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 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.

Number 12, SUNSCREEN, JUST SUNSCREEN

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 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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Washed pottery sherds

By Dylan Ingram

The side of ceramics you may not know

By Dylan Ingram…

Everyone at the Tel Akko Total Archaeology Project has some experience with pottery washing:  You grab a bucket of sherds from the previous day at the tel, scrub off the dirt, and you end up with a clean basket like the one pictured above.  But relatively few of the students here know exactly what happens afterwards with the pottery.  Fortunately, I had the opportunity July 18 to sit in on a session of pottery reading, and it provided a completely different perspective on the role of ceramics at Tel Akko.

Pottery reading begins with square and area supervisors presenting the washed pottery from their area’s loci to Martha Risser and Jolanta Mlynarczyk.  Both of them work through the pottery from the crate they were given, inspecting a couple of sherds more closely.  Unsurprisingly, they mostly use the diagnostic pieces such as handles, rims, bases, and painted or stamped sherds, which are kept a few inches apart from the non-diagnostic body sherds.

Occasionally they come across a particularly interesting piece of pottery, such as very nice black ware or East Greek pottery (identifiable from the almost glittery appearance of the fabric).  One piece that I saw Martha and Jolanta get interested over was the toe of an amphora, which they identified from its fabric as being of Attic provenance.  Although Attic imports are relatively common at Tel Akko, they said that it is much rarer to find Attic amphoras.  (Sadly, the context where this toe was found was extremely disturbed, likely due to agricultural tilling of the land.)

After Martha and Jolanta have checked out the sherds they’re given, they determine when this pottery was made.  Certain sherds can be dated very precisely—Martha once showed me a piece of a cup the size of my thumbnail with an incised palmette black glaze design, which she said was at the time the single most precisely dateable sherd in the entire pottery lab—but most of the chronological conclusions Martha and Jolanta made during the reading I watched were a bit broader.  Sometimes they would date a box of pottery to the 7th or 6th centuries BCE, other times to the Persian Period.

What most struck me about pottery reading was the pace at which it proceeds.  Each box gets read in the span of only a few minutes; Martha and Jolanta don’t waste any time when they inspect a sherd.  For example, they are so experienced with pottery that they can determine the stance of a piece just by looking at it, whereas I for one still need to use the “smile-frown test”:  rolling around a rim against a flat surface until it lines up flush.

As we have all heard, things are useless without context, pottery sherds included.  Because of this, the square and area supervisors present top plans and give brief oral descriptions of the loci in which they found each box of pottery.  Although this helps Martha and Jolanta to get a better idea of the source of everything they look at, there is still some ambiguity.  That’s why they both went up to the tel July 19:  to see where all these sherds have come from personally, so as to get a clearer picture of the type of soil in and layout of the various squares.  Martha mentioned to me that she wishes she were able to visit the tel more often in person, since it’s so helpful to her.

Beyond the obvious archaeological significance of pottery reading, I found my experience sitting in to be sort of exhilarating.  There is something really amazing in how quickly Martha and Jolanta can work through a crate of pottery and make a declaration about its origins.  Moreover, I gained a valuable appreciation for the significance of pottery—plainly demonstrating the utility of everyone’s favorite time of the day, pottery washing.

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I ❤️ Archaeology!!!
Ally’s Declassified Archaeology Survival Guide
From Shards to Sherds: An Archaeologist’s First Dig
First week finds
Washed pottery sherds
The side of ceramics you may not know