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

Monday, May 31, 2010

Monday, 31 May 2010

Dig we must! We're making good progress, too good perhaps since we approach bedrock and will soon get another square. What's up with that? Hope none of my square is reading this. And roomie John may also get a square of his own.

Here are some of the crew digging away:Don't forget you can zoom in on any of these pictures by clicking on them.

We've uncovered a lot of mundane column drums and moved a lot of dirt and rocks. Is this all there is to life? Guess so...

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Sunday, 30 May 2010

I didn't want to spoil the surprise so let me tell you that yesterday I celebrated my 66 years and 8 months birthday. That makes me 2/3 of a century old! I bought enough cake for our group at Saturday night dinner.

Sunday is an off-day, but excursions are planned. Today we went to the Decapolis city of Hippos. There were (only approximately) 10 of these Greco-Roman cities mostly on the east side of the Jordan. (And, hey, I've only been to 5 of them.)

Hippos is on a high plateau on the east side of the Sea of Galilee. It has a great view looking west over the water.

An original paved Roman road

Oh yes, here's a picture on Lindsay on the bus. Her parents read the blog faithfully.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Saturday, 29 May 2010

A half day's work today, 3 1/2 hours (from 5am to 8:30am!). We are going deeper but didn't push ourselves too much today. Here you see active work amongst our 3 column drums that are showing.In the afternoon we visited Tel Kedesh (which I visited in a January post) and an ancient synagogue in a national park at Bar'am, which dates to about the 3rd century C.E. (below)Personalizing the tools, Sarah and Allison

Friday, May 28, 2010

Friday, 28 May 2010

A good digging day: The soil got looser and items started appearing, as expected. Early in the day we exposed a column drum. The columns of the temple weren't made in one piece but rather "drums" were made and then piled one on top of the other. Of course when a column fell those drums went every which way. As I said yesterday, it is hoped to reconstruct some of those columns eventually.Later in the day 2 more drums appeared. I'll have more pictures tomorrow. We put in a half day on Saturday.

After lunch a few girls asked if I would take them into town for shopping. We started at the "secret gin store", so named by the staff many years ago because it had a paucity of signs. Today it's a little more obvious. Here they are in the parking lot: Katy, Maggy, Sarah (who's in my square) and Alysa.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Thursday, 27 May 2010

A very eventful third day. We awoke to a 20 mph wind coming from the Jordanian desert to the east. We worked in a sandstorm for a couple of hours and then quit. Got a lot dirt moved though. On the right below is Mike Nelson, a faculty member at Queens College CUNY, our art historian. That means he knows how to put our temple back together from all the parts we find. And he knows it very well. Note the protections from the wind. Except for Mike, of course.After breakfast back at the Kibbutz Norman wanted to head into Kiryat Shmona to buy a keffiyeh for wind protection. So off go John, Norman and I. Not found in that Israeli town so we headed into the Golan to a Druze village. A fine adventure but no result. But... On the way we stopped at a roadside stand for "Druze Pita". Their pita is a large flat pancake folded a few times. We got it filled with a spicy yoghurt mixture (labaneh) accompanied by an Arab coffee and 2 kinds of olives. Yummm. On the way out we bought a kilo of cherries and a homemade cherry liqueur (!).

And this all before noon!

Oh yes, on the way we stopped at a bike shop where John bought a water bottle. Turns out the owner's wife was born in Detroit. Who knew?

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Wednesday, 26 May

An uneventful second day. We continue to remove the "contaminated" surface layer. Since we're on a slight slope, we're trying to level out our square. We're about a third of a meter down our podium wall and only a few centimeters on the other side. Just rocks and dirt so far. But hey, look what's popping up just outside our square. A nice column drum. We expect to start finding lots of those soon.Here's a picture of our noble crew, John, Allison and Sarah. Just 4 of us though we get two more tomorrow, late arrivals due to finals. John also has a blog that I've linked to on the left. We sure have a nice view, don't we?

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Tuesday with runners and moon

My roomie John (he and I have been on 3 digs together, one in Jordan and two here) was told how to run to the Jordan river (about 2 miles away) through the agricultural fields so he and 2 friends took off and I followed on the bike.Unfortunately I had a flat tire halfway through and had to drag the bike back. But I can handle it and it was a nice walk. We passed a gigantic field of sunflowers in full bloom. They were ignoring the sun and all saluting the rising moon over the Golan. Look hard.

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Off at the crack of dawn to my little piece of Israel. We had marked out for us a 5 meter x 5 meter square. Within that square we knock off some lengths on each side to get a 4x4 square. This leaves a "balk" between each square to allow for access when a lot of adjacent squares are dug out. We then constructed an overhead shade to keep the sun out. Here was the final result:

We are on the outside of the edge of the temple podium. The podium is the platform on which the temple sits to make it more visible and prominent. This podium is at least 6' high, but you can see that there has been much dirt that has accumulated against the podium so we are up near the top. That's the dirt we will remove. What do we expect to find? Well, take a look at the already dug-out square next to ours:It appears that a column fell off the podium sideways and most of it has been uncovered. We expect to uncover the rest of it and more besides.

The rest of our morning we started to take off the top layer of dirt in our square. There is not much to be found in this layer, so the top 10 cm or so is pretty much ignored. But boy it's a surprisingly large volume. A great many barrows of dirt were moved to a dump pile before the "time to clean up" call went out. We didn't quite make 10 cm. but will finish that first step tomorrow.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Monday, 24 May

A light day, but interesting. I got promoted today, in a barrel scrapping move, to square leader. This means I, with a helper, supervise 4 newbies in digging down our 12' x 12' square of Israel, making sure we do it properly (I can do that) and making sure we record properly everything we do and we find. Since this involves over a dozen different forms, not to mention drawings, this is a challenge. But it'll happen. Spare time will be way down though.

After breakfast we went out to the site for a quick orientation. Here you see one of our supreme leaders cluing us in. He will also be eyeing my paperwork for correctness.When we returned we had a talk by a local policeman. One of the bomb squad. Since a landmine was found on the site last year, we will now get an general orientation every year. Omrit is safe, having been tromped around for over 10 years now. (The item found last year was probably dumped by an off-season visitor.) As long as we don't cross any fences that say "Danger Landmines" we'll be fine. Unfortunately a few months ago an Israeli family somehow got inside such a fence with unpleasant consequences. The local policeman says they find mines, shells and rockets ranging from WWI to the Lebanese war a few years ago.After lunch us newly-minted lower middle-management had an orientation where we rec'd our stripes and our paper-work. Later this evening there will be a general orientation for everyone. And then off we go at 5am tomorrow!

Oh yes, my area will be just outside the temple podium where that was a lot "tumble" (a good technical term) when the temple was dismantled, or fell, or whatever. We'll be cleaning around some very big, very important pieces of stone that perhaps we won't have to move.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Sunday, 23 May

John and I are sitting outside our room at 6:30am Monday with Norman from Arizona. He was here 2 years ago and is back (like John). Norman is Jewish and his grandparents are from Iraq and Kurdistan. I'll post a picture I just took. It's 68 degress F, surprisingly cool. Today we're going to do an orientation of the site for all the new people and not much else. Fine by me.

But yesterday. A long boring flight (11 1/2 hours) and an uneventful drive up in the rental car. Missed a turn along the way but we did fine in the dark. As we approached the north, traffic thinned out to nonexistent and the road became a 4 lane superhighway. We figured it's like the autobahns in the 30s, good transportation for the military. I was wicked tired but could only sleep 2 hours.

It's 7am now, the sun is coming up over the Golan Heights and breakfast is soon. More, much more, to follow.


Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Early start

Regular blogging will start on Monday but here's a few Andrew Sullivan-type blogs about Israel to whet your appetite:

Land mines are still a problem in the Golan but the Israelis may be wakening up to it. We're always careful!

The Israel-Lebanese border is heating up? Maybe.

We have lots of vegetation at Omrit that always needs to be cleared. The Israel military uses antelopes. Between 500 and 700 of them!

And here's a note from Andrew about settlements in the Palestinian Territories. I think the Israelis have lost all claim to the moral high ground.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

New web site

Regular posts will begin after 22 May but I wanted to tell you about this great new web page on Omrit from Great photos and more info about Omrit than I've seen yet in one place. There is also local geographical information and an attempt to place Omrit in an historical context. I've listed it in the column on the left. Don't miss this one.