Monthly Archives: July 2012

Thinking and a Lack of Supervision

by Josef O'Donnell

I believe that I (and others) have achieved a certain state of archaeology-ness… or perhaps we have simply been here too long. I share with you these two brief stories as examples:

I was eating second breakfast the other day, granola in milk, exclusively from one side of the bowl. I looked down and began to admire the straight and even nature of the balk I had created in my granola. I had an immediate reaction to turn the bowl so that I could look for changes in the stratigraphy of the granola.

Well travelling this weekend, a group of us were walking along a sidewalk which had cobblestones that ran parallel and perpendicular to the street. In the midst of these was a swath of cobblestone running at a diagonal. Just as I was forming a similar thought, Harry, one of the students from Emory, ask me if I noticed how the one “wall” cut into the other. I laughed and tried to engage him in a discussion of which phase came first, but we were all on our way to the beach, and the group as a whole could not be held back.

Finally, I leave you with this thought. We were left to our own devices while many of our leaders attended the Israeli Antiquities Authority Reception. I imagine it went something like this (with Jeff Blakey on the Left and Jimmy Hardin on the Right):


(You can skip ahead to 2:15, if you do not wish to watch it all)

Sick in the Field…

by Geoffrey Ludvik

As per my luck in the past week, I have become rather sick. Under usual circumstances, I would have probably slept in, avoided heavy labor, and ate non-spicy foods while vegging out in my basement watching The Lord of the Rings. NOT going to happen while in the field. I worked half a day on Tuesday and Wednesday, still pick-axing away and doing more detail-oriented digging as normal. However, the added burden of illness was most unpleasant. With time, rest, and a little bit of Advil, the pain in my head and throat and that wonderful feeling of weakness and grogginess has subsided…for the most part. While I have certainly been better, I also have certainly been worse. In fact, being sick in the field has its benefits. Rather than lying cooped up  watching Lord of the Rings, I am still participating in the act of scientific discovery I so enjoy as a student of archaeology. I would also argue that digging gives me a purpose and something to distract my mind and body from the general discomfort of having a summer cold. While I had hoped for a field season free of illness, I am still having a blast, learning a lot, and working hard, albeit in a more difficult state. This will be my last blog post in the Holy Land as I will be moving on to an excavation in Troy, Turkey. It has been a blast and an honor. Truly, this was an amazing experience and a memorable one that will stay with me for the rest of my life!

EXCLUSIVE Sneak peak at the new show “Sifting with Alex”

by Alexander Mcquillan

Hey Yo Blog

I have recently come into posession of some leaked episodes of a new interview show. The pilot episode is about to drop in a few months so I thought that I should post it here first. The show is titled “Sifting with Alex” and it is an interview show where, the handsome and intelligent Alex McQuillan interviews members of the dig team about their various positions and jobs, all while completeing various tasks around the dig site.

The pilot episode is an example of how to sift, it was recorded as a test reel, and is now being leaked to you all, through the YouTube link below. And yes Alex does realize he spelled pilot wrong in the title

In the actual first episode Alex interviews Jordan Manos, a recent convert to Orthodox Judaism, one of Alex’s very good friends, Dig partner, and experienced Israel traveler.

The Second Episode, which is titled the Third Episode, Alex interviews, our local Paleo-magnetism expert, CHECK IT.

The next episode Alex interviews a real live Grad student, specilizing in Hebrew bible

Stay tuned for more episodes…

Time is Not on My Side

by Josef O'Donnell

Pending the uploading of pictures from our weekend trip North, I’ll give a run down of the daily life of the Archaeology Field School Student.

1:00 AM Fire Alarm (this only happened once, but it warrants mentioning, once you realize how little sleep we get compared to how much we do, you’ll see why every sleep interruption deserves mentioning).

4:00 AM Someone’s Alarm

4:05 AM Someone Else’s Alarm

4:15 AM First Breakfast – For those who enjoy food the implication of two or more breakfasts may sound like a wonderful thing, however, this is little more than the scraps of food from dinner that you squirreled away, if you were smart enough to do so. This is usually a Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwich (which you grow to loath), or in one striking example I saw, a plate of cold spaghetti and sauce. This is eaten sitting in your bed, or carried with you and eaten a little later, on the bus.

4:20 AM Get Ready – Hopefully you’ve remembered to pack everything, there is little time to double check, unless you get up extra early. Most importantly: Water, gloves, sun block, and a hat, all go into a day bag. Some people bring other things: medication, bandages or first aid kits, towels, etc.

4:30 AM Load Second Breakfast – This rotates, so you’re only responsible for this about 15-25% of the time. But you have to go to the lab, load the crates and ice boxes with food and disposable dishware, and load them onto the bus.

4:40 AM Load the Bus – Everyone helps load the extra water containers onto the bus, there are about 20 of them, roughly 3 Liters each, I believe.

4:45 AM Get on the Bus – This is not as easy as it seems. Usually, we count out our assigned numbers, to make sure everyone is present. There is a pause at 17, because no one can hear 16, she is so quiet, and another pause at 21, because he is never there by the time we count. But eventually, we get going.

5:15 AM Arrive at the Site (sort of) – I say sort of, because there is a farming field and the bus drivers never want to take us right up to the site, so the bus stops about 100 meters away, and we unload the bus and cross the fields, covered with a thin layer of turkey-based fertilizer.

5:25 AM Get Started – After hauling a large quantity of tools uphill in wheelbarrows (everything is Israel is uphill, by the way), we divide into our groups, called squares, and receive our marching orders from our supervisors and supervisors in training. Then we work work, praying that the clouds with be thick and the wind strong.

8:00 AM “What Time is It?” – This is heard every day at 8:00 AM, give or take a few minutes. I suspect by those who skipped First Breakfast.

8:30 or 9:00 AM Second Breakfast – If there is good cloud cover, we take advantage of it and eat later. Second breakfast is eaten together, and pretty consistently includes, cereal, yogurt, vegetables, cheese, and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches (yep, again).

+30 Minutes, Back to Work – What you do after second breakfast depends on your supervisor. Some change jobs several times each day, others assign one job before breakfast and switch people after, still other, what you are assigned, is what you do all day long.

12:00 Noon Clean Up – All the surfaces on the site are dusted off with soft bristled brushed to prepare them for photographing, and targets are laid out as elevation markers. Bill (our – photography guy) starts taking elevation measurements. Everyone else starts putting tools and equipment away, organizes the pottery and material culture samples to bring back, and loads the bus.

12:45 PM Departure – The bus leaves, about 15 minutes late.

1:00 PM Lunch is Served

1:10 PM Arrival – First, a handful of people get off the bus and make a b-line for lunch. Then a group of people get off and collect the water containers, pottery, and material culture and put it away, before going to the lunch. This is fairly consistent behavior each day.

Lunch, by the way, is a Meat Meal. Being on the kosher Kibbutz, our Meat Meal is dairy free (though we’ve negotiated the inclusion of salad dressing for the non-Jews, though this is not kosher). And Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwiches (did you see it coming?).

1:30 PM “Free Time” – This “Free Time” last for about 2 to 2 and half hours, depending on the day. It consists of: organizing and implementing a showering regime with your 2-3 other roommates, and changing into clean clothes (yep, we just ate in dirty clothes after a long day in the hot sun without first showering); doing laundry (usually hand washing that days clothes to be used in the field in two days, so you don’t destroy everything you brought with you), and with your last 30 minutes, most people nap, since there is little energy left for much else.

3:30 PM Pottery Reading / Washing – The pottery from the day has been soaking for the last 3 hours, and we start washing it, one piece at a time, with small hand brushes. Roughly (I am making an educated guess) 2-3 thousand pieces of pottery on an average day are washed. Each “square, takes a turn looking through the previous day’s, now sun dried, pottery, while the experts tell us what it is, with astounding skill.

5:30 PM “Free Time” – Unless its a busy pottery washing day, we’re done by 5:30, and we get real free time. If you weren’t able to get a turn at the shower before, you take it now. If you needed change to do real laundry, you do that now (which takes an hour).

6:30 PM Dinner – This is a Dairy Meal. That means, no meat. But… Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwiches.

7:15 PM Lecture – Well, not every night, but most nights, there is a 30 minute lecture on some subject related to archaeology or our site. With delays, questions, and overruns, this ends up about 45 minutes.

8:00 PM “Free Time” – Keeping in mind, that first alarm goes off 8 hours from now, but if you want to stay up, you have as much free time as you can handle… however:

8:30 PM Internet Crash – You can almost set a clock by it. For some reason, our internet crashes at 8:30 every night. So if you want to get anything done online, it has to be in before then.

Speaking of which, it’s 8:27, time to post this before it’s too late.

Do as the Romans Do (July 6)

by Eric Carlucci

Our group did not dig today, as we were leaving fairly early to get to Northern Israel. The trip there was long, but what a trip it was. Our first site was Caesarea Maritima, a Roman settlement. This site quickly became my favorite of the trip so far, as I have a thing for Roman history. I believe it comes from my Italian heritage, and due to that, there is a small chance an ancestor could have walked those same streets. It is a slim chance, but it enhanced the feeling there incredibly. We walked around the streets and saw much of the Roman engineering brought to this land. The theater was particularly incredible.

After Caesarea, we went a little further down the road to see the famed Roman aqueducts and, if we want, swim in the Mediterranean Sea. This was also a lot of fun, and great as I love Roman engineering. We next went to visit Meggido, another large side Late Bronze to Iron Age site. The site was huge and very fun to explore. The most fun was when we explored the gate. We learned about it in our class that it goes the wrong way. The gate turns to the right instead of to the left. This is odd because if an enemy breaches the first part of the gate, a military leader would want to have their soldiers shoot arrows at the enemy from the wall. If the gate turned to the left, the enemy would be exposed because their swords would be facing the wall. Since it turns to the right, the enemy’s shield would face the wall, making archers less effective. An odd strategy, and actually cool to see close up

Afterwards, we made a quick stop in Nazareth where we visited a reconstruction of a 1st century CE village. While the presentation was a bit cheesey. it was awesome to see that they built the village with 1st century tools. That was what made it special. After the village, we traveled to Tibereas, a city on the edge of the Sea of Galilee. It was another Roman city, which was amazing. It was built later as more of a tourist city, but as it was still Roman, it was still great to me.

Three Week Check in

by Alexander Mcquillan

My gloves have been worn through, and my hands are permanently stuck in the claw position. My hair is too long, and I never like to take off my hat because, there is a rats-nest of dirt and debris mixed with sun-screen and oil, that is possibly causing my hair to dred. With my nose forever red, and my shirts forever sweaty, the sun has darkened and exhausted my skin. My pores are clogged with pot sherds and I have eaten, way to many hard-boiled eggs. I sleep an average of 6hrs a night if I’m lucky. My jeans are so covered with salty sweat stains, mud, and distress, they look like $600 custom designer jeans, but smell like a jock strap stuck in a garbage truck.

My body is broken and beaten, but the feeling of manual work, invigorates my mind. I’ll save the extensive cleaning, healing, and placing ice my wounds, for the plane ride home.  Now over half of my digging days are past my goal is to focus on everything I’m doing, and staying mindful of my work, and embracing, and cherishing every second of it.


by Sophie Carman

There are a few of us who spend our days in the lab. As we sit at our tables playing with our pottery sherds, bones, and other artifacts, our minds to drift off into deep thought. On this particular day, we pondered the idea of asking famous excavators of the past specific questions about their excavations. We would ask the deceased, “What was the context of locus 10?” or “What locus was this pot sherd found in?”

I decided that a Ouigi board would be useful to answer these questions.

I wondered what happened in the ‘other side’ when someone asked the Ouigi board a question. How did the Ouigi board contact the person we are asking the question to? Is it like a telephone ringing and they have to pick up the phone to speak to us? What ringtone did the phone use? What if every time someone tried to contact the shadow world, they had to hear most annoying sound in the world until they answered the question?

No wonder there are poltergeists… I’d slap them too!

Killer Ants part II (Long Post)

by Alexander Mcquillan

Once again I have managed to miss my posting dates so I am turning this one post into a super post, to hopefully make up for my blunder.

In order to fully and truthfully transmit the digging experience at Khirbet Sumeilly to the readers, I personally believe that the best medium is through the art of storytelling. In a previous post I wrote about my encounter with the tank-like Israeli ants, who have set up camp in my square, Unit 63. Well, they are back with an vengeance and aim to kill.

Having recently uncovered a destruction layer about 1/2 a meter below the top soil, characterized by flat laying pottery and ash. We decided to drop the rest of our square down to that level.   I stepped into the hole, post pick-axe frenzy, to clean up the destruction, and as I was cleaning, scraping, and sweeping, a fatal error was made. My team leader, and Mississippi native, Dylan, decided to help my digging partner and I, Justin, clean the balks. (The sides of the pit). While wildly swinging, but still accurately, the blade of his pateesh, Dylan unearthed a nest of the same pissed-off Israeli ants, armed with mammoth, ready-to-strike pincers, invigorated by the blood-feud that I had previously initiated. As Dylan realized his mistake, and leaped back out of the square, leaving Justin and I to fend for ourselves. As my adrenaline began to pump and I became more aware of my senses I could hear the little ant screams, and yelps, “ATTACK…Get him! The one with the Big Hat and the Skinny Jeans…This ends Today!”. Like a dam breaking the ants poured out into Unit 63, and with heat-seeking accuracy began to swarm up my legs and attack me with wanton disregard.

If this heroic tale of bravery and valor is not knightly enough, let me set the scenery in which this battle took place. Our Tell (Hebrew for “Hill”). Is surrounded by a pine forest to the south, and farm fields, to the north. And just past the farm fields is a turkey farm. Where there are turkeys there will be turkey droppings. What existed in our field was not mere turkey droppings, but a massive, rank, mountain of turkey Sh#t. And today,the day of the ant attack, three tractors were in the process of flinging said Sh#t into the air, surrounding the dig site. This combined with a strong wind, and a un-forgiving sun, the smell was overwhelming. It reminded me of the stench that came from the tanneries of Fez, Morocco, and honstly I would have rather, sat in the dirty port-a-potties that lay just south of the tree line. So keep these key facts in-mind for the remainder of this troubling tale.

As the Ants, with the ferocity of Genghis Khan and the mongol Army, charged they released a surprise attack, one which I was not prepared for. From within the blackness of the ants nest, raced a baby scorpion, sending me out of the pit and screaming. After regaining my composure, I looked down into my abandoned post and, saw the entire floor moving. The tidal, push and pull, of the swarming ants, made the mud-brick floor, look like the Atlantic, and actually made me a bit sea-sick, or maybe that was a brewing panic-attack. Then as if  guided by a super natural force, I clenched my soft-bristled brush in my right hand, and a dust pan in my left, made sure I had Goofa’s on deck, and dove head first into the ocean, of painful, tick like pincers and stining butts.

The battle of Unit 63 concluded with many casualties, me thankfully not being one of them, but my brush wand boot bottoms were pock-marked with the exoskeletons of the ones that didn’t make it. They died in the name of science, and shall from hence forth their tale of their brave acts, in defense of their homeland, will be archived in this blog post.

Rinse and Repeat (July 3)

by Eric Carlucci

Tuesday was another day in the books, literally. Unfortunately, the floor we had hoped to find has eluded us yet again. The tabun or tannur has been dug around and saved until we can do more about it. While we did not find a floor, we did find pockets of ash, which our directors believe to be a sign that the floor is not too far away. This would be a relief as we would finally have a surface of which to work on. More has been done about our wall as we are articulating the cobble stones as best as we can.

Since there was little to report about this day, I would like to take some time and reflect about reaching the half-way mark. This trip has been exciting, educational, and awe inspiring. Since this is my first time abroad, I was a little concerned about how I would take it all in. Now, I have no worries, and I embrace it!

One thing I must say that I find the most interesting is my experiences here as an atheist. That is right, I am an atheist digging in the Holy Land. It is an interesting concept, but it honestly does have little impact on the digging. What it does do is make me think. This was especially on my mind at Jerusalem and Masada. These places are extremely important for religious groups, and on world history. While I appreciate them on that basis too, I can’t help but reflect on them. It is different in the US when driving by a church or mosque. Here, it is an experience all itself. After doing some “soul searching”, I find I have a greater appreciation for this land, the Middle East as a whole, and the people. Have I changed my mind? No, and in fact, this has made me a stronger person overall, and I am grateful for this opportunity

Sort of Like Indiana Jones, but REAL

by Geoffrey Ludvik

So today, the 4th of July, I had my own real life Indiana Jones experience. As much as I criticize Indy for his rather crude archaeological methods, I must admit his lifestyle is exciting. While hiking Tel el-Hesi this morning on a tour, me and a few dig-mates decided to go take a look at the Petrie Cut, a portion of the mound excavated by William Flinders Petrie around the turn of the 20th century. Tel el-Hesi is surprisingly high, something like 110-120 ft. While hiking, I was third in line. It was a beautiful view. Then, suddenly WHOOSH!!!!, the ground caves out from under me and the next thing I know, I am clutching onto the dried dirt path for dear life. My legs dangled underneath me, unable to find any footing. My arm had found a thorn bush during the sudden fall and was bleeding nastily.   I felt the dirt beginning to crack under my body weight and struggled to shout, “Please, help me!” as loud as I could.

This whole time, mind you, my compatriots were laughing their guts out thinking I would quickly find footing on the secondary ledge. Unfortunately for me, the ground gave out just before that ledge, so all that kept me from a ca. 100ft fall down a steep, occasionally rocky and very thorny slope to the wadi below was my ten fingers and all my upper body strength. I was literally in a life or death situation. Either my strength held out and the dirt stayed in place long enough for others to help, or I would fall 100ft to either severe injury or death. The others quickly saw my peril and rushed to get to me. It felt like a lifetime of waiting, watching the dirt break and knowing that any second I could begin my fall. I was oddly calm and did not panic. I began to accept my fate, either life or death, confident that God’s will would be done. I began to contemplate my final prayer and thought briefly of my cousin’s 11th birthday party back home, seeing it vividly. The dirt was starting to go and in another few seconds, I would too. Suddenly, with Hollywood  timing, two comrades grabbed one of my arms apiece and lifted me to safety. THAT is what we call adventure! I was pumped up on survival adrenaline and took the rest of the day WAY TOO INTENSE, but am fine thanks to their valiant effort. So, a real life Indiana Jones adventure happened in the field with no serious damage, except to my left arm, which was cut up by the thorns. So, in closing, THANK YOU Chris and Austin for saving my life!!!