July 6, 2008

Megiddo, Day 1

I am back. I have been awake since 4:30 am. We were on the bus at 5 til 5 and at the site a little after 5. We took a tour and then promptly began digging. We’re starting new squares adjacent to the ones from the 3-week session. Mine has a mound on one side, which we think is part of tumbled wall. There are two others in my square: Joshua from Washington, who’s here with his church group, and Will, who goes to UNC Chapel Hill, is studying classical archaeology, has been here for three weeks already and therefore knows everything. I spent most of the day working with a pitush, which is a small pickaxe. Later I got to use the real pickaxe. Digging was pretty much like it was at JPAP, but with a lot more artifacts – pottery, shells, flint, bone, and apparently a gold pendant last week – and under shade. I got some sort of rash on my chest and around my belly button – little white bumps. Don’t know what they are, but will put cortisone on anyway.

There are a number of interesting foreign participants here. Norma, the dig coordinator, is originally from London but has lived in Tel Aviv since 1974. Sascha is the archaeological architect. He asked me for help holding his measuring tape and has a thick Russian accent. He told me things like “please to hold stick” and “put zero on orange and keep stick bubble in place,” which, after a few attempts at holding it various ways, I realized meant to put the end of the measuring tape on the orange dot he’d marked and holding the spirit level even with it.

And then there is Phillipe. Phillipe is so very French and professorial it’s hilarious. I’ve never really felt the need to describe a person, but here goes: he’s about 5’8, 55 years old, and very skinny. He has charcoal gray hair with white sideburns. He has a rather thin face with the very definition of an aquiline nose (as I have just recently learned what this means). He works in green shorts and a green shirt, but only in the shade; he takes the shirt off in the sun. I met him briefly yesterday in the wifi room – he walked in, declared “I do not like this air conditioning,” and turned it off. He checked his email for a few minutes, then left. “Phillipe doesn’t like air conditioning,” Norma said. Apparently he likes to dig alone, and spent the better half of the morning working on God knows what construction project. “He’s building a bridge,” Norma said. “He wanted to put it across the squares, but I wouldn’t let him.” It turned out to be for the wheelbarrows. I tried taking a wheelbarrow of dirt down to the dirt dump and nearly lost control. He came up and took it from me and said, “Nonono, this is not it. The wheelbarrow goes in a straight line. If you want to turn, you must go – like – this.” And he started lifting the wheelbarrow and turning it in the right direction. I took it the rest of the way under his watch and when I tried to dump it, he again took it from me and said, “Nonono, this is a one-hand job,” and lifted it up with one hand and dumped it over the cliff edge. “No two hands.” When he stopped at 11 for a break, we went around and did introductions. He refused to introduce himself, instead jumping up and down trying to attach two shade tents together to make continuous shade. He’s obsessed with astragalies – the dice game played with knuckle bones – and is apparently a professor of theology. The rest of the afternoon he appeared to be running around digging random places.

We stopped digging at one and had lunch here. I may have accidentally bought vanilla milk at the canteen, but it was the only kind that was 1%. They have 3% and 4.5%, but no skim.

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