An unofficial blog on the archaeological excavation at Horbat Omrit, northern Israel. 22 May to 22 June 2010.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

I'm at Ben Gurion Airport ready to leave in 2 hours. This has to be the best airport in the world since it has free wifi.

A highlight of the trip today, we went to Herodion. This is a large hill just west of Bethlehem where Herod (yes, that Herod) leveled the top off and built a palace.Here are few pictures from the top.
Herodion had a very deep cistern.

Then on to Bethlehem. But through the "security fence." What a monstrosity.

I might as well show you a picture of the crusader Church of the Nativity.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Monday, June 21, 2010

What a crazy hotel. No clock, no news channel on the TV and no free Internets. A good tub to soak the dirt off though.

Did I mention that we were going to a reception at the American Colony Hotel last night? Since the president and trustees of Macalester College are still in the country (yes, still), an alumni event was planned for any in the region who could make it. Some did but it was mainly the Omrit students who scarfed down the free beer and wine. Which helped make it a successful evening.This morning I took the hotel shuttle down to the Old City of Jerusalem and walked back, about 2 miles, getting back before it got too hot. I'm spending the afternoon in the air conditioning! Here's a few pictures from my walk:I only enclose this picture of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre because of its famous ladder.
I'll blog from Ben Gurion Airport tomorrow night and then this adventure will be over!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Sunday, we begin the trip home, 3 days in Jerusalem and then a 13 hour flight to Atlanta. John, Mickey and I have our own wheels and so start out with a latte at Katusha Corner. Katushas are the rockets that fell there in abundance during the last war with Lebanon. Then to Megiddo, the location of Armegeddon as outlined in Revelation. It dominates a valley that was a major road from Egyptian times on. Lots of battles there so it became a metaphor. The ultimate metaphor. There was a lot of archaeological activity there and we mouched a tour of one of the sites. We are, after all, comrades.

In Jerusalem, we're at a fancy hotel from which we can almost see the old city.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Sorry about the delay, I had trouble at the kibbutz getting on the Internets, but now I'm at a 5-star hotel in J-Town. But more about that tomorrow. Or today, as it is.

Saturday started out early – one trip out to the square at 4:30am to draw pictures. We have to make a grid drawing of all the stones left in the square. And also all the stones in the sides of the square. But it was cool with a soft light and actually pleasant. (Thanks, Caroline for going out to help.)

In the afternoon, a little cleaning up around the kibbutz, storing equipment away, finishing up the paperwork. Done! At night our last BBQ around the kibbutz's olympic size pool. A little self-congrats, passing out of t-shirts to local friends of the dig, a lot of beer, and then a good sleep. And I did. Here's some pics from our closing ceremonies:

Friday, June 18, 2010

Friday, June 18

OK, last day in the field. Well sort of, a little cleaning up to do. Here is a shot of the 2nd square I worked on. Lots of good stuff, tumble from the temple when it fell, however it fell.Here is a shot of a plain, round column drum that has been fluted with plaster. It's easier than carving the fluting. Kinda neat.Friday night we went to a Druze village for supper. We got a tour of the town (yes, we did look silly and got a lot of attention.) There are two Maronite Christian churches in town (one in ruins). But after all the wars and commotion in the Golan Heights there are only two Christian families in the village. We were assured that every one got along. The Druze are a heretical offshoot of Islam, started about 1000CE in Egypt. They didn't fit in too well there and soon moved to this more remote area. We got a lot of information about the Druze belief in reincarnation. (It seems God is giving us a lot of chances to prove ourselves.)

The restaurant was outdoor and had a grape arbor for an overhead cover.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Thursday, June 17

A hectic morning, finishing up our square to be photographed. I'll try for pictures tomorrow. We had a grand showing of a frescoed wall that surrounded the earliest temple here at Omrit. It dates to around 40BCE. We don't find many spectacular things here (aside from the temple itself, of course), but this 20 ft x 10 ft section of wall is certainly one of them:The afternoon was spent getting my paperwork ducks in a row, still a bit left on that. In the late afternoon we took a student to Akko (ancient Acre of the Crusaders) to catch a train to the airport as she's leaving early. Here's Katherine and John at the Akko train station (Hi, Katherine), followed by the sun starting to set over the Mediterranean.
When we arrived in Akko and opened the car door, the air was warm and humid and down at the shore there was the smell of the sea. I could only think of one thing: Florida!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Wednesday, June 16

Here is a not very good photo I took yesterday on the bike trip. Under the "a" is where we dig. Under the "b", up the hill, there was a battle between Syria and Israel during the 67 war. Above and to the right of the "a", up on the slope of Mt Hermon, is a Crusader castle.Just as we were finishing up our dig for the month (cleaning for photos tomorrow) we found this piece broken off from a Corinthian Capital from the top of a column:Since we are finishing up our square, we went into town to eat a little shwarma or a vegetarian falafel. Here we are at Shlomo's Baguettes:

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Tuesday, June 15

Well, we have one day of digging left and a day of cleaning up the square, sweeping dirt mainly, for the final photographs. Here's a photo of a column capital from our square:This afternoon John went for a run to the Jordan River and I went with him on the bike. It's about a 5 mile trip round-trip on dirt roads through agricultural fields, easy enough on a bike. Here's John with some rapids behind him.Who knew the Jordan had rapids? It has lots of tubers and kayakers too.

Monday, June 14

A couple of interesting items today. Firstly the president and some trustees from Macalester College, a co-sponsor of the dig, are visiting Omrit, they even came out and dug in our squares for a while. Great fun was had by all. A sign for the Omrit Archaeological Park, still a bit of a distant dream, was unveiled while they were here. Here's me and John mugging for the camera:If you zoom on it you should be able to read it.

That evening John, Mickey, Claire and I went to my favorite restaurant, maybe anywhere. It's in another kibbutz about 10 minutes from here. Oh the joys of your own wheels. The couple who run it, who used to run a coffee shop in NYC, are moving to a bigger place in a nearby town next fall.I had an eggplant lasagna and a thick chocolate pudding/mousse for dessert. And a great German white wine and an espresso. Heaven.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Sunday, June 13

Whoops I skipped a day, let it be. Yesterday we went out to the site for half a morning. Our big mound of dirt and rocks is almost gone and the square leveled. It's all a 13th century habitation, a time when the whole site was occupied. What people were doing here is not totally clear but perhaps quarrying what was left of the temple for stone. There's evidence of a settlement then all over the site. We read our pottery in the afternoon which gave this dating information. If we get below this layer we should find the type of stones we found in our first square.

I have a ton of paperwork to do, recording data in multiple places and then using that data to write weekly reports. Ugh. So Saturday was kept busy. Watched a little of the USA-England football match.

Today was more paperwork, John went off to tour Israel but I stayed behind. More restful. Tonight we get a talk by a former commander of the Israeli Navy (among other things). It'll be interesting to hear what he says about the flotilla.

Here's a few pictures from inside the temple foundation, where an earlier shrine had been covered over and buried by the podium. All the material from inside the podium is not yet removed, but it's getting there.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Friday, June 11

Thought I would give you an idea of our daily schedule. We get up at 4am. Really. John and I listen to the BBC News over the Internet and get all our stuff together. We get on a small bus at 5am and go out to the site. Takes about 10 minutes. We work in our squares until 8:30 when breakfast arrives. I have a boiled egg and a little bread, but peanut butter, tomatoes, cucumbers, cheese or balony are available for the starving. We work until 11:30 when we walk down the hill and the bus takes us back.

When we returned, my square washed pottery. We soak what we find for a day and then scrub off the dirt. Sometimes 100s of pieces. We didn't finish so after lunch at 12:30 (fallafel burritos) we continued and finished about 2, Then a couple of us reviewed our pottery collections for this week since an expert is going to look it over tomorrow. Finished at 3. Done for the day.

World Cup at 5, supper at 7, In bed by 9 and start all over...

I do want to say though that the weather has been cooperative. High 60s this week in the morning and only in the mid 80s, at most, when we leave at 11:30. Quite pleasant, especially since we get a nice breeze.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Thursday, June 10

First let me tell you about that pottery I had a picture of yesterday - I got a query and I, unthinkingly, had thought everyone would know what it is. It is an oil lamp, sometimes called a boat lamp from it's shape. Olive oil into the big hole and a flame from the small hole.

Allison and Sarah are guest blogging today:

Hello! This is Sarah and Allison from Bill’s square, your guest bloggers for the day. Today was kind of boring - we continued taking down the tumble in our square and moved a lot of rocks out of the way. So we’ll talk about the highlights of the last few days instead.

On Tuesday, we took a walk to the Jordan river. It’s a pretty walk, with fields of sunflowers and apricots on the way. Here’s a picture of Allison with the sunflowers:
And Sarah at the river:
Yesterday, Allison went to visit Tel Hai College, to meet up with students from the Center for Peace and Democracy, whom her “Background to the Modern Middle East” class at Macalester skyped with several times. At the meeting, they talked about the recent flotilla incident and planned for future joint Macalester/Tel Hai classes.

Meanwhile, Sarah went to a Golan Heights winery with Bill and some others. We toured the winery and had a wine tasting of all the local varieties.

Sarah and many others drink “spa water,” which is regular water in a bottle with cucumbers, lemons and sometimes mint. We’ll get Bill to post a picture of this deliciousness soon.

We would also like to mention that Bill’s wheat lecture yesterday was awesome. Who knew there was so much to say about wheat!

And finally, a nice photo of the sunrise over Syria. It almost makes getting up at 4:30 am everyday worth it. Almost.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Wednesday, June 9

Today I'll give you a picture of our current square. We cleared most of the dirt from the tumble of rocks holding up the dirt mound and will soon clear those rocks and work down to surface layer. A lot of dirt. There was some surprising pottery found on the edge of that mound, the nicest of which will be the 2nd picture:
And here's a picture of almost all our crew:

Tuesday, June 8

Boy, if one doesn't blog daily, it's hard to catch up. I think for today I'll give you the final picture of the square we finished. With all those column drums:Also tonight I gave a presentation I developed on Emmer wheat. This wild crop, from which our modern wheats arose, grows as a weed in this area of the world, say within a 100 miles of where I'm sitting. And only here in any great amounts. And surprisingly, this wild plant was only discovered by western science 100 years ago. This from the New York Times in 1912:

Monday, June 7, 2010

Monday, June 7

Hello blog followers! Bill has asked me to guest-blog, and to inform people of other site developments.

My name is Lindsay, and I co-supervise square O12, which is a semi-isolated square located Northeast of the temple complex, and South-southwest of the Colonnaded way/Industrial Complex. Our square is not part of the temple complex, or the industrial area, but rather sort of a mystery section of the site. The best explanation for this area is that it is potentially an early Christian basilica. The next-door- neighbor square, N12, was excavated last year (by yours truly), and some of the architectural features helped to create this hypothesis.(The square before excavation)

Unfortunately, O12 was once the dump site for another square in the area, meaning we were digging through dirt and rocks for about 50-150 centimeters. Although we found staggering amounts of pottery—about 2000 or more pieces by my current count—and bone (including a complete animal jaw which jumped out of the balk, scaring Shannon quite a bit), it took us nearly a week and a half to do more than simply move dirt out of the square. However, this week we found a water pipe system that is incased partially in concrete, partially in bedrock that had been cut for the purpose. We have found, as of today, 2 broken systems of water pipe, and one complete, in situ pipe that runs under the bedrock. Kate, my co-leader, swears that this section smells fleetingly of death, and although several haikus have been written on the topic, the smell has not been confirmed. Additionally, we found a complete floor. Our group was originally excited to find a wall in our square; however, a floor is nothing to scoff at. Also, I learned from Andy that the best way to test whether an architectural feature is a floor or a wall is to take a nap on it—and for the record, our floor is very comfy. This test is not unlike the test where you lick a rock to determine whether its pottery or not. (The floor—above in the raised section of dirt is the location of the water pipes.)

After pottery reading the fate of our wall/water system is unclear. In the words of the ceramist, 99% of our findings are from the 5th-6th century Byzantine period, but one or two pieces of Early Roman Import or 13th century Crusader pottery is completely throwing off the dating of our square. Hopefully, the last few pieces of pottery we find (which are on or below the floor) will provide a clearer picture the date and purpose of the features in our square, hopefully providing a bit more illumination to the site.

Soon we will be opening O11, which is a square directly south of ours, and the process will begin again. This time, however, we may, in fact, find a real wall, or, as rumor has it around the square, the gates to the underworld.

Until then, here’s a photo of the wonderful team that is (on any given day) the “Boisterous Band of Byzantine Bandits in a Bucket Brigade”, or “Hydration Station” at Bet She’an:Lindsay Morehouse

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Sunday, June 6

Today is an off-day and most of the masses went on a tour of Beit She'an, an amazing Hellenistic/Roman city of the Decapolis just south of the Sea of Galilee.

But both John and I have been there before and, having our own wheels, we decided to visit another site near the Sea of Galilee: Gamla.

Gamla, like Masada a few years later, held out against the Romans in 67 CE during the Jewish Revolt. Well, for a while they held out, but were eventually utterly destroyed. The Romans were masters of military violence.

Gamla is on a high ridge between 2 valleys so only needed one wall and was easy to defend. The people of Gamla had hope that they could outlast 3 Roman legions. No way. See the link above for further information.

Here you see the ridge between the valleys that is Gamla:(Don't forget to zoom!) In the far distance (we're looking west), over those hills, is the Sea of Galilee. There was a grass fire a few weeks ago that darkened the landscape.Here's a breach in the wall made by the Romans:Here's my roomie John, who traveled down from Canada to be here, next to the car we rented for the month here.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Saturday, June 5 Update

Well, My group met for the pottery reading and it came out fantastical, at least from my perspective. And the way one hopes and the way it should, but, of course, it doesn't have to. The date readings on our pottery, collected in small increments, depth-wise and geography-wise generally contained more that one possible range of dates. But those ranges got older and older the deeper we went. The upper buckets tended to be 13th century Islamic (The last time there was habitation at Omrit, that we know of) and the deepest buckets were Early and Middle Roman. This was to be expected but it's nice confirmation that my square is digging correctly and carefully. If you pick up a Coca-Cola bottle cap in your deepest layer, it totally destroys your dating.

Oh, here's Amy, whose mother is following the blog.

Saturday, June 5

A half-day of work on the Jewish sabbath but then we can travel on Sunday and tourist sites will be open. Here's a shot of our new square. Note the mound in the background that has to be dug through and the exposed column capitals in the foreground and the left background.During the rest of the day, a pottery expert from Jerusalem has come up to date our pottery. By pottery, I mean small pieces and chips. Most is not useful but some is "indicative". Each square meets with her in turn and we take furious notes. This will be part of the permanent record of our square. Here is a group meeting this afternoon under a tree:We haven't collected much pottery in our square of tumbled column drums. Here's our measly stash waiting to be evaluated.