We’ve only been in country for five days but it already feels as if we’ve been here for weeks. The staff and volunteers are now arriving in droves and from Monday on we can actually get stuck in with the site itself. In the meantime, all the staff members have been briefed extensively about their various tasks and duties. Some of the specialists are already knee-deep in the research of material collected in previous years. We’ve also used the time to make a few field trips to other projects in the region. On Saturday a small team got up at six in the morning for an excursion to the site at Horvat Omrit. Here stands a Roman temple ruin that shows a variety of building phases that can be easily defined by the typical Roman building techniques. On Sunday morning, just about every one of the staff members travelled to Huqoq to visit the excavation of a 5th century public building. It has been preliminarily identified as a synagogue. The site itself features some beautiful mosaics, as well as an interesting building history that extends all the way into the middle ages. This later phase shows a lot of reuse of the previous building, offering some insight in the creativity of not just the mosaic artisans, but also of those craftsmen that built the later phase.
|The ruins at Omrit are a sight to behold...|
Although the field work offers plenty of such rare opportunities to learn more about the region, being on such an intensive excavation is not all about fun and learning. For both the staff and the volunteers, being at the excavation means missing important events. The biggest event that the Finns miss is Juhannus. Known to the English as Midsummer Night, the longest night of the year is celebrated in Finland by travelling to the countryside with family and friends. Bonfires are lit and nightly boat rides on the lake are not uncommon, as are singing and getting hammered. The loud and drunken behaviour is said to ward off evil spirits, which is a good an excuse as any. The Juhannus celebration is so important that the capitol city of Helsinki is all but deserted for the weekend. While we do hold a little Finnish celebration to mark the occasion (complete with swimming in the lake), it is nothing like the real thing and it is the biggest event the Finns have to miss, especially because they are missed at home by their family and friends. The Americans are stuck with a similar situation, as they have to miss celebrating Independence Day in the US. Obviously the location is marked by a get-together where people play the guitar, dance the Carolina shag and wave the Stars ‘n Stripes. However it is still not the same without actual fireworks and the familiarity of celebrating the 4th of July with friends and family.
|Sad songs to help fight some of the homesickness|
But it’s not just about the big stuff. Many people miss birthdays of parents, brothers, sisters, children, aunts, uncles, friends… or they have their own birthday while being in Israel. Missing the familiarity of those close to you when you’re having a birthday can also be quite depressing. Speaking from personal experience, I have missed both Father’s Day and my brother’s birthday five years in a row now. Missing those events has always been a bittersweet experience, seeing as it does mean I’m at the shore of the Sea of Galilee with both old and new friends. However, it might be nice to be home for both occasions again someday. It’s the eternal quandary of archaeology: whether you go to work or not, you are always away from those who are dear to you. This will no doubt get worse, as today all the new faces are scheduled to arrive. Sharing four weeks of blood, sweat and tears has a tendency to make people bond.