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 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 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 Anna Bidstrup

A Squareless Beginning

My expectations for this dig, and Akko in general for that matter, were completely wrong. I thought that archeology in Tel Akko would mirror my past archeological experience at the San Martino Archeological Field School in Torano di Borgorose, Italy. I expected hours of troweling, sweeping and finding artifacts alongside close companions in a square that I would know like the back of my hand. Last summer, I spent every day in the same square, learning all of the unique features the architecture had to offer and intimately understanding the strata and history of my square. I got attached to that square—and I looked forward to having a square to call home again, but this time in Akko, unfortunately for me, I didn’t find a home for the first week and a half.

The first few days on the Tel were hectic to say the least. Whether we were moving sandbags or cleaning the Tel, it felt chaotic and almost foreign. Rather than a square, I was assigned to an area in which I floated between the squares, only changing course when my area supervisor told me to go somewhere else. As people started to excavate in squares that would become their own, I was still meandering around the Tel, doing odd jobs to seemingly pass the time. I found myself feeling jealous of my friends who were learning the intricate details about their respective squares; while I barely (and literally) touched the surface of the squares that I worked in. Even if I did feel connected to a square, like when I found a worked bone in NN20, it was fleeting since I would never return the following day. In reality, everything I was doing was important or at least a necessary step in collecting the data that allows us to understand what life was like thousands of years ago.

Even though I did not enjoy my time as a nomad on the Tel, there are definitely a few positive things that came along with the job (or lack there of). First off, I occasionally was filled in with brief histories of different squares. These short descriptions gave me a semi-solid background of the Tel, but even now my understanding of the Tel is far from complete. Another positive aspect of the floater life is having the ability to sample different activities, like learning how to trim a bulk or participating in survey. I’ve done survey for the past two days, and it is incredibly rewarding but exhausting (you essentially dig an average of six 40 by 40 by 40 cm holes throughout the course of the day under the hot Israeli sun). Now I know this last one is quite cheesy, but I met a lot of different people and made some great friends and memories through my various squareless adventures on the Tel.
Now I have found what I would call a “half-home” in the sense that I dig in PP19 that I eventually joined later on. However, I’m not expected to go there every day since I also participate in survey and conservation. I don’t get that exciting yet familiar feeling when I’m in the square about to start excavating, but I still enjoy it nonetheless. I love getting updates from my fellow square-mates at the end of the day, but I don’t feel the same square attachment as I did with my square on my dig last year.

It is okay that things are different here and I’m so fortunate that I have the opportunity to experience another archaeological dig. Overall, I cannot recommend the floater lifestyle but I can’t NOT recommend it either. All digs are different, so you will never know what you like until you get out there and try it. 10/10 would recommend going on an archaeology dig.

 

Please follow and like us:
On Tel Akko Fear is Definitely not a Factor.
I ❤️ Archaeology!!!
From Shards to Sherds: An Archaeologist’s First Dig
A Squareless Beginning