I’m an energetic guy. I like to move around and do physical things and I’m usually one of the few people awake during the first period of school. That being said, I think I finally found an activity which can truly exhaust me. Our work days are long and at times they do drag on. On the other hand though, they’re extremely rewarding. I’m meeting some great people, learning a bunch, and even discovering some cool and interesting artifacts.
It’s amazing how fast our group came together. While all of our breaks on the first day were awkward and dull, by the second day, most of us were talking and genuinely having a great time. We spend every waking moment of our day together from sunrise until the moment we go to sleep. We eat our meals together, we dig together for almost 8 hours a day, and we wash pottery together. I’m very lucky that our group is so great. It’s full of genuinely interesting people from a multitude of backgrounds. Despite our differing backgrounds, we are all united by an amazing amount of passion for the discipline of archaeology that honestly astounds me. Everybody that is on this dig wants to be here, and the people who are leaving early wish they were staying the whole time.
The work I did throughout the remainder of the week was pretty much the same as it was during the first day. However, as the week went on I began to discover what it was that made the digging so compelling. Digging in archaeology isn’t just about doing physical labor. It’s incredibly stimulating mentally as well. As you dig down you hypothesize the meaning of every overturned stone and every change in soil consistency. The best part is that you can eventually see if you were right by digging down further into the ground. In addition, having a partner to dig with makes everything much easier. We dig for 8 hours a day, and it certainly keeps things moving to have a person to talk to. There’s also a great amount of fun to be had in trying to fit together various pieces of pottery in order to see if the tiny sherds make up a larger artifact.
For much of the week, my partner and I were working in a rather small area looking for the floor. We never really found the floor, but during our dig down, we found some rather interesting things. After our second day we found a stone in the center of our area which we thought would come out rather simply. However, every time we dug down, this stone appeared to be growing larger and larger. At this point, we’ve dug down over two feet and still haven’t reached the bottom of the stone. It appears to be shaped by human hands, but it is still a very strange stone. We still don’t know if it’s a part of the floor or floating or what it’s purpose might have been.
Another curious find in our square was some very nicely shaped stones below the main wall that was uncovered from last year. While the wall uncovered last year is made up of small, and unworked stones, we have found a series of stones underneath which are much longer and certainly worked. We’re as of yet unsure as to whether they belong to an earlier wall and were placed there to increase the height of the later wall, or whether they were simply moved to build this wall from another location.
Some of the cool finds in other areas have included a complete wash basin, strangely shaped rock formations which almost like canals, and even a dog skeleton. The dog skeleton was the most interesting to observe, because such meticulous care was taken in order to ensure it’s preservation. The team that took the dog skeleton out of the ground did an amazing job and it was very cool to watch them handle the delicate bones and eventually remove them.
There is far more to an archaeological dig than just the excavation. Once we get back to our kibbutz, we have to rinse our pottery in preparation for pottery washing after our afternoon break. Pottery washing takes a very long time because we have to ensure that each piece of pottery is being scrubbed so that no dirt residue remains. Over the course of thousands of years dirt can get pretty attached and sometimes it takes a ton of scrubbing to ensure a good job. Pottery washing usually takes more than an hour. We begin by each taking a bucket full of pottery. We scrub all of the dirt off of the pottery in our buckets and once we’re finished, we go on to help another person who has more pottery to scrub. All in all, this usually takes a bit more than an hour. Although it can be rather tiring, it brings everybody closer together as we chat throughout and also help one another to finish up the seemingly endless streams of pottery to wash.
Sometimes after pottery washing we have evening lecture. So far the lectures have been extremely interesting. One of them covered the history of the site itself, another covered the history of pottery interpretation, and the last one we had covered the historicity of the book of Joshua in relation to the archaeological record. The lectures so far have been very compelling and I only wish that I had more energy to give to paying attention. In the second week maybe I’ll drink coffee or something before the lectures.
Although we have only had it twice up until this point sometimes after our dinner we have pottery sorting. During pottery sorting we have to examine each piece of washed pottery to see if they perhaps have an inscription, or to see if they have any sort of indicatives to give us an idea of the age of the rest of the pottery. Usually the best indicative is a pottery rim. During pottery sorting, our supervisors have been teaching us to recognize and age different kinds of pottery based on their rims. It’s hard to keep track of the differences between an iron age cooking pot and a Phoenician pithos, but I assume that I’ll get better at it with practice.
So far I’m having a great time on the dig. It’s tiring, but rewarding. I can’t wait to get started with week two after a nice long deserved rest.