Thursday, January 14, 2010

Digging in the Dirt

This past week was Israel Experience week and we had four different options: Poland (for those who had never been), volunteering in Haifa, Gadna (army simulation), or an archaeological dig which is what I chose to do. For the week in the morning we were working under the Israel Antiquity Association and were digging in ancient Tibereias and dug up part of the roman theater and in the afternoon we toured and hiked around the area. The great thing about this dig is that it is an active dig site meaning that only archaeologists and others who are working on the site are allowed, no visitors or tourists. So this is a rare opportunity that we had.   


Sunday after a longish drive up we arrived where we would be digging for the week. There we had lunch and took a brief tour of where will be digging and the surrounding area. The theatre that will be excavating was underground completely and when they started the excavation they found an Arab house but removed it to start excavating the theatre. We also saw the remnants of an earthquake in 749 CE and the damage can still be seen. As well we saw a roman bath house that was excavated previously.  We then went to our hostel, Karei Deshe, which was more like a resort to unwind. Sunday afternoon/evening we hung out at the beach, went into Tibereas for some free time and after a great dinner we headed to bed by 8:30 so we were rested for the long days ahead of us. 


Monday after a very early wake up (6:00), we headed off to the site and started the day seeing the southern gate and entrance to roman tiberias. Afterwards we walked to the theater but we could not dig because a camera blimp was taking an aerial shot of the site in an hour or so, so in the mean time we swept the area and cleared away buckets of dirt and rocks. After a bit of doing that we headed to Migdal to do some excavation of the site there and get our anxious hands on some ancient artifacts. In Migdal we helped with the excavation of a 2nd temple period synagogue and this is only the 7th found from this period outside of Jerusalem. One of the most important artifacts found from this synagogue was the oldest picture of a Menorah outside of Jerusalem. As well the synagogues in this time period were used mostly for study because pray was done only in Jerusalem in the Beit HaMikdash. When we were digging we found lots of pottery and even some almost whole pieces. It was a lot of fun to finally be able to start digging and thinking that we are one of the first people to be touching these artifacts in thousands of years. 

In the afternoon we headed Beit She'an National Park to see the remnants of Roman and Byzantine Beit She'an that was uncovered over various periods of time.  We saw the ancient theater (which is what the one in Tiberias might look like), bath houses, public toilets, whore houses and more; And it was pretty cool to see a whole site excavated and get a better idea what goes into excavating a whole site.  We also got a better picture of the damage from the earthquake and we were told that when they were excavating they found a women's arm of someone who was probably escaping.  All in all it was a long and exhausting but I'm looking forward to the days ahead. When we got back to our 'resort' we chilled and had dinner and it was another early night to bed. 


Tuesday we headed to the theatre to start our work there. I was excited to improve the skills I used yesterday, to get dirty and see how much work we could get done in 3 days. After splitting into groups of 4 we were assigned our area that we would be digging in for the next days. My group was assigned to a section behind the stage right on the edge of where one can see the earthquakes effect. Our task was to dig and see what effect the earthquake had on this section and we were very excited that we got assigned this part. Over the course of the day we did not dig that deep but over the 4 hours we did make a decent dent and found lots of pottery (jug handles, iron, glass, and various sizes of pottery that was part of jugs and pots). We even saw that some of the pieces were burnt which meant they were used way back when. We were also told by Gilad, our guide for the week at the site, that some of the pieces were burnt because of the Arab houses that were on top so we are finding artifacts from both periods. It was lots of fun and I could not wait to get back the next day and see what else we could find but we were all pleased with our days work.      

In the afternoon we took a hike around Nahal Tavor and the surrounding area. It was a nice hike but due to all of us being tired from digging it was a bit hard. I'm glad though that we got to see this beautiful area that was so lush, green and looked a bit like Ireland; and it is not every day that you get to see something like this in Israel.   Once again when we got back we chilled, took showers and had dinner and then it was another early night to bed. 


Wednesday we left our hostel because Wednesday night we were staying at a surprise location. It was back to the dig site to continue our work that we had started yesterday. Due to the fact that we already had dug yesterday it was a lot easier today and we were able to get more done. We did not find as much as yesterday but we did find lots of bones probably from a small animal.     

In the afternoon we headed to the ancient city of Gamla. Gamla in 66 CE joined the revolt against the Romans but it was first breached in 67 CE by the Romans but the Jews who lived there would not go down easily and killed most of the Roman soldiers. However a few days later the Roman successfully breached the walls of the Gamla and killed over 9 thousand Jews, both inhabitants and those from surrounding areas who find refuge here during the revolt. After this Gamla was lost for 1900 years until 1968 when it was rediscovered. Over the next 20 years it was excavated and lots of evidence was found that proved that this site was in fact the lost city of Gamla as well as a fierce battle (arrow heads and ballista balls) between the Jews and Romans. It was interesting to see especially because our guide was one of the archaeologists who helped excavate the site.  It was then off to our surprise location for the evening, The King Solomon Hotel. It was such a nice treat and I even got to take a nice long bath and which helped relieve some of my sore muscles. Once again it was an early night so we could get some sleep and energy for our final day     


Thursday was our last day of digging which was quite sad but we were very motivated to get as much done as possible. Throughout the morning we got a lot of digging done and even found part of a wall and some lots of pottery; some of the pottery was even wedged into the wall. We even got hats with the Israel Antiquity Association symbol on it which was really nice of them. Looking back on the week, I'm so glad that I chose this option because it was so much fun and I had an amazing time. I'm hoping that maybe when we come on our Northern Tiyul we will be able to come back and see how much has been accomplished. 


This weekend I will be spending it with my Abba which I'm looking forward to so much. Then Sunday morning I will be heading to Greece until January 28th which should be an amazing trip and I will take lots of pictures.


Here are some pictures of the dig and the trips.


Until then,        




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