Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Pottery washing in a Roman bathhouse

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P is for POTTERY washing.
Please take a look at other P words and pictures at ABC Wednesday.

At the Tiberias dig we normally wash potsherds two afternoons a week, under the semi-porous black shade cloth you see above.
But rain was falling Friday morning, making digging impossible. So we did pottery washing instead, in the only covered structure around--a 4th century Roman bathhouse.
So well-built is was, that it functioned as a bathhouse for 800 years.
The roof put up by the antiquities people in the 20th century to protect the colored mosaic floors already has holes.
Sa'id is the watchman who sleeps at the site every night for the whole month of the dig, rain or shine. During the day he does archaeology with us.
Ten hired Bedouins also work at the dig.
See the buckets lined up? We were catching run-off from the roof to use as our clean water in which to brush the shards.
Most of the volunteers spread out and work in silence.
Hmm, pottery washing as a meditative practice?

But the young people sat in a side room of the bathhouse and no doubt had a good conversation.
Sometimes I wonder what the Romans would think if they could hear and see us modern folks working in their buildings. Maybe they can . . .
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BTW, for readers of previous posts who asked how to join a dig, I added some links in yesterday's Comments. Hope to see you in the field someday!
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34 comments:

Reader Wil said...

The Romans were a great people, no matter what we think of them, but we have to admit that they were clever and left us a fantastic inheritance. Thanks for this interesting post. So beautiful to see that digging fraternizes. When I was still a student and had no money I used to go to international workcamps and work together with students from all over the world. I still have some good friends left from those times.

Dina said...

Wil, I agree with all you say here. Yes, living in community with other idealistic volunteers really makes for lifelong friendships. What kind of work did you do in the workcamps? Sometimes I think of starting a new blog called "The Volunteer Years" about my time (1995-2006) of service on 3 continents.

Eki Qushay Akhwan said...

it looks like a fun thing to be there and be involved in the dig. do volunteers have to have certain qualifications, Dina?

RuneE said...

I suddenly felt an urge to see what John Cleese could have made of this :-)

Dina said...

Eki, yes it is fun. I guess the best is if you have digging experience or are an archaeology student. But, as a volunteer from abroad, if you are in fairly good shape and can pay the dig fee (for room and board) you will probably be accepted.
I would add that it is not good to be sensitive to breathing dust for 7 hours a day. You should be able to adjust to rooming with other people, some of whom snore or laugh in their sleep or are sloppy or shut the windows at night. :)

Rune, haha, yes! After sitting slouched over buckets of water, washing muddy potsherds for hours, when we finally stand up it looks like the Ministry of Silly Walks.

Jew Wishes said...

What wonderful photos. I've been to the Roman baths in Bath, England.

The technology was amazing. Your photos are such a story in their own right.

Leslie: said...

One of my daughters would love to do something like that. She studied archaeology for a while at college, but career options are pretty limited here in this "new" country.

Sylvia K said...

How absolutely fascinating! I would so love to be able to be a part of that. And, as Reader Wil wrote, the Romans were a great people and left us so much. We can still learn from them if we're willing. Your photos are fantastic, Dina and I really enjoyed your post.

Sylvia

Ann said...

I can see why you enjoy it, although I don't know whether my body would take the rigours of a dig for so long.

Rose said...

A fascinating post, Dina! So ironic that the ancient buildings still stand while modern roofs deteriorate, but I'm not surprised. Whatever else you might say about the Romans, they did build structures to last.

Petrea said...

I agree with Reader Wil--I'm glad not to have met the ancient Romans, but what treasures they left us.

All I have to do to join the Ministry of Silly Walks is sit at my desk for a couple of hours. I'd be a hoot at a dig.

Cloudia said...

Thanks for bringing us along. When I was a kid I wanted to be an archeologist.



Aloha, Friend!


Comfort Spiral

FA said...

Indeed, pottery washing a meditative experience. St. Teresa said the work should be simple to leave the mind free for meditation/contemplation.

Bonnie Bonsai said...

Very interesting activity with historical background.

Mine here.

Kay said...

This does look like a meditative thing to do. You must really be able to feel the history all around you.

Roger Owen Green said...

I'm fond of the history those digs develop, though I doubt I have the patience to do it myself.

Turquoise Diaries said...

It looks such a hard but marvellous job...To touch the history and even wash it... I think its a privilage..

*SparkleMirror* Kiln-Fired Art Studio said...

The photos of spread-out pottery washers emanate a strong sense of meditation. That was my initial reaction, even before seeing your subtitled question. Gently washing these shards and contemplating the culture and time from which they are recovered has got to be penetratingly satisfying. I can see and deeply feel (to my core) the reasons why people volunteer for this.
Thanks so much Dina for continually alerting me to these posts, and also for your words on the SM blog.
David

Life with Kaishon said...

So interesting : ) I always love coming here and learning something new!

Glennis said...

This looks quite companionable, sitting around gently washing pottery shards, meeting people from around the globe. I am sure I would enjoy this kind of work, but would like to be digging up the shards more! So much history.

JM said...

Now I see the black basalt stones you've mentioned in your comment. How interesting!

Q said...

I aleays enjoy your ABC posts. Washing potsherds looks like fun...
the dust and the heat would be a problem.
I have a very romantic idea of what being on a dig would be like. From your comments I see I like "reading" about being on a dug.
Sherry

Grace and Bradley said...

The Romans probably their well build bathhouse will be one day to used to wash not human but pottery and helped to tell the story of their time and more ancient time. Good volunteer work!

bennie and patsy said...

Please do start your new blog on The Volunteer Years.
Patsy

Benikos place said...

I love your job Dina :))

Jay said...

Pottery washing as meditation? And why not. It's soothing work, I imagine! And must lead to thoughts of 'what is this pot', and 'who made it' and 'what were their lives like'.

Fascinating to think about! Thank you for the photos and the little story. :)

Caprice- said...

Dina,
How excitng to be in a Roman bath house! Enjoy your dig!
Caprice

Dick said...

800 years, wow, I guess they don't make them like that anymore.
It looks all very nice, I don't want to meet the Romans, hahaha

Pietro said...

Dina, thanks for sharing with us this interesting activity. Charming post with nice photos.

Barbara Martin said...

Another interesting post about people working together for a common cause.

Judi said...

Interesting post. I always learn so much here. Thanks!

Hilda said...

I've always found dish washing (by hand) meditative, so why not pottery washing?

Thank you for another inside look into what goes on in an archeological dig, Dina. I find everything so fascinating!

jeannette stgermain said...

Recycle water - that's great! Agreed, the Romans were great builders.

Louis la Vache said...

«Louis» 'digs' it!
;-)

No doubt the rain was welcome.