Tel Akko

Tel Akko

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Home Sweet Home

After 28 hours of travel, most of us have returned home from our expedition. (A few are staying longer or making stops along the way to visit loved ones.) The past 2 1/2 weekks have been challenging, strenuous, joyful, and sometimes painful as we have immersed ourselves in educational and cultural situations far outside of our comfort zones.

This has been a life-changing experience for me, leaving me, as life-changing experiences often do, with more questions than answers. Questions about what I have seen and done, questions about my own strengths and weaknesses, questions about my future. The questions go on and on. But ya' know, I think I like it that way.

Friday, July 30, 2010

California Here We Come!

Thirteen of the PSR contingent to Tel Akko are sitting here in Gate C8 at the Tel Aviv airport waiting for our flight to Philadelphia, then San Francisco. Hal is staying for the post tour, and Aaron will be heading back in a couple of days.

We have been hard at work closing down the excavation over the past few days. Yesterday we had a blast moving hundreds of bags of dirt by lining up and handing or tossing the bags down the line. Everyone got filthy. This morning, a small group of volunteers went back to the Tel to finish up. I got to help Yachim clean out the shed where are the tools and gear are stored, then put everything in for next season.

Getting to the gate at an Israeli airport can be a very lengthy process. At several points along the way we had to show our passports and answer questions posed by security officials. They are very thorough. The questions might be about where we were, why we were in the country, whether we have relatives in the country, what our religion is, and many more topics. More than one official might ask the same questions to try to trip up people who are not telling the truth. They also separate members of the same group to question them separately. Because we were all given Tel Akko t-shirts, most of us had our checked bags searched. Mostly what they saw was a lot of dirty, stinky clothes!

As we have approached the end of our trip, a common conversation theme has been what we will eat when we get home. I, for one, am looking forward to returning to my practice of eating at least one ripe, creamy, California avocado every day.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Dig Tasks We Love - The Final Episode

Dear Blog Followers,
Sorry to be posting this so much later than planned. Our schedule is so packed it can be challenging to find a time to blog!

Here are Ana and Jacob carrying dirt and two photos of Ashley and Cathy filling sand bags with the dirt we are removing from our squares.

We are starting to close the dig down, and the dirt bags will be used to fortify the baulks (false walls between squares) so that they will resist erosion during the winter and stay in good shape for the dig next season.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

More of What We Love

Here are more things we love to do on the dig. Caroline is sketching. Libby loves to sweep. She has found a small bead and a tiny stone token, so you know she is carefully looking through her sweepings. Melanie loves to wield the pick ax. Aaron is taking the "supervisor's pose." He looks kind of fierce in the photo, but he is actually the most loving and patient of supervisors.

Eric especially loves using Aaron's small hand pick, a patiche (please excuse the spelling), and my favorite task is taking huge rocks out with a pick ax. Stay tuned for more tomorrow.

What We Love to do on the Dig

Today I took a walk around the dig and asked people what they love to do on the dig. Here are some of the people and their responses: Cindy likes making the walls straight. Samuel loves pushing the wheelbarrel. Jose is sweeping up dirt. Kim loves to dig with a hand pick. Jason loves everything. Here he is, digging in the dirt. More pics in another post...

What do you get excited about?

We are here, immersed in a culture very different from our own and work more physically challenging than any of us is accustomed to. This experience will change each of us. I noticed one big change today. We went to lunch, hungry from seven hours of physical labor, and there were plums! Beautiful, ripe plums. Several us got very excited. We took two each and were nearly giddy with anticipation of eating a fruit that was not apples (which we have at every meal) or watermelon (with which we are gifted often when we are working). Simple pleasures which we routinely ignore have become valuable gifts when they present themselves.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Most Significant Find of the Day

To the right you can see some important tools of the trade for an archaelogical expedition in a hot climate: boots, sturdy work gloves, hat, bandana, sunscreen, water, and wait... What's sitting on top of the water bottle?

Before I tell you what's balanced on top of my water bottle, I need to give you a little background information. I am assigned to a square in our dig called "PP2," with my peer Eric, another PSR student. We have been working on our square for three days now. The first step was cleaning up loose material and separating the dirt from pieces of broken pottery and other material evidence such as bones and shells. After we cleaned for a day and a half, our professor Aaron Brody made a tentative call that what we were working on was an ancient collapse, and we began excavating: carefully removing dirt from between rocks and articulating the edges. It is fairly slow work because anything can be in there and it's important to keep things intact.

This morning as I was removing some dirt and other material that was over a foot or so below the level of the highest rocks in our square, my hand pick hit something that sounded suspicious. I cleared away the packed dirt carefully, and suddenly a rusty metal loop came into view. It was a bucket handle, the very one you see in the photo.

The bucket handle was not what we were hoping to find, but it proved to be the most significant find in PP2 for the day, as it proved conclusively that we were digging, not in an ancient collapse, but in a rubble pile or fill left by a late 20th century archaeological expedition. Eric and I got to demo the whole square down to the level of the handle, and maybe tomorrow we will find an ancient level underneath. None of the work we have done so far has archaeological significance.

What is quite apparent is that the spiritual practice of non-attachment is crucial for this field, as well as for a peaceful life. As long as we focus on the process and don't get attached to any particular outcome, all is well. If we get attached to a particular outcome, pain of some sort almost certainly follows.