Tel Avivian Hot Spots for the International Archaeology Student

Posted by on May 20, 2015

Tel Avivian Hot Spots for the International Archaeology Student

If you’re feeling bold enough to venture out onto the streets, beyond the walls of the university, there is a world of history and culture waiting for you in Tel Aviv. Tel Aviv is known for its overflowing beaches, youthful residents, and edgy nightlife, but the ocean-side metropolis is not only a Mediterranean party hub. Between the coffee houses and beachside clubs, one can find vestiges of Tel Aviv’s long and multifarious history.

After enjoying an Israeli breakfast at one of Tel Aviv’s hip cafes, meander your-cappuccino-fueled-self towards an enlightening cultural and historical journey.

The city is broken up into five major districts:

(1) Ramat Aviv (Tel Aviv University, Eretz Israel Museum)
(2) The Old North (Hayarkon Park, the Port)
(3) Central Tel Aviv (Rabin Square, major beaches, Shuk HaCarmel)
(4) Southern Tel Aviv/Florentine/Neve Tzedek
(5) Old and New Jaffa
The city is easily walk-able, but if you’re not up for a stroll by foot then the bus system and rental Green Bikes which are spread around the city will get you anywhere you need to go.

Here are some highlights for the adventurous, city-going archaeologist:

1. The museum scene

The Eretz Israel Museum is a short walk from the university and is home to a collection of art and relics from the history of Israel and the preceding denizens of the land. Exhibits in the museum showcase daily life throughout various historical periods with interactive portions that allow visitors to stand inside an Iron Age four-room house or a street of shops from the Ottoman period.

Byzantine glass vessels from throughout the Land of Israel at the Eretz Israel Museum

The museum also houses Tel Qasile, an archaeological site originally excavated by Benjamin Mazar in the late 1940’s. Excavators found evidence of occupation beginning in the Middle Bronze Period that spans to the modern era. The principle attraction at Tel Qasile is the Philistine port city that inhabited the site during the 12th-10th centuries BCE. Excavations revealed multiple temples and large public buildings in the Iron Age phases there, giving archaeologists an ample view of Philistine cultic traditions.

Excavations of the Philistine city at Tel Qasile

The museum scene is strong in Tel Aviv; museums and cultural centers can be found in almost every area of the city. The Palmach Museum sits just next to the Eretz Israel Museum, and the Tel Aviv Museum of Art is a 15-minute bus ride to the south.

2. People watching with a side of historical tourism

If you’re the kind of person that likes to read every informational plaque at the zoo, then give yourself at least a month in Tel Aviv. The modern history of the country is commemorated on almost every street corner and in public squares and urban parks throughout the city. Rabin Square, Dizengoff Square, and Bialik Square are all congregation spots for daily meet-ups and major citywide events. They are also locations of major historical events that made illustrious marks on the country’s modern history.

Rabin Square, the focal point of the city, is the setting for citywide celebrations and rallies; it is people watching heaven. On a sunny day grab a beer at a square-side café and watch the magic happen.

3. Urban Archaeology in southern Tel Aviv

In the south of Tel Aviv, the borough of Jaffa (pronounced Yafo by the locals) has seen heavy activity for the past 7,000+ years. It is now a popular tourist destination with restaurants, cafes, bars, and craft shops lining every narrow street. The architecture of Jaffa transports you to an earlier era; the stone shops and houses are preserved in their original Ottoman style.

Stone architecture of Jaffa/Yafo

The ongoing Jaffa excavations, at the top of the Jaffa hill, are a collaborative project of multiple universities from around the world (UCLA, Johannes Gutenberg-Universität, and Texas A&M to name a few). Their previous seasons uncovered the Late Bronze port city controlled by the powerful Egyptian Empire of the time. The site gives visitors a firsthand experience of urban archaeology, something that is common to the streets of Jaffa. One morning a paved road lies below your feet, but by noon the next day the Israel Antiquities Authority has uncovered the water system of the three thousand-year-old city.

Collaborative excavations in Jaffa’s Old City

4. Proud to be a Tel Avivian

A little friendly competition never hurt anyone. Well, that may not be so true in the sports world. Nevertheless, if you have time to see a game, then a night out with friends at a football or basketball game in the city is always a good time. If you know what handball is, because I certainly do not, then maybe seeing that is more your speed. Tel Aviv hosts the best teams in football and basketball and the residence of the city are diehard fans. Before the championship festivities in Rabin Square begin go checkout what everyone is celebrating.

Abra Spiciarich and the author of this post at at HaPoel Tel Aviv/Maccabi Haifa football game

5. Excavating the Coast

The summers can be sweltering and busy during excavation season. It’s easy to forget to do something nice for yourself in your time off when sleep is in short supply and your alarm clock is fixed on 4:00 am. Nonetheless, don’t forget that practice makes perfect and digging in the sand on the weekends is an important step to mastering field techniques. Pack your trowel, sunscreen and an extraordinarily large hat and hit the beach. Anyway, it’s why you came to Tel Aviv in the first place. Right?!

Playing matkot on the beach in TLV

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