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!

By Quentin Stickley

I’m not going to lie, the last week at Akko was difficult. I was physically and mentally exhausted, almost every joint in my body was sore, swollen, and/or blistered, and I wanted nothing more than to sleep for at least a week straight. Going up to the tel each day was increasingly difficult, especially when we reached the midpoint of the week and prepared to stop excavating and start cleaning the site and putting protections in place for the next season. I like digging – sweeping up dirt, clipping weeds, and tossing heavy sandbags aren’t nearly as enjoyable.

Wednesday was the last day of excavation proper, and I hadn’t really found anything special, other than a tiny red bead and several cakes of iron slag. I was okay with that. Getting a special find is a huge morale boost, but I think if you go into the dig expecting one and you don’t find anything for a long period of time, it can actually slowly drain your mood. So I had gotten myself into a headspace where I was content with looking at the neat things the other diggers found – Egyptian scarabs, a nearly intact crucible, and even Tel Akko’s first in-context cylinder seal were all found in or adjacent to my square – and not expecting to uncover anything more remarkable than an ancient stone block. Imagine my surprise when a light sweep uncovered what looked like a twisting white fragment of something, possibly a piece of a seashell, with a strange, rounded blue protrusion. A few brisker sweeps, and the object came loose: a sitting figurine with large blue eyes, round ears, and yellow painted markings.

I jumped up and brought the object to my square supervisor, who seemed surprised. Both she and my area supervisor first guessed that the object was modern and had been planted by someone working on the site, because in addition to its very shallow location, none of the staff had ever seen anything like it and it was in very good condition, with only one ear and fragments of the hands broken off. The staff eventually decided that it was probably ancient. After we returned to our base camp and showed the object to the staff members who had remained there for the day, we learned that a very similar object had been found at the tel in 1977 during the excavations supervised by Moshe Dothan, although Dothan’s example had been in rougher shape.

Reactions to what quickly earned the nickname “the demon monkey” were mixed. People either found it adorable, or declared that I would now be cursed or haunted. Speculation intensified the next day when I was sweeping the square about a meter away from where I had found the “demon monkey,” and my brush turned up yet another figurine, which on close examination appeared to be an anthropoid baboon, possibly from Egypt. Although the two figurines were very different in style, the fact that they both seemed to depict non-human primates only fueled the rumor mill, and by the end of the day there were several running theories as to my true nature:

  • Cursed by “the monkey god.”
  • Blessed by “the monkey god.”
  • Chosen as prophet or servant of “the monkey god.”
  • “The monkey whisperer.”
  • Actually the god Thoth in disguise, capable of spontaneously generating ancient monkey figurines (from my ears, for some reason).

While it remains to be seen whether I am cursed or blessed, finding those monkeys was an experience I will never forget. I’m holding out to see if next year someone finds the barrel they came from.

By Brandon Yang

Reflecting on Akko and its People

by Brendon Yang.

مرحبا, שלום, приве́т, hello. Even if Hebrew is now Israel’s official language, it doesn’t change the fact that people from all over the world will still flock to this country, whether it’s to visit holy sites in Jerusalem, clubbing in Tel Aviv, or sifting through dirt on Tel Napoleon. Despite my habit of dozing off in afternoon lectures, I do recall a statement about Akko being a case study for the rest of Israel in terms of being a land of many peoples and religions. While I admittedly was not the most attentive student in the lecture hall, this lesson was definitely reinforced as I explored and learned more about Akko.

Some typical interactions would be trying to learn Arabic from one of the Bedouins on the Tel as I attempt to pronounce صباح الخير. After baking in the sun, I might explore the Turkish Bazaar in the Old city where I would hear two tourists chatting in German. I would see signs that were written in Hebrew, Arabic, Russian, and English. I would respond with תודה or شكرا after buying something to drink. At the end of the day I’d say לילה טוב to my friends as I went to bed.

The variety of  languages I’d see and hear pairs well with the various buildings and monuments. Akko is home to one of the largest mosques in Israel. The Bahai gardens house the most sacred site in the Bahai religion. The Akko prison museum commemorates Jewish martyrs during the British Mandate. There is also the beach which all peoples can relate to.

Whatever legislation is passed, Akko and subsequently, Israel, will still be home to a variety of cultures and religions. Ancient Akko has seen Phoenicians, Persians, Romans, Crusaders, and Ottomans within its walls. Modern Akko sees Jews, Arabs, Americans, Europeans, and people from all around the globe. I suggest that if you ever go to Israel, you should spend some time in Akko. Here is a city that has such a varied and unique history and by being one of a few mixed cities in Israel, Akko retains its diverse traditions. I have no doubt that this place will continue to attract people from all over the world

By Emily Ratvaskay

Closing Thoughts

By Emily Ratvaskay

Closing Thoughts


My time at the Tel Akko field school was filled with a wide variety of experiences. Now, looking back I realize just how many fond memories of this trip I have.

On the Tel

The first day, I resolved to do all I could to help, although it was more of an automatic mindset than a conscious decision. Even with busywork, I tried to do my best. It may have been a waste of energy, but I suppose it paid off, as I became known as “the girl who is good at everything.” (Disclaimer: That certainly is not the case, I have many shortcomings and I have my limits.)

There were only two students in our square, Salem and myself. This was probably the best possible placement, as Salem and I have been friends since the beginning of freshman year. We made so many jokes, so many Vine references, so many puns, so much cringe – it was beautiful. We got on each other’s nerves a couple of times, but that is to be expected in such close quarters while being surrounded by a sea of burrowing bees.

Some of the most memorable moments and sayings from RR4, sifting, and making sandbags:

  • *something falls*
    • Person A: “There ‘e goes.”
    • Person B: “Where ‘e goes, nobody knows.”
  • Singing “Deliver Us” from the movie “Prince of Egypt”
  • Daydreaming about food and sleep
  • Listening to Steven Universe songs, and singing along
  • Theorizing about the most recent Steven Universe episodes
  • Person A: (monotone) “Screaming while screening.”
    • Person B: (monotone) “Screening while screaming.”
  • The bucket designated for bones we called the “Bone Boi Bucket”
  • Larger chunks of bone we called “Big Bone Boi’s” a.k.a. “B.B.B.’s”
  • Person A: (singing) “Mr. Sand-bag, bring me a bag”
    • Person B: (singing) “bung, bung, bung, bung”
  • Person A: (purposefully horrible singing) “Ocean man…”
    • Person B: (also horrible singing) “…take me by the hand”
  • Laughing at all of the cringe-worthy stuff we do and say

Our Square Supervisor, June, was awesome. She put up with all of our cringe, and, despite being a bit put-upon by all of the pottery buckets we would quickly fill, kept a good attitude. Our area supervisor, Nick, and his assistant, Mary, were really cool people as well. I had a great time working with them, and I wouldn’t hesitate to work with them again.

Despite, or maybe because of, our shenanigans, we made a lot of progress this season. Our square (RR4), was an utter mess when we got there, but by the end we had it completely level. We took out two partial walls, a surface, and a decent chunk of a pit filled with pottery sherds that looked restorable. There seemed to be some confusion over what was happening in our square.

  • Is the surface associated with this wall or the other or neither?
  • Is this a floor below the surface?
    • If it is a floor, is it associated with this wall?
  •  What is up with all of this pottery?
    • Is it pit or a layer that could indicate we are coming down on a floor?
    • Is it associated with the pottery layer/pit found in RR3?
    • Is this older pottery cutting into the newer pottery?

Not to mention all of the … interesting finds: The partial vessel I wrote about in my first post, a strange spout-like thing, an ear from a mask, a bronze earring or fish-hook, a small mug-like vessel, a lot of bone from a variety of animals, and a whole lot more. There would be days that we had to call Nick over several times because of all the weird stuff.

“Niiiick, there’s another thing…”

Off the Tel

Although it felt like the majority of the time we were on the Tel, looking back a lot more stuff happened off the Tel.

Food Struggles

At first, it was difficult to get used to the food routine at the Nautical College. Lunch was the big meal of the day, and usually the only one with meat, but no dairy. Breakfast and dinner were light and consisted of eggs, bread, chunks of assorted vegetables, and various dairy products. (Tel breakfast was awesome, though).

Some days Salem and I would go to the McDonald’s in the mall for dinner. Other days we would walk to My Market for a pint of ice cream and other snacks.

Food with Dr. R

Every Thursday, Dr. Rosenzweig (aka Dr. R) took the Miami group out for dinner (except the last week we did Wednesday since Uri Buri’s got moved up to Thursday). The first week we went to Café Neto, it is right on the beach and had some pretty good food. I loved the assortment of coffee and tea they had more than the food, though.

The second week we went to Kukushka, which is in the Turkish Bazaar. I had the cutest cat choose my lap as his seat. Literally, the best experience, even though I know the cat was just there to mooch off of my food.

We went to Abu Christo the third week. We sat outside, right next to the water. We saw the fast-boats zipping by, people jumping off a wall into the water, and the fish going after any little bit of food that was thrown over the railing. It was a really nice experience overall.

Our final Miami meal was at the Pisani Port Restaurant. Here we celebrated our last dinner, as well as Sam’s birthday. The food was good, the dessert was good, we were right on the water, and I think it was a good ending group dinner.

Akko Adventures

We wandered around the Old City a bit.

Salem and I got skirts from Wafa. Because of this, Salem soon came to realize just how indecisive a shopper I am.

Quinten, Salem, Tashe, and I went to Soul Burger and had one heck of a time attempting to figure out who ordered what, as it was all on one check, and the check was in Hebrew. The food was good though, and we saw three of the cutest kittens ever.


We went to Life Beach a few times, along with some others from our group to eat and be merry. I made sand castles and an impressive sand-sea turtle, whose shell was made of shells.

Salem, Sam, Tashe, myself, and some others from our group went on the fast boat one night. It isn’t the safest of boat-rides, but it makes for one epic roller coaster.

After the entire group finial dinner at Uri Buri’s, Quinten and I almost got lost on the way back to the Nautical College, because I insisted on cutting through the Turkish Bazaar, thinking it would be a more direct route than the one we took to get to Uri Buri’s.

Weekend Trips

Every Saturday we went on a field trip, occasionally Sundays too.

We wandered around the Galilee and the Golan the first Saturday. Visiting sites like Zippori, Magdala, “St. Peter’s house,” Capernaum, the Sea of Galilee, and Ancient Katzrin. Interesting sites all around, and interesting discussions of the pros and cons of reconstruction, who owns the past, and other ethical questions.

That first Sunday we went on a tour of crusader Akko.

The second Saturday we went to the Baha’i gardens in Akko, the Museum at Haifa, the Tanur and Gamel caves, and Caesarea. The Baha’i gardens were immaculate. The Tanur and Gamel caves gave us a bit of insight into paleoarchaeology and the history of it as a discipline. In Caesarea, we met with Beverly Goodman, a geoarchaeologist, an experience you can read more about in my second blog. We then saw the constructions that Herod made for Caesar, and the literal cover-up of “Area I”– a portion of Caesarea that was built during the Ottoman period and based on the Ottoman city layout.

The final trip was to Jerusalem. We visited the City of David, the Western Wall, all four quarters, the Jaffa gate, and the Israel Museum. There were interesting discussions of the current political/religious power of certain Jewish sects. The labyrinth-like streets, lined with vendors, and packed with passersby were lively but confusing.

Then the Sunday after, instead of going to the prison, as was planned, we went to the Al-Jazzar Mosque.

Pottery Washing, Sorting, & Writing

In between free time and lecture, there is a designated amount of time for washing the pottery that was unearthed. You could also opt for sorting pottery with Martha, writing on pottery with Rachel, doing floatation or heavy fraction with Dr. R, or washing bones with Justin.
I personally preferred the pottery-related options, as the most help was required there. Due to the incredible amounts of pottery that were taken out of the ground this season, there was an incredible backlog, on all levels.

I found the pottery washing to be sort of meditative, but it was easy for me to get lost in thought and end up scrubbing the same piece for much longer than needed. Sometimes it would get to be a bit mind-numbing.

Pottery sorting with Martha was probably my favorite thing to do. Sorting the body sherds from the diagnostic sherd and finding pieces that fit together I find to be quite an enjoyable task. Another perk is that I got to be inside with the AC blasting, drinking tea and listening to music or podcasts.

Pottery writing was fun as well, getting to be in the AC and drinking tea. However, I found that it took more concentration for me to write on the pottery than it took for me to sort out the pieces. Because of this, I limited myself to listening only to instrumental music, as I was afraid that I would accidentally write down what I was listening to.

Independent Study

During free time, I would work on my independent study. It was a comparison of archaeological illustration and photogrammetry as methods of recording artifacts. I just wish I had realized how much time I was wasting early on because I was in a rush to finish everything the last two or three days.

I got to learn real archaeological illustration techniques, which I am deeply thankful to Ragna for all of her guidance and patience with me. I am also thankful towards Rachel and Martha for their help in the archaeological illustration portion of my project.

For the photogrammetry portion, I am thankful to AJ for teaching me the basics and helping as much as she could. Despite the lack of good results from the Agisoft program in creating a 3D model of the figurine foot, I think I have enough information to build a good comparison.

Overall, I found it to be an enjoyable, if mildly stressful, experience.


I had an absolutely amazing time that the Tel Akko field school. Sure there were days where I would have much rather been at home, asleep, but I will probably never get another experience quite like this. I am glad I came on this trip, and, if it were possible, I wouldn’t mind returning someday.

By Salem Arvin

Farewell to the Tel!

by Salem Arvin. As I pack my bags and get ready for the flight from Tel-Aviv, I’m reflecting on some of the amazing adventures we’ve had. This was my first ever dig and to be honest it was hard. Waking up at 4:30 every morning to get on the bus so that we avoid working in the midday Israeli sun, eating smaller meals, having to keep our meat and dairy separate, not to mention the manual labor that my body just wasn’t used to. The first few days of excavation the backs of my thighs were numb from crouching, my arms were tired from sandbagging, and I had blisters from tying said sandbags. By the time dinner rolled around at 7pm I was ready to pass out. But between our weekly dinners with Dr. R, our weekend excursions all around Israel, eating at Uri Buri and getting to travel with some of my favorite fellow Miami students (as well as my new Penn State friends) I’ve had an amazing time. I can’t believe it’s over.

I’ve learned so much about Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and archaeology overall throughout the past four weeks (shoutout to Emily for helping answer my questions revolving around religion). I’ve especially learned more than I thought possible about biblical archaeology and the Levant. I’m especially excited to have learned about and led flotation and to have furthered my experience in the field of archaeobotany. Although I’m looking to be a mesoamericanist with my dual LAS degree, I’ve had an amazing time learning to excavate with the Tel Akko team. Was it worth it? Yes. Am I ready to go home? Yes. Am I too tired to even think about climbing the stairs to the Tel again? Yes. Am I still weighing the decision between being an archaeologist and a museum professional? Yes. Would I trade this experience for any other? …Tel no.

By Quentin Stickley

The Living City: Old Akko, Conservation, and Gentrification

The old city of Akko is unlike any other historical site I’ve visited in that it is a place where people are still living and making history much like they did in the past. It has not been roped off and sterilized for easy digestion. When you walk into the old city, you will encounter people selling fruit on the street, feeding stray cats or shooing them from their doorsteps, and going to and from their places of worship. Colorful street art decorates walls and doors. There are shops and attractions catering to tourists, certainly, but the old city is also a place where people make their homes, raise their children, and practice their religions. It is a delight to visit, but I am always concerned with the fuzzy line between visiting the city and encroaching upon the lives of Akko’s residents. Gentrification as a result of tourism is a grave threat to historic neighborhoods, especially those like Old Akko which are populated mostly by minority Arabs who are also relatively less wealthy. Since UNESCO designated the old city as a World Heritage Site. Building codes meant to preserve the historic structures have made it more expensive for residents to improve their homes, making life in the old city less feasible for many people who live there.

The nearby site of the ancient harbor, Caesarea provides a good example of a gentrified historical site. In addition to its ancient Roman and Byzantine remains, Caesarea was a Crusader site, and later historic buildings still stand, such as the “Bosnian Mosque” built by immigrants from Bosnia who founded a fishing village there in the 19th century. Today, however, the Crusader city at Caesarea feels empty. The buildings have been turned into restaurants and souvenir shops; the people there are all either tourists or people whose job it is to cater to them. Caesarea is a wonderful site with a lot of historical value, but seeing the old city there after coming from Akko made me feel sad. How many people did gentrification displace there? I say all of this aware that I am myself a tourist, and as a student of archaeology who is passionate about preserving historical and archaeological sites. If there is a healthy middle ground between preserving ancient structures and preserving the lives built by the people who now occupy them, I certainly couldn’t tell you where it might lie. But visiting Akko has impressed upon me the importance of seeking such a middle ground, and the fact that historical sites are not frozen in the past. As long as people continue to occupy them, those people will continue to add to the rich legacy of the place.

By Emily Ratvaskay

A Possible New Direction

A Possible New Direction

by Emily Ratvaskay


I have been troubled for some time regarding what I could possibly specialize in, in the future.

I have thrown myself head-long into many archaeology courses, multiple semesters of an internship, an undergraduate associate-ship, and now a field school, as attempts to figure out my life. I am not completely sure, but I think I may have a lead.

What Happened

While on our trip around Caesarea, I spoke with Dr. Michael Sugarman about what I have been doing in college (classes and whatnot). While we spoke, I shared how much I enjoyed the idea of reconstructing past environments by taking cores of various things, especially marine sediments. Soon after, we made a quick stop at the Bird Mosaic (see picture) and heard a short lecture about the history of tsunamis in the Mediterranean, especially in regards to how long the harbor at Caesarea was in use. This lecture was given by Dr. Beverly Goodman, a geoarchaeologist.

She then went on to talk about what other work she is doing. The one which resonated with me the most was her work in Japan. She has yet to start working there, being preoccupied with her work in the Yucatan, looking for Pre-Columbian harbors and her work in Caesarea, but it sounds quite intriguing. Her work in Japan will be centered in Okinawa, searching for evidence of a tsunami that occurred in the 1700s, according to historical sources.

After she finished her talk, I asked her if similar work has been done elsewhere in Japan. It appears that there hasn’t been. I find this to be an intriguing possible opportunity…


I love the idea of working with reconstructing past environments in Japan and using that information to support historical records of tsunamis or other disasters. Reconstructing how people in the past dealt with such things on all levels (the effects they had on trade/economy, infrastructure/government, religion, small communities vs. large communities, international relations, etc.)

Ever since I was little I was a nerd when it came to geology and anything about Japan (language, culture, history, geology, archaeology, etc.). As time went on, I realized my main passion was anthropology, specifically the subfield of archaeology. I still enjoyed geology and learning about Japan, but my interest in both had declined. Moreso with my interest in Japan, because I haven’t taken official classes on such topics in college.

On account of these things, I wanted to keep those two interests in mind when deciding what I would like to specialize in, however, I was hesitant to put much stock into the idea of working in Japan.

My Thoughts & Fears

I wanted, and would still like to, keep my options open. I was, and still am, worried that I will find myself in a place or in a position that I get bored with – a thing I pursue on a whim, just to realize that it isn’ t for me, and being unable to turn back. Cornered in a job that I should love, but don’t because I  idiotically ran off in the opposite direction and got lost.

I fear that I will dive head-long into it, not knowing what I am getting myself into, and realizing that I hate it, or finding deathly boring, or finding that I am actually horrible with dealing with the hard science of it all.

I fear that even if I am ok with understanding the hard science, that I will get bogged down in it and forget about the people involved (both past and present).

I fear that I will forget why I am doing this job: why the past is important and why people care about it.

I fear that even if I don’t forget about such things, that I won’t be able to properly communicate with the public, thus continuing the gap of misunderstanding between academia and the general public.

I fear many things, so, so many things… There are so many possible things that could happen if I chose this path (bad, good, and in between). Granted, that is true of any path I take, including the one of continued indecisiveness.

I think I will read up on and learn more about this possibility before saying anything concretely. But I will admit that it feels good to finally see one feasible route I can take in the future.

By Samantha Foppe

No Toads Were Harmed in the Excavation of this Tel

by Samantha Foppe

No Toads Were Harmed in the Excavation of this Tel

No Toads Were Harmed in the Excavation of this TelTel Akko has its share of interesting critters. Some of the animals we’ve seen on this excavation season include: snakes, geckos, ants, bees, lizards, moles, and more. Some are dangerous, and some are much friendlier. In my square, we had a mole who dug several holes and even dug through into a stone wall. These animals, as well as others, contribute to our excavation and “help us dig.” The more scientific term for this help is bioturbation. Animals and plants disturb and change the soil in places they inhabit.

This week, my square had some new visitors: a family of toads. We had begun to remove a wall made of stones when we discovered them hiding inside. One had jumped out of its hiding spot under a large rock in the wall. At first, we thought it was a lone toad but then we realized there were four more tucked safely under the rock.  For about ten minutes we tried to safely remove them so we could continue to excavate without harming them. Eventually, they all hopped out from under the rock and away from our square.

These toads had burrowed into the wall and made it their home. They may have changed the archaeology of the site, but we disturbed their home. Fortunately, it is really great that the toads left the area safely and it was interesting to see bioturbation in action.

By Emily Ratvaskay

An Emerging (Partial) Vessel

An Emerging (Partial) Vessel

The Reveal

As I was excavating in square RR4, I started to see this one large pottery sherd emerge that looked like it may be more than just a sherd. The part of the square I was working on was relatively lacking in pottery sherds, as compared to my friend, Salem’s, part of the strip where it was pretty much layer upon layer of large pottery sherds, so this caught my eye.

Based on the distribution of the other pottery sherds surrounding it, the square and area supervisors decided to make a third, smaller section (locus), in between Salem’s and mine. I continued digging there, as it was originally a part of my locus, but everything that came out of that locus would be separated from the other locus I was working on (even the dirt was sifted separately).

What I once thought was a large sherd, soon revealed itself to be a partial vessel, with the dirt packed in. I carefully articulated around the vessel, pedestaling it. The next day, we measured the height above sea level at which the vessel was located, and carefully removed it. (See video)


Those of us who first saw it joked that it was Dotan’s coffee mug. (Dotan being the person in charge of excavating the Tel in the 1970’s, and who is somewhat infamous for his poor excavation methods, by today’s standards). But once the soil inside was removed for a soil sample to be analyzed later, two oddly, but intentionally, placed holes were revealed. This confused everyone. The list of suggestions included:

  • wine strainer (to get the grape pulp out)
  • candle holder (joke)
  • Persian bong (joke)
  • a cyclops face (joke)
  • a product of the “Lazy and/or Drunken Potter of Akko” (long-running joke)

Despite the uncertainty as to what the vessel was used for, the vessel won “Find of the Day.” (Which means there is ice cream in my future.)

Someone gave a rough description of the partial vessel to Martha Risser (an expert in all things pottery) and she thought that it could be a beehive. However, once she got a hold of it, she realized that it is too small to be that. So, what this partial vessel is, is still unknown.

My Thoughts

From what I have come to understand while studying archaeology these past two-ish years, finding a complete vessel is a relatively rare occurrence. Because of this, I am really pumped about this find, even if it is only a partial vessel. This is understandable considering this is my first archaeological excavation, and that I found this partial vessel in my first two weeks of the field school. I hope that the soil samples can give us some insight as to the purpose of this partial vessel. Perhaps the soil samples could provide some insight as to what was going on with the surrounding area, which had a strangely dense concentration of large, possibly restorable pottery sherds.

By Quentin Stickley

Digging with Chronic Pain

by Quentin Stickley. Archaeology is my passion, but as someone who lives with chronic pain, I have always been concerned that working in the field might prove impossible for me. My time at Tel Akko has demonstrated to me that although much of the excavation process involves physical labor, disabled people are not necessarily precluded from participating, either in the field or in the laboratory. Excavation is a team process, and there are many different tasks to be done, all of which are necessary for the new data to reach a state in which it can be easily accessed and manipulated for research purposes.

In recent decades, the amount of lab work done by archaeologists has increased, with the presence of archaeobotanists and zooarchaeologists on excavation teams becoming standard. Archaeobotanists study ancient plant remains, such as seeds, which have been preserved through charring by fire, and zooarchaeologists study animal bones to learn about the humans who raised or hunted those animals. Tiny objects and organic remains are filtered from soil and brought to the lab, where they must be manually checked to sort useful materials from small pieces of gravel and modern plants. Items that can be recovered this way include bones, seeds, shells, beads, and small metal pieces and potsherds. After they have been sorted and weighed, each subset of materials goes to the respective specialist who studies them for identification and analysis. Archaeologists keep careful track of the location from which each sample was recovered so that they can draw conclusions from the distribution of materials. A sample which yielded a comparatively large amount of iron slag, for example, may have come from an area that was used for refining and working metals, or a sample with a lot of chaff may have come from a grain processing area. In my experience, people either love sorting these samples or they hate it. Personally, I find it almost meditative. It requires focus, but the occasional interesting find, such as a fish tooth or an ancient bead, keeps it from becoming monotonous. There are other jobs to do off the tel as well – potsherds and bones need to be washed and marked or sorted, for example.

Even excavation may be doable with appropriate modifications and assistance. Because most of my pain is localized in my feet and knees, squatting or kneeling is very difficult for me, but I have little trouble in the field as long as I have a stool to sit on (it’s not safe to sit on the ground at our site, because of the presence of burrowing scorpions who may not appreciate running into someone’s posterior). I would encourage disabled people who are interested in doing archaeology to talk with the excavation staff and supervisors to work out accommodations or alternative tasks, and not to be shy about asking for help or taking a break if you need one. I have found that the staff here at Tel Akko are immensely understanding and helpful in this regard.

1 2
On Tel Akko Fear is Definitely not a Factor.
Reflecting on Akko and its People
Closing Thoughts
Farewell to the Tel!
The Living City: Old Akko, Conservation, and Gentrification
A Possible New Direction
No Toads Were Harmed in the Excavation of this Tel
An Emerging (Partial) Vessel
Digging with Chronic Pain