Wednesday 14 and Thursday 15 January

More beavering away in the trench. I was expecting the weather up top of Tell Husyn to be cold but it wasn’t when I was there during Session One (11  – 28 January). Apparently we were also experiencing the unseasonably warm weather which was ramping up summer temperatures at the same time on the other side of the world in Australia. I found out that a long sleeved flannellette shirt was sufficient on the Tell with no layers required underneath. Over the next few days I cleaned more surfaces and walls so that Jamie and the Big Daddy of the dig, Professor Stephen Bourke, could glean more information about the constructions in the Early Bronze Age trench. From time to time a piece of pottery would turn up but these were not catalogued as they were not found in situ (i.e. in a properly prepared site), including one piece with human thumb prints on it, thousands of years old.
 
The Arabic workmen were very sweet and tried to teach me – and all the other volunteers – some Arabic. Over the years they have probably had a lot of practice in teaching volunteers things I suppose.
 
‘Shukran’ means thank you
‘Monkoosh’ means pick
‘Mastarin’ means trowel
‘Goofa’ means rubber bucket for removing dirt and soil from where you are working
‘Ya Abu Mahomed’ means can you please come here and take away this full goofa
‘Shvay dibalak’ (Slow, danger) probably means Are you half out of you mind, do you want to fall off that sheer cliff face and break every bone in your body?
‘Agrab’ means scorpion
 
Karen (volunteer coordinator) said last night that we should all be careful of scorpions as there are heaps around lurking under rocks, especially on Tell Husyn, and the yellow ones can be fatal. in fact I saw a tiny little one on my first day. When you see one the safety procedure is as follows:
 
1. Volunteer (Margaret) yells out ‘Agrab! Agrab!’
2. A workman comes up and wallops the scorpion with a rock/his shoe/your drink bottle/a monkoosh/ a mastarin
3. The scorpion dies.
 
Some Arabic words are terrific; they would be great additions to anyone’s language. ‘miskeen’ for example means poor, wretched, untidy, badly dressed, struggling. . ‘Walid’ for example is a slightly derogatory word for boy, as in
 
‘I have been working on digs ever since I was a walid’ (Big Daddy Stephen Bourke)
‘The bloody walids always hang out at the foot of the hill’
‘Karen was driving a car in Masharia and some walids threw rocks at her’
 
Attention any Pella diggers that may be reading this blog – can you please add a comment or email me if I have missed out some of the alternative meanings of words ?(Some of them have multiple meanings).
 
Speaking of Arabic words, whilst on the dig I shared my room with three younger girls, Nicki, Hilary and Ari. Our room was christened the ‘bints’ room, as ‘bint’ is the Arabic word for young girl, apparently. I was fascinated when I heard that, because when I was at Mortlake High School in the 1830s, the word ‘bint’ was used briefly as a slang word for a tart before it dropped out of fashion and I never heard it again. All became clear later on when Erin, one of the trench supervisors mentioned that this word was picked up by the Australian forces during the First World War when they were stationed in the Middle East. It made its way into Australian slang and has popped up intermittently ever since, apparently surfacing at Mortlake High School at one stage. It is also used in Stan Barstow’s ‘A Kind of Loving’ which we studied in English as 14 year olds.
 
Our (the bints’) room was gloriously, fabulously untidy, and like everywhere in the dig house, coated in a thin layer of dust. On the last day of the dig I exclaimed for the ninetieth time how dusty all my belongings were and one of my room mates helpfully (and accurately) pointed out that I seemed to be in denial about the Pella dust thing.
 
 
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~ by margoforte12 on February 3, 2009.

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