By Michael Flaig

A Day in the Cult


By Michael Flaig.


Arising before dawn from our humble rooms we eat a small breakfast consisting of bread, fruit, and some sort of spread as well as coffee or tea. The small bit of television we watch is Israeli music videos from eras we can only guess, but we watch, captivated, anyway. With this small meal we drag our tired bodies outside and onto a waiting bus which will take us to meet the rising sun at our working place. Most of us will work in squares under shade protected from the suns rays but not all of us. Some of us, chosen for this task by our lord and surveyor, will get to work in the greatest job on Earth… survey.

What makes a man choose survey over squares? After all survey is in the sun and is back breaking work, which will be backfilled that very day. It is hot, sweaty, dirty work that could be compared to prison work by an unenlightened person, yet it draws people towards it. Long has this been debated and long will it be debated, but I, aa a  survey man and reluctant occasional square man, can say that it is a feeling you have, a dedication to the lord and surveyor, and his mentor the all father of Tel Akko survey, who is here, yet not here at all times.

The sun rises over the distant mountains to the East and we pray that we make it through another day of heat and work. The tools are gathered – the implements of faith: the pickaxe and the terea, we are guided to our holes and begin to dig our 40 by 40 by 40 cm pits that are the calling card of our faith. We dig and dig looking for pottery and other important remains that give us our purpose. Guided by our holiest of objects, the total station, that is so holy no one but the lord and surveyor and those he hand picks can touch it. They, however, still do not know all of its secrets. We find the places where the next hole will be dug. The holes we dig carve up the tel like swiss cheese as the ritual of digging continues.

We dig. We dig to music which can vary to be different genres but the music must have a digging rhythm to help us dig. While we dig, we find all manner of things from ancient trash to modern trash and onions. Survey onions are special onions, these onions are poisonous and can irate skin by just touching the skin. Despite this, the onions hold a special place in the heart of survey. One of our favorite past times is throwing things over the sides of the hill. The hill is a special hill, as it is the tel, and had a rampart at one time in its history. By throwing onions over the side of the hill, we are experimenting with how effective the defenses could have been.  We also have a javelin throwing team in survey headed by our lord and surveyor.

One of the rights of passage in survey is to hold the prism rod. The prism rod is a sacred object as it has the holy prism on top that allows us to plot new holes and already dug holes. All survey members must have experience in holding this sacred device. The call goes out over the walkie talkies to move a certain distance that the holy of holies informs us of.

As we toil away at the ground we hear the magic words of “breakfast time”. When we hear these words, we know it means that just for a bit we are out of the sun and get food. Tel breakfast is the best breakfast as everything tastes better after hard work. During this communal meal we talk about all the hardships we have had so far and about what we are digging. When the orders to get back to work are given, we return to digging holes or plotting in new holes. At high noon, as the sun reaches its zenith, we start to pack up to head back to our living space for lunch, lecture, and other things. We go to sleep early so we can wake up and do it all over again.

By Anna Bidstrup

A Squareless Beginning

My expectations for this dig, and Akko in general for that matter, were completely wrong. I thought that archeology in Tel Akko would mirror my past archeological experience at the San Martino Archeological Field School in Torano di Borgorose, Italy. I expected hours of troweling, sweeping and finding artifacts alongside close companions in a square that I would know like the back of my hand. Last summer, I spent every day in the same square, learning all of the unique features the architecture had to offer and intimately understanding the strata and history of my square. I got attached to that square—and I looked forward to having a square to call home again, but this time in Akko, unfortunately for me, I didn’t find a home for the first week and a half.

The first few days on the Tel were hectic to say the least. Whether we were moving sandbags or cleaning the Tel, it felt chaotic and almost foreign. Rather than a square, I was assigned to an area in which I floated between the squares, only changing course when my area supervisor told me to go somewhere else. As people started to excavate in squares that would become their own, I was still meandering around the Tel, doing odd jobs to seemingly pass the time. I found myself feeling jealous of my friends who were learning the intricate details about their respective squares; while I barely (and literally) touched the surface of the squares that I worked in. Even if I did feel connected to a square, like when I found a worked bone in NN20, it was fleeting since I would never return the following day. In reality, everything I was doing was important or at least a necessary step in collecting the data that allows us to understand what life was like thousands of years ago.

Even though I did not enjoy my time as a nomad on the Tel, there are definitely a few positive things that came along with the job (or lack there of). First off, I occasionally was filled in with brief histories of different squares. These short descriptions gave me a semi-solid background of the Tel, but even now my understanding of the Tel is far from complete. Another positive aspect of the floater life is having the ability to sample different activities, like learning how to trim a bulk or participating in survey. I’ve done survey for the past two days, and it is incredibly rewarding but exhausting (you essentially dig an average of six 40 by 40 by 40 cm holes throughout the course of the day under the hot Israeli sun). Now I know this last one is quite cheesy, but I met a lot of different people and made some great friends and memories through my various squareless adventures on the Tel.
Now I have found what I would call a “half-home” in the sense that I dig in PP19 that I eventually joined later on. However, I’m not expected to go there every day since I also participate in survey and conservation. I don’t get that exciting yet familiar feeling when I’m in the square about to start excavating, but I still enjoy it nonetheless. I love getting updates from my fellow square-mates at the end of the day, but I don’t feel the same square attachment as I did with my square on my dig last year.

It is okay that things are different here and I’m so fortunate that I have the opportunity to experience another archaeological dig. Overall, I cannot recommend the floater lifestyle but I can’t NOT recommend it either. All digs are different, so you will never know what you like until you get out there and try it. 10/10 would recommend going on an archaeology dig.


By Ross Claar

Surveying, Onions, and Falling

For the past three days–starting on the 19th of July–at Tel Akko, I have been working with Survey. While there I have experienced the full beauty of Tel Akko, seeing the Tel in a way that most of the other excavators would not experience. I had not originally intend to participate in survey, however since that first day of walking around the side of that hill and digging survey holes, I would not missed it for the world!

On the first day, when I first arrived at the excavation site, I was asked if I was interested in joining survey for the day, to which I responded with a yes. And so I set off to the survey area. When I arrived there I was taught how to dig a survey hole—I however ended up digging a few bathtub shaped holes due to the looseness and collapsing nature of certain areas of the site. And that was my task for the entirety of the day.

During that time I managed to uncover various amounts of pot sherds of large sizes as well as a basalt grinding stone! I was happy to manage the feat of digging six holes that day. The strangest thing that I did uncover were the onions the size of human heads— although they appeared very appealing they are poisonous, and their liquid is potent enough to cause a rash on a person’s skin!

On the second day, I spent the entire of the day holding a stadia rod with a prism on top (the rod is also referred to as the “The Staff of Ra”), walking across the hillside. For the first part of the day I was surveying the holes that were dug the on past day. To survey a hole the rod barer has to place the rod at each of the four corners of the square while someone at the total station takes a reading of all four points. After all of the survey holes had been surveyed they were then filled in. Afterwards I moved on to laying grid points across the hillside. Walking diagonally across the hillside and falling down many times.
On the third day, I managed to dig four holes before being called over to help hammer stacks into the ground, while digging the survey holes, I recovered various amounts pottery sherds and onions. After a while I was then asked to hammer stakes into the ground, which I continued to do until the last two hours, where I switched to refilling the surveyed holes.

I am so happy that I decided to participate in survey, as it
has opened up a whole new way of experiencing Tel Akko and learning her hidden secrets.

Surveying the cult
A Day in the Cult
Friday on Tel Akko
A Squareless Beginning
Surveying, Onions, and Falling
Thursday 21st July
Jamie Quartermain drone tel Akko
Sunday 17th July