A Day in the Life

Now that we have started excavating here, at Tel Dor, things have gotten into a pretty steady rhythm (our days are so full that it’s been difficult to find time to write).

4am- wake up, dress, ready to go
4.30am- bus leaves for site
4.50am- bus arrives at site, walk across beach and ascend the Tel
5.05am- unpack tools from their storage container, bring them to their appropriate area (there are three active excavation sites: D2, D4, and D5. We are in D4, which is currently dug down to the level of Hellenistic or Persian occupation), begin work.
7am- Peanut Butter Break- when working in the sun, it’s important to get lots of calories, so we have several food breaks, this one being everyone’s favorite. Peanut butter and Nutella are supplied for sandwiches, as well as coffee and tea. By 7, this break is much needed!
7.10am- Back to work!
9am- Breakfast- everyone walks across the beach to the Glass House (the location of the Tel Dor museum, so called because it used to house a glass factory), where we have tuna sandwiches, cottage cheese, humus and veggies. There’s also a little extra time to take a dip in the Mediterranean, though I tend to use that time for a power nap.
10am- Back to work!
11.30am- Fruit Break- just as the name suggests, we get fruit and cold water during this break (usually our water is rather warm, so cold water is a treat!). On Fridays, we get popsicles instead.
11.45am- Back to Work!
1pm- Excavation ends for the day, pack up tools, head to the bus
1.20pm- bus leaves
1.40pm- bus arrives at Kfar Galim, lunch starts at 1.45pm
There is then time to shower and for a short nap. Everyone is always so dirty from all the digging and sweating that the shower is one of the best parts of the day.
4pm- Pottery washing- all the pottery we find gets soaked for a day and then scrubbed clean so that an expert can look over it and judge the kind of vessel, the location of origin (was it made at Dor? was it imported from somewhere?), and the rough date of production. This helps us to judge what time period different structures are from, based on the pottery found with it. For example, if you build a wall, you would build a small trench to support it (a foundation trench), so when we find walls, we excavate beside them, store the pottery there separately, and use that pottery to roughly date the foundation trench, so we can roughly date the wall. Pottery washing takes 1-2 hours, depending on how much pottery has been found.
6pm- Lecture- each day is a different lecture on a topic of archaeology or on Tel Dor, so that we both understand our site and it’s history, and get a better understanding of how professional archaeologists get their information and draw their conclusions. Lecture lasts an hour.
7.15pm- Dinner
If you’re smart, you’ll go to bed shortly after dinner, but it’s hard not to take a little time to unwind after such a long day. Plus, a little time to keep up with one’s family and friends is always appreciated. I usually don’t make it to bed before 9 or 9.30pm, and by the end of the week, I am certainly feeling ready to sleep for a month!

Generally, our work changes day by day. We each work in one of three sections, under a supervisor. The supervisor meets with the team that runs the excavation and they decide what needs to be done before assigning tasks to us each day. Generally, we find several buckets of broken pottery and shards of bone (this is the sort of content of the rubbish people used for foundation trenches or for fill, when building). It’s also not uncommon to come across ancient glass. It certain areas, you can find concentrations of Murex shells, which once belonged to a sea snail. The snail was crushed up and used for dye, providing the only natural means of producing a purple color, so this dye was highly valued.

In addition to shells, glass, pottery and bone, occasionally one comes across something more remarkable. Iron nails, fishing hooks, and pins (fibulae) occasionally turn up, and if you’re really lucky, you can find an ancient coin, as I did last week. The tiny, bronze thing was so corroded that the experts may not be able to read it, but it was a wonderfully exciting way to end the week.