By Paige Ekert

Out of My Element: A Less Conventional Approach to Archaeology

by Paige Ekert.

As we arrived to the tel on that first morning, one thought kept running through my head over and over again, “What am I doing here? I can’t possibly belong.” I was surrounded by students who have been studying archaeology, history, and anthropology for years. Many of those who weren’t students were experts in their respective fields, and most had as many years of experience in their fields as the amount of years I’ve been alive, if not more. I fell into neither of these two distinct categories. Instead, I am one of the younger students, having only just finished my freshman year, and I am a STEM major on top of it. Not only do I have no background in the subject matter, I have a completely different frame of mind, career goal, and general interests than most of my other colleagues and I was hyperaware of this distinction.

I was highly intimidated by nearly everyone that I met that first week, and felt vastly inferior to most. I had a hard time contributing to conversations about global politics, historical events, religion, anthropological topics and other ‘worldly’ themes. In all honesty, I felt isolated. At school, I could talk for days about biofilms and dispersal, yet here, I found myself in an academic setting in which I could not find my footing. I knew that there must be some benefit to my being here, as I obviously would not have been accepted into the program otherwise, however I was struggling to see any of them. I knew that I would learn everything that was absolutely necessary for me to learn and I knew that I would still make friends regardless of our separate interests, but each day pushed me further and further away from my comfort zone and I wasn’t sure if I liked that.

As a biology major, I am generally most comfortable being in completely sanitary and sterile conditions. I typically work with microorganisms and other ‘invisible’ beings. There is a great deal of silence while working and typically it takes a substantial amount of time to ‘discover’ the results of the tests that I run. Needless to say, the first day in the field was accompanied by a fair dose of culture shock. I came back from the tel covered in dirt, sand, and unidentifiable grit. My hair was pulled out of its once neat ponytail and the clothes I wore were virtually destroyed. The objects we excavated were typically big enough to be seen by the naked human eye and were fairly easy to identify. There was a jovial social aspect in the field that I had never encountered before. I was absolutely exhausted and mentally drained due to the physicality of the work, the intensity of the sun and the amount of information that was being thrown at me while at the tel. Never before had I been less prepared for the work I was doing and I was completely overwhelmed by the unfamiliarity that surrounded me. I continuously told myself that change is good and kept working to maintain a positive outlook on the project as a whole, focusing specifically on the relative uniqueness of my situation and realizing the advantageous aspects of this trip that I would surely benefit from.

As time went on, I began to feel more comfortable on the tel; I learned more and more about archaeological theories, applications, and skills, the context of my specific square, and the expectations in place for me. I even began to see the similarities between the processes I was accustomed to and the ones being performed at the tel. There was a scientific method in place and the highly descriptive notes being taken by supervisors were vastly similar to the ones I take in my own lab. After working on the tel, I occasionally attended archaeobotany sessions and did flotation tests on soil samples taken during excavation. I no longer felt like a complete stranger in this new world. Every single person that I met was more than happy to explain anything I needed clarification on and I started to fall into a routine and become comfortable with the daily tasks assigned to me.

Last Thursday, this routine was interrupted in the best of ways. While sifting through four buckets of cleared dirt from a small area of my square that I was excavating, I stumbled upon what I believed to be an ancient bead. It was about 2 centimeters in height, black, and had a hole on either end. I threw it in a bucket and planned on asking someone about it when I had a chance. A while later, I showed it to my lovely square supervisor who very loudly exclaimed several expletives and began running around with this very small, seemingly not so important bead. My area supervisor had us halt operations in our square to show him where I was excavating. It was then that I began to think that the bead I had found had some kind of mysterious significance. I was then informed that I had found a stone cylinder seal. I smiled and went back to sweeping dirt in another part of the square. I suppose it was at this moment that my obliviousness regarding this tiny object was revealed. A group of people gathered around me to explain the role of cylinder seals in Mesopotamian culture and it was later disclosed to me that this was only the second of its kind to be found on the tel (and the first to be found in a context). “Wow”, I thought, “My fancy little bead is indeed really cool”.

Throughout the day, people kept commenting on how ironic it was that I, who didn’t even know what it was, found the seal, when people who study archaeology and anthropology are left to sift through mounds of dirt only to find more dirt. I fully attribute this find to luck, but am ultimately just happy to have been given an opportunity to learn a little more about a field that I admittedly know not very much about, while feeling a tad reaffirmed in my developing skills.

There is undoubtedly much, much more for me to learn in this field, and I strongly believe that one never truly stops learning in this field, or any other for that matter. I may not have known exactly what I was doing when I first arrived and I still might have to ask a hundred questions each day, but I learn more and more each minute I spend on the tel and get to experience something that I wouldn’t have been able to had I stayed on a traditional path and confined myself to one field. I can say with absolute certainty that I am a better student, scientist, and person because of this project. I may be out of my element, but I think it might just be okay.

By Salem Arvin

Sifting Through my Thoughts: How to better oneself

by Salem Arvin.

Living in a new place can pose many challenges, and whether emotional or physical this has the tendency to throw off even the best of us. However, in my journey to Israel for an archaeological field school at the Tel Akko site there was one thing I wasn’t expecting to feel. That feeling? Out of my element. Here I am, digging through the dirt and making discoveries in ways I couldn’t have imagined, but when it all comes down to it I have felt like a fish out of water. You see, at Miami I’ve taken courses on both Latin American and North American archaeology, I’ve taken the archaeology capstone, and I’ll even be UAing for ATH 212, the introductory archaeology class. I know the discipline, but what I didn’t realize is how much knowledge I didn’t have, and how much I could learn here at Akko.

In all honesty I know almost nothing about Old World or Biblical archaeology. While I am certified in Spanish and have worked for years on my accent and grammar, I know almost no Hebrew. I know little of other religions, and especially of the bible. I didn’t know about the chronology, the ceramics of the area, the vegetation, even the history. That was, until I started digging and attending lectures. The staff here at Tel Akko have really opened up my eyes to the history of Akko in ways I didn’t think possible at the start. It was easy to get frustrated and think “Oh, well this isn’t my specialty so I’m not worried about it”, but over time my attitude changed, and I became more and more intrigued with my surroundings and what I could learn here.

As academics-in-training it can be hard to come to terms with the fact that we don’t, in fact, know everything. And that is OKAY, because even more valuable than always being right or always being the smartest person in the room is being willing and able to absorb new information and maintain a positive attitude. My time at Akko has taught me not only about its Crusader history or the history of the Ottomans, of religious practice and of Israel as a whole, but also how to better myself. And with that in mind, I will continue to cherish my time here and work to further my own understanding of the archaeology of Akko.


Happy digging!

Salem Marie Arvin


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 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 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.

1 2 3 4
Out of My Element: A Less Conventional Approach to Archaeology
Sifting Through my Thoughts: How to better oneself
Potsherd Hill – Tel Akko
Friday on Tel Akko
First week finds
Branding in the ancient world
The Sleeping Tel
3rd July 2018 – Sleeping Beauty awakens
7 Reasons Why You Should Go to Tel Akko
Memories to Savor
Crops of Tel Akko