2: "Szép az élet!" (Life is beautiful!)

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Körös Region, Hungary
© W.A. Parkinson
Magnetometry Surveying

We’re rocking and rolling now! The weather has turned in our favor. The last week has been warmer and it hasn't rained very much. Most of the mud has dried up, and we’re concurrently running seven or eight field crews every day. We've nearly doubled the information we had last year, and we’re not even halfway through the season. Everyone on the project is absolutely thrilled with the results so far, and we’re all eager to see what else we’ll discover.

When I last wrote, we were just getting things underway. During the first week, we spent a lot of time re-establishing the grid over the site, continuing our survey, and initiating excavation. It rained on and off, but finally the sun came out, it warmed up, and now we can ditch the raincoats and wear t-shirts in the field.

Last Thursday, our colleagues Apostolos Sarris and Nikos Papadopoulos arrived, along with Maria Christina Salvi, a postdoctoral fellow who is working in their institute in Crete. They've been leading three geophysical teams that include two magnetometers and one ground penetrating radar unit (see above photo.) These three teams work independently at different parts of the site and permit us to scan several areas during the same day using different geophysical techniques.

The geophysical results are nothing less than astonishing. Almost everywhere we conduct the magnetometry surveys, we continue to find longhouses and other features that were associated with the large settlement around the tell. We place the geophysical grids over the areas that we expect to generate good results based upon the distribution of materials collected on the surface of the plowzone within our 10x10-meter grids. Because we have such a fine resolution of where ancient activities occurred across the landscape, we can be very efficient with the placement of the geophysical surveys.

The magnetometers are very good at helping us detect the location of ancient structures and other features, such as kilns and pits, because the manipulation of the local environment (which is almost all clay)—through processes such as burning—alter the magnetic gradient in those areas and permit us to detect patterns that we then can associate with ancient manmade features.

While the magnetometer can be used to detect these anomalies within a few meters of the surface, it does not provide information about the depth of the anomalies. The ground penetrating radar is actually better an estimating depths because it’s more reliant upon changes in the density of the strata under the surface of the ground (see Photo #1 below.) Interestingly, many of the anomalies found with the magentometer cannot be detected with the ground penetrating radar. Instead, the GPR picks up other kinds of anomalies, many of which correlate with features that the geophysical team has identified in satellite imagery.

The geophysical team arrived on Thursday and hit the ground running on Friday morning. Because we were able to work ahead of them to stake out grids and collect the artifacts from the plowzone before they arrived, they immediately were able to get all three teams going first thing in the morning. Within the next three days, we’d more than doubled the number of longhouses located around the settlement. They tend to occur in groups, and most have the same NW-SE orientation. They also tend to be associated with only a few other features, unlike the main settlement, which is packed with features we anticipate to be storage pits, fences, and kilns.

Our excavations are only just beginning to clarify this picture because the rain last week forced us either to go very slowly (excavating mud is impossible), or to close down altogether. That said, in both areas we've begun to expose features that we can associate with the magnetic anomalies and the surface materials (see Photos #2 and #3 below.)

The only disappointment we’ve experienced so far was with the coring rig that came down from Budapest on Monday. Although the core was able to penetrate easily into the deep layers of the tell, almost all the cores came out very compressed. When we'd push the core in two meters, for example, we'd end up with only a meter or so of sediment in the core—in other words, the core was compacting the soil as it penetrated the ground. This makes it very difficult, if not impossible, to correlate the stratigraphy in the core sample with the actual stratigraphy of the tell and the main settlement. As a result, our sediment specialist, Rod Salisbury, has decided to go back to the old-fashioned hand core, which is very labor intensive, but also very reliable.

At the end of this week, our colleagues from Budapest who are specialists in paleo-environmental reconstruction and paleo-gemorphology will bring a team from their institutions so that they can begin exploring those aspects of our project.

We look forward to having you join us as the rest of the season unfolds!

Bill

© W.A. Parkinson
GPR Surveying
© W.A. Parkinson
Excavation Begins
© W.A. Parkinson
Recording Finds