Begun: Sat 11 May 2013 10:48:27 PM EDT US
Arrived today at Kibbutz Jezreel, just in time to leave luggage in room and go to dining room
for Shabbat meal.
Rachel from Kibbutz Jezreel welcoming archaeologists
Toured the site. Viewed the lower slopes near spring and upper slopes near the site on the top
of the mound, excavated in the 1990's.
Winepress (or possibly olive press) hewn into base rock.
"Winepress from Naboth's vineyard!"
well ... it is a winepress, and the narrative about Jezebel is a good story ....
The kibbutz held its "Harvest Festival" today. It was rather late, as rainfall had disrupted plans for holding
it on the festival of Shevuoth.
Among other events, a number of tractors paraded, and then performed a "dance", interweaving and wheeling.
Remaining team members arrived. Staff went to Afulah, the nearest town, to hire more vehicles,
and get last minute supplies.
They picked up members from the Tel Aviv bus station and Lod airport.
First day of actual digging. We dig in 5x5 m squares, leaving 1 m between each square unexcavated as a "control".
Once material is removed, it cannot be put back.
As much as possible we dig under shades to protect us from the hot Israeli sun.
Setting up the squares, before the shades were put up.
Staff and team members are now beginning to settle into the routine: we get up at 4 am each day
to leave at 5 am for the site, to do as much digging as possible before it gets too hot to work.
Setting up the shades as the sun rises.
Today we got the sandbags around the squares: we now look like a proper dig! The sandbags help to reinforce the baulks (the unexcavated space between the squares), so that they will not collapse as we dig further down. We are getting below the surface topsoil in all squares now.
We are digging in two separate areas this year. One area is located on a small rise overlooking the spring (Ein Jezreel). It is called Area S (for "Spring"), and is divided into two sections: S North and S South. The other is on the main part of the tel or mound, and is called area M.
I am the registrar for both sections of Area S. My job is to record all of the finds each day, including pottery, flints, animal bones, basalt grindstones--whatever we happen to dig up!
Me in my "office" in Area S. You can see part of S North (nearest the Jezreel Valley and spring) in the background.
Geoffrey is square supervisor in square S9 of Area S South. The "S" in his square number has nothing with Area S; his square number is assigned by the grid system laid over the site to identify where we are digging. (It is tied in to the Israel National Grid.) Each square has a square supervisor and two other team members working in that square. Each area has one or two Area Supervisors, and the whole dig has two co-directors.
Square S9 and tumble of stones
Saturday is Shabbat--or Sabbath--which is a day of rest following the beginning of Shabbat on Friday night (cf. Genesis 1: "and there was evening and there was morning, the first day"). That means no digging! Instead, I spent the morning catching up on paper work. In the afternoon we all went to tour Megiddo, another archaeological site nearby, where nearly all the staff had dug in the past. Since Geoffrey and I hadn't been there since 2004 it was quite a homecoming.
This altar was in use in the Bronze Age. It is found in area J, where Geoffrey worked
Another day off from digging. So right after breakfast we headed off north. First we stopped at Tel Hazor, the largest tel in Israel during the Middle and Late Bronze Ages (ca. 2200--1200 BCE). There was also a smaller Iron Age city. These cities are mentioned in the Bible in the books of Joshua, Judges and Kings.
From there we went to two places which had springs that are sources of the Jordan river. The first was a site now called Banias, because of a grotto and Roman temples to the god Pan. In the Bible it was the site of Caesarea Philippi.
Then we went to Dan, which is now a nature reserve as well as site of the tel of the ancient city. It is named in the Bible as the northernmost point of the kingdom of Israel.
This remarkable preservation of a Bronze Age Mud Brick gate occurred because the gate went out of use and was covered soon after it was built
Excitement in Area S North! We have a wall!
The stalwart team members in area S North have been slogging through a week of clearing rubble stones, excavating more stones than dirt. Now a line of stones that looked promising last week proved to be the beginning of an ancient wall. This means we are getting below the surface layers,and in some squares we are now clearly digging in the Early Bronze Period, ca 2500 BCE.
Our "new" wall in Area S North--two courses deep, and counting ....
Every day during the last half hour or so before lunch, a group of team members go down to the spring to wash all the pottery collected that day. The age of the pottery tells us what archaeological period we are digging in.
Now we have gotten below the topsoil and subsoil level which had a mix of pottery from Neolithic all the way to Byzantine and even modern (in Area M). In area S we are now digging almost exclusively in the Early Bronze Period
Pottery washing in the spring of Jezreel
We opened a new square in Area S North today, next to the square where we have our wall. We hope to be able to trace this wall. We had an idea that there might be walls here because before we started to dig the whole area was scanned by a technique, similar to Radar, called Lidar. These scans gave us an idea where there might be promising remains--which has proven accurate!
Lidar image (left) and Lidar image with aerial photograph overlay, of the area above the spring, showing (in red) where there may be walls
Today we stopped work about an hour earlier because of a khamsin. Khamsin is a hot wind from the desert and is taken from the Arabic word for 'fifty', which is about the number of days in the year we get these hot winds. The wind was tugging at our shades and blowing dust in our eyes and made digging impossible.
We usually leave the tell at about 1 pm and go straight to lunch, but today we left at about 12:15, so early lunch and more time for our early afternoon nap.
An overview of Area S North with their new square: no wind and dust, just a hot air balloon!
It is hard to believe that half of our time is gone already. Friday evening starts Shabbat, so we stop digging about half an hour early since they close the dining room early in order to prepare it for the evening meal.
After lunch Geoffrey and I quickly packed a bag to travel to Tel Aviv in order to catch a bus to Jerusalem where we will spend the weekend with our good friends Gaby Barkay and Esther Yerushalmi. We had to get there at least an hour before sundown, as all the buses stop running for the Sabbath. So our Shabbat meal was in Jerusalem.
A view of Ramat Rachel, one of the suburbs of Jerusalem, from Gaby's patio.
Shabbat, a time of rest and prayer.
After breakfast Geoffrey and I walked with Gaby and Esther to their local synagogue for the 3-hour morning service.
After the service there was a light luncheon, today given by members in honor of their grandson. One of the other members of the congregation that I met was a rabbi from Toledo, Ohio, my hometown.
After sundown, when Shabbat was over, we joined hundreds of Israelis for an evening stroll along a new promenade where the old railway (1892, oldest in the Near East) ran; followed by dinner at a local restaurant--in what was an old warehouse of the railway.
Looking E towards the Judaean wilderness from Gaby's patio.
After breakfast we said goodbye to Gaby and went to a new mall outside of Jaffa Gate to meet our good friend Ginger Caessens for lunch.
Then we wandered around the Old City of Jerusalem for a few hours until it was time to meet the group from the dig who were also in Jerusalem for the day.
Then we drove back to the kibbutz by the road through the Judaean wilderness and up the rift valley road. The wilderness is a desert and is beautiful in its barrenness.
After dinner it is off to bed, because morning comes early on dig days!
A suq in the Old City of Jerusalem
Most of the team members are here for the full four weeks, but a few of them left us last week, and we gained a few new team members for the last two weeks. It hardly seems possible we are halfway done now! But the addition of new team members is an excellent excuse for a tour. so the people who had been digging in area M on top of the tel came to visit us before breakfast to see what we have done; and then after breakfast we all went to area M. It is amazing what they have accomplished in two short weeks! They have exposed a long stretch of bedrock which has some pits, cisterns, and a possible tomb. There is a thick plaster floor of the Crusader period and a few walls. Most impressive!
Area M before and after excavation
Each afternoon that we do have a field trip to a local site, we have pottery reading at 4pm and then a lecture after dinner. At pottery reading we look through all of the pottery that we have found and washed the day before. We save all the pottery that can help us to determine which archaeological periods are represented. We call these pieces of pottery "diagnostics". They are mostly rims and decorated body sherds, and sometimes also handles and bases.
Then these diagnostic sherds are photographed with the tag telling us exactly which locus they came from. They are then kept to serve as a record of what period we are digging in. Nogah Blockman is our pottery reader. Geoffrey is the photographer for all of the pottery from all of the loci on the dig. (A locus is the exact location where the pottery was found.)
At table, clockwise: Me, Ian, Nogah and Julye. Team member in sun in background
Moving day for about half of all the team members! The goal of this season in Area S was to get down far enough beneath the top soil to determine if there was any habitation in this area and to start to reveal that stratum or layer, which we had done. Already last week two teams in Area S North left there squares to open up new ones, and today was the turn of two squares in Area S South. Ironically, these two teams of Area S South are now further north than Area S North!
The team in square R9 has moved to R17, and Geoffrey and his team have left square S9 for Q17. Even Area M was on the move, having accomplished their goals at the top of the tel, they are now working to reveal more of the area around the winepress (see photo for Saturday 18th May).
Area S South striking its shades to move north
The part of Area S South that moved yesterday (including me) spent the day getting acclimatised to their new squares. My office got moved four times, trying to find the best place for it that was out of the sun as well as out of the way of the wheelbarrow paths to the dump. Together with the new squares I also got a secondary job of scorpion re-locater. We do not kill snakes or spiders of scorpions that e dig up, we re-locate them to new homes away from the squares.
Also, in Geoffrey's square the order was to pickaxe quickly down to a suspected occupational level, but after the first round they came across a lot of mud brick, so digging had to slow down to try to figure out why there was so much mudbrick at that level. **UPDATE**: Seeing it by next morning's light it was decided that it was "natural"--perhaps formed by the moles that insist on making molehills in the squares.
A scorpion unearthed: to be re-located carefully
note type of soil
As we are excavating, we are of course removing all of the finds as we go along. Since once they are removed they can never be replaced, we need to keep detailed records not only of what was taken from where, but also how deep the material was that was excavated. For that we take levels. In Area M (who are now Area K, since they are now excavating the winepress) they use a standard theodolite called a "dumpy level". No-one seems to know why or how it got this name. Down in Area S we use a new super-dooper type of theodolite known as a Total Station. It uses the reflection of a laser beam from a prism to measure distances. It has a computer in the sighting device, so once the level is taken (after it has been calibrated from known points) the height above (or below) sea level is automatically calculated, and the placement of the artefact or pottery bucket is tabulated and the co-ordinates are given so that we can locate it precisely on the Israeli National Grid.
Nate and the Total Station
We had the morning to spend as we wished, which for me mainly meant doing laundry, how exciting! We soak our dirty laundry in pottery (or dirt) buckets that have lost their handles. Then we rinse it out by hand and hang it up in the sun to dry.
Then ,after lunch we went to an Israeli village toward the coast, called Zichron Ya'akov. It is a modern village,, albeit quite touristy, even to the point of having shops and restaurants open on Shabbat.
Then we went on to the site of Caesarea on the coast, arriving there after 5 pm when there was no longer an entrance fee. Caesarea is a port city mentioned in the New Testament, but it is an artificial port that Herod the Great had constructed. Herod also had aqueducts built in order to bring water into the city, as it had no good natural water source.
After visiting the aqueducts, we went into the ancient city centre (it is an enormous site, complete with a theatre and a hippodrome (race course). We had dinner in a nice restaurant in the ancient city, since the kibbutz doesn't serve dinner on Saturday night.
Top view of upper aqueduct at Caesarea
Side view of upper aqueduct at Caesarea
After breakfast we took off down south to visit the site of Gezer. Gezer is mentioned in 1 Kings 9:15 as one of the three cities that Solomon fortified. It was a major Israelite city, but the ancient tel is quite a ways off the beaten track in modern times, and is therefore not as well known as others. Lately they have been excavating out the large water system at the site which had been excavated earlier but has silted up. The water system consists of a deep shaft (approx. 130 feet down), connecting to an 80 foot long tunnel that led out to the water source. It is still in the process of being excavated, so the tunnel may be even longer. To get to as far as they have excavated so far one needs to crawl. Needless to say, I didn't get anywhere near the end but Geoffrey did. He went as far as was humanly possible.
After a picnic lunch at the site we went to visit the Kimmel Center for Archaeological Research at the Weizmann Institute. It was most interesting to see all the scientific equipment that they use to analyze archaeological finds and soil deposits. The infra-red spectroscopy unit analyses the molecular nature of samples, while the Mass Spectrometer uses a Linear Accelerator to measure the ratio of Carbon 14 to Carbon 12, and hence the age of organic material--e.g. seeds or charcoal.
Then back to the kibbutz for dinner and an early night. No lectures on days when there are field trips
Team members in tunnel where you start crawling.
Dan Warner is explaining the construction of the tunnel.
We are excavating a lot of flint. Almost every pottery bucket that we have has flint associated with it. This is very unusual. And most of the flint we uncover has signs of being worked--it is either a blade or scraper, or a blade or scraper in the process of being shaped, or the flint core (the part of the flint nodule left behind after to tool has been flaked off).
We collect the flints separately and have to wash all of the flints just as we have to wash all of the pottery. One afternoon we had a "flint washing party" and got all of the flints we have excavated so far washed. Now the tools need to be separated and marked accordingly
Team members washing flint in buckets
A lot more stones are starting to come up in Geoffrey's new square, Q17. He left his old square, S9, when a carpet of stones came up, and now he has another carpet of stones! Te square right next to him both times did not have anywhere near the amount of stones that he has had. They seem to be deliberately placed here. They are too thick and too prevalent to be natural, and a lot of broken basalt vessels are scattered in amongst the stones. They were probably laid down to form a foundation for something on top.
Meanwhile, in Area S North they have 2 more walls for sure and a few possible walls. The poor folks in Area S South would love even just one wall! There have been a few possible walls in Area S South, but so far none of them have been confirmed as a wall.
Q17, stone layer as seen early morning, Friday 14 June
Since this is the last week of the dig, as each square gets to a good stopping point, it closes. Today two squares closed--one from Area S South. The people working in those squares have been put to work at the kibbutz, writing the locus and pottery bucket information on all of the diagnostic sherds we have saved from pottery reading, washing the bones and flints we have uncovered this week, washing, drawing and photographing all of the artefacts, etc.
Also, Sasha, our architect, is here this week to draw all of the walls and stone features in all of the areas.
The team from Area S South spent the morning sweeping their previous squares to prepare them for final photography.
After lunch and before pottery reading there was an optional tour of the studio of two kibbutzniks, one who makes pottery and the other who sculpts in basalt. Basalt is one of the hardest materials to work. It was a good learning experience for the team members to see how a lot of this material we are digging up could have been made in antiquity.
Sasha, our draughtsman, plotting the winepress of Area K
Last day of actual digging for Area S. The folks in the winepress are still going strong, clearing out the whole installation there. I think they will keep on digging tomorrow until someone comes to take the tools out of their hands! (The tools are borrowed, and have to be returned to Jerusalem for a dig starting there on Sunday.) Before the sun came up we took final photographs of the original squares of Area S South. Then the shades came down in the rest of Area S, for them to be ready for final photography. The intensity of the sun after the shades came down really made us all the thankful hat we do work under shades--some sites don't use them, and it can be blisteringly hot. Just yesterday it was over 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38+ Celsius) and it is still only early June.
We set up stakes for a fence around Area S North where they have the really deep excavated squares, so no one will accidentally fall into them, especially once the tall weeds grow back.
After lunch we had our last pottery reading, and the for credit students took their final exam. Some of us had a tour of the winepress in Area K After dinner a team will go back to the tel when the sun is low to take the final photographs. Then tonight is our final party--affectionately dubbed the Jeze-ball.
The winepress of Area K: installation hewn out of bedrock.
Compare with Saturday 18th May
After the party last night most of the team members didn't get up this morning even if they were supposed to! Out of six team members from Area S South, who were supposed to get up at the usual time to go to the site for final cleaning and photography, only three made it. Needless to say, Geoffrey was the first one up and ready to go. Despite their depleted numbers they were able to get the squares ready for photography before the sun was too high (i.e. 10 minutes after sunrise).
At 10:00 there was a tour of the top of the tel so that the team members could see what was previously excavated in the early 1990's (when both Geoffrey and I dug there).
At lunch the Team Members filled out their evaluation forms of the dig, because already they are starting to leave. Tonight there is no Shabbat dinner, since all the kibbutz members are having a special event, so we will be having a barbecue as a kind of farewell, since by tomorrow evening all of the team members will have gone.
Leaving the site empty