Excavating Canaanite remains at Tel Jezreel

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Motes_1By: Ashley Motes, 2013 Heritage Fellow

From May to June, I spent four weeks at Tel Jezreel in Israel participating in the Jezreel Expedition. Norma Franklin of Zinman Institute of Archaeology at Israel’s University of Haifa and Jennie Ebeling of University of Evansville were the directors of the project. The focus of the Jezreel Expedition is to expand our knowledge of Tel Jezreel.

This was the second season of the Jezreel Expedition and the start of excavating the site. The first season dealt with on-foot surveying and the LiDAR surveying of the tel and the lower areas surrounding the tel to determine where the team wanted to start excavating in 2013. Being part of this season’s team, I found myself working alongside supervisors from England, France, Israel, and the U.S. The team itself was broken into two groups, one working on the tel and the other working in a lower area near the Ein Izra’el Spring. The directors picked this area to work in because the LiDAR indicated an unusual anomaly that they thought could be walls to a building.   I was a part of the group that worked near the spring. We got lucky because a month before the excavation someone had caused a fire and it burned all the thorny shrubby that would have taken a while to remove.

Excavating in this area was a new task since no one had ever excavated the area before, which made everyone wonder what could be under our feet. As we excavated, we realized the whole area was littered with basalt and we had to learn quickly what was and was not worked basalt. We were also finding a lot of flint and Canaanite blades and pottery dating to Early Bronze Age. The most difficult task was working in my square with my teammates, trying to figure out what were just rocks, and what could be a feature. In other squares in this area, walls of a building were being discovered. One square had five walls, practically one on top of another. It would not be until after they closed my square that it turned out we also had a portion of a wall that had been destroyed. The rest of the team excavated in two locations on the tel spend two weeks in each location, one of the locations was an Iron Age winepress. Other side jobs we did were labeling and bagging artifacts, pottery, and flint, which was a long task with all the basalt we were finding.


Besides being an excavator for the dig, I was also asked to be the photographer for the expedition. My job was to document the happenings during the excavations, pottery sessions, fieldtrips, and dinner parties. It was a great experience to take the photos and my camera became such a part of me that if I forgot to bring it to an event everyone noticed and was shocked. Have to say the best experience as a photographer was taking the last photos of the excavation sites before sunrise and during sunset. I had to stand on a ladder with my camera on a pole to get the overhead shots that the supervisors needed for their work and to wrap up the excavation to a close.

Participating in the Jezreel Expedition was a great experience. Not only have I learned what it takes to participate in a dig, I have also come away with connections and new friends. I hope to return to Jezreel for the 2014 season. I want to say thanks to the donors of the Heritage Fellowship, which makes participating in field schools possible for students like me.


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