Publication Update: Research on Iron Age Hydraulic Plaster floor at Tell es-Safi in Journal of Archaeological Science

26 10 2010

In summer of 2009 I worked  with Lior Regev and other scholars from the Weizmann Institute on the Tell es-Safi/Gath Archaeological Project, Israel, using archaeological chemistry to investigate an early hydraulic plaster floor.   They recently published a this research in the Journal of Archaeological science, and were kind enough to give me an acknowledgment credit. See the article about it here!

Tel-es Safi Hydraulic Plaster Floor

Publication Update: Thailand Research makes Journal of Natural Products

30 10 2009

In summer of 2008, I performed research in Thailand on an NSF REU at the Chulabhorn Research Institute, Bangkok.  While there, I was a member of a natural products chemistry lab under Dr. Prasat Kittakoop.   I am excited to report that the research has been published in Journal of Natural Products, and I am the 2nd author!  See it here.

Dobereiner Metabolite

The Return to These Fine United States

5 08 2009

As I write this, I am in transit between NYC and Boston on the “Bolt Bus.” It’s cheaper than the Fung Wah, and has Wifi onboard, which I find to be highly awesome.


After running the absurd gauntlet of Israeli security, I had an uneventful flight home and landed in JFK at 6 AM as anticipated. My bus departed at noon, so I had a lot of time to burn.   Clever lad that I am, I figured I’d spend a couple hours at the Metropolitan Museum.


As I ascended the steps, proud of my navigational prowess, the security guard stood with arms folded, shaking his head. Apparently post 9/11 they stopped allowing people to store or bring in bags beyond small satchels. Dejected, I trekked back into Central Park, and spent some time hanging out under “Cleopatra’s Needle.”


For those of you unfamiliar with the story, this is a real Egyptian obelisk which was gifted to the States in the 19th century.  The process of transporting the 244 ton granite obelisk is quite incredible, and an engineering marvel in of itself.   It’s one of a matched pair – its twin is  in London. The hieroglyphs on the obelisk talk extensively about Ramesses II, (for whom the famous Rasmusseum we visited in Luxor was built!), and in actuality have only peripheral connections with the famed Cleopatra.

After taking in enough of Central Park, I took in some Wendy’s (ah how I’ve missed American fast food!) and hopped on the bus.  Viva America!

EDIT:  Note, I just realized, we’re driving through the first rain I’ve seen in almost two months.  Crazy.

The Wild West: Sinai, Egypt

4 08 2009

mountainsOne of the minor excursions we made that I am yet to describe was to the Sinai Desert in Egypt. This stretch of land was annexed, and ceded back by the Israel in relatively recent history. This exchange has made it somewhat of a vacation haven for Israelis looking for a cheap place to spend time in the middle of nowhere by the Red Sea. Crossing from Israel into Egypt at Taba, they actually can only give you a “Sinai Pass.” A full visa which allows entry into the rest of the country must be acquired in advance from a consulate.

Sinai is appallingly picturesque, and the part bordering the Red Sea is mostly devoid of development. This area, with a perfect view of Saudi Arabia across the water, is mostly undeveloped. Those towns that do exist, are effectively sets of thatch roofed huts, in areas with no industry besides catering to the (currently relatively small number of) tourists. We went to one of the first such set of huts, well known to my friend’s family in advance of the cession of the territory to Egypt – Beer Swear.


Beer Swear Sabah was perhaps the only hut-hotel-set with an active clientele at this time, featuring the 6 of us, and a few other Americans and Israelis. Besides this the beach was almost devoid of anyone but the local Bedouins, who have occupied the land far longer than the modern nation states.


But Sinai is crazy. You have to wear shoes into the water for fear that a stonefish will inject you with its deadly venom. Toxic dragonfish and huge swordfish like animals dominate the coral reefs right off shore. Most notably, but unbeknownst to us until our return to Israel were the entertaining and highly frightening Textile Cone-Snails.  It turns out these fast moving sons of bitches are one of the most poisonous animals in the sea. There’s no antivenom – the only way to save you is to put you on life-support until your body metabolizes all of the toxins. Indeed, there are records of people dying from cone snails. Unbelievable.


For those in need of a more urban setting, Neweiba city is a bit to the south and offers all of the modern amenities like stores and electricity. Overall, however, there’s no better (or cheaper) way to have time melt away, then staying in a bungalow by the Sinai Red Sea.

The Last Day…

1 08 2009

10:00 – As anticipated I did a terrible job updating today.  It’s hard when there’s just no internet to be had.  To summarize, we went to Sakkara, as planned, and saw the oldest “Hewn Stone” structure in the World and the various other major attractions there, as well as the brand-spankin new Imotep museum.  Around 5 we popped over to the home of the recently-emigrated Angela and Ramadan, my friends in the SCA.  Hung out there and caught up for awhile, grabbed a cab home, and grabbed food for dinner.


Jason, walking away from the famed Step Pyramid of Sakkara

It was a good and relaxing time, but it’s hard to compete with the nearly cinematic splendor of yesterday.

We depart for Israel tomorrow at 7:30 AM, and expect to get back near Midnight, judging from last time.  Heeehaww!

12:15 PM – Time to rock.  We’re heading out to Sakkara, home of the oldest Step Pyramid in Egypt (4700 years!) and one of the biggest archaeological sites in the area, 30 km south of Cairo.  This will be the last archaeological hurrah before hitting the road.

9:00 – Went downstairs, grabbed breakfast and finally posted a small album on Facebook of our trip to Cairo and first day there.   More to come, scout’s honor.  In case I didn’t mention it, we’re again staying at the Mayfair hotel.

8:00 – Woke up!  No strict plans on the agenda today

Return to Cairo

31 07 2009

11:00 – After a quick and super cheap dinner of shwarma, take a long taxi ride home, and get ready to pass out.

8:30 – Catch the horrid sound and light show for free, which typically costs an arm and a leg.  So bad.

7:30 – We are waved down into the Sphnix area, typically closed.  Dr. Hawass tells us to go around to our hearts content as he finishes up his interview.  Amazing.


5:30 – Dr. Zahi Hawass arrives.  We mill about, and then are waved to the sidelines to watch the sunset while he does an interview.

3:15 PM – Entered Pyramid complex.  Waved to the Taf-teesh, given clearance to go wherever our hearts desired.  Ended up wandering all over, entering the grand pyramid and pyramid of Kafre.


2:00 PM – Arrive at Pizza Hut across from Pyramids (Sphinx Pizza Hut).  At recommendation of Angela for a surreal experience, we went to this Pizza Hut, and ate lunch gazing through a Pizza Hut logo and an iconic view of the Pyramids.  Interesting

11:40 – Still in council, JUST MET WITH DR. ZAHI HAWASS of high degree of fame. Very cool, chatted archaeological science. He wrote me an all access pass (a little late, granted) and said if I go to the Sphinx tonight at 5:30 he’ll let me touch it. Hope I can make it, but logistics as they are here, you can never know!


Me and Dr. Zahi Hawass!

11:20 – Managed to bushwack way solo to the Supreme Council of Antiquities on Zamelek. A small miracle given language barriers and such. Found Angela and Ramadan, my friends!

9:30 – Arrived back on train, began process of looking for the hotel and booking return tickets.
Sorry the liveblog was dead yesterday, severe lack of internet as I toured around Luxor.

The last of the Luxor

30 07 2009

9:30 – Trouble rousing my compatriots but it’s time to go.  Leaving out bags at the Nef, and heading out to the train station/the Valley.  You can only visit three tombs in the Valley of the Kings:  I think we’ll do Tutmosis III, Horemheb and Ramesses VI, representing the three “Phases.”

7:30 – Woke up a bit later today.  People with connections don’t seem to get into work until around,  10, and we may have a connection that can get us into the Valley of the Kings.  My guess is Karnac was the only time this in actually worked out, but we shall see!  Also, we need to buy a return ticket, and they don’t open up until 8.  Only dissapointment so far is my email is down…

Luxor, Redux!

29 07 2009

11:00 – Retun and retire for the evening.

8:00 – Complete our shopping, and get advised by our new friends for another delicious restaurant.  Unfortunately, the price is relatively high, but we end of finding a sugar-cane-drink manufacturing place.  Crazy, they just take huge sugar canes and throw them in a machine, out pops a delicious and cheap drink.

6:30 – Back at the Nefertiti hotel, after being invited to a wedding on the West Bank at 9:00.  Tempting offer, and one we may have trouble declining!  Meanwhile, a few minutes of R+R, and perhaps some shopping.

5:00 PM – Our friends, Jason and Dan rode motorbikes and made friends with a whole family on the west bank.  We joined them at a cafe, played dominos, and chatted.  One guy was actually a mid-level Egyptologist named Ali, with who I exchanged archaeology stories, and emails.  Cool guy.

4:30 PM – Visiting the Valley of the Queens – turns out that the tomb of Nefertiti is blocked for renovation/conservation.  Major bummer, it’s supposed to be spectucular.  We catch the tombs we can get into (amazing, but anything’s a dissapointment when you have your mind set on one thing) and then pop back to the Colossi at Memnon, because damn, are they cool.


The relatively unimpressive looking Valley of the Queens – unfortunately, no pictures allowed in the tombs

2:00 PM – Grand adventure isn’t all that grand.  Impossible to grab a taxi.  The scam reputation of Luxor is finally fulfilled.

12:30 PM – Return to Hotel, grab some food at the cheap local place recommended by our new friends last night (Zameek).  Now relaxing and waiting to depart on a GRAND ADVENTURE to the West Bank.

9:30 AM – Arrive at Karnak.   2nd most touristed site in all of Egypt.  Provided with the “executive inspector” as our guide, who was clearly dissapointed that as a so-called archaeologists, my Egyptology knowledge was a shred of the norm.  Many apologies.  That said, Karnak was incredible.   Again, intact paint of incredible luster in one 3500 year old temple really colored (hehe) our impression of the site.  This place is gigantic, and effectively the temple center of ancient Thebes.  For thousands of years, every pharaoh would build something in it, hence its size, and hence its splendor.


Karnak is huge, and awesome!

9:00 AM – Our archaeologist friends told some folks from the administrative office in Luxor to expect us, and to make some arrangements.  Finding this office was surprisingly difficult, and involved travesing a broad cross-section of Luxor.  Eventually, with a lot of arguing and being in a Police Station (on good terms) for awhile, we made it.  They DID NOT expect us, but made arrangements for us to be granted admissions and a tour at Karnak!

7:00 AM – Got up and ate the free breakfast.  Not too delicious but there were the CUTEST CATS ON EARTH

Egypt Day 2: Luxor

28 07 2009

9:00 – Our new friends showed us a good place to grab cheap food!  It was delicious.  Now, we go

7:30 PM – Two of my party are God-knows-where on motorbikes.  Me and Parvaneh just went to a market and had an unbelievable bargaining session. That’s not even the right phrasing. Effectively, while I argued with a man about his claim that scarves were two Egyptian pounds (40 cents) they were being sold for 10 Egyptian pounds (2 dollars) Parvaneh bargained for two  shirts. This went on for so many hours, that in the end, we were like family, they dressed up Parvaneh (not even kidding, grown Arab men) and played catch the pound of change several times with me and the other members of the market stand. Egypt is awesome.   Plus, we were invited back for tea. Seriously!

Direct quote ” No we don’t have anything for two pounds, that is to attract tourists”.  Thank you for being candid.


Omar ties a pink scarf on Parvaneh

6:00 PM – Showered, after a day in high-heat, exploring the “Rasmusseum” and the Colossi of Memnon.  Will post pictures soon.  It’s amazing to see these sites after hearing about them for so long.  The intact paint of the Rasmusseum, and the famous stories of the Voice of Memnon, really brought these two sets of ruins to life.


Colossi of Memnon!

2:00 PM – Ate at the delicious but highly expensive ($4!!) Lotus Restaurant.

12:30 – Just got back from the Luxor Temple.  Absolutely incredible, and just a first taste in a nation filled with such locations!  Time to find some food.

Me in front of the Luxor Temple (almost candid)

Me in front of the Luxor Temple (almost candid)

10:30 – Headed out across the street to the Temple of Luxor.  One of only a couple monuments on East Bank, where our hotel is located.

9:30 – Arrived in Luxor. Made reservations the night before at the Nefertiti hotel, and they picked us up from the train station for free! Waiting for the paperwork to go through…

Welcome to Egypt!

27 07 2009

7:30 – Back at the Mayfair to relax before departing on overnight train to Luxor, 10 PM.

Cairo Metro

Cairo Metro

5:00 PM – Local archaeologists were busy, that’ll happen later.  Went to the train station and got overnight tickets to Luxor.  Got there and back via the metro – quite a rush, and less than 20 cents!!

3:30 PM – Just coughed up the extra 60 LE (~12$) to see the royal mummies.  Totally worth it, they were spectacular. About to head out and try to meet some local archaeologists I know for food and such.\


In front of the Egyptian Museum

11:00 – at the Egyptian museum.,  Just saw tut’s stuff. amazing!  No cameras allowed.

Mayfair Hotel

Mayfair Hotel

8:15 – Woke up in the Mayfair hotel. Arrived around 1 last night, exhasting trip, the better part of 17 hours. At face value, Cairo seems pretty awesome. The driving, lackluster at best. Now for breakfast.