Tel Akko

Tel Akko

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

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.


  1. Keep up the good work. We hope you make a history changing discovery ! ! Bet youz guyz didn't expect to be working so hard when you were selected to go there.

    Love, Mom & Dad Zabel

  2. I'll second Mom and Dad's comments! but try not to work TOO hard ... <3 - Rick.