By: Megan Hynek, 2013 Platt Fellowship recipient
Deciding to dig in Israel was an easy decision. I am currently a fourth year archaeology student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. All archaeology students there are required to attend a dig field school. We have several options including digs in northern Peru, Mississippi, and Crete. I decided to travel to Israel after attending a lecture by the dig director, Dr. Jodi Magness during which she discussed the finds of the previous dig season. Her goals are to excavate and date a Galilean synagogue. During the second season well preserved figurative floor mosaics were discovered, making the dig all the more exciting. The figures included a narrative from the Hebrew Bible of Samson and the foxes (Judges 15: 1-5) I already had an inclination to go to Israel simply because I love exploring, and it seemed as different a place as I could get . So, despite my family’s hesitance regarding the political situation and State Department travel warning, on May 19, I flew to Tel Aviv and got the bus to Huqoq in the northern edge of the Sea of Galilee.
I am currently into my fourth week of digging. On the first day, this is what we had to work with in my square SW 5/5:
It’s not much because this section of the synagogue only just broke ground this season with the help of some Druze workers and large machinery. The synagogue is situated under the Palestinian village of Yaquq that was abandoned in the 1940s and demolished in 1968. All of the rubble from the demolition remained on top of the site. So, even with Druze, we still had a lot of stones to move the first few weeks of digging.
The first few weeks have been rewarding and frustrating as far as finds. Our eventual goal is of course to reach the level of the synagogue which is late Roman / Byzantine period. However, as we have excavated we have found plaster floor after plaster floor after dirt floor. When we come upon each one we must level out to find all areas of floor, sweep it with hard brushes and document it before move onward. This is exciting because we are learning a lot about the modern Ottoman material (Dr. Magness insists that we treat each period of history as equals and give each its due documentation) but also a little discouraging when you are looking forward to coming down on a synagogue. We have also discovered several walls or large ashlars, and tumble that we suspect was part of an archway. We will probably not reach the synagogue in my square this season, but all the more encouragement to come back next seasons.
Coming to Huqoq has done nothing but affirm my love of archaeology and I hope after the completion of my senior year in the Spring of 2013 to attend a master’s program. I look forward to returning next year, and here is a glimpse of the progress we have made thus far:
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