By Darcy Calabria

From Reality 3D to Digital 2D to Virtual 3D

The air is thick. The sun has yet to rise. A peacock calls in the distance. You can barely see the tell. We wait in the dark for dawn to break and then we take off…

This sounds like the beginning of an epic adventure through the wild unknown. It’s not. This is not a tale of some crazy Tomb Raider/Librarian/Indiana Jones. This story won’t involve the adrenaline rush of running from a boulder, but in a way, it has its own beauty and excitement to it. Every morning, I get a slight rush of adrenaline when I nearly fall off the tell to get the perfect shot, all to create a virtual 3D model of what we dig every day.


Worth it?




Because this is a really interesting, fairly new technique that has amazing potential for the future of archaeology. At present, many sites use 3D models to record excavation units. It can be used to model most everything from a small vessel to a full site like Akko. On this excavation, this technique is most often used to model the five by five meter squares we excavate every day. Every morning, a few individuals ride out to the tell before sunrise and the rest of the team to photograph the active squares of the excavation. And then we wait. We wait for dawn. We wait for the sun to rise just enough where it is not shinning yet, but it is light enough that the camera can detect features and colors of the site. And then we go into the field and start the process of making a 3D model.

To create a model, we first collect the data (take the photos). We essentially walk around the square 360 degrees, taking photos at eyelevel every couple of steps. Then we round the square again, this time taking a series of overhead shots. The reason for this is to get as full a picture as possible so that when we feed the 40 or 50 photos into a program, it can produce a detailed 3-dimensional model of the square. In short, we are looking at an object in reality, capturing it in a 2D digital image, and then reproducing that image as a 3D model in virtual space.

Being able to create virtual 3-dimesional models is cool enough, but what is really interesting about this process is that there are so many things that can be done with this model. On this project, the 3D models are usually used to create the blueprint from which we draw our plans, write our notes, and record what happens in the square. But there is the potential to do so much more with these models! Because we photograph all of the active squares every day, we can layer these models over one another and create a sort of time lapse of the square. Essentially we are able to track the changes and advance of the excavation over the entire season, seeing the first day and the last day of excavation in one 3-dimensional digital space, long after the soil in the physical space has been carried and sifted away. Looking forward in archaeology, this is a major advance in record keeping that the current generation of archaeologists could have benefited from if their predecessors had had the technology (especially on this dig).

Some sites are even going one step further, using these 3D models to create a virtual reality. Using gaming software and very talented artists, archaeologist can create what is termed a 4D space. They use the 3D model as a base to then recreate what they think the site would have looked like at a given time period. This has a lot of potential for promoting public outreach and understanding. By creating a visual world, the public can understand what we are excavating and bring our world of rubble and dirt closer to the reality it once was.

By Cas Popp

Object Permanence in Akko

We talk a lot about echoes in archaeology, and repetition. Indeed, every culture is as unique and irreplaceable as a thumbprint, but human behavior and reaction allows for somewhat of a framework, or a rhyming scheme to follow, if you will. For example, to anyone familiar with the early Crusades, the personnel list of my excavation area reads like the set-up to a joke:

“Two Poles, a Bohemian German, some English folk, and several Francophones walk into the Holy Land, for the purposes of saving and discovery.”

Of course, our “saving” is through means of data and conservation, not the ill-conceived “rescuing” of Transjordan from Muslim forces. The black humor in the joke is poignant, however, and our trip itself follows an exceptionally beaten path from the West to the Eastern Mediterranean.

Clearly, however, our mission is much different in spirit and letter, worn joking aside. The air of Akko hangs heavy with swollen heat and memory. In the false dawn on the Tel, sleep-deprived feet stumble through five hundred years in three steps. In the sweet apple smoke of hookah in the Old City, I ward off ill fortune in a very modern fashion by knocking on a door that swung open first in the Ottoman period. The cats are the same, I presume.  Contempt for a clumsy foreigner seems eternal.

The point to this shambling paragraph of anecdotes is that, despite seemingly radically different trips, the passage of time allows for human endeavor to repeat itself. Like a cosmic space-temporal game of Whisper Down the Lane, we of the modern day repeat the footsteps of the initial endeavor, carrying with it nearly a thousand years of variations and permutations. You can’t blame us though, when memory is less of a ghost and more of the chipping of paint on railings, and the dangerously smooth stones worn by uncountable feet. The seduction of adventure and discovery is as universal as any other human standard, most of all when it walks the streets with you as it does in Akko.




Today, archaeology taught me a valuable lesson about education. An activity designed to teach about the making of mortar grew into a tutorial of companionship.

I met Yosef through a typical icebreaker activity in the Akko conservation center. After he arrived late, I learned his name (already on his nametag), that he lived in Akko, and that he didn’t like any particular thing about the city. I watched, admittedly in jealousy, as he proceeded to doze off during the short tour of the center. Later I learned that we were in a group tasked with creating and utilizing mortar to create any structure we had an interest in. In my mind, signing up for a class about Conservation & Outreach was an amazing way to combine an opportunity geared towards history with my career hopes in education. I slowly saw these dreams drift away as Yosef continually avoided conversation by calling for his bilingual friend to translate. D’aundra, my partner, and I thought the cause was lost.

After a short break to find the missing Yosef, I stumbled upon him on the outside patio. Wielding masonry tools, goggles, a yellow hard-hat and determination, he was slowly chipping away at a stone cube. I pulled up a nearby chair and simply watched as he lightly hammered a meticulous line around every side’s outer edge. With a true swing, he chipped away a large corner of the rock as the instructor entered the patio. Curious faces trading quick phrases ended in Yosef saying to me, “5 minutes inside”. As I followed the instructor in, my suspicions were confirmed that Yosef had queried about how to mine a flat slate instead of just hacking off chunks. He had spent his break finding the necessary supplies to try to give us a base for our sculpture.

As he turned a plastic glove filled with mortar into a tool mimicking those used for icing, I learned that he volunteered as an EMT assistant. The previous night he had worked the overnight shift. While making jokes about eating the mortar, I watched him create a small flower pot that he wanted to give to the instructor. After purposefully stepping back to watch Yosef do his thing, I saw a mind flourish with inventiveness, humor, and kindness. My inner educator went from disappointment in Yosef to disappointment in myself. I doubted a child before I even spoke a word to him and ended up with a beautiful flower pot created by a mind much more virile than my own.

By Dr Melissa Rosenzweig

Crops of Tel Akko

In this post I am going to run through some of the most common domesticated plant species that we find in the archaeological record at Tel Akko.  These taxa give us a good sense of the economic plants used at Tel Akko, particularly for food.

The two most prolific crops at Tel Akko, from all the historical periods excavated thus far, are olive (Olea europaea) and grape (Vitis vinifera).  Fun fact: The grape pips we recover occasionally show up mineralized, rather than charred.  This means people ate these seeds, which then calcified as they passed through the human gut (Green 1979).


















Cereals were also staples at Tel Akko.  We find grains of barley (Hordeum sp.) and different varieties of wheat (Triticum spp.).  Wheat would have been the preferred grain for people to eat, while barley would have been consumed by humans and fed to animals as fodder.

A handful of pulses, which comprise beans and peas, are found in the Tel Akko excavations.  They include lentil (Lens culinaris), common pea (Pisum sativum), and bitter vetch (Vicia ervilia).  Fun fact: Bitter vetch is considered a famine crop because it has to be boiled in order to be safe and palatable for human consumption (Zohary and Hopf 2000: 116).  However, this legume was also a popular fodder crop for livestock, who ate it as-is without any harmful side effects.







Other plants that round out our picture of cultivated crops at Tel Akko include fig (Ficus carica), safflower (Carthamus sp.), and flax (Linum usitatissimum).  Fun facts: We only have a few finds of safflower thus far.  But these seeds provide tantalizing links to maritime contacts with the Egyptians, who grew and prized safflower for both its oil (used in cooking) and red dye (used in cloth production) (Marinova and Riehl 2009: 345-6).  We have recovered just two (two!) flax seeds so far, but these plants were also important sources of oil (linseed) and linen for textiles.  They are hard to find archaeologically because their rich oil content makes them susceptible to ashing, rather than charring, when exposed to fire.  By the first millennium BCE, safflower and flax were largely (but not entirely) replaced by the red/purple dye of Murex shellfish and sheep wool for textiles.  And as it turns out, we have a fair amount of Murex shells and sheep bones (Ovis sp.) at Tel Akko.



















Works Cited

Green, Francis J. (1979) Phosphatic mineralization of seeds from archaeological sites. Journal of Archaeological Science 6: 279-284.

Margaritis, Evi and Martin Jones (2008) Olive oil production in Hellenistic Greece: The interpretation of charred olive remains from the site of Tria Platania, Macedonia, Greece. Vegetation History and Archaeobotany 17: 393-401.

Marinova, Elena and Simone Riehl (2009) Carthamus species in the ancient Near East and south-eastern Europe: Archaeobotanical evidence for their distribution and use as a source of oil. Vegetation History and Archaeobotany 18: 341-9.

Zohary, Daniel and Maria Hopf (2000) Domestication of Plants in the Old World.  Oxford: Oxford University Press.

By Rachel Strohl

The Joy of Understanding

Its 11:30 up on the Tel and you have found nothing all day. You’ve been beating at the ground only to be stopped by nothing but rocks and soil dumped by another archaeologist years ago, making anything found unusable for contextual information. And then it happens. You find something, perhaps an amphora jar handle, or some ivory carved piece. They say that there is no better feeling than this, uncovering an artefact in the field. However, I would counter that argument. To this amateur archaeologist, there is no better joy than the joy of understanding.

The joy of understanding comes from understanding what you are finding in the field. It’s the joy that comes from correctly identifying the type of vessel that a particular pottery sherd is from, or being able to tell slag, a byproduct of metal production, from plain rocks. Because when you understand, it means that you are starting to gain more and more knowledge in your field. You move from the grunt laborer to a respected person of knowledge.

I have wanted to teach for a long time now. I love academia and school more than anyone else I know. So when people started coming up to me with questions about what they were finding, I was delightfully surprised. People were coming to recognize my ability to identify objects in the field, and I was starting to realize my career dream. To me, there is nothing better than finally achieving something you have worked so hard for. And I believe that I am starting to see the fruits of my labor in school. My love for learning and understanding what is going on around me has come to manifest itself in the field, and my dream of being able to teach others has become a reality. So here I make the argument that the true joy of archaeology is not digging up some long-lost artefact, but being able to be a source of knowledge to those you dig with. The true joy is the joy of understanding.

By Caroline Sausser

It’s Up to You as Nancy Drew

By Caroline Sausser

While walking through the underground tunnel system of the Hospitaller compound in Old Acre, my fellow Miami students began a wonderful rendition of the Indiana Jones theme song. As we scurried through the short and narrow tunnel, it conjured images of a giant stone rolling down to chase us all out again. But while some feel like Indiana Jones during the exploration of new places and the work on the Tel, I feel like Nancy Drew.

The Nancy Drew I grew up with was  the independent and self-relying computer game version rather than her book counterpart. The games featured puzzles of varying difficulty in order to solve a mystery. They took Nancy to locations spanning from the Wild West to Scotland to Egypt. My favorite part was trying to figure out the puzzles, using information I had to gather throughout the story and thinking in different ways than I might initially.

Out here on the Tel, I have a chance to solve puzzles and mysteries every day. Some are a little less brain-vexing, “such as where can I put my feet in this square without standing on a tabun (ancient ovens named for the Arabic word for oven) or a piece of pottery with the least amount of discomfort?” But others are much more complex. For instance, the tabuns in my square were originally dated to the Early Hellenistic period. However, in and near the tabun, we have found pieces from the earlier Persian period. This leaves us with a couple of dating options, as the tabuns may have really been of the Persian period the whole time, or they may have been filled by either those from the Hellenistic period or the past excavator from the 1970’s and 1980’s, Dothan. Now our focus in digging in this area is to try to solve this mystery. And each little pot sherd and piece of tabun helps us move toward a solution to this puzzle: which era is the one “who-dun-it?”


By Jennifer Munro

Conch Shell find at Tel Akko

The conch shell can be an instrument with multiple meanings and uses.

How old the custom of blowing it is and whence it originated are not known. Probably the first musical instruments that were ever invented were made of shells. Shell trumpets have been known since the Magdalenian period (Upper Paleolithic), one example being the “conch Marsoulas”, an archeological Charonia lampas shell trumpet which is on display at the Museum de Toulouse. As might be expected from an instrument that has been around since neolithic times, conch-shell trumpets are found almost everywhere, including inland areas. In Israel/Palestine, the [Charonia tritonis nodifera] conch trumpet was used at a very early stage in antiquity (from approximately the third millennium B.C.[E.] on).




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]

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From Reality 3D to Digital 2D to Virtual 3D
Object Permanence in Akko
Crops of Tel Akko
The Joy of Understanding
Tel Akko's Eye of Horus
The Eye of Horus watching over Tel Akko
It’s Up to You as Nancy Drew
The lion of Tel akko
The lion and the oil lamp
Conch Shell find at Tel Akko
An Unexpected Combination