Monday 12 and Tuesday 13 January

Orientation at the dig, which is a pretty amazing site spanning the neolithic to the Islamic Period. At the time I was there there were 39 people in total at the dig house, 43 counting the Arab staff. There were 17 staff from Australia, including some that were completing their PhDs, 18 volunteers, eight returnees and 10 first time volunteers.
 
On Tuesday I was introduced to my trench, with Jamie Fraser was my supervisor. The day was as follows: out of bed at 5.45am, 6.00 tea and a biccie, 6.30 off to the trench, 9.00 breakfast, 12.00pm prayer time for the workers, so usually volunteers take a short break then as well, 2.00pm lunch and 7.00pm dinner.
 
I worked up on Tell Husyn. It’s a reasonably steep 15 – 20 minute walk up hill every day and down again at the end. When I first did it I felt as though I had been hit by a truck, but by the end I was scooting up and down with no problems. There are three trenches up here. From the top of the Tell you could see the eight other trenches down below and the staff, volunteers, and workers beavering away industrially at whatever.
 
The food at the dig house was sensational, especially when you came back hungry from all day in the trench ready to eat a horse at least. On Tell Husyn someone hoofs it uphill with the breakfast things so we can all adjourn at 9.00. Sitting up on the Tell with a cup of tea in your hand and a view of bedouins, olive tree plantations and sheep and goat herds with a group of congenial fellow diggers is pretty darn good.
 
From the top of the Tell you can also see a line of hills which falls within Israeli territory, and a view of the Jezreel Valley. Travel 50 km through the valley in a straight line and you are looking out over the Mediterranean Sea.
 
The Tell is surrounded by ancient and modern battle sites. Megiddo (Armageddon in the Bible) is not far away, where Pharaoh Thutmose the Third comprehensively stomped on the Canaanites in 1479 BC. Then there is the Battle of Fahl which took place in 635 AD (the Arabs versus the Byzantines). The decisive battle of Yarmouk took place the next year which consolidated the Arab hold on the area.
 
Also visible from the Tell is Ain Jalut where the Mongols were defeated by the (Islamic) Mamluks in 1260, ending the Mongol domination of the area. On a good day you can see the Horns of Hattin, a double mountain peak where King Guy of Jerusalem, was defeated by Saladin in 1187 AD, leading to the reconquering of Jerusalem by Islamic forces.  
 
The battle site of Gilboa is in the vicinity, where Australian forces had a decisive battle with the Ottomans in the First World War. Last but not least there are bomb craters down below from the 1967 war.
 
On my first day I was put to work cleaning up am Early Bronze Age mud brick wall. That means getting rid of excess dirt which has fallen on it due to rainfall etc. You go at it with a pick, then you use a trowel to straighten up the sides and make it neat and tidy. After a while the layers of brick and mortar become visible. My first bit of excavation!
 
I learned early on that the Arabic word ‘shvay shvay’ (slow slow) can come in handy. You can say it to (or in my case scream it at) a Damascene taxi driver when he tries to kill you by sandwiching your taxi in between the kerb and a Syrian army truck. Jordanian workers on archaeological dig sites can say it to YOU when you bowl along too close to a 300 foot sheer drop, walk quickly on loose stones probably used in some early bronze age wall, or go at a mud brick wall with a pick in a  manner likely to tire you out by lunchtime.
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~ by margoforte12 on February 3, 2009.

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