By Jennifer Munro

Khan al-Umdan

Khan al-Umdan is one of four Khans in Akko, and was built by the Ottoman ruler, AhmedPasha al-Jezzar in 1784 on the place of the Royal Customs house of the Kingdom of Jerusalem. Due to the many columns, the khan was named Khan al-Umdan which means “Inn of the Columns” or “Caravanserai of Pillars”.It incorporates forty columns made of granite that were taken from Caesarea, Atlit and the ruins of Crusader monuments here in Akko.

Due to its proximity to the port, Khan al-Umdan has always been an important centre of trade. Merchants used the khan as a warehouse while the second floor was a hostel. Camel caravans once brought produce and grain from Galilean villages to the city’s markets and port. In the middle of the courtyard there was a pool made of Nazareth marble, and filled with water from the Kabri aqueduct. 

The khan later gained importance to the Bahá’í Faith (as the Khán-i-‘Avámid) as it was the site where Baha’ullah used to receive guests, and later the site for a Bahá’í school.

In 1906 a clock tower was added next to the main entrance of the khan to celebrate the silver jubilee of the rule of Ottoman sultan Abd al-Hamid II.

In 2001 Khan al-Umdan, together with the rest of Acre’s old city, was designated as a world heritage site.In 2004 Khan al-Umdan was featured on a stamp of Israel worth 1.3 sheqels.Nowadays, the khan is a major tourist attraction open all hours of the day and used as an open-air stage during festivals in the city, such as the theater festival of Acre during the month of October.

In January of 2019, The Orchid Hotels chain won a tender from the Ministry of Tourism and the Old Acre and Nazareth Development Company to develop the site as a hotel. The hotel, which will cover an area of about 5,500 square meters with at least 50 rooms.

By Frank Orenstein

Akko and Tokyo:  Heritage and History

Travelling to Akko, sometimes called Akka or Acre, is not the first time I have traveled abroad.  Nor, I suspect, will it be the last.  However, in all of my travels Akko is distinctly unique.

When I was eleven my father, an officer in the US Army,took a duty station at a military base just outside of Tokyo, Japan.  Over the two years that I lived there, I traveled all over Asia and the Pacific. I like to think it taught me an appreciation for what this city truly offers.  Akko is old, very old.  And while this does not by definition make it necessarily interesting, Akko is a city steeped in its own age.  Tokyo, where I used to live, is not.  This is not to say that Tokyo isn’t a wonderful place, it is, but it is one where the city’s past has been limited.  It only persists in the various shrines, temples, and monuments hidden away in various corners and niches.  Otherwise modern construction, prompted by rebuilding after WWII or other variables, has swallowed everything else.

This is not the case in Akko.  Akko instead wears its age draped around it like a blanket, heavy and omnipresent. To put this in some perspective, Akko has seen almost continuous human habitation for at least four thousand years.  Akko was here when the State of Israel was founded in 1948.  It acted as a military stronghold to the crusaders mustered who fought in the Middle Ages.  For those of Abrahamic faith, the oldest settlements here likely predate Abraham himself.  In fact, the discerning observer will notice the heavy stone blocks used in much of the buildings in Akko’s “Old City”.  Those stone blocks, the same ones used in modern homes and businesses, began as walls or foundations in the crusader period nearly a thousand years ago.

It is true that Tokyo has its own history, stories, and old places, but they are hidden away or have long since been removed to museums. You won’t find many buildings with such old materials there, not like here in Akko.  I speak from personal experience when I say that it is hard to feel that city as an old one, unlike here.  Travelling to Akko has been a unique experience for me, and one that I sincerely appreciate.  The history of this city has a weight to it, one built over thousands of years, and it is one I think it important to learn from.

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.


1 2 3 4 5 11
Khan al-Umdan
Akko and Tokyo:  Heritage and History
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