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.

So You Want to Be an Archaeologist?

Do you ever wonder what archaeologists do? Indiana Jones movies and the History Channel just don't do justice to what happens in the field. I am not an archaeologist; I am a student volunteering at an archaeological excavation. Here is what I did today:

5AM First breakfast at our dorm.
5:25 AM Fetch buckets of pottery sherds that are to be discarded and get on bus to tel (the dig site)
5:35 AM Walk up to top of Tel Akko, deposit sherds, get tools, go to assigned square
5:40 AM Sweep down square with brushes to get off all the dust that blew in, was carried in by animals, was tracked in by people who had the audacity to walk through our site after we brushed it down yesterday.
5:50 - 9:00 - finish excavating narrow strip between Persian wall and the balk (the zone between excavated squares) sorting out pottery, shells, bones, and anything else of interest. Carry buckets of dirt and rocks to wheelbarrows which will be emptied throughout the day. Remove a couple centimeters of hard-packed soil with a pickax to get down to an ancient floor. Brush dirt away continuously and carry away buckets of dirt and rocks. Take measurements with a transit and stadia rod or tape measures.
9AM - Second breakfast - it's a pretty posh dig, we get to sit in the shade at actual tables and eat food brought up from the facility where we are staying. (More about the food in another post)
9:30 - 12:00 - more excavation.
12:00 Tour of one square to see what is going on there, what layers they are working with, and what they are finding.
12:30 Bus back to dorms - carry buckets of pottery on the bus and back to the washing area.
1:15 - Lunch
1:30 - 3:30 - break
3:30 - Team meeting for PSR team (not an every day event)
4:00 - 6:00 - Wash pottery paying attention for special pieces
6:00 - Lecture (I'm doing this for degree credit) - Tonight's lecture is regarding Jewish Pilgrimage.
7:00 - Dinner
ASAP - Fall into bed - We rise again tomorrow at 4:45 AM.

Now, if you think that the heavy duty work of bucket-carrying and pickax-swinging is confined to volunteers, you are way, way off base. Archaeologists, full professors from a number of colleges and universities were doing *exactly* the same thing. Yes, they were also giving directions and assigning tasks, but they definitely worked as hard as I did or harder and got just as dirty. And they have to do enormous amounts of paperwork that the least experienced among us are spared. And they take the time to teach their students as we work.

Speaking of being dirty, I have no recollection of ever being this dirty or tired. I also don't remember ever having this much fun. I mean really, who doesn't enjoy digging in the dirt looking for treasure? And by the way, we are finding treasure in the form of extremely cool artifacts every day.

Monday, July 19, 2010

At the Dig

Today was our first dig day. The other schools have been here two weeks and done a ton of cleanup and prep work. The bus left promptly at 5:30AM for the tel, and after a short orientation, we were put to work. We cleared walls and unearthed pottery sherds, beads, and stone weights. We hauled dirt and pushed wheelbarrows. It was an awesome day, but I have never been more tired in my life.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Pottery washing photos

Kim is now a pro pottery washer. Her pieces are from the Persian era. Beth found a huge animal molar. We do not know which type of animal it came from. Melanie found the most coveted sherd, as it has writing on it. Inscriptions provide great clues about where and when pieces originated. Rebecca, Ana, Jose, Jason, & Eric, found many cool pot pieces - no Q source yet, but give us time. Posted by Nancy

Pottery Washing

We had pottery washing basic training today and then spent two hours washing pottery sherds that ranged from the Iron Age to the Persian Period. Our group washed several interesting pieces including a large piece of Iron Age jar, amphora toes, jar handles, a large tooth, and the first inscrition found in this dig. It was very cool to handle this pottery and feel a connection to the people who made it and used it and wrote on it thousands of years ago.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

We're back from our trip to Jerusalem. After a 2 hour bus ride we entered the old city at the eastern gate to the plaza and the wailing wall. The wailing wall was a retaining wall for the temple mount where the temple was. This wall was built by Herod. We were in the old city on the Jewish sabbath so there were a lot of people praying at the wall. Many of the people at the wall were Orthodox Jews. One of the suprises for me was the stones we walked on through out the city were worn down and very slick from so many people walking on them over the years. From the wailing wall we entered the Moslem quarter of old town and went to a resturant where we had falafal, humus for lunch. The resturant was at the beginning of the Via Dela Rosa where Christ was thought to have carried the cross to his cruxifixication. After lunch we walked the street past the different stations of the cross that led us to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre where the cruxifixication was thought to have taken place and where one of the possible locations of Jesus' tomb was thought to be. The church houses five different Christian Orthodox denominations. These donominatios do not get along together. We saw the Armenian and Syrian side of the Church and the Coptic side where the tomb was thought to be. This was covered with a chaple that was being visited by many tourists from all over the world. From there we walked the market place and then met our bus back to Akko.
Jason and I went down to the wailing wall and it was quite a sacred experience. It boggles the mind that so many people have prayed at this wall over the years. It was a very hot day and I ran out of energy during the visit of the Church and was glad to find a place to sit and watch the people worshiping.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Akko Tour Pictures

Akko Tour Pictures

Here's our delegation at the beginning of our tour. We weren't quite as good looking at the end, but we each had a lovely glow.

Akko Tour

After our 5 AM walk along the beach (yea jet lag) and our introduction to the 24-hour-a-day coffee and tea, we had breakfast and headed off on our walking tour of crusader period Akko. Our guide was wonderfully knowledgeable as well as humorous and opinionated :-). We walked through building after building hearing about Crusader and Hellenistic periods and about the excavations. We saw, among other things, the dungeon, pilgrim graffiti, and, according to our guide, "the place even the king has to walk," the crusader not-so-sanitary facilities. We walked/stooped through a Templar tunnel and then gawked our way through the marketplace.

Pictures coming soon.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Akko 5:00 AM Stroll by the Sea

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles

Well... our delegation has now been wake for roughly 27 or 28 hours, some more, some less. We have spent about 5 hours in airports, 15 hours on airplanes, a half hour waiting for one member to go through extra screening at passport control in Tel Aviv, and 2 hours on a train. We are safely ensconced in our quarters and hopefully falling asleep soon. Tomorrow we tour Akko, on Saturday Jerusalem.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Signing in...and out...from Philadelphia

The delegation has spent the day flying cross-country from San Francisco to Philadelphia, and we are about to board our flight to Ben Guerion Airport in Tel Aviv. Not many of us got a lot of sleep last night, so hopefully we will all be able to nod off on the flight to Israel. Everyone is in good spirits and looking forward to our soon-to-be escapades in the Holy Land. This is the point in the post where I would insert an Indiana Jones reference, but I have made so many of those today that I am now only praying that my traveling companions haven't gotten tired of them...

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

One week to go!

One week from today, on July 14, we will be heading for Israel to participate in an archaeological dig at Tel Akko. This journey promises to be a lifechanging experience learning about history, archaeology, and culture. This blog is a place where we can share our experiences, thoughts, and photos.