We are now in the fifth week here on the excavation, and meanwhile the team has settled in the excavation house and everyone has found their own rhythm. The things that sweeten life in midsummer in south-eastern Turkey are necessary for a smooth everyday life, and so it is helpful that we are allowed to pack 30kg into our suitcase instead of the usual 20kg. Some have made a special effort to pack for the excavation and brought items that might not have been expected.
So, what do you bring when you exchange your home for a 4-person-bedroom and live abroad for 2 months? Every travel guide recommends packing enough sun protection or a small first-aid kit for southern countries. If you only think of diarrhea when choosing your medication, you should be warned! Be prepared for a cold: air conditioning or fresh September wind can also chill your head! Aside from that, Magnesium tablets against cramps and electrolyte tablets, since you sweat a lot and thus lose a lot of salt, should not be missing in an archaeologist’s first-aid kit.
In addition to medication, a good headband can also warm up a mild evening on the roof terrace. When you come here for the first time, you won’t think that it gets so windy in the evening that you can’t sit outside without a hairband or hair ties when having longer hair. It is therefore a duty for all long-haired people to bring utensils for taming their hair if they want to be able to see something in the evening.
And how is “enough” sun protection actually defined? The perfect application works as follows: A generous layer of sunscreen is used in the morning, but the reapplication of the protection in the field during the day is then carried out with a spray instead of a cream, so that the soil and dust from the field are not massaged directly into the skin. In addition to sunburn, this also prevents facial impurities. Long clothes are still the best protection against solar radiation. And in fact, long trousers are a must at work, but sun-experienced people also wear long shirts. Add a neck protection, such as a scarf or a hat with a wide brim, and the protection is optimal.
In addition, in many suitcases you will find hand or neck fans and cooling towels, which might let you think it is a few degrees less on the thermometer. If you have to wear hot working shoes in the field all day, you should also consider packing compression stockings, they can work wonders on throbbing and swelling feet. For the archaeologists working on the finds, a seat cushion to relieve the spine can be a relief. Knee pads also help against pressure points on the knees, which are also at the top of the priority list for the smallest ones, in order to be protected when crawling on rough ground. What many would not expect and therefore did not pack for their first excavation and now miss is a good foot peeling and a nourishing feet balm. After just a few days of exposure to the sun, hot air and dry dust, the feet become cracked, and the stubborn earth hardly loosens even after a shower.
A long day of work consumes a lot of energy, so it is not surprising that the topic “food” is a high priority for every hard-working archaeologist. Since there is plenty of food here in the excavation house, there is of course no shortage of meals. Still, you can never have enough snacks with you. They are small everyday sweeteners, a help with a small appetite between breakfast and lunch, or they freshen up after work. However, liquorice is neither really sweet nor refreshing and is well known to differ opinions. If you hate it, you can stroll fearless through Turkish supermarkets without finding it, if you love it, you should therefore bring it from home.
Reusable ice cream containers are also an insider tip for a small, luxurious treatment! If you like, you can simply turn juice or soft drinks into ice cream overnight and at 40 degrees in the shade you couldn’t ask for anything more refreshing.
Some types of bread that are available in Germany are also not known here. For some, it is a real pleasure to eat a slice of whole grain bread for breakfast instead of the white bread that is usually served here for breakfast. Eating it together with a spicy German salami makes you plunge into work full of energy after breakfast. And a little note for the packing list: The good old wristwatch can help you not to miss the mealtimes, even with a lot of work on the plate.
In addition to work, you shouldn’t ignore the huge amount of free time, so everyone has their personal must-haves that must go with them on the excavation just for amusement purposes. While some take their guitar with them to play on the balcony after work, others take their Nintendo with them to play Mario Kart against each other in exciting competitions. For a more relaxed after work time, it is advisable to take an e-reader with you to avoid having to carry heavy books, or headphones to comfortably listen to an audiobook or your favourite podcast.
When the evening slowly ends and bedtime is approaching, the last must-haves come in handy: If your ears are ringing at the mere thought of a 4-person-bedroom, you can help out against snoring roommates with ear plugs. If you are not only occasionally on excavations, but also for a little longer, it is also worth making the room a little more personal. While some can live out of a suitcase for months, a real wardrobe or just some decoration can transform the dreary bedroom into a second home. You also shouldn’t underestimate having your own pillow from back home.
The most important must-have are nonetheless the loved ones who stayed at home, who unfortunately do not fit into the suitcase, which is why everyone has something with them that alleviates the homesickness for them. For some it is a cuddle substitute in the form of a teddy bear, for others a photo or a letter that has been secretly put in your suitcase and tells you how much you are missed.
In case the attentive reader is wondering how you should fit everything you seem to have to bring with you on an excavation, be warned: These things are only intended to sweeten everyday life and alleviate homesickness. In addition, the more often you have been to an excavation, the less material you take with you. And even if you’ve forgotten to pack something, it’s not the end of the world: there are shopping opportunities everywhere.
Written by: Katharina Heinrich & Miriam Hanitzsch