By Quentin Stickley

I’m not going to lie, the last week at Akko was difficult. I was physically and mentally exhausted, almost every joint in my body was sore, swollen, and/or blistered, and I wanted nothing more than to sleep for at least a week straight. Going up to the tel each day was increasingly difficult, especially when we reached the midpoint of the week and prepared to stop excavating and start cleaning the site and putting protections in place for the next season. I like digging – sweeping up dirt, clipping weeds, and tossing heavy sandbags aren’t nearly as enjoyable.

Wednesday was the last day of excavation proper, and I hadn’t really found anything special, other than a tiny red bead and several cakes of iron slag. I was okay with that. Getting a special find is a huge morale boost, but I think if you go into the dig expecting one and you don’t find anything for a long period of time, it can actually slowly drain your mood. So I had gotten myself into a headspace where I was content with looking at the neat things the other diggers found – Egyptian scarabs, a nearly intact crucible, and even Tel Akko’s first in-context cylinder seal were all found in or adjacent to my square – and not expecting to uncover anything more remarkable than an ancient stone block. Imagine my surprise when a light sweep uncovered what looked like a twisting white fragment of something, possibly a piece of a seashell, with a strange, rounded blue protrusion. A few brisker sweeps, and the object came loose: a sitting figurine with large blue eyes, round ears, and yellow painted markings.

I jumped up and brought the object to my square supervisor, who seemed surprised. Both she and my area supervisor first guessed that the object was modern and had been planted by someone working on the site, because in addition to its very shallow location, none of the staff had ever seen anything like it and it was in very good condition, with only one ear and fragments of the hands broken off. The staff eventually decided that it was probably ancient. After we returned to our base camp and showed the object to the staff members who had remained there for the day, we learned that a very similar object had been found at the tel in 1977 during the excavations supervised by Moshe Dothan, although Dothan’s example had been in rougher shape.

Reactions to what quickly earned the nickname “the demon monkey” were mixed. People either found it adorable, or declared that I would now be cursed or haunted. Speculation intensified the next day when I was sweeping the square about a meter away from where I had found the “demon monkey,” and my brush turned up yet another figurine, which on close examination appeared to be an anthropoid baboon, possibly from Egypt. Although the two figurines were very different in style, the fact that they both seemed to depict non-human primates only fueled the rumor mill, and by the end of the day there were several running theories as to my true nature:

  • Cursed by “the monkey god.”
  • Blessed by “the monkey god.”
  • Chosen as prophet or servant of “the monkey god.”
  • “The monkey whisperer.”
  • Actually the god Thoth in disguise, capable of spontaneously generating ancient monkey figurines (from my ears, for some reason).

While it remains to be seen whether I am cursed or blessed, finding those monkeys was an experience I will never forget. I’m holding out to see if next year someone finds the barrel they came from.

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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 Quentin Stickley

Digging with Chronic Pain

by Quentin Stickley. Archaeology is my passion, but as someone who lives with chronic pain, I have always been concerned that working in the field might prove impossible for me. My time at Tel Akko has demonstrated to me that although much of the excavation process involves physical labor, disabled people are not necessarily precluded from participating, either in the field or in the laboratory. Excavation is a team process, and there are many different tasks to be done, all of which are necessary for the new data to reach a state in which it can be easily accessed and manipulated for research purposes.

In recent decades, the amount of lab work done by archaeologists has increased, with the presence of archaeobotanists and zooarchaeologists on excavation teams becoming standard. Archaeobotanists study ancient plant remains, such as seeds, which have been preserved through charring by fire, and zooarchaeologists study animal bones to learn about the humans who raised or hunted those animals. Tiny objects and organic remains are filtered from soil and brought to the lab, where they must be manually checked to sort useful materials from small pieces of gravel and modern plants. Items that can be recovered this way include bones, seeds, shells, beads, and small metal pieces and potsherds. After they have been sorted and weighed, each subset of materials goes to the respective specialist who studies them for identification and analysis. Archaeologists keep careful track of the location from which each sample was recovered so that they can draw conclusions from the distribution of materials. A sample which yielded a comparatively large amount of iron slag, for example, may have come from an area that was used for refining and working metals, or a sample with a lot of chaff may have come from a grain processing area. In my experience, people either love sorting these samples or they hate it. Personally, I find it almost meditative. It requires focus, but the occasional interesting find, such as a fish tooth or an ancient bead, keeps it from becoming monotonous. There are other jobs to do off the tel as well – potsherds and bones need to be washed and marked or sorted, for example.

Even excavation may be doable with appropriate modifications and assistance. Because most of my pain is localized in my feet and knees, squatting or kneeling is very difficult for me, but I have little trouble in the field as long as I have a stool to sit on (it’s not safe to sit on the ground at our site, because of the presence of burrowing scorpions who may not appreciate running into someone’s posterior). I would encourage disabled people who are interested in doing archaeology to talk with the excavation staff and supervisors to work out accommodations or alternative tasks, and not to be shy about asking for help or taking a break if you need one. I have found that the staff here at Tel Akko are immensely understanding and helpful in this regard.

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By Salem Arvin

Sifting Through my Thoughts: How to better oneself

by Salem Arvin.

Living in a new place can pose many challenges, and whether emotional or physical this has the tendency to throw off even the best of us. However, in my journey to Israel for an archaeological field school at the Tel Akko site there was one thing I wasn’t expecting to feel. That feeling? Out of my element. Here I am, digging through the dirt and making discoveries in ways I couldn’t have imagined, but when it all comes down to it I have felt like a fish out of water. You see, at Miami I’ve taken courses on both Latin American and North American archaeology, I’ve taken the archaeology capstone, and I’ll even be UAing for ATH 212, the introductory archaeology class. I know the discipline, but what I didn’t realize is how much knowledge I didn’t have, and how much I could learn here at Akko.

In all honesty I know almost nothing about Old World or Biblical archaeology. While I am certified in Spanish and have worked for years on my accent and grammar, I know almost no Hebrew. I know little of other religions, and especially of the bible. I didn’t know about the chronology, the ceramics of the area, the vegetation, even the history. That was, until I started digging and attending lectures. The staff here at Tel Akko have really opened up my eyes to the history of Akko in ways I didn’t think possible at the start. It was easy to get frustrated and think “Oh, well this isn’t my specialty so I’m not worried about it”, but over time my attitude changed, and I became more and more intrigued with my surroundings and what I could learn here.

As academics-in-training it can be hard to come to terms with the fact that we don’t, in fact, know everything. And that is OKAY, because even more valuable than always being right or always being the smartest person in the room is being willing and able to absorb new information and maintain a positive attitude. My time at Akko has taught me not only about its Crusader history or the history of the Ottomans, of religious practice and of Israel as a whole, but also how to better myself. And with that in mind, I will continue to cherish my time here and work to further my own understanding of the archaeology of Akko.

 

Happy digging!

Salem Marie Arvin

 

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By Caroline Sausser

7 Reasons Why You Should Go to Tel Akko

You’ve read all about our experiences. You’ve seen the pictures. You’ve had the travel envy. So now you’re wondering, “Should I too go on this trip? Is it right for me? Will I also have an amazing four-week experience?” Well wonder no more, for I am here with the 7 reasons (inspired by our favorite hang-out, “7 Days Café”) why you should definitely go on this trip.

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By Caroline Sausser

Memories to Savor

When you ride Soarin’ in Walt Disney World’s Epcot, puffs of scent come out during the different scenes: jasmine above the Taj Mahal, plumeria over Hawaii, or my favorite grass smell beneath Mount Kilimanjaro. Of course, if you look to your left or right, you remember you are, in fact, just on a ride. But one thing that Disney got right is that smells are a crucial part of experiencing locations. I won’t be able to take it with me, but the smells of the Old City of Akko will always be in the back of my mind when I remember these streets.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

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By Dr Melissa Rosenzweig

Crops of Tel Akko

In this post I am going to run through some of the most common domesticated plant species that we find in the archaeological record at Tel Akko.  These taxa give us a good sense of the economic plants used at Tel Akko, particularly for food.

The two most prolific crops at Tel Akko, from all the historical periods excavated thus far, are olive (Olea europaea) and grape (Vitis vinifera).  Fun fact: The grape pips we recover occasionally show up mineralized, rather than charred.  This means people ate these seeds, which then calcified as they passed through the human gut (Green 1979).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cereals were also staples at Tel Akko.  We find grains of barley (Hordeum sp.) and different varieties of wheat (Triticum spp.).  Wheat would have been the preferred grain for people to eat, while barley would have been consumed by humans and fed to animals as fodder.

A handful of pulses, which comprise beans and peas, are found in the Tel Akko excavations.  They include lentil (Lens culinaris), common pea (Pisum sativum), and bitter vetch (Vicia ervilia).  Fun fact: Bitter vetch is considered a famine crop because it has to be boiled in order to be safe and palatable for human consumption (Zohary and Hopf 2000: 116).  However, this legume was also a popular fodder crop for livestock, who ate it as-is without any harmful side effects.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Other plants that round out our picture of cultivated crops at Tel Akko include fig (Ficus carica), safflower (Carthamus sp.), and flax (Linum usitatissimum).  Fun facts: We only have a few finds of safflower thus far.  But these seeds provide tantalizing links to maritime contacts with the Egyptians, who grew and prized safflower for both its oil (used in cooking) and red dye (used in cloth production) (Marinova and Riehl 2009: 345-6).  We have recovered just two (two!) flax seeds so far, but these plants were also important sources of oil (linseed) and linen for textiles.  They are hard to find archaeologically because their rich oil content makes them susceptible to ashing, rather than charring, when exposed to fire.  By the first millennium BCE, safflower and flax were largely (but not entirely) replaced by the red/purple dye of Murex shellfish and sheep wool for textiles.  And as it turns out, we have a fair amount of Murex shells and sheep bones (Ovis sp.) at Tel Akko.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Works Cited

Green, Francis J. (1979) Phosphatic mineralization of seeds from archaeological sites. Journal of Archaeological Science 6: 279-284.

Margaritis, Evi and Martin Jones (2008) Olive oil production in Hellenistic Greece: The interpretation of charred olive remains from the site of Tria Platania, Macedonia, Greece. Vegetation History and Archaeobotany 17: 393-401.

Marinova, Elena and Simone Riehl (2009) Carthamus species in the ancient Near East and south-eastern Europe: Archaeobotanical evidence for their distribution and use as a source of oil. Vegetation History and Archaeobotany 18: 341-9.

Zohary, Daniel and Maria Hopf (2000) Domestication of Plants in the Old World.  Oxford: Oxford University Press.

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By Caroline Sausser

It’s Up to You as Nancy Drew

By Caroline Sausser

While walking through the underground tunnel system of the Hospitaller compound in Old Acre, my fellow Miami students began a wonderful rendition of the Indiana Jones theme song. As we scurried through the short and narrow tunnel, it conjured images of a giant stone rolling down to chase us all out again. But while some feel like Indiana Jones during the exploration of new places and the work on the Tel, I feel like Nancy Drew.

The Nancy Drew I grew up with was  the independent and self-relying computer game version rather than her book counterpart. The games featured puzzles of varying difficulty in order to solve a mystery. They took Nancy to locations spanning from the Wild West to Scotland to Egypt. My favorite part was trying to figure out the puzzles, using information I had to gather throughout the story and thinking in different ways than I might initially.

Out here on the Tel, I have a chance to solve puzzles and mysteries every day. Some are a little less brain-vexing, “such as where can I put my feet in this square without standing on a tabun (ancient ovens named for the Arabic word for oven) or a piece of pottery with the least amount of discomfort?” But others are much more complex. For instance, the tabuns in my square were originally dated to the Early Hellenistic period. However, in and near the tabun, we have found pieces from the earlier Persian period. This leaves us with a couple of dating options, as the tabuns may have really been of the Persian period the whole time, or they may have been filled by either those from the Hellenistic period or the past excavator from the 1970’s and 1980’s, Dothan. Now our focus in digging in this area is to try to solve this mystery. And each little pot sherd and piece of tabun helps us move toward a solution to this puzzle: which era is the one “who-dun-it?”

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By Caroline Sausser

From the Farm to the Tel

Digging in the dirt is not an unfamiliar task for me. Having visited my grandparents’ farm throughout my life, I have often plowed gardens, put up fences, and weeded flower beds. And every now and then while digging, I’d find a broken piece of pottery in the fields.

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Reflecting on Akko and its People
Digging with Chronic Pain
Sifting Through my Thoughts: How to better oneself
7 Reasons Why You Should Go to Tel Akko
Memories to Savor
Crops of Tel Akko
It’s Up to You as Nancy Drew
From the Farm to the Tel