I wondered for a long time what life would be like for participants in an archaeological excavation. I took a course on Classical Greek Archaeology in my undergraduate program, but the classroom is certainly no field excavation. I knew that Indiana Jones is not a pure source on the subject (archaeological tools = pistol & bullwhip), though a curiously large number of modern archaeologists wear variations of his hat.
The current excavation at Khirbet Qeiyafa/the Elah Fortress in Israel has provided some excellent insight into the life and work of an archaeologist, and of the people who participate in a dig. I would like to provide a few snapshots (literally) of a typical day on an excavation.
4:10 a.m. – Wake up
No people in this photograph per request of everyone present.
4:40 a.m. – The bus leaves for the site.
The expressions in this photo were not staged.
5:20 – Arrive at the site; carry water containers and equipment up… up… up… to the ruined fortress.
The excavation level is the top of the hill, marked by the highest trees and the wall section visible in the upper left quadrant of the photo.
5:30 to 5:40 a.m. – Begin to excavate, remove dirt and rocks, and search for interesting things.
This is the 2nd gate to the city, which was discovered last year. It just began to be excavated this summer. The Elah Valley is in the background.
7:00 a.m. – Descend for Coffee Break
They also offer pastries and peanut butter/jelly or peanut butter/chocolate sandwiches.
7:20 a.m. – Re-ascend and resume excavation
The man in the center is the site architect. His job is to figure out how stones and walls relate (or don't relate) to each other, helping to reconstruct what the buildings looked like, and when they existed.
9:00 a.m. – Descend for Breakfast
Food Watch... Can you identify the parts of this balanced breakfast?
9:20 a.m. – Back to work.
Almost everything is done in the shade. Almost.
11:00 a.m. – Watermelon Break
My favorite break of the day.
11:20 a.m. – Back to work.
Our ultimate goal is bedrock.
1:00 p.m. – Pack up equipment and return to our hostel via a nice air-conditioned bus.
On Sundays, we begin work in the heat of the day at 1:00 p.m. Thankfully, we only do that on Sunday.
1:45 p.m. – Lunch
This is the one "meat" meal in the kosher menu of our hostel. We are staying in an observant Jewish village, and thus dine within the dietary laws.
2:15-ish to 4:30 – Siesta/Free Time
We shower, then try to catch up on other things... with mixed results.
4:30 p.m. – Pottery Washing
On this particular afternoon, some local kids offered to help us scrub the dirt from the day's pottery finds.
This young man didn't wash much pottery, but I had to include him in this post.
7:00 p.m. – Attend Lecture on Biblical Archaeology.
We have nightly lectures from various professors attached to the excavation.
8:00 p.m. – Dinner
Represented at this table - Israel, the U.S., Canada, France, Holland and Korea.
After Dinner – Go to Bed
[no photo – everyone is asleep]