Dirt, Sweat, and Potsherds

Hannah VanVels writes:

The past few days can be summarized in three words: dirt, sweat, and potsherds.  Our days start at 4am, so that we can begin our workday on the site at 5am. It’s been a few days, and I am still not used to waking up that early. In Area K (a domestic area on the edge of the tel), we are mostly in the cleaning stage. So far, I’ve scraped a lot of walls and floors to get all the “winter wash” off, so that we can have a clear view of what we are excavating. Needless to say, after so much scraping, I’ve been perpetually covered in dust. I was pretty excited to find my first piece of pottery. After finding several more pieces over the next several days, soon the novelty worn off. Besides pottery, we’ve also been finding lots of shells, bones, charcoal, grinding stones, and even a few beads in Area K. What I found surprising was the care that we need to take in handling some of the objects, such as the charcoal and grinding stones that we find, which shouldn’t be handled by organic materials, since it messes up the dating. So far, I haven’t made any great discoveries in the square I’ve been working in, since it’s covered in winter wash STILL. I’m building up a callus on my hand from so much scraping already! Today, I was also able to help out Area K’s registrar Kristine (who seems to know EVERYTHING about Area K) registering different things. I learned a lot about the organization that goes into an archaeological dig and how to label different finds and how the site is organized. I’m still not very good at looking at the plan of a site and matching up the areas to the real thing yet, but hopefully that might come with some practice.

After starting at 5am, we work until 8:30am, and then we reach what I think is most people’s favorite time of the day: breakfast. Usually around breakfast time is when the tourists start showing up to tour Megiddo. It’s somewhat awkward when they parade by, sometimes all wearing matching hats, as they point at us and even take pictures of us at work. Most of us mistakenly refer to breakfast as lunch, since our workday is nearly half done by then, but we then remind ourselves that it’s only 8:30 in the morning. When we finish up our dig work, we troop back to the buses with our pottery buckets and our finds clutched in our hands, considerably dirtier and sweatier than when the bus drivers saw us last. I highly doubt that my socks will ever be clean again or that the dirt under my nails will go away.

After we eat our meat lunch at the kibbutz, there’s generally a mad dash for the shower, and then most hang out at the pool, nap, or utilize the wifi and chat with their friends and family back home. Usually when I wake up in the morning, the first thing on my mind is the nap I plan to take that afternoon, however, this nap usually doesn’t happen. We usually wash our pottery and other finds from the previous day in the afternoon as well. I think most of us have gotten pretty good at distinguishing potsherds from rocks now. The lectures in the evenings have also been very interesting, especially learning about the history of Megiddo and seeing how we are following in the footsteps of some pretty great scholars. As the weekend nears, I can hardly believe that it’s already been a whole week. One week down, six to go!

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