-and-of itself, many of the temples have lost major parts of their collection.

Some of the looters have even removed entire walls or lifted the major faces off the front of the temples and sold them on the underground Asian art market. Many of the Cambodian pieces were sent under cover to Thailand for sale. The Art Counsel of Cambodia, in order to slow down and preserve the artifacts, had most of the major artifacts removed for safekeeping. Not even those were safe, when a year ago, the storage facility was bombed by quasi-military troops and major amounts of the art lifted and taken away. Just as saw in Peru, the country people in Cambodia are fundamentally very poor and will do anything to make money. A very sad situation with no easy or quick answers.

Charles has been giving us a crash course on the over 1000 Khmer temples in the areas of Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam. Basically this style of temple was brought into the area from India and combined Indian and Buddhist deities and cultures. The main idea for these temples is that they are a place to worship the king of the time. The larges central temple was to symbolize the mountains and the way to heaven. The closer you get to the major temple, the closer you are to heaven. One of the main features of these temples are huge phallic symbols called linga's. The greater the king, the bigger the linga. They are set upon various shaped foundation depending on the style of the temple called yanni’s that are supposed to represent woman. HMMMMMM? During the heyday of the temple they would have been covered in gold leaf and were the site of many ceremonies to honor the king and his prowess. More on this later.

Thurs, Feb 23 – Rhymes with Brick

Our days are becoming more of a routine as all of us settle in, but each day brings new things for site and us.

Charles normally gives us short talk each morning to bring us up to date on the finds late the previous day. It is amazing that within less than 8 hours, what is displayed on the floor of the site can change dramatically. You can have a grave visible first thing in the morning and it can be completely gone with just a depression in the ground by the time we leave at 4:00 pm.

Another routine is the at least twice and sometimes three times a day, someone will appear to sell ice cream at the site, usually at morning tea break, lunch and possibly pm tea break or just as we leave for the hotel. The first day we had three different vendors show up; one similar to the our Good Humor men, one with a little chart with various kinds that go into a cone and the third one that is traditionally Thai in his approach to ice cream.

The Good Humor man offers packaged goodies and I bought one that resembles one of our filled cones with nuts and chocolate, except that the cone was more like an ice cream sandwich cone and was flat.

The man with the various types that go into a cone had only about half of the displayed flavors. There was the traditional chocolate, vanilla, strawberry and chocolate chip, a wonderful coffee with chocolate flakes, lemon lime, blueberry and of course Taro. The Taro is sort of a dull purple color, and the people who have had it, loved it. I am so in love with the coffee flavor, I am not sure that I can risk trying something else that I might not like as well. Time will tell.

The Thai ice cream man is something to behold. You can have your vanilla ice cream in a traditional cone or you can have it on a hot dog bun. The creation begins with the light green hotdog bun. Next comes two small scoops of sticky rice (jasmine rice with coconut milk). Next are four small scoops of vanilla ice cream. Then, is the yellow fragments of a bean that was mildly sweet. Finally, the entire creation is drizzled with sweetened condensed milk. It really isn’t overly sweet and was fun to eat.

Work assignments today included in the morning washing potsherds from the Neolithic site and eating ice cream and after lunch, cleaning and sorting shells and cataloguing spindle whorls

During the morning, Karen and I were cleaning the potsherds. As we were doing this, students in yellow shirts from the local schools surrounded us. Wave upon wave of students arrived over the span of two hours and Karen enlisted them in helping clean the sherds. They all giggled and asked us important questions like how old we were and where we were from. Cameras came out and everybody took pictures. Karen feels we are sure to be featured on holiday cards at the end of the year. I forgot to give them my home address, so I probably won’t get to see them. The students wanted to help us with our Thai and they really enjoyed when we said yellow buffalo in English. They appeared to be high school students around 18 years of age and in the 10th grade. We can’t tell if the recent local publicity has increased the stream of visitors, but they are becoming another part of the routine of our day.

Students abound.JPG

The fruit for lunch today was watermelon. Very mundane.

Afternoon tasks included shell cleaning and spindle whorls. While the shells don’t appear that important at the site or in most of the graves, the ones we were cleaning completely covered one of the skeletons will help the researchers determine the climatic conditions during the various stages and what the people were eating. I counted and recorded the numbers for 126 spindle whorls used for making thread.

In Mr. Nim’s little taxi van, we have had many lively discussions and today was no exception. A discussion began about burial rites including cremation, containers of ashes and what the family members of the deceased can do with the ashes. One person told of a man who had been afraid of roller coasters, had asked his family to take his ashes for a ride on a specific coaster. They chose the front seat to open the lid to release dad, and the end of the rides coated occupants in the other cars of the coaster coated with dad. I mentioned that there is a possibility of having your remains compressed to form a diamond that can be gifted to a family member. Another option is the urn that can travel between family members for important holidays and occasions. Gail brought up that it could be formed into a brick. Karen across the van only heard part of the word and giggled thinking that Gail had said a word that rhymes with rick. Based on the lengthy discussion from Charles the night before and the Khmer fascination with male anatomy, Karen thought Gail was still focused on Linga’s and caused the entire back of the van to be convulsed with laughter.

We left work early today in order to go to the Phimai museum and take in the special exhibit of artifacts from our site and previous excavations lead by Charles and his team. Sarah was on site to interpret the objects as the signs were in Thai. It was wonderful to see samples of the types of pots that we were excavating to appreciate the details up close. We also got to see some of the copper belts and beads that were unearthed. The museum was very interesting and again with lots of Khmer architecture and pictures. The museum had a photo of the Phimai Prasat prior to the restoration and it was amazing to see what they had done to bring the building back. Wonderful workmanship.

We walked back through town for a little shopping and the market. I was a total tourist and ended up with my favorite Thai treat that Mom called "rocks rolled in mud." They are actually prune plums that have been dried and rolled in alum and salt. FABULOUS! I bought a wonderful Thai lei that is unlike Hawaiian leis. Thai lei’s are not a continuous circle, but are U shaped with wide ribbon at the short end of the U and then two streamers of flowers ending with a final large flower. The middle flowers are wonderfully fragrant and I took it back to my room as an air freshener. We went through the market and I bought wonderful cookies and little hair things and Karen bought a roti dessert. The dessert is made up of crepe batter, egg, condensed milk, bananas and sugar and baked like a crepe YUMMY!

Roti.JPG

Other things that we saw, but left at the market included various live fish, all sorts of pieces of meat and organs, baked and fried bugs including palmetto bugs and scorpions and rats on the skewer. NO THANK YOU!

Lisa and I trailed the pack and stopped to watch a cuckoo with striped breast and topknot and the lovely orchid store that was a man selling hanging pots of orchids of every color and description. We arrived back to find the hotel’s pool packed with kids, so no swim today

After dinner, Ollie gave a talk about his research on metallurgy at a site in Thailand and in Greece. I always find it incredible how ancient people figured out how to extract things out the earth. Ollie’s discussion was amazing about the furnaces that they made to extract copper and other metals and his experiments to replicate the techniques.

We will have a guest, Tom from the Archeological Digest, for a few days, as he will be writing an article on Charles. We kept trying to get him to help with the various projects, but he kept insisting that he had to take pictures and follow Charles around. Maybe our pictures will appear in print.

Fri, Feb 24 – This day was about being right and my lesson on boundaries.

My morning routine has become the alarm rings, morning processes and reading Trust your Vibes for the day, morning calisthenics, dress, breakfast and off to the site by 7:45. My morning selection in Sonia’s vibes book was about setting boundaries. This should have been my first clue.

After breakfast, I usually borrow/obtain bits of protein from other’s breakfasts and put it on a plate for the pregnant black kitty who hangs around the hotel. She loves it and knows to come when I call her. What a smart kitty. An elderly western gentleman reproached me about feeding the cat off a plate. He had been coming here for many years and he didn’t feel that the Thai’s appropriately cleaned the dishes. I told him that I thought it would be clean enough, but having been told off, he stormed away. Thanks for sharing. I suffered a mild power loss at this time.

We didn’t realize it, but we had taken off a little early and left Joan and Karen behind so one of the vehicles would have to return to pick them up. Mr. Nim stopped the van in the middle of the highway and waited for the last vehicle to come up. As the last vehicle had room, they turned around and went back for the volunteers. A little unnerving to be literally in the middle of the street, but luckily the traffic wasn’t too bad.

During the commute, I asked Tim, one of the graduate students, for the dimensions of the excavation pit. He said 11 by 12 meters and close to 3 meters deep. The depth was a guess because he was estimating the number of spits (10 cm sections that had been cut to date), and there were some sections that were at various levels depending if a burial was still being processed.

Not being an expert of dimensions, it sounded okay to me. This lead to an in depth discussion within the group that lasted well past lunch time on dimension and estimations of feet vs. meters and the ways to record dimensions. More power loss.

My am projects were up at the tables cleaning potsherds and shells again from the Neolithic age. This is the earliest group of people at this site so far, but Charles will continue to excavate a little lower to see what else they can find.

Fruit of the day for lunch was tangerines.

Karen and I took a stroll through the village at lunch and it helped me to clear my head. Baseline power restored.

My pm projects were also at the tables, but I shifted from potsherds to shells. It was mainly snail shells and sometimes I even found the little foot of the snail, the bit that would seal the shell shut. Fascinating. I also began cataloguing the conical rollers, another item that they are not quite sure what they were used for.

One of the things that I love about this work is that we are on site during the data collection and hardly any results have been made. Therefore, I can look forward to keeping an eye on the publications that will come out over the next 10-20 years and find out what all this means. Reading to look forward to for years! By the end of the day today, the total number of graves that have been found at this site since it began 4 years ago is 452. When the site was opened this year, the graves numbered only 310, so over 100 graves have been found in less than 2 months. The research team is pushing hard to complete the excavation by a week from tomorrow and based on what they are still uncovering, they expect to find several more graves in that time.

On the way back to the hotel after work, Meph took us on a side trip to a monument that was about to be dedicated. The monument was for the wife of a former mayor of Khorat in the middle 1800’s named Thung Samrit, who lead an army of women against the Laotians and won. The monument was on a high pedestal and showed a chariot with black metal figures of mainly women with bandannas around their breasts brandishing swords. The male figures were at the back of the monument. We saw the old monument that was made out of plaster and was painted. It shows the women and a few male figures, that we assumed were supposed to be Laotian, in various stages of death, including hanging limbs and various critical head wounds. Many pictures were taken at this site including one of Mr. Hiroshi at the former monument posing with the Laotian men.

Woman Warriors.JPG

Our after dinner entertainment was a DVD staring Charles as was about a Chinese grave that was found and was called the Mystery of Lady Dai. At this site in China it was amazing because the grave was so well preserved that the bodies come out with flexibility and all the organs intact. With an autopsy, they could tell that her cause of death was probably due to a gall stone attack and a weakened heart with arterial sclerosis. The video was the version that was aired in the US and it had hideous music and overly dramatic narration about this great mystery. Poor Mr. Hirorshi was in the prime seat to watch the brain being removing and the entrails being lifted for the third time, because after the break for the commercial, you had to catch everyone up again. We suggested to Charles that he might want to he air the British version in the future to avoid the music and the dramatic narration. At little gory, but really very interesting. Again, another site I will follow in the future, as they publish more findings and conclusions.

Posted by ladyjanes 01:44 Archived in Thailand Tagged postcards Comments (0)

Entry #11Auckland to Thailand, before Archeology in Thailand

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Thailand - Land of Chom Poos

Sat – Feb 18 - Auckland to Bangkok – May be a repeat of some of the stuff on the last blog.

The comfort inn suggested a place for breakfast called the Benediction (on St. Benedict’s Street) and it was wonderful. I liked their food so much, I took a sandwich with me for lunch before the plane.

Well, even though I was three hours early for my flight and asked nicely, no window seat for the 11-hour flight to Bangkok. Baggage was too heavy, so I ended up taking three kg of stuff from the luggage and into the carry on. I WILL GET RID OF SOME STUFF AT EACH STOP AND WILL END UP WITH LUGGAGE THAT DOESN”T WEIGH TOO MUCH. Sigh!

I love Thai Airlines. The seats are very bright in mustard, fuchsia and deep purple. The flight attendants had lovely Thai silk sarong outfits and are beautiful. The food is great, Thai and western food. Hot towels are handed out before the meals. The bathroom had little tiny toothbrushes and paste which was very helpful after 11 hours.

Lots of movies later, I arrived and was picked up by the hotel.

Maurey Gardens Hotel close to the airport was a wonderful change from my hotel in Chile. Elegant lobby and helpful staff. The one thing that I learned in NZ the last time I was there, that sometimes the lights in your room are dependent on your key being put in a slot near the front door. I knew that this time, but still had a time finding which switches to hit to get lights off or on. I couldn’t tell if I was being exceptionally dim or if jet lag had me. I finally got all the lights out and went to bed happy and looking forward to exploring.

Sun, Feb 19 - Naps are a wonderful thing.

I woke in time for the breakfast, which was a very comprehensive buffet of western, Thai and Chinese breakfast options. So there were eggs, toast, cereal, thai veggies, noodle dishes, rice, soups, dried fish, fabulous fruit and all kinds of other things that I did not try.

I sat with two German Ladies who were in town for shopping and lounging. I decided that I really do like nam pla on my fried eggs in the morning, and I kept going back to the fruit tray for just three or six more pieces of papaya.

I was pretty pooped and a little intimidated by the size and complexity of Bangkok so I did some internetting in the morning and studied the map of Bangkok. As it had been 35 years since I lived here, and I had been a child, I needed to remember how to navigate the city. It had grown tremendously and now has an elevated train and underground. Bangkok is now as well known for its pollution as it is for its friendly people with shy smiles.

I finally got my bearings and had decided to adventure out after a nap. Just as I did in France, I knew that I would feel more able to explore and adventure forth, even though it would be for shorter time, after I had slept. I set the clock for a two-hour nap and closed the curtains.

5 hours later I was up and it was dinnertime. I had not set the clock properly. Oh well, I needed my sleep. I took my Earthwatch brochure with me and was prepared to dine in the hotel lobby in order to try and contact other volunteers. I had hardly cleared the elevator, when I was approached by Gary from Washington State, who recognized the brochure. He had been in town for two days and had already learned the sky train and had a recommendation for a good dinner place. He invited me to dine with him and Erica, from England, at a restaurant down town. (Cool! dinner partners and dinner farther a field than I would have done by myself).

We went off in a metered taxi to get to the terminus of the sky train. The train is very modern, air-conditioned and is very easy once you have done it once. We had to walk a ways down a soi (street) to the restaurant called Ly Lys, a recommendation from a taxi driver. It was wonderful, and we had samosas, shared two salads and one curry and each had sticky rice and ripe mango. MY FAVORITE DESSERT! We happened to be there on a night where 30% of the bill would go towards a kindergarten for the poorest kids in Bangkok. Fabulous!

On the way back to the hotel, we stopped at one of the ubiquitous 7-11’s that are just like the ones in the US. I bought washing powder, Kleenex, two kinds of green mango treats and shampoo.

Home to bed for tomorrow at noon, we meet the group and travel to Khorat.

Mon, Feb, 20, Transit day to Khorat and Phimai

My internal clock was all whacked out, so I was up and watching the most amazingly stupid movies on HBO from 2:30 on. I promised myself that I would not nap at all during this day so that I could sleep at night.

The day before, I noticed that there was hair dryer at the desk in my room. It was plugged in, but I couldn’t figure out why it would not work. This morning I found out. Between the beds on the built in end table were switches for most of the lights in the room. When I hit the one for the light for the desk, all of a sudden the hair dryer started up. Surprise!

Another wonderful breakfast buffet and I met more volunteers including Joan, Karen and Christopher (Grandmother, Daughter and Grandson from the Seattle Area). I also met Bud and Onnalee, Gail and Helen. More internetting and then I went upstairs and went through my entire luggage to see what would not go to Khorat with me.

New plan for traveling.

1. Only one book for pleasure reading at a time. I will trade out or leave behind any other books of this nature when I am done with them.

2. Travel book for the next location only with me at any one time. The current book is then mailed back to the US along with all the goodies from the location at the end of the trip in that country.

3. I will mail back home extraneous cords for the computer. Added weight and not needed.

4. At each location, I must divest myself of at least one piece of clothing by either gifting it to another or leaving it behind. (In Bangkok, I said goodbye to one set of shorts, one t-shirt and three pairs of panty hoses) Good! That takes care of my divestiture for Peru and Chile as well. If I still want the article of clothing, it gets mailed home.

I was downstairs ready to meet the group with luggage that still felt the same weight, but at least I have a plan for when I leave Thailand. I learned that we would be a group of 15 for the first week, 10 for the two-week program and 5 for only one week. We will pick up a few extra people for the second week, but we are not sure how many. 11 Women and 4 men. The team was mainly from the US, but also Erica and Lisa from England, Diane from the Philippines, Tara originally from Thailand, but currently from LA, and Mr. Hiroshi from Japan. Two of the volunteers have done this placement before, Bud and Onnolee have done three, and one volunteer, Helen, has done 9 Earthwatches. The rest are first timers, like myself.

We were vanned to the bus station where we bought tickets ($5) for the 3-hour bus ride to Khorat. The bus was air-conditioned with assigned seats and a conductor who walked the aisles and offered coke and buns with sweetened red beans in the middle as a snack. Diane and I were seatmates, which was nice as we are planning to go together to Angkor Wat following the dig, and needed to put our heads together. I bought two fresh green mangos with chili/salt and let everyone who wanted a taste to try one of my favorite Thai treats!

We arrived in Khorat and were met by Prof. Charles Higham (Hi am) from Dunedin, NZ. He is very cute and accommodating and took us all in hand. We traveled by shuttles another hour to Phimai (Pee My) to our hotel and base for two weeks.

Phimai Hotel is a 5-story building with a LOVELY pool. We all have separate room, except for the couples (for an additional $4/day). My room was basic with tile floors, two double beds, air conditioning, and a hand held shower in the corner of the bathroom. Because there is no shower curtain or demarcation of any kind, you can’t keep clothes, towels or toilet paper in the bathroom with you if you want them to remain dry. If you have to visit the potty, you had to remember to bring the paper with you. I finally got the hang of it on day two.

Shower.JPG

I was the proud temporary owner of a chinchuk (small, harmless lizard that clings to the walls and ceilings and eats mosquitoes.) Very handsome and based on the number of flying bugs in the room, I felt he would be well fed by morning.

MR1.JPG

We had an hour until dinner, so I unpacked and decided to lie down for 30 minutes. 10 minutes into my rest, the phone rang next to my head but no one was there. HMMMMM? More on this later.

Dinner was family style in an open-air patio. We met the staff and heard about our weeks ahead.

We filled out what we wanted for breakfast and went back to our rooms to prepare for tomorrow.

Posted by ladyjanes 01:42 Archived in Thailand Tagged postcards Comments (0)

Entry #14 Archeological Dig week 2 in Phimai, Thailand

Week two

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Mon, Feb 27 – Day off – short entry follows

Slept in until 9:30

Inrternetted and a real cup of coffee - $2 total

No water in the shower – swam instead

Lunch – Phimai noodles

Reservations for after the placement

No room at the inn in Hua Hin, my favorite beach from former time in Thailand – Rethinking options.

Blogging all afternoon and I am caught up! YAAAAAAAH!!

Tues, Feb 28 – Day one of week 2

We added 4 new people this week, Alan and Pippa from Florida, Carl from Iowa and Maura from Connecticut. Three of the 4 have done archeological digs before, but Maura was new to it.

There are still loads of pots to retrieve, but it will be hard to use more than a few people at one time, as the gravesites are so close together. Erica, Helen and I were in the pit all day with various pots and our backs are feeling it. I have a feeling it is beneficial to be short in this industry. I was on my stomach for most of the day with my legs on one ledge, my body over a void and my head resting on the opposite ledge. There were many times when there just wasn’t any position you could get into that you could maintain for any length of time.

Over the grave.JPG

The old guard (last weeks group of 10) went back to what we had been doing when we finished last week. Pot #4 came up with not much trouble. Pot 5 was a huge mashed pot and added to the fact that Pot 6 was right behind it and wedged into the corner of the grave, it was not going to be an easy retrieval of either of them.

After much dirt moving and a little praying, Pot 6 emerged. Then the rest of my morning and most of the afternoon was spent undercutting Pot 5 in order that it could be lifted as a unit. With Charles’ help, Pot 5 emerged from the ground right after pm tea break.

Let me tell you about tea breaks. At 10:15 and 2:15, the bell rings and up we go for 15 minutes of rest, potty stop, water, sometimes cookies and always, hot tea. Believe it or not, hot tea in this climate is very refreshing; sometimes more so than cold water. In addition to the above-mentioned items, the little concession stand has items to buy. I always buy something to share and my current favorites are the sandwich butter/egg cookies with pineapple jam in the middle. Today, I also sampled purple/green/white spiral stick cookies (similar to the ones you might see at home in an ice cream dessert) They were slightly sweet and had some purple sweet stuff in the middle that looked like decorator icing.

I also bought a pat of sticky rice that had been made into a pancake and rice cakes with caramel sauce. These rice cakes are about ½ the width of ours in the US and the rice is considerably smaller in texture. Slightly sweet and very nice.

Other items I have bought or sampled include tamarinds in the shell, bean curd cake and this little rusk cake wrapped in paper that resembled our white bread but is denser and slightly sweet. All yummy.

No ice cream man today much to everyone’s disappointment. Hopefully, he is off restocking his cart with new flavors of us to enjoy the rest of the week.

The site is looking very different from 8 days ago. Today for the first time, you can enter the floor of the site without having to step up at all. Our first day last week, we had to go up a small ladder with three steps. One of the graves found last week has yielded incredibly beadwork that look like they were a beaded mesh similar to how chain mail might appear. This is new, as most of the other beads have either been random or in a line and apparently strung on a string.

Lunch fruit – Chom Poos! Also for breakfast. YYAAAHHH!

Tim, the grad student with size 14 shoes, will give a lecture tonight on spindle whorls. Karen and I have already heard the lecture as he gave us an impromptu discussion the day that I was cataloguing the box of finds.

Wed, Mar 1 - Ash Wednesday and we are still in the pit. Weather – overcast, breezy and cool – 75 degrees!

Pippa and I started back where we left off yesterday and I unearthed a complete and without-a-chip fluted pot. Less than 5% of the vessels come out of the ground whole and realizing the age and the amount of dirt and other stuff above them for 4000 years, it is a small wonder that any ceramic comes out whole.

whole pot.JPG

Our second location had nothing that was intact and we worked side by side all day and unearthed three large and badly squashed pots. At one point, I thought that we might not be the best work partners because we were having such a good time discussing our favorite books, I was not being very productive.

Excavating tools. You can tell the pros and the old hands at these digs. The pros can be spotted because they are walking around with clipboards and pencils and in the back pocket is the ever-present paint brush and personal trowel, some even have their names on the handles. The old hands among the volunteers arrive with personal kneepads or gardening pads to kneel or sit on while they work. As I mentioned before, my favorite tool is the bamboo stick with a point and allows you the clear dirt close to the item without a major chance of danger to the item. I can tell that volunteers with trowels, close to a delicate item probably bring fear to the hearts of the researchers. The item from everyday life that has been modified and is very helpful to me is a plastic pop bottle. It is sliced in the middle and the bottom half is used as a dustpan to collect loosened dust and dirt from around the area you are excavating. It is very flexible and able to collect dirt from small and cramped areas.

The people working around the skeletons and removing the bones and delicate artifacts also have dentist tools, small spatulas and the rubber bulbs that you use with babies to clear their noses. As they are working around the delicate areas, first they pick with the dentist tool, trowel gently and finally push the loosened dirt away with the bulb with puffs of air. Maybe some day, when I have more experience, they might let me gently work with the bones, under strict supervision of course.

Lunch fruit – tangerines

Still not sign of the ice cream men.

After work, I got off the transport in town and did a little shopping. I bought my favorite pickled mango and munched that on the way home. I also stopped at a stationary store and bought something that brought back many memories of my school days in Bangkok. In 4-6th grade, the coolest things that you could have in your pencil box (the ultimate of cool item to have) were brightly colored erasers. I found a whole bunch of them in the shop and they smelled just as I remembered them. I hope to go by my old school in Bangkok, but Annie tells me it has moved to the outskirts of town. I will see.

Dinner tonight was almost all seafood, which was not favored by all of the volunteers, but also pineapple and guava for dessert.

Because it was Pippa’s birthday, also for dessert was a lovely birthday cake bought by Diane in the market. The staff at the hotel counted all the occupied chairs and the 8 inch round cake was served to over 25 people.

Tessa gave us our evening lecture on stone adzes (rocks that are ground to form a sharp cutting surface and that were used as axes, hoes and other tools). Very thorough research and she hopes to finish it and present her paper in Australia by Christmas of this year.

Thurs, Mar 2 – The last of the shells – Still overcast and breezy.

If you remember from last week, I was working on cleaning shells that had formed a shroud over a specific burial. I did not want to leave with the job half done, so I asked Charles if I could finish the job for Sarah. I thought it would only take half a day, but it took until afternoon tea break and I only finished because Pippa assisted with the washing of the shells.

All during shell cleaning, Pippa, Myra, Onnolee and I exchanged books to be read. Pippa has chronicled books she has either read or listened to on tape for the last three years. We will spend some time together later and get all the titles written down.

Today is a day that we loose Tom from England who is searching for a topic for his PhD and is going to Borneo to check out some locations. I asked him to check in with the orangutans for me.

Lunch fruit – watermelon.

No sign of the ice cream man. Sigh!

In the afternoon, Team B went off site to explore Ban Prasat. Tomorrow afternoon, we may all go with Sarah to see other sites that she explored for her PhD work. I am not sure if I will go, it will depend on how the removal of pots of going.

I had a chance to speak to Helen, a PHD Student from Australia, for the last two days are we were working in close proximity, she with bone removal and I with pot removal. She, after 10 years of work, is pursuing her PhD and doing something she really enjoys instead of following the expected course and working. Hmmmm?

Just before we left today, inside the outer wall, a large jar was found. Charles assumes it will turn out to be another Neolithic infant burial. It is huge and has paintings on it.

burial jar.JPG

Charles is encouraging the crew to move quickly to remove the pots so that the site can be leveled. There are still 5 burial sites to be cleared and most of them have 15-20 pots each. Charles is very efficient when removing pots and I had a hard time keeping up with him. I sat behind him with all the labeled bags and he would call out a number and by the time I was handing him the bag, he was handing me the pot and indicating the next number. Finally, he had all the easy ones out (about 10 pots in less than 5 minutes) and started a big pot excavation for me to finish. I will continue with the big pot tomorrow first thing.

Current grave count is 470 with more projected for tomorrow, our second to the last day on the site. They say that there are usually very interesting finds the last day of the dig. I suspect it will be true of our visit to this site as well.

Anna was our evening speaker and she discussed her research on mortuary rituals for three sites in prehistoric Thailand. Absolutely fascinating to hear about all the patterns that appear depending on if the bones were in a coffin, wrapped or just put in the dirt. Who would have thought there was so much information on how a body was buried by simply looking at how the bones lay?

I realized today that I might not have very many photos of everyday life of Thailand. So much of what I see is expected or anticipated and therefore, doesn’t appear to be a photo subject until it is too far away. I will make more of an effort from here on. I am in Thailand until March 21, so should be able to expand my photo library before I go.

Fri, Mar 3 – Second to the last day at the site – temperature 80 and sunny.

The days have become routine and it feels good to be in a rhythm, just in time to end and move on again. I find I am sleeping very well, even though I am not being physical every day. I think it is a combination of the heat and the work, although, I must say that the weather has been atypically pleasant for Thailand.

As we loaded into the bus, one of the volunteers had a call from New York from her sister. We learned after we were at the site that her mother had passed away. While not unexpected, it was still a shock.

Am tasks included pulling pots from the ground and delivering them to Meph. We are coming down to the last burials, but also had the burial jar that was found late yesterday. As predicted, there was an infant buried in the jar.

There are less and less people in the square both volunteers and workers as we wind down.

After lunch, I visited the bone house, where Anna catalogues and records all the burials. It is a tiny house, absolutely stuffed with boxes from the burials from this year alone. Outside is a very friendly Thai dog that resembles my sister’s Thai dog, Deva. Very sweet and adores having her tummy rubbed.

Lunch fruit – tangerines

In the afternoon, I was not needed in the square, so I spent my time picking out pots for Meph.
It was going to be a short afternoon, as Sarah was taking us on another excursion. Team B went to the museum and the Prasat and Team A went to King Jayarman VII hospital (One of a network that he established between all the Khmer sites in Thailand and Cambodia) and the victory gate.

Grave count at the end of the day – 470.

After that, I did a little shopping including my last roti and a Thai/English Dictionary. Quick dip in the pool and then to dinner.

I sat next to Charles and told him that I might appear in the back of his classroom when I am NZ in April and May. He said that his vacation house might be available. Once I figure out my itinerary and I will have to email him and see if that can be worked out. How exciting!

The after dinner entertainment was a Discovery Channel DVD on the Great Wall of China, staring Charles.

Tomorrow will be a short day, mainly on the surface working on pots and cleaning the area and the final discussion from Charles on what the researchers accomplished this year. Then we will go back to the hotel to freshen up and then to the river for a final celebration of a job well done by all.

It is hard to believe that the two weeks is almost over.

Sat, Mar 4 – Last day – still new jobs to be done.

Before I left the room this morning, I packed up my blue earthwatch shirt for my friend who runs the concession stand at the site. She had expressed an interest in it during the first week, and I relayed to her that it would be hers, after I laundered it of course.

There were still six burials being lifted, but most of the volunteers helped Meph with the pot cleaning, digging, and piecing together operation. Volunteer Helen and I were in the pit, Helen on pots and I, at the request of Charles, was gently lifting beads and sequins off a skeleton. I borrowed Tim’s dentist’s tool and started at it. With the help of staff member Helen’s baby bulb, I blew dirt away from the beads and gently worked around them. There were only about 6 large ones, about the size of a grain of rice, and 4 appeared to be stuck solid. Tim came by after a while and confirmed that they were stuck. He brought staff member Helen over, and indeed they were stuck. I continued with as many of the sequins as I could, but many of them were very thin and stuck well to the ribs or bones. When I had done all I could, I called Charles over and he managed to loosen the rest of the big ones and some of the sequins.

After that I was assigned to the burial that was unearthed yesterday that we covered in what appeared to be maggots. What they really are were small hollow beads made of shell. There were also larger blue beads that were stone and then the ubiquitous sequins. The team of experts was lifting those beads off the skeleton, and I was given a bag of dirt at the head of the grave to shift and see if more beads would appear. So all morning, I worked with sieves and the bag of dirt and came up with a fair number of each of the beads, mainly the thin narrow cylinders.

Lunch fruit – pineapple.

After lunch, Charles took all the volunteers on a walk around the village and explained the various phases of the site that is in total, the size of 24 football fields. He explained how with aerial photos and visiting the areas, they determined were to begin digging. The team had asked the local people where they found burials when they dug wells, where potsherds or beads appeared after the rainy season and if anyone else had excavated the area. Fascinating and all the more so because of the weeks we had been at the site.

At the location where Charles indicated was the site where the villagers find the most carnelian beads, Gail bent down and picked up a bead. Sure enough, it was a Bronze Age bead unique to the early period. Many of us had been amazed at the quantity of sherds that appeared throughout the village and that people just walk past and ignore. Most of us were itching to take a least a little piece with us, but were strongly advised not to even consider it. The Thai government is very serious about removing Thai antiquities from Thailand and if found in your luggage… Definitely not worth the risk in my mind.

FINAL GRAVE COUNT – 470.

We headed back to the hotel early in order to clean up and get ready for the river cruise and final dinner. In the bus, there was a daily continuing discussion about the made up saga about some of the interesting people we lived with at the hotel for the last two weeks. There is one white man that we call the spy, mainly because he has suspicious behavior such as walking quickly by us and talking into his wallet. Many of the volunteers have drawn him into conversation and then compared stories, which don’t appear to match. To some people, he speaks with a British accent, others with an American accent. At times he talks about his wife, and other times he appears to have two girl friends. The best story was from Erica who said that he appeared in the lobby the other night and screamed at the desk staff that the handle had come off his wardrobe door. He had the door with him to show them the problem. We wonder if he is off his medication, in the witness protection program or on disability from the military. Gary decided he would approach him tonight and tell him that we know who he is, G said to throw the switch and that he was being reassigned to Burma. We will either go and retrieve Gary from the hospital, prison or the mortuary tomorrow.

Gary and Carl have also decided to try a fried scorpion each and Gail will take pictures. I will wait for the film.

The dinner event for the evening involved a cruise on a barge with drinks on the Mun River which was very nice. The highlight was going past the house that was sitting at a 45-degree angle to the river. Possible thoughts on how it got into that position included the stilts had rotted, it got stuck being lifted from the water and on to the land, or it had slide down the hill and stopped half way down. You can decide what you think the answer was.

House at an angle.JPG

Dinner was back on land at the Rin Moon restaurant. Very nice dishes including Phimai Noodles, which you have heard about before. Charles gave a wonderful thank you speech and Meph told us that 657 pots had been lifted, dug out, cleaned and reassembled by the volunteers this season, not including the ones the group finished today. I suspected the number would be closer to 700 pots when you add in the ones from today. As some of the group would be leaving at 7:00 am, Charles indicated that he would say goodbye at the dinner, as he would not be at the hotel that early.

I still can’t believe the time has gone so fast. The day after tomorrow, I will have been on the road for two months. It seems like a blink of an eye.

I suspected that this placement would be fun, but I had not idea how involved we would be with the site. We all feel pretty attached to it and I think that several of us are seriously considering coming back next year for the final season. From what I have heard from others who have done other archeological digs, this one was one of the most exciting mainly due to the quantity of finds and the varied things that volunteers do during the dig. While the hotel was not perfect, it is certainly more civilized that other digs that I have heard of, mainly considering you are excavating under a large tent and all the work areas are protected from the sun. At the end of his tour today, Charles asked us to imagine what it would be like to excavate under the blazing sun, which is more common. Even during the last two weeks, when the weather has been really quite good, it would have been miserable in the direct sun for more than 10 minutes.

I would encourage anyone who would like to do this type of volunteer work to seriously consider this Earthwatch placement next year, especially the last two-week session. The last placement tends to be the one where most of the finds are still visible and the staff is moving ahead with lots of excavations.

KUDOS to Charles Higham, Kaek, Wor, all the graduate students and the site workers from the village. They made us feel very welcome and were hugely patient with us, especially in our early days. Between my time in Peru, Easter Island and this site in Thailand, I would love to find some type of class or book that discussed early civilizations and what was happening on each continent when.

And I wonder what the volunteers will remember most of our experiences at Spa Ban Wat? The blue and sometimes green water in the pool? The sporadic hot showers and the brown water going down the drain after a hot day at the dig? Mr. Spy? Helicopter parenting? The clouds of dust from Mr. Nim’s commute to and from the site? The keys to all of our rooms left at the staircase for anyone to access them? Meph and her wonderful pots? Charles and his incredible patience and sense of humor?

I will remember what an interesting project it was, all the wonderful people I met and what fun it was to be back in Thailand.

Posted by ladyjanes 01:34 Archived in Thailand Tagged postcards Comments (1)

Entry #10 Thailand, the land of the Chom poo

Sleepy but here

overcast 0 °F

After 11 hours from Auckland and having watched Pride and Prejudice twice, Walk the Line once and Charlie + Chocolate once, I arrived in Bangkok at 9:15 pm. I love Thai Airways. Very colorful planes, warm perfumed towels before your meal, Thai food if you want it (which I did) and cute little tooth brushes and paste in the bathrooms. They think of everything.

As we were landing, there were ice crystals on the windows. Once we touched down and were heading for the gate, the window fogged up from the humidity. HELLO THAILAND!

We exited the plane by going down stairs and were to be loaded on to buses to go to the terminal. I stood on the last step of the stairs and looked at the ground and remembered it had been 35 years since I had walked in Thailand. I had a little cry and then stepped off the step and on to the bus.

My driver met me at the exit from immigration and as I sat in the underground parking garage waiting for him to arrive with the car, I had another Thai memory, the feel and smell and the humidity of Bangkok. I could be given a vial with this odor to identify anywhere in the world and I would recognize it as Thailand.

It is a combination of ripe fruit just about ready to turn, car exhaust, moist heat and dust. It may not sound nice, but to me, it was a wonderful memory.

My driver, Mr. Yut, was a stitch. 29 years old and very engaging, he kept telling me that he would take care of my car needs tomorrow. Based on how I was feeling, I told him I would have to think about it as I am not sure what time the body will make it out of bed.

My room is wonderful on the ninth floor and hopefully when the sun comes up, a good view of the city. Twin beds, fruit plate, complimentary coffee, etc and little bath goodies to be had. I am taking the portable toothbrush and paste with me for later in the trip.

I had been up the night before in Auckland at 3:00 am doodling on the computer. I woke again at 3:00 in Bangkok and decided to try and sleep. No luck, so I was up at 4:00 reading the Bangkok Post, both Saturday and Sundays and diving into the fruit plate.

So less than 12 hours after arriving, I am eating my first (of many) Chom Poos! I love them!. They are also called Rose Apples and are shaped like a heart coming to a point at the bottom. They are red colored and the skin resembles a green pepper, a little waxy. Just under the skin is also like the green pepper in that it is juicy with little pockets of liquid. The middle is white and soft and there is a little tiny pit up next to the stem. I cannot describe the flavor other than subtle and a little sweet, because there is nothing else that I have come across that resembles the chom poo. They are my favorite Thai fruit!.

chom poos.JPG

I am reading my Thai books and maps and trying to become acclimated. I may go out today and begin buying my Thai goodies, or I might just go to the pool and try and catch up on my tan. I will have to wear elbow length gloves and knee socks to catch up the white parts of my body, so that may not be an option.

More later, once I am in Khorat with Earthwatch and the other volunteers.

Posted by ladyjanes 20:43 Archived in Thailand Tagged armchair_travel Comments (3)

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