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by Jamie Quartermaine

BACK IN THE BEGINNING ?

There is always a beginning, but sometimes it’s not always so easy working out when that actually occurred. So when was the beginning for me at Akko? Was it when I first started running the Tel Akko test pit survey in 2010, with all that entailed? Well not really! I had been here before; I had previously broken the ground, and been broken by it. Was it in 1999 when I came back to undertake a survey of the Tel for Ann and Michal, and when I got heat stroke on my first day on the job (isn’t it amazing how you always remember the happier events (I don’t think!!!))?  Conversely, was it when I first got involved in archaeology, in 1978, when as a naive seventeen year old,  I had entered an English bar in Jerusalem, at a loose end and, ostensibly looking for liquid light relief, and had seen a sign on the wall saying “Anyone interested in working on a dig see Dave at the bar”? Dave turned out to be Dave Stacey, the dig turned out to be Herodium in the Judaean Desert and the final resting place of King Herod, and from that point on, Archaeology had me by the metaphorical short and curlies. But no that was not the beginning for me, not at Akko at least.

Gerald, our British illustrator, - about to give a well deserved thrashing with a photographic scale

Was it in 1979 when I was a spare ‘gun for hire’, and after a season of bumming around archaeological digs had been asked if I would work as a digger at a site called Tel Akko, directed by Moshe Dothan? I ended up working for a British supervisor called Ron, and we had another British illustrator called Gerald. We were working beneath a British gun emplacement from the War of Independence. Our Area AB became the British enclave, so much so that some smart wag put a Union Jack on the side of the trench, and no one dared to remove it.  So was that the beginning for me at Akko? Well not really! I was only a digger then and after my brief excursion into Tel Akko’s jewels I then moved on to another site.

The Area AB team shot from 1979. Ron, the then Area Supervisor, is wearing the Panama hat, Ann is second from the left and I (for my sins) is to the right sporting a penny whistle attached to my belt.

For me I think the real beginning, the true beginning, was in 1980, and occurred nowhere near Akko at all, it wasn’t even in Israel. Like a bolt from the metaphorical blue I had a call from Moshe Dothan when I was in the UK. I hadn’t had many dealings with him at Tel Akko. He would turn up periodically, and say “so many problems”, in his characteristic Polish accent and entreat us to dig faster, before heading off to recount all his difficulties to some other poor lost soul. The one thing I  remembered about him though, was his inability to finish sentences, and his ability to come out with immortal statements– such as “it is yes” and “where is the man”. These statements  made as much sense at the time as they do now some 36 years later! So when I got this call from Moshe to visit him at an address in Oxford, of all places; I was both stunned and intrigued. The address turned out to be the very large Yarnton manor house on the outskirts of Oxford (actually home of the Jewish Studies in the UK as I subsequently found out). He appeared smartly dressed and emerged imperiously from the elegant manorial entrance looking as though he was lord of the manor, and master of all that he surveyed. This wonderful illusion worked right up to the moment that he opened his mouth and said “Oooooooh Jamie” in as strong a Polish accent as he could muster. He bizarrely invited me to be Area Supervisor of Area AB to replace Ron and I was a little too stunned to refuse.

Yarnton Manor - Moshe's temporary home
Moshe Dothan who always had so many problems!

From this extremely incongruous and somewhat bizarre start, I began to supervise the excavations of Area AB, which, by the time I got to it, was already down to the Late Bronze Age, and was, over the next four years, to produce some of the most remarkable finds and structures that I have ever experienced. They included pottery kilns, royal graves, 4m high MB defensive walls, glacis and step systems, but that is all another part of another story. Although in the real world, I have been a busy lad and have, over the last 30 years, directed over 800 excavations and surveys, mainly in the UK, Akko still stands as the most memorable, archaeologically most important, and most enduring of any of the archaeological projects that I have been involved in, and has come to be an integral part of my life. It is still the site that provides me with the go to answer when I am invariably asked by journalists what is your best site. So from those humble and eccentric beginnings on the steps of an elegant British manor house, could I really have imagined where it would lead?

Jamie Quartermaine
About Jamie Quartermaine
Jamie Quartermaine is a Project Manager at Oxford Archaeology in the UK, which mainly undertakes commercial rescue archaeological work, and he is based in Lancaster near the English Lake District. He lives with a wife and two cats on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales, a part of the world known affectionately by its residents as 'Gods own County'.

2 Comments

  • Ursula Aljets
    7:13 PM - 6 February, 2017

    Hello “Jamie”, excuse me Mr. Quartermaine,
    I just sent some pictures form the Eigthies – me be you remember “the suspicous pit …” in AB – now I am 72 years old and no longer able to dig! But I remember those days very good.

    • Jennifer Munro
      2:49 PM - 16 July, 2017

      Hi Ursula

      This sounds dreadfully rude but I have only just picked up your comment from last year. Shows how conscientiously I have been keeping an eye on the site. Yes I certainly do remember those wonderful days of Old Moshe Akko, and I am being constantly reminded of how I am not quite as young as I used to be. But Tel Akko hasn’t changed; still same old Mound sticking up out of the top of the modern town. You said that you sent some piccies but I am not sure what happened to them. I am sorry that you feel you are too old to dig but at least you can keep an eye on the blog, as this year we will be updating each day. So sorry about being so lax about getting back to you but hopefully we can keep in touch now I know where to look for comments.

      Jamie

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BACK IN THE BEGINNING ?