Monthly Archives: July 2012


by Josef O'Donnell

Well, I survived, made it home, passed through the many levels of Israeli security (which is understandable, considering current conflicts in Gaza and with Egypt, and the problems in Syria right now).

What did I learn? I did learn about archaeology and the process of the work, which was certainly expected. But I also learned about myself. I learned that I struggle when I have no authority. Not because I need to have authority itself, but because I feel powerless to correct problems. Toward the end I began to discover ways to make things happen, usually not to my full satisfaction, but at least enough to resolve basic problems. Having been in business management for so long, this was a new experience, and something I had not expected.

I also learned, first hand, what the Holy Land looks like, and even shared a little piece of the life of the people from the past. There were several large cisterns we were able to walk down into. Doing so was a long walk down stairs and then a long walk back up stairs. Just making the trek was exhausting, and I could imagine having to do that every day for water. A few of us had a conversation during the trip about how the wealthy would have had servants to do this for them, but others would not. The very contrast between the wealthy and poor is so much more emphasized by this. Unlike today, where poor simply means having less and perhaps not access to certain things, back then, however, poor meant all this, plus the added work necessary just to get the basic needs of survival, like water. This experience puts the words of the prophets and Jesus into a greater context.

I was surprised, also, that a group brought together for such a strong mutual interest, could be so vehemently filled with conflict. Our group of people was more fraught with trouble than stereotypical high school. We had clicks (the “old crew” and the “cool kids” and the “outsiders” almost divided by housing location, yet some people were not “in” with the groups where they stayed), we had drama, back stabbing and treachery, cheating, theft, and “inappropriate behavior.” I cannot speak to whether this was unique to our dig, or normal, but it led to a great deal of unpleasantness for many people. And while I feel I made many friends, by the end, I was mostly avoiding any group gatherings, preferring to deal with people one on one, or in small groups.

All in all, I had a great experience. I have yet to check my weight, but I think I lost a lot, and gained a good tan. It was a lot of work, and since archaeology is not my field, I doubt I will ever do this again. But it something I would recommend to anyone who can do the work to do at least once. I am certainly excited enough to return someday to Israel.

Final Reflection

by Geoffrey Ludvik

I have had a chance to reflect upon my experience on this dig…well, sort of. Now that I am all set up in Troy, Turkey on my next excavation, I am in a prime position to say what made this dig in Israel special. First of all, as I expected when I left, just being in the Holy Land was the chance of a life time. I had an unequaled chance to grow academically and spiritually that has forever changed me. I have seen the places so vital to my faith and will forever have a special bond when I hear places I have visited mentioned in a reading or homily. Additionally, I was introduced to an awesome cast of characters in the field of professors- one even went to school with my grandma! I met some amazing contacts who I plan to continue to talk with as advisors and friends. I also had the chance to work abroad with two of my closest friends, Don and Eric. In all, I think I learned quite a bit about archaeology in Israel and had a great time. Most memorable moment probably would be when I almost fell off Tell Hesi. But, after all, I think the entire trip will be something I talk about for the rest of my life. I had the tremendous opportunity to actually get my hands dirty and excavate a site in the Holy Land. Simply amazing and everything I had hoped and dreamed it to be. Wow. And that word just about sums up my reflection about this wonderful experience: wow!

And in the End… (July 20)

by Eric Carlucci

The dig is complete. The field work is officially done, and it is closed out now. All that remains is final lab work and backfilling. Due to when my flight is scheduled for, and the ending of funding for staying at the Khibbutz, I will not be part of that. I leave shortly for home, and while I am sad to see the end of this season, I have had an amazing and educational time.

Before I talk about the overall experience, I will say what I did today. Since so little was needed to be done in the field, I volunteered to help out in the lab for several hours. I helped take measurements, colors, and weights of some of the remaining material culture. This was my first time helping in the lab, and I did find it fun, despite how much of an assembly line way of working it was. I am not sure I can say what exactly was found, but material culture includes things like beads, loom weights, grinding stones, and other small items found at the site that aren’t potter. Some pottery may be included, but only if it is used for something else like a bottle stopper, or burnishing tool.

Anyway, since the first post was about my expectations, this last post will be about the experience as I pack for the journey home. In the first post I made, I said that I believed the work here would be hot, hard, but fun. Well, I was right, but I feel I downplayed how much fun it would be, because I had a complete blast. The first day I held pottery from the Iron Age, I realized that I was holding something that was made so long ago by a person, living and breathing like I am now, but in a time so long ago. It really was incredible. While studying archaeology, you really can’t appreciate the magnitude of even the smallest find until you actually dig it up and hold it in your hand. This is why I am so glad I went through field experience before graduate school, because now I know the magnitude of what I do, and I can do it well now.

The other aspect of this trip was the tours of other sites. I feel this was a perfect compliment to the dig because we were able to see and feel context of the area. Before, during, or after the period our site is at, it didn’t matter. I loved each site, and it pieced together a history for me that I found facinating.

One last thing I must say before I sign out from Israel: my small worries about adapting to a new country were gone after the first day. In fact, just wandering the streets of Jerusalem, smelling the smells and hearing the shop keepers try and get me to buy things at their store, was one of my favorite parts about the trip.

This experience was not only enriching for my education and career, but also culturaly. I am so happy that I was able to come on this trip, and I thank all of the people and programs who supported me to get here and during this trip. I hope other students are able to experience the same things I was able to. Thank you. And now, I await the trip to Tel Aviv, and then home.

Waiting for Toast

by Donald Farrow

I suppose I’ll start this post off with an apology for yet again not keeping up. And now that its all down to the end, I’ll wrap up the trip with yet another bundle that includes quite a bit of information. So, I apologize in advance, but this one may get a bit lengthy.

I’ll start yet again with the progress at the dig site. Our group has found more tabuns and walls in several squares, as well as lots of pottery and bone fragments. In square 54 (one of my group’s squares), we succeeded in reaching what we believe to be sterile soil. It apparently coincided wit depth of another square’s sterile soil, and we took that as a good level to get some other parts of the square down to. However, being that plans rarely survive contact with the enemy, the plan changed fairly quickly. After beginning to excavate the a nearby part of the square, it was quickly discovered that we were coming down on quite a few stones. So many, in fact, that it may have been a floor or structure of some kind. Digging therefore stopped at that level, and other things were attended to, such as the continued demolition of a balk between our square 54 and a neighboring square. Excavation concluded today, so now all that’s left is lab work.

I’ll take this opportunity to explain that I have been fairly ill over the past two weeks, and while I have been able to work in the field for the majority of it, I have been in the lab for the past few days, helping anyone who needs it. I’ve mostly been washing bones or arranging pottery, but I have also be helping Jeff and others go through the process of flotation, which can help us to find material such as burned seeds and other such things that we would normally miss in our excavations. I figure that tomorrow will mostly be works such as I have just described, though there ma be some last minute cleanup things that we don’t know about yet. I guess we’ll see tomorrow.

And now for the trips. We left for the Northern trip on Friday the Sixth, and made a line for Caesarea Maritima, an amazing Roman and Crusader site. It was located right along the Mediterranean Sea and served as a massive port during its periods of occupation. I had never seen the Mediterranean before, and to see it from amidst the ruins of Roman arches was simply amazing. We also saw the aqueduct that supplied the site with water a few minutes away. A few of us walked along it while everyone else went swimming. It was a marvel of architecture, at least to me.

Next that day was Meggido, a site with a special place in my heart as well as those who also took Prof. Blakely’s class last year. We will always remember this site for its gate that turns left instead of right, and all the implications that has for defenders. We lovingly call it the “Fail Gate”. But it was still remarkable to see, as was the whole site. Couldn’t have picked a better spot for Armageddon if you ask me. After that we stopped at a little reconstruction of the village of Nazareth, and then we were off to Tiberias. I never felt well in Tiberias. Lots of other people went off to enjoy the local nightlife, but I mostly tried to catch up on sleep and relax. But the city itself was very interesting. We were right down by the water and sometimes we’d go down and take walks. That was definitely good enough for me.

The next day we stopped off at Tel Hazor and Tel Dan, as well as Caesarea Phillipi. But what I was really excited for on that day was Nimrod’s Fortress. It wasn’t Belvoir, the site I had wanted to see since before the trip, but it was the only Crusader era site on the agenda, and sick or not I was going to see it. And see I did. It was simply amazing for me, almost beyond words. To see an actual fortress from the era of the Crusades was astounding. I ran myself ragged to see as much as I could, but I could have spent the day there and would have still not had the time I wanted. I explored the walls and the gates, the lower fortress and the upper fortress, even the still-flooded cistern got a visit. It was beautiful. After that we saw an amazingly preserved boat found in the Galilee and then it was back to the hostel.

The last day of the Nothern trip may have been my favorite day of all my time spent in Israel. We started off by looking around for the remains of a mosque somewhere in Tiberias. For one reason or another, we never found it. And so, instead it wsa decided that we would go to Belvoir. Belvoir. The castle I had wanted to see for so long was on the agenda. We stopped off to see the Jordan river for a bit, and then we were there. It was on level with Nimrod for me. It was simply spectacular. The view was just as good as at Nimrod, and it was a fortress. Yeah, Nimrod is gorgeous and cool in its own way, but this castle had stood on its own for a long time, even after the fall of Jerusalem itself. I took more pictures there than any other site. I was first one in and last one out. I felt like crap afterwards, but it was completely and utterly worth it.

Bet She’an was next, and that was a crazy cool site. I liked it even better than Caesarea Maritima, but that’s just me. The final place we went to was Gan Ha’Shlosha, which was primarily used by our group as a swim stop. A small group of us went to the small museum located there instead. It was apparently all donated by a collector, and there was lots of variation in age and culture. We even found a pot that may have been a scene of Hector from the Iliad. After that it was back home.

Last weekend I opted to go back to Jerusalem with some others. Not the greatest idea for me as I would find out later, but it seemed a good idea at the time. The bus-ride wasn’t bad, but we then walked a long way from the central bus station to our hotel. Not so good for me, and I basically got dinner and collapsed soon after our arrival. The next day a small group of us toured the Israeli National Museum, and saw as much as we could of the archaeological section. It was amazing all the stuff they had. We even got to see the Dead Sea Scrolls, which I’d never seen anywhere else. It made for a good day for me, and I rested most of the rest of the weekend.

And now we’re here. On the eve of the of the trip. Well, for some of us. This will not be my last post. I feel too bad about my pathetic attempts to write here to leave it as such. One or two more, I think. But for now, I will cut off my ramblings, and we’ll see what happens tomorrow.


Sophia Dances Around Israel

by Sophie Carman

For the past few weeks, I have been working hard to record these videos of me dancing at various locations around Israel. I compiled them to create this fun representation of my time here. Enjoy!


by Sophie Carman

Last weekend was the only open weekend we had during our time in Israel. We were free to travel to various parts of the country that we either wanted to see again or see for the first time. So far, I have traveled to the highest point of Israel near Syria at Nimrod’s Fortress, to the far west at Ashkelon for my 23rd birthday, and to the far east at Masada and the Dead Sea. Therefore to complete my holistic view of the country, I had to visit the far south at Eilat.

Eilat is your typical tourist beach town located directly on the Red Sea. Lining the shoreline are huge, fancy hotels, expensive shopping, and fresh seafood restaurants. Saturday night, we treated ourselves to a delicious seafood pasta with chocolate soufflé for dessert. The next day we took a taxi to Coral Beach to go snorkeling on the reefs. Although we saw many exotic fish and sea creatures, we were not able to see the big coral formations because of the schools of jellyfish that hovered above them. Having seen Finding Nemo, I know that going anywhere near the jellyfish was not a good idea…

Thus far, I have stuck my feet in the Mediterranean, walked along the Sea of Galilee, swam in the Jordan River, floated in the Dead Sea, relaxed in the freshwater springs of En Gedi, snorkeled on the coral reefs of the Red Sea, and spent the afternoon at the 33m pool at Kibbutz Ruhama.

To the Bitter End (July 17)

by Eric Carlucci

This was the last day of the projects heaviest digging. That meant that it was crunch time for getting stuff done. It was also an extremely hot day out, so as the sun was coming out, digging hard became difficult. The time dragged on, and we all were soaked with sweat. However, we were able to complete what we set out to do. Our group was told to make a probe of only a couple centimeters to see if we could find more of the surface we knew of. Alas, we did not find it, but this was not the end of the world. We took down the rest of the square as level as we could, taking out the hearth we had preserved for so long. Thanks to the photographs, we knew we could take it down to see what was underneath without hurting scientific efforts.

While I can’t say exactly how much work needs to be done before we end, there is a feeling that our time in Israel is coming to an end. What we were told is that over the next few days, we must trim our balks to near perfection, sweep the square of all loose dirt, and various other clean-up and completion tasks. It is sad that the time is almost up, but I feel our group has really accomplished something here. I feel more educated and well-rounded as a student and archaeologist, and we helped to answer some of the questions our directors set out to answer.

…and That’s a Rap!

by Josef O'Donnell

So here we are, at the end of the season. We’re not quite done yet, and this is not yet my final post, but this is a post about final things. We have begun to close out sections of the dig, taking final photographs, making a mad rush to clear out that last wall, dig that last area down to sterile soil, and expose that one more area to shed a little light on a remaining mystery. Tonight we had our end of season bash! Wednesday and Thursday night we will receive lectures telling us what we have uncovered. Friday and Saturday students will flee in chaotic fashion to Ben Gurion Airport to try to make it home.

Me? I don’t know what I’m doing yet. I opted for a later flight home, planning to go to Petra afterward by myself if the free weekend didn’t work out, but it did. I was hoping to stay on and help the final closing of the dig, but the staff is sufficient and the project is running tight on resources. I’m trying to look into moving my flight to earlier, but there are many hoops to jump through, and that may cost as much as staying in a Hostel, maybe more. So perhaps I will spend one more weekend in Jerusalem. Only time (and more phone calls) will tell.

I have loved my time in Israel, and would love to return here, but I am also ready to return home to my wife and my daughter, even if it is only to get there and pack up and move right away, and to go back to work, and return to a busy life… not that life at home can possibly be any busier than it was here (as our schedule attests to).

And it’s time for a shave and a hair cut.

When next you hear from me, I will be safe back in the US (unless something goes horribly awry). Then I will be able to reflect back with full consideration on the experience I have had here.

Catch up (July 10 and 13)

by Eric Carlucci

I am a bit behind on posting, and I apologize for that. Tuesday, however, did yield very little in our square. We took down quite a bit of the dirt, kept our space clean, but we had yet to find anything to note. We believed we were right on top of the floor, but we just couldn’t find it yet. What it shows to me is that archaeology, while fun, educational, and rewarding, doesn’t always give results. Since we truly don’t know what lies below until it is dug up, we could find nothing some days. Tuesday was one of those days.

The next day, we confirmed we hit floor. It just shows that archaeology is unpredictable at times, and one can be centimeters above something and not know.

Friday was a bit of a mixture. It was quite a bit of leveling surfaces, trimming balks, and taking down more soil. We found three stones which seem related, but we have no idea what the relation might be. The one in the center is at a higher elevation than the others. A joke in our square is that it is an alter, and our Supervisor in training, Jared, and I knelt before the alter like knights.

It has been getting gradually hotter here, and we know that the work is coming to an end. It is hard to believe how far we’ve come in just a few weeks. I am a bit sad to know that soon it will be backfilled to preserve it for the next season.

Two Weekends of Travel

by Josef O'Donnell

Well, it has been long in coming, to let you know about our weekend travels and travails. I have finally acquired enough time and internet access to have the pictures accessible for this blog. So here we go:

The weekend before last, we traveled North as a whole and stayed in a Guest House in Tiberias on the Sea of Galilee. That alone was stunning enough, be we also had the opportunity to travel to many other important sites in the region.

We saw some of the head waters of the Jordan at the Tel Dan Nature Preserve, and stopped at the River Jordan itself at a place called Yardenit. I had two hopes for things to do while in Israel above and beyond learning and traveling. Thanks to Geoffery’s help, I was able to fulfill one here, that was to be re-baptized in the River Jordan.

We also saw the Galilee Boat Museum and Nazareth Village. We explored two crusader period castles, Belvoir and Nimrud. And, although far too briefly in my opinion, we visited the site of Megiddo. To round it all off, we went to Bet Shean, Banias, Caesarea Maritima, and Tel Hazor.

As if this wasn’t enough, myself and one of the other students decided to take on the task of seeing extra sites by ourselves in Tiberias. The bus was to let us out at the highest point, by Rabbi Akiva’s Tomb, so we could walk down, visiting the Tomb of Maimonedes on the way back the the Guest House. After being dropped off, however, the bus drove past the sign for Rabbi Akiva’s Tomb, realizing they had dropped us at the wrong point in the city. Intrepid adventurers that we were, we hiked for nearly an hour (taking the long way around, and, everyone with me… “uphill, because everything in Israel is uphill”). Thanks to a reasonable background in Biblical Hebrew, I was able to make out enough information from signs to eventually find his tomb. Sadly, however, I did not have the time to translate any of the Hebrew there, nor to stop at Maimonedes Tomb on the way back. But many pictures mean I can go back and do the prior later.

During this last weekend, we escaped the bonds of our captors and received a free weekend pass. Some went to Tel Aviv, rumors are that this was for the drinking and the bars. Some went to Jerusalem, it seems this was mostly for the Museums and perhaps some drinking. A group of eight of us, Sophia and myself included, made our way across the border to Jordan to see Petra… ok, and we drank in Eilat also.

This fulfilled my other major desire while in Israel (aside from those things already scheduled), seeing Petra. I can now return home satisfied. My only regret about the things that I came specifically for, was that none of them were long enough. We only had four hours in Petra, hardly enough time. We were rushed through Megiddo. We barely stopped in the Valley of Eilah. And my re-baptism was splashed upon my head, rather than full submersion. So my advice, make sure you set aside time for the things that are important to you. The other sites are incredible, beautiful, worth seeing. But I’m not sure they are worth the cost of enjoying what you really came for. (I did get a reasonable amount of time at Masada at least.)