Digging, but only for a day

Today’s article is my first real article about my Israel trip. As with the rest of them it will be full of photos and I’ll try to explain them through my excitement.

An archaelogical dig for a day! I can’t tell you how excited I was to actually get to a real dig and find myself working happily. Relatively happily, everyone else was finding stuff but me and there was a reason for it but let me go back a little and give you a link in case you want to organise your own trip there.

Arranged by Archaeological Seminars, who organise the actual dig, you get yourself out there, pay for entry to the National Park of Beit Guvrin, food (although there is a place for souvenirs, drinks and ice creams, I didn’t check them out for actual food type stuff as we’d been provided a box lunch) and then getting yourself back again. Wear clothes that don’t matter if they get dusty and dirty, I was there in summer so I only had dust to contend with but in winter it might be a different proposition. Take water! If in summer, then take more!! The buildings are hardly buildings as they’re fairly temporary, for the duration of the dig only.

Tel Maresha building
Tel Maresha building

We were taken under a tree to give us some shade from the sun while our guide archaelogist gave us a lecture (entertained us with some facts of the area and its history, she was very entertaining but I only remember Maccabees and nothing else). She also spoke to us about what we were to do and to make sure to keep things where they belonged. You can go to Wikipedia if you want more, it shows how some of the area is already fully excavated but there’s still plenty more to do.

Tel Maresha unprepossessing scenery
Tel Maresha unprepossessing scenery

Following which we then ditched all our stuff together and were taken into a hole. It was a small opening with more of a ladder than stairs and ever so much cooler. Another pep talk to make sure we worked and didn’t destroy things. Then we were told to take three buckets and two pieces of equipment, find a place and start digging. With the pick we had to be very careful to scrape and not dig, everything we broke would have to be glued back together so they want the pieces as big as possible. Everything we dug up had to be put into buckets for further work up top, so if you happen to find something then it went in one bucket (actually two together to indicate a ‘finds’ bucket so we wouldn’t then put other stuff on top of it) while everything else went in another bucket. Only half fill your buckets as each bucket still had to be taken up the ladder/stairs and dealt with outside.

Tel Maresha inside
The ceiling of the excavation.

The next three photos are some of my finds, I don’t want to bore you and the photos weren’t that good as I was being careful of my phone and my hands are sort of dirty.

Tel Maresha a fin2d
Two finds, a shell and a shard

Apparently shells were crushed and used on the walls so what looks like an insignificant find is actually quite valuable.

Tel Maresha a find
One shard here

Yes, I did actually find stuff and let me explain my cryptic comment from above. Some people were working on totally new and unexplored parts of the room while others (me) were working on parts that had already been dug before and the hole filled in after they’d finished. This means that I had to get through all the stuff that had already been looked at before getting down to the finding stuff layer.

We had to be certain to leave the room safe for the next person to come in and dig so if we’d made a hole we had to cave the sides of the hole in so the next person didn’t fall into it and this was what I was working on, someone had previously dug a hole then caved in the sides.

Tel Maresha a find3
2 shards!

After doing this for a very short time, far too short, I could have gone on for ages longer. We were organised to combine our finds into one bucket and then take our half filled buckets up top for sieving. The next photo is the sieve, it’s big enough that we needed one person on each end and another pouring the bucket into it and then looking. This bit is quite fast so you could easily go through half a dozen buckets in only a few minutes.

Tel Maresha sieves
Sieves for sieving…

All the finds were then placed together. There were two rooms downstairs, room Archie and room Jango, all the buckets and finds had to be kept together so that the actual archaeologists could trace them back to the appropriate room and what you see in the next photo is finds from room Archie. If you look at the bucket on the right you can see some rather large shards, if these had been broken up by digging then it would have created more work for whoever was piecing them together.

Tel Maresha sorting
All the finds from one room

After all of that we were taken on a tour of the next dig in Tel Maresha. It’s a 20 minute walk, crawl or whatever. I chickened out as I’m not good at climbing and didn’t think I’d get down or up again. I wouldn’t have managed to take photos as there’s only candlelight down there.

Tel Maresha beginning a new hole
The new, unexcavated hole

Following that we then went to another ‘building’ for a final ‘well done’ talk before being given the chance to buy tshirts and take shards that were being discarded. I don’t remember the details but I’m guessing these shards are leftovers after the experts have washed and put together everything they possibly can. Yes, I bought a tshirt and brought home some shards!