I’ve been intending to post some pictures from our dig in November… I know, that was a long time ago… seems like ages past. So here is brief update.
We uncovered several important structures from the Bronze Age at Et-Tell. Particularly noteworthy was a bronze age destruction level exposed during the last several days of digging. This was a nice reward for two weeks of digging through what was mostly sterile soil. We were down well over 8′ when we began to uncover pieces of burnt mud-brick and charcoal, and then the corner of a building constructed with large stones typical of the Bronze Age. During final days of the dig we encountered a definite destruction level comprised of compacted mud brick and charcoal. Unfortunately, we did not have time to dig into this level. It will have to wait for another season. It is never easy to find stratification on a site that has already been dug extensively, but we have it at Et-Tell.
Luke was able to come and join us for a week. He is officially the first student of the Jerusalem Field School. He was also the only student of JFS so we dubbed him “the student body.” If we can get more like him then it will be worth it. We packed a lot into the week, including a trip to the Dead Sea, a tour of Tel Balata (Shechem), Gerizim, Samaria, and major sites around Jerusalem.
I stayed in Israel several more weeks to lead a tour for some friends from Nantucket and East Virginia. We spent a day visiting sites in the Shephelah and spent the rest of the time in the Galilee. It was a privilege to tour with them. I fully expect them to reciprocate when I visit the birthplace of Melville’s Moby Dick!
I’ve done a fair amount of travelling since then, in Jordan, Greece and Egypt. One of the fellows I met on the dig joined me in Jordan. I was grateful for his company for that leg of the trip. I made it back back to Canada for a few months at Christmas.
I am envious of the explorers who explored Syria and Palestine on horseback. They got to experience the land in a way that we never will. Gone are the days when you could ride a horse through the Galilee, cross the mountains into Lebanon, survey the great city of Damascus, and then continue on to Baalbek! What a ride that must have been! Their travel diaries make for fascinating reading.
You can still find a decent horse in Egypt although it is hit and miss. I found a guide at Giza who had horses and also knew how to get us into the site after closing hours. Unfortunately a dust storm blew in that afternoon. I told the guide that there was no point in making the journey since I was there to get pictures of the pyramids. He insisted that the storm would pass and the air would clear! Yeah right! But it turned out to be the perfect photo-op.
I met Titus in Cairo and the next day we caught a ride to St. Catherine. It began to rain the day we arrived which is a rare occurrence in the Sinai… and continued raining for the next three days. We just so happened to arrive in the Sinai during a 100 year flood. It was cold, the power cycled on and off leaving us in the dark for much of the time, and the roof of our lodge leaked profusely. But the cook made pretty good shish-kabab and rice and he poured our drinks with all the flair of a Parisian waiter: heels together, slight bend at the waist, arm placed behind his back. That lodge had seen better days but tourism in the Sinai has fallen to barely a trickle.
Although the rain forced us to spend several more days in the Sinai than originally planned, we were able to get some unique pictures of Jebel Musa and the monastery covered in clouds. Father Justin kindly gave us a tour of the monastery library and showed us the high tech cameras they are using to scan manuscripts. This was one of the highlights of the trip for me. The monastery also served real coffee.
Our next stop was Serabit El-Kahdim. The road passed through some beautiful and wild country. The only signs of civilization were the expansive poppy fields. Apparently opium is a major export of the Sinai. That night we stayed at a bedouin camp. I had forgotten how the stars look in the desert on a cool, clear night. It is something we miss in our cities.
The trip back from the Sinai turned out to be more difficult than anticipated since the main highway was washed out in several places and many of the smaller roads were washed away completely. Thankfully, we had a Land Cruiser and an expert Bedouin driver.
Titus and I were just about to board a flight for Aswan when a mutual friend of ours called from Jordan. “You have to get out of there!” he warned, even as the gate attendant pressed us to board. Sadly, we had to walk away from that ticket but it turned out to be the right decision. Almost immediately Egypt Air announced that they would suspend all domestic flights. This created a stampede for the exits as people tried to buy tickets out of Egypt. Not many days later all international flights were suspended.
I spent a month in quarantine in a small flat in downtown Calgary. It looked pretty good on Air BnB but after a month in a small flat decorated with IKEA accessories I was ready to get out of there! Thankfully I had plenty to keep me occupied. My main project these days has been an online history curriculum. I had hoped to have a first version up and running by Christmas but obviously that hasn’t happened. It’s proven to be a greater technical challenge than anticipated.
So what’s next? We plan to continue the excavation at Et-Tell in the Fall. I’ve updated the sign-up page to reflect the new dates. Unfortunately, we will not be able to confirm these dates until one month before the dig begins. Of course, I will not collect payment before then. If you are interested, sign up, and I will keep you posted.