By Tanya Nasife

The ‘Art’cheology of Care

It’s easy to get caught up in the dirt storm, both literally and figuratively, of an archaeological dig. You must take caution in not knocking rocks out of place or stepping on pottery. There seems to be a zone sometimes you get into during digging. Maybe it’s the repetition, or just the excitement of finding a cool looking pottery piece or a rock. In digs sometimes, there can be a lack of care for yourself, especially in extreme situations. In hot weather, there are dangers, like not drinking enough water. At this dig at Tel Akko, you can commonly hear people yelling to drink water, or have someone use that parent voice of disappointment when they hear you haven’t drunk any water in the last twenty minutes. You can stretch your legs, drink water and enjoy the wind that finally comes in.  That, however, is only one part of what makes a human body work, the physical part. There is also our mental health with goes hand in hand with physical health.  Each person on the dig adds their own spin on taking care of themselves before and after the dig. This is mine and a few others’ first dig, so I asked a few friends how they take care of themselves during the month.

  1. Naps- Upon first arrival in Israel, many got hit with jet lag. Later during the trip, we were all hit with the tiredness from digging early in the morning. Naps are one of the most common things done here and are commonly mentioned. It is the one thing that can halt a well-planned outing in its track. One person mentioned that they take a nap in the afternoon, after lunch as they wouldn’t be able to pay attention in lecture otherwise. Digging is demanding work and rest is always well appreciated, although naps may not be for everyone; for another friend, a nap leaves them feeling off.
  2. Change of scenery- Dig. Lunch. Pottery. Lesson. Dinner. Sleep and repeat. Day in and out, it can be the same. Same square, same food, same good old dirt in your mouth. Yummy. Just getting out of the building and into Old City or the beach, or one of the other options nearby, can keep you from pulling out your hair. Even if it’s just spending time with friends, which you will be able to make on this trip. Or adopted into a group of already made friends. There are also other options that relate to the dig you can try. You can try other courses other then what you wrote on the paper officially. Want to take photos? Study bones? Dig through small piles of pieces? You can! I recommend bones. You can learn so much from what remains, also they look cool.
  3. Be by yourself- You end up spending time with the same people day in and day out; rooming with others, digging with them, and eating with them. Sometimes it’s great to just sit by yourself and listen to music, play some video games, or just zone out. Your mental health is as important as physical health, even if it doesn’t seem mentioned enough.
  4. Take a break- It’s okay to want to do a half day or miss a day of digging and wash pottery. In fact, washing pottery is highly encouraged. Taking a step back from the toll of digging is fine and recommended. Don’t feel well the day before? Take a break. Wake up feeling awful? Take a half day, come back after second breakfast or even stay back, wash pottery, or help in the other labs. There are many options, and you never feel like you are just sitting around. Taking a break isn’t looked down upon here, and your mind and body will thank you even from a small break. Do what you can, not what you think you should be doing.
  5. Enjoy the small things- A simple shower and clean clothes after the dig can change your mood for the entire day. Or having a drink that you love, like chocolate milk. Maybe some music or video games with friends during break. Watching cats nap on the walls around the city or scurry around the streets. Love the small things in life that make you happy.

We’re human, and this dig really shows that. People here get excited talking about what they love, no matter if it’s mosaics or animals. You learn quickly who’s voice is whose; hearing them call out reminders for water, cheering at the find of the day, or just talking to them in general.  Everyone looks out for each other, making sure that they aren’t overdoing themselves or feeling alone. Little reminders to drink water or even a small “Hey, how are you doing?” at the sifters, are just small things that keep a welcoming feeling around the site. Always take care of yourself, as you are the greatest find anywhere.

 

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By Frank Orenstein

The Art of Smithing in Israel

About Blacksmithing

The art of blacksmithing is no longer as common as it used to be.  Just about everyone knows that the modernization of industry and production vastly undercut the need for a local blacksmith in a given community.  Despite this, however, it persists as a hobby, art form, and occasional career all over the world.  I am myself an apprentice blacksmith, though I usually focus on blade-smithing.  It is a small distinction, but an important one since it reflects on the materials, techniques, and other factors in a given smithy.  But I do have some experience as a blacksmith, and it is those experiences that I drew upon last week when the Archaeometallurgy students, alongside a few professors, visited a local forge here in Israel.

The Forge

The forge was almost a community unto itself.  One side of the courtyard held the forge, another held a leather-working shop.  Other buildings were scattered about, but the forge was close to the center.  We met the resident blacksmith and his son, and they taught us a bit about being craftsmen in Israel in the modern era.  Just like in the US, they said, it is far harder nowadays to live purely as an artisan.  Instead, most of their income comes from construction or the teaching of classes around the country.  After this, we were allowed to enter the forge.  As you can see by the picture, this was a pretty packed space.  Two separate forges, one coke burning and the other propane, were present beside a number of anvils, belt grinders, and drill presses.  As a group we learned how to make nails, saw how chains were produced, and even a small knife was made in front of us.

The Reality

As it turns out, forges in the US, at least the ones I have been to, are not so different than the one we visited.  They may be larger, or have different tools, but the underlying atmosphere is much the same.  In the end, it wasn’t all that different from the forge near my own home in Virginia.  Despite the language and cultural barriers that separated us, I felt like I already knew the man teaching us, at least partly.  Not to use a cliche, but experiencing something so familiar in a new environment reminded me how similar people are, no matter where you are.  Plus, hitting hot metal with a hammer is always satisfying.

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By M. Christine Walters

The Little Phoenician Juglet

What could be more wonderful than finding an almost perfect little juglet that has been buried for thousands of years, the very first week of my dig in Akko! Yes, I carefully dug out of the side of the wall within my square this beautiful little jug with only a small chip along the lip opening. Otherwise it was so perfect, filled with dirt and debris. It was like a little animal caught, but looking up at me with longing eyes saying, “free me, free me!” It was such a thrill to find it all intact, since so much of the pottery was broken and smashed around me in the square.

This experience is a once-in-a-lifetime drama that everyone should try. The reality of how hard it is to dig: the heat, the dirt, the bending over and heavy lifting, over and over and over just to find that one special find, fills you with refreshed enthusiasm. It is truly indescribable. A person has to feel it, do it, experience it, overcome it in order to understand the thrill of the hunt.

I am grateful for my early years of farm girl lifestyle which included chores of all kinds like gardening, plowing, and digging. So, I feel right at home with the tools. Years of shoveling out animal stalls and barnyard areas come back to me as we work around the dig. It is comfortable, but the passing of many years presents new obstacles to overcome. My knees don’t bend. My hips hurt. My stamina is just not there, and that frustrates me. I watch the young people around me jump into their work with such passion and focus. I miss those days of feeling like I can handle this job and get the site cleared TODAY!

Yes, the little juglet will always be MY little juglet because I was the first one to release it, to have it see the sun again after being in the dark dirt so very long. I have made a contribution I will always remember.

 

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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 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 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 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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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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1 2 3
The ‘Art’cheology of Care
The Art of Smithing in Israel
The Little Phoenician Juglet
On Tel Akko Fear is Definitely not a Factor.
4am Just Getting Started
Surveying the cult
From Shards to Sherds: An Archaeologist’s First Dig
Adapt and Relax
Studying conservation in old Akko
Sifting Through my Thoughts: How to better oneself