What to Expect on the Lautenschläger Azekah Expedition?

Posted by on Mar 20, 2014

What to Expect on the Lautenschläger Azekah Expedition?

Digging season is only a few months away!

As excitment and preparations for the third excavation season at Azekah are well felt all around here at TAU, I thought I’d share with you, dear excavators and digging enthusiasts, what to expect from the Lautenschläger Azekah Expedition, based on my experience from last year’s dig.

So get your trowel ready…

And let’s go!

Good morning!

4:00 A.M. wake-up calls are standard on any archaeological excavation where the late afternoon temperatures would find you in a puddle on the floor of the square you are digging. Better to struggle in the darkness of the early morning and relax under a tree in the burning, late afternoon sun.

The four-hour slumber before your back-busting day of digging becomes progressively more and more fulfilling as you adjust. Don’t get me wrong; we wouldn’t have it any other way. Dusk to the wee hours of twilight are filled with getting to know the huge group of volunteers from all over the world and gabbing with friends over beers that trick your arm muscles into thinking you lifted only 20 buckets of dirt today, rather than the actual 120.

A serious buck-line in Area S1

Hard work pays off

It’s hard work, sure, but your Area Supervisor is hilarious and energetic and that 3,000-year-old jar you just pulled out of the ground is pretty damn cool. That feeling of awe never gets old.

Area Supervisor, Parker Diggory, with a jar base from Area W2

“We found a Late Bronze (ca. 1550-1000 BCE) house today!” a friend digging a different part of the site exclaims. “Complete with scarabs made of precious stones and thousands of complete vessels.” I’m not jealous that my area is dated to the Hellenistic period and only two thousand years old. We’ve uncovered Islamic, Roman, Hellenistic, Iron Age, and Bronze Age layers in fewer than200 m2. I’m looking at 4,000 years of history within 5 steps walking distance.

Efrat Bocher, our area supervisor, with some volunteers of Area E

Dig and mingle

It is a privilege to excavate with many of the archaeologists at Azekah. Field experience is invaluable for an aspiring archaeologist, so 5 weeks of training and learning from the staff there is a pleasure. Historians, archaeologists, biblical scholars, history and archaeology enthusiasts, and those who just want to buff up for the summer all come together to make a significant contribution to understanding themany layers of Azekah. One becomes attached to the history, the friends, the co-workers and the extraordinarily high quantity of sweat exuded at the site.

A relaxing evening with friends after a hard day's work

Enjoy the findings

I resided in Area E (E for the eastern side of the tel) for five weeks. The excavation began digging the area last season so there were many structures already uncovered. It is amazing to see the amount of work that gets done in 6 weeks. Within no time we had greatly expanded the area to find more walls, floors, and installations. Cooking installations are among the most interesting features to find. Though often just a circle of bricks with ashes inside, they offer a wealth of information about the occupants’ diet, the pots they cooked in, and the layout of a building. Cooking pots are some of the easiest ceramics to date because their shapes evolved frequently throughout history.

The many walls and structures of Area E

That something special

I have been a particularly lucky archaeology student and have had the opportunity to work on multiple excavations in Israel. Most of the projects I work on tend to be on a smaller scale with 5 to 10 people on staff and another few volunteers. The Azekah project is anything but small and brings together university students from Tel Aviv, Australia, the USA, and Germany. There are also students, professors, and volunteers from many other countries around the world who all come with a shared interest in Near Eastern Archaeology and Biblical History.

Some fun in Area E

This was a completely different excavation experience for me. More friends, more digging, and a whole lot more progress. We even had a visit from the History Channel (check out their show!). Rather than having a single goal for a season, the project can accomplish many tasks simultaneously around the Tel. Our class of international students was even lucky enough to direct a small area for a day.

The work is never done after the excavation seasons ends. Once back at the university, the staff works tirelessly to create maps and reportsand they begin to formulate interpretations about what the summer has uncovered. As for the long needed rest one needs after an excavation season, I can securely say an archaeologist never sleeps.

My fellow blogger and class mate, Kyle, catching some quick zzz in Area T

Check out the Lautenschläger Azekah Expedition Facebook page for more great pictures from the 2013 excavation season!

Sign up as a volunteer for the 2014 Azekah excavation!

All photos on this page courtesy of The Lautenschläger Azekah Expedition photographer, Benjamin Sitzmann.

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