Heaviest April snowfall in 37 years brushed off by Hebrew University students in North China (blog 2)

Examining ground in a cleared circleApril 14, 2013: After a week in Fuxin, it turns out that we really are only allowed one snow day per session. After that, it’s time to grab your rakes and scrapers, head down to the forests to clear away the snow and leaves and search for ceramic fragments among the frost-covered pine nettles. On our first snow day — which wasn’t really snow by local standards — I had joked around that we should clear the snow and conduct our survey anyway. It now seems I was the only one who thought I was kidding. What’s five inches of snow when there is research to be done?

Since our original challenge had been that the leafy ground cover in forests makes it impractical to conduct a Mark 1 eyeball grid search of the kind that we employ in agricultural fields, we had already made plans to dedicate a few days to clearing small patches of ground in the forests in order to try and collect samples. So when heavy snow fall made it impossible to work in the fields, it made perfect sense (of a sort) to reshuffle our schedule and conduct our forest sweeps in the snow.

After scraping, raking and kicking aside five inches of snow and ground cover — leaves, mud, fertilizer and other agricultural by products — to create a three-meter diameter circle, we searched the exposed ground and accumulated piles of snow and semi-composted muck for artifacts. It’s slow, hard, wet and cold work, but everyone knows the project can’t afford to lose work days to foul weather. Every so often, we have to take a break to fix our tools, which aren’t holding up well to our abusive and enthusiastic use.

The Chinese villagers are somewhat perplexed by our requests for heavy tools and repair services, but are nonetheless helpful. Over dinner and breakfast, we share our finds (if any) and debate the methods and techniques of raking snow.

We work in mixed teams of Chinese and Israeli students. The common language tends to be English, though by now everyone has learned important, everyday terms like “ceramics”, “microlith” and “come, there’s food!” in each other’s languages. Then there are the messages like “Hey, let me rake the snow for a bit. You have a rest and search that pile of frozen dirt for ceramics” that don’t really require words.

While I still contend that snow is a source of (somewhat disruptive) endless wonder, what comes afterwards is not: mud. Mud is much less fun then snow. But, as we can now actually see the ground, we’re back in the fields, and hoping the weather holds and allows us to work right until the end of the session.

Yochana Storch, 26, is a graduate student in East Asian studies at the Hebrew University. She is from Jerusalem; she completed her army service as a sergeant of operations,

For Yochana's previous blog, click here

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