The good luck charm

You may have noticed so far that this archaeology blog has not had a whole lot about archaeology in it. That’s because before the fun research stuff happens, there are a lot of preparations that need to be completed. One of these preparations is getting the appropriate permits from Indonesian government and police agencies so that we can conduct our research.

Before arriving in Indonesia, we had a rough time schedule planned out which involved two weeks of paperwork, office visits, and permitting processes (one week in Jakarta for the national level permits, and a second week in Ambon, Maluku for the provincial permits). Following the first two weeks, we planned about two and a half weeks of fieldwork in Seram and the surrounding islands, finishing the project off with about another week or so of exit permitting and visits in Ambon and Jakarta on our way back to the US.

We started the permitting process in Jakarta on our first Monday. By Wednesday we were heading out to Ambon. Somehow, we had managed to get a week’s worth of the permitting dance compressed into just a few days! While improvements in infrastructure, ie high speed internet, and changes in bureaucratic structures certainly streamlined the process, I am convinced that this author was actually a good luck charm for the group – a fact I conveniently concocted when the rest of my team jokingly decided that as the youngest member of the group, I was the natural choice of sacrifice for the crocodile gods (crocodiles supposedly being common in Maluku where we would be working).

An important note for any sort of travel within Jakarta – taxis are always a bad idea. We once spent nearly four hours in a taxi while traveling across town during rush hour to do our visit with Pusat Arkeologi Nasional (National Center for Archaeology). Buses, even the angkot (an informal, privatized bus system), and trains are far superior in terms of combatting Jakarta traffic.

So our permitting process went incredibly smoothly – something nearly unheard of even in the US and even more unusual for Indonesia. After filing our permits in Jakarta, we were able to travel by plane to Ambon, in the Maluku region of eastern Indonesia, to finish up our provincial permits. Those also took only a few days. In the down time, we planned survey strategies, created supply lists, and visited with friends and colleagues. We also created field nicknames, a time honored tradition amongst archaeology kinfolk, and a requisite part of field bonding. Bonding is important during fieldwork, as you have to spend a great deal of time with your colleagues and bonding helps to make those hours pass more easily. Secondly, bonding makes it less likely that your colleagues will want to sacrifice you to the crocodile gods. Or, at least make them feel worse about doing it.

Next up, Ambon island!

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