My first week at Abel Beth Maacah this season has been truly exceptional. While I had expected that I would feel a greater sense of belonging than I did last year, I’ve so far felt completely at home and being here has made me happier than I’ve been in awhile. I recently had the chance to look back at the updates I wrote last year. Reading them allowed me to reminisce and made me really excited get back to writing about my experiences. So…I guess I’ll just start up.
I arrived at Kibbutz Kfar Szold on Sunday night. I had been looking forward to seeing everybody from last year, and it was great to see that nearly half the group was made up of returnees. I also found out on Sunday night that I would be working in Area A again. I had been hoping to work in Area A again because I wanted to be able to see a direct continuation of the work that I had done last year. In addition, most of the staff for the Area was the same as last year’s and I was looking forward to working with them again.
Waking up on the first morning was a mixed bag. Adjusting to the archaeology sleep cycle is never easy, but my excitement to finally be starting pulled me through. I was really happy to learn that I would be starting with Drew and Diane Benton again. Dianne taught me to dig last year so I knew that working with her would give me a much needed review of procedure. We started working in the area I had started in last year at the most northwest part of Area A, right next to the slope. My first assignment was to go down on the left side of the north south wall in our area. Doing this allowed us to better reveal the size of what we believed to be a threshold. Once the threshold was revealed, we stopped going down and were told to start focusing on taking apart the large wall which enclosed our section.
Taking down the wall was enjoyable because it mostly involved picking up huge rocks and throwing them down the hill. Eventually we took down the top portion of the wall which allowed Nava and the rest of the supervisors to start playing around with stratigraphy. They decided that the level of A-4 was made up of the less well cut rocks and that A-5 was directly below and made up of the much finer worked stones. They also found a threshold in the A-5 wall which had been filled in with a hard white plaster like material which appears throughout various parts of the site.
The day after that was especially fun for me. Drew and I worked on the side of the slope cutting back the hill and the wall which ran right down to it. Even though the day was mostly about moving large quantities of dirt, taking down a balk is always fun, and I got to use the pick axe for most of the day which is a welcome change from the slow pace that usually accompanies going down any sort of measurable distance. The balk also had a bunch of large pieces of pottery from an iron i pithos. It’s always really cool to find a bunch of pieces which fit together so it was really nice have that experience of finding a nice pottery assemblage for the first time this year. We also started finding stones in our area which may belong to A-6, the next strata down. As of yet we’re not sure whether or not this stone wall belongs to the Late Bronze period or the Iron I period, but everybody hopes that it belongs to the Late Bronze because it would allow us to start studying the transition between these two key periods at our site.
On Thursday and Friday I was moved into the other part of area A, where I had worked at the end of last year. This year a couple of new squares were opened back there and my job was to help take down one area to expose a continuation of a wall. This was particularly frustrating due to the material we were cutting through. For the last two seasons at Abel, we’ve encountered a thick white chalky substance which at one point we thought was a plaster and at one point was even suggested to be a type of mud brick. The truth is, we have no idea what it is. But, what it is for sure is difficult to dig through. My partner and I spent two days digging down a third of a square less than 10 centimeters. The most difficult bit was that we were trying to find a continuation of a wall, so towards the bottom we could only use hand tools because we wanted to make sure we didn’t damage the top of it. Also, we had to constantly clean our surface in order to ensure that we knew which areas we were too high and where we needed to go down. At the end of Friday we had exposed the top of about half the wall.
All in all, my first week was amazing. I’m so happy to be back and I’m having so much fun. The people are great this year and I feel even better with the people I met last year. Even though the food isn’t great and despite the copious amounts of hand wash, I wouldn’t trade what I’m doing now for anything.