How did you get into archaeology?
It started when I was in primary school. We used to move country every three years or so, and we lived in Greece for a while. I went on amazing field trips to Olympia, Mycenae and Knossos in Crete, and they just blew me away. I had a really inspiring teacher who was fascinated by the decoding of ancient languages like Linear B – a Minoan script – and that really sparked my imagination as a child. Ever since then I’ve always made a point of visiting historical sites wherever we’ve been living, working on the odd dig, and doing archaeology courses.
Is there much opportunity for archaeology in Dubai?
I really thought the UAE would be all shopping and shiny buildings, but when I googled ‘archaeology Dubai’ I found the Dubai Tourism website (www.dubaitourism.ae), which featured many of the heritage sites in and around the city. I asked if I could volunteer, and got involved through the Jumeirah archaeological site – a fabulous facility – and am now lucky enough to do some volunteer work on an Iron Age site. Believe it or not, there are numerous sites across the UAE.
What have you discovered about the UAE’s history?
I think we all have very little appreciation for what life was like here in the past. In more recent times, life was fairly poor and quite tough, but the climate may have been very different prior to the Iron Age: the Indian monsoon rains came much further inland resulting in a lot more moisture, so life was probably quite different and much richer than the more recent arid conditions allowed. We’ve unearthed some beautiful artefacts – jewellery, beads made from shells and carnelian (a semi-precious stone), wonderful incense burners, a lot of bronze pots and some fabulously engraved dagger handles.
What’s the attraction?
There comes a point in life when you realise how you want to spend your time, and archaeology has always been my passion. I’m enjoying being a stay-at-home mum at the moment, but sometimes I just need something for myself, so once or twice a week I go off and dig around in seven-metre sand dunes! Yes, it’s challenging, it’s physical and it’s pretty mucky, but I’m used to that. It’s painstaking work – even a little bit of wind can make it tricky – and you have to work quite slowly with a trowel and a brush because while you won’t fail to see a bronze pot, some of the smaller arrow heads or beautiful beads are so tiny they can be easy to miss. Drawings, photographs and coordinates have to be completed for each trench and artefact, in order to maintain a really good written record.
Can anyone join in?
If people have an interest, volunteers are welcome.
Does your daughter join you?
Serena is interested and has visited a site with me. We’ve travelled a lot so she’s been dragged round museums, but rugby is her primary concern!
Mum about town
Christine Kempell ponders the perils of a night out
There are two types of mums’ nights out. The first is a ‘going out for a meal’ night, when a load of us get together to eat and drink. The organising of such a night requires military precision planning, as we mums have busy schedules (in other words, we have children with busy social lives or visitors who require entertaining). So with dwindling numbers we converge on some unsuspecting restaurant. The waiting staff are visibly anxious, as it’s not the nubile office party they were hoping for, but a bunch of knackered mothers who can no longer handle their tipple. More often than not, the conversation flows around the subject of kids, the food and drink make us sleepy and cabs are ordered by the relieved staff as we all sit around yawning. We can’t wait to go home, take off our restrictive under garments and curl up in our PJ’s.
But then there’s the dangerous phenomenon of ‘second wind’, which can lead to the far scarier ‘let loose and go wild’ night. Away from the demanding nippers and the responsibility of parenthood, occasionally we go crazy. We are not to blame. We lose all sense of perspective, someone suggests we ‘go on’ and the next thing we know we’re in a nightclub, dancing and screaming like a group of gyrating chimpanzees who still believe they are capable of attracting a mate. It’s now the turn of the bar staff to twitch nervously, as we start the evening at cocktail corner, stroll up sparkly close, take a brief trip down gin lane and end up in shot alley.
Some sort of strange after- midnight logic makes us come to the foolish conclusion that if we’re going to be shattered in the morning, we might as well stay out as late as possible, and we have to be dragged off the dance-floor, still throwing shapes, as the club closes in the small hours.
Unfortunately, it takes longer and longer these days to recover, but I won’t let that put me off. I’ll be ready and raring to go for the next night out when the call comes. In the meantime, you know where I’ll be…
at home in my PJ’s.