July 31, 2008

Megiddo, Day 20 – Fin

The last day! The party last night was fun – they had dinner (falafel – luckily I had pizza bites beforehand) at the pub and free wine. There was lots of dancing (American music, to the annoyance of the Israelis) and I’ve never heard more rumors going around than this morning. (“People are saying I hooked up with Finkelstein’s daughter??? I’ll never be invited back! That’s like the Holy Grail of WRONG!”) I got back to the room at 12:30, and the room-mates came back somewhat later. People showed up to the tel this morning either hungover or, even better, still drunk (better because at least they were chipper). We brushed the sandbags and the squares and then the ground around the area… SO THE BALLOON COULD PHOTOGRAPH IT. Seriously, balloon photography. So cool. After that we just carried things down and waited around for breakfast. We concluded with a tel tour and an explanation of what was going on in the areas. This was quite enlightening, as I’d never actually been told what we were digging up. However, partway through, I was just sitting and listening when I was struck with an immense wave of homesickness. I told Hugo, “We’re done digging. Everything’s closed up. Why are we still here? I don’t want to be traveling home. I just want to be home, in my own room, with my own room, with my cat, and have someone bring me tea.” And he agreed. I know I’ll miss digging, and Israel, and the atmosphere, and the people, and everything, but right now I just feel like we’re waiting. And I’ll be waiting for the next 11 hours. And then the next 13, and then more until I can finally have my Cheeseburger in Paradise burger. I could have probably have done 7 weeks if the dates had worked out, or another few weeks after this, but now that we’re done… it’s done. We all want to go home now. Then I can post all my pictures on facebook.


July 29, 2008

Megiddo, Day 18 – “I just like… to destroy things.”

I’ve been ridiculously busy, so hence no updates. Saturday night we went to Zichron Yakov for dinner (Adam drove this time) – we found a place called Cafe Motek, which was sort of the restaurant form of CuteOverload.com. I had a lasagna and for dessert shared a “Chocolate Fun” with Sara. Hugo also picked a really good white wine to go with dinner. At dinner I realized I had accidentally locked the door to my room and that none of the room-mates had a key. We got lost coming back and of course I was worried that they would get there before me and have to wait. I figured Janna had my phone number, so she’s call if they were standing outside. I got back and saw Scott in he parking lot, so I thought was in time – when I got to the room, they were already inside. Turns out Janna had left her phone in the room and therefore couldn’t call me. Instead, they had sat outside for 40 minutes, pounding on the door, then searched the wifi room, the canteen, the pub, and everyone else’s room looking for me. They finally found Norma, who called the office manager, who came with the key he had taken from us two weeks ago to make a copy so we would have four keys. Well, we’re back to our original three now.

Sunday Nomi came to visit. She and Bini and their friends saw Area Q, then took me for lunch in Nazareth. It was one of those multi-salad places, but for the main course we had a leg of lamb. It was so young and tender it didn’t even smell like lamb, and there was so much left I took it home. It fed me, my room-mates, and Joey for the next two dinners.

Today was supposed to be the last day of digging (the next two are cleaning and photographing), but we’ll probably keep going since we finally found some architecture today. In the early morning we went to lower J (aka J-Lo) to help them throw some rocks down a hill and clean up for pictures. Sara said I reminded her of Petrie from the Land Before Time.

We dug frantically, probably removing a cubic meter or so. (At least it felt like that.) Since none of the other squares were digging, we had the four of us plus Joey to run the wheelbarrow plus Noga (one of Ussishkin’s granchildren) to entertain us. (Amy says we have permission to bring music tomorrow while we sweep dust off things!) I felt like i earned my two plates of couscous at lunch today.

I took a shower and then fell straight asleep. I woke up and saw my watch said 4:00. I assumed it was am, and couldn’t remember what I’d had for dinner, what the lecture was about, why I was still in my clothes, and why I couldn’t remember anything. I seriously thought I was having retrograde amnesia. Then I saw the beams of sunlight through the window and realized it was 4 pm, time for pottery washing. Oops.

We took the exam yesterday – it was ridiculously easy. I think I only got one question wrong – the one about the location of the Picture Pavement (it’s in J, not M). The questions were actually based on things we should have heard around the site, not what was in the lectures; however, they’d never taken us to J-Lo and thus I thought it was from a previous season.

My thumb still hurts. I pickaxed today anyway.

July 26, 2008

I think it’s a word in LOL

Today I did absolutely nothing. I woke up at 9:30 (10 hours of sleep!) and decided not to go with my room-mates to Akko. Instead I read, checked the interweb, then went to the canteen and bought lunch supplies. I figured I could make frozen ravioli in the microwave by boiling water, then putting the pasta in the water in the microwave for 10 minutes. Voila! Lunch. I ate it outside the wi-fi room with Sara and Hugo and then we watched various national anthems and Europop songs on youtube. Then we played a 3-hour game of Scrabble. Later we might go out to dinner.

There was a theft yesterday – someone broke into three of the rooms below ours and took a laptop, a cellphone, a wallet, and some credit cards. We are now vigilant about locking the door. It’s sad because everything feels so happy and safe here. We’re also glad they didn’t take the laptop that all the information about Area K on it, because that would mean all the data for the season would be completely lost.

I forgot to mention yesterday that I met Mario’s wife. Mario is the Austro-Italian supervisor of K, but he also speaks Hebrew really well. Turns out his wife is Israeli – they met on a dig in Jaffa 9 years ago. So they’re another Cute Archaeological Couple. I also got to play with Dumpy last night – he was taken to the vet, who said he was fine, he just shouldn’t stay out in the heat. He’s ridiculously cute. I can hold him in one hand and he licked my fingers (probably because they tasted like chicken). Also, the entire Finkelstein family is here – his two daughters (Sarai, 13, and Hadar, 17) are digging, as are their cousins from France (Sarah, 17, and Simon, 15), both of whom play the guitar. Thus we have even more of a French club here. (Whenever I hear them speak, I keep thinking that French sounds very sarcastic.) They all live in the room next to me and all have guitars.

July 24, 2008

Megiddo, Day 14 – Toilets on the move!

I woke up this morning feeling miserable and with a hurting hand. I can grip small things, but anything that involves a partially open palm is difficult. I asked Amy, who’s an athletic trainer, and she says it looks like a contracted ligament and I should ice and try to move it. I worked until breakfast with my left hand, but then decided to sit out and help with registration. I wrote tags, but otherwise did basically nothing until the end of the day, when I drew a map of the old square and Melissa found a cracked but in situ cooking pot. There was much activity, many artifacts found in the last five minutes, and then the end of week 3. (Part of the activity was Ian jumping up and yelling, “the toilets are on the move!” as the trailer took the port-o-potties away. However, we couldn’t see the trailer, so it was sort of like they were moving on their own like weapons of the army of darkness or something. We decided it actually would be Armageddon if one of them flipped over because the smell is so horrible – they’ve sat there for three weeks now, and in the afternoons it can get up to 120 degrees inside. (It’s best not to drink water in the afternoon just to avoid having to go.))

We’re going to Ein Gedi today in order to do Masada in the morning, then the Dead Sea and Qumran. We’ll be back tomorrow evening, and maybe go out somewhere else on Saturday. We’re renting cars – I’ve made sure to save a seat in James’ car, as he is old and responsible, instead of Kat, who, although she is smarter than she looks, smokes hookah constantly and was afraid to go pick up the car on her own. I think I also have Rachel, Janna, Hugo, and Sara in my car. (Sara’s bringing her Scrabble set, too.)

July 22, 2008

Megiddo, Day 14 – Bones of a Sheepgoat

This morning, before it was even light, we took a bittersweet sledgehammer to my dear nap rock. It was glorious. Becky got the whole thing on video, but I won’t be able to upload it until I get home because the connection’s too slow here. I was told I have very good form, and with some guidance, it broke into nice big pieces. Unfortunately I appear to have hurt my thumb, probably a stress sprain or something from the cumulative effects of intense pickaxing and now this. It has decreased mobility of rotation and hurts to clap, open doors, and hold a pen; however, it was fine when I used tools. After clearing the debris (using the special wheelbarrow, which is just a wheel without a barrow), we closed the square and moved to the new square, C5. We have a new Israeli squaremate, Shani, who’s a first-year archaeology and art history student. She says the kibbutz food is about par with the army food, so at least it has that going for it. C5, although it has less bones, is interesting because it has a taboun (a beehive-shaped oven) in the middle-north. Melissa and I cleared the dirt on the east side while Shani excavated inside the taboun before discovering that the west half of the square has a plaster floor (probably stratum 3). Since we found mud brick in the corner, it’s possible this was the courtyard of a house. At 10:30, while clearing the dirt from the most recent bout of pickaxing, we found a circular ceramic… something. It was a funny shape and we couldn’t tell if it was broken. Philippe made us cover it up and excavate around it. We finally came back to it at the end of the day – it turned out to be a flipped-over oil lamp, intact, about eight inches diameter. It was pretty amazing. I got to carry it back in a box.

After breakfast, a group of tourists from Hong Kong crowded the tel. One of them asked me questions, and I think I did a decent job of answering. They were probably the most sun-protected tourists I’ve ever seen – they all had legionnaire’s hats and scarves and long-sleeved shirts and some even had umbrellas. I wonder if they’re one of those cultures that prefers very light skin or if they were just boiling.

At pottery washing I spilled my bucket on my lap, where it soaked the front of my shorts and then ran back into the chair, where it pooled and looked as if I had peed my pants but for all the water on my shirt as well. Just then, Aaron the faunal analyst came over and asked if I would like to help him do data entry. I had to run back and change because I couldn’t sit around looking embarrassing like that. I wrote numbers on the bones and he entered them into the computer – type, location, species, breaks, marks, etc. If any readers haven’t heard, I think I have found my career calling in bones. I realized it combines all the things I like: the outdoors, history, travel, minutiae, science, vast amounts of general knowledge. My New Career Plan is to get an MA in faunal analysis (and then hopefully a PhD in… something) and be a forensic anthropologist/archaeologist and do historical archaeology in the summer. (And to Anna: I’d get to do radiocarbon dating. Science, see? Real science!)


Sledging my rock

July 22, 2008

Megiddo, Day 13

Computer is running out of battery and I lent my converter to Melissa. Norma didn’t let us break the rock today – maybe tomorrow. Finished digging the square, though, and made sandbag steps to get out.

No lectures today. Philippe’s lecture on astragals and gaming was yeterday – he thinks the book of Jonah is just a metaphor for a game of senet, which is interesting. I would have liked to learn how to play, though, but I guess you can’t fit play time into an hour-long lecture covering a retranslation of an entire book of the Bible.

July 21, 2008

Megiddo, Day 12 – “Oh no. This pit has a side pit.”

They have not yet closed our square, but it seems imminent. Today we dug out two ash pits and then discovered that the bottom of the central pit is at the same level as the closed square next to us. We decided (or, rather, Norma decided) to level out the east half, creating a mini-bulk in the middle to see if there’s any change. The pit contained no pottery except a baking tray (you can tell because it has little holes in it), but there was a ton outside the pit. The square is now the deepest of all the open squares, at 167.85 meters above sea level. When I stand in the deep corner, it comes up to my lower ribs. (It’s very difficult to climb out of it.) Speaking of which, we found a rib today that looked scarily human – Melissa fit it perfectly over her ribs. Also, I talked to Aaron, the bone guy, to see if I could get in on the bone registration and analysis. Johnny, one of the area supervisors, overheard and got really excited and said there are actually lots of jobs in the faunal analysis division because apparently there aren’t enough people who want to do it. Yay.

Tomorrow we’re (sadly) going to be breaking apart my nap rock. I have, however, been promised a place with the sledgehammer. After we finish that and take down the rest of the floor, they’ll probably close the square (for real this time) because it’ll be as low as the next-door square’s floor, which is Iron 2b (don’t even ask me to explain what this is).

There’s an ongoing set of innuendoes relating to archaeology. It’s sort of an inside joke with the field, but I feel like a lot of them are shared with other activities that involve hard labor of any kind. The original for Area Q was when Finkelstein said he wanted Q to be “exposure, not penetration,” because we are looking for things that are relatively near the surface. Thus Area J (where we might be moved), which digs deep pits looking for the temple walls, is “penetration, not exposure,” and H (a deep but even pit) is “do your own thing”. Area K is too busy singing and guarding their pirate flag to make jokes. Today at pottery reading, Finkelstein said that my square was already in Iron 2a – we had already penetrated too deep. This set off waves of laughter, and he still couldn’t figure out why. (All of my pottery was sent for restoration, by the way.)

In other news, yesterday I popped a piece of pottery out of the ground like I saw Philippe do on the second day. I swung the pickaxe just to the side of it, twisted, and out popped an intact handle still attached to a piece of jar. I was very impressed with myself.

My watch glass cracked again. I had it held together with medical tape for the day until I could find clear tape. It made reading it very difficult except at 12, 6, :30, and :00.

July 20, 2008

Megiddo, Day 11 – “If she keeps wearing that, I’m going to KILL HER”

(The above is a quote from Hugo upon seeing a woman wearing a swimsuit with a horrid crocheted stomach cover.)

We went to Caesarea yesterday. First we ate at such a great restaurant where I had a decent-tasting chicken sandwich. Then we walked around the ruins and swam in a rock pool created by the foundation of Herod’s Sea Palace (that has to be capitalized. The whole thing is like Herod’s own little amusement park. I have no doubt that Herod was more than a little nuts when he started building fortresses right and left and dedicating ALL of them to Augustus Caesar.) It was very cute, and I found a nice rock with a hole in it, but the rocks were sharp and there were little shrimpy things that kept biting me. Then we looked around the ruins some more and decided to go to the beach. The group had split, and Jane/Hugo/Rose/Becky/Janna and I saw how full the aqueduct beach was and instead walked along the shore to an empty part of the beach that was part of a collapsed Roman/Byzantine structure. Hugo and I argued over who was better, the Roman or the Byzantines, but he thinks they’re all a continuation of the same empire. I disagree and hold that Rome clearly ended when they moved the capital to Byzantium. Anyway, we lay on the beach reading/napping/swimming for a few hours. After a while a very old, tanned man pulled up in his pickup truck and started to do push-ups. Occasionally he pointed towards us in the water and tried to whistle loudly. We thought he was trying to pick us up so we just ignored him until he came over and told me (in Hebrew) that he had seen jellyfish. We ran out of the water immediately, needless to say. I have a weird mark on my leg that looks like it could be a sting, but it doesn’t hurt. Mysterious. After a while we went to find the others (Rachel/Scott/Casey/Christine). We couldn’t find them, but realized how burned we were and decided to sit in the shade. An old man who was barbecuing came over to us and deposited in my hands a bag of fruit containing nectarines and GIANT grapes (we decided to call them “steroid grapes”). After an hour, the shirut was supposed to arrive and we couldn’t find the others and resigned ourselves to the fact that we would just starve to death on the beach. We walked a little way down and sat in a place that seemed logical for being picked up. Eventually we saw the others, who claimed the shirut would be an hour late, so they went to swim. Turns out Scott had misunderstood and thought “1630” meant 5:30 and the original time still held. The driver pulled up and, of course, half the group was swimming. We had to wait, and then I think he was angry, and I tried to tell him we needed to stop at an ATM (Caesarea, in all its touristiness, didn’t have one), but he apparently didn’t hear me or Hugo or Uri at the office when we called him to try to explain. We arrived at the kibbutz and were desperate because some people had no money and others had not enough or no change, and so I managed to say – correctly! – that we needed to go back and find an ATM because we thought it would be less expensive and we had no money. No one else was as proud of my Hebrew accomplishment. Stuttering severely lowers their expectations, apparently. Anyway, the driver understood and we were all ok after the ATM except Becky, whose card broke and the machine said it couldn’t connect to her bank.

Put together, I think all of room 7 can make a body that only has 3% of skin that is not burned.

Last night the Israeli TAU students arrived. We had one, Yoav, in our square this morning, but Norma switched him to the square next door. He was upset that we didn’t sift everything and didn’t believe us when we assured him you could find things without sifting (which he did). I asked at the end of the day whether he still wanted to study archaeology and he wasn’t so sure.

Everyone’s busy planning the Masada/Dead Sea trip this weekend.

We finally found a worked bone today – it had a hole through it. Also, our non-artifact amulet worked to ward off scorpions. It’s various things we’ve found that aren’t real artifacts but are kind of cool – an aglet from a Chicago tent, an earphone bud that looks like a bead, and a shell that Philippe  drilled a hole in. Melissa put them on a string and we take turns wearing it.

It’s very interesting talking with the British people, mostly because of the different words they use (like “suncream” or Becky’s “dodgy knee”). Becky is also from Liverpool, which makes everything she says nearly non-understandable to me. Duncan is from Manchester. He’s also in a band and writes lyrics. Hugo is from Lancashire and speaks, as aforementioned, like Wesley, albeit very quietly. However, everything he says is so completely British I can’t help laughing, and he must think I’m an idiot. Rose is from Cornwall and probably speaks the most understandably. And then Parth has what he calls a “very non-poncy working-class immigrant accent”, although he sounds British when he speaks French (our area is sort of like the French Club sometimes). And yes, they use the words “poncy” and “bugger” completely seriously. And then there are Georgia and Ian, who are from London. Georgia has tattoos of the sun-symbol of Astarte and the Sumerian for Ishtar. In Akko over the weekend they found a puppy in an alley and brought it back – it’s about two weeks old and adorable. There was discussion over whether to name it Dumpy (after the line level), Stratigraphy (Strat for short), or TP3 (Tiglat Pileser the 3rd), but we’ve settled on Dumpy.

July 18, 2008

Megiddo, Tour Day

Today we had the tour of other tels with ongoing excavations. The first was Hazor, and it was pretty nice. It had a cool breeze and we shared their breakfast, which was much better than ours. I sat at a table with someone who had just graduated from UChicago and majored in Ling who I had never met. They said they found half a sword the other day. They were also doing mud brick reconstruction of the temple/palace – they experimented with a few different kinds and now have a small-scale mud brick operation going on. Next was Kinrot, on the west shore of the Galilee. It is a joint excavation between the universities of Bern, Mainz, and Helsinki, and the director is Swiss. (“My name is Stefan Mungli,” it sounded like, although I’m not sure if Mungli is actually correct. “Maybe you can not hear me, but also maybe you can not understand my Swiss English.” He wore a matching red polo shirt that looked like it was, at one point, rather nice before it got holes all over the stomach, and had so many tools hanging off his belt it might have jingled when he walked. He also had a large – think pirate-sized – gold hoop earring in one ear, and the kind of puffy, round face that makes one think of a gnome.) Theirs is a tiny dig, only one area, and boiling hot; they have a really nice small temple, a large residence, and an Iron Age street in between. It was really interesting to see the street all nicely laid out. They also had a total station, which is what we used in Chicago – instead of taking the levels of artifacts and floors using a fancy measuring stick and what’s basically a glorified telescope (“the dumpy level”, it’s called, because most of the sights are made by a company called Dumpy), they use a laser GIS system that they plug into the computer. Phillipe told Stefan (they worked together before) and us, on the bus, that the total station was a waste of money and you could do the same with a dumpy, but I think he’s just jealous, as he’s been saying “if only we had a total station” for the past two weeks. (As have I and Will and anyone who has worked with one before.) Also, “total station” just sounds a lot cooler than “dumpy level”. Kinrot also had mud-based conservation efforts, but instead of looking like artwork, their three mud workers looked like (take your pick based on your generation) the brickmakers in “The Ten Commandments” or the mud people of Canton. They were completely covered. Also, being a European excavation, they wore odd clothes underneath their muddiness, like two layers of cutoff shorts.

We stopped at a McDonald’s on the way back since the kibbutz doesn’t serve food on Fridays. It was not as good as I remember (the last time I had McDonald’s was probably 8th grade, maybe before). I had a chicken sandwich. I followed it up with a Spongebob ice cream from the store next door – I expected it to look like Spongebob, but was disappointed to find out that it was just a yellow (pineapple lemon, it tasted like) popsicle with a white bottom (same flavor).

Our barbecue dinner was much better though. Turns out the Finkelsteins always have a Shabbat dinner barbecue (with a quinoa dish and marinated chicken, no less – marinated!), so we stopped by for some of that too.

Still haven’t decided whether to go to Caesaria or not.

July 17, 2008

Megiddo, Day 10 – You can sit on it in so many ways!


Rock sofa

Here I am a a rolled roly-poly and then slightly unrolled. The third is me taking a nap on the rock sofa (or possible sacrificial altar, but also possibly just a rock).

We found no artifacts today, but still took the square down 10 cm on the west side. We found a rock we suggested was part of the collapsed city wall, but Finkelstein nixed it. They might close our square, which would be sad because I may not be placed in a new square with Melissa and Phillipe (although sometimes Phillipe runs away to smash rocks. Apparently he prefers Asterix to Tintin because “it represents the Gallic culture,” but I think it’s because of Obelix and his monoliths).

In the afternoon we went to Bet She’an, which was amazing but ridiculously hot. My hands swelled like they do on the CTA sometimes and I got sweat in my eyes. We climbed to the top of the tel and had a great view of Jordan. I thought it was really interesting that the Romans built a whole separate city beside the tel instead of on top of it. (Although really there isn’t much room on the top.)

Afterwards we went to dinner at a Big Itzik-style restaurant. Much better than the kibbutz food. Tomorrow there is no food on the kibbutz so we’re grilling after the field trip.