Archeology is NOT like the movies.
Have you ever watched any Indiana Jones movies? Of course you have. Indiana Jones, the charming namesake of the series, goes on wonderful adventures around the world, finding the most important artifacts that were lost to history which are always completely intact, regardless what happened to the space where the artifact was found.
Sorry to break it to you, but you don’t go out and find the Holy Grail inside a cave with magical protection. Instead, you get a square (ours are 5 meters by 5 meters) and tools. You use a pickaxe to loosen the dirt and any little goodies inside. Then you take a hoe and scoop the loosened dirt into a bucket, which gets carried over to another station where it is sifted. If you’re lucky, you’ll get one of the sifters in the middle of the site, instead of being exiled to the lone sifter of isolation at the edge of the site. All the little goodies are picked out at the sifters. These include pottery shards, glass shards, brick, metal pieces, coins, and tessera. The rest of the dirt is thrown into another pile. A really exciting find is when you pick out a pottery handle that has managed to stay in one piece (yesterday was an exciting day for me). Sadly, no golden idols have been unearthed. Or, for that matter, concrete evidence on who those idols would have been of.
Sometimes as you’re digging, you come across blocks that can be tumble from old walls and giant rocks. Those are always a surprise when your pickaxe strikes not hardened dirt but basalt or limestone. It’s always a bit jarring. Getting those suckers out of the ground requires a lot of muscle and determination, but once they’re out, you feel a real sense of pride and accomplishment.
Another couple things you’re not shown in the movies – the wake up time and the bugs. We leave the kibbutz we’re staying at at 5:00am. By that time, you better be awake, fed, and ready to dig up some dirt. By the time we finish second breakfast around 9:45am, knats are filling the skies. So, unlike the heroes of movies, we have on the best fashion statements you can make – bug nets covering hard hats and layer upon layer of dirt. At least you don’t have to worry about reapplying sunscreen!
Overall, this archeological dig is not what I was expecting it to be. Instead, it is labor intensive and the findings are slow. But every find we make is exciting and being able to say that you had a part in that is the best part.