By Liam Corr

Moles: The Smallest Archaeologist?

The Moles-

There are plenty of issues that one must be prepared to encounter during an archaeological dig, though one I was not prepared for was the Palestinian Mole. At the Tel Akko dig, I encountered multiple mole tunnels during the excavation. The moles live underground and tunnel all throughout the various sections of the site, including the areas where I was assigned to work. These moles can cause multiple problems for archaeologists, due to the effects of their tunneling through the area.


The tunnels go in multiple directions and loosen up soil, with the result that our tools can fall through them easily and cause an area that is being excavated to become less level. Leveling as neatly as possible is necessary for determining the origins of artifacts that can be discovered, so this can mix up our results. Tunneling also causes different artifacts to potentially fall to a lower level and get mixed up with other pieces that are unrelated. Sometimes, a stool that one of us may sit on while working in an area may fall into one of these holes. My supervisors described these effects as bioturbation: how living things move around and live in the soil and may impact a site’s integrity. Many insects and other rodents partake in this process at Tel Akko, though moles are some of the larger and most evident residents of the dig site.


Tunnels can be seen across different areas, and there is evidence of mole tunneling in areas P 19, Q 19, and area Z, which are the places that I have been working. Moles have also been caught by staff members, as in the image of a mole included in this post. Moles are not seen often, but their trails are all over the place, whether intact and inside the artificial walls, the ground of different sections, or collapsed under our tools and stools.

Sometimes moles kick up dirt when these tunnels are damaged by our tools, in order to clean up their living space. This can explain why, when some of us turn around, there is a fresh pile of dirt that randomly appears when we aren’t looking. The moles are cute to look at and it is interesting how they impact the area, though the manner in which they kick up dirt and get artifacts mixed up can be problematic for people working in the field. That being said, whenever a fresh pile of dirt is kicked up or a mole comes out, everybody wants to see it and look at our fellow diggers.

By Rebekah Call

One Man’s Trash. . .

One Man’s Trash. . .

“So are you like Indiana Jones?”

This is probably the question people most frequently ask when they discover I’m working on an archaeological dig. In reality, it is not nearly as glamorous—or as dangerous—as a day in the life of Indiana Jones. There are no booby traps, Nazi officers, or pits of snakes. The closest we come to any of that is the (very) infrequent sighting of a scorpion or snake whose habitat we happen to be invading.

So what do we actually do on a dig? Well, we dig. We move lots and lots of dirt. Sometimes it’s a quick process, moving square feet of dirt within minutes by using a pickaxe. Sometimes it requires an eye for detail, taking off millimeters at a time, by gently scraping with the edge of a trowel. And sometimes, excavation happens with the careful strokes of a soft brush. After removing layers of soil, we sift everything, to make sure we didn’t miss any finds as we dug.

What’s the point then, if not to save the world from Biblical plagues?

There are two main purposes that stand out to me. The first is the rare “special find:” items that were not trash, but that still were buried in the soil of time. Finding such an object makes all the sweat, fatigue, and sore muscles worth it. They are reminders that while civilizations may have changed, humanity remains largely the same. This is what could be considered the glamor of archaeology. On the entire dig site, there are anywhere from two to six special finds each day. These could be unbroken pottery jugs, figurines, coins, beads, or other pieces of jewelry.

The second important element is the more mundane, but equally important analysis of the “trash:” things so broken or beyond salvage that the ancients viewed them as worthless, which is saying a lot, considering that they recycled just about everything. The trash could be things like animal bones, pottery shards, or olive pits. These are thoroughly cleaned and examined, and the most indicative pieces are kept. Such items can help with dating the finds from the same level, and can also tell us a lot about how people lived—what kinds of food they ate, whether they had trade with foreign countries, or what kinds of trades were commonly practiced (like blacksmithing or dye production). This can greatly enrich our understanding of the ancient world (and give a unique view into our own time).

And that is how one person’s trash becomes an archaeologist’s treasure.

Perhaps a type of tarantula? Its body was about the size of my thumb.

A metal ring-pendant (a special find!)

A glass bead. It disintegrated almost immediately.

plastic and pottery

By Heather Burrow

Plastic: The New Pottery

Plastic: The New Pottery

It is said that today most people cannot go a day—nay, an hour—without touching or using plastic in some form. It is ubiquitous, cheap, and malleable. Our Tel breakfast is consistently filled with examples of plastic, such as the silverware, water bottles, and food containers we use. We also wash the found pottery using plastic buckets, sit on plastic stools, and place the washed pieces in plastic crates. Plastic has become central to our lives in so many ways. And so far, my only special find on the dig has been a piece of old plastic that was the result of bioturbation or the disturbance of the dirt layers by, in this case, a mole.

In a similar way, the aforementioned pottery was ever-present in the ancient world. Pottery was used for many purposes and came in many forms, such as jugs, amphoras, and pots, because it was also malleable and able to take many shapes. It was the plastic of its day.

The pervasive presence of pottery sherds or fragments on the Tel Akko dig speaks to this fact. Sherds are everywhere. Excavate for long and you will find them. The first day of the dig I was surprised to see sherds littering the ground around the exterior of the dig site and being used by us under our large water jugs to minimize the mud when we washed our hands. By the end of the first week I was nonchalantly chucking excavated sherds into buckets without a thought in my excavation square.

Both plastic and pottery are human-made materials formed through heat and pressure. Both are durable. Both are often decorated with designs and colors. Plastic is mainly made from polymers. The main types include nylon, styrofoam, and polyester. Pottery is mainly made from clay and the main types include earthenware, stoneware, and porcelain.

Many on the dig have remarked that if future humans excavated our refuse and remains—the evidence of our lives—they would probably find a lot of plastic sherds. And they would probably be excited the first day too, like I was. By the end of the first week they would probably be casually cataloging the cache of plastic sporks they found.

By M. Christine Walters

The Phoenician Juglet Part II

Christine Walters

I’m back for the second installment in the story of the little juglet I unearthed in the Tel-Akko Dig last week. This little find has become dear to me because I have never found a whole piece of pottery before, at least not one so close to being in excellent condition.

So, I have written a poem about my feelings in finding it. A poet I am not, but I find it an easy way to put many emotions together in a condensed way.

Akko Tel so vast, so large,
Little Juglet waiting to be found.
Out of all the acreage on the dig,
Her little handle and rim peaks through the rubble and dirt
after thousands of years in buried silence.

She calls to me as I examine her situation amongst the other profusion of pottery sherds.
Free me, free me! Like a poor tiny kitten stuck in a hole.
She becomes alive to me and I am driven to liberate her from this organic prison.

So great care must be taken, with pick in hand.
Round and round, brush and remove—is she whole?
Will the dark earth of the ancient past let go of such a treasure completely?

Suddenly, she drops out into my palm as if to breath a gasp of relief! I am found, I have great worth, I will tell this modern world my story! She is beautiful, filled with dirt, her handle ring caked with clay, only a tiny chip of a wound around her lip as she looks up at me to thank me for releasing her.

I hold her in my cupped hands and I feel beyond just the satisfaction of having got the job done.
I have made a contribution, for she will be cleaned, documented, examined and displayed. All the world will know she is from Tel-Akko.

Hope all of you digging can have the same wonderful experience as I did while you are here this summer.

Shalom Christine Walters

By Casey Sennett

Maybe I Never Hated You After All

By Casey Sennett.

There are four things that I really hate: bugs, the sun, being outside, and doing manual labor. I know what you are thinking, why did you decide to go to a place with all four of those things? Aside from insanity, I do not think I can give you a reasonable answer. I came to Akko knowing that there was a high probability that I was not going to enjoy my time on the Tel because of the things I hate. I have had an interest in Archaeology since I was a kid and I wanted the opportunity to try it. I knew that my time at Tel Akko would allow me to decide whether I like Archaeology or not.

I did not expect to enjoy Archaeology as much as I have. Although I have always loved going to museums and looking at artifacts, there is nothing more satisfying than finding an interesting artifact or knowing someone that did. It has been amazing to see the mark that past peoples have made on the Tel and how my participation can help the memory of their culture and civilization survive. Although days at the Tel are long and tiring, it is rewarding to leave the Tel knowing that I did so. The pottery, bone, and shells we find can begin to blend together, but it is amazing to think about these artifacts being thousands of years old. These people are long gone, but you can sometimes see where their fingers were when creating a piece of pottery or you can see their handiwork on the remaining walls of buildings or on painted pieces of pottery. Other unexpected artifacts like small statues, bullet cases, and Egyptian scarabs are also interesting and leave you wondering exactly why or how they got to be on the Tel. It makes me also wonder about who brought them there.

Even though I am doing manual labor in the heat with bugs and dirt all around, I could not be happier. I thought that Archaeology would not be for me because of the dirt, sun, bugs, and manual labor, but they have had little effect on me. Maybe I never truly hated those things to begin with or maybe I finally found a reason to learn to accept and embrace them.



By Jennifer Munro

Pottery Workshop

Two of the tel Akko expert ceramicists discuss a small Phoenician juglet found in Area Z.

By Joanne Guarnieri Hagemeyer

The Crash of the Heavens

…O, Lord, my God,
I pray that these things never end:
The sand and the sea,
The rush of the waters,
The crash of the heavens,
The prayer of man. *

As I listened to Rebekah’s hauntingly beautiful voice, sitting in Zippori’s open-air amphitheater, I closed my eyes, felt the heat of Israel’s sun, and the soft current of Israel’s breeze on my skin. So astonishing are the acoustics of this ancient architecture, I could hear, and even feel, every nuance of the poetry being sung, moving me to tears. I thought about the loveliness of Israel, and the depth of love those who live here feel for their land, hard-fought for, and hard-won.

To volunteer for a dig, one naturally expects the itinerary of digging at a tel, sifting through pails of earth for tiny fragments of antiquity, cleaning the buckets and buckets of pottery, bone, metals, and “special finds,” sorting, registering, and tabulating all the artifacts. Yet, as my hands gently whisk pebbles and earth from something last touched two and a half millennia ago, I begin to experience the arc of time, my fingertips brushing against another’s from long past. I may not speak the language of ancient Assyrians, nor worship Phoenician gods; but, I understand beauty and yearning, I understand power and grace. We people have always been who we are.

Touring Zippori, “the ornament of Galilee,” brought in this swirling context of history, military drama, diverse gods yet kinship with Akko’s community of spirit. It was here Rebekah gave us the gift of her music, the gift of Hannah Szenes’ poetry, and the gift of suspended time, experiencing for a few moments the longing, anguish, and ardor of an ancient people, loved of God.

* Hannah Szenes (Senesh) was born in Hungary in 1921. She emigrated to Palestine in 1939, but returned as a resistance worker in 1944 to aid in the effort to smuggle Jews out of Hungary. She was caught, tortured, and killed that same year. Hannah wrote prolifically, and many of her poems are deeply meaningful to Israelis, Jews, and others.

[Hannah Szenes, Budapest, July 17, 1939 | Photographer Unknown – This image is available from National Library of Israel under the digital ID002782783 | Public Domain]

Rebekah Call is a PhD student in Religious Studies—Hebrew Bible at Claremont Graduate University. She came to Akko to increase her knowledge of the archaeological process and to build good relationships with the faculty and with the other students.

[Cover photo: The Zippori amphitheater before restoration | Tiberius Zwi Keller Pikiwiki Israel [CC BY 2.5 (]

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.


By Lindsey Goes

Behold, The Underminer!

It was the second day of excavation – the sandbags were dumped, the weeds cleared, and it was finally time to start actually digging. I was beyond excited, of course; I have been dreaming of becoming an archaeologist since I was in first grade and thought it meant pulling up dinosaurs and fighting Nazis. Now, I know that archaeology is neither of those things, and I have known this for a while. But a harder misconception to shake was the image of one Dr. Jones running off with a golden idol, of the undiscovered monumental architecture that housed the Holy Grail. People want to find cool things, and I am no exception.

That day I used the soft brush to more delicately remove the dirt I’d loosened with the small pickaxe. We were leveling the square, because one side was significantly higher than the other. Some of the dirt blew into a dip in the ground, and as I swept it away, an exciting shape was uncovered. It was the side of a juglet, with handle fully attached and intact, and looked as though it could be complete. I called my supervisor over and we all got excited, and I named the small vessel the Underminer, after the villain at the end of the first Incredibles movie.

However, our job was still to level the square. And even if it wasn’t, digging is done in even passes, exposing material rather than wrenching it from the ground. The reasoning being that you can never truly tell how big an object is going to be, so pulling it up might disturb more than expected and/or break the artifact and those around it. Unfortunately, since the juglet was in a dip, it would be a while before we got to it properly. But I had firm dibs, so I didn’t mind the wait.

I didn’t wait long. The next day, another person working in the square was also brushing loose soil. I heard a surprised noise and turned to see them holding the Underminer in the air – but it wasn’t complete, not even close. It was only what we’d already seen. I nice piece, but not what we’d hoped for.

That’s not to say cool things don’t exist – a complete juglet was found the next day, not a meter away. But it was found incrementally, more exposed in every pass until it was free. Patience and a gentle hand were what retrieved it safely. So, I learned not to expect special finds – that’s what makes them special, after all – but nonetheless to treat every artifact with care. And not to name sherds after Disney villains.

Heather at dig

By Heather Burrow

Always Making A Mark

Always Making A Mark

All living things make their mark in this life—on their environment and on other living things. At the Tel Akko archaeological site I have found that animals and plants consistently make their mark on the environment, especially with their holes and seed pods. Moles, bees, ants, scorpions, castor plants, and cacti must be navigated and, in some cases, removed on the site. And we must not forget that the elements make their mark as well, with the rain, wind, and sun that deposit debris within the site that must also be removed. But none of this compares to humans’ ability to leave a lasting mark. Animals, plants, and mother nature have nothing on us.

All humans make a lasting mark—that is part of what it means to be human with our inherent creative and destructive capabilities. We cannot help but significantly modify our environment and each other. And that is what the Tel Akko dig is all about. We are attempting to uncover the ‘marks’ of other humans who came before us—the structures they built, the pottery they made, the coins they used—in order to learn about their lives.

And in the process of excavating archaeologists and excavators make their own marks on the environment by building paths, setting up storage sheds, and breaking found pottery. They also make their mark with how the site is set up in the beginning—what areas are excavated, what grid lines are placed where, and what is considered significant. And I make my mark with my troweling, scraping, and sweeping.

And found past ‘marks’ or artifacts such as pottery, bone, shell, and slag must be examined, interpreted, and given meaning, because it is also human to want and seek for meaning. Context is everything when determining significance and meaning—in archaeology and all other disciplines. We must cautiously and methodically remove dirt and artifacts in such a way to be able to determine the context. Otherwise, it is just dirt and refuse. As the saying goes, ‘one person’s trash is another person’s treasure.’

Thus, in the end, for me archaeology is the science and art of giving meaning to carefully unearthed historical human relics—also known as ‘controlled destruction’—in which we are making our mark through the process of examining the marks of past humans. And in the spirit of marking, with this blog post I make my digital mark containing what I have learned through this experience!

1 2 3 4
Moles: The Smallest Archaeologist?
One Man’s Trash. . .
plastic and pottery
Plastic: The New Pottery
The Phoenician Juglet Part II
Maybe I Never Hated You After All
Pottery Workshop
The Crash of the Heavens
The Little Phoenician Juglet
Behold, The Underminer!
Heather at dig
Always Making A Mark