Saturday, January 29, 2011

Gifts from the Past

This pottery table has some of the pottery items that I excavated from the 3500 year old Canaanite tomb at Ashkelon. The variety of pottery and pieces of pottery provides archaeologist the ability to reconstruct the daily life and burial customs of the ancient peoples.

Each of these items was a source of great excitement for me in 1999. As I brushed aside the dirt that covered them for three and a half centuries it felt like receiving a gift from the past. 

Thursday, January 27, 2011

My Dig In Petra

Anytime I am digging in Petra I can look up and be awe struck by the totally awesome views. On the one hand you have the stark desert and then you notice the rainbow of colors in the sandstone.

Viewing the ruins of two past civilizations in Petra both Nabataian and Roman one can stare and contemplate the vast history of a single place. The young man dumping the dirt just stood there holding the handle of the wheelbarrow and stared at the scene. He had to be called back to work

Yes that happened to me as well.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

My Dig In Ashkelon

This tomb was hollowed out 3500 years ago by a Canaanite family and was one of three tombs off the main chamber. This opening to daylight was created by Harvard Archaeologist excavating to the  bottom of the dig site.

The Canaanites would prepare the body and then it was lowered down the 45 foot long shaft and laid out in the middle of tomb. If a previous set of bones was in the middle they were pushed aside to make a place for the new resident. The family then had a last meal with the dearly departed. The pottery dishes were left there and were often broken when those bones were shoves to one side. 

We found thousands of carbonized olive pits in the tombs so we know that olives were part of the meal. Some of the bodies had personal items like a scarab seal, necklace, rings, or tools. Most of the artifacts we found were pottery plates small jugs and wine amphora along with lots of bones

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

What Next?

You never know what to expect when you are digging in the dirt at an archaeological site. One day in Ashkelon I was digging in a 3500 year old Canaanite tomb and brushed aside some dust uncovering a flat piece of broken pottery. To my shock it had writing on it and it looked like Hebrew. I called the supervisor over and said, “What is Hebrew writing doing in a tomb that was covered over before the Hebrews arrived in the Holy Land?”

He said, “It’s not Hebrew. That is Canaanite writing. Where do you think the Hebrews got their alphabet?”

That is part of the excitement of digging in the dirt, you just never know what will show up next.