Most of what I`ve written so far concerns the material aspects of archaeological fieldwork. These aspects are more tangible and easy-to-write-about by their nature. The one post that hasn’t dealt with objects or locations, talks about how much crazy it requires to do fieldwork. But a vast amount of crazy is not sufficient to explain why people experience doing it as being something absolutely wonderful.
What makes archaeological fieldwork so very special is the fact that it creates a profound sense of brotherhood. Despite being a somewhat charged and possibly even discriminatory term, few words better describe the feeling. It`s quite the miracle to experience: people will start out as complete strangers, but after four weeks of digging together they`ll part as friends and say goodbye crying. The logical assumption must therefore be that for some reason, it is a bonding experience.
This should not really be surprising: the crew are all engaged in heavy, intensive physical labour. They volunteer to suffer the same hardships, which betrays a similar mind-set. The crew ultimately works towards the same goal, but they go there via different paths. The site is divided up in squares of 5 x 5 meters, with up to six volunteers per square. Therefore, in order to get some idea of the bigger picture, you`ll have to talk to your fellow volunteers. This means that you have a guaranteed always-good conversation subject. This usually creates enough substance for a conversation and you take it from there. You eventually develop a similar sense of humour and you can accept things like sarcasm, cynicism and misogynist jokes better, because in the end it is a specific sort of caricature that becomes a joke in itself.
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Something that also factors in the creation of this bond of friendship is the sense of a shared experience. Because you are part of a closely knit group, the feelings of compassion towards each other are more strong. If you lose your bank card or fall ill, there will always be someone to back you up, comfort you or help you out. Perhaps the best example of this comes from the 2011 season. One of the volunteers sprained her knee. Immediately people were scrambling to help and she was carried off-site to return to Karei Deshe. Afterwards, there were always people asking how she was doing and whether or not she needed help with anything. Most of the time though, she preferred to tough it out, which characterises another trait that you find among the volunteers: perseverance.
Despite being stuck with an injury to her knee, she kept trying to get back to the field when she was able. The time that she could not do so, was spent by bringing some sense of order into the project`s storage facility: a challenge of epic proportions to which she rose with gusto. Others also displayed a similar determination. We have had people that were literally ordered to take a day off by the directors, because otherwise they would certainly have collapsed from sleep deprivation. Despite being in a sorry state they still felt compelled to keep going to work, toughing it out purely on curiosity and determination.
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These anecdotes exemplify the sort of attitude that prevails among the volunteers of the Kinneret Regional Project. Everyone always stands ready to help out when it really matters and it`s not generally accepted to roll over and just give up. Perseverance, dedication, compassion and a good sense of humour are the key elements that bind the crew. Some have said that it feels like being part of a family.
In a sense, the KRP can indeed be likened to a traditional family model. There is a `father` and `uncles` and a `worried mother` - sometimes strict but always just. Then there are the `older brothers and sisters` who work in the lab and therefore have a better idea of the bigger picture beyond the excavation season, and finally there are the `younger kids` who are either smart enough to enjoy what free time is given to them, or dedicated enough to want to help out the `older ones` in their work. It may seem a bit platonic to put it like this, but in terms of task division and the sense of dedication towards one another, it certainly rings true.
Why I find this important enough to write about is that this is one of the most valued things about archaeological fieldwork. The sense of cohesion is one of the core pillars on which the ability to do this kind of work rests. Without it, everyone would feel a lot more lonely and a lot farther from home. It is this bond of camaraderie that makes it so easy to reminisce together about all those crazy, wonderful experiences you had together. Just as a little craziness makes archaeology more fun, a little brotherhood makes archaeology so wonderful. With only nine days to go before we actually `go`, it`s this feeling that gives one confidence for the journey ahead. It`s among the key ingredients for this tingling sensation one gets thinking about all that has yet to be unearthed.