Am really excited and grateful to be able to join the one week archaeological trip to Tel Burna, Israel (02.06.2013 -07.06.2013). It was organized by one of our post-docs to a site directed by two Israeli archaeologists. Having exposed myself to lots of wind and sun, dirt and dust, pickaxes and trowels, work and fun, I can proudly announce that I survive! 😀 Based on my brief participation in the excavation and preliminary analyses of the pottery, my survival provides me the chance to share with you why I think a real archaeologist is not (but is better than) Indiana Jones! Here are my top 3 reasons:
1. Excavating Sites: Unlike Indiana Jones, we don’t get to fly a plane without gas, we don’t drive a monstrous tank at full speed across the grand canyon, we don’t jump around on top of the trains heading to more dangers. Jones can always find troubles and cause dramas within 3 minutes. By contrast, we are more loyal and reliable than Jones in that we are basically fixed at our excavated areas for the rest of the mornings. Our most valuable means of transportation to get to the destination are our feet, which help us to climb from the bottom of the tel to the top of our amazing excavation site: a Late Bronze or Iron Age settlement situated at the border between ancient Philistia and Judah!
# Morning climb to our excavation site
# Panoramic view of the surroundings in the morning
# Everyday we woke up early enough to say hello to the beautiful sunrise
# Setting up big black tents to create extensive shades over the excavation areas
# Area A: The area where I worked in the mornings for one week 😉
2. Collecting Data: Unlike Indiana Jones, who sets out on a treasure hunt, striving for just one artifact, e.g. Ring of Osiris or Dragon Ring or Knife of Cain, the archaeologists try to collect as much artifacts as possible. The more artifacts you have within a specific locus (Latin for “spot” or “place”; a term used by archaeologists to designate the smallest functionally definable area), you have more chances to reconstruct and get closer to the ancient past. Mr. Jones needs knifes and guns to kill monsters and bad guys all the time. What the archaeologists need are pickaxes and trowels to dig and dig and dig and dig… Sometimes they need the floatation machine to collect ancient seeds (I was privileged enough to witness this process last week~) Take a look below at our precious:
# Our precious include NOT the fragment of Noah’s Ark, but a piece of Philistine pottery! (washed and found by one group member)
# …NOT a Dragon Ring but a whole loom weight! (excavated at Area A – Iron Age by one team member)
# …Not lots and lots of gold, but lots and lots of broken pottery handles and sherds (my precious find on day 3~)
# Check out this really cool and gigantic floatation machine that collects ancient seeds!
# The coolest thing about the archaeologists is that they really care and cherish what they find, just like I have a fond memory of my first washed pottery basket 🙂 Doesn’t matter what the others think, it is the most beautiful basket in the world ;p
3. Group Work: Unlike Indiana Jones, who is probably best characterized as a lone wolf, that leads him to so many romantic encounters on a one to one basis, the archaeologists cannot live and work alone! We cannot do anything and it won’t be much fun without sticking together:
# Listening to the nice and patient director’s analysis in the pottery reading session, while washing some of the pottery sherds, under the big green tree of our kibbutz. Twice in that week, we also attended lectures. Thus on last Wednesday, a biblical scholar from Bar-Ilan University provided a most intellectual and interesting talk on Sennacherib in Judah, according to the accounts in Isaiah and 2 Kings, taking into consideration some of the archaeological evidence. Last Thursday, our research team went on stage to present an overview of our group project on Monotheisms in Late Biblical Texts. Everyone of us provided an overview of our independent work (5 mins each). Then one of our post-docs, who was more experienced with archaeology, gave a longer talk about figurines in Yehud. Since I was standing at the border between Philistia and Judah, I thought it was appropriate for me to draw the audience’s attention to the Philistine oracle in Ezekiel 25, which forms part of chapter 1 in my dissertation 🙂
# Yay to girl’s power!
# Cheers to Area A K9 team!
# Prost to our Göttingen team!
As you can see from the above, I hope that I have convinced you that being an archaeologist can really make you a better person than Indiana Jones 😉 Anyway, I really enjoyed my archaeological adventure in Tel Burna and will highly recommend this experience to anyone who is interested. For more information, here is the blog from the Tel Burna Excavation Project: