We met up with Sivan, who is currently working on the finishing touches of the Megiddo VI publication, to get all the inside details on writing a final field report.
Sivan has been working alongside Israel Finkelstein for the past decade. She is the administrator of the Kiriath-Jearim Expedition as well as the Megiddo Expedition. She wrote her master’s on the microarchaeology of destruction layers at Tel Aviv University with the cooperation of the Weizmann Institute.
How does everything we see in the field actually translate to the final reports we see in the libraries?
That’s a really big question with an even longer answer, it’s a long process with a lot of steps and stages and a lot of people who are involved in each one of them. The final report is one of the most important things of an expedition. We excavate in order to add to the accumulated archaeological knowledge, so as an expedition we feel a big responsibility to publish a good final report, as quickly as we can. Furthermore, publication is one of the criterion for getting an excavation permit from the Israeli Antiquity Authority, so we are also obligated by law to do so.
When does the preparation start?
We started planning the final report when we began setting up the expedition. The way we do registration, the way we store all the data, and so on – it is all done with the final report in mind. We have to think ahead as to how, when, and who will need access to this information. We need to make sure our budget is set up in a way that will allow for the processing of the different artifacts. Some of them need to be cleaned, restored, drawn and photographed which is done in house at Tel Aviv University. But other finds need to be sent out to specialists for analysis, such as C14 dating. All of this needs to be taken into account long before the actual season starts.
Furthermore, we have lengthy staff meetings prior to the season to make sure all staff members know how we envision the final report and that way we make sure the season itself is conducted in accordance to our needs as an expedition.
What are the things you do during the season in order to make the writing process easier later on?
We always make sure all staff members have a place to work during the afternoon hours. It’s very crucial, because not all staff members live here in Israel, and we have to make sure they have a good place to finish doing all their notes and registration. We have to make sure the office staff, who write on all the finds and box them up, are in line with our future plans of processing and conducting all the research each type of find needs. We think about where each type of find goes post-season, and we have to make sure everything is packed up and marked the right way so that we can keep track of everything.
How much time lapses from the end of the season until you start work on the final report?
Actually, no time at all. All the people involved in the research and writing are involved in the excavation itself – whether they are a part of the excavating staff or specialists that come in for a few days. The type of artifacts we find may determine the amount of people involved in the publication. Once we come back to the university from the field we start bringing in the specialists and discuss with them how much time and what facilities they need in order to complete their chapter.
How does it all come together?
After all the chapters are edited and submitted the directors go over everything and submit their own chapters which provide the final interpretations of the season. Then we start working on all the graphics and appendices.
For any volunteer who will need to write a field report by the end of the season, I would like to ask, what things should they do during the season to make sure they have a report by the end of it?
I believe there are three key things they should do. First, ask questions, make sure you know where and what you’re digging. This is also important to me as an area supervisor. I believe that if you know what you’re digging you’ll also know to recognize it when you see it. So, make sure you’re not just going in blind when you put that pick-axe in the ground.
The second thing that I always stress is to take notes, take a lot of notes! Even on things you’re sure you’ll remember later on. Trust me, you won’t.
The third thing I would suggest is to take an interest in the afternoon office work as well. After the dig day is done, the staff goes back to the office and works on starting their own reports. This is also a great way to get involved with the expedition itself.