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Noortje & Edmée completed their internship in Lebanon: read their report

We are Noortje van Os and Edmée Schippers, two third-year archaeology students at the University of applied science Saxion in Deventer. To complete our third year, we did a 10-week internship. We really wanted to gain maritime archaeological experience abroad. Which is why we reached out to one of our teachers, Martijn Manders, who also works at the Cultural Heritage Agency of The Netherlands (RCE). He brought us in contact with Lucy Semaan, a maritime archaeologist connected to the University of Balamand. That's how we ended up with a project in Lebanon.

The project in Lebanon to which we contributed, was in the small village of Enfeh. It was carried out by the University of Balamand. The archaeological site of Enfeh is an ancient coastal village. The place was once used as a shipyard by the Phoenicians. The archaeological remains show that the village was occupied for at least 3,000 years. If you walk around, there are still a lot of remnants of that time visible in the form of structures.

We helped with the excavation on land during the first six weeks. It was very different from what we are used to in The Netherlands when it comes to archaeological research. At this particular site, electronic digging machines were not used; everything was done by hand. Not only the technique but also the stratigraphy of the area is very different. The materials were a lot harder than the typical Dutch ground. Most of our work consisted of deepening and cleaning the site. We also made photographs, drawings, sketches and took height measurements to document the site. During the internship, everybody took their time to explain everything to us, which was very nice and informative.

We worked with professional archaeologists and a number of workmen. There were people from Spain, France, Lebanon, the workers came from Syria and we ourselves came from The Netherlands. Everyone spoke a different language, so we spoke mostly English to each other.

Every morning from 7 to 11 a.m., we worked on site. In the afternoon we worked with the pottery and other materials, like bones and glass. Our internship supervisor also used this time to teach us new methods, such as creating a matrix. A matrix is a method of summarizing the vertical and horizontal interrelationships of all the layers and features on a site in a diagram. 

We were free on Saturday evening and Sunday. On Saturday night we often had a barbecue or went out for dinner and drinks. On Sunday, our supervisor Lorine Mouawad often took us on a trip through the country, which allowed us to see a lot of Lebanon, including its beautiful archaeological sites.

After six weeks of working on land, we went to work with the underwater team and their project. Here too, were people from many different countries. When weather circonstances allowed it, we went by boat to the site of the excavation.

The site was located a little bit of the coast of Enfeh and was marked by a buoy. The excavation was very interesting to do. We had to dig 2m deep which made the excavation challenging. The excavation was about 13 meters deep. If the visibility was good, you could see the divers working on the trench at the bottom.

We usually dived in pairs of two: an experienced person and a student. This was to maximize safety and to create a learning opportunity. In the end it did occur that two students would dive together.

On days where the sea was too rough or if we couldn’t dive for other reasons, we would work in the office. During this time, we learned a lot of different things and worked to keep the administration up to date. Part of that was filling in the dive logs every day. We have learned to clean, photograph and draw pottery retrieved from the water. How to describe, log and desalinate the finds.

During both the excavations (on land and underwater) we learned a lot and had a great time. Doing an internship abroad is in itself quite an experience and definitely when it involves projects like these ones. It has been a unique experience for us. We were fortunate to be present at the beginning as well as the end of the onshore and underwater excavation. In both excavations the atmosphere in the teams was very good and there was no moment when the work was too overwhelming.

We would like to thank everyone for the great time, lessons and experience. In particular we would like to thank Martijn Manders who connected us to this project, and also Lucy Semaan and Lorine Mouawad who gave us very good support, teaching and guidance during our internship.