Being in Israel these past few weeks has been an amazing expierence for a lot of reasons. I have learned so much about how archeology works and how difficult and rewarding it really is. It is a great feeling when you realize that the work you have been doing is helping us learn about history and how people lived in ancient times. It is also amazing going to the other archlogical sites around the area and seeing how they connect and relate to the site at Omrit when people were living there at the same time. I have started to realize just how complex and skilled ancient people were to build these huge stone buildings and harness nature to thier will. For example, in Ceserae maratima a freshwater swimming pool was built in the Mediterranean Sea and huge freshwater bath complexes were built complete with heated floors and intricate mosaic designs. They also built giant temple complexes and huge stadiums that could seat thousands of people. I marvel at the engineering and planning it took to built these grand structures and also at the fact that they still exist today for us to enjoy even now.
Another thing that has amazed me about this trip is the diverse culture that this area possesses both in antiquity and in modern day. There are several examples in Israel of ancient synagogues are having mosaics of the pagan Zodiac on thier floors. There are many possible explanations for this, but it shows that even ancient groups were not culturally isolated from each other. We see evidence of cultures mixing ideas and traditions even to this day. Along each major road the sign markers are in three or more different languages, Hebrew, Arabic, and English being the main ones. To me this shows how diverse the culture in Israel and the cultural identities. It is amazing how a country the size of Delaware could be so important to so many different people. I am so glad I got to expierence this place first hand both in the dirt of antiquity and the livelyness of modern cities.
After being in Israel for two weeks working on the dig at Omrit, I have begun to realize what archeology really is. Destruction. Every time we yank out a bolder or sift our pieces of pottery, were are destroying the thing that allows us to understand it, the layers of ground that it was found in. We may take very good records and measure everything, but the fact is this is a one chance deal. One we dig the dirt up, it can never be put back in the same way again. Whatever evidence that we find is all that we have to go on from this point forward. This is why I find it a good thing that at Omrit we have not excavated everything that we could and instead are doing the areas we have the most interest in and leave the rest for the future. It is possible that as technology continues to advance, new techniques will develop with the ability to learn more information than what we can do now and by leaving places for that to happen, allows for a better understanding in the future. Even if that is the case, it is still important for us to be able to understand what we can about the past now to get as clear of a picture as possible. In order to do this though we need to dig.
Even though archeology is destruction, it is still extremely careful work. Depending on what we are working on, we might be using anything from a pick to a toothbrush. No matter what we are using though, we have to be very careful about what we are destroying. If we go too far down or shatter a find to pieces, we could lose all of the work that we put into it and also make the area undateable. As long as we are careful with how we dig, there is a lot that we can learn from any area. What can also be problematic though is what we decide to keep. At any one area that we dig, we may find thousands of small finds and shreds. What can be difficult is figuring out what we should keep and what we don’t need to collect. In an ideal world, we could collect everything and have enough time analyze all of our finds equally, but instead we have to prioritize due to limited resources and funding. Omrit is lucky because we study everything that we collect, but not all sites can do that. This is a shame because the things that cant be analyzed are thrown away and can never be looked at in the right context again. That being said, we can still learn a lot from what we do keep and help us further the story we are creating from our finds. It is almost as if we are reading the story of history backwards as we uncover, layer by layer, a new chapter while destroying the last one first. This opportunity at Omrit has allowed me to be able to contribute to this narrative and help us better understand a little bit more of the past. Archeology may be destruction, but it is also the way to cracking open the book of the past, one layer at a time.
On another note, as we have been digging these past two weeks, I have realized my growing hatred for rocks. Specifically, basalt rocks. The square my team and I are currently working on (Photo) has at some time in the past, the walls around it tumble in, leaving giant boulders between the silt layers. I didn’t think it was possible, but after pulling out more than my fair share of these giant, very heavy, volcanic rocks I have begun to form a hatred torwards them. They alaways seem to get in the way and are very annoying to clean around. Every time we dig another one up, I want to pull it out of the ground with a pick more and more. It is very satisfying however when we finally do get them out. We also have to deal with many limestone rocks as well, but they are not as bad as basalt becuase they are softer, lighter, and much easier to remove. Regardless, at some point I will have to come to terms with these rocks but for now they will be my mortal enemy.