Elizabeth Finnegan writes:
What did I learn? Archaeology! Among other things :-). I learned that I can work 16 hour days. I learned that I can do nearly prison-like manual labor voluntarily and love it. I learned I can move 7-8 tons of dirt in a day (though it nearly kills me, but let’s go with 5 tons as about the usual). I’ve done 7 bucket lines in a single day (7 x 220 buckets = 1540 buckets x 25 lbs each = I don’t want to think about it!). I’ve learned the importance of sections. I have learned the difference between Adam’s magic patiche and the lowly dig patiches. I’ve learned the importance of maintaining clean bulks and articulating walls. I spent time cleaning dirt…and by the end, this oxymoron was making sense to me. I’m now no longer leery around flies or millipedes, beetles, ants, name your creeper. I learned how to distinguish pottery from bone and pottery of one age from another (sometimes).
All of this attention to detail and the learning experience as a whole has taught me to appreciate the extraordinary achievements of the ancients. Despite their incredibly limited technological abilities, they managed to build urban marvels like Caesarea, defend mountains like Masada, and build the serpentine Hezekiah’s tunnel in Jerusalem. Looking at it with the full weight of my current work behind me, the marvels I see here are just that – marvelous and incredible. The archaeological significance of the finds are similarly more impressive. I find myself putting myself in the volunteers’ shoes and wondering what it could feel like to be the first to pickaxe to a beautiful Byzantine mozaic floor. Incredible, I imagine. And it enhances my experience of the sites dramatically.
Besides all this, a lot of what I got out of this month was more intangible. I learned to grin and bear it when I climbed the brutal snake path in Masada and to NOT swallow Dead Sea water. I learned that religion can split more than it unites in Jerusalem, but also its incredible emotional power when I witnessed a friend moved to tears at the Wailing Wall. I have watched the sun rise over the tel more times than I have ever seen sunrises before. Watching the sun wake up and go to bed everyday has been a simple but beautiful element of my experience here. I learned the different types and ways to eat hummus. I’ve learned some Hebrew (Ma korei, people!) as well as a few words in Portuguese. For my part I’ve exchanged those words for my knowledge of Korean and Chinese. Me and my roommates even engaged in a beer-can-art battle one day. All of these things made the trip not just great but extraordinary.
Everyone is already looking forward to 2012. It’s true, most of these people love the work and they love archaeology, including myself. But I think, like me, all of us have found things even more valuable than tablets here at Megiddo.
Until 2012 –