Friday, August 25, 2017

They let us out to do "field work" *gasp! ;-)

This is what Steve and I usually look like...

Dissolving sediment
Stimulating plankton feeding

It's no secret that our projects are a bit less glamorous than the field work of the other students: squirreling through Timna mine tunnels, building saltwater pools for culture experiments, or SCUBA diving for coral samples.

However, yesterday, this all changed!

...Steve and I went outside. *gasp!

I needed a groundwater sample from the coastal well ~5 m from our office and I needed a "field assistant."

So, we packed our "gear" and headed out the door.

A 0.45um filter #NotABeerBong

We then "hiked" the whole 5 m, across the sand, in the sun, along the beach, uphill both ways until we arrived at our "field site:" 
The Well

Don't fall down!
Lowering the bucket into the well

Nobody fell down into the well.
Mission accomplished!

Sample - collected!

Then, after all our tireless minutes of work, it was time to kick back and celebrate.

A job well done!

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Lemons and lemonade

People always say "life gives you lemons? make lemonade."

Of course, science is full of these opportunities. Just yesterday I got given one.

This is how barite (BaSO4) separation usually works for me:
1. I attack the samples with a bunch of different acids at room temperature, some bleach at 80 degrees C, a little AlCl3, and ash at 700C, and - poof! BaSO4 powder is left.

However, that's on open ocean sediments, where there really isn't that much terrestrial material.

Working in the Gulf of Aqaba, which essentially serves as a natural dust trap for several different deserts, is a whole different story.

After conducting a similar procedure, I'm still left with tons of dolomite crystals, clay particles, and some other terrestrial, "indissolvable" materials.

Normally, people dissolve this with some hot HF + HNO3 and - poof! Dissolution! However... this also dissolves the BaSO4 crystals, which I need in tact...

So, I've sieved my samples through a 20um filter, am putting all of this (>20um and <20um fraction) through a warm, 1N acetic acid dissolution in a sonicating bath to attack the dolostones (I walk upstairs to shake them regularly too). Then, later today, I got to take a look at what's left in each fraction.

A bright, white oval BaSO4 crystal?

Another BaSO4 crystal?

A bunch of terrestrial junk...

Now, I'll get the "opportunity" to characterize the Ba-isotopic composition of an "indissolvable, >20um terrestrial fraction." So... one extra data point and a learning opportunity.


Sunday, August 20, 2017

Adventures in Tel Aviv: Eretz-Israel Museum with Timna Artifacts

The marine scientists among us had to go to Paris to present at a conference.  We all drove together to Tel Aviv, Steve took Kim and Esra to the airport, and I went to the Eretz Israel Museum.  I had already toured the Tel Aviv Art Museum, and the Eretz Museum was actually open on a Saturday.  (Most stores and restaurants close for Shabbat, busses and trains stop running.)

To my delight, I found that this museum houses all those famous ARTIFACTS from Timna that are published in books!  --all those famous fragments of Hathor's face, the Midianite snakes, Egyptian beads...  The museum includes a whole hall devoted to Timna.

What I had NOT seen in books, however, were all the fragments of sistrums and meant necklaces, both used by the priestesses of Hathor.  So my corpuscles were pulsing!

Why are these fragments so inspiring to me?

Well, I was out there with my own Hathor sistrum, sounding in the desert, thinking I was just enacting some historical fantasy of priestesses at the Hathor temple.  Timna is a mining outback.  We have no evidence via the art historical record that women mined.  And I did not presume that miner men took families to the outback.  I had this image in my mind of California gold miners, rugged anti-establishment men out there on their own, lonely but free.

Clearly, though, there WERE women out there, and there WERE priestesses, because fragments of their accoutrements were on proud display at the Eretz Museum!  [If you look at my prior posts, too, you will recall that Erez Ben Yosef's University of Tel Aviv's archaeological team found a skeleton with a fetus in the pelvis.  We do not know yet, though, if this skeleton was Egyptian, Midianite, Roman, Edomite, Nabatean...]

So if women were part of the community of the mining town of Timna, what did they do there?  Did they run households?  Were they "career women" as priestesses?  Did ordinary women take time out of running households to priestess, too?  What is the female story at Timna?

That might be next year's research question!

But here are some sistrum fragments, taken with my cell phone through glass. Data, not art:

And her are some menat necklace fragments.  Priestesses of Hathor shook these beaded necklaces like rattles.  Women who handled the necklaces were though to hold the power to channel Hathor.

Another hall in the museum was devoted to ceramics.  Most of these were Levantine artifacts.  I was most enthralled, however, with a collection of Canaanite cultic goddess shrines.  I had never seen anything like them.  Why not?  Well, in Istanbul, wall texts in museums discuss Amazons as fact. In the US, we talk about Amazons as myth.  In the US, we like to bury any history that challenges the Christian patriarchal narrative.  To reveal it would be dangerous, I suppose.  Grrrrrls might take over the Western World if they recalled how powerful women had been, Once Upon a Time.  Wouldn't that be awful. 

Again, these are from my cell phone through glass, but "as data" rather than "Art"... voila:

Maybe some day I will be able to tie these two things together, Hathor priestesses and Canaanite goddess shrines:  Hathor was the only Egyptian deity embraced by the Canaanites.  What is that all about?  Why did they embrace a goddess of their occupiers?  Inquiring minds want to know. 

That tambourine that Miriam in the Old Testament played -- could that really have been a Hathor sistrum?  How rich a story that would make.

After my museum ecstasy, Steve and I toured the Arab village of Jaffa, which is full of bohemian galleries and cafes.  The following days we explored the Arab village of Acre, north of Haifa, and Haifa itself.  Acre includes and underground city used by the crusaders.  Maybe something got lost in translation, but I was under the impression these crusaders, specifically, were the Knights Templar.  (Please fact check before quoting.)  Acre also has a souk with TWO music stores.  I finally found my Bedouin tunes.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Jordan: the land of camels and '1 dinar' (a photo blog)

This past weekend, we were in Jordan.

It all started with some turban shopping in Aqaba, followed by a slumber party at the Jordanian Marine Science Center.

Aqaba, Jordan

Jordanian Marine Science Center

Hands down, my favorite thing in Aqaba is the coral reef - it was amazing!!!!! (...and I forgot my underwater camera to document it, of course)

We headed to Petra early in the morning on Friday. Obviously, took way too many photos, but here are the highlights:

'The Treasury' + Adina's fingers?

The best photo our group had gotten thus far

The Monastery
(no photos available of the 850 stairs to get here...
if we had stopped to take a photo, a behouin kid would certainly have charged us 1 dinar
"I make you good price")

Camel riding!!!!!! 

The beautiful Fe-rich sandstones

Stephan got this picture of Adina without her sunglasses.
Let's see if she reads the blog this far...

Riding in the back of a Toyota Hilux to the Bedhouin Camp


Back of the truck chillin'

The camp at night


Above the camp

Then, the following day, we went to Wadi Rum.

To be honest, we expected this just to be a day of wandering around a hot desert wondering why we were there...

It turned out to be incredibly awesome!

First, we jumped into 4x4 trucks to race around the desert - stopping at cool sites every few minutes.

Stephan gazing out over the Wadi (dry riverbed) between two boulders

Our guide, Mohammed, ghost ridin' the whip

Group shot!

Our token police officer, who went along with us the whole trip

Adina and I are good at yoga?

Maybe we aren't that good at yoga... 

But meditating... we can do!


Smiling Steve

Photo credits all go to Stephan!

Now, we are back here in Eilat and I'm procrastinating on my Goldschmidt talk preparation. Hence why I wrote this blog.

Time to work I guess...

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

350 hz

I have spent the past four days creating a video for Beverly Goodman's website.  Beverly is the archaeologist I worked with in Haifa.  I still need to put on my design hat and craft titles.

I am making good progress on the rest, though I am still frustrated with some of the color imbalance.  The Mediterranean is turquoise at the coast--blue-green--but in the deep, the sea is red-blue.  Ergo, the shot flow of the footage I have from the dive boat does not match the footage I have at the shore to my satisfaction in terms of hues.

I have color corrected the best I can without turning people on the boat or the sky green, but I am still unsettled about it.   My peers here say they are unbothered by it, don't even notice, but -- they admit they are not artists.

I was able to make the SOUND much clearer than I thought I would be able to, having shot at the shoreline.  (See last post.)  I learned something very long-term useful by experimenting with equalization:  the rumble of ocean wind lives at about 350 hertz, and it pretty easy to remove.  There is another high frequency in the surf that is trickier to eliminate without messing up people's voices and such.  So the sound is far from perfect, but I think it came out pretty well for what I had to work with!

Another tricky thing I learned is, you have to plan the background of shoots very carefully if you have subjects of very different complexion hues.  (We did not do this, as we were rushed.)  Beverly has Scandinavian heritage, so she is on the far end of light.  Her grad student who shot with us is from Nigeria, and he is very dark.  So how does one select an exposure that works for both of them in the same shot, AND the bright sun and the dark shadows of rocks?  A puzzle.

Generally I aimed to expose for the rocks so as not to make one person very correctly exposed and the other very incorrectly exposed.  The compromise is that each person is a bit off-exposure.  For future reference, this could be minimized by blocking.  I noticed reviewing the footage that in some shots, Bev stood against the bright sky --light disappearing into light -- and her student stood with dark rocks behind him.  If I had realized this while shooting (it is hard to see the viewfinder in bright sunlight), I could have had them switch places for more balanced exposures and contrasts.

The other thing that would be extremely useful shooting in this bright desert and Mediterranean light:  a split filter.  About a year ago, my dad showed me a lens filter made for outdoor photographers that is partly dark and partly neutral.  Say for example you are shooting trees, which are dark, and the sky behind them is very bright.  If you expose for the trees, the sky is totally blown out.  If you expose for the sky, the trees are dark mass with no detail.  Such a lens allows one to filter the sky without darkening the trees. No sacrifice of either.

Here I have been on boats twice now, and the sky outside the boat is blinding bright while the scene inside the boat is dark. If any sky shows in the shot, it is blown out if you want to see people's faces.   I kept wishing for that filter...

Next birthday, Dad?

It always takes a while to learn tricks for a new environment.  This is part of the process of documenting while traveling. I remember my first trip to Egypt, it took me three days to get the exposure right because not only is the desert sun blinding, it then bounces off quartz sand. It makes all these tiny reflective lights.  Working with the light there was like learning a new dance.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Art, Archaeology, and Identity in Caesarea and Haifa

Art, Archaeology, and Identity in Caesarea and Haifa

I went to Caesarea to work with a brilliant, creative marine geophysical archaeologist, Beverly Goodman from Haifa University.  Among other things, she studies ancient tsunamis so that we can better prepare our coastlines in the present and in the future.

Beverly was hoping that an excavation would be in swing while I was there, but that work actually has been moved to November.  Beverly has so many plates spinning, I am grateful for the time she could devote to shooting video with me, for time spent shuttling me around, and for the home stay she arranged.

Since we only had a little time together, we decided to focus on a very narrow story: how a fable from the Talmud helped researchers to date an ancient seismic event, and how such events are indicated by large deposits of a particular kind of seashell.  Near Caesarea is Tel Dor, and beaches there are just COVERED with these shells.  Walking through them, of course, makes a marvelous sound, so we captured that.

We could not, however, get into the recording studio at Haifa University at any time that worked for us, so we had to record at the beach with a windsock.  It is good enough for a YouTube video for Beverly’s website, but to make something film festival worthy, one really needs to record clean voiceover and mesh it on top of ambient ocean and shells.  So this is a sketch for a better version next visit, hopefully!    And she can use it for presentations.

Phoenicians were the first people we know of to build a port at Caesarea.  Then King Harod built a Roman city.  Medieval European crusaders were there, Mumlaks, Ottomans, and Arabs.  Many layers of history indeed!

Tel Dor was also an important Phoenician site.  The small local museum there is a true gem.  They have a whole case of Astarte goddess figurines, a case of jewelry that the Phoenician acquired from trade with Egyptians, fine examples of amphorae from various Mediterranean explorers (Cyprus, Greece, Phoenicia, etc.) and many other notable artifacts.  The rooms of the museum are set up as installations, including an underwater archaeology room.

I also was in my glory at the art museum at Haifa University, Hecht.  The bulk of the collection on display was Canaanite archaeology.  A whole wing is devoted to Phoenicians specifically, a subset of Canaanite along with Israelites and other tribes.  In this wing, as with the Tel Dor museum, the exhibit design was installation focused.  Instead of an institutional floor, the visitor crunches through Mediterranean stones to examine artifacts.  I loved it.

Not to ignore the Modern and Contemporary art of the region, I took a train to Israel’s hippest city, Tel Aviv.  The Tel Aviv Museum of Art was enormous and took me the whole day, so I did not venture on to any galleries but for one that was hosting the museum’s new video art acquisitions.  It was worth the trip! (--and a relief to spend a whole day in air conditioning.)

My hosts for this leg of the trip were amazing, Ofi and Uri and their young adult son Nadav.  They took me in like family.  Ofi loves to nurture people, and Uri is very athletic like me.  He has devoted much of his retirement to mountain biking all over the region! So he showed me a nearby park with mile and miles of trails for me to run---plus goats and Griffon vultures and jackals and English gardens!

Again, I felt like I fit in here really well.  The ancestral roots were all around me.  The locals look like my mom’s family (Grandpa used to say we were of Phoenician stock), and insists that my Polish grandma’s maiden name is usually Ashkenazi, though I have not yet convinced my dad (who was blond as a child).  So lots of identity sorting…

Also, Beverly and Ofi are both archaeologists and both moms.  I think THIS would make a great short film!  Those things just do not go together in my mind.  Archaeologists are free spirits and high-risk adventurers, traveling all the time.  How do you balance that with motherhood ?!??  Both women have taken very different approaches.  I felt profoundly inspired.  

I hope I get to go back and do more work with these wonderful, intrepid women.  This first trip felt like a research trip to feel out the area, which is so rich with stories to be told.