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My Top 5 Archaeological Related Experiences at TAU

Posted by on Aug 14, 2014

My Top 5 Archaeological Related Experiences at TAU

It’s been almost two years since I arrived in Tel Aviv in order to pursue an MA in Archaeology of Ancient Near Eastern Cultures. During this time I have trekked near and far throughout Israel, the Middle East, and Europe in pursuit of archaeological knowledge and adventure. 

I must admit I am incredibly jealous of those of you who grew up in countries with a documented history older than a handful of centuries. Eastern and Western Europe and the Middle East have been like historical and archaeological playgrounds for me in the past two years and it is hard to choose only five things I’ve enjoyed being on this side of the world. Excavations allowed me to experience the geographical extremes of the land within the boundaries of modern Israel and conferences brought me across the Mediterranean to countries I may not have visited otherwise. 

So, in no particular order, here is my attempt at a round up of the best of the best, my archaeological crowning moments:

 

1. Timna 

If you travel southward to the very tip of the state of Israel and stop just short of the edge of the Red Sea, you will find yourself in Park Timna.

Central Timna Valley Project 2014 excavations

The park is a geological wonderland composed of an unusual variety of rock formations. Among the oranges, pale purples and yellows, and dazzling whites of the natural sandstone, the vibrant green of an unusual mineral shines through. Copper. Copper, though by name sounds less exciting, was one of the most valuable resources in the course of history. Armies and expeditions trekked through harsh desert terrain to obtain the green stuff that, when melted, transforms into a precious metallic asset. Wars have been won and lost with it; god, goddess, and royalty have been exalted with jewelry, statues, and palace draped in it. Timna, which has been exploited for its copper resource for nearly 6 millennia, was no exception to the dramatic history of metallurgy.

Surveying copper mines in Timna Park

Timna is also where I spent my last two winters while in the program and is currently the focus of my MA thesis research. The newest excavation was initiated there in 2013 through TAU and is known as the Central Timna Valley Project (CTV). The project, directed by Dr. Erez Ben-Yosef a lecturer at the university, takes place in the cooler winter months of January and February and excavates for two weeks within the breathtaking park. 

The past two seasons have focused on obtaining a variety of scientific data from the residuals of copper exploitation including mining and smelting (melting of ore to produce metal) as well as gaining knowledge on the ancient desert environment.

 

2. Conferences 

My research for the past year has centered on the production and consumption of textile material in ancient times (more specifically ca.3,000 years ago). Interest in archaeological textiles has been gaining a broader audience as researchers realize the importance of cloth, rope, netting, and basketry in the daily lives of peoples in antiquity, not to mention the intensely involved and time-consuming production process plaguing the ancient craftsperson.

Attempting to weave on an ancient loom in Amman, Jordan

Thanks to this global movement, I was able to attend conferences all over the place with scholars who are working with this material. Most notably, I found myself in Copenhagen, Denmark and Amman, Jordan this November and March, respectively, to hear what those around the world were contributing to the field. 

The Center for Textile Research at the University of Copenhagen, who organized both conferences, put together two outstanding collections of lectures by scholars advancing the field in textual, archaeological, and iconographic studies. The conference also gave me great excuses to see these two great cities.

Christmas Market in downtown Copenhagen, Denmark

 

3. Sites, sites, and sites 

I’m sure that I have written about this on the blog before, but did I mention that I can roll out of bed and be at Lachish, Caesarea, Masada, or Megiddo in a couple of hours?! Or that I have physically stood where great dynasties have risen and fallen and where major historical figures of the Ancient Near East like Alexander and Sennacherib marched their armies to victories and losses?!

Our first tour with the program to Beth Shemesh

It will never cease to amaze me that the events I read about for years took place on this tiny strip of land that, for the past two years, I have called home. It’s just too cool!

The view from atop Masada

 

4. There is always someone to ask

This one is less of a singular experience and more of an everyday occurrence. Each day we encounter innumerable ‘unanswerable questions’ in archaeology. It is a complex discipline with many sub-fields and moving parts. Some conclusions rest on whether or not someone has flipped over the right rocks. Debates change seasonally and it’s not always easy being a student in all this mess.

Learning from the authors of the Textbooks: Prof. Israel Finkelstein and Prof. Oded Lipschits

It helps to know that there are people around who can at least try to answer your questions and that hands-on experience is always encouraged. There is an expert and an excavation for every geographical and historical corner of this region and its director is probably sitting just down the hall. And if you think your question is too obscure for them to answer… they probably wrote an article about it in the 80’s! 

 

5. I get to dig with my friends… It doesn’t get better than that!

With many excavations active throughout the year, there is never a shortage of projects, or opportunities to meet new friends. Here are some snap shots from digs I’ve participated in and adventures I’ve experienced over the past couple of years here in TAU.

 

Working with friends in Timna

 

Working with friends in Azekah

 

Pottery Typologies study sesh

 

Adventures in Wadi Amram

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