Bringing down the Baulks

David Colón-Margolies writes:

Today was a very unusual day on the Tel. As my compadres and I made our way up the Tel, the degree of heat surprised us. Usually as we arrive at the Tel not only is it still quite dark but the combination of the wind and low temperatures characteristic of deserts at night make it quite chilly as we begin digging each day. But this morning was quite humid. We were soon greeted by Eran, our area supervisor, with a new agenda for the day. Over the past week and a half all of us newbies had been assigned squares to work in, and for the most part we had all stayed where we were. That goes the same for the seven weekers who had long established their square domains. But today everything would change.

It seems we have finally reached a point in our digging where for the most part all of the squares are on similar levels, and some have even reached a new floor level in the H-12 section or bedrock. Due to the fact that most of the squares have become 4-6 feet deep, it seems it was time to bring the baulks down. Thus our new quest stood before us. We were assigned to new sections of the area according to our various expertise, and ordered to bring all of the baulks down carefully and swiftly, collecting any pottery or artifacts that came out of our respective loci, or sections of our squares. As we cleared the baulks, the loci would shift with much frequency. We all quickly set to work with a range of roles to play. Each baulk needed someone to pick ax and break up all the dirt with brute force. Each square also needed someone to clean and pick out all of the finds that would be appearing through the dirty mess. Lastly, each baulk would need a bucket runner to continuously bring all the buckets of dirt to the end squares (squares H-9 and F-9) to collect for bucket line. While most baulks followed this structure loosely, having all three people picking and collecting at the same time with designated bucket runners, the system seemed to work quite efficiently.

As my baulk began to come down, something became quite apparent in the cross-section. There were two pits that had been formed and filled with dirt that differed from the rest of the baulk. Our first task was to carefully articulate and empty the pits so that Sasha, our trusty Megiddo architect, could sketch the pits before we took the entire wall down. To identify the form of the pits a technique was used that involved using a spritzing device to spray the entire baulk with water, causing lines to form as the water pulled away softer dirt, defining the outlines of the pit. After the pits were articulated, my efforts were focused on a large pithos, or large storage jug, that seemed to be jutting out of the baulk and intact. I was to dig around the pithos and expose it as much as possible while preserving its form. In the process I uncovered an interesting pottery handle that was quite small and belonged to a tiny jug. The intriguing thing about this handle was that unlike most handles fitting vertically onto a piece of pottery, this handle was fitted horizontally, a style characteristic of philistine pottery. The day flew by as we all brought the baulks down, all while playing the six degrees of separation game with our favorite bands. We like to keep the morale Happily High in the Hippest area, Area H.


4 Responses to “Bringing down the Baulks”

  1. Loren Crow Says:

    Good post, David!

  2. Ted and Pat Phillips Says:

    David – Pat and I are reading your posts with great interest. What a wonderful experience and also a worthwhile endeavor! While you are digging in the earth, your cousin Brennan is finding ancient shipwrecks in the Aegean. The website for his expedition is

    We are very proud of you.

    Love, Ted and Pat

  3. This was great!!

  4. Great detail. Thanks for the information.

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