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 Sarah Kammer

When in Israel, Work with Teens

Community archaeology. Essentially, it’s a way of involving the local community in the history and current activities surrounding archaeological sites. While each community archaeology project has their own unique way of achieving this goal, the overall intent of these projects are to raise awareness and a sense of connection to the places that archaeologists are digging for the people who live nearby.

The community archaeology program at Tel Akko connects American university students and Israeli teens with one another to teach conservation and excavation techniques. The first day established relationships through building with stones and mortar, which ended with lots of laughter, a mortar birthday cake, and newfound friendships abound. The second day developed the camaraderie of the first day by putting our newly acquired skills to the test with a real conservation project on walls. These days of conservation were followed by a day where we looked at the city of Akko through the teens’ eyes. They lead us around on a photo scavenger hunt adventure to see personal important places – an adventure that spontaneously joined us with another citywide scavenger hunt! The rest of the program was spent working on the tel together, finding and learning about the things the ancients left behind.

Overall, the community archaeology program was an amazing experience filled with fun, learning, and friends. The teens I worked with will hold a special place in my heart, along with all the wonderful memories we made together. I’m beyond glad that I had the chance to work with and learn from such amazing teens. My life has been enriched because of it. I was proud to watch them get their completion certificates, as I felt, and still do, we had become part of a wide-ranging family in the few weeks we were in the program together.

At the teens’ program graduation, as I was chatting with my main partner, her mom came over to me, started to shake my hand, and profusely thanked me for everything while inviting me to come stay with them anytime. I couldn’t help but be touched by her kindness and generosity, and only wish there was a way I could return the gesture.

This is why community archaeology exists. It makes the archaeological site relevant to the local community, all the while making lasting connections for all the participants, local and foreign. It leaves an impression, that, sometimes, you aren’t aware of right away or you never even imagined possible.

By Sarah Kammer

Professional Conservateur in the Making… Maybe Not

The conservation project and community outreach program at Tel Akko is unique. It includes two different aspects, which I will tackle in separate writings since trying to put them together would do an injustice to both. Though they are intertwined, they are very different facets of a really wonderful whole.

I went into the field school knowing nothing about field conservation, except that it is really important for the preservation of sites. I was intrigued, and wanted to do a project that furthered my knowledge of conservation and how the logistics of it worked on a real site. The conservation program started off by teaching us about a variety of mortars, what they are used for, and how to make them. We made several mortars and in teams built projects with them. The entire day was spent laughing and joking with our partners and other teams. We continued our project with a day of putting our new knowledge to practical use on the walls of the conservation center, learning how to fix loose and disintegrated mortar and how to carve stones in order to piece them together for repairing arches, walls, and other stone work. The field school also had several lectures and tours that were to inform participants about the importance, problems, and ways to conserve old cities. Finally, students who worked with the conservation project specifically got a chance to work with a professional conservateur, Dr. David Zell, on the walls of the archaeological site of Akko. With the help of Dr. Zell, we were able to put together a specific conservation plan for our individual walls and present our plan to Dr. Killebrew.

As aforementioned, I didn’t know much about conservation before Tel Akko, and I am extremely glad for the basis it gave me of the field. I thought perhaps this would give me a direction in which I wanted to go for my career. After going through this program I can say with certainty that I do not want to become a conservateur. It is a skill that I do not wish to develop further, as the field is not for me. While I am thankful for the basis the program has given me, it has also taught me that this is not what I want to do as a career, which I am even more thankful for.

By Rachel Strohl

Silver Lining Playbook

The Silver Lining Playbook. This little book has gotten me through many a stressful situations, and it came through again here in Akko. When I was preparing to come to Israel, I had come up with a research project for my scholarship grant. I worked for months with my professor, coming up with a plan that included me working with the archaeometallurgist here at Tel Akko. Archaeometallurgy, or the study of ancient metals and metal working techniques, has intrigued me for years, and I was so excited to come and work on a subject I was so passionate about.

However, when I stepped off the plane at Tel Aviv, my entire project fell upon its head. The specialist who was supposed to be working at Tel Akko was unexpectedly called off the dig, and would be in Jerusalem the entire project. I was freaking out. However, I pulled out my book of tricks and decided not to let the stress of my project get me down. I was here to learn, and I could still do that while not knowing what my project would be. So I threw myself into learning whatever I could. And in doing so, I was given amazing opportunities to talk to specialists, and I got first-hand experience in field archaeometallurgy. Due to this, when my amazing professors and I finally figured out a project, I felt completely and totally prepared for the academic challenge. This was my silver lining. I had become an amateur expert because instead of focusing on one project, I was absorbing as much information as I possibly could.

Despite learning all of this amazing information about archaeometallurgical practices here in Akko, I feel like I learned an even greater lesson. I learned how to adapt to situations I never thought I would be in. I learned to find the silver lining in a seemingly endless dark sky.

By Caroline Sausser

7 Reasons Why You Should Go to Tel Akko

You’ve read all about our experiences. You’ve seen the pictures. You’ve had the travel envy. So now you’re wondering, “Should I too go on this trip? Is it right for me? Will I also have an amazing four-week experience?” Well wonder no more, for I am here with the 7 reasons (inspired by our favorite hang-out, “7 Days Café”) why you should definitely go on this trip.

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 Rachel Strohl

Dear Younger Me

Dear Rachel from Four Weeks Ago,

Rachel, you are about to have the craziest, most extravagant adventure you have ever embarked upon. You are traveling further than you have ever gone, staying in a foreign country longer than you ever have before, and you are going to be doing it on your own. In my wiser, four-week-older state, here are a few things I wish I had known when I left, and some of the amazing things we will do.

  1. It’s okay to eat when you fly; in fact it makes the entire situation way more pleasant.
  2. Take out all of the cash that you want to spend beforehand. Credit cards are a great back up, but cash is best.
  3. You are finally going to excavate! And trust me, you are going to find some really cool things.
  4. You should try all the foods. You’re going to eat whole sardines. Embrace the crazy girl.
  5. When your ankles swell up, just stick them straight up in the air for about 5 minutes. You didn’t twist your ankle, I promise you’re all good.
  6. Make new friends, but don’t forget about the old ones. They still miss you!
  7. You are going to feel overwhelmed in the square sometimes. Don’t shut down, but rise above. The adrenaline high from doing so is amazing!
  8. Patience is a virtue, and you are going to develop some.
  9. People may mess with you because of where you come from, but its okay. Again, rise above.
  10. Tel breakfast is the best breakfast. Pita and hummus with a view of the ocean, nothing is better than that.
  11. If you go swimming for more than 30 minutes, please reapply sunscreen. Burns and salt water don’t mix so well!
  12. Embrace travel within Israel! You are going to some really amazing places, so soak up the history and the amazement.
  13. Don’t forget to call your older sister! She misses you so much, and you never know when a simple phone call could brighten her whole day!
  14. Bring nail clippers. Please. Just do.
  15. Learn to embrace instant coffee. It will be your ally on the days that your 4:30am wake up call wants to kill you.
  16. Learn all that you can, from whoever you can. Maybe it’s what actually makes someone British, or the difference between a slag cake and a really cool rock. Learn it all.
  17. Make an appointment for a manicure/pedicure and a massage for when you get back. You are really going to need them.
  18. Last, but not least, ask questions. Ask lots and lots of questions about everything. Questions are the key to the doors of knowledge.


I know that your trip seems really daunting right now. But you are going to be just fine, I promise. You’re going to fall in love with this country, the people, and archaeology. So embrace the adventure!

All my love,


By Caroline Sausser

Memories to Savor

When you ride Soarin’ in Walt Disney World’s Epcot, puffs of scent come out during the different scenes: jasmine above the Taj Mahal, plumeria over Hawaii, or my favorite grass smell beneath Mount Kilimanjaro. Of course, if you look to your left or right, you remember you are, in fact, just on a ride. But one thing that Disney got right is that smells are a crucial part of experiencing locations. I won’t be able to take it with me, but the smells of the Old City of Akko will always be in the back of my mind when I remember these streets.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

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 Sarah Kammer

Dreams Really Do Come True

When I was younger, I watched a documentary on a city called Caesarea. From then on out, I was fascinated by the place. Caesarea has an intriguing back story, and was a massive marvel of human engineering in its prime. Herod the Great built the site essentially as an apology present to the Roman emperor Augustus in the hope that Augustus would forgive him for fighting on the side of Mark Antony and Cleopatra when they lost.

Thus, Herod created Caesarea around 22-10 BCE in the spirit and image of a Roman city with the full intent of it becoming an important center for trade and commerce for the Roman Empire. Part of why Caesarea is such an amazing feat of human ingenuity, besides the sheer massive size of the city, is that it included a fully manmade harbor. The artificial harbor created another place where maritime trade could flourish than in the natural bays of Akko and Haifa. Many important historic things happened in the city, including, allegedly, St. Paul’s imprisonment.

Years after watching that fateful documentary, I loved, and still love, anything that even remotely has to do with Caesarea. It was a place of wonder that I enjoyed considerably more than your average person, and even more so now after our visit to the site.

One of the best parts of the day of our trip was getting to speak with a current excavator of Caesarea. She showed me that there is still a lot to be learned from a place I love. Every year new discoveries are being made that shape what we know about the city itself, as well as the entire coast of Israel.

Being able to come to Israel has been a wonderful experience and our adventure to one of my top desired cities to visit was one of the happiest moments I have had on this month-long trip. However, being led around by one of the original excavators of the site was icing on the cake for me. It gave me so much more insight into a place I already loved, that I will be forever grateful for Martha Risser, one of the ceramic specialists of the Tel Akko excavation, for showing us around a city she clearly still holds close to her heart.

I never expected I would be able to visit Caesarea in person because of where it was – Israel. Until last fall, the idea of going to Israel had never crossed my mind. Though I yearned to visit Caesarea and several other sites, I didn’t believe it was going to be a possible endeavor for me for several reasons, a major one being the current political climate in the country. Yet here I sit, on the outskirts of the Old City of Akko, Israel. Moral of the story? Dreams, no matter how impossible they seem at one point in life, really can come true.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

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An Emerging (Partial) Vessel
When in Israel, Work with Teens
Professional Conservateur in the Making… Maybe Not
Silver Lining Playbook
7 Reasons Why You Should Go to Tel Akko
Surrounded by Archaeologists
Dear Younger Me
Memories to Savor
My Day at the Dig
Dreams Really Do Come True