Behind-the-Scenes of a 2-Week Archaeology Trip to Oman

If you’re curious about what happens during a 2-week archaeology trip, this post gives a behind-the-scenes look at my recent fieldwork expedition to Oman. In this post, you will find the YouTube video discussing this topic and a full transcript of the video.

YouTube Video

Behind-the-Scenes of a 2-Week Archaeology Trip to Oman

YouTube Video Transcript

Here you will find the complete transcript of the video in the previous section. There are time stamps for every minute if you want to navigate to a certain part.

Introduction

[00:00:00] Smiti: Hi everyone. This video is a day-by-day breakdown of my two-week archaeological fieldwork trip to Oman. My name is Smiti, and I’m an archaeologist. One of my specialties is the archaeology of Oman, and this past January, I returned to the field after five years away. Why so long? Well, I had a kid.

My Kiddo: Hi.

Smiti: And also Covid 19. Now, a lot happened in those two weeks. So, if you’re ready to get to go behind the scenes with me, here we go.

Day 1

Smiti: So day one, it was basically a travel day. I traveled from Washington DC, had to stop over in Istanbul, Turkey, which was a pretty nice airport. And then I finally arrived in Oman in the early hours of the morning. Also, I wanted to mention that I asked folks on my Instagram stories, if they had any questions for me while I was in the field. So I’ll post both those questions and the answers throughout this video.

So this time I’m only out here for two weeks and my project goals are to wrap up some publications. So I need certain, photographs and I need to check some material, but also to really help people with their projects. So every day is [00:01:00] looking different.

Day 2

Smiti: Day 2. By the time I woke up, it was time for lunch. So I headed to Terracotta, which was recommended by Dina. Who’s an Omani food blogger and chef check out her channel, which will be linked below.

 After lunch, I just waited for the first half of my team to arrive.

So speaking of team, I’m part of the Archaeological Water Histories of Oman Project. I’m a co-director alongside Dr. Ioana Dumitru and Dr. Joseph Lehner, and our principal investigator and founder of the project is Dr. Michael Harrower. I’ll link below in the description a bit more about our project.

Now in addition to the directors and co-directors, our team is made up of undergraduate and graduate students, methodological specialists, and local Omanis working for the Ministry of Heritage and Tourism.

Now when the first half of the team arrived, they were quite hungry. So we headed to a restaurant, and , I had one of my favorite Omani juices, which is a lemon mint juice. And then when the rest of the team arrived, we headed it out again to go pick up some supplies at the Mall of Oman, we were looking for scales and a power bank.

[00:02:00] Then it was time to head to dinner. We went to Qurum Beach and ate at Twin’s restaurant, which had delicious Turkish food. And the location is just stunning. After dinner, we decided to do a night walk on the beach, which is one of my favorite things to do while we’re in Muscat.

Day 3

Smiti: Day three. So today was all about sightseeing and hanging out with my friend and fieldwork sister Ioana. we first had to put our co-directors hats on to figure out why one of our vehicles wasn’t working, which is typical field work issues. Once we got some answers we swapped cars with the team that was working at the ministry of heritage and tourism. We actually stopped at the MHT to have some lunch there. Then we headed to the Oman Botanic garden to visit some friends and long standing collaborators. After that we indulged and went to the Amouage perfume factory. Amouage is a luxury perfume brand based out of Oman.

Then we headed to the Muttrah Souk. So others could go souvenir shopping Finally we had dinner and Ruwi before heading back to the hotel.

Day 4

Smiti: Day four. So this was a travel day. Before heading off to al-Dhahirah [00:03:00] I stopped at Lulu’s hypermarket to pick up a bunch of snacks for our team.

So we work in what’s called the Al-Dhahira governorate of Oman, so we really try to find a house each season rented out and stay close to the sites we’re working on. This year we’re staying in a town called Dahir al-Fwaris.

After the three-hour drive, I made it in time to catch dinner with my team.

Day 5

Smiti: So on to day five. In the morning, I loaded up with some tea and water as I made my way to Bat.

While at Bat, I stopped by the Ministry of Heritage and Tourism to have some coffee and dates with friends and check out our storage situation. After that, I went around to take pictures for an upcoming project.

Then I had lunch with the Bat Archaeological Project before getting a tour of their current excavations. After that I made my way back to Dahir al-Fwaris to have dinner with my team.

Day 6

Smiti: Day six. We started the morning with some architectural mapping at the site of al-Aqar, but after two hours we got rained out. [00:04:00] Now rain and Oman is not super common. It’s definitely something special. Even though I’ve worked in Oman for 10 years, this was the first time I saw it rain for multiple days at a time. So it was pretty cool to see the landscape like this.

Though we couldn’t do fieldwork, we were able to go to lunch at a friend’s house where they treated us to a huge Omani feast. Full with so many different types of food.

Now after lunch, my friends brought out their bakhoor. Now, bakhoor are wood chips that have been soaked in oils like sandalwood or other natural perfumes and scents. And once those wood chips are lit. The smoke is then put under garments like scarves or shirts to make them smell really nice.

After that, they took us to their farm on the outskirts of the desert. We could see what they were growing and how they were operating their farm. We ended the day with seeing a rainbow.

Day 7

Smiti: Day seven. So in the morning we did some more mapping at al-Aqar, so our team is actually examining a lot of things right now. We all have multiple projects that we’re working on, which includes architectural mapping of [00:05:00] Iron Age sites out here, better understanding certain resources like metal. Specifically, copper or a mineral called chlorite, both of which were really important, both in the Bronze Age and in the Iron Age and beyond.

And then we’re also wrapping up loose ends of other projects we have going on.

At lunch, I went to bat to visit some friends and have lunch with them and even have a cake to celebrate a graduation.

Then I went to al-Khutm, which is a UNESCO world heritage site that’s been prepared for tourism. And I was just curious to see how the site looked at night with all its lights.

Day 8

Smiti: Day eight today was a full day of mapping at al-Aqar . We did some drone mapping today of the site and the surrounding area. So that was pretty cool to see, set up and take off.

Here’s a sneak peek of our GPS set up for architectural mapping, which primarily uses a base station and a smartphone.

After lunch, I took a little walk to see all the lush vegetation that came about due to the rains.

After a full day of work, we were all really hungry. So we treated ourselves to a feast at one of my favorite restaurants in Yanqul.

Day 9

Smiti: So on today, nine. Good morning. So we’re starting [00:06:00] off the day at Raki two, which is along with Raki One and Tawi Raki, a major copper production site. So this is Slag, which is a byproduct of the smelting process, um, which is a process to use to extract metals. Um, and in this site we have tons of what’s called copper slags, so the leftover byproducts of copper smelting, and it’s just everywhere.

 So I’m wrapping up my day here at Raki 2, and I just wanted to show you some of the excavation areas right here. These excavations were conducted by a German team in the late nineties . And those excavations helped her understanding of architecture, especially of those places where people worked and lived in the Iron age and in later time periods. For lunch. I headed to Bat to have some lunch with friends and pick up some materials.

Day 10

Smiti: On to day 10. This morning, we woke up early and headed out as we were driving we encountered some fog, but we made it.

So today [00:07:00] we’re at another site. It’s called Hayy Ukur, and it’s nestled in the mountains. It’s just absolutely gorgeous out here. Hello, acacia.

We did some architectural mapping, explored the site a little bit. And we had to constantly fend off goats.

After a full day in the field, we headed to Majzi, which is a beautiful Oasis town to visit one of my friends. She gave us a tour of the old village. And then we headed back to her place to have some dinner.

Day 11

Smiti: It’s day 11. Today was our day off. So we filled it with a bunch of field visits and visiting friends.

We are in Bahla right now picking up some really nice clay to be used for an education workshop. And this specific business is open to the public and you can tour their spaces. Um, and of course buy pottery here. And right here we see, [00:08:00] um, a traditional style furnace that’s been used to fire pottery.

And here’s some of the finished products.

After Bahla, we headed to Bisya to visit the French mission, doing archeological work there and have lunch with their team.

After lunch, we headed to Salut.

 So I’m at the top of the archeological site of Salut, which has been turned into an archeological park for the public to come visit

so we’re still at Salut and now we’re at the Umm an-Nar Tower here and you could see Salut Castle in the background right there, which was where I took the last video. For dinner, I headed to a friend’s house where I also met another archaeological mission.

Day 12

Smiti: Day 12. This was my only excavation day during my two-week fieldwork stint. We excavated at a site called Aqir al-Shamoos, and it’s a super important site for ancient chlorite production. I’ll put a link below with more information. So we were doing test trenches to [00:09:00] understand the architecture of the site better.

Day 13

Smiti: Now onto day 13, which is the second to last day in Oman for me.

Hey everyone. So today is a lab day, which means we’re not in the field. We’re at the dig house and a bunch of us are doing various activities. This includes writing report, writing reports, processing material we’ve collected, backing up data, laundry, uh, resting. Uh, so I thought today it might be fun if I showed you different aspects of, you know, life at an archeology dig house, and some of the things you’re doing.

So stay tuned.

All right, let’s go in my room. So I am staying in what’s called the majilis, which is kind of living and welcoming room for in the many Arabian households and throughout the Middle East. As well. So typically you would see a big sofa, uh, lined there. So yeah, here [00:10:00] we use it as a storage room for artifacts and also as a room where people can sleep.

So you can see this is my handy dandy mosquito net. Um, if I was here for a little bit longer than two weeks, I definitely would get maybe two more mattresses to stack on top then.

Up then this has its own bathroom, which is pretty awesome. Um, the water doesn’t work super well in terms of pressure, so I often take a bucket shower and the hot water also doesn’t work, so I use a kettle of boiling water, which is completely fine. Um, for this week period. And in Arabia, in addition to these sitting toilets, are also scorning.

So, yeah, that is my room and a large pile of my stuff.

So in terms of doing laundry, this is our trustee [00:11:00] washing machine this year. So basically what you do, you turn the hose. Fill this up with water. Make sure this is not on drain, it’s on wash, rinse. And then you add some soap and it turns it for a while. You can set the timer here. When it’s done cleaning, you just drain the water and then add some fresh water in to get the sofa, and then you put it in this spin right here.

And you can take this off and then it’ll spin the clothes and it’s quite warm here. So the spin cycle basically gets all the water out or a lot of it. And then we just hang our clothes to dry on this line. And given the sun here, it dries in a couple of hours or, um, at the end of the day.

So this is a kitchen. As you can see, we have the refrigerator there, sink, [00:12:00] trash can, essential water. Pretty standard stuff here. Uh, we don’t use this super often. Maybe just to boil water or some people mixed Lucy in the morning with. Hello, there’s Brad. And we’re running low on snacks, so it’s time and food.

So it’s time to do another run. But in most digs you’ll definitely see some type of coffee creation vessel. Um, so we have coffee and tea, and almost every dig I’ve been on there has been some sort of spreadable butter. So in our dig, there’s biscoff. Um, but other digs I’ve seen peanut butter or net. Another ArWHO staple that we have here is cans of tuna for the field.

We’re, we have assortment of nuts as well. Definitely low on cookies. Of course, hot Sauce is here, [00:13:00] which is a staple of one of our good teammates, Ioana, and we have some bowls and dinnerware that we often review. And in terms of our fridge, we have some fruits again, a little low here, some sodas, some juices, and milks of sorts. So that’s our fridge and kitchen.

In the evening, we had a massive feast and Yanqul to say goodbye to the team members who were leaving the next day. One of which included myself.

Day 14

Smiti: Day 14. It’s the last day in Oman for me. In the morning we packed up our car and said our goodbyes to the team who are staying. Our first stop was in Bat to visit a friend and have breakfast. The tea, coffee, and dates are delicious, but I think the highlight was sampling the local honey with the traditional Omani bread called rakhal.

So first tourist stop of the day are the beehive, cairn Hafit, tombs of [00:14:00] al-Ayn, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Along with Bat, um, Bat and al-Khutm and one of our teammates had never seen the site before and we couldn’t leave Oman with that still being true. So we made a pit stop here on our journey to Muscat.

The second tourist stop of the day was at al-Hoota caves. And I’ve been meaning to see these caves for awhile and they did not disappoint. They are 2 million year old cave system. And currently the only caves that are open to visitors in the Arabian peninsula.

We then made our way to Muscat, where we visited a friend and had some afternoon snacks before heading to the hotel. At the hotel, we just sat outside and enjoy the atmosphere, having some dinner and juice. And then I went to bed for a few short hours before catching my early morning flight back to DC.

Outro

Smiti: So that concludes my two week field work trip to Oman. I hope you learned a little bit about the diverse methods we use, the archaeology of Oman and just how we live when we’re in the field. That’s all for today’s video and I’ll catch you in the next one. Bye.


If you enjoyed this post, check out my channel and other videos.

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Smiti Nathan

I’m an archaeologist that travels around the world for both work and pleasure. I have a penchant for exploring ancient and modern places and the people, plants, and foods entangled in them. I write about archaeology, travel, and productivity.

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