One of the limitations in archaeology is the laws that govern the treatment of the finds. Many countries, including Israel (where we presently work), claim ownership of all finds including samples. This means that every antiquity (in Israel it includes everything older than the mid-18th century CE) belongs to the state. We can study our finds, but if it is needed to be done by experts outside the country, we need to get a special export permit with time limits determining when the finds have to be returned.
Pottery is one of the most important elements to be studied. The style and manufacturing techniques help us date the finds. There are many ways pottery can be studied, but for our purposes it could not have been done here on location in Israel because we could not afford having here a staff of 3-5 people for two years. For statistical purposes, the pottery sherds had to be counted and weighed; then the vessels had to be reconstructed, drawn to scale and photographed. Residue samples had to be taken and analyzed. Most of these activities had to be done in the States so last summer we arranged to ship whole assemblages to the labs of the Cobb Institute of Archaeology at Mississippi State University in Starkville where experts with the help of students have been working since on this project. Our export permit is for two years with a possibility for extension if necessary. We also shipped organic samples and samples for C-14 testing.
Since we have several hundreds of objects, we need to study each of them carefully. One way of doing it is by being on location, holding each object in one’s hand, providing a verbal description, and photographing the object from all possible angles. Photographs, drawings, and verbal descriptions will be part of the final publication. Last year we photographed all the objects. This year we came back to re-photograph some of the objects under better conditions. This process is still going on because each photograph has to be examined carefully to determine that it is of the best quality.