The main aim of this first fieldwork is very much to organise future fieldworks. The targets of this trip are mainly two. On the one hand we need to find suitable locations for the ethnoarcaheological work; on the other hand we need to understand practical aspects for the isotope transect.
For ethnoarchaeology, the idea is to contact some farmers who still cultivate millets without irrigation. From preliminary work conducted looking a satellite images, the best area for this seems to be the fringe of Thar Desert. Simply by looking at GoogleEarth temporal images, it is possible to spot some permanent and semi-permanents villages and compounds.
It is usually believed that these villages are pastoral settlements occupied by mobile or semi-mobile herders when they migrate with their herds. However, it is clear from the satellite images that these villages and compounds tend to be clustered around depressed areas that are able to collect and store some humidity during and post the rains. And we know from past experiences (even though in a different area of the wold) that pastoral communities are quite often engaged in some sort of rain-fed cultivation. In addition, some years ago while surveying the Thar on the other side of the border in Rajastan, I came across one such compound where people were indeed using similar interdunal depressed area to cultivate millets. It will be definitely worth to go and check how people interact with their environment in these villages.
The second aim of this field season is to understand how we are going to carry out the transect for rainfall isotopic signal calibration. The main idea is to sample natural vegetation, possibly leaves from C4 trees, located far form irrigated fields. The rational behind this, is that these should reflect the C and O isotopic signal of rainfall. Thus, they will be used to calibrate the signal from the crops and to compare with the isotopic signal obtained from archaeological charcoal. I will write a more detailed post on this topic further on. Just to say, for now, that the transect will need to follow the isohyets for this area and possibly cover a rainfall variation form 0 to at least 400-600 mm annual rainfall. Before we embark on this part of the project it is paramount to understand what permits we will need (if any) to sample the natural vegetation; the safety conditions of travelling by road and the availability of local personnel to accompany us.
I guess that, summing ModAgro and PaleoAsia work to this, we are going to have some pretty busy days in Khairpur. Keep reading to find out how it went with the new post upon returning to Barcelona.
P.S. There might be a surprise post by one of the project's member while we are away!