By Megan Ashbrook

Surrounded by Archaeologists

“I love travelling with archaeologists!” I know I said this phrase multiple times throughout my four weeks in Israel. I was usually referencing when someone made a funny history/archaeology joke. But now reflecting back on Tel Akko it extends beyond just jokes.

I also really enjoyed tours of Galilee, Caesarea, and Jerusalem given by professors on the excavation. They pointed out things like architecture or provided details on excavations of the site I wouldn’t have found in a “normal” tour. They also pushed us to question how the sites we were visiting were presented to visitors.  Were they presented religiously, scientifically, or another way? In Zippori, we were asked to notice the differing levels of conservation given to mosaics and think about why this was. The last ancient mosaic we saw, a synagogue mosaic, was the best conserved and had a building built around it. In the building, there was an impressive video about the mosaic. This made me think about how the most care was given to the religious mosaic while others were left out in the open.

In the field, I loved being surrounded by archaeologist with different interests and expertise. I valued being able to learn from each one. My square supervisor knew a lot about the tabuns (ovens) we were excavating. While the square supervisor next to me wrote his masters on metallurgy and could answer my questions on things in that area.  Another person knew a lot about lithics. Back in the labs, I learned about achaeobotany, zooarchaeology, and pottery from the Tel Akko specialists.

The pottery specialists and the pottery lab were special to me on the excavation. I am completing my independent study from Tel Akko before schools starts. My project is based around an Attic imported ceramic plate that was found this season. Having no knowledge on the pottery in the Levant before traveling to Israel I have the pottery specialists and everyone else on the dig to thank for teaching me a lot before I could even attempt to write my independent study.

Coming back to Miami University and regular classes I will try and remember all that I learned from the archaeologists this summer. I hope to continue to be able to question and analyze in my classes liked I was asked to in Israel. Being surrounded by archaeologist on the Tel Akko Total Archaeology Project was a great way to spend my summer.

By Megan Ashbrook

My Day at the Dig

4:45am: Wakeup and 1st breakfast

Well sometimes I get up later… it’s hard to get out of bed before sunrise. But I always have to get a little something to eat before working on the tel.

5:40am: Arrive at Tel Akko

The first thing we all do in the morning is grab our supplies and sweep the park path around the dig site. Our supplies include black buckets for dirt, colored buckets for pottery and small finds, a brush, a trowel, and a patiche. A patiche is almost like a smaller, thinner hammer.

5:40-8:30am: Excavation

In the morning, we give our square a general sweep to collect all the loose dirt that blew in overnight. Then we get our plan of the day’s dig from our square supervisor (Darcie is the best square supervisor). Then finally we can start digging!

8:30am: Tel Breakfast aka 2nd Breakfast

Tel breakfast is one of the best meals of the day! Every morning I have hummus, green olives, and tea. Depending on what else there is I also have fruit, vegetables, or a peanut butter and jelly pita sandwich. Breakfast is also nice because it is served family style with all of us siting at one long table. I really enjoy passing the food and talking to my friends and find out what is happening in their squares.

9:00-11:30am: Excavation

After breakfast we all reluctantly get up from the tables and get back to work. Sitting and relaxing for a while makes its hard to get back to work. I usually pick up where I left off before breakfast. For an example, if I was trimming a baulk before tel breakfast I would go back to doing that. A baulk is the half meter section of dirt left on each side of a square. Baulks are helpful to see the stratigraphy of the square. When trimming it the idea is to make the baulk straight and at a right angle with the floor of the square. Plus it makes the square look clean and nice.

The best part of my day is excavating. Excavation includes so many other parts I didn’t know before coming to Tel Akko, like trimming baulks. I also have learned how to use a dumpy level to take elevation points in our square. I find it easy to use and a nice change from digging all day. We take elevations when something significant or special is found like a unique artifact. Also elevations are taken at the end of each day not only in my square but every one being dug at the site. Taking end of the day elevations tells us exactly how far down we excavated that day. I have learned how to identify so many things from digging the past three weeks like bone, vitrified earth, and tabun pieces (aka pieces of an oven made out of thick clay). This really helps when sifting all the dirt that is pulled out of my square (another skill I have learned).

11:30am-12:00pm: Cleaning and Closing the Square for the Day

Just like at the beginning of the day we do a general clean sweep of the square to get all the dirt we kicked up throughout excavation. Then I usually help Darcie check all our finds for the proper tags and fill out end of the day paperwork.

12:00-12:30pm: Find of the Day

Now that all the squares are closed for the day we can see some cool things people found! Fun or different finds are put up to be voted on, by cheering, for the “find of the day.” Some items that have won are an Egyptian scarab, a ceramic figurine, and a modern bullet.

12:30pm: Walk to the Bus

My day on the tel concludes with carrying all the pottery found that day down the long steps to the bus. We need to soak and wash the pottery so it can be studied by the ceramic experts. I also like to see all the cool pottery found on Tel Akko!

Now there are only a few days left on the tel and I’m wishing for more.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

By Megan Ashbrook

An Unexpected Combination

By Megan Ashbrook.

Two of my loves are archaeology and horses. Never would I have imagined that thousands of miles away from America I would be using my horseback riding skills here at Tel Akko.

At Miami University, I work at our Equestrian Center and I am the Western team captain of our equestrian team. My job is a lot of manual labor but requires skill and confidence to do a good job. Every day on the tel, I am grateful that I have lifted hay bales and built up my leg muscles already. Digging requires a lot of lifting dirt buckets and squatting all day. I’m also grateful that I’m used to working in the sun because in Israel I spend about 6 and half hours working outside.

The similarities between my work with horses and work on the tel doesn’t end at manual labor. When working around horses, I have to have confidence even when I am unsure or nervous about what is going on. A horse will feel my every emotion and “mirror” the emotion back. Because of horses’ natural reaction I have learned to have confidence even though I might not be comfortable with the situation. For an example, there is one horse at Miami who will sometimes shy away at things if she doesn’t want to work anymore. Though her sudden movements may be startling, I have to maintain a calm composure in order to not amplify the situation.  If I got nervous about her movements she would think there was really something to be afraid of.

On the tel, I also use this skill of assessing a situation and confidently working in it. I was a bit nervous about my first few days of excavation. But with my horseback riding skills I was able to be successful. I didn’t always know exactly what I was supposed to do but I fully embraced the concept of too many questions isn’t a bad thing.

Finally, my horseback riding coach at Miami University sent our team this quote before a show: “Success is not the achievement of perfection but the minimization and accommodation of imperfection.” I worked all of last year to live by that quote in my riding. I constantly remind myself of it before shows, during practice, and after a bad pattern test. That quote has become very important to me and now reflecting back I should remind myself of it on the dig too. I can’t identify every item correctly nor can I perfectly excavate my area. My success on this dig should include the imperfections of life.

Now past the half way point of my first excavation, I’m excited to get back to the horses at Miami. But I don’t want to leave Israel quite yet. I am very grateful that I have been able to combine some of my horseback riding skills with archaeology. Back on campus, I’m sure I’ll find unexpected uses for my archaeology skills too.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

By Megan Ashbrook

Living My Dream

Before I came to the Tel Akko Total Archaeology Project I thought I knew what archaeology was. Since the 6th grade, my dream has been to be an archaeologist. As a little kid, I would travel with my family to many museums and archaeological sites, and I would read or watch anything about history for fun.  But since coming to Akko there are many things that I have experienced and so much more I have to learn.

Though I have to get up at 4:45am, 5 days a week, I don’t mind because I’m going to do something I love. The first few days this week went by slowly, but it was fun getting to know everyone as we were working to prepare the site for excavation.

I thought the first half of the week was fun, but I didn’t know what I had coming for me on Friday, our first day excavating. Before tel breakfast, I was cleaning a section, but then after breakfast I started excavating in my square. Some may not find digging out dirt just to sweep it up again interesting, but for some reason I do. When the end of the excavation day came I didn’t want to leave the tel. I could have kept working there for much longer.


The artifacts that come out of the dirt make the labor worth it because they can tell us about people in the past that lived on the tel. Since taking ceramic art classes and learning about pottery in archaeology classes, ceramics have fascinated me. From pottery you can learn about trade, diet, government administration, and cultural contact among other things.

 While digging and pottery washing, I get really excited about interesting pottery finds. I know others probably think I’m weird and hate pottery washing, but I am living my dream.

I may be living my dream at Tel Akko, but still it is a bit unnerving to make large life decisions not knowing if they are the right ones. Some encouragement has come in the past few days both on the tel and in the labs. On the tel I was trained on two measuring instruments, and now I have been using one completely by myself to take elevation measurements for the square I’m working in. Both on the tel and in the labs, I have been asking a bunch of questions. For example, in one of the labs with Dr. Rosenzweig I asked if a few tiny pieces were bone and it turned out they were! It feels really good to know that my instincts from all those museums and readings are correct.

While I’m at Tel Akko, I hope to be a bit closer to figuring out what I want to do post-college. Right now my love for archaeology is only growing. I hope to make 6th grade me proud of how I am living the dream I have had for most of my life.


Surrounded by Archaeologists
My Day at the Dig
An Unexpected Combination
Living My Dream