Recap of 2020

2020 has definitely been a very unusual year! Covid-19 has brought a lot of changes in everyday activities and interactions. A new working reality was introduced where most of the undertakings are happening at home and remotely. With this post I want to provide an overview of my main 2020 events and drawbacks!

Umbeli Beli rockshelter

I am very happy to have joined the team (Tübingen University) excavating Umbeli Beli rockshelter (KwaZulu Natal, South Africa)! I will be looking at micromorphological thin sections and will try to determine the various site formation processes. I am also grateful to have received a small grant from SNMAP that will cover all of my research related expenses. I was lucky to be able to visit Umbeli Beli in March, just before the travel restrictions were imposed (also see post). Hopefully, I will be able to travel to Tubingen soon in order to start the thin section analysis!

Happy owner of a petrographic microscope!

One of the drawbacks of working from home is the limited access to university lab facilities. When the first lockdown was imposed, I was in the middle of the Umhlatuzana micromorphological analysis. In order for my research to not suffer from any major delays, I decided to invest in a petrographic microscope. Following the advice of Panagiotis Karkanas, I purchased an Euromex IS.1053-PLPOLi with 10Χ/23 mm eyepiece and trinocular and a camera. Now, I have access to the microscope at any moment! Also, being able to connect it to my working laptop has proven particularly handy!

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First publication on Umhlatuzana rockshleter!

Our first publication on the renewed excavations at Umhlatuzana rockshelter was published in Open Access. I am very thankful to the co-authors Gerrit Dusseldorp, Victor Klinkenberg, Irene Esteban, May Murungi, Andrew Carr and Valentijn van den Brink for the excellent collaboration! 

The paper presents the results of the excavation and proposes a revised stratigraphic division of the Pleistocene sequence based on field observations, sedimentological analyses, and cluster analyses. Phytolith and geochemical (pH, loss on ignition, stable carbon isotope) analyses are used to assess the taphonomy of the site. Full article here.

Start of extensive literature review on geoarchaeology of sandstone rockshelters

With fieldwork and laboratory work on pause due to the pandemic, I started working on an extensive, interdisciplinary literature review on the geoarchaeology of rockshelter sites articulated on a sandstone bedrock. The literature derives from fields like geology, geoarchaeology, geomorphology, building material studies, heritage, and rock-art studies. I was able to make very interesting observations and am currently drafting a manuscript that hopefully will be submitted soon! 

2020 drawbacks

During the last year I also faced many drawbacks that have affected my PhD research trajectory and scheduling. At the beginning of the lockdown, I had practical difficulties with working from home which were later solved by moving apartments. Important fieldwork at Shongweni rockshelter (KwaZulu Natal, South Africa) was cancelled and it is still uncertain when it will be rescheduled. Corona restrictions also prevented me from traveling to Tuebingen to start analyzing the Umbeli Beli thin sections.

Despite the drawbacks, I am happy with my overall 2020 progress and hope 2021 will be more fruitful. Wishing you a happy new year!