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Field School

2008 Season 2009 Season

Life in the Field



The excavation headquarters are located in the village of Nefileh, 3 kilometers southeast of Tell es-Sweyhat in the District of Jerniyeh, Raqqa Province. The village is fairly small and has one small store, a school, and a mosque.  In recent years, the village has been electrified.  Chlorinated drinking water is provided by a spigot in our main compound, and water for washing is pumped from a well in the compound to tanks situated atop the showers and kitchen.  The site's guard lives in Nefileh and the Project maintains two storerooms in his compound in the village on a year-round basis. When in the field, the Project rents additional accommodations from the guard's family and other families located nearby to house our students. Our main compound contains the kitchen/dining room, classroom, workroom, bathroom, and two showers. We normally have between 15 to 20 staff members and employ 40-60 villagers — men and women who work on the mound and wash ceramic sherds in the village.

The Tell es-Sweyhat Project is usually in the field in early June and generally excavates until mid July. Study seasons occasionally take place in fall and winter and generally last less than two weeks. In the field, the day usually begins with breakfast at 4:30 am. Work on the mound starts with roll call at 5:00 and runs until 12:00 pm, with a short break for mid-morning breakfast at 9:30. Work ends earlier on Thursdays, when the workers are paid. Lunch is served at 1:00. The project staff is then free until 4:30 or so when work in the lab generally begins, classes are held, and some staff return to the mound to work. Dinner is at 7:00. Fridays and Saturdays are off. Some of the staff goes to Aleppo while others remain in Nefileh to catch up on work.  On most weekends, students attending the field school go on guided excursions to archaeological sites in north Syria as part of their coursework in AR341 (Mesopotamian Archeology).

Though nearby Jerniyeh holds a market each Sunday, the Project gets most of its food, drink, and other supplies from Raqqa, ca. 90 km southwest of Nefileh. The first part of the road from Raqqa to Nefileh is the Raqqa-Thawra road that parallels the east side of the Euphrates; the second part is the Tabqa-Tishreen Dam and Aleppo road. The trip from Raqqa to Nefileh takes just over an hour. The project normally rent two vehicles, one (with a driver) for travel back and forth to Raqqa and a large truck to transport excavation staff and workers to and from the mound. Abu Rajjab and Abu Ahmed serve as our cooks and camp managers. They have worked for us for several seasons as well as German expeditions and can accommodate vegetarian vegan dietary requirements. We generally eat a lot of rice, potatoes, eggs, chicken, shish kebob (lamb), eggplant, and other seasonally available fruit and vegetables as well as copious amounts of tea and Turkish coffee.  Breakfast consists of bread, jam, cheese, cream cheese, tea, and coffee.  Second breakfast on the mound is more substantial and includes eggs, bread, cheese, cookies, fruit, tomatoes, and cucumbers.

The students’ rooms are in modern houses with concrete floors, a ceiling fan and at least one electrical outlet. We provide a mattress, pillows, sheets and blankets. Students are also provided with equipment for excavation.


Overall, dig conditions are comfortable but perhaps a little more like camping than the average dormitory experience.  Many staff members choose to sleep on the flat roofs of the houses in the open air at night since it is much cooler there much of the time. Insects are occasionally a problem and we recommend students and staff bring insect repellent.  We also experience the occasional dust storm.  The excavation provides 4 meals per day, snacks, laundry service, and shower facilities.


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