It’s been awhile since I’ve written. Tomorrow I’ll be heading up to Kibbutz Kfar Szold where I’ll be staying for the next month during my dig at Tel Abel-Beth Maacah.  I’ve been waiting for this day for months, and I figure that now would be a good time to work my way back and write about how I got to where I am now. The last time I wrote, I left off around December. I’ll pick up from there.

Archaeology had always seemed a distant thing to me. It was something which only existed in movies and only super-human  onscreen characters such as Indiana Jones could participate in it. It would be a lie to say that Indiana Jones didn’t make me at least think about becoming an archaeologist as a kid. How could anybody watch the Indiana Jones movies without even slightly craving the constant adventure his life seems to hold. Indiana Jones is smart, witty, worldly, a hero, and pretty much everything else a young boy would strive to be. This image was both inspiring, and intimidating. It seemed to me that only someone who possessed all of these qualities could become an archaeologist. I had never met an archaeologist and so my only real image of one came directly from the movies.

Once I began to research, I quickly discovered that archaeology in the movies was a very different thing than real archaeology. Archaeology wasn’t about fighting bad guys and going out to save the world with magical artifacts. Archaeology was hard work akin to a construction site. Archaeology was a method in which the past could be reconstructed using the smallest pieces of physical evidence. Archaeology was a great search for both knowledge and truth. In some ways, this made it more appealing to me.

I don’t know when I started relating to my teachers my interest in Archaeology. However, I’m certainly glad that I did. After telling one of the teachers in my school’s Jewish studies department about my interest, he offered to email an archaeologist he knew and to arrange a meeting between me and her. I was beyond excited. I arranged to meet her at her home on January 4th.

When I arrived at her house, the first thing that I noticed was that nearly every corner of every room was filled with a multitude of books covering nearly every civilization known to the ancient world. I had never seen so many books specifically about the subjects in which I was interested. I was in total awe. This set the stage for a great meeting. She was very warm and friendly and very prepared to answer questions both about her own experience, and how I could begin to take my own steps towards a career in archaeology. As we talked it was apparent that she loved what she did and that her knowledge about all things related to the ancient world was immense. I had never had a chance to interact with a person who was so knowledgeable, and this was both amazing and inspiring. When I asked her about how I could get myself on a dig during the summer, she provided me with a list of digs in Israel and said that she would be glad to send a letter of recommendation to any of them if age became a problem. With this in mind, I returned home and began to enthusiastically look through the available digs.

My first choices for digs were originally Tel Hazor, Ashkelon, and Tel Lachsih. I had done some basic research on them and they were all very interesting. However, when I sent these suggestions to her to see what she thought, she recommended that I participate in a different dig entirely. She gave me various reasons as why not to participate in the other digs. The chief one of these was that each of them was very large and as a result might not be a great choice for a first dig. She instead recommended I look at Abel-Beth Maacah.  She told me that Abel-Beth Maacah had a great staff and that they care very much about their volunteers. She said that it was a smaller dig where I would have a chance to  interact with the staff who would take a greater interest in my personal experience. This sounded like everything a first dig should be. I decided to look at their application and to apply.

It has been almost 5 months since then. Tomorrow, I’m going to travel to kibbutz Kfar Szold where I will meet the team I’ll be digging with. On Monday, I’m going to start digging for the first time.

My next post will be in two days. It will cover my first day of digging and my first day at the Kibbutz.

Julian Hirsch