Local time at Horbat Omrit, Israel

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Last day +1

If you're still hanging around, I've got a 2 hour wait at Ben Gurion Airport, so I'll tell you what happened today. The bus left at 7:30 this morning for Jerusalem with a small Hyundai close behind. Said Hyundai containing Bill, Tracy, Nancy and Flora. The first stop was the holocaust memorial. We left early to get to the hotel, drop the car, and take a taxi to old city where we met the gang again for a tour. The Church of the Holy Sepulchre was a highlight. Check out this link for a bit of its history and an amazing squabble.

I spent the afternoon in the hotel lobby and left for the airport just in time for rush hour and the setting sun in my face. I made it ok , have checked in and passed security (well, one more check) and now wait for a late night flight to Munich. I won't blog Germany so Auf Wiedersehen!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Last Day

Here's my involuntary guest blogger John Robinson. I won't be blogging from Germany but will send out a few emails. Bye for now.

Yep, it’s now official. We are done at the site.

We spent half the morning filling sandbags, moving sandbags, covering the Frescos and stuff….. things like that. Then back to The Kib (to use Bill’s term) for breakfast. Then a lot of other people went back to the site for more sandbag work. I was lucky enough to be seen by Paul really quickly after he got back for breakfast, so I stayed back and got to do the redundant, monotonous, repetitive, boring paperwork. As I’m sure you can see, it was so redundant, etc., that it rubbed off on me. Basically what I was doing was going through all of the drawings that we had made and putting in the elevations and pottery buckets, then copying down what pottery buckets contained what and where they were found and what day they were from. Like I said, monotonous repetitive boring work.

Then in the afternoon we started to think about packing.

At 700 pm we had the end of season party by the pool. That was fun. We got to hear all about how what we found has changed their thoughts about what the site was like. It was pretty interesting. Then afterwards we got to go swimming. It was really warm. I like it when the sun warms water…..

Now we’re all packing for tomorrow. We have to be down by the front office at 0700 for a light breakfast, then the bus is leaving for Jerusalem at 0730. So I guess I won’t be pigging out today. Dang.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Days 31 and 32: Sloth and laziness

An apology to all my fans, blog-fatigue is my only excuse.

We finished with final photographs today and the drawing of the walls (balks). Above is one that I helped with. The string is a reference point to help put exact drawings on graph paper. We'll help clean up the entire site tomorrow and then that's it.

The valley that we sit on one side of has a ridge of about 2300 feet on the other side. There is a cable car that goes up to the top and that's where I went today. Here's a shot from on the way up. You better zoom in on this picture!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Day 30: Monkey Beach!

The trip today was to Sepphoris, but I've been there 3 times, and Tracy wanted to go back to the Med, so... Monkey Beach! As Helen knows already, I didn't actually go in but did get my feet wet. We spent a few hours talking to the South African beach bum we met last week (he's sleeping in a lifeguard post) and soaking in the view. We stopped at the "north mall" in Kiryat Shmona for falafal and shwarma (gyro) on the way back, the end of a good day.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Day 29: Nimrod's Fortress

Well, not Nimrod, but some Muslim sultan. It's not the greatest set of ruins but location, location, location. Built in the 13th century (hey, wait, that's when there was activity at Omrit) on top of the almost 6000 ft high hill above. Natalie, Carli and Jordan asked me if I would take them there and, of course, I did. Here's a view toward the valley from there. Omrit is behind the black, burnt hill on the left.
On the way back we stopped at a roadside stand run by Duruz (plural of Druze) (Druze women wear distinctive dress). We had bought a 1/2 kilo of cherries the day before (yummy) and today I got a pita sandwich like none I had eaten before and a jar of goat cheese in olive oil that I put out for the Saturday night BBQ. Forgot to get a picture...

Friday, June 12, 2009

Day 28: Galil Mountain

This afternoon I and 3 compatriots went to visit the Galil Mountain Winery and a fine time was had by all. It was a larger operation than I expected (1,000,000 bottles a year) and a nice shop and tasting bar. We were too late for a tour but woman pouring and describing the wine we tasted took us on a quick run-through. The winery sits just south of the Lebanese border, half-way to the Sea.

The last area I described had a lot of rock and stone tumble that revealed a hole when removed. Although there is a nice column drum in one of the walls and we just found a Doric column capital when we tore down the wall between 2 squares.

The square we started a few days ago, after removing the surface tumble has a wall and some rough floors. Made of big heavy stones. We're not very deep but we're going to quit for this season on that square. Cleaning, drawing and photographing will occupy Saturday (Shabbat again!) and Monday. Then we clean up the site and leave until next year.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Day 27: Winding down

The work is not quite winding down but I am. Everyone is seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. 8 of us went out this afternoon to fill sandbags that will be used to cover and protect uncovered features that we want to be around next year and the years after. The temple stairs in the above picture may get that treatment. (They are actually working in the area where the stairs to the earlier shrine were once covered over.)

Went off to a nice restaurant this evening, had a pasta with salmon dish and a great
crème brûlée. Beats kib food all to heck. The honchos turned up in another restaurant in the same shopping center. Guess they feel the same way.

P.S. I'm told the kib pub is open more than 1 night a week. Believe it or not, I've never been.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Day 26: Charlie

Since Beverly is a fan of this blog, her husband Charlie Reagan is today's theme. He's been a volunteer at Omrit for the last 7 or 8 years and has made himself indispensable. He drives trucks and vans, records all our pottery, glass and other finds in a computer database (a major job) and does a lot of heavy lifting too in the squares. Of course, his most important job is putting down the wheelbarrow some time after 8am and driving off to pick up our field breakfast. And delivering it in a timely manner. Thanks Charlie!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Day 25: Sculpture Garden

Have I mentioned that Kibbutz Kfar Szold has a sculpture garden? I think not, but it does. It's a combination of folk art and a museum of old (kib) agricultural machinery. I don't know who did it (I think maybe just kib residents) and there is a sign down on the highway directing one up. The student consensus is "weird" and "creepy", but, of course, I like it though it's not first rate folk art.

Speaking of the kib, it's clear that it's a dying rather than a dynamic entity. The factory buses workers in (Russian and Arab) and there are many abandoned buildings that the archaeologists use for storage. Lots of decaying features too, like tennis and basketball courts that are unusable, and the outdoor movie theatre never has movies and the pub is open one night a week, but the olympic-sized pool is open and the sculpture garden is watered and maintained. The kib'll last a while longer.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Day 24:In the hole

We gussied up our first square today - after some delays - and final pictures were taken. This always before the sun comes up over the Golan so that there are no shadows. So you know how earlier we had to arrive. Much.

Our second square proceeds apace and we've hit the archaeological jackpot: a hole. An empty hole. Right next to our first square with walls and random good stuff, we have: nothing. After all the rocks and stones that signified nothing were removed we had a hole. We're a meter down and hitting really fine silt so we may hit 2 meters and bedrock tomorrow. There is one column drum that we haven't found the bottom of yet - so there's a little hope. Square 3 coming up very shortly - time is running out.
The afternoon saw a road trip with Carli, Katie and Emily to Metulla. Metulla is in the northwest corner of our Valley projecting out into Lebanon, which surrounds it on 3 sides. It's a faux-Swiss resort town very prettily laid out. The Swiss Chalet was, however, named the Alaska Inn and I had a nice latte there. We also saw the above tank. (That's Lebanon in the background)

Tracy, Paul and I went off to dinner to a restaurant serving trout from the Jordan River. A fancy place with ducks and swans on the creeks running through the outdoor dining area and a peacock in the parking lot.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Day 23: Today it's all-Bill

This morning I got a ride into Q. Shmona to the El Dan car rental agency and picked up a little Hyundai. Wheels! Tracy was with me and off we went to the Med. We followed the Lebanon border around the north of Israel heading to the sea. Less than 2 hours later we are at Monkey Beach! The beach along this northern coast of Israel is quite undeveloped and we were lucky to find this public beach on the Mediterranean.

Tracy chatted up the South African bartender as we drank a beer and shared a large plate of fries. We were sitting at an outside bar and checking out the waves. Heaven.

When we returned Natalie, Nancy and Flora and I headed for the mountains north of us. We had a circle route planned out but we got sidetracked in a Syrian Arab town in the Golan. The road went in but we couldn't find where it came out. But we had a good mental map of that town before we backtracked and came back. My riders were quite calm, mostly, as I assured them that those Syrian flags all over the place didn't indicate animosity to us. We didn't stop to ask for directions though.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Day 22: Half-day Shabbat

I should have told you about Becca's photo blog earlier. If you can't get enough of Omrit and Israel, check it out.

On Friday everyone is tired, weary and exhausted. The Shabbat half-day, though, is full of enthusiasm and energy. "What? It's time to go? Let me finish here!" But breakfast at the kib at 9:30, BBQ tonight and almost 48 hours of rest is a fine thing. As things go slow this afternoon I'm thinking, "Boy, it sure would be nice to have a car!" Hey, wait, I'm getting one tomorrow. Already have 2 lists: places to visit and people who want to visit. The Galil Mountain Winery is high on the list.
Major pottery reading today, our ceramicist is up from Jerusalem, with young son. Always exciting, it's even more so when she looks at a small piece of pottery and says "Roman lamp" or "Hellenistic". And Daniel is always ready to help.

Day 21: Mixed-up Friday

A topsy-turvy day is my only excuse for not blogging promptly. The grass fire Thursday burnt all around our site but didn't penetrate it. We generally keep the weeds low, this is was probably the reason. It burnt some of our shade tent ropes though, it came that close. It has the benefit of letting us see the ground a lot better and one staff member is prowling around looking for the area to start the next 10 years of work. (We expect locusts or frogs to hit next week.)

There are areas near our site (starting half-way up the hill in the picture above, for example) that are fenced off as old mine fields. There was a Syrian military position near here that the Israeli Army captured (though not easily) during 1967 war and both sides had mine fields around the border. The fire set off a number of them.

We went out a later in the morning but only stayed a few hours - The air was a bit foul and ash was flying a little. Most of us came out later in the day though. A huge flock of storks was circling around in the late afternoon but I think they had to move on a little to find a good unburnt spot to settle.

I was fortunate enough to be invited out in the evening by the staff to go with them to the home of Israeli friends of the Omrit excavation. (My bike seller (!) and his wife (who works at Tel Hai)). It was a nice meal and good conversation. There were tables set up outside where we ate - which reminded me of some similar good times I had many years ago in Afghanistan.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Day 20: Well, maybe not.

We got a wildfire near the site. Bummer. We get to sleep in an extra hour so the situation can be evaluated in the morning. Crop duster planes are dropping red stuff and land mines are exploding. What a county!

Day 20: Yes We Can!

Why aren't I disillusioned by this man yet? Well, maybe a little, but what a magnificent speech today. Check it out on YouTube. It being given in Cairo I got to listen live. The blog today is All Obama All The Time. He said all the things that needed to be said, that everybody but the participants has been saying. It was a nice addendum to the Tel Hai students from last night. I think the President was channeling that conversation.

Unfortunately I had to listen on Fox (the British news channel, also owned by Murdoch, cut away right after to cover a murder trial) so no commentary that I wanted to listen to. Just as well. It feels so good to have a president interested in the middle east for something other than oil and oil.

"I believe that our daughters have as much to contribute as our sons." When's the last time that was broadcast in Cairo? I'm glad I got to listen to the speech from only a few hundred miles away.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Day 19 redux, Tel Hai

Tel Hai Academic College is a local 4 year school that has a Center for Peace and Democracy that strives for a dialog between Arab and Jewish students. One of the facilitators and 4 students came over this evening to give us a presentation about the program and to tell us their "narratives". It's one thing to read about about the conflict in this part of the world, quite another to listen to people who are living it. Actually the biggest unresolved conflict seemed to be between the religious Jew and the non-religious Jew! If the non-religious Jew feels oppressed in this society, think how the Arabs feel. (And it's always interesting to hear people use the word "hegemony" seriously.)

Next week we're going over to the college to meet with their entire group.

Day 19: altar

OK, I can tell you about it but I can't tell you it has an inscription on it. The crew digging near the temple steps found a horned altar. The photo is turned sideways with the pallet on the left. Date not yet determined. More info, I imagine, when it's published.

Our new square had many, many tightly packed big rocks and stones on the upper-most level, looking like they had fell from a height and were wedged in together. As you can see.

Rough work but we got most of them out. Looking forward to seeing what's underneath. Hopefully more information about what was in the square that we dug out right next to it. Here's a picture of the "water feature" (fountain) that caused us to work in this area in the first place:

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Day 18: Going slow

Sunset over the Sea of Galilee

It was a good day at the dig, I left feeling slightly peppy which is a good sign. We're digging in a new area so nothing to report yet, except "tumble". There are sure some big rocks and stones near the surface and I wonder how they got there...

The people digging on the temple made a wonderful find, so wonderful I can't even tell you about it. That info will have to be face-to-face. Maybe I can talk the honchos into letting me mention it on the blog.

But the weather is quite hot in the afternoon and that really slows me down, so no great blogging today. A shout-out to Lindsay's parents!

Monday, June 1, 2009

Day 17: Bet She'an

It's hard to exaggerate about this place. 250 people worked full-time for over a decade and didn't uncover half of what is there. The city was abandoned in the 8th century after a well-documented earthquake. There was no other urban area close to rob out the fallen stones so it was just gradually covered over. The person in charge of those 250 people comes to Omrit often and gave us our tour.

Before the tour we stopped at the ancient city gates of Tiberias and after we at a lot of meat at a restaurant on the banks of the Jordan.

And a reminder that you can see a larger version of a picture by clicking on it or zooming your browser.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Day 16: What exactly is wrong with observing Shabbat anyway?

We get the Christian day of rest off and welcome it is after a full day yesterday. Was I little cranky?

Tracy and Joey have stopped by to visit so this may take awhile. Well actually my square leader also just came by and I went off for a while and cleaned pottery. He's the fellow in front in the above picture. Our Glorious Director is on the right, he'd come by to evaluate our square and engage in pensive speculation.

As I might have said before, we are about 50 feet away from a "water feature" (a fountain?, a basin?). It has hydraulic plaster and there is a drain. A group is clearing around it and our square is an attempt to give a little context. Starting next week we are going to connect our square with theirs by a 2 meter wide trench. Just to see what we find.

It's peaceful and calm, we've had breakfast (pancakes!), I've been to the kib store, washed a little pottery and am now deciding who I might visit in a while. After lunch we are going to Bet She'an. This is one of largest Roman ruins areas in the world and an amazing place to walk around. I'll post a picture or 2 later today.

I had fully resolved, having visited Bet She'an a few times before, to continue relaxing and recovering at the kib today, but an afternoon departure and the promise of a fancy restaurant meal on the way home persuaded me otherwise. I'll download the Sunday Times to my Kindle and enjoy the bus ride. There is also a patio area at Bet She'an that overlooks the site (with a nice cafe) so I may spend more than a little time there. More anon.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Day 15: End of the week

Let me tell about the last hour of the last workday of the week. Field breakfast seems like ages ago, if not yesterday. The minutes drag but wheelbarrows full off dirt multiply like the gnats that swarm in a dense cloud and bite every part of your body. Sweat evaporates in the bright Middle Eastern sun. Why am I here? Oh ya, I'm having a good time!

We found a the top of a column drum a ways down in our square today. What the heck is that doing there? It's flat so may not have tumbled from somewhere else. It's the kind of mystery we love. Maybe it was a coffee table in someone's living room?

I think the ballista we found yesterday should go to the Qiryat Shmona police museum so they can have 2000 years of weapons instead of 200.

Down the hill from us along the road we use is a rather large drilling complex. Seems too big for water, besides we have the headwaters of the Jordan. There's no oil in Israel but we are sitting on the Great Rift Valley which extends from Kenya up through the Red Sea and Dead Sea, under our valley and into Lebanon and Syria. So: it's most likely geothermal. Cool.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Day 14: the morning

I arise after 4 am and prepare for the day. Load my pack, try not to forget the water bottle, have a tea, maybe some oatmeal, and head down to the bus for 5am departure. A solemn, quiet crowd files on. A ten minute ride, half over roads barely there, broken by a too-noisy conversation or 2. We trudge up the last few hundred yards of road that the bus can't handle and emerge onto our ancient hilltop.

At our squares we get our direction for the day and gather our wheelbarrow, picks and hoes, brushes, trowels and buckets. We communards are ready! The dawn has started and the light would have inspired van Gogh. As the sun rises unseen behind the Golan the far valley walls are shrouded in pink and the green valley floor is magical. I stop to watch this unfold as I uncover stones to conjure with. After the end of the first hour when the sun pops up over the eastern hills we know another day is just beginning. Time to sweat!

Our square is not yet a meter deep but half-way to bedrock, we hope, based on nearby diggings. A large wall (too large?) bisects our square. What was it for? At the far end, near the bucket (picture to follow in a few minutes) is a slight opening that was a door. We can see the jamb and the holes for the door poles. The 2 sides have different soils but little identifiable pottery. We may just have to follow the wall to find more information. We did find a "ballista", a perfectly round stone a little larger than a hardball that the Romans launched as a missile. We felt a little continuity with our landmine and I hope it was there only because some young boy was playing soldier.

Gabi Mazor, an Israeli archaeologist who works here with us, is going to give us a talk tonight about growing up in Jerusalem during the 1948 war. I'll try not to be provocative.

Here's a picture I just took. How we spend our afternoons:

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Day 13: Guest Blog

Hello Loyal Blog Followers,
This afternoon you're all in for a guest blog courtesy of Joey Mayer, a student excavator from Macalester. You might recognize me from the fantastic picture of Cricket Bill has on the blog- I'm the one showing off my man-thighs.

Today on the site an exciting day for excavating! I work in a square with Becca, Richie, Tracy, Jordan, and square supervisor Amy Fisher (who is fantastic) and we're sort of the odd ducklings of the dig. Our square is outside the fence from the other squares and we don't see much of the other excavators except at second breakfast. We haven't been finding much thus far- a coin on the first day, lots of pottery, a fair amount of glass and tessera (mosaic fragments) but the other squares were either on the temple or coming down on well defined walls. Our square is located near the north wadi and we are working on expanding our understanding of the colonnaded way which leads from the main Tyre-Damascus road to the temple. We call ourselves the Bedouin 'Barrowers because out dump pile is up a hill and pretty far away- we're always nomadically pushing our wheelbarrow around.

Today however, we found an actual Bedouin grave. We were digging down onto what seemed to be a wall, and worrying about another area of the square which might be a grave as well when Richie pulled up what turned out to be the incisor of an adolescent. Though we excavation newbies are excited, the old hands are a bit annoyed because graves are a bureaucratic hassle. After second breakfast, during which we discussed the outcome of a fight between Chuck Norris and Shaq, various Shaq related words (we think the temple might not be an Augusteum but a Shaq-esteum), and the upcoming Jewish holiday of Shavuot, we returned to the square and excitedly continued the excavation. Area-supervisor Greg came over and helped us, and we pulled out more bone, a glass bracelet fragment, the top of a beautiful glass bottle, and some nice pottery. Still in situ are a large pottery sherd complete with rim and handle, a smashed skull, and more! The grave seems to be disturbed: a large root probably pushed some bones up to their present location, and centuries of rainy seasons have caused the bones to move around as well. By the end of the digging day, we were pretty sure we had a 13th century Bedouin grave and the rest of our square was taking shape nicely (finally)! I'm looking forward to another exciting day with the Bedouin 'Barrowers tomorrow, and I hope to keep you all updated on more finds from our square as the excavation progresses! Pictures to follow so check in again soon!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Day 12 Con't: Drama/Trauma

Well, let's put this silly explosive situation behind us! There was a possibility that quite a few students had decided to leave. Now it looks like only 2. We'll be sorry to see them go.

But the rest of us were glad to put in a half day this afternoon. We're exposing a wall in our square that looks interesting:

Day 12: "Living Museum"

If you haven't seen yesterday's post, a land mine was found on the site last week and that's why we've gotten too much down time. The police and defense forces are satisfied it's perfectly safe to head back out.

We got our police briefing this morning. Wow. We were in a small room where in cabinets and on the wall were 100s of ways that people kill each other. It's the stuff they've discarded in this part of Palestine for the last 200 years. Land mines, of course, also grenades, bazookas, rifles, artillery shells of every shape and form. Even a huge metal cannon ball from the time of Napoleon. Interesting, informative and scary. Didn't take my camera unfortunately.

There 3 types of people who might be messing around with land mines. Farmers who want to protect their cows. Kids (of course) who are out for a thrill. (The policeman said he used to be one of those. Now he gets paid for it.) And, who knew, collectors. Well, maybe terrorists too, though that's very low probability. Any one of those may have stashed a mine in the excavation - with or without the intention of retrieving it later.

We're headed out to the excavation in the late afternoon today to get back on the horse that threw us.

The boys from Macalester have an appropriate frisbee cricket game they play, whose rules involve knocking down bottles, exchanging wickets and chugging beer that I don't quite understand. But that's ok because cricket will always be a mystery to me.

I got my stitches out today at the kib clinic. The cut is healing perfectly.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Day 11: Sea of Galilee

Sorry this didn't post yesterday, Blogspot problems.

We had a lecture this morning on the current, as opposed to ancient, political situation in this area. It's always been difficult! Then off to the Sea of Galilee (it's really just a large lake) on a road trip. We visited Capernaum (Kafer Nahum) where a modern church and ancient synagogue sit side by side. Then the 2000 year old wooden fishing boat with an an amazing modern history. And a swim. Of course, a swim.

In case you've been wondering why we haven't been digging, well, I waited a little for the situation to settle and people at home to be notified. Seems a land mine was found at our dig site. Not an old buried one (though there such in areas near us) but an old one dumped recently. Just vandalism perhaps? Hard to know but the police and security forces are satisfied that there are no more and it's safe to return. Parents and college administrators agree, so we will.

Safety rules will be instituted (Mainly no wandering around in the tall weeds) and tomorrow we're off to the local police station for a talk on land mine safety and recognition. Nobody ever said archaeology was boring! Just wish I'd been there when our mine was blown up!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Day 10: Rafting the Jordan

Here's my picture from yesterday of Mt. Hermon. The fence around the kib and the inner perimeter road are in the lower left.

We had a surprise today, no digging until Wednesday. So this morning we got a lecture on the architecture of the temples and in the afternoon we went rafting on the Jordan River. Yes, that Jordan. It's lush and verdant up here and it was fine trip.

I'm sitting around now with 8 students and 3 bottles of beer. This is a remarkably staid group (except for Paul) but bright and fun. Right now we're listening to Rufus and Chaka Khan and waiting to go to dinner.

P.S. Though everyone is now dancing to Benny Goodman.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Day 9: Caesarea Maritima

Today the gang is off to Caesarea Maritima.

(Whoops, I just got interrupted by Jordan who is a total cribbage fanatic. She's been under the weather all week - bummer - so we only got one game in so far. She wanted a game before the bus left. This is my best picture of her.)

When the Romans gave Herod control of Judea he didn't have a seaport on the Med. Since he wanted to communicate with the rulers of the world he founded one and created a magnificent breakwall. And, of course, he named it Caesarea. I've been there 3 times already so I'm chilling at the Kib today. The staff who are staying and I will drive over to Akko this afternoon (ancient Acre) and join them for dinner.

The bike riding is proceeding apace. I'll take it out this afternoon to get a good view of Mount Hermon. It's on the Israel-Syria-Lebanon border and is 5 or 6 km from here. The ruins of Caesarea Philippi are at its base and a ski resort is on the top. (Though you have to avoid the busted-up tanks.)

I'm hanging with Paul today, a Carthage student who is an asst square leader. He's been to CM before and is staying to work on his paperwork. Lots and lots of paperwork:

Now I'm going to download the Sunday NY Times and Washington Post nto my Kindle and go sit under a tree with a strong instant arab coffee and my iPod! Heaven in Israel.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Day 8: Shabbat redux

Not over yet!

An interesting afternoon. A ceramicist from Jerusalem was here checking our pottery from last season. She was having a child last year and couldn't make it. She brought him this year.

It was exciting to learn that most of the pottery shards were classified "Roman, 1st-3rd century". The BBQ tonight was a success I think. A lot of interesting students who seem to get along well. And since they even talk to me, I'm happy.

Day 8: Shabbat Shalom!

It's the day of rest in Israel so we work 1/2 day. Go figure. My square goes apace. We picked one side of the wall to dig down and started finding lots of ceramics. We're not very deep yet so we're full of hope. Of course that pottery we do find is in small pieces and we hope an expert can identify when (approximately) it was made.

Natalie's parents, I'm told, like my pictures so that's Natalie above. And here's a group who wanted their picture taken:

We have BBQ tonight when a kibbutz resident will cook some chicken legs and sausage for us. Our food can vary. Our breakfast in the field is bread and fixings, hard boiled eggs, oranges and hot water for coffee. Tastes very good out there actually. Lunch in the factory cafeteria is 3 or 4 meat choices (chicken schnitzel seems to be the favorite - the kibbutz was founded by Germans after all), lots of veggies and salads. In the evening we have kosher which means mainly no dairy or no meat. Perhaps neither it seems to me. No desserts to be found anywhere, which is strange once we realized it.

BTW, modern bread wheat was a hybrid of domesticated Emmer wheat and a wild species of wheat never domesticated. This happened somewhere in the Caspian region after domesticated Emmer had conquered all. Bread wheat was the new conqueror and Emmer was left in the dust, but with a good track record. But this means that bread wheat has no wild progenitor and was created de novo as it were. If humans disappeared so would bread wheat. Here's wild Emmer (which could very well have originated in northern Israel). It's growing near the area where we eat breakfast.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Day 7: No rest yet

Today started our real task, heading down into the dirt and into the past. Mainly we found rocks and stones. Big ones. I want to crouch down and brush dust from a fine vase, but I haul bucket and barrels of dirt. Or fill them. We did find the top of a wall running perpendicular to the street. So we'll be looking to see what we can find in the rubble on either side of it.

The temple sits on a hill and there is a paved road with columns (the collonaded way) leading up to it. About 50 feet off that street is sitting a large stone basin that looks like a fountain. So one group is digging around it and another (mine) is digging at the closest point next to the street. Next the intervening space will be dug. Maybe we'll discover what was going on...

Tonight begins Shabbat and the kibbutz always gets weekend visitors. Today as a group of us were sitting out on the grass, a retired Israeli colonel stopped by to talk. His daughter lives on a nearby kibbutz. And he doesn't like Netanyahu. Otherwise not much to report here.

Tomorrow we put in a half day (5:30 - 8:30!) and then are off to Banias, the source of the Jordan River.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Day 6: Be there and be square

First a medical update: The leg is healing nicely and never gave me any pain. I've been out on the bike and put in a full day today, stitches come out in a week.

OK, archaeology: Previously we cleaned most of the vegetation in the 5m x 5m square we'll be digging, put up our shade tent and gathered our equipment. Of course, I missed most of yesterday.

Today we fulfilled our ambition to be day laborers: We cleared out the top 15 cm or so, the top layer. We don't expect much there and it won't tell us much because who knows how it got there. There were the tops of a few large rocks (natural) and stones (worked) exposed on the surface and as we cleared this surprisingly large amount of earth the tops of many more were exposed. Lots of heavy material to be lifted out. There are a lot of worked stones though they are in a tumble. Maybe they'll start to mean something as we go deeper. Among them was this:

It's not a column but a medieval arab roof roller! To flatten the reeds making up the roof. Or so we were told by an Israeli expert.

This afternoon we went to the weekly flea market in Qiryat Schmona. I got 2 kilos of dates and 1 kilo of pistachios. That ought to hold me for a while.

And oh, if her parents are reading this, Natalie is doing a excellent job. A real fine earth mover she is.

And John Robinson, who is also digging in the same square, has a blog also, listed over in the left-hand column.

Turns out the director here, Andy Overman, has always wanted a bike here in Israel and for some strange reason, which I don't quite understand, never got one. I haven't seen "my" bike in 24 hours but have a suspicion where it is...