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Digging at Azekah 2012 – The First Week

Posted by on Jul 31, 2012

Digging at Azekah 2012 – The First Week

The first week of a dig is always a bit chaotic and crazy.  Sunday wasn’t a full day of work and as it was the first day of the dig season here at Azekah things were different schedule-wise.

On Sundays we come back to site after the weekend off.  We have a few meetings when we get to NesHarim (our living area) and then we go out to the field for a few hours in the evening to work before coming back for dinner followed by another session.

First full day at Azekah

Monday marked the first full day of digging and that means wake-up call at 4 AM and we are at the site by 5. Now I’m a morning person, but 4 is a bit early for me and I can’t really function properly without my cup of coffee. So it’s a mad, stumbling, grumpy rush for everyone in my cabin to get up, dress and get to the bus by 4:30.

Breakfast at Tel Azekah

I’m usually struggling with a very hot cup of instant coffee in one hand and a water bottle that I’m attempting to fill with water in the other. Somehow I manage to juggle a cookie or two in there as well as my first breakfast. They serve cookies before we get on the bus to help us wake up and make it until breakfast, but I can’t really stomach sweet things early in the morning – next week it’s going to be granola bars for me!

It’s work time!

We work on a daily basis from around 5 AM until 9 AM when we all head down from our areas for breakfast. Personally, breakfast is my favorite meal while working because the food is delicious and it is light which is perfect for working out in the hot sun. After breakfast we head back to our areas and continue to work until around 11-11:15 when we have a brief break.

Digging at Azeka. It's work time! Meredith working in Area E.

I work in Area E which is located on the east side of the Tel. It’s a steep slope and there are three 5 by 5 meter squares at the top of the slope near the top of the Tel and two 5 by 5 meter squares down the slope on slight terrace. Our area supervisor is Efrat and we have three assistant supervisors, Sara, Shimrit and Parker. 

The two squares that I work in are rather interesting. We spent the week setting up our squares and then digging through the top soil. The square I am specifically working in had a modern wall that we dug out; then after taking the elevations of it we dismantled it and began digging again.

We finish digging each day at 1, however, several days this week we finished earlier because there was a heat wave this week and it was too hot to dig that late. This is especially true for Area E, which is hottest area on the Tel.  This is due to the fact that we are located on the east side of the Tel so we get the sun all day and there is no breeze so we sort of just cook under our shade while we work. It means we need to take our time, take breaks and make sure we drink a lot of water.

When we get back from the site we all eat lunch and shower and then we go to lectures or pottery wash depending on the day. Sometimes the lectures go before and after dinner. Dinner is usually around 7 or 8 PM.  Needless to say we are very tired after such long busy days and I, like many others, go to bed early to get a good rest.

Scorpion at Tel Azekah: whenever we find one I have to scoop it up into a bucket after a picture is taken of it and then take it over to the side of our area and release it.

New soil and Scorpions

Around Wednesday we cut through the top soil to find a different type of soil. It was hard compact and lighter in color.  This caused Efrat to change the locus of our square and after discussing it with the heads of the excavation, Yuval and Oded, we cut the square in half and started to excavate through the hard soil on one side to see what was below that layer. What appeared was many rocks that covered nearly three quarters of the half of our square.  We spent the rest of the week leveling off this layer, articulating the rocks and cleaning it for a photograph.

Other than these rock formations that we’ve uncovered, we have found pottery, but nothing large or indicative. We have also found loads of scorpions. Somehow I got designated the scorpion catcher. That means that whenever we find one I have to scoop it up into a bucket after a picture is taken of it and then take it over to the side of our area and release it so it won’t get back into our squares. We only took pictures of the ones that were really big or very small and that look mean. We used the pictures later in our slideshow for our area at the end of the week. Each area makes a funny slide show about their area and shows on Thursday night. It is supposed to be funny.

Home for the weekend

Friday’s schedule is different as well. We work until breakfast and after breakfast we stop working for the day and take a tour of the site to see all of the different sections on the Tel where people are digging and to hear what they have been working on. The point is to help us understand what is going on in each of those areas so that we can get a better understanding of what is going in the Tel so far. We get back early from the field and take the bus back to Tel Aviv, Jerusalem or on a tour for the weekend. We gather up our strength so that comes Sunday, we can get up and do it all over again.