Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Day 6-8: Groundhog Day

Crouching in the cellar of the Umm El-Qanatir Synagogue
In the past three days, our square has closed two squares and has now opened a third.  What this means is that we have weeded, sectioned off a 5 m x 5 m square, and excavated a 10 cm level of top soil three times in three different places (one guy in our square named our area the "Groundhog Day Square" because we seem to be stuck on repeat).  The reason our square has moved so frequently is that after two days of digging in our first two locations, our square supervisor and dig supervisor realized that we were digging in a relatively modern trash dump (from the 1940s).  While it was interesting, our goal was not reach the 1940s but to excavate a section of the late Roman / early Byzantine town.

Like all the other days, we arrived at the site by 5 a.m. and began clearing a large sections (about 10 m x 20 m) of weeds.  To visualize these weeds, imagine a field of wheat in which the wheat contained very sharp thorns and scorpions and poisonous centipedes ran rampant between the stalks.  Today, we only encountered one of each but it was more than enough than I would have cared to come across (I lifted a rock and the centipede crawled on my shoe and then when i kicked it off, the scorpion scuttled across from the other side).  After three hours of clearing weeds and thorns, our site was clear enough to put up shade and begin digging in our new area.  I am excited to see what we come across tomorrow.

On Monday, we visited Umm El-Qanatir, a sixth-century, Galilean synagogue located in the Golan Heights of Israel (the area of land on the other side of the Sea of Galilee taken from Syria by Israel in 1967 in the Six Day War).  Jesus (or Yeshu), the lead excavator, has rebuilt a large portion of the synagogue from its original stones.  It is an incredible building with a majority of its Torah shrine still intact   Even more exciting was that a few stones were removed from the floor and an ancient cellar was accessible.  Of course several of us had to crawl down and explore (see picture above).

All in all, it has been a good week so far.  This Saturday, we are returning to the Golan Heights to visit another site and of course go for another swim.  That is all for today.  Thanks for reading.