Saturday, June 30, 2012

July 30: Jerusalem

We knew the guest house was close to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, so we stumbled along a path that took us that direction.  When we thought we might be lost, a kind man asked us what we were looking for.  When we told him, he said, "Twenty meters up and on the right!"  From start to finish we had probably only traveled for about 40 minutes before arriving where we will call home for the next nine days.

Once we went inside, we bumped into our friends from Wofford who were on their way out.  We set a time to meet up later and moved out of their way as they left to travel the stations of the cross of the Via Dolorosa.  After they left, we sat down for about three minutes before Chad Spigel, our area supervisor, Jim Bucko, and Brian Cussens, a square supervisor, popped in to visit.  We talked for a bit before deciding to head to lunch at one of the many surrounding restaurants. 

The Old city of Jerusalem is small and very compact.  The streets stretch about four to five people in breadth, with each side covered with small stores ranging from candy shops to the latest shoes.  The streets are cobbled and span on and on and on in every direction.

After lunch, we swung by the Western Wall, a holy site in Judaism that marks the retaining wall built to support the Second Temple (when it was remodeled by Herod the Great).  We then spent the afternoon exploring the sites until we met up with our Wofford friends to venture out of the Old City to meet up with some of the dig crew from Horvat Kur.

It has been a busy and long day.  I did not take any pictures today (we weren't alowed to at the Western Wall because today was Shabbat), but I will take plenty tomorrow and try to add a few.  We are waking up bright and early tomorrow morning to attend Latin Mass at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre at 6:30 a.m.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Day 29: The Close of Huqoq 2012

The last few days have been a whirlwind.  On Wednesday, we had our last day of actual digging.  Our square had come down on a foundation trench the previous day and had excavated down about 40-45 cm along one of our walls.  

Every building, ancient and modern, requires a foundation.  Sometimes bedrock can be used as a foundation.  Since we are still a sizable distance (presumably) from hitting the bedrock on our site, a different construction method must be used.  Instead of using a natural foundation, the people who inhabited our site from ancient times had to create one themselves.  To do this, a trench would be dug into the ground into which rocks (and usually some form of sealant) are poured.  Once this foundation has solidified, a small trench remains on each side of the beginnings of the wall.  This area is filled with soil to flatten the area.  This is very, very common and easy to spot once you know what to look for.  In our case, the soil changed from a medium brown to a darker brown and was very loose.  We removed this loose layer of soil until we hit a more compact layer on both the side and bottom.  As I have said before, you always want to stay level in archaeology.  Foundation trenches are one of the times when this rule is broken.  Why would we break such a hallowed rule of archaeology?  Because we must stay in the same occupation level with each pass.  If we were to ignore this and continue to excavate down, we would have a majority of a square in an earlier occupation level while the foundation trench would continue to spit up later pottery and coins.

Wednesday was supposed to be a day to clean up dirt and to level out all the squares for final pictures.  We were down 40-45 cm because of our foundation trench along a wall and were told that we needed it level for closing pictures the next day.  A normal day would be about 20 cm.  Needless to say, we set to work immediately.  Several other squares pitched in from our area to help us sift all of the soil we were throwing up to the top.  After the first pass, we had gone too far down to safely exit our square any longer and required a ladder.  We probably dropped about 30 cm before breakfast, which had exhausted us almost beyond our bodies ability to continue excavating.  After breakfast, we continued to work tirelessly to clean up the finally 10-15 cm pass and to level our the area.  We arrived back at the kibbutz having earned our naps for the day.

Yesterday was a day of tearing down the site and taking final pictures of the year's discoveries.  I will post some exciting pictures next week of some of our more interesting finds.

Today began at 6 a.m. for four of us, as we helped load and unload lab equipment into storage.  We finished by 7:30 a.m., just in time for breakfast.  After finishing, we walked the mile to the site and finished cleaning our areas.  We filled in squares with sandbags and a material called geo-textile, to help prevent erosion during the year.  We finished right around noon, just in time for a quick dip in a spring at the base of the hill before returning for lunch.  Four of us continued to work loading and unloading truckloads full of supplies into storage to finish just in time for a last trip to the Sea of Galilee. 

We got back about an hour ago and now are awaiting dinner.  We had our season's end dig party last night, but I am sure we will manage to have some more fun tonight.  We leave for Tel Aviv tomorrow morning at 5:30 a.m., where a majority of people will catch planes back to the states.

A small contingent of us are heading to Jerusalem once we arrive at Tel Aviv.  Jocelyn, Caroline, and I will be spending nine days in the city visiting with friends and exploring local archaeological attractions.  Our first adventure will be hanging out with one of the area supervisors from last year, Byron McCane and a friend who also dug with us last year, James Ballard.  Both are digging this year down the road at Horvat Kur, another ancient village with a synagogue.  Our next adventure will be attending Latin Mass at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in the Old City of Jerusalem (which we will be staying a block and a half from for the next nine days), followed by a day of relaxation. 

I am not sure what our internet capabilities will be where we are staying in Jerusalem.  If we have internet, I will try to post something small daily.  If not, maybe a few pictures here and there.

(I thought I had loaded pictures from our last day, but I apparently have not.  I'll add some once we get to Jerusalem)

Monday, June 25, 2012

Day 25: Two Coins and a Bulldozer

Archaeology is a meticulous endeavor.  We must document everything—from soil composition and color changes to the height above sea level of each locus to the exact centimeter.  Everyone in the area gets to help with this documentation, but a vast majority the responsibility falls upon the shoulders of the two area supervisor (Chad, who is our supervisor, and Matt, who is the other areas supervisor).  This necessity to document everything can sometimes—often times—lead to stressful situations.  Today, for example, we had approximately 50 buckets of stuff.  (Stuff being pottery, metal, soil samples, shells, worked stones, and other uncovered artifacts.)  Writing tags and logging each bucket takes a bit of time, time that is a high commodity when so many jobs need to be done.

Today was a day where frustration due to an apparent shortage of time with an increase in tasks met with elation over exciting finds.  I have always wanted to find a coin on a dig and have gone the past two season without as much as seeing one in situ (meaning found as it sits in the ground and not in a sifter or by turning it up with a hoe or pick).  Today, I was privliged to find two.  The first was sitting on top of a plaster floor, which was very eciting because in the same floor sat an entire base of a glass goblet that I had fortunately uncovered yesterday.  These two objects should serve as more than enough to offer a date to this floor.  (The goblet was taken out today by our glass specialist.  We were all excited to see part of the stem still attached to it—a rare and find).

I then moved to another square and not two minutes into hoeing dirt, I bent over to see a coin the size of about a quarter sitting perfectly in the ground.  I yelled for others to confirm that it was a coin and my vision was not playing tricks on me.  Others agreed, so we brushed the area for pictures before carefully removing it with a trowel. 

Coins provide a relatively concrete terminus post qquem (the date after which) for an area because coins have a concrete date of production.  For example, a coin with the picture of a certain emperor often tells us when it was minted (or gives us a span of time in which it could have been minted).  This lets us know that whatever feature, be it a floor or wall, upon, in, or under it sits must be dated to after that date.  This coin could have remained in circulation up to a hundred years (or sometimes even longer), so the terminus ante quem (date before which) must be determined with other methods.

In the wise words of the Mad Hatter from Alice in Wonderland,, there was too much to do and too little time today.  Even with the frustration of  figuring out how to read the layout of the area, peeling back the dirt in .5 cm passes, and accomplishing other random jobs in the sun, I would not trade today or any other day for anything. 

Here are some pictures from the days excavations:

A bulldozer is on the site this week to help move rocks too heavy to lift and break

Jocelyn was working too far down and was made to wear a hard hat.  Not amused.

Jim Haverman and David Amit with a bird's eye view of the site

Saturday, June 23, 2012

23.5: Rafting the Jordan

Today, the Jordan was tamed.  Our raft was the last of our group to enter by about 10 minutes.  Six other rafts entered before us and we waited a bit because of a possibly sick volunteer.  Everyone returned unscathed and we were cleared to enter.  Our crew was comprised of myself (a.k.a "the muscle"), Jocelyn (a.k.a:  "the first mate"), Josh ("the sturdy oak"), Shua ("our captain"), and Cameron (a.k.a. "short round").  Did I make these nick names up on the spot?  Most definitely.  Am I making up the adventurous tale I am about to relay?  Most certainly not.

We entered with a splash and quickly began paddling.  Our task?  To catch the front raft, which had launched about 15 minutes before us.  We had two paddles and rotated who served as steerer and fronts-person.  We dug in, ignoring pain, rapids, and any self doubt that might arise.  We truged ahead as we passed other rafts by the droves.  The rapids were light but fun.  We were able to stop paddling from time to time as the rapids and current took us.  The trip was a total of 2.5 hours (or, might I say, was supposed to take 2.5 hours--it took us 2).  We passed a couple of our fellow rafters around the first hour mark.  The first two we passed were pointed backwards, desperately trying to turn forward or unmoor from the side.

On our journey, we met many interesting people.  Though each raft we passed spoke a slew of different languages (Arabic, Hebrew, and English), it turns out a common greeting was to splash each other in the face.  What first surprised us turned to delight as we entered splashing wars with our competitors as we flew past one another.  A second interesting caveat was all the picnickers along the banks.  Those enjoying the weekend sat in the water about ankle high with makeshift tables as they dined, drank, and partook of the nargilah.

About 15 minutes prior to our journey's end, we met with the second to last raft--one containing three strong men and three paddles (each raft was limited to two paddles but they had found a third one on their way).  Our eyes locked and the challenge was laid without a single word being uttered.  We each set off with reckless abandon as we tore down the river.  After about five minutes, all of us were exhausted an a truce was declared.  We joined rafts and spirits in amicability.  We joked, we splashed, we rejoiced.

Our journey on the Jordan had ended but as it turns out, our day was only beginning.  I had helped carry some lunch supplies to Shua's car (she had driven it to help transport lunch and have a vehicle if need arose).  I rode back with her, Jocelyn and Josh.  We decided to stop for a quick bit to eat when we asked Shua how close we were to the Lebanese border.  Shua said pretty close and asked if we wanted to see it.  We answered with a resounding yes.  After about ten minutes we had reached it.

Based on the news, I had expected to see a vacant demilitarized zone void of life save for the soldiers who patrolled it.  On the contrary, a sprawling pastoral and farming land spread before us.  In fact, unless someone had told me a border existed, I would not have know it were there.  Shua then commented on though the two countries were not on the best of terms, how the people who lived on each side of this border were likely fine (if not amicable) with one another.  It was the governments who disagreed--not those who lived on each side.  This experience, along with others from last year and this year, have given me a very different perspective on the Middle East and politics.

With all joking and hyperbole aside, today was incredible.  Rafting was a blast (as well as visiting the site of Chorazin this morning), but standing on the border between Lebanon and Israel was an almost other worldly experience.  Conflicts between the two nations are something that litter the news but all I saw today was a sprawling countryside abutted by snow capped mountains in a hazed distance.

I have pictures from today, but I am unable at the moment to locate my SD card reader.  I will have to add these tomorrow.  Tomorrow will be our last 4 a.m. Sunday as we continue on our final push on the site for the season.  Four will come early, but I am ready to begin digging again after being sick a majority of last week.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Day 23: Our Last Break

It has been a bit of a roller coaster of a week.  On Tuesday, I started to feel bad on the site and by Wednesday, I was stuck in bed feeling pretty horrible.  I made it to the site on Thursday and Friday, but I spent a majority of both days helping our area supervisor catch up on paperwork.  My health has returned, however, and we are excited to see what turns up in our area.

It is about 6:30 a.m. here and our finally day off before the final push.  After breakfast, we will be loading up and heading out to visit the ancient synagogue at Chorazin.  Following this outing, we will be heading to the Jordan River to test our fates with a white-water rafting adventure.  It has been mercilessly hot this week and and adventure involving water is most welcome.

I am a bad archaeologist for not having the exact measurements, but we are between 5-6 ft. down in our square for the season.  It is becoming somewhat of an endevour to climb down to where we are excavating.  We, of course, take great pride in this.  Until we look to our neighbors who are below us and require a ladder to enter their squares.  This, amongst other things (such as having three diggers in our square verses the veritable metropolis of five to six in each of the other two squares of area 2000), have caused us to affectionately refer to our square as "the square of despair."  Though we joke about this, we are happy and able to do the required work with only three.  The other squares lend help from time to time as well.

One item of interest which we discovered yesterday is that we are beginning to pull out Iron Age pottery.  The square directly next to us who is slightly lower than we are has accumulated a large sum of this pottery.  The problem with this is that we had no idea our site had an Iron Age occupation (there is evidence of Bronze and Iron Age occupation on a nearby hill).  Iron Age is a time period often associated textually with the stories of King David and King Solomon in the biblical books of Kings and Samuel.  This age is broken into sub ages but it begins around 1300 BCE and ends with Assyrians conquest of the Levant in 722 B.C.E.

At first glance, you might think it bizarre that we would have pottery ranging from this early of a time to the Late Roman / Byzantine period (say 5th or 6th c. C.E.).  This is actually easily explained.  Whoever built the level of walls which we are now excavating would have dug a trench along side where the foundation was being laid in order to better maneuver the stones.  To dig these trenches (called foundation trenches), a lot of lower soil would have been turned up and used to fill in the trenches after the foundations had been completed.

I did not take my camera around too much this week and sadly do not have too many new pictures.  I will take plenty today and post them after we return from taming the waters of the Jordan.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Day 18: SCUBA Diving in the Mediterranean

Our mini-vacation this weekend was much needed and gave us all a chance to recuperate a bit before beginning our final two-week push at the dig site yesterday morning.  As I wrote earlier, we left for the Mediterranean coastal city of Haifa on Thursday just after eating lunch.  It was a short drive (maybe 1.5-2 hours).  Most of us slept on the bus.  When we got there, a very different scenery greeted us.  Lush trees and wadis reminiscent of the Galilee but almost a different shade of green.  The city of Haifa spills from the top of a cliff over to the area below, right up against the Mediterranean.

Upon our arrival, we head straight to the beach for a couple of hours of swimming in the cool, crystal clear waters and napping on the warm sand.  A majority of us went to bed at the late hour of 10 p.m.  Though we did not have to wake up the next morning until 8 a.m., many of us were up by 6 a.m.  After spending two weeks of waking at 4 a.m. it is hard to readjust for one night.  We spent the first day of our trip visiting Tel Dor and Meggido (also known in as Har Magedon which transliterates to Armageddon).  The trips were fascinating and I could write ad inifitum about our time at each location. I wish focus, however, on our next days adventure at Caesarea Maritima.

The city of Caesarea Maritima was built by Herod the Great in honor of Octavion (Caesar Augustus) in 31 B.C.E.  Octavion had affirmed Herod as vassal king in the region so Herod responded in the best way one could in antiquity--build yourself a palacial city and dedicate it to the ruling emperor.  As part of the building project, herod built a gigantic marina--the largest human made marina in the ancient world to that point in history.  This project was massive and if you know anything about Herod the Great, played very nicely to his ruling style.  Herod had a gift of playing up his Roman-ness to those who favored Roman culture and his Jewishness to those of his subejcts to favored Jewish culture.  This city was a Roman city through and through with bathouses, theatres, hippodromes, bathouses, and even a temple honoring Octavian.

It was a fascinating site visit, especially since our professor (Dr. Jodi Magness) had excavated there for many years and served as the Late Roman / Early Byzantine pottery expert.

Toward the end of our tour, Jonathan and I decided to go SCUBA diving if it would work with the groups schedule.  The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.  Nothing we tried worked.  Our level of certification required us to have a third person certified higher (just one level!).  This meant that we had to go in a group dive.  Furthermore, Israeli law says that if you do not have a stamped dive in the last six months, you must go on a refresher dive to prove you know what you are doing.  We were at the beachfront office at 12:30 p.m. and they said we had to be back at 1 p.m. 

When we returned to our group (a 10 minute run / walk), nothing was going to work. Shua, the co-director of the dig who works for the Israel Antiquties Authority, told us that if we could be done by 4:30 p.m., she would stay and drive us back to the Galilee.  By this point it was 12:20 p.m., and we booked it back to the dive shop.  We filled out the paperwork, updated our insurance (we each now have international Israeli diving insurance for a year), and got ready to go.  The refresher dive went over aseveral of the basics, which we both breeezed through.  It took less than 30 minutes and we were back on the surface it seemed in a flash.  While we were going through the review, however, we did get to see a small octopus and some ancient (Roman-era boat anchors).

We then took a bit of a break and returned to what we thought would be a group dive.  The dive master leading the group came out and said we had a choice between two dives.  Both had little archaeology, so I asked if it would be possible to see more.  He didn't seem too happy with the suggested change of iternerary until I told him we were archaeolgoy students currently working on a dig in Israel.  We all got really excited at this point and he took us on a bit of a custom tour of ancient remains.

Shortly after descending (it was a relatively shallow dive, we maintained a depth of 8 meters), he took us to a row of about 20 collumns that had collapsed from Herod's famous marina.  It was incredible seeing the size of these collumns (they weren't complete, but by the girth and number of collumns, we began to understand the true size of Herod's architectural achievement).  We then swam along a series of underwatern crevices in the earth, stopping from time to time to examine pottery and other random artifacts that the sea had spit up. 

One artifcat in particular was of great interest.  While we were looking at pottery, a noticed a rock that looks a bit metalic.  It was semi-loose, so I tugged at it a bit and began to examine it.  The metal was severely corroded and there was quite a bit of growth covering the item.  The rust and growth looked comparable to the early Roman anchor that we saw a bit later in our dive and not much like a more recent boat wreck that we swam over.  The item have five cylindrical shapes that ran into each other (not a hand, but the way it was broken made it look almost like a hand).  On the top, a circular shape sat and a place where two other similar shapes might also have sat existed, except for this is part of the piece that had broken.  On the bottom, a large indention appeared, suggesting that this item at one point sat on top of a pole.

When I found this, I got pretty excited.  I immediately showed it to the dive master and his dive mask did little to hid his excitement.  He hurriedly used his finger to scribble a message to me on a nearby moss covered rock:  "not modern."  He then shrugged a looked at me, and based on some of the other rusted objects we had seen in the water by this time, I shook my head yes (even though we could not be for sure).  I left the item on a rock, not wanting to break archaeological standards by removing something without permission and by so doing ruining its contextual location.  We continued on our path and saw a number of other interesting things including another octopus, more pottery, and more ancient anchors.  When we surfaced the first words out of the dive masters mouth was, "what was that metallic object!?  Have you ever come across anything like that before?"  After we both said no, he ran out and began describing it to the other dive masters, but none of us had a clue where it was.  He then described where we had found it, and they might have discussed retuning to get it the next day.  They were afraid the current would take it away and deposit it somewhere further away.  If it is Roman, I have no idea what it could be.  Jonathan and I both drew it upon our return to the Galilee so we wouldn't forget what it was.  We have been showing people our drawings and asking them if they know what it could be or anyone who might know.  I hope to find out someday, even if it turns out to be an old car part (there were no welding marks on it, however).

This past weekend offered quite the adventure.  As far as our square goes we are continuing to go down.  We have found many mill stones and grinding stones in the past three days of digging.  So many in fact that we are running out of places to put them.  This is giving us a possible insight into what sort of room we are excavating.  One of the mill stones that we removed yesterday has a carved pattern on its side along with an indention.  What this could be has so far remained in the realm of speculation.

It has been a long and hot day.  I am off to nap before we wash pottery later this afternoon.  Thanks for reading.

Some beachfront ruins of Caesarea Maritima behind me
(part of the city has sunk into the ocean over time)

Getting ready for our archaeological dive!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Day 12: Exploring the Cistern

Archaeology is the meticulous documentation of controlled destruction.  Once something is removed from the ground, it can never be put back the same way to be experienced as it had laid in the earth.  That being said, I was fortunate today to experience one of the rare occasion when this rule slightly bends:  exploring and documenting underground tunnels.

A cistern sits on the middle of the site of our dig at Huqoq.  I was fortunate to exlpore it last year, and today I had a rare second chance to do the same.  The resident Israeli export on such underground networks visited the site today and enlisted the help of three of us who helped him to explore it last year.  Last year, another student and I dug out tunnels enough to fit through so we might prepare the way for another pair of students (Jocelyn and Josh) to map the network.  Jocelyn, Josh, and I all returned this year, and we were given the privilege of journeying with Enon again far below ground.

Enon could not get to the site today until noon, which is when we usually finish for the day.  Spending an extra three hours at the site proved a privilege once we began our descent underground.   Once Enon arrived, we donned headlamps, packed bags with tools and water, and climbed approximately 30 ft. below ground before reaching the dirt mound piled upon the main chamber of the cistern.  Once there, our headlamps allowed us to survey the same sights as we had the year before.  Three tunnels laid slightly below us, each accessible only by crawling on our stomachs.  We ignored the one on the left and the middle one for the day and focused on the tunnel on the right.  Today's goal was to make this tunnel entrance and the two subsequent tunnel entrances inside the first chamber on the right tunnel more accessible.  Again, not to excavate, but to explore further back in the network.

I went in the right chamber with Enon, both of us dragging our stomachs in the mud with our sides and backs scraping the rock walls of the entrance.  We opened to a familiar chamber with ancient niches built likely to hold oil lamps as people either worked, hid, or possibly lived in the tunnels.  Also familiar were the hundreds of slugs that lined the walls and eventually my back as I crawled on my stomach across the domed room.

The first order of business was to create a larger path so other people who might come in the future could more easily enter this chamber.  I began to pull back a couple centimeters of earth from around the opening and in about 30 minutes time, removed enough earth that we could comfortably crawl (at least without getting too many slugs in our hair).  Jocelyn proved indispensable during this process for I shoved buckets of dirt through the opening back into the main chamber which she then emptied to the side of the dirt pile upon which the ladder rested.

We then switched around and Josh came down into the cistern to explore a tunnel on the right of the chamber in which I helped to create a better path.  My job during this time was to clear an area around a second tunnel that exists on the left of this chamber.  After I removed enough dirt to stick my head further into the chamber, my job for that area was completed for the day.  I then moved closer to the tunnel in which Josh was making a wider path in order to ferry buckets back and forth from the main chamber.

I did not clear a wide enough path to get to Josh as easily as I could move around the forefront of the chamber, so I again spent a great dealt of time (about an hour and a half) sliding around on my stomach in the dirt / mud.  I scuttled the 15 ft between Josh's tunnel and the main channel multiple times as I filled bucket after bucket and removed several rocks (and by remove I mean positioning them in the chamber so they would be out of the way).  We only had 2.5 hours to spend underground today, and once our time was up, Enon told us to pack our gear and begin our ascent.  Once we all climbed out (which was a 15 minutes affair) we got a good laugh at our appearance.  Slugs, mud, and disheveled clothes covered our fatigued bodies.

We wrote down what we had done and what Enon hopes to do in the future, and we headed back to the main camp area to eat lunch.  Some kind people saved some breakfast food and packaged it in dishes for us to eat after we climbed out.  We didn't have utensils, but I didn't hear anyone complain.  We wolfed down the eggs, bread, and salad rather quickly.  The next item on the to-do list was to clean ourselves up a bit.  There is luckily a spring at the base of the dig site (which is why our site was inhabited to begin with in the past), and we stripped down as much as decency would allow in order to wash our bodies and our clothes.

It was an incredible experience, and I am fortunate to have had it a second time.  I may return once more before our season concludes, but we will have to see what happens.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Day 11: Conservation and Preparing to Explore the Cistern Again

It has been a busy couple of days with a Saturday filled with a trip exploring the ancient areas of Tel Dan and Banias in the northern Galilee.  Tel Dan is a site where a 9th c. B.C.E. inscription references a king who claims his legitimacy from beit david - "the house of David."  This find set the archaeological and textual world of biblical studies in a near upheaval in that it called into question many of those who claimed David was merely a fictional character.  This debate still rages with many prominent scholars falling on both sides of the argument.  Banias is a site built during the Hellenistic period (between Alexander the Great and Rome dominance) that Herod Philip set as his capital of the north.  It is refereed to in the New Testament as Caesrea Philipi.

Our dig has continued to progress.  We have been progressing at approximately 20 cm a day and are nearly even with our squares from last year.  We have been digging in two squares but will spread to a third tomorrow.  I will remain in the square where I have been digging and the two other assistant square supervisors will be moving to our square from last year.

We just had an incredible lecture from Oren Cohen, the lead conservationist of the "Jesus Boat" discovered in the Galilee approximately 15 years ago (maybe 12 years ago?).  It is a boat dating to around 30 B.C.E., plus or minus 80 years (based on carbon dating).  The amount of work and dedication by people both paid and unpaid is amazing.  Tomorrow, we will be visiting the actual boat with her.

The other big news is that Enon has returned to the site and wants to again explore the underground network of cisterns on our site.  Josh, Jocelyn, and I will be joining Enon underground at approximately 11 a.m.  Our dig day ends at 11:45 a.m., but we will be staying a couple of hours later.  It is sure to be just as exciting an adventure as last year.  I hope that our explorations yield further evidence of what this network of tunnels was used for.  Water, storage, or hiding places during the First Jewish Revolt?  Hopefully tomorrow will shed a bit of light.  Even if not, it is sure to prove an exciting adventure as we crawl and dig through tunnels 30-50 ft. below ground left unexplored for nearly 2,000 years.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Day 8: Shabbat Shalom

We hit rock after rock after rock today on the dig site.  I am not entirely sure how far we went down in our square.  Based on the size of some of the rocks that we collectively lifted, we went down a good bit.  The most exciting discovery came toward the end of the day.

Fridays conclude with area tours so we might view the other areas weekly progress and learn what they have been up to.  In archaeology, one of the most important aspects of digging is staying uniformly level throughout your square.  Taking out so many different shaped rocks (some from a collapsed wall and others that had been covered by random chance) left many divets in the area.  In the last 30 minutes, we did a quick and efficient leveling of the square that revealed another unique stone:  a grinding stone.  I am not sure if I am allowed to post the picture or not, but suffice for the moment a description.  It is a square shaped stone with a several centimeter linear indention through the middle of the top portion of the rock.  In the middle of that indention is a further circular indention.  We are going to talk more about it next week, but I believe a flat, circular grinding stone was rolled back and forth in the larger indention while in the smaller one was collected the grinded meal.  It is appears to have been placed awkwardly in the wall in secondary use and not as an instillation of the building we excavate.

The last item on the schedule for the day is pottery washing in about 30 minutes.  We get to sleep in until 8 a.m. tomorrow, but I am sure many of us will be up far earlier.  We will be visiting the northern sites of Tel Dan and Banias in the morning and relaxing again tomorrow night.  Sunday morning we will return bright and early to the site.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Day 7: Reaching the Threshold

Our free time the past few days has comprised of eating, napping, and more eating.  We will be washing pottery in about 20 minutes so this entry will be a short one.
 On Tuesday after the dig, a group of us went into the nearby city of Tiberias.  We spent two hours walking around, taking in the sites, sounds, and tastes of the town.  My favorite part can be seen in the picture below:  shawarma.  It is a pitta stuffed with chicken shaved off a rack further stuffed with tomatoes, cucumbers, hummus, spices, and french fries.  Declisious.

Yesterday following the dig, we enjoyed a numismatic lecture on ancient coins.  It was very exciting to pass around coins from as early as the 1st c. B.C.E. and as late as the 1920's British Mandate period.  Also starting yesterday, the Dan the cermacist (or Dan Dan the Pottery Man as he is affetionatly called) has allowed a few of us to start helping him sort pottery in the afternoons.  In exchange for our efforts (often misguided), Dan has been teaching us about ancient pottery.  I have been furiously taking notes and pictures of different forms and types and feel like I can actually tell a couple of types.

As far as the dig goes, our progress downward has slowed dramatically.  Luckily, this is a good thing because we have come down on a few walls, one of which contains a door jamb and threshold.  Whether this is a door or not remains to be seen because the stone could have been taken from an earlier building and used to construct a wall.  Below are a couple of pictures from a square from today.

Tomorrow is the last day of the dig before Shabbat, our weekly day of rest.  We will be traveling to Tel Dan and Banias on Saturday, two very exciting archaeological sites.  Three of us also are talking about traveling to Caesarea Maratima in another week to SCUBA dive in the archaeological park there, a submerged marina of Herod the Great.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Day 4: Opening the Squares

Today at the site, we worked both our muscles and our minds.  The first task of the day was to lay out our two new excavation squares in Area 2000--the ancient village.  To do so, we used surveying data combined with a tape measure to section off two five meter areas.  One meter around each square serves as a bulk, from which we are able to determine soil color and composition change (among other things).  So we really have two squares that we must measure:  a five meter square including the bulk and a four meter excavation square (excluding the bulk).  To check our measurements, we took a journey back to sophomore Geometry to visit with our good friend Pythagorus.  For the 5 x 5 m square we would expect a hypotenuse of 7.07 m and for the 4 x 4 m square we would expect a hypotenuse of 6.65 m.  And guess what?  We had our squares squared away on the very first try.

After the rush from our mathematical triumph subsided, we began the physically demanding portion of the day with filling sandbags.  We filled many many, but eventually were called away from our task to help the other area--the synagogue of Area 3000--to haul rocks from a soon-to-be excavated square.  The rock pile proved intimidating and required something akin to an assembly line to move.  We worked on it until breakfast and a little longer after.  I was called away for a bit to drive metal stakes into the ground to help hold the shave tent.  My arms are already sore from the exercise.  During this time, however, I made a comment about wishing I knew how to tie more knots.  Micki, the dig administrator, was more than happy to offer some knot tying lessons.  We cut several cords of rope and will be having the lessons later this evening or tomorrow.

We ended the final two hours of the dig officially opening our squares.  We broke ground and began the arduous month long task of peeling back the earth one layer at a time.  We only managed to remove close to 5 cm today, but will continue with 5 cm more in the morning.  The first 10 cm is considered somewhat of a junk locus (because this areas artifacts are largely out of context due to years of rain and burrowing animals).  I will explain more about what constitutes a locus tomorrow.  I will post a few pictures from the dig today below.  Thanks for reading.

A view of our area and its four squares

A close up of our square for the season--Square 7/6

Josh taking final elevations for the daily report

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Day 3: Preparing to Dig

I know 4 a.m. comes at the same time everyday, but until today it had remained somewhat of a stranger to me.  Even in my days of competitive swimming, the absolute earliest hour I saw was 5 a.m.  Getting ready to go by 4 a.m. however, did not prove difficult for most of us.  We were excited to get back to the cite.

Upon arriving at our site, only the first hint of sun began to pierce the sky above the Sea of Galilee.  In relative darkness (and quietness thanks to our level of wakefulness), we descended a small hill to the base of the areas natural spring before ascending to the hilltop where I site sits.  Instead of carrying dig equipment along this path, many of us were both surprised and overjoyed to find Miki's truck (the dig administrator) sitting at the top of the site.  

When we arrived, we broke into teams.  Everyone had a task.  Some more glorious than others.  I did not envy the latrine crew, who dig a modest hole in the ground away from the site.  Our group cleared rocks and brush from Area 2000, where I worked last year, in preparation to begin digging tomorrow.  Tomorrow morning, we will section off two new squares in our area and begin to excavate them.  The plan is to further explore the domestic structures in our area.  Last year, we came down on some walls but we are unsure of how deep they go or from where the originate.  One of the larger walls collapsed at some point in the past, and our excavations this season will hopefully tell us if time or something more sinister is the culprit.

Today was hot.  It was hotter than any of the days of digging last year.  Shua, the assistant director of the site, told me that the neighboring city of Tiberias had a high of 38 C, which would put our site right around 35 C.  I only know looked up the conversion (I had thought maybe it would be in the upper 80's F) to find that it was between 95-100 F.  It was not until the end of the morning that shade cloths began to rise around the site.  Hopefully the shade will make tomorrows task of breaking new ground a bit cooler if not easier.

Upon our return, a bar of ice cream and a 2.5 nap greeted me with what proved to be the perfect remedy to an incredibly hot and muggy day.  We are now about to attend our first lecture of the trip on proper digging technique.  I will post a few pictures from the day below.  Thanks for reading.

Taking off the geotextile cloth that we laid last year to preserve the site.
A view of our square from las year (Square 7-7)
An achrabut (pronounced 'ach-ra-boot'), Hebrew for "Scorpion eater."  It is named for its propensity to devour scorpions, I do not care to get too close to it.  I used the zoom lens for this one.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Day 2: Sepphoris, Nazareth, and Sachnah

Last night was a bit unusual as far as digs go.  It ended with a murder.  A murder mystery that is.  The last two hours before sleep took hold of us were filled with mystery, intrigue, and fictional crimes.  I was Sir Bates, a rich knight (definitely typecast) who had an illicit relationship with the recently deseased baroness.  I unfortunately blew all of my money on coca negra an addictive chocolate.  Faced with a life of poverty and despair, I turned to a life of crime.  A friend and I requested private audiences with individuals who were reported to be of a wealthier persuasion.  After luring them behind the bushes, we would push them down, take their money, and run.  Our strategy, though illegal, proved the most beneficial for we wound up the richest of all the guests.

But I digress.  Today we visited Sepphoris, Nazareth, and Sachnah.  We visited Sepphoris and Sachnah (also called Gan Ha'Sheloshah, meaning "garden of the three.")  I did not include any pictures of Sachnah last year so I added a few below.  It is a series of three natural pools and was a fantastic relief from the heat.

A waterfall between the first and second pools
The theatre at Sepphoris
Our area supervisor met with the the assistant square supervisors today to go over expectations.  I was glad to find out that I will be in one of our squares from last year, continuing where we left off.  Tomorrow is a set-up day on the site.  We will be carrying tons of equipment (literally tons) to the site about a fourth of a mile from where we will be dropped off.  We will then layout two new squares, which we will dig to the same depth of our previous two squares before continuing last years squares any further. Since we generally know what to expect, this should take no longer than 1-2 weeks.  

We will be waking up at 4 a.m. so we can catch the bus by 4:30 a.m. and begin setting up the site by 5 a.m.  With that being said, I am heading to bed.


P.S.:  Here is a video of a nefarious fowl that has woken a few of us up during the wee hours of the morning.  If I wake up before him tomorrow, I am going to try to pay him the same honor.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Day 1: Rest and Preparation

After a 24 hour journey, we arrived at the kibbutz last night around 9:30 p.m.  Our flights were easy and did not involve too many surprises.  Security for flights to Israel are a bit elevated.  In addition to the normal TSA scan, flights to Israel involve a bag search at the gate along with a hand-held metal-detector scan.  Also, 30 minutes before landing, all passengers are required to stay in their (by order of the Israel Defense Leave).  Our pilot told us if anyone got out of their seat and tried to move around during this time, the plane would divert to Cyprus.

Flying over Tel Aviv and the Mediterranean
The only setback was our bus arriving at the airport a little over an hour late to take us to the kibbutz (a further two hours drive).  When we arrived at the kibbutz we took showers, grabbed a quick meal, and headed to bed.

Today has been a blur of activity.  After breakfast, six of us helped pick up all of the dig lab equipment from storage with the dig administrator, Miki Golan.  We set up as much as possible before our dig orientation where we introduced ourselves to one another and learned about different facets of the dig.

Loading Miki's trailer
We then rested for a couple of hours and headed to the Sea of Galilee for a swim.  That brings us to the present.  Those of us considered field staff are having a meeting at 6:30 p.m. to go over aspects of the dig specfic to us.  I may add a short update tonight or tomorrow.  Thanks for reading!