Monday, September 12, 2011

The Adventures Continue...

If you are interested in following my experiences as a Fulbright fellow in Konya Turkey, please visit my other blog!  I hope to chronicle an exciting and challenging year as an English Teaching Fellow at Selcuk University.  In fact, I write this very blog post from Ankara, Turkey, where I am completing my training!  I arrive in Konya September 15th.  I hope you'll follow me on my adventures!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Whirlwind finish

Final shot of M11/N11
I am back in Minnesota after a wonderful 2011 season excavating at Omrit.  The final few days of our trip were extremely busy and very exciting.  We wrapped up our time at Kibbutz Kfar Szold with final photos, pottery reading, and a goodbye banquet, complete with felafel and photo slideshows!  It was bittersweet to leave the kibbutz and I miss sitting out on the lawn reading in the sun now that it is cold and rainy here in Saint Paul.

Shrine of the Book at the Israel Museum
We drove into Jerusalem Sunday morning, and went straight to the Israel Museum.  At the museum, we got a personal tour from the director of the conservation lab, Doody, and got a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the conservation lab and museum store rooms.  We also got to see the brand new Omrit installation in the Herodian architecture section of the Archaeology Wing, which was fantastic!  After our personal tour, we had around 30 more minutes to see more of the exhibition space.  Afterwards, many who were interested left for the Old City, to see the Western Wall and Church of the Holy Sepulcher.  Around 8 of us who had already experienced the Old City decided to remain at the museum to explore its galleries more fully.  Some highlights of my extra time at the museum include some beautiful illuminated folios of the Shanamah, or Persian epic poem "King of Kings," and Alexander the Great mosaic from an early church, and some reconstructed synagogues from around the world (including India, Suriname, and Venice).  I also enjoyed seeing some more modern exhibits, and after four weeks of excavating ancient Roman artifacts, my brain was thankful for the variety!

The Old City of Jerusalem
After our extra time at the Museum, we went to our hotel on Mount Scopus and had a few hours down-time before dinner.  I sat out on the hotel's terrace, and sipped a gold star while watching the sun set over the Old City.  It was a beautiful view and relaxing way to wrap up a busy day.  We drove out to Abu Ghosh, a town outside Jerusalem for dinner, and afterwards our friends from CUNY Queens left for the airport.  The Carthage students came back with us to the hotel, but left at around 1 am to go catch their flight.  When I awoke the next morning, only the Macalester students remained!

Meeting with Dalia Rabin at the Yitzhak Rabin Center

Monday was perhaps the most fulfilling and interesting day of the entire season.  We enjoyed a delicious breakfast at the hotel (real coffee!) and then squeezed into a van for a drive over to Tel Aviv for a special visit to the Yitzhak Rabin Center.  The center is dedicated to furthering peace and democracy within Israeli society, and has a special focus on education and exploring Israel's domestic diversity.  We toured the museum, and then had the great pleasure to have a private meeting with Sharon Mars, the director of International Relations, and the center's chair: Dalia Rabin, Yitzhak's daughter.  Sharon explained the center's mission and history, and Dalia answered questions.  The meeting was a great way to wrap up the work we'd been doing with Tel Hai in our Skype class and over the past few weeks in Israel.  After a few short hours at the Yithak Rabin center and in Tel Aviv, we piled back into the van and headed back to Jerusalem.

Fuat and Andy
Ice Cream in Ramallah

Once back in the City of Light, we met up with Fuat, brother of Leo (the owner of Macalester favorite Shish restaurant). Fuat took us into the West Bank, and we spent the afternoon touring the capital of the Palestinian Authority, Ramallah.  Fuat took us by Yassar Arafat's tomb, to a world famous shawarma restaurant.  Aside from shawarma, we sampled some sheep's brains, which were not as delicious as the shawarma.  Fuat then took us into the heart of Ramallah for some ice-cream, which is a unique concoction made with gum resin.  The ice cream was good, though not my favorite.  However, although the food was delicious, the actual tour of Ramallah was far more interesting.  I rode in a cab with Andy, and our cab driver was a Pan-Arabaist who had just been in Dara, heart of the recent unrest in Syria!  Listening to his musings on life as a Palestinian living in east Jerusalem, and actually seeing the visible changes once we left Israel and entered the West Bank helped us understand more fully the complexities of the conflict in Israel.  While the Rabin center focused on the extreme diversity and divisions within Israeli society, our visit to Ramallha highlighted the fractured nature of the relationship between Israel and its Palestinian neighbors.

Our visit to the Rabin center and to Ramallah fit so well together, and I think our travels and experiences on Sunday and Monday tied all our season's work together very nicely.  Our tour of the Israel Museum  highlighted how the history and artifacts from our excavation work is brought into the public sphere, where visitors from all over the world could engage and explore the past.  On the other hand, our meeting at the Rabin center and afternoon in Ramallah illustrated the complexity of attempting to attain peace in Israel-- because of divisions between Israelis and between Israelis and Palestinians.  Driving through the Kalandia checkpoint between Jerusalem and Ramallah was an eye-opening moment.  We finished the day feeling exhausted and emotionally drained, however I think many of us agreed that our experiences in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, and Ramallah were the best of the season.  We decompressed and discussed our impressions over dinner at the American Colony Hotel for our final meal, then we drove to the airport and headed our separate ways.

Friday, June 17, 2011

In the Field - Square M11

Closing Up

Well we have made it to the end of the dig.  Today we spent both the morning and afternoon sweeping out our mega-square to get it ready for final photos tomorrow.  H8, Machal's square, already took final photos, and we have spent the last week in a heightened state of activity as we scramble to get everything finished up before we leave for Jerusalem on Sunday.  The Omrit plague left us behind on site clean-up, but it seems we're about caught up today!  I will get some photos of M11/N11 tomorrow so we can have a before and after for the season.

Since we last talked about the square, we've not made much progress (because there wasn't much left to do).  We have M11 uncovered to pavers and to the monumental steps in almost the whole square.  A bit of the putative Byzantine flooring surface is left, and my squaremates took some of that out while I was out with the plague on Tuesday morning.  In N11, we took the trench down to bedrock, exposing the putative Byzantine wall which now acts as a separator between the two squares.  In the lower courses of the wall, we found a small corinthian column capital made of limestone, and a beautiful small marble capital too!

A shot of some of our Tel Hai friends from their visit on Tuesday night
Pictures, another session of pottery reading, and our final cookout tomorrow!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Tour of Square H8

Join Machal G ('12) for a tour of her square H8, located on the steps of the temple!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

In the Field - Square H8

More gnat protection from our friends in H8.  The Bedouin look is big at Omrit this year.

Back in the Field!

Phwew.  The last few days have been quite a whirlwind.  We had a semi-productive half-day in the field on Saturday, and spent the afternoon reading pottery and working on cataloguing.  No surprises from our reading—most of our pottery buckets came back as mixed and not datable.  What was datable was early Islamic or late Byzantine.  No mysteries solved from M11, but we were expecting such an outcome from our square because of the evidence of later disturbance we found as we dug.

Sunday, our off day, was very interesting.  We traveled south to Huqoq, Prof. Jodi Magness’s new site.  She is a big deal in the archaeological world and it was great to meet her and see her excavations.  She had just started the week before our visit and it would be nice to return in a few years to see what the place looks like after a couple of seasons. 

Later that evening, disaster struck.  Almost the entire excavating team came down with a horrible 24-hr bug.  The night passed miserably for most of us, and yesterday we spent still sick and recovering.  However, today we were back in the field and morale is high!  Linsday found a great glass shard—it is a bottle base, and Jodi Magness and her team returned the favor of our visit.  Now, some Tel Hai students are coming to the Kibbutz for dinner and discussion.  We are all very tired, but hopefully the meeting goes well.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

In the Field - Square H8

Gnat protection offers a wide range of fashion accessory options.  Some opt for the classic and rugged bandana wear-- Machal G ('12) shows how to apply her triple-bandana protection below.  Complex, yet elegant.

Bandana one wraps around in the typical "biker" fashion

The second bandana is applied using an innovative, reverse wrap-around technique.

The third and final bandana is applied "bandit style,"to allow maximum facial coverage. As long as one doesn't wander into any Israeli convenience stores sporting the triple-bandana coverage, it is effective, fashionable, and safe.

Tour of Square M11


Today, a tour of my square, M11, with supervisor Kate Peterson ('11).  Includes a special guest appearance by site architect Prof. Michael Nelson of CUNY Queens.  Enjoy!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Omrit Fashion Blog

Hi everyone,

I thought I'd supplement the regular updates with some shots of excavators in action and their field gear.  Today, myself and squaremate Kate P ('11) wearing some matching MUSA biking pants.  Super comfy and great for excavation in the field as well as biking.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Day 21

Today was a toughie.  The gnats were unbearable and the sun was hot.  Too hot.  We started our square extension, dubbed the "penalty box."  It is east of M11, and is technically 1 and a half meters of N11.  The surface was really tough, just like the top layer in M11.  However, we worked hard and got through locus 1 by the end of the morning.  We also spent some quality time moving our shade and complaining about the heat/bugs.  Phwew.  They were so bad.  We went in early again, and went back out in the afternoon to do more preservation work on the temple.  We moved lots of rocks and buckets of gravel.

This past week has gone by really quickly-- we've been working so hard and wading through packs of gnats.  I am looking forward to a break this weekend.  Maybe hit the kibbutz pub-- named Henrietta's after Henrietta Szold, who gave her name to the kibbutz.  Our pottery expert, Debbie, is coming this weekend and we will get our pottery "read."  That means she'll examine all of our pottery and date it and maybe tell us what type of vessel it is.  This allows us to date and interpret things we find in our square.  Super cool!

Here are some action shots from the past few days-

Machal ('12) shooting some elevations.

Director Dan Schowalter of Carthage messing about in our square.  Helping us move lots of large rocks.

Well stay tuned!  I hope to have some more video tours of other squares coming soon.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Day 20

Today the gnats were so bad that we stayed out in the field only until 10.  However, we got a great deal done in M11 and the square is pretty much completely excavated!  We cleared out all the fill and have beautiful pavers all the way from the base of the steps to the south baulk.  Here is a picture of Lindsay, Kate, and I napping on the pavers yesterday (right).  Actually, we weren't napping, we were trying to escape from the gnat onslaught.

After we came in from the field, we relaxed until 4, when we went back out into the field.  We spent the afternoon moving rocks and buckets of gravel to fill in a part of the temple in order to preserve the foundation of the beautiful frescoed temenos in the western side of the early shrine.  It is where Grace's square was working earlier.  Tonight is Nanette's last night before she returns to Minnesota to play in the Ordway's production of Guys and Dolls, and we will miss her greatly!

Here is our square yesterday, before we pulled the last fill rocks.  Tomorrow, we'll probably start heading out from our eastern balk.  We're hoping to find evidence of a propylon, or monumental gate.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Tour of the site-- Space 5-5 and the early shrine

Today, Amy Fisher gives us a tour of her square, Sp5-5.  She, Prof. Nanette Goldman, and her team are working inside the temple around the early shrine.  Enjoy!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Day 18 -- Guest Blogger

Hi Everyone!  Today guest blogger Joey Frankl (aka the froshduster) will be submitting an exciting post for your enjoyment.

Frist, a quick update.  Yesterday, our off-day, was spent visiting the famous city of Sfat, located on a hilltop in the upper Galilee.  Sfat is famous for being the seat of Kaballah (mystic Judaism) and, more recently, Jewish art.  I am not a huge fan of Sfat, but I went anyway and enjoyed walking the shady courtyards and seeing the outside of the Mamluke Red Mosque, which was closed for no reason in particular.  After Sfat, we had a quick visit to a half-excavated crusader fortress, and then got some delicicious Turkish style food on the banks of the Jordan River.  Delicious!

Now, without further ado-- a memo from Mr. Frankl:

"Greetings from Omrit! My name is Joey Frankl (or Joey the younger to many on the dig) and I will be providing a guest entry for the blog today. This past year I was a freshman (also known as a froshduster) at Mac and declared as a Classic major in the spring.
I was extremely thankful to have the opportunity to excavate at Omrit this year with a group of almost exclusively returning students. Spending time with upperclassmen and graduates has provided great insight into the future of my academic career. From everyday banter on the dig, I have realized how much I have yet to learn in classics. But I am still young and have three more years to gain the experience of my peers at Omrit. Spending time with these veterans has also shown me the legacy of academic excellence in the Macalester Classics department. Graduates working on the dig like Joey Mayer (’11) and Ben Rubin (’01) are examples of grads that were accomplished while at Macalester, and are now successful beyond. It is my hope to continue this tradition.
Now to today! As Joey mentioned earlier, my square (Eve, Maggie, and Grace) completed our work uncovering the fresco wall in the temple complex. It was a painstaking process that included the labeling, analysis, and excavation of 17 different loci! However, for those of us who have a deep passion for balk (most of us) it was quite enjoyable. So today, we began our first full day of work on our new square N-11/N12. It is located in the area known as “the town” east of the temple complex. Today’s excavations consisted of a whole bunch of pickin’ and hoein’. It was back breaking work eased by the tasty Israeli hard candy “Must” and passionate sing-a-longs to Beatles’ songs (“Something” was particularly heart wrenching). Our team adjusted well to our environment and dealt with unforeseen obstacles (like the collapse of our shade) and difficult labor with daring courage.
 At the end of the day we were still in Locus 001 having only excavated the very top layer of our square. We collected a considerable amount of pottery along with a few exciting finds: a chunk of marble and roof tiles. Despite the vicious, flesh-eating gnats, it was a beautiful day in the Galilee as sweet as a bag of chilled chocolate milk.
My time spent so far in Israel has been a dream. The combination of fantastic food, great company, and invigorating work have made the last few weeks of my life simply fantastic. I hope I can return next year and see the beautiful green hills of the Galilee for another summer!  

With fond regards,
Joey Frankl"

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Day 16

Saturday was a great day!  I woke up feeling well-rested and ready to go.  I got a ride up to the site in one of the trucks, instead of a van, and we spent the morning moving dirt in M11.  We finished cleaning up after our last session of rock-hauling, and then drew a quick top plan, and hauled some more rocks.  We are digging very quickly now and are opening new loci almost every other day as we enter new strata in the square.  We have found that at the bottom of the last step we'd uncovered, there seems to be at least three courses of pavers that form a ramp.  We are unsure whether there are more stairs, or whether the ramp continues all the way down to the level of the temple's temenos.  We finished up early because it was Saturday, and catalogued before second breakfast.  Breakfast was served in the dining hall and included yoghurt and granola (my breakfast of choice, though they didn't have goat yoghurt or fresh blueberries).

After breakfast, we relaxed, washed pottery (for too long) and read.  Grace's square finished up in the west side of the temple complex (see the picture from day 1 to get an idea of where they were digging, though that picture is from last season).  Now they are moving out into the field to dig right behind us!  Those of us in M11 are excited to have neighbors, though Grace's team members will have to adjust to excavating out in the field.  The gnats are much nastier, and the work is often more physically taxing, though involves less trowelling.  We hope to expand square karaoke (squaraoke) to include their square next week!  Here they are washing their pottery (left).

Later in the day, a van-ful went with Nanette to get some coffee and unwind after a tough week in the field.  We drove over to nearby Kibbutz Dan, and had some real iced coffee, and a delicious pear-tart.  It was a little slice of European coffee-culture in the north Galilee, and it was just what I needed to keep the heat at bay.

Around 5 pm, I went out to the pool with little Joey ('14), Kate ('11), and Amy ('07) and it was fantastic.  The kibbutz pool is usually packed on the weekend because lots of Israelis come up to Kfar Szold for a weekend getaway.  However, going late usually allows one to avoid the crowds.  Additionally, when the gnats are bad (like now), going later means the gnats are less devastatingly thick.  I got some sun, did a couple of can-openers, and relaxed.  The hot weather of the early afternoon had eased into a cool, sunny evening and the breeze was just strong enough to keep me comfortable.  I come to Omrit to enjoy moments like that.  Now we are having a cook-out and I look forward to an off-day tomorrow.  I will sleep well tonight!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Day 15

Wow!  Today was a tough one.  I woke up sluggish and exhausted... I was fast asleep at 4:30 (deep in the juju-- chasing the train) and I didn't feel fully functional until second breakfast.  Out in the field, we spent the morning preparing to photograph the stairs.  We swept the whole square out and took out a few more stones that blocked the view.  One of the rocks we pulled out of the 13th century surface that covered the stairs turned out to be a fragment of a basalt basin-- maybe a grinding basin.  We also worked on a top plan; we needed to draw all the new features before ripping out more rocks and continuing downwards.  Edward top planned with Kate and I measuring and we finished just around second breakfast.  We will reshoot the stairs tomorrow just to make sure the photos come out clearly (by the time we finally photographed them the sun was up and the shadows were too strong).  See them above.

After second breakfast, we basically ripped out more rocks!  This is the third day in the week we've done heavy rock removal and it is one of the toughest maneuvers in the field.  To add insult to injury, the gnats were the worst they've been all season, and it was hot and airless, so the long sleeve shirts and bandanas we wore were suffocating.  Nevertheless, we persevered and got the next layer of rocks out.  We spent the remainder of the morning picking and hoeing like crazy-- moving buckets almost faster than Edward could barrow them over to the dump pile!  Check out some of our gnat-protection (from 2009 season-- left).

Upon return to the kibbutz, we washed pottery (we had too much and washed for almost an hour).  Ben Rubin, class of 2001, helped us and chatted to us about his experience getting his PhD at Michigan, and his adventures as professor at Williams College.  Time passed slowly though, because the gnats were out on the kibbutz too, and ate us while we sat, helplessly washing pottery.  Because it was Friday, the Druze came over and made some delicious falafel.  We wolfed it down and then dispersed to our respective rooms to stay cool and to regroup after a morning spent besieged by gnats.  

I spent the afternoon reading and napping, and then helped Amy (class of 2007) catalogue some of her recent finds in the master database with Charlie.  I enjoyed working with artifacts from another square, especially because Amy's square is working in the temple next to the early shrine.  They are finding the coolest artifacts and found the limestone pavers which seem to predate the shrine!  I got to see some of their well-preserved unguentaria and some cool beads and figurine fragments. Check out Nanette (the other supervisor in Amy's square) perched on the early shrine, to the right!

Overall, it was another tough day, but tomorrow is a half day, and I have a falafel sandwich stashed away in my fridge to snack on!  Always look for the silver lining.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Day 14

Today was one of the longest days of the season so far, but we uncovered some very exciting finds as well!  We finally found the stairs we were looking for in M11—pictured to the right (with Lindsay doing some serious work).  The first stair was uncovered in the middle of the day, and it seemed to be at the right height and orientation to be a stair.  Then we uncovered another step, and another course above those steps.  I am very surprised that the stairs we found were in such good shape because the surface that was on top of them was so poorly constructed.  In the temple complex, Amy and Nanette’s square uncovered evidence for a building that predates the early shrine!  An even more exciting development for the site!

Most of the day was spent working very hard.  The gnats were bad again, and it was pretty hot out.  We picked and hoed pretty much all day, and Edward and I barrowed a fair amount too.  We went down almost a meter in one day, which is pretty impressive.  After a quick lunch and too-short trip to the pool, I went back out in the field to help Andy build a firebreak on the site to help out a neighbor.  It was hard work hoeing and raking the tough vegetation back and I am definitely drained.  For dinner, we went back to the winery on the kibbutz where we had a light supper and some young wine.  It was a pleasant way to close out a long, very taxing day.  Now to bed, where I will hopefully feel rejuvenated before 4:30 tomorrow.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Day 13

Today was less buggy but not as fun as yesterday out in the field.  We spent the morning preparing to top plan the new loci, but were quite inefficient and it took all morning.  Only right before second breakfast did Kate start drawing (with Lindsay and myself measuring).  We had to break for breakfast, and again afterward, because Kate’s future “bosses” from the Israel Museum came to the site to see the frescoes.  While we waited, we trimmed balk and articulated rocks to get everything ready to rip out after we completed the top plan.  After finally finishing the top plan, we spent our last hour ripping out more large rocks.  Very similar to yesterday, though yesterday we had Dan’s help.  Today, Ron, the surveyor helped us pull rocks instead.  The breeze was nice and kept the gnats at bay, but I must have been dehydrated because I felt bad all morning.  But the barrowing must go on, and barrow I did.  Anyway, today was beautiful, and not too hot, so I took a picture of the Hula Valley from the site.  Enjoy!

After pottery wash and lunch, I helped Kate catalogue our finds from this season in the master artifact database with Charlie, our archivist.  In around 30 minutes, my square is heading out to the site with Dan to do some cleanup and odd jobs around the temple complex.  It is very hot and I would like to nap.  Also, the kibbutz pool opened today, so if I had the afternoon free, I’d definitely go swim!  But I’ll buy myself some ice cream after we come in, and everything will be just fine. 

Day 12

Sorry for the missed update; the past two days have been very busy.  Yesterday was an extremely productive day.  We took photos of the flooring surface in L003 (see the whole square as of yesterday morning, right) and then ripped out all of the huge rocks that littered the square.  We left a shelf of flooring near the threshold block, but took out almost everything else.  The new area, L004, seems a lot like L002, which was above it.  More dirt, more big rocks.  Despite the paucity of staircases under the flooring surface, yesterday marked one of the best days of this season’s excavations so far for the member of M11. 

In the morning, while we ripped out rocks, I was on wheelbarrow duty.  When we’re moving rocks, that means I have to be on top of my game.  My squaremates popped the rocks and then either “walked” them to the balk, where then we lifted them out, or carried them out straight away depending on their weight.  We had a ton of basalt rocks, which are extremely heavy.  Some of these were so heavy that instead of lifting them into the wheelbarrow, we had to lay the wheelbarrow on its side and then walk the rock into it.  Our dump pile, where all the dirt and rocks from our square go after we excavate them out, is a fair way from the square, and is up a hill.  Edward and I normally are on wheelbarrow duty, because of the extreme nature of the dump pile.  We are very proud of the dump—it takes great care and constant management to keep the system working smoothly.  Missteps can lead to rock spills in the middle of the pile, or collapses, or the dump fills up too quickly and you have nowhere to put any more dirt!  So the rock moving exploits of yesterday gave me a tough work out and challenged my barrowing skills to the utmost.

After second breakfast, Larry went in because his knees were hurting, and we lost Kate because she went to observe some conservation on the frescoed wall in the western temenos wall of the early shrine (she’ll be embarking on a conservation internship at the prestigious Israel Museum after the dig ends and was getting some practice).  So Edward, Lindsay, and I carried on alone.  Dan, one of the directors, spent some time keeping us company and helping out (see us hanging with Dan, left).  The gnats were so bad yesterday that I wrapped myself up in bandanas and stuffed my ears with cotton.  We distracted ourselves from the gnats by having square karaoke.  Highlights include singing “Hit Me Baby One More Time” (by Brittany Spears) with Andy Overman.  We spent the afternoon getting eaten alive, hoeing, and picking in the new L004.  Despite the horrible conditions, we all agreed it was the most fun we’ve had in the field so far!

Last night a few of us got a ride to a restaurant that serves American –style food (but it is actually good).  They have good burgers, you can get bacon (!) and cheese on your burger (!!!), and they have Stella Artois on tap.  Wow.  Some familiar culture in the heart of northern Israel!  Needles to say, dinner hit the spot after two weeks of kibbutz food and a long day in the hot sun at the mercy of the gnats.  I went to bed contented and itchy.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Day 11

Today continued the trend of increasing temperatures and testy gnats.  We spent the morning working on cleaning out locus 003 to get it photographed and taken out.  We hope to do this tomorrow morning.  Preparations for the removal of all the irregular basalt pavers that make up the floor surface of locus 003 included making another top plan, endless brushing and articulating of all the rocks, and continued picking in areas with too much dirt.  We found a few more nice, square pavers to go along with the irregular and ill-fitting pavers that constitute most of the floor.  This nice, large, rectangular pavers are more likely to be older and originally associated with the temple, while the irregular ones are probably newer and associated with structures that occupied the site after the temple went out of use. 

We had more shoko for second breakfast, which was great because the rest of the day was spent brushing and trimming baulk in the hot sun and under the attack of thousands of biting gnats.  It was not enjoyable, but after coming home and washing pottery, I enjoyed the renewing sensation of removing my boots, putting on my flip-flops, and taking out my contacts.  The rest of the day was spent relaxing and reading.

Today, Gabby Mazor, who excavated the famous site of Beit She’an-- formerly Scythopolis, and who is a good friend of Andy and Nanette’s, came up to Omrit.  I always love to hang out with the Gabinator (as Andy calls him) and chat about limoncello (he makes his own) and reminisce about our time together in Rome (he joined us on our Mac Classics Dept January in Rome trip in 2009).  He is a great archeologist and is always a pleasure to have around.  I am looking forward to his visit to our square out in the field over the next few days.

Finally, last night we had out first full-group excursion to Tel Hai.  We watched a movie called Paradise Lost, made by a Palestinian Israeli filmmaker from the village of Fardeis.  The movie was very interesting, and the filmmaker was there to speak with us after the screening.  Unfortunately, we had been invited to a campus-wide event (which we did not know until we arrived), so the whole question and answer session was in Hebrew.  Luckily, one of our friends from the skype class translated for us, but overall it was very unfulfilling.  We didn’t get to talk to our Tel Hai colleagues about the film at all, and we didn’t get to interact with the filmmaker either.  Andy is trying to set up some more meetings between jus the two skype classes.  We are already friends with each other and have a relationship already established.  Additionally, dealing with 5 or 6 students, instead of 20, is much easier when trying to facilitate a meaningful discussion.  I am looking forward to more dialogue in the remaining weeks!  To the right is a nice picture of the Tel Hai “new campus” quad in the twilight.  They have a great view of the Hula valley from campus, so I hope to capture that on our next visit.  For now, goodnight!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Day 9

Sorry for the delayed update, the internet on the kibbutz was a bit spotty yesterday and I ended up not being able to upload.  But no fear-- I have enlightening pictures to go along with the update so the wait will have (hopefully) been worth it.

Saturday is a half day of excavation.  That means we still wake up at 4:30 but we only dig until 9 am and come into the kibbutz for second breakfast in the dining hall instead of in the field.  Saturdays are usually great and yesterday was no exception.  It was raining yesterday, which was extremely strange for Israel in the summertime, and the square turned into a muddy mess for much of the morning.  We finished cleaning the northern half of our square, and at the end of the day, Dan (a director from Carthage) took photos of the area, so we can now move forward and perhaps rip out the area to see what is underneath.  The floor surface looks mostly secondary, and although we haven't had out pottery "read" (read analyzed), I would guess the floor surface we've uncovered is probably Byzantine or even later.  We hope to pull out the later flooring, leaving some earlier stones (which you can distinguish because they are much better looking-- squarer and flatter), and see if there are stairs underneath.  The directors are still hoping our threshold block is the entrance from the Colonnaded Way into the temple area (aka the main entrance to the temple).  You can see a photo of the north part of the square, complete with big threshold block and floor surface to the right!  Compare to the photo of our unexcavated square from last week to see how much work we've done so far.
Dan was also nice enough to take a square photo for us!  Here we are on the left; from L to R: Larry (a new square member and donor to the Omrit project), Kate P (Class of 2011), Lindsay M (2012), myself, and Edward (Carthage class of 2013).  Next week  we'll work on the southern part of our square and probably start going underneath the floor of the northern half of the square.  Things in M11 are looking good!  After coming in and eating breakfast, we catalogued finds from the last few days and filled out other important paperwork and cataloging related things.  

Archaeology is greatly concerned with digging and finding out what is in the ground, however in order to ensure it is done properly, you need to make sure those who come afterwards can follow your actions by reading your publications.  Once you excavate something, it can never be re-excavated-- archaeology is an inherently destructive discipline.  So we filled out "locus sheets," which describe each locus (see early post for definition) and the items found within; we filled out "daily artifact logs" which catalogues all the finds from each day and what type of finds they are (pottery, glass, metal, coins, stone, plaster, etc).  Kate finished a sweet top-plan, which is a picture of the square drawn as if you were hovering above the square: it allows people to come afterwards to visualize the square in different stages of excavation.  You're supposed to top-plan every time the square undergoes significant change.  That can mean opening new locii or pulling out lots of rocks.  Kate is an excellent top-planner, hopefully I can get a photo of one of her plans and post it later.  Because our square isn't actually a square, but more of a lopsided quadrangle, top-planning and baulk drawings (which are like top plans, but for the walls of the square) are tough.  The scale of our plans are really confusing and drawing them takes extra effort.  Measurements are hard to get accurately and our top-plan doesn't fit on any pre-designed top-plan sheets.  So M11 is a bit of a crazy "square" due to its irregular shape, but we are doing a good job of making our excavation as accurate as possible.  To the right is the elevation gun in its rain gear.  

After paperwork, we had some down time (read "nap") and then I went for a walk, we had a BBQ with some kibbutzniks, and relaxed outside on the lawn.  I stayed awake until midnight (!) to watch the final of the Champions League and I was rewarded by seeing Man U lose.  Great day!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Day 8

Phwew!  It is getting hot and buggy here.  Today the gnats were back to near-2009 levels!  I had to cover my ears with a bandana, and if they continue to get worse, I'll have to excavate in a long sleeve shirt and buy cotton balls to put in my ears.  It is also getting very hot, and was in the low 90's plus humidity.  It might even rain tomorrow, which would be extremely out of the ordinary for Israel this time of year!

Today in M11 we excavated very efficiently and went down quite a bit in all sectors of our square.  We also opened a new locus in the northern half of the square.  This new locus (L003) corresponds to the area near the threshold block, and is characterized by looser and sandier soil than is found in the rest of the square.  We plan to excavate almost exclusively in L003 tomorrow to try to see if the stairs the directors seek are actually there.

The team members of M11 are, other than me, Edward F of Carthage (of coin-finding fame), Lindsay M ('12 at Mac-- she gets photo credit for yesterdays pics)), and Kate P ('11 at Mac).  We're a small team, and we've dubbed ourselves either the "Tractor Jockeys" because of the hard tractor fill we've been excavating; or the "Shady Sleuths" because of the mysteries we are constantly confronting and solving in our square, plus the exorbitant amount of time we spent on putting up shade over our square.

After leaving the field, we had falafel for lunch, catered by a local Druze gentleman, who gave me extra hot sauce at my request and then told me I was becoming Druzim.  On Fridays, we don't have factory lunch because of Shabbat, so we get falafel (yum)!  M11 then washed pottery, I went to the store to get some yoghurt and beer before the store closed for Shabbat, and then relaxed until our afternoon outing.  We went to Kedesh, a Roman temple and Hellenistic trading center site near the Lebanese border.  Amy F, a Mac grad from 2007, gave a lecture on Kedesh and showed us around because she had worked on the site before.  Thats her at the temple at Kedesh today on the right!  From Kedesh, we went to nearby Ramot Naftaly, an Israeli Moshav (like a Kibbutz but less historically socialist), and visited a winery there for a tasting.  The wine was good and the site was beautiful, tand we returned to the Kibbutz feeling refreshed and read to close out the week on a positive note.  Hope to find some stairs tomorrow!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Day 7

We dealt with gnats and the hot sun today, along with some big stones and some hard packed earth.  It was tough work but we had a productive day—we closed out our first locus, and opened our second.  That means we’ve cleared out the first layer of dirt, which was probably heavily contaminated, and have moved onto the second stratigraphic layer.  We moved a lot of dirt all over the square and brought the whole thing down around 5 cm.  We also brought down the area between our old square and our new one, and hopefully by second breakfast tomorrow, we’ll have exposed all the pavers between the threshold block and the stairs we’re hoping to find.  Whether or not they’ll be there is another story.  But no matter, the view of the sun rising over the site and the Hula Valley is always worth waking up at 4:30am and digging in the hot sun all day!

After a long day in the field, we washed pottery, catalogued the day’s finds, and had some lunch.  Then I took a quick nap before afternoon work, which was really informative.  We did some reconstruction work with pottery and looked at some stucco from the early shrine.  A Mac grad from 2001, Ben Rubin, who is now a Classics professor at Williams College in MA came up today and he’ll be working with us for the rest of the season.  He worked at Omrit in its earliest years and discovered the Early Shrine!  He did his PhD work in Turkey, so I’m looking forward to chatting with him for the rest of the season.

This evening we had a lecture from site architect Michael Nelson on the architecture of the temple structures.  I don’t seem to have too much free time, but when I do, I’ll put up a post or two with some info about the temple structure itself.  It was a very interesting lecture and included all of the new finds from the past two seasons.  Now to bed before and early wakeup tomorrow!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Day 6

Howdy everyone!  Today was a tough day out in the field.  It was hot a blazes and we had lots of fun trying to get our shade tarp in place so that it actually provides shade for us!  We finished out our baulk excavations yesterday and spent the morning laying out our new square and then putting up the shade for it.  Our new square (M11) is just south of the baulk we'd been excavating and we're hoping to find out how the structure with the large threshold stone relates to the rest of the temple complex.  The directors are hoping to find stairs, however I am not sure they'll still be around.  They might have been taken out for secondary use somewhere else in the area.  Anyway, here is the baulk-area and threshold stone after we'd cleared it out. 

After setting up our new square, we spent the rest of the morning hoeing and picking up the extremely hard-packed tractor fill which constitutes the first layer of our square.  We started collecting pottery and Edward found a coin!  It is very small and thin, and hard to see any markings on it.  It looks a bit like the one in the picture to the left, which is of me and a coin I found two years ago.

This afternoon, a few of us drove into Qiryat Shmonah with Ron, the surveyor, and we got real coffee and used the ATM.  I found some Murphy's Irish Stout to break up the Goldstar monotony, and picked up some sunflower seeds, which remind me of my time studying abroad in Turkey.

This evening was really exciting!  Those of us who have been participating in the Skype class (Advanced Topics in Middle Eastern Conflict)-- there are five of us at Omrit now, drove over to Tel Hai College in Qiryat Shmonah with Andy and met with our Israeli and Palestinian counterparts!  We had pizza, skyped in Fritz (our Mac technician), and chatted about Israel, recent developments in the region, and the Balkan Beat Box concert at Tel Hai tomorrow.  I hope to get to the show, though it will supposedly end sometime around 5am, which is when we have to be at the site digging!  The meeting with the Tel Hai students was great, and I can't wait until Sunday, when the whole group will go over to Tel Hai to watch a movie and have a discussion.

Its getting late here, so I will let you know how M11 progresses tomorrow!  Here is a picture of it before we began excavating.  Lilah Tov (goodnight).

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Day 5

Another full day in the field and I am tired!  We spent the day closing out our baulk-square thing.  We articulated around the threshold stone and uncovered some basalt paver stones.  I got a nice picture of the square which I will put up tomorrow (I promise)!

Today at second breakfast we got some shoko, which made my day.  Things are getting hotter here, and the gnats came out a bit today.  I hope the conditions stay this mild, but I am not too optimistic.  Things always get pretty tough by week two or three.

This afternoon, my squaremates continued to help re-catalogue artifacts from 2010 and then after dinner, we visited a gentleman on the kibbutz who makes his own wine!  He just started last year, and is an electrician who is fulfilling a lifelong dream now in his spare time.  He treated us to a taste-- not bad!  Now its almost nine and we have to be up tomorrow morning at 4:30.  Bed calls.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Day 4: Crossing the Threshold

Yesterday was Sunday, our off-day, and although we didn't get the whole day work-free, we did get to take a field trip to the great site of Banias!  It is a lush, green spot popular with Israeli picnickers these days (see right).  We spent the rest of the day helping the directors re-catalogue artifacts to make sure everything is easily accessible for the experts who will come help with the upcoming publication.

Today, however, was out first full day in the field!  It was a very long day, but it felt great to get some real work done.  In my square, we uncovered the remainder of a huge threshold block-- it is basalt and must weigh around 2 tons (edit: more like 4.5 tons)!  We're almost done taking down one of the three baulks that we have to bring down to consolidate our squares into one, presentable, excavated area.  My back will probably hurt tomorrow from all of the picking, hoeing, and wheelbarrowing I did today.

Up in the temple complex, one group came down on a cool concrete conglomerate floor.  On the western side, one student (Joey Frankl- who gets the photo credit) found the base of a glass vial, or unguentarium.  In my square, we found a piece of a corinthian capitol aside from out threshold block.  I will try to get a picture of the block to put up tomorrow, so you can see just how cool it is!

After coming in for lunch and a rest, we went back out for our afternoon activity.  Today, my square helped Greg Stoehr, a Mac alumn ('98), work on a survey of the site.  We went out into the northwest corner of the site and marked out 5m x 5m squares and then picked pottery off the surface.  The idea is that Greg will have the pottery "read" by Debbie, our expert, and then map out pottery densities and time periods all across the site.  Pretty cool!  Now I am blogging before our 7 pm Hebrew lesson.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Day 2: Field Trip to Metula

Our second day in the field went well.  We dived into our "squares," though since most of us aren't actually excavating true squares, we really just dived into task forces.  My group is working on cleaning up some squares that were excavated in previous years and taking down some baulk, which is the ground left between squares.  Essentially, we are combining multiple squares into one large square by taking down the walls in between them.  Other groups are working in the east side of the temple, one is in the west temple, and one is working on the temple steps and the south edge of the temple.

Since it was Shabbat, we had a short day and come back to the kibbutz by 10 for breakfast.  Normally, we are out in the field from around 5 am - noon, and have a second breakfast in the field.  It was nice to get in early, have a delicious full second breakfast at the kibbutz, and relax for most of the day.  After spending the afternoon reading, napping, and enjoying the sun, a group of us went with Andy to Metula (left), which is a beautiful town right on the Lebanese border.  After driving through town a bit, we stopped at an overlook and surveyed the area north of the site.  Looking north, I could really get a sense of the compactness of the region.  Mt. Hermon was looming just to the northwest, and Syria beyond.  Beirut was only a quick car ride away (had the border been open).  Lebanese towns were so close I could see people walking on the streets and hear car horns honking.  The northern part of Israel and southern part of Lebanon are very beautiful right now and everything is lushly green and in bloom.  Thinking about the recent conflicts in the northern border area that coincided with Nakba was very jarring as we drove throught the sleepy, peaceful streets of Metula.  I hope to return with Nanette to grab some coffee and see the down on a weekday.

Tomorrow is Sunday, which means we don't excavate.  However, we're not having the whole day off and we're going to start work on the other major project for this season: reorganizing and cataloging the artifacts.  Nothing like some sorting to pass the time!  I might get some Israeli chocolate milk (or Shoko) to help cope.   It comes in a bag.  Yum!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Day 1: Baggin'

Today was a short day at the site-- we split into two teams and prepared for excavations, which start tomorrow.  Most of us moved sandbags from around the base of a beautifully preserved frescoed wall, which is near the west side of the early shrine structure (see right).  The rest of the group moved sandbags and swept the stairs on the eastern side of the early shrine.  Take a look at the beautiful fresco we uncovered there last season below!  It was tough work, but the sun didn't come out until the late morning, so we kept cool and amused ourselves with conversation.  Since many of us are returning excavators, we spent most of our time telling stories from past seasons and telling stories that only classics students would find funny.

The board of Trustees from Tel Hai College, which is in Qiryat Shmonah (across the Hula Valley from our site) also came out to visit today.  Over the past few years, we've been developing a close relationship with Tel Hai and this year I participated in a Skype class with them.  We've been talking a great deal about the changes in the region and they're interested in continuing dialogue with Mac students.  While we're at Omrit, we meet with their Peace and Democracy program students at least once a week and Tel Hai is planning to work with us at Omrit to put a museum in some of their new buildings.  It was great to get to meet some of the board members, and Andy was excitedly telling us that Yitzhak Rabin's sister was there.  I can't wait for our first meeting with the students-- we've been having some great conversations about the developments in Egypt, Palestine, and Israel over the past semester's Skype class.

Currently, I'm sitting in the shade of a tree on the lawn of the kibbutz, and considering opening a Goldstar beer.  Now that the day's work is done, I'm looking forward to some reading and maybe even a nap!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Bruchim Haba'im -- Welcome!

After a long flight from Minnesota, the Macalester team has arrived in the Galilee in Northern Israel.  Tomorrow we leave our homebase, Kibbutz Kfar Szold, and drive north about 15 minutes to survey the archaeological site we'll be working on for the next 5 weeks. 

This is my third year as a student excavator at Omrit, which is a Roman Temple site originally dating back to 1st century BCE.  It has since been occupied by later Romans, Byzantines, Ummayads, Bedouins, and is now mostly home to gnats, scorpions, and the occasional jackal!  This year, we have a very small team of around 9 Mac student-excavators, some Mac alumns, Mac Classics Professors Andy Overman and Nanette Goldman, and some guests from CUNY Queens and Carthage College.  I am a recent graduate of Mac (class of 2011) and I have majors in Classics and History.  I'm looking forward to getting back in the field and trying out my new trowel, as well as relaxing by the kibbutz pool reading in the sun.

I look forward to keeping you up to date on all the action at Omrit-- whether student-led shenanigans or groundbreaking archaeological finds.  Until tomorrow,