With all that is going on at the dig and in the lab, it is becoming more difficult to keep up a regular stream of blog posts. There are so many things to be taken care of. Selecting photos, numbering pottery, identifying pottery, packing finds, finding bottle openers... It is hardly surprising that most people are starting to feel the long days. Things like sunburns and small wounds are becoming much more common, not to mention a deep-felt hatred of stupid egocentric teenagers who seem to have never met a bird in their life and feel the need to keep shrieking about it until most of the KRP crew wakes up again. Thankfully, most people now are so tired in the evenings that they can sleep through it all. Then again, field archaeologists seem to be cut from a different cloth in more ways than one.
When normal people spend a day at the beach, they usually return with tan lines. When an archaeologist or an archaeology student spends a day at the dig site, they return with grime lines. All the dust, dirt and stone chips that are kicked up by the digging will settle on the exposed skin. When this skin is covered with a mixture of sweat and sun lotion, the `sediment` will settle extra well, thereby creating a stark contrast with the skin covered by boots and gloves. These so-called “grime lines” are the mark of a field archaeologist.
|A typical Grime Line stratigraphy: no wonder we set so much store by our showers|
Getting rid of all the dirt is a challenge in itself. When returning from the field, the first thing on everyone`s mind is the shower. The runoff from the shower always turns brown and you`ll find dirt in places you could never imagine. It is not uncommon to find dirt behind your ears or in your eyelashes until a week after the dig. But that is just your body. The clothes come off even worse. Most digging gear will never be fully clean ever again, so the best way to save space for all your souvenirs is to throw most of it away. Bringing old clothes is very advisable.
|Not every job is equally dirty|
With everyone so dirty you wouldn`t expect us to receive many visitors, but that could not be further from the truth. Many local archaeologists and foreign colleagues on their own excavations will come by at least once to see what is going on. Some of the more notable guests are people like Mordechai Aviam, Yeshu Drei and Stefano de Luca.
Mordechai Avaim is a lecturer at the Kinneret college and has unrivalled experience in the archaeology of the Galilee and its Diaspora. With all he has seen, he was even nice enough to share his knowledge with us in an evening lecture. Stefano de Luca has experience digging the remains of the towns of Capernaum and Migdal and is considered a veteran in the field of pottery. He was even nice enough to lend us a long ladder so we can start to have a really good look at just what exactly is in the cistern.
|Mordechai Avaim was very happy with what he saw...|
Yeshu Drei is worth singling out. This Israeli engineer-turned excavator is working together with archaeologist Haim Ben-David at a location called Umm al-Qanatir. Here they have the unique situation where the Synagogue collapsed and was left untouched by stone robbing. The two decided that it could be possible to rebuild the synagogue and set to work on scanning and measuring the building. They then came up with a plan of the thing in order to reconstruct the synagogue and so far the project is forging ahead wonderfully. Despite all this, Yeshu found some time to come have a look at our site and help out with a few things.
On the practical side of things, we have started to actively excavate the cistern. We also recieved a pottery specialist among us for three days. Phillip Bes can study the remains firsthand and give us a far more accurate picture of what exactly it is that we`ve found there. About 5% of all ceramic found so far seems to be from beyond the region, which shows us that these villages at least some contact with the outside world, making them more than just secluded cores in the Galilee.
|Besides pottery, we also found a crushed anmial skull that required some real archaeology|
Besides the huge amount of ceramics, the amount of scorpions has also been increasing at our site. Most of them seem to enjoy the fact that we put down nice sandbags and large rocks for them to hide under. Once we remove these again however, they tend to be less amused with us. These encounters can be summarized by the fact that “the Flight of the Scorpion” is becoming a common expression on the site.
|No flinging scorpions at breakfast, please|
The past weekend was the “long” weekend. We got to travel about a little and a few of us decided to visit the cities of Haifa and Akko. When we arrived in Haifa that Friday we fell right into a street party in one of the city`s side streets. Both the band, the crowd and the atmosphere were incredibly relaxed: even the police could laugh at jokes about explosives. The best part of it was probably that they served “kriek”, a typical Belgian cherry beer. Half a world away, on a party out in the streets of a city which you don`t know, you can find a bit of (almost) home.
We eventually went to Ben Gurion Street at the bottom of the Baha’i Gardens for some really nice food in a wonderful atmosphere. If you ever get to Haifa, eat at Fattoush. Even if you hate Arabic food, go there for the wonderful atmosphere (the toilet had an Ottoman feel to it – the toilet!) We could even get the best beer in the Middle East: Taybeh. Taybeh beer is the only beer to be brewed in the Palestinian territories, much to the distaste of some Islamic extremists. Those with real taste recognize it as the best beer in the whole region. It is a shame that the stuff is so hard to obtain, because it really is a very very very very good beer.
|Nice view, isn`t it?|
After a long night of divine sleep we got up around 8 a.m. and went off to Akko. The walk to the sheruts (shared taxis) was gruelling because of the heat and humidity, but once in there we could enjoy almost an hour of air conditioning. Acco didn`t feel much different from Haifa, but we had a little sea wind now and then to help cool down. For those hoping to find a refurbished crusader city there: no dice. Old Akko is an Arabic town from the 18th century and it has retained that atmosphere to some extent. Despite a steady stream of tourists, most of the souk just seems geared towards the locals and it smell just like that. The main produce sold is fresh fish and spices, making for a very atmospheric mix.
|Spices at the souk|
We decided to take breakfast in a small bakery at the souk. Finally, we had a `real` sugar breakfast, with various Levantine pastries and proper Arab coffee. We even contemplated bringing some back with us to get a little break from two weeks of cake in the early morning. After that we walked the narrow streets of Acco. Rather than going to the somewhat cheesy crusader museum, we opted for the beautiful Jazzar-Pasha mosque. The guide there told us about the workings of Islam and of “The Butcher” (Jazzar) himself. In the end we got a little truth out of him. In a quiet corner he told us that he didn`t much like this guy, because he built the Mosque to absolve himself in the afterlife. To our guide it seemed like cheating in front of Allah. Can`t say I blame him for thinking that way, but I sure loved the architecture and the decoration of that Ottoman building.
When we decided that we had sweated enough we crashed on a terrace to make good on a promise: shade, mint tea and sisha. It was very nice to just spend an hour chilling and doing nothing but smoke sisha and draw the square. Afterwards we returned to the souk for some falafel, accompanied by Bob Dylan. We made one last pass and returned to Haifa to cool down and relax from our “difficult” day. We ended up hanging out with a Canadian we met in the dorm and he joined us for dinner that night.
We decided to eat something Western for a change and ended up on Ben Gurion Street again. Although the name sounds quite Levantine, Douzan serves quite a lot of Western style meals (or what passes for a Western meal in the Middle East). Again, they had Taybeh on the menu and again we ordered it.
When the waiter poured and the foam went over the edge of the glass, he told us that is was a sign of good luck. He probably had no idea how right he would be. We got talking about blond hair and how it is considered something special in the Middle East. We ended up using this uniqueness to our advantage. One of the guys wanted to own a Taybeh glass really bad, so a blond-haired girl asked the waiter if she could please have one for herself. After some deliberation he told us to wait until the owner had left. It took us half an hour of waiting, but we eventually walked out of there with one fresh, clean Taybeh glass.
|Here`s to all things blond!|
Since it was Saturday night and most of Haifa had awoken from Shabbat, we hit a local bar that advertised with live music. The atmosphere was good and they had cherry beer on tap, so both the girls and our Canadian friend were quite happy. But when the live music arrived, we all kinda went: “what-the...” The instrumentals were pretty nice, but the singer had the sleazy air of a porn star. What he sang about was quite difficult to follow and that was not just because he sang in Russian. At the end of the show, a guy dresses up as a sailor walked in with a pillow and started to tear the thing to shreds. Everyone was covered with tiny feathers and the place had turned white. The owner of the bar was less than pleased with this grand finale and he saw his entertainment out with the songs “Hit the Road, Jack” and “Why did you do it”. We left the bar as better rounded individuals, because now we know how a chicken feels.
Sunday was a proper Sunday: sleeping late and having a true weekend breakfast with decent cappuccino and croissants. We decided on going to the Hecht museum on the campus of Haifa University. In order to get to the bus, we had to ride an uphill metro. The thing was so old that it felt like we could plummet down every second. Compared to that the bus ride was a lot smoother, even if we were banging into people left and right.
Haifa University is huge; no university in the Netherlands can compare to it. They even have a McDonalds in their cafeteria. Small wonder then that the Hecht museum is quite large. Its collection runs from the Chalcolithic to the Byzantine era and has many well-preserved pieces. A seasoned archaeologist can easily walk around there for several hours without getting bored. In such conditions, AMF (Advanced Museum Fatigue) becomes a serious threat, so we ended up going to McDonalds for some eats. Due to our long stay, we ended up eating a Big Mac menu in around four minutes, just to be able to catch our bus. We succeeded in the end and were back safe and sound at Karei Deshe just before dinner.
|If it`s found in this region, the Hecht museum has it on display|
All in all it was a very good week, with many interesting discoveries as well as a healthy dose of laughs. Rest is still a valuable commodity, especially now that things are getting so busy. At least people here are happy with the results of it all, so we `ll just keep up the good work...
Although I might try and post a bit more often and with lesser words than I`ve done now.