By Quentin Stickley

The Living City: Old Akko, Conservation, and Gentrification

The old city of Akko is unlike any other historical site I’ve visited in that it is a place where people are still living and making history much like they did in the past. It has not been roped off and sterilized for easy digestion. When you walk into the old city, you will encounter people selling fruit on the street, feeding stray cats or shooing them from their doorsteps, and going to and from their places of worship. Colorful street art decorates walls and doors. There are shops and attractions catering to tourists, certainly, but the old city is also a place where people make their homes, raise their children, and practice their religions. It is a delight to visit, but I am always concerned with the fuzzy line between visiting the city and encroaching upon the lives of Akko’s residents. Gentrification as a result of tourism is a grave threat to historic neighborhoods, especially those like Old Akko which are populated mostly by minority Arabs who are also relatively less wealthy. Since UNESCO designated the old city as a World Heritage Site. Building codes meant to preserve the historic structures have made it more expensive for residents to improve their homes, making life in the old city less feasible for many people who live there.

The nearby site of the ancient harbor, Caesarea provides a good example of a gentrified historical site. In addition to its ancient Roman and Byzantine remains, Caesarea was a Crusader site, and later historic buildings still stand, such as the “Bosnian Mosque” built by immigrants from Bosnia who founded a fishing village there in the 19th century. Today, however, the Crusader city at Caesarea feels empty. The buildings have been turned into restaurants and souvenir shops; the people there are all either tourists or people whose job it is to cater to them. Caesarea is a wonderful site with a lot of historical value, but seeing the old city there after coming from Akko made me feel sad. How many people did gentrification displace there? I say all of this aware that I am myself a tourist, and as a student of archaeology who is passionate about preserving historical and archaeological sites. If there is a healthy middle ground between preserving ancient structures and preserving the lives built by the people who now occupy them, I certainly couldn’t tell you where it might lie. But visiting Akko has impressed upon me the importance of seeking such a middle ground, and the fact that historical sites are not frozen in the past. As long as people continue to occupy them, those people will continue to add to the rich legacy of the place.

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By Allison Schwartz

Ally’s Declassified Archaeology Survival Guide

The Tel Akko Total Archaeology Field School is the first experience I have ever had with archaeology. Besides ,of course, what we see from Hollywood. In the real world you may run into snakes but you won’t fall into a pit of them like good ole’ Indiana Jones. You also won’t use your handy dandy brush to uncover the skeleton of a Dinosaur, that is a completely different profession known as “Paleontology”. It is not the same thing.  You also learn really quickly just how precious an Archaeologist’s trowel is to them. By reading this manual you will learn some handy dandy tips to help you not only get through this month of dirt and grime, but will also teach you how to have fun in Israel.

Number 1, Good Morning Tel Akko!

Every day at the Tel Akko Total Archaeology Field School we wake before the rooster. I know that because his lazy self is crowing when we are all on the Tel, having already been awake for an hour.  I knew when I arrived in Israel this summer I’d be waking up earlier than the sun, but what I wasn’t ready for was being ok with that. I am in no way a morning person, so I was completely surprised when, during the first two weeks of the trip, I was up bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. Then it hit me, the third week. Bright eyes turned bleary and one scoop of instant coffee turned to three. The best part? I loved every minute of it. Sure a couple hours of more sleep would have been nice, but so is the chance of getting find of the day (which I still haven’t gotten close to).


Number 2,  Learn how to Spell Archoe… Arkeol… Archeology

I still have trouble with this and I suppose I always will. All you need to know is that Archaeologists are treasure hunters with more paperwork… and less profit, but all the excitement!


Number 3, Indie had a whip… you have a brush. And yes there are snakes

We all know the look. A young and dashing Harrison Ford, idol in one hand whip in the other. It’d be cool if adventures really were death defying… but this one isn’t. Unless, of course, you use a brush to take a picture of a Scorpion… *Cough* that would be stupid…


Number 4,  A drink could save a Life… beach

After a long day on the Tel, which ends about 12:00 pm, you’ll find a few students at Life Beach, about five minutes walk from home base, having a beer and swimming in the Mediterranean sea. It’s five o’Clock somewhere right?  The real fun is Friday nights, after the city has died down for the Sabbath you and a few friends sit on the beach with a drink and watch Haifa in the distance.


Number 5,  The difference between a pastiche and a pickaxe… size matters

It’s important to know what tools you are going to use throughout the dig. Namely, a Terea(a large hoe) a brush and dustpan, a pickaxe and a pastiche are your best friends. A pastiche and a pickaxe are not  the same thing. Though the former is a miniaturized version of the latter, their uses are not interchangeable, unless you have the skill to work with what you have.


Number 6, Hydrate don’t DIE-drate

This tip is exactly what you think it is. DRINK WATER OR YOU WILL DIE. It is very hot here in Israel and, while you may feel dead tired… that doesn’t mean you want to be dead.

Number 7,   Work Harder not Smarter.

As a beginner to the field of Archaeology you have to realize that your role in the scheme of things is that you are a worker bee. This isn’t a bad thing because you learn a lot by listening to your supervisors. This  doesn’t mean you should slack off. The more you work the more you learn.


Number 8, If you’re gonna use a Terea, use gloves.

We are busy about eleven hours out of the day with about five hours of free time throughout the day. As long as what we do is safe and legal (which is easy when the drinking age is 18) the staff and faculty don’t care what we do. That being said, safety is key. Hint, hint.

Number 9,  Is that dirt or a tan?

Speaking of being dirty – you will leave the Tel covered in dirt. It will be gross and it will be mud-like and showers will be the most amazing feeling ever. Then you will get dirty again at pottery washing. Dirt is a fact of life. Accept it.

Number 10, Run to 7 DAYS like your life depends on it!

Seven days is the nearby coffee shop/ beer place( that is  not a bar), that everyone will go to for the free internet and the Goldstar Slow-brew. If you don’t get there before seven thirty in the evening you won’t be able to get on the internet and will have to go another 24 hours w/o internet access.

Number 11, You will have nightmares about shards of Pottery

You will see pottery everywhere. On the Tel you will dig up broken pieces of pottery every day. You will wash buckets of pottery every day. When that is all done and you think you finally have a break from the endless shards you will go on a tour of the beautiful Ba’hai gardens and you will walk on a seemingly endless path of G-D forsaken pottery shards.


Next, I don’t care who you think you are, you are not  tougher than the sun. Always put sunscreen on or you might leave here looking like that guy in the White House.  


Number 13,We’ll always have Akko.

This will be the most exhausting month of your life. You will be grimy, tired, exhausted, and frustrated. But, this will also be one of the best, most memorable months of your life. You will not only be doing (imho) semi-rewarding work but also meet hilarious, fun people. I’ve celebrated my twentieth birthday here and  made a couple lifelong friends here and I know when we look back we will always have Akko.



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By Owen Jenney

4am Just Getting Started

by Owen Jenney.


Waking up the first day of going to the excavation site was easy enough, with the four am alarm going off, my roommates and I had already been awake for about thirty minutes. We were nervously awaiting what was to become of us when our group was transported to the Tel for the first time. Everyone seemed to be going through the same thing, all waiting in the coffee room. It was silent, no one knew anyone else and we were still jet lagged and tired. I know I wasn’t thinking of making friends. I was contemplating how I was going to be able to get through four weeks waking up around four every day of the week, with the extremely generous addition of sleeping in till seven on the weekends.

We waited for the bus which pulled up around five twenty, and arrived at the Tel with the sun just coming up. I was still frazzled from sleep deprivation and the early wake up call, and all I could think about was my bed and nothing else. Due to this the basic tour of where we would be working for four weeks flew over my head. The day of fieldwork also just flew by in a haze, it was not extremely laborious; just clean-up of sandbags and general sweeping of the sites. But I was still just thinking about how we would have to wake up at such a terrible hour every day, even not getting much of a break on the weekends. I love my sleep, I would rather nap then see and hang with friends. I would rather be in bed than anywhere else. It’s my comfort zone and getting out of bed makes leaves you at the mercy of the day with little to no control on the proceedings.

My mother and father were always worried about me, due to me having clinical depression. Sleeping the day away everyday was something that scared them, but I loved being alone and unconscious rather than going out and living. I knew it was a problem too, but I couldn’t help myself, I didn’t have to worry about anything while I was asleep. So, when I approached them with the idea of a trip to Israel for a study abroad over the summer, they were all for it. I guess in a way I did it for them. I didn’t want them to worry about me and my sleeping habits and anti-social behavior.

This strenuous sleep schedule was quite literally a wake-up call. I couldn’t just lay in bed and do nothing anymore. Structure, just like in my semesters at Binghamton, was put back into place. I have a role and I’m a cog in a machine in which everyone is needed for it to run smoothly. I had something to wake up for – a responsibility to these people I barely know and I still don’t know even a quarter of their names. Suddenly, I had a purpose. It’s the purpose I’ve been looking for: to wake up every morning, to sweat and to work among strangers that quickly became my close friends. The Tel does that to you, even though its dirty and straining, it’s a common struggle everyone can relate to.

This though doesn’t mean it was easy to break my habit of sleeping. With the added addition of jetlag, I did nap through the first couple of days during free hours in-between lunch and lecture. I really did try my best to be up and about, but the moment I lay down on my bed after the Tel, I just knocked out. Later on, maybe a week in, I was talking to my new friends.  They told me that they got the impression that during the first few days I was going to be the antisocial kid that talked to nobody, the person always in his room and keeping to himself. From my perspective, I believe I did pretty well compared to how I was at home. I stayed awake all through the Tel, went to lunch and dinner, as well as the lecture. But the first days it seems were the most important to socialize and find like-minded people, so me doing the bare minimum and not reaching out or giving the option for someone else to, probably wasn’t a good start.

My comfort zone of sleep and my bed were still too strong a pull on me from months of doing it at home, I would actually have to try to stay awake, even though it’s a day of hard labor from 5:30 to 12:30, followed by lunch, free time (the danger zone), pottery washing, lectures, and then finally dinner. What the hell did I get myself into? Was this a mistake? Did I bite off way more than I could chew? I haven’t felt this amount of fatigue in a long time, and even while writing this I’m having trouble with thoughts of just one quick nap. People who have already been through the program say it gets easier, yet I find myself waking up closer and closer to the deadline of when the bus shows up at five thirty.

The routine of the Tel has become second nature, with work usually going by quickly due to the rewarding tasks that lead to finds and huge sherds, but the fatigue is always there. I’m not the only one either, my roommates and I have had to set 4 alarms in order to properly wake up. The coffee room where everyone hangs out before the bus has lost foot traffic until the final minutes before we leave. Yet, even with my problems about sleep and my troubles with isolating myself in my daily life, I have yet to have a more gratifying experience then my current time in Tel Akko. Being in the field applying the skills you’ve learned while at the program, rather than just listening in a lecture room writing it down for a test and forgetting it first chance you get. The experts and professors you meet really kindle your interest in every subject they talk about, where you can see they are truly passionate about what they are teaching. Plus, working with them in the field means they can answer any questions you might have or show me a better technique on how to use the tools given to me. Overall, my current experience of Tel Akko has been a positive one. The friendships I have made here in such a short time were all possible because I decided to get out of bed, and get started.

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By Abigail Zahoroiko

Barren Beauty

by Abigail Zahoroiko.


The definition of insanity is doing the exact same thing over and over again, expecting a different outcome. That. Is. Crazy.

One of my earliest memories in school is writing out a “Who I Am” worksheet at the beginning of third grade and putting “archaeologist” for my future career. This has been a dream of mine since early grade school and it all started with dinosaur oatmeal. As a kid, I would make my oatmeal but make a little “nest” for the dinosaur eggs by “excavating” them from the packet. Every packet had fun facts about dinosaurs and I thought I could be a paleontologist when I grew up, but I always called it archaeology as a little kid. Not until one of my morning packets of dinosaur oatmeal had the fun fact that a person who studies dinosaurs was called a “paleontologist”, not an “archaeologist”. So little me had to find out what in the world archaeology was if it wasn’t digging up dinosaurs.


Before I even knew what archaeology was, I loved history and I loved the dirt. Little me would go into my yard and collect fossils from around my house and in my woods and keep them in a box. I constantly saved toads and frogs and worms to get them to a safe place while doing my own busy work. Another early memory is sitting on my couch at home watching National Geographic episodes one after another after another. I clearly remember a documentary about King Tut and a separate episode about castles in Ireland. Everything interested me and I couldn’t get enough.


Archaeology had then been a passion of mine for years before I even discovered anthropology when I was in middle school. The study of humans and everything about them just broadened my horizon and strengthened my love of the subject. I was set on anthropology from then on, yet always had a soft spot for archaeology.


In college, studying abroad was a must in my academic career and I found the Akko program during my first semester. I went to meetings and actually had the strength to apply for the program during my second summer semester. I was afraid to spend so much money and I was uncertain about whether I was choosing the right thing for me. But I decided to go for it.  I never felt shocked that I was going on a place for the first time this summer, that I was leaving the country for the first time this summer, that I was going to be an archaeologist this summer. The plane ride came and went and I acclimatized to the new scenery without a problem. I didn’t experience jet lag as I just stayed up for the whole 10 and a half hour plane ride and went to bed at 11 pm, four hours after I arrived in Akko. And I didn’t experience this cultural shock. Nothing felt real. I was just in a different place and I got used to it rather quickly. There was no “this is so new”, “this isn’t right for me”, or even a “this is right for me”. I felt like I was just in a dream going with whatever flow was taking me.


So that’s how I ended up here in Akko and doing what I am passionate about for basically 24 hours a day. A perfect happy ending, right?


Yes, actually. I have become a part of Area Black, a newly opened area where I opened my very own square. Starting completely fresh and working to find something beneath the layers of dirt that have already been stripped away in other areas from seasons prior. Except, my square is nothing but dirt. NOTHING but dirt. Three separate squares surround mine, all riddled with amazing finds and even architecture but weeks into the dig and mine is over a meter deep into the ground with absolutely nothing to see. But every day I come back with positive energy and a simple love of what I am doing.

Beginning in week 3, I was moved to a different square in Area Black that has far more interesting material and every day I wish I was back in my home of NN-9. That’s how I know I’m on the right path. I have been doing the same thing over and over for weeks expecting something new, knowing my square is nothing but a disturbed pit of dirt, but that square is my home. My new placement is just an apartment I’m renting from a friend until I can get back on my feet again.

This profession is my home and Akko is now a part of it. Israel will forever be the place where I found exactly where I belong. I have since realized the realness of this experience and my heart breaks to return back home. I’m doing something that I never want to not be doing and soon my euphoria will shatter until I come back home again next year.


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By Anna Shamory

From Shards to Sherds: An Archaeologist’s First Dig

By Anna Shamory.

A ceramic bowl slips out of your hands and crashes to the ground. You pick up a piece of the broken pottery, but the real question is what you call this broken piece. Is it a shard or a sherd? Your answer to this question likely depends on your exposure to archaeology in literature or spoken word.

I study archaeological science at Penn State University, so before coming to Tel Akko I had some exposure to the term ‘sherd’. Yet, I have never personally used the alternative to shard until I came to dig at the tel. Whenever I saw the term sherd being used, I always questioned why archaeologists chose or came to prefer this more jargonized spelling.

So after days of uncovering countless sherds, placing them into buckets, carrying said sherds in buckets down to wash, and then hours of brushing them to varying degrees of cleanliness, I finally decided to investigate my question of:

Why sherds and not shards?

A definition of sherd, according to Merriam Webster’s online dictionary, is “a fragment of a pottery vessel found on sites and in refuse deposits where pottery-making peoples have lived.” However, shard is a more generic term for “a piece or fragment of a brittle substance.” In short, sherd (short for potsherd) goes specifically with historic/ancient pottery pieces, while shards can be anything literal or figurative that is broken into pieces.     

Even today, after weeks of saying sherd instead of shard, I sometimes do a double take when I see sherd written out somewhere, and I wonder how pottery ‘shreds’ something. My brain still thinks of a more typical word, shreds, over the archaeological variation that is sherds.

Since I’ve been converted to use the term sherd by the lingo here at the Tel Akko dig, I’ve learned so much more about pottery than I thought I ever would. Though I’m sure not all sites are chock full of sherds, the sheer amount of these broken pottery pieces uncovered and collected daily in the square in which I excavate is beyond any prior expectations I had about archaeology. My first day collecting pottery, I was extremely excited by every single piece I tossed into my pottery bucket. It was a thrilling experience to be touching literal pieces of history with my fingertips. Now, at the end of my third week here, I still very much enjoy finding pottery, but not every piece of pottery lends me that same excitement as before.

What do we do with the sherds?

In the late afternoons, we students and staff spend about two hours brushing clean all the pottery we collected the day(s) before. Us newbies quickly learned that washing a bucket full of the small pieces that lack any sort of identifiable ornamentation like a rim or design (and are around the size of  an American half-dollar) is time consuming and not as much fun to do.

Nonetheless, I very much enjoy digging up pottery sherds, and then spending a relaxing fun time with my friends talking, listening to music, and of course, scrubbing the dirt off numerous potsherds!

To end, no matter how many years I handle pottery in the field, I hope I can keep a little spark of that excitement I had those first few days. What looks like a typical sherd in the field can end up being a beautifully decorated piece when washed clean.

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By Michael Flaig

A Day in the Cult


By Michael Flaig.


Arising before dawn from our humble rooms we eat a small breakfast consisting of bread, fruit, and some sort of spread as well as coffee or tea. The small bit of television we watch is Israeli music videos from eras we can only guess, but we watch, captivated, anyway. With this small meal we drag our tired bodies outside and onto a waiting bus which will take us to meet the rising sun at our working place. Most of us will work in squares under shade protected from the suns rays but not all of us. Some of us, chosen for this task by our lord and surveyor, will get to work in the greatest job on Earth… survey.

What makes a man choose survey over squares? After all survey is in the sun and is back breaking work, which will be backfilled that very day. It is hot, sweaty, dirty work that could be compared to prison work by an unenlightened person, yet it draws people towards it. Long has this been debated and long will it be debated, but I, aa a  survey man and reluctant occasional square man, can say that it is a feeling you have, a dedication to the lord and surveyor, and his mentor the all father of Tel Akko survey, who is here, yet not here at all times.

The sun rises over the distant mountains to the East and we pray that we make it through another day of heat and work. The tools are gathered – the implements of faith: the pickaxe and the terea, we are guided to our holes and begin to dig our 40 by 40 by 40 cm pits that are the calling card of our faith. We dig and dig looking for pottery and other important remains that give us our purpose. Guided by our holiest of objects, the total station, that is so holy no one but the lord and surveyor and those he hand picks can touch it. They, however, still do not know all of its secrets. We find the places where the next hole will be dug. The holes we dig carve up the tel like swiss cheese as the ritual of digging continues.

We dig. We dig to music which can vary to be different genres but the music must have a digging rhythm to help us dig. While we dig, we find all manner of things from ancient trash to modern trash and onions. Survey onions are special onions, these onions are poisonous and can irate skin by just touching the skin. Despite this, the onions hold a special place in the heart of survey. One of our favorite past times is throwing things over the sides of the hill. The hill is a special hill, as it is the tel, and had a rampart at one time in its history. By throwing onions over the side of the hill, we are experimenting with how effective the defenses could have been.  We also have a javelin throwing team in survey headed by our lord and surveyor.

One of the rights of passage in survey is to hold the prism rod. The prism rod is a sacred object as it has the holy prism on top that allows us to plot new holes and already dug holes. All survey members must have experience in holding this sacred device. The call goes out over the walkie talkies to move a certain distance that the holy of holies informs us of.

As we toil away at the ground we hear the magic words of “breakfast time”. When we hear these words, we know it means that just for a bit we are out of the sun and get food. Tel breakfast is the best breakfast as everything tastes better after hard work. During this communal meal we talk about all the hardships we have had so far and about what we are digging. When the orders to get back to work are given, we return to digging holes or plotting in new holes. At high noon, as the sun reaches its zenith, we start to pack up to head back to our living space for lunch, lecture, and other things. We go to sleep early so we can wake up and do it all over again.

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By Samantha Foppe

Adapt and Relax

By Samantha Foppe. There is no normal course of action when doing archaeology. Every day you have to be ready to change your previous plan and start from scratch. As someone who really likes to have a plan or an outline, not having the security of a constant plan was frustrating at first, but I quickly became use to it. When we began excavating in my square, there was a lot of starting and stopping and waiting for further instruction. It felt like we were barely getting anywhere. The square had been previously excavated by a different archaeologist, Moshe Dothan, several decades ago and we had been sorting through the plans he had for his excavation. This added an extra layer of complication to the excavation plans.

We started uncovering archaeological features that were unexpected, including what appears to be a hearth. This meant we had to create a new locus and portion off the square into a smaller area to excavate. Days later, we found a surface, and the plan changed again and we had to change the locus once more. Dothan’s plans included a wall and for a whole week we never uncovered said wall so the plan was altered. As we continued to dig, every time we may have found something, we needed to stop and wait for approval to continue. Every time I thought a course of action had been decided, we found something new and had to completely reevaluate.

Over the past two weeks, I have had to learn to adapt quickly to every new find during excavation. It has been a speedy transition from always having to follow a plan to going with the flow. At first it was stressful always changing direction, but now I feel much more at ease when we add new loci or begin digging in other areas. The ability to adapt quickly was a skill I never expected to need at an archaeological excavation but it is definitely a benefit I have begun to acquire.

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1 2 3 4
The Living City: Old Akko, Conservation, and Gentrification
Ally’s Declassified Archaeology Survival Guide
4am Just Getting Started
Surveying the cult
Barren Beauty
From Shards to Sherds: An Archaeologist’s First Dig
A Day in the Cult
Adapt and Relax
Second Week Finds
Potsherd Hill – Tel Akko