Yesterday we went on a field trip to a fellow Galilean archaeological excavation to a site known as Omrit. The partnered universities (I cannot remember their names) have continually excavated the site since 2000. So far, a majority of their work has focused on excavating a large temple that went through three phases of building. The phases span from before the time of Herod the Great to the Byzantine period. As to whose honor the temple was built remains a mystery, but one that the excavating team hopes to uncover as soon as possible. One interesting idea (but one that cannot yet be soundly academically supported) is that the second phase of the temple may have served as a a building project of Herod the Great in honor or Augustus.
Today Mickey, one of the Israelis working on the site and main go-to-guy for anything that needs to be built or fashioned on the site, allowed Jessica (a fellow student working in our square) and I to explore a cistern that was uncovered the first day of excavations. Each day this past week, Mickey has led two students down the cistern to explore below the site.
During our breakfast break (at 8:30 a.m.), Mickey grabbed Jessica and I and equipped us with head lamps and hard hats. We pulled back a protective covering that blocked the entry to the cistern. At first glance, I did not think that I would be able to make it. A ladder extended into the darkness below in a hole about the width of my shoulders. Mickey assured me that it would be an extremely tight squeeze but that I would be able to fit. Mickey went first and after a yell from the bottom of the cistern, I began mine. As I slowly climbed into the depths below, masoned rocks quickly turned to limestone walls that maintained the hint of plaster from ages past. My shoulders and back squeezed against the stone with each step as I pressed my stomach and chest against the rungs of the ladder. After some work and a few minutes, I broke into the first chamber of the cistern. The walls widened tremendously as I was able to kneel upon a pile of dirt that has amassed over the centuries. After a few more minutes, Jessica made it down and Mickey began pointing out some interesting features of the main chamber of the cistern.
|Preparing to crawl back to the main cistern|
|A view of the entrance to the cistern. For scale, count the|
number of rungs on the ladder above.
Josephus writes of cisterns such as ours being used during the First Jewish Revolt as hiding areas for rebels. Who knows if our cistern was ever used for such a purpose, but regardless of the cistern's use, our journey today was an incredible adventure and one of the most exciting experiences of my time in Israel this far.
Tomorrow we leave for southern Israel to the town of Eilat, where we will take a long weekend to explore the Red Sea, Masada, and Qumran. I do not believe that I will be taking my computer with me, so expect a post detailing our adventures on Sunday. Thanks for reading.