The last week of an archaeological dig is all about tying up all loose ends and preparing the site for the next season of digging. Nothing we do can be too ambitious. All digging must be extremely conservative because by the end of the season, we want to finish at as best a place as we can. This could mean a floor, a notable structure, or even an artifact.

On Monday I was assigned to yet another new area. As a result of digging more than we were expected to in the third week in the area where I had been working,  that area was already mostly finished. As a result, I wasn’t needed to help finish it off. I was yet again reassigned to another area. My new area was great. In the previous week, an entire vessel had been unearthed here, and after we did soil residue analysis, it was revealed that this room had high amounts of iron and bronze. In addition to being excited about digging in an interesting area, I was also excited by the prospect of digging with my roommate as a partner, and also by the closed off nature of the area I was going to be digging in. Archaeological digs can get quite hectic and loud at times, and I was looking forward to an area which was much quieter. I was not disappointed and my fourth week of digging proved to be fantastic.

My new square…nice and isolated. Great stone formations and as always the very interesting pot in the center.

On both Monday and Tuesday we went down into the soil in small increments. Since the increments were so small, it was easier to use safe handpicks as opposed to taking a chance by using overpowered pickaxes and going down further than we were supposed to. This made for some very well paced easy going work. The only trouble came from my end as my digging partners handpick was far superior to my own and as a result, it was difficult at times to ensure that we were both going down to the same level. However, we were able to figure everything out and did a really good job of going down. Most of the stuff that we found was rather ordinary, but we did find traces of 3 Tabun ovens. These were large and very interesting as they were on the same level as the pot which had been found in the previous week.

working in the trenches…

Getting the squares ready for the end of the season includes removing all artifacts that are visible. This is to protect them from the unpredictable weather which takes place throughout the year and could damage exposed artifacts. It was our job to help take out the pot. However, as my partner and I began to pick up parts of it, it shattered into many pieces. This was fine though as we were able to gather them all up and fit them into a box so that they could be reassembled later. The work that conservators do is amazing and one day it will most likely be in a museum somewhere looking good as new without any evidence to it ever having broken apart.

all of the remains of the pot…soon to be reassembled.

After the pot was removed, we leveled out the square and began to perform our final cleanup. Although we had for almost a month swept our squares every day both before starting and finishing, our supervisors had far greater expectations for the final cleanup. The purpose of this cleanup was to ensure that final photos would show an accurate representation of everything that we’ve dug down to without the interference of loose dirt blowing about. After sweeping our square for a bit, we moved on to cleaning the area around the square clearing away any rocks and brush which was in the immediate vicinity of where we had been digging.

somehow even more dirt was removed after this. The shadows are created by the shade cloth.

Following this cleanup, we were moved onto separate projects. I got a chance to cleanup a square of my own. The first thing that I had to do was take down and straighten some balks. I finally got a chance to have a pickaxe back in my hands and I had a surprising amount of fun taking the walls down. The only downside to it was that there was a tremendous amount of dirt to pick up afterwards. I picked up the dirt, and swept up my area and with that, my work at the tel was finished.

I maintain that nothing is better than a good clean balk
I maintain that nothing is better than a good clean balk

Our last day was about cleaning up back at the office. We started off with pottery washing. After this was done, I headed to our office for my next assignment. The office was hectic and everybody had something to do. I was assigned to wash some of the rocks. This was surprisingly difficult, but yet again very fun as I got to use a ridiculously overpowered hose to clean the stones. One of these was the basin that had been found in the first week. As I was hosing it, water got stuck in it, and it was quite cool to see it fulfill the function for which it had been made thousands of years ago.

nice and clean basin acting as…well a basin

I can’t believe that I’ve already finished my first dig. This experience was amazing and I can’t wait to go out into the field again. I’ve learned so much in so short a time and it really feels like only last week I was still in school. I had a great time and I would encourage anybody to go on a dig for at least one week. I don’t think that archaeology is for everyone. The schedule is difficult and things can sometimes get disorganized. However, I do believe that archaeology is for me. I’m probably going to keep writing when I get back because I have an internship at the penn museum working with the museum side of archaeology. Thank you to everybody who has been reading and keeping up with me along the way.

Julian Hirsch