zondag 24 juni 2012

A tale of Finns and Romans

Well, the first week of the Kinneret Regional Project has just flown by. It`s almost hard to believe that we`re in country for seven days already. Yes, you read correctly: I`m falling in the cliché pit. I guess I have to do something now that our snake pit is gone.

Trying to piece it all together...

So let`s have a look-see at what has been going on so far. We have been tying up a lot of loose ends on the dig site, taking down baulks and bringing some of the deeper squares down to the bedrock. However, the knots are coming undone already. Not every baulk will be removed to facilitate communication and the lowest layers are turning up some really interesting finds: the most striking one has to be the finding of grains. These were carefully wrapped up in aluminium foil and stored away until they can be analyzed by a specialist. Apart from that we are finding large quantities of tesserae. This is double bad news, because they are found outside the Synagogue – meaning that we will most certainly not have a mosaic floor – and because they are a pain in the you-know-what to clean properly. If anything we are making good progress and soon, very soon, we will start to uncover the building in its entirety.
A smile and all of the sudden that load of stones weighs like a feather

I`m glad to be able to fly Sirpa Air again. There is probably no better way to wake up when going to the dig, than to be driven there at break-neck speeds over the rollercoaster-like roads by a seemingly gentle Finnish lady whining about what sissies we are. In general, having the Finns on board for KRP is great for the dig: If you need a strong man for something, you can always ask a Finnish woman.
Sometimes only a Swiss berserker will do.

The Finns also know how to get a party started. This was exemplified by the Juhannus celebration. Every year, Midsummer`s Night falls in the digging season and the Finns hold a customary gathering at which they drink and make merry to honour the occasion. This year, they taught us some of the older Finnish ballroom dancing. The most fitting way to describe what ensued is a hilarious polonaise of people jumping on each other`s heels. We were also able to offer the Finnish co-director a “piece of home” (read a bottle of Finlandia vodka). The German co-director had the time of his life not just because of the wonderful party, but also because in the European football championship, Germany took Greece to the cleaners. With the beautiful lake Kinneret as a backdrop it seems that a sauna was the only thing lacking. Then again: you cannot have a Midsummer`s Night party during the daytime.

But our dear friends from the north are not the only ones who know how to throw a party. Ioanna from the Romanian contingent turned 23 yesterday, which was an extra nice day because there was a fieldtrip. This meant that we could sleep late – until around 6:30 in the morning – before having a solid breakfast. After that we were piled in a bus with a very friendly (ahem) driver and we went off into the countryside.

First stop on the road was the archaeological site of Sepphoris. This site was under excavation as recently as a decade ago and features the remains of a Romanized city a theatre and a Synagogue. The site features many beautiful mosaics from the Byzantine period with exquisite patterns, striking amazons, imposing centaurs and a spectacularly large image of the Nile. This so-called “Nilotic image” shows people recording the height of the flooding on a nilometer, a hunting scene with lions and curious looking blue leopards, personifications of the Nile god and the city of Alexandria. The Sepphoris Synagogue is no less impressive, with the remains of a zodiac depiction. This is centered around a Helios sun disc riding a quadriga (four-span chariot).
She may not be the Mona Lisa, but she`s a beauty...

The visit to Sepphoris was marked by two high points. The first is the most beautiful mosaic of a young woman. This little masterpiece manages to capture blushing cheeks and glinting eyes in stone. It is often referred to as the Mona Lisa of the Galilee and although that title could be a subject for art historical debate, it certainly is hard not to fall in love with her. The second high point was a small performance at the Sepphoris theatre by Benjamin Lang. We were treated to Romeo and Juliet, act one, scene one. It was perhaps 1800 years ago that the theatre had last seen such a good, satirical piece. Our orator had his audience in fits and he received a well-earned round of hearty applause for his on-stage performance.
"Did you just bite your thumb at me!?!"

After lunch and souvenirs we dragged our overheated bodies back in the bus for the next leg of the trip. We drove from the hills towards the coastal plain where we would be visiting the ruins of Caesaria. This Roman-style harbour city was built by king Herod the Great and accommodated most of the Roman administration for Galilee and Judea. It features the remains of a impressive theatre, Herod`s palace (a popular fishing spot), a hippodrome and crusader-era ruins surrounding the artificial harbour. Most of the volunteers agreed that excavations at Caesaria would complement the KRP nicely, seeing as it offered the opportunity to float in the Mediterranean on a daily basis. The long and short of it is that Caesaria is a place with beautiful sights and interesting Roman ruins. Most notable are the bathhouse mosaics and the seawater crashing on the seawall that supports the hippodrome.
Yeah, I could dig here...

After the educational part we took a dip in the wet `n salty. The Mediterranean is a whimsical mistress, but that day she loved us and we loved her back. Add a 2000 year old aqueduct running the length of the beach to that picture and it`s easy to see why we had such a great time.

The final act of the day was Ioanna`s birthday party in the garden. Considering that the next day was a Sunday and that you have a large amount of students packed together in one place with access to alcohol...well, you get the idea. The long haulers stopped partying at around 3 am. It had been a long final day in a long week, but it was a good day and a good week. On to the other three and any
curious finds they may bring us.

...and now it`s time for a cold maccabee at the shore of the lake!

Signing off

2 opmerkingen:

  1. Hey Ben, thanks a lot for the update(s). With your style of writing it is not hard to imagine having been there myself last week!
    Keep it coming :)
    A cold and wet greeting to all from the UK,

  2. Hiya Bram, glad you`re enjoying it all. I certainly will keep it coming! A very warm, dry and hearty greeting from Karei Deshe!