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 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 Paige Ekert

Out of My Element: A Less Conventional Approach to Archaeology

by Paige Ekert.

As we arrived to the tel on that first morning, one thought kept running through my head over and over again, “What am I doing here? I can’t possibly belong.” I was surrounded by students who have been studying archaeology, history, and anthropology for years. Many of those who weren’t students were experts in their respective fields, and most had as many years of experience in their fields as the amount of years I’ve been alive, if not more. I fell into neither of these two distinct categories. Instead, I am one of the younger students, having only just finished my freshman year, and I am a STEM major on top of it. Not only do I have no background in the subject matter, I have a completely different frame of mind, career goal, and general interests than most of my other colleagues and I was hyperaware of this distinction.

I was highly intimidated by nearly everyone that I met that first week, and felt vastly inferior to most. I had a hard time contributing to conversations about global politics, historical events, religion, anthropological topics and other ‘worldly’ themes. In all honesty, I felt isolated. At school, I could talk for days about biofilms and dispersal, yet here, I found myself in an academic setting in which I could not find my footing. I knew that there must be some benefit to my being here, as I obviously would not have been accepted into the program otherwise, however I was struggling to see any of them. I knew that I would learn everything that was absolutely necessary for me to learn and I knew that I would still make friends regardless of our separate interests, but each day pushed me further and further away from my comfort zone and I wasn’t sure if I liked that.

As a biology major, I am generally most comfortable being in completely sanitary and sterile conditions. I typically work with microorganisms and other ‘invisible’ beings. There is a great deal of silence while working and typically it takes a substantial amount of time to ‘discover’ the results of the tests that I run. Needless to say, the first day in the field was accompanied by a fair dose of culture shock. I came back from the tel covered in dirt, sand, and unidentifiable grit. My hair was pulled out of its once neat ponytail and the clothes I wore were virtually destroyed. The objects we excavated were typically big enough to be seen by the naked human eye and were fairly easy to identify. There was a jovial social aspect in the field that I had never encountered before. I was absolutely exhausted and mentally drained due to the physicality of the work, the intensity of the sun and the amount of information that was being thrown at me while at the tel. Never before had I been less prepared for the work I was doing and I was completely overwhelmed by the unfamiliarity that surrounded me. I continuously told myself that change is good and kept working to maintain a positive outlook on the project as a whole, focusing specifically on the relative uniqueness of my situation and realizing the advantageous aspects of this trip that I would surely benefit from.

As time went on, I began to feel more comfortable on the tel; I learned more and more about archaeological theories, applications, and skills, the context of my specific square, and the expectations in place for me. I even began to see the similarities between the processes I was accustomed to and the ones being performed at the tel. There was a scientific method in place and the highly descriptive notes being taken by supervisors were vastly similar to the ones I take in my own lab. After working on the tel, I occasionally attended archaeobotany sessions and did flotation tests on soil samples taken during excavation. I no longer felt like a complete stranger in this new world. Every single person that I met was more than happy to explain anything I needed clarification on and I started to fall into a routine and become comfortable with the daily tasks assigned to me.

Last Thursday, this routine was interrupted in the best of ways. While sifting through four buckets of cleared dirt from a small area of my square that I was excavating, I stumbled upon what I believed to be an ancient bead. It was about 2 centimeters in height, black, and had a hole on either end. I threw it in a bucket and planned on asking someone about it when I had a chance. A while later, I showed it to my lovely square supervisor who very loudly exclaimed several expletives and began running around with this very small, seemingly not so important bead. My area supervisor had us halt operations in our square to show him where I was excavating. It was then that I began to think that the bead I had found had some kind of mysterious significance. I was then informed that I had found a stone cylinder seal. I smiled and went back to sweeping dirt in another part of the square. I suppose it was at this moment that my obliviousness regarding this tiny object was revealed. A group of people gathered around me to explain the role of cylinder seals in Mesopotamian culture and it was later disclosed to me that this was only the second of its kind to be found on the tel (and the first to be found in a context). “Wow”, I thought, “My fancy little bead is indeed really cool”.

Throughout the day, people kept commenting on how ironic it was that I, who didn’t even know what it was, found the seal, when people who study archaeology and anthropology are left to sift through mounds of dirt only to find more dirt. I fully attribute this find to luck, but am ultimately just happy to have been given an opportunity to learn a little more about a field that I admittedly know not very much about, while feeling a tad reaffirmed in my developing skills.

There is undoubtedly much, much more for me to learn in this field, and I strongly believe that one never truly stops learning in this field, or any other for that matter. I may not have known exactly what I was doing when I first arrived and I still might have to ask a hundred questions each day, but I learn more and more each minute I spend on the tel and get to experience something that I wouldn’t have been able to had I stayed on a traditional path and confined myself to one field. I can say with absolute certainty that I am a better student, scientist, and person because of this project. I may be out of my element, but I think it might just be okay.

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By Jennifer Munro

Thursday 20th July – Faience bead found at Tel Akko

The find of the day today was a tiny Faience bead.

Faience is a glassy substance often manufactured expertly by the ancient Egyptians. The process was first developed in Mesopotamia, first at Ur and later at Babylon, but faience production reached its height of quality and quantity in Egypt.

Some of the greatest faience-makers of antiquity were the Phoenicians of cities such as Tyre and Sidon who were so expert in making glass that it is thought they invented the process. The Egyptians created works of art which still intrigue and fascinate people in the present day.

We will consult with the experts to discover who this bead was made by.

Among the most famous of faience statuary is the blue hippopotamus popularly known as “William”, currently on exhibit and treated as a mascot at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in Manhattan, NY, USA. William was one of a pair found in the shaft of the tomb of the steward Senbi II who served under either Senusret I (c. 1971-1926 BCE) or Senusret II (c. 1897-1878 BCE), both of the 12th Dynasty of the Middle Kingdom.

Poor people in Egypt, could seldom afford faience, while wealthier people often owned Shabti dolls made of the expensive substance.  The colors of the faience were thought to have special symbolism. Blue represented fertility, life, the Nile river on earth and in the after-life, green symbolized goodness and re-birth in the Field of Reeds, red was used for vitality and energy and also as protection from evil, black represented death and decay but also life and regeneration, and white symbolized purity. The colors one sees on the Shabti dolls, and in other faience, all have very specific meaning and combine to provide a protective energy for the object’s owner.

Our little bead is worn, and so it’s hard to tell what colour it might have been, but we do know that it must have been owned by someone of wealth and possibly power.

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Ally’s Declassified Archaeology Survival Guide
Out of My Element: A Less Conventional Approach to Archaeology
Second Week Finds
First week finds
Thursday 20th July – Faience bead found at Tel Akko
Figurine face
Thursday 14th of July
Wednesday 13th July