By Tanya Nasife

The ‘Art’cheology of Care

It’s easy to get caught up in the dirt storm, both literally and figuratively, of an archaeological dig. You must take caution in not knocking rocks out of place or stepping on pottery. There seems to be a zone sometimes you get into during digging. Maybe it’s the repetition, or just the excitement of finding a cool looking pottery piece or a rock. In digs sometimes, there can be a lack of care for yourself, especially in extreme situations. In hot weather, there are dangers, like not drinking enough water. At this dig at Tel Akko, you can commonly hear people yelling to drink water, or have someone use that parent voice of disappointment when they hear you haven’t drunk any water in the last twenty minutes. You can stretch your legs, drink water and enjoy the wind that finally comes in.  That, however, is only one part of what makes a human body work, the physical part. There is also our mental health with goes hand in hand with physical health.  Each person on the dig adds their own spin on taking care of themselves before and after the dig. This is mine and a few others’ first dig, so I asked a few friends how they take care of themselves during the month.

  1. Naps- Upon first arrival in Israel, many got hit with jet lag. Later during the trip, we were all hit with the tiredness from digging early in the morning. Naps are one of the most common things done here and are commonly mentioned. It is the one thing that can halt a well-planned outing in its track. One person mentioned that they take a nap in the afternoon, after lunch as they wouldn’t be able to pay attention in lecture otherwise. Digging is demanding work and rest is always well appreciated, although naps may not be for everyone; for another friend, a nap leaves them feeling off.
  2. Change of scenery- Dig. Lunch. Pottery. Lesson. Dinner. Sleep and repeat. Day in and out, it can be the same. Same square, same food, same good old dirt in your mouth. Yummy. Just getting out of the building and into Old City or the beach, or one of the other options nearby, can keep you from pulling out your hair. Even if it’s just spending time with friends, which you will be able to make on this trip. Or adopted into a group of already made friends. There are also other options that relate to the dig you can try. You can try other courses other then what you wrote on the paper officially. Want to take photos? Study bones? Dig through small piles of pieces? You can! I recommend bones. You can learn so much from what remains, also they look cool.
  3. Be by yourself- You end up spending time with the same people day in and day out; rooming with others, digging with them, and eating with them. Sometimes it’s great to just sit by yourself and listen to music, play some video games, or just zone out. Your mental health is as important as physical health, even if it doesn’t seem mentioned enough.
  4. Take a break- It’s okay to want to do a half day or miss a day of digging and wash pottery. In fact, washing pottery is highly encouraged. Taking a step back from the toll of digging is fine and recommended. Don’t feel well the day before? Take a break. Wake up feeling awful? Take a half day, come back after second breakfast or even stay back, wash pottery, or help in the other labs. There are many options, and you never feel like you are just sitting around. Taking a break isn’t looked down upon here, and your mind and body will thank you even from a small break. Do what you can, not what you think you should be doing.
  5. Enjoy the small things- A simple shower and clean clothes after the dig can change your mood for the entire day. Or having a drink that you love, like chocolate milk. Maybe some music or video games with friends during break. Watching cats nap on the walls around the city or scurry around the streets. Love the small things in life that make you happy.

We’re human, and this dig really shows that. People here get excited talking about what they love, no matter if it’s mosaics or animals. You learn quickly who’s voice is whose; hearing them call out reminders for water, cheering at the find of the day, or just talking to them in general.  Everyone looks out for each other, making sure that they aren’t overdoing themselves or feeling alone. Little reminders to drink water or even a small “Hey, how are you doing?” at the sifters, are just small things that keep a welcoming feeling around the site. Always take care of yourself, as you are the greatest find anywhere.

 

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By Frank Orenstein

The Art of Smithing in Israel

About Blacksmithing

The art of blacksmithing is no longer as common as it used to be.  Just about everyone knows that the modernization of industry and production vastly undercut the need for a local blacksmith in a given community.  Despite this, however, it persists as a hobby, art form, and occasional career all over the world.  I am myself an apprentice blacksmith, though I usually focus on blade-smithing.  It is a small distinction, but an important one since it reflects on the materials, techniques, and other factors in a given smithy.  But I do have some experience as a blacksmith, and it is those experiences that I drew upon last week when the Archaeometallurgy students, alongside a few professors, visited a local forge here in Israel.

The Forge

The forge was almost a community unto itself.  One side of the courtyard held the forge, another held a leather-working shop.  Other buildings were scattered about, but the forge was close to the center.  We met the resident blacksmith and his son, and they taught us a bit about being craftsmen in Israel in the modern era.  Just like in the US, they said, it is far harder nowadays to live purely as an artisan.  Instead, most of their income comes from construction or the teaching of classes around the country.  After this, we were allowed to enter the forge.  As you can see by the picture, this was a pretty packed space.  Two separate forges, one coke burning and the other propane, were present beside a number of anvils, belt grinders, and drill presses.  As a group we learned how to make nails, saw how chains were produced, and even a small knife was made in front of us.

The Reality

As it turns out, forges in the US, at least the ones I have been to, are not so different than the one we visited.  They may be larger, or have different tools, but the underlying atmosphere is much the same.  In the end, it wasn’t all that different from the forge near my own home in Virginia.  Despite the language and cultural barriers that separated us, I felt like I already knew the man teaching us, at least partly.  Not to use a cliche, but experiencing something so familiar in a new environment reminded me how similar people are, no matter where you are.  Plus, hitting hot metal with a hammer is always satisfying.

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By Frank Orenstein

Akko and Tokyo:  Heritage and History

Travelling to Akko, sometimes called Akka or Acre, is not the first time I have traveled abroad.  Nor, I suspect, will it be the last.  However, in all of my travels Akko is distinctly unique.

When I was eleven my father, an officer in the US Army,took a duty station at a military base just outside of Tokyo, Japan.  Over the two years that I lived there, I traveled all over Asia and the Pacific. I like to think it taught me an appreciation for what this city truly offers.  Akko is old, very old.  And while this does not by definition make it necessarily interesting, Akko is a city steeped in its own age.  Tokyo, where I used to live, is not.  This is not to say that Tokyo isn’t a wonderful place, it is, but it is one where the city’s past has been limited.  It only persists in the various shrines, temples, and monuments hidden away in various corners and niches.  Otherwise modern construction, prompted by rebuilding after WWII or other variables, has swallowed everything else.

This is not the case in Akko.  Akko instead wears its age draped around it like a blanket, heavy and omnipresent. To put this in some perspective, Akko has seen almost continuous human habitation for at least four thousand years.  Akko was here when the State of Israel was founded in 1948.  It acted as a military stronghold to the crusaders mustered who fought in the Middle Ages.  For those of Abrahamic faith, the oldest settlements here likely predate Abraham himself.  In fact, the discerning observer will notice the heavy stone blocks used in much of the buildings in Akko’s “Old City”.  Those stone blocks, the same ones used in modern homes and businesses, began as walls or foundations in the crusader period nearly a thousand years ago.

It is true that Tokyo has its own history, stories, and old places, but they are hidden away or have long since been removed to museums. You won’t find many buildings with such old materials there, not like here in Akko.  I speak from personal experience when I say that it is hard to feel that city as an old one, unlike here.  Travelling to Akko has been a unique experience for me, and one that I sincerely appreciate.  The history of this city has a weight to it, one built over thousands of years, and it is one I think it important to learn from.

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By Joanne Guarnieri Hagemeyer

The Crash of the Heavens

…O, Lord, my God,
I pray that these things never end:
The sand and the sea,
The rush of the waters,
The crash of the heavens,
The prayer of man. *

As I listened to Rebekah’s hauntingly beautiful voice, sitting in Zippori’s open-air amphitheater, I closed my eyes, felt the heat of Israel’s sun, and the soft current of Israel’s breeze on my skin. So astonishing are the acoustics of this ancient architecture, I could hear, and even feel, every nuance of the poetry being sung, moving me to tears. I thought about the loveliness of Israel, and the depth of love those who live here feel for their land, hard-fought for, and hard-won.

To volunteer for a dig, one naturally expects the itinerary of digging at a tel, sifting through pails of earth for tiny fragments of antiquity, cleaning the buckets and buckets of pottery, bone, metals, and “special finds,” sorting, registering, and tabulating all the artifacts. Yet, as my hands gently whisk pebbles and earth from something last touched two and a half millennia ago, I begin to experience the arc of time, my fingertips brushing against another’s from long past. I may not speak the language of ancient Assyrians, nor worship Phoenician gods; but, I understand beauty and yearning, I understand power and grace. We people have always been who we are.

Touring Zippori, “the ornament of Galilee,” brought in this swirling context of history, military drama, diverse gods yet kinship with Akko’s community of spirit. It was here Rebekah gave us the gift of her music, the gift of Hannah Szenes’ poetry, and the gift of suspended time, experiencing for a few moments the longing, anguish, and ardor of an ancient people, loved of God.

* Hannah Szenes (Senesh) was born in Hungary in 1921. She emigrated to Palestine in 1939, but returned as a resistance worker in 1944 to aid in the effort to smuggle Jews out of Hungary. She was caught, tortured, and killed that same year. Hannah wrote prolifically, and many of her poems are deeply meaningful to Israelis, Jews, and others.

[Hannah Szenes, Budapest, July 17, 1939 | Photographer Unknown – This image is available from National Library of Israel under the digital ID002782783 | Public Domain]

Rebekah Call is a PhD student in Religious Studies—Hebrew Bible at Claremont Graduate University. She came to Akko to increase her knowledge of the archaeological process and to build good relationships with the faculty and with the other students.

[Cover photo: The Zippori amphitheater before restoration | Tiberius Zwi Keller Pikiwiki Israel [CC BY 2.5 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5)]

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By M. Christine Walters

The Little Phoenician Juglet

What could be more wonderful than finding an almost perfect little juglet that has been buried for thousands of years, the very first week of my dig in Akko! Yes, I carefully dug out of the side of the wall within my square this beautiful little jug with only a small chip along the lip opening. Otherwise it was so perfect, filled with dirt and debris. It was like a little animal caught, but looking up at me with longing eyes saying, “free me, free me!” It was such a thrill to find it all intact, since so much of the pottery was broken and smashed around me in the square.

This experience is a once-in-a-lifetime drama that everyone should try. The reality of how hard it is to dig: the heat, the dirt, the bending over and heavy lifting, over and over and over just to find that one special find, fills you with refreshed enthusiasm. It is truly indescribable. A person has to feel it, do it, experience it, overcome it in order to understand the thrill of the hunt.

I am grateful for my early years of farm girl lifestyle which included chores of all kinds like gardening, plowing, and digging. So, I feel right at home with the tools. Years of shoveling out animal stalls and barnyard areas come back to me as we work around the dig. It is comfortable, but the passing of many years presents new obstacles to overcome. My knees don’t bend. My hips hurt. My stamina is just not there, and that frustrates me. I watch the young people around me jump into their work with such passion and focus. I miss those days of feeling like I can handle this job and get the site cleared TODAY!

Yes, the little juglet will always be MY little juglet because I was the first one to release it, to have it see the sun again after being in the dark dirt so very long. I have made a contribution I will always remember.

 

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By Tasheana Bythewood

On Tel Akko Fear is Definitely not a Factor.

By Tasheana Bythewood.

 

Finding out I was going to be able to go to Israel and practice my passion for history and material culture up close and personal was a dream come true! Actually, going to Israel and living among the beauty of the old and new city for a month was life changing for me. I was able to explore my passions within archaeology and see what worked well for me and what didn’t. My biggest fear in coming to Akko was the bugs. I spent countless hours in the US googling “What kind of bugs can you find in Israel?”, this led to me falling down countless YouTube blackholes from videos of scorpions to tarantula hawk stings. While I did encounter scorpions on the Tel they were small and actually really underwhelming. I figured the best way to get over my fear of bugs in Israel was exposure therapy. I went to the Tel and oftentimes tried to find the oddest, grossest, and/or scariest bug that I could find and get a really close picture with my crappy iPhone 6 Plus camera (I refuse to give up the headphone jack).

Overtime the bugs became less frightening and more interesting. On the Tel I often told myself ‘just imagine you’re on fear factor and the million-dollar prize is getting to do archaeology’, It worked. Every time I got a picture of a bug I’d pretend I won and tell myself that “On the Tel Fear is not a Factor”. I had the absolute best time of my life on the Tel, I’ve met great people, and have a new love for pottery and archaeology thanks to my time in Israel, it was everything I could have asked for and more.

Facing my entomophobia was another plus side that I never considered could be a possibility on this trip. I don’t know if I’ll ever be 100% cured but I went in terrified and came out well… less terrified so I’m going to take that as a win! Thank you, Akko, for being the best time of my life and thank you Total Archaeology for broadening my horizons!

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By Brandon Yang

Reflecting on Akko and its People

by Brendon Yang.

مرحبا, שלום, приве́т, hello. Even if Hebrew is now Israel’s official language, it doesn’t change the fact that people from all over the world will still flock to this country, whether it’s to visit holy sites in Jerusalem, clubbing in Tel Aviv, or sifting through dirt on Tel Napoleon. Despite my habit of dozing off in afternoon lectures, I do recall a statement about Akko being a case study for the rest of Israel in terms of being a land of many peoples and religions. While I admittedly was not the most attentive student in the lecture hall, this lesson was definitely reinforced as I explored and learned more about Akko.

Some typical interactions would be trying to learn Arabic from one of the Bedouins on the Tel as I attempt to pronounce صباح الخير. After baking in the sun, I might explore the Turkish Bazaar in the Old city where I would hear two tourists chatting in German. I would see signs that were written in Hebrew, Arabic, Russian, and English. I would respond with תודה or شكرا after buying something to drink. At the end of the day I’d say לילה טוב to my friends as I went to bed.

The variety of  languages I’d see and hear pairs well with the various buildings and monuments. Akko is home to one of the largest mosques in Israel. The Bahai gardens house the most sacred site in the Bahai religion. The Akko prison museum commemorates Jewish martyrs during the British Mandate. There is also the beach which all peoples can relate to.

Whatever legislation is passed, Akko and subsequently, Israel, will still be home to a variety of cultures and religions. Ancient Akko has seen Phoenicians, Persians, Romans, Crusaders, and Ottomans within its walls. Modern Akko sees Jews, Arabs, Americans, Europeans, and people from all around the globe. I suggest that if you ever go to Israel, you should spend some time in Akko. Here is a city that has such a varied and unique history and by being one of a few mixed cities in Israel, Akko retains its diverse traditions. I have no doubt that this place will continue to attract people from all over the world

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By Paige Ekert

A Picky Eater’s Guide to Tel Akko

By Paige Ekert.

Being a picky eater is occasionally problematic. I have learned to survive on a handful of food staples and have developed a fairly good idea of tastes and textures that I will or won’t like. I have places that I frequent at home and at school, and when in doubt, there are always chicken fingers from the children’s menu.

Being a picky eater while abroad is a daily struggle. Most foods are, or at least appear, unfamiliar to me. As a self-proclaimed “reverse pescetarian” in a coastal area, I avoided many of the restaurants in the Old City. I don’t speak the language well enough to convey my multiple needs (“I want this but without X, Y, and Z”), and even with English menus, a full description of each food item was not guaranteed.

But fear not! By adhering to the following tips, even the pickiest of eaters are sure to survive, and even enjoy, their culinary experiences in Akko.

Never Skip Lunch                                                             

Lunch is, without a doubt, the best meal of the day. As the daily “meat meal”, lunch often consists of some type of chicken and multiple types of carbs. Though you may be tired after being at the tel all morning, this is not a meal to miss! Lunch always consisted of rice, chicken schnitzel, and potatoes, and the occasional pasta or other meat dish made special guest appearances throughout the week. This is the meal most likely to fill you up for the day, and besides, why would anyone ever miss a meal where chicken fingers are being served?

Ice Cream Is Always A Good Idea

It isn’t hard to find ice cream in Akko as it is literally being sold on every street corner. It would be practically impossible for anyone to walk away from one of these ice cream carts without a frozen treat. Nestle and Magnum both sell products in the ice cream cases on the streets and Ben and Jerry’s ice cream pints are sold in grocery stores throughout the city. Additionally, the same ice cream carts exist all throughout Israel, so the same ice cream you would get at 7 Days can be found in Caesarea and Jerusalem as well. Trust me, if you are in Israel during the summer, don’t pass on the ice cream.

My Market Is Truly Your Market

Even when food is being provided for you, it is generally a good idea to explore the local grocery store and pick up some quick snacks. My Market is a large, nearby food store that is home to all sorts of food items and other necessities, should you need them. In my trips to this store, I brought a box of cereal, ice cream, cookies, crackers, and other small snacks that can easily be packed for either our Saturday excursions or for the bus ride to the tel in the mornings. Whether you’re looking for sunscreen, orange juice, a pack of gum, or dried apricots, My Market has it!

Bread Will Always Be There To Welcome You Home

If you’re like me, you have learned to ignore your grandmother’s advice about ‘not filling up on bread before meals’, because for me, and many other picky eaters, the bread is our meal. The good news is that bread, in some form or another, is present at every single meal. Whether it is pita bread, a dinner roll, or a slice of sandwich bread, bread is guaranteed to have a place at the table and butter, jam, or chocolate spread is never far behind. Seriously, there will always be bread. It’s truly wonderful.

Brand Names Are Your New Best Friend

It doesn’t matter what you eat at home, when you’re abroad, you will cherish any familiar logos you can find. If you are a picky eater who can’t read Hebrew, you are going to fall in love with Pringles and Oreos and any other brands that are recognizable and give clues as to what you are actually eating. While American name brands aren’t available for every food item, you will be grateful for the ease of shopping for brand names and the familiarity of eating a snack that was probably a staple from your childhood.

You Won’t Die If You Try Something New

While it is easy to write off many different and new types of food, the truth is, trying new foods is actually a really great experience that will only enhance your adventures while abroad. Against my initial wishes, I tried several types of food while in Akko, and even found some that I liked! Even though halvah “tastes like nature and has the texture of sandstone” (verbatim Paige Ekert, circa 2018), I am glad that I was encouraged to try it. Besides, if it wasn’t for trying new things, I never would have discovered shawarma, which is more or less an Israeli taco, and is quite delicious. The moral of the story is, you never know what you like until you try it, even if you’re 19 years old and pretty set in your ways. There is a great big world out there full of different types of food, so get out there and try something!

 

 

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By Caitlin Donahue

I ❤️ Archaeology!!!

By Caitlin Donahue. When I was in the 3rd grade, I decided that I wanted to be an archaeologist when I grew up. My dad had continuously exposed me to the joys and wonders of the ancient world, and in the process, he created a monster. I realized my passion for history and archaeology and never looked back

Shortly after my 9-year-old self had determined my future career path, I began working on my “Archaeology Notebook,” as I called it. A very creative title, if I do say so myself.  I would spend my days after school researching my favorite topics or regions of the ancient world and write a summary, or at least attempt to, on that particular subject. I’d include poorly drawn illustrations of ancient monuments, fun facts that may not have been entirely accurate, and embarrassing side notes and doodles such as “I ❤️archaeology,” and so on.

My intention for this notebook was to cover a wide array of historical topics and groups, varying from ancient Egypt to Mesoamerica to the Vikings to ancient Greece, etc.

Although this notebook is somewhat embarrassing to look through now, it allowed me to express my passion and encouraged me to always try to learn about different places and parts of history.

Fast forward to the present, and it is clear to see that I took my 3rd grade decision to become an archaeologist very seriously. I am here in Akko and loving every second of my very first dig, and am unbelievably excited to see what else the future has in store for me. I never once had a back-up plan or another career path in mind if archaeology had turned out to be the wrong choice for me, so it is insanely relieving to finally know for sure that I ❤️ archaeology just as much as I always thought.

However, my college classes and work on Tel Akko have led me to the realization that 9-year-old me knew very little about what archaeology fully entails. Growing up, I was definitely biased towards large-scale and impressive ancient monuments and civilizations. Basically, I was interested in the type of archaeology that people generally associate with Indiana Jones and other stereotypical depictions of the ancient world. Excavating at Tel Akko has allowed me to gain a greater sense of appreciation for the seemingly mundane and often overlooked aspects of the ancient world. Now with every pottery sherd and bone fragment I uncover,I feel as if I am helping to gradually piece together the history of Tel Akko and the purpose it served in the ancient world.

Another important thing Tel Akko has helped me realize is my love for excavation. It was always a concern of mine that despite my love of history, excavation just may not be for me. I’m the type of person to scream whenever I see a spider, so the notion of encountering scorpions and other creepy crawlers was slightly unsettling. Luckily, these fears were quickly put to rest during the first day of field work at Tel Akko. I was covered in dirt and sweat and had blisters forming on my hands from never having done any manual labor before, and honestly, I’d never been happier.

I’m still not a huge fan of seeing giant spiders and other weird insects I’ve never seen before, but so far I have not caused a scene and freaked out so I’d say that’s pretty good. I now find myself daydreaming about dirt, sweeping off ashlars, trimming baulks, and removing fieldstones, but I’m not complaining.

While I can’t determine if my “Archaeology Notebook” was cute or incredibly cringe-worthy, I am thankful that I was able to find and stick with something that I am so passionate about. Working at Tel Akko and experiencing the archaeological process in a tangible manner has helped to validate my passion and strengthen my outlook on the future. To sum it all up: Tel Akko has confirmed the dream I’ve had since third grade, and it’s only the beginning.

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By Evan Taylor

Community Archaeology, Outreach, and the Old City

Community Archaeology, Outreach, and the Old City

By Elena Sesma (Anthropology, UMass Amherst) and Evan Taylor (Anthropology, UMass Amherst)

Community archaeology is a spectrum of engagement and collaboration with local people who live at, in, and around a research site. Here at the Tel Akko project, the community archaeology and outreach program brings together local teens and field school students to work towards understanding contemporary life, heritage, and material culture in this unique place. Over two weeks, we learned the importance of conservation in a coastal city built in vulnerable sandstone through workshops with local conservator and stone mason Saleem Amer; we talked about the cultural and heritage values placed in this uniquely diverse and beautiful city through tours led by local residents, professional archaeologists, and conservationists; and we studied the ancient and recent past of Akko/’Akka through archaeology and conversations with people who study and live in this place. These varied activities exemplify what it means to do community archaeology today: learning with and from local or descendant communities, and contributing to a common goal, in this case sharing the stories of life in Akko/’Akka in the past and present.

Over the past few years, the community outreach program has integrated Photovoice into its basic structure. Photovoice is a method used by many anthropologists to highlight local understandings of place through photography and storytelling. Some use it as a research method, but in our case Photovoice is a tool for cultivating relationships between local communities and the archaeological project. The basic idea is to enable participants to share their own perspective on a place or on a special topic by giving them cameras to document how they see the world around them, sometimes with prompts and sometimes with little instruction. In this case, participants in our Photovoice tour had the following prompts: “This place is important to me”; “I want to know more about this place”; “I would take a visitor to this place”; “I would change something about this place”. Many of the photos from this tour correspond with these prompts, while others were produced for different reasons. Ultimately all photos were taken because the participant wanted to share their experience, knowledge, or curiosity about something.

 

This year, we expanded the Photovoice exercise into a digital map that can be saved and shared more widely than within our group alone. Using Google Tour Builder, we have compiled the photos and stories from our tour and placed them on a map of Akko/’Akka. Anyone with the link can take a tour of the city through the eyes of those who live here (our teen participants) and those who have come to know it in recent weeks (our American field school students). These photos, stories, and occasional audio recordings help to populate the city’s map for people who might not be familiar with the landscape. The tour is also valuable for residents and frequent visitors to the city who want to see their local values and histories represented through familiar eyes and with familiar narratives. Tour Builder is a flexible platform that will allow us to add more content to the map as the program develops in future seasons.

 

An especially neat feature of this exercise was the overlapping stories that began to emerge as we toured the Old City. Often a participant would lead us to one site for a particular reason, and when we arrived we found out that this same location represented another unique story or memory to another person. The digital tour does its best to represent the many layers of memory and value that our participants attached to each site. The sites included in this tour range from family homes, to favorite bakeries, to religious sites, to the excavation site on the Tel. We invite you to take a tour of Akko/’Akka and see what makes this city so meaningful to those who call it home for a lifetime or for the summer.

Explore these sights and sounds at the Google Tour Builder site here.

Note: All photos are shared with permission from their creators.

 

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1 2 3 4
The ‘Art’cheology of Care
The Art of Smithing in Israel
Akko and Tokyo:  Heritage and History
The Crash of the Heavens
The Little Phoenician Juglet
On Tel Akko Fear is Definitely not a Factor.
Reflecting on Akko and its People
A Picky Eater’s Guide to Tel Akko
I ❤️ Archaeology!!!
Community Archaeology, Outreach, and the Old City