My dearest darlingest blog readers,
To begin, my deepest apologies for the lack of blog posts (I guess, if we’re being totally honest, “the complete absence of blog posts” is actually what I should have said…also, I just don’t like Cold Stone-I just don’t-being completely honest here). Anyways, whether this absence is from my complete blog-phobia, or from utter exhaustion at the end of each dig day, or from spending all last Saturday exploring Jerusalem with some fantastic friends, I cannot tell (most likely a combination of the three). However, I can confirm what my Facebook album has hopefully conveyed to you: this adventure Israeli awesome. This country, the people who live here, and the people I have the privilege to explore it with are all phenomenal. I will, in this post and hopefully to your satisfaction, outline what I have done these last two marvelous weeks at the excavation, as well as share a little bit about our weekend in The Holy City!
I was assigned to Grid 51 Yes, yes, I am completely aware this means nothing to you…so a little background-giving is in order: the ancient city of Ashkelon has, in modernity and by the excavation, been put on a grid system numbering 1 through 100 (for the curious among you, here’s a video by none other than one of my two amazing grid supervisors explaining a little bit more about this: http://digashkelon.com/kids/2014/7/4/setting-up-the-grid-system-at-ashkelon ). Digging 6 days a week from 5am to 1pm is, in a slightly-more-than-usual sense of the word, backbreaking. However, the results are worth every swing of the pickaxe and every sweep of the brush. In 51 (a grid which has been excavated for a good while now) we are finishing up the Persian period at Ashkelon, which lasted from 538BC-380BC, and answering questions about the very earliest phases of Persian settlement, before (hopefully this week) moving downward to the 604BC destruction of the city by King Nebuchadnezzar! This destruction layer was excavated in part last year and some work has been done this year, but now we’re really getting down to the good stuff! (Now, this may be self-apparent, but a quick note on excavation: you start digging the most recent layers, and move to the most ancient. So, “below” (most of the time) means “older” and “above” (most of the time) means “later”. Capiche?)
Anyways, the work like I said is definitely hard. The days are long, and second breakfast (9am) and fruit break (11:30am) can never come soon enough. But amidst the back pain and the sore neck and the nearly-immobile-from-pickaxing thumbs, the mental stimulation of fieldwork is absolutely phenomenal. It’s like solving a 3D puzzle that those who lived thousands of years ago had no idea they were creating. It’s discovering the lives of human beings, made by the very Creator that made me, and physically connecting with them in this odd shared experience called life that spans thousands of years. (I know, whoa.) When I took Old Testament Archaeology my first semester of college just for fun, I had no idea that I was stumbling upon such a marvelous way to interact with the story of humankind.
Last Friday we had the opportunity to take a field trip to Jerusalem! Our first stop was the City of David and Hezekiah’s Tunnel-the tunnel that Hezekiah most likely built under the city of David to bring the water source (the Gihon Spring) into the city when the Assyrians were coming! Sort of an oh-no-this-would-be-awful-if-we-had-no-water thing, ya know? We had the awesome opportunity to walk down the side of the ancient City of David (it was built on a hill), see many of the archaeological features, and walk through Hezekiah’s tunnel, which still has water flowing through it! (See FB for above and under-ground photos.) The water for the vertically challenged among us was up to mid thigh at times! Next, we headed to the Israel Museum, where I was able to fully nerd-out with some great archaeology friends and see so many of the artifacts that inform so much of what I have learned in classes (apologies for the copious amount of museum photos on FB…I was pretty stoked). (Also, Mom and Dad, quick apology for any complaining I have ever done in a museum; they are awesome.) We also had the amazing opportunity to see a portion of the Isaiah Dead Sea Scroll!-the oldest, most-complete copy of the book of Isaiah ever found (Google it, seriously, it’s so cool).
At this point, the field trip technically ended, but the more-adventurous and less-tired of us headed off on an adventure: exploring Jerusalem. Without a single map and only a few of us having ever been to the city before, we spent the afternoon and evening exploring the Jewish, Muslim, and Christian quarters of the old city, being awed by the ancient Church of the Holy Sepulcher (Google this,too. Now? Yes.) and enjoying phenomenal kabobs, Shawarma, and crepes outside of the Damascus Gate. At sundown and the beginning of Shabbat, we wandered our way to The Citadel Youth Hostile for the night. Here, for 12 bucks and your passport number, you get a “mattress”, an inadequately thin blanket, and a unbelievable view of the old city of Jerusalem. The sun set over the ivory-colored houses, the desert chill set in, and I thought: this is adventure. I like it.
The night was…cold; but the sunrise over those ivory houses, and the conversations with some amazing people from all over the world were absolutely marvelous and totally worth it. We spent the next day drinking just-below-mediocre cappuccinos, eating way-above-mediocre bread, visiting the Western Wall and the Garden of Gethsemane, shopping a bit more in our favorite shop, and bargaining with a taxi-driver for a good price back to Ashkelon. If I were to pick a word to sum up my weekend in Jerusalem, it would be “emotional.” I’m not sure I’ve spent enough time in my life contemplating the real flesh-and-bones physicality of Jesus Christ, but when you’re staring into a candle-lit, first-century, rock-cut tomb that could have held His body (which you know about because you Googled the church), you can’t really help but do so. It’s a amazing experience to walk through this Holy City, and one that I hope many of you have either had the chance to do so or someday will.
It has been a grand two weeks full of memories far too special to capture in a blog-post that attempts to do it all in one post, but I hope that you enjoyed this glimpse into the dig-life and adventure-life of yours truly exploring Ashkelon and Jerusalem. Thanks for reading, hope you enjoyed, shout-out to Google for how much it just taught you, and fingers-crossed the next blog will come sooner!
Your novice blogger,