There are five identified archaeological units at Khor Kharfot in southwestern Oman. We are working in Unit 2 on this particular expedition.
Five archaeologists are with us. Dr Ric Hauck is directing from an overall plan. Each arch (as we call them) has his or her special area of expertise. Here three of the archs are standing by what is called the rock shelter.
Dr. Hauck gives us novices a lesson in archaeology. We have to expose the strata beneath ground level to see what kind of deposits of material may be there. Each level is sampled and then taken back to the lab to determine the contents, age and characteristics of the material.
One area in Unit 2 is called “the slot”–a possible passageway that could have been used by Lehi and Nephi and family to load the ship. Four times the account refers to them going “down into the ship.”
Dr. Hauck went down into “the slot” and oriented us to the features we were seeing and what to look for. There were numerous potshards in “the slot.”
This slot is part of an enormous rock that fell into the sea thousands (if not millions) of years ago. “The slot” is a plausible passageway from the habitation area to a ship anchored in 10-15 meter-deep water.
Sara Zaia, one of the archs, set up markers all over Unit 2 so that her 3D mapping could have visible points to go from. Comprehensive mapping of the entire archaeological area will be mandatory to be able to move forward.
Linda Scott Cummings talks to Joe Schuldenrein in one of the test pits. We all had to be careful in this pit as it was right on the edge of a precipice that fell right into the sea.
The quadcopter drone was an essential tool in capturing aerial photography of the entire site. It was hard to keep working, however, whenever it was flying–we were all curious to watch it and we all wanted one of our own.
Aaron Foye was the pilot for the quadcopter and worked closely with Sara to help in the 3D mapping.
Careful measurements are made as the ground is opened. The test pits are 1 meter square and materials are measured from 5 CM depths at a time in specific quadrants of the pit.
Dr. Hauck was constantly giving instructions and directions to all the lay workers on the site.
The archs told us that the trowel is a very personal tool for each of them. And it was guarded and priceless in this work.
Special pins marked the 1 meter square pits.
We were curious to see what would come out of the pits. This was an especially nice incised shard and got everyone quite excited. When you go through a lot of dirt and a lot of rocks and a lot of shells and then find this, it can make your whole day.
We had CEO’s, CFO’s, a NY Times bestselling author, and many other non-archaeologists working on the site. Here are some of them working right on the floor of the sanctuary.
Here Ron McMillan (left) and Chad Aston go through a bucket-full of material. Your eyes quickly adjust to see the difference between a small rock, a shell, a piece of flint or a man-made object.
Dr. Hauck talks here to Joe Andersen about the approach we are taking in Unit 2. Joe has been interested in Book of Mormon archaeology for many years.
We were especially interested in digging in the sanctuary itself. Three test pits were started here.
At one point, a herd of camels came walking down on the beach to quench their thirst in the freshwater lagoon. We sometimes forget that Lehi and his family likely had about four to five camels per person in the party. They could have had more than 100 camels.
Here three of the archs, Kimball Banks (left), Linda Scott Cummings and Joseph Schuldenrein look over part of the Unit 2 area by the sanctuary. There are rock walls, habitations and curious man-made structures everywhere through the undergrowth.
Ron McMillan took it upon himself to dig a great deal in the test pit right by the precipice into the sea. We have to make an overall assessment of the site with numerous observations. It is clear that there were a number of habitations over time in Khor Kharfot.
Scott Gubler dumps in another bucket of dirt from the test pit in the sanctuary.
When you are already sweating from the 85 degree heat (that was quite cool for this area), you get covered in fine dust.
Bonnie McMillan quickly got good at distinguishing the treasures from the dirt.
Here was one of those treasures–a small, man-made bead from a yet undetermined time period. Each artifact is bagged and marked as to which pit, which quadrant of the pit and which level of the pit it came from.
Dr. Hauck and Sara took many precise measurements to begin the tedious process of mapping the entire site. Much is left to be done. We will be looking for someone to help us with LiDAR technology so that we can map the entire site without touching the delicate flora.
Makeshift shades were put up to be able to endure the beating sun. This one was placed in the sanctuary.
Here the Gubler brothers are working with Joe Andersen in one of the sanctuary test pits.
One of the wonderful finds was this hand-drilled shell that would have been part of a necklace. Later on we went to the Frankincense Museum in Salalah and found an entire necklace of these exact shells, drilled in the very same form, dating to the Iron Age (1200 BC to 300 BC).
After this “dig” all the samples are gathered at our Hotel California (we affectionately named the flat) and will be taken to the lab for analysis. Linda Scott Cummings will be looking for all kinds of things, including phytoliths to determine the vegetation that would have been at this site 2,600 years ago.