“Let’s leave at 4:00 am,” Matt said, in a way-too-cheerful tone of voice. We groaned. Eventually, we talked Matt into 4:30.
The “we” here is me, Susan Ackerman, the ASOR President, Tom Levy, the Chair of ASOR’s Committee on Archaeological Research and Policy (CAP), and Alina Levy, Tom’s wife. “Matt” is Matthew J. Adams, the Dorot Director of the W. F. Albright Institute for Archaeological Research. The occasion was Day 3 of the three-week tour Tom, Alina, and I made in July to visit ASOR’s three affiliated Overseas Research Centers (the Albright in Jerusalem, the American Center for Oriental Research, in Amman, and the Cyprus-American Archaeological Research Institute, in Nicosia) and to visit archaeological excavations in Israel, Jordan, and Cyprus, especially excavations affiliated with CAP.
The trip was great – even that day when Matt had us on the road at 4:30! After all, if you head out at 4:30, you can cover a lot of ground, beginning with a visit to Matt’s own dig at Legio, just east of Tel Megiddo. The excavations, which Matt directs along with Yotam Tepper and Jonathan David, are uncovering the military headquarters that the Roman VIth Ferrata Legion established in the aftermath of the First Jewish Revolt. It’s still early days in terms of discoveries – trial excavations only began in 2013 – but we still saw plenty of evidence of the sorts of things Romans do so well: for example, hydrological projects and roads.
Then we were back on the road ourselves, heading east to the southern shores of Lake Kinneret and way back in time, to the Early Bronze Age remains being excavated at Tel Bet Yerah under the direction of Raphael Greenberg and Sarit Paz. We arrived (very conveniently!) just in time for second breakfast, which at Bet Yerah is delicious, and so we were well fortified for our tour of the site, especially its impressive city gate and granary complex. Next, we went back west, to visit Eric H. Cline and Assaf Yasur-Landau at Tel Kabri and to see lots and lots of jars – some of the seventy or so Middle Bronze Age store jars this summer’s excavations had uncovered in three rooms connected to the “wine cellar” and its forty or so jars that were discovered in 2013.
We also got to see other extraordinary features of Kabri’s Middle Bronze Age palace, for example, the incredibly thick walls of its entryway and the so-called “Orthostat Building.” Afterwards, Eric and Assaf, along with their Associate Director Andrew Koh, treated us and other guests (David Schloen and his family) to a lavish lunch – a feast indeed worthy of Kabri’s Middle Bronze Age elites!
While in Israel, we also had a chance to visit Aren Maeir’s excavations at Tel es-Safi, Steve Ortiz’s and Sam Wolff’s excavations at Tel Gezer, and James Tabor’s and Shimon Gibson’s excavations at Mount Zion. Tom and Alina (who arrived a day before I did) in addition visited Yosef Garfinkel, Michael G. Hasel, and Martin G. Klingbeil at Lachish; Jeffery A. Blakely and James W. Hardin at Khirbet Summeily: and Oded Borowski at Tell Halif. Unfortunately, our timing was a little off for our Tel es-Safi visit, as we arrived the week prior to this season’s stellar find: the monumental gateway that led into Safi’s Lower City. But since Safi is a huge site, there was plenty else to see, and Aren gave us a great tour of both the Lower City and the various areas under investigation on the tel proper.
Our timing was a little off for our visit to Gezer as well, as we visited on one of the dig’s days off, meaning that poor Sam and Steve – as well as a couple of other members of their staff – ended up giving up some of their precious “down” time to show us around. The highlights? Well, at Gezer, these always include the standing stones and the monumental Iron Age gate, but during our visit, a highlight of equal note was Tom Levy’s posing for a picture in the Middle Bronze Age gateway, just as he had over forty years ago, as a teenage volunteer at Gezer in 1971! We also visited on a day off at Mount Zion, but like Steve and Sam at Gezer, Shimon graciously gave us a thorough tour, describing remains that date from the modern period back through Ottoman, Islamic, Byzantine, and Roman levels, including a mikvah and other remains from the Second Temple period.
As for other highlights of our time in Israel, one was definitely the great Fourth of July party that Matt Adams hosted in the Kershaw Garden at the Albright. A hundred and fifty good friends showed up to celebrate and to enjoy a traditional Fourth of July cookout. It turns out (to no one’s surprise) that the Albright’s famed cook, Hisham, makes a great burger! We also were the beneficiaries of another great host, Danny Rosenberg at the University of Haifa, whom we joined – along with an absolutely fascinating group of scholars – for the first international meeting of the Association for Ground Stone Research.
Then it was onward to Amman, where we arrived at American Center for Oriental Research just in time to join ACOR’s director, Barbara Porter, the ACOR staff, and various of the Center’s fellows for lunch. Afterwards, Barbara gave me a wonderful tour of the facility and arranged for me to meet with some of the Center’s staff, before it was food again: cocktails with Barbara in the beautiful Director’s flat at ACOR and then dinner out with Ghazi Bisheh, the former director of the Department of Antiquities of Jordan.
While in Jordan, we were also able to meet with Dr. Monther Jamhawi, the current director of the Department, and with Ihab Amarin, the Director General of the new Jordan Museum. The museum has recently received the 2015 Certificate of Excellence from TripAdvisor, and Tom, Alina, and I can attest that the award is well-deserved. The building is stunning, and the exhibits we were able to see – covering the periods from prehistory through Roman times – were chock-full of important objects that were beautifully displayed.
There’s also a beautiful new museum/visitor’s center at Petra, which is equally impressive, both because of its contents and because of the way the exhibits are designed.
But I get ahead of myself, for we didn’t get to Petra until we headed south a couple of days after our meetings in Amman. Along the way, we stopped in Madaba, to visit Debra Foran and Annlee Dolan, the co-directors of the Town of Nebo Archaeological Project (Khirbat al-Mukhayyat). This summer is a study season for Debra’s and Annlee’s project, so we met them at the dig house to check out their staff’s efforts at drawing and restoring pottery, digitizing and photographing objects, mapping, and so on. We were particularly happy to see Adam Kuntz, winner of one of ASOR’s 2015 Heritage Fellowships, hard at work!
Then it was on to Petra, where we were able to see the work in which ACOR, in collaboration with the Department of Antiquities of Jordan and the Petra Archaeological Park, has engaged to conserve and preserve the Temple of the Winged Lions. An especially exciting aspect of this project is its efforts to provide Petra’s local, mostly Bedouin communities with employment, training, and educational opportunities in site preservation and cultural resource management – efforts that earned the TWLCRM Initiative (that’s the Temple of the Winged Lions Cultural Resource Management Initiative) the Archaeological Institute of America’s 2015 award for Best Practices in Site Preservation.
From Petra, we traveled on to the CAP-affiliated project that Tom, our CAP chair, needed least to see: the excavations he has directed, in conjunction with Dr. Mohammad Najjar, in Wadi Faynan. But what a treat for me! Tom, Alina, and Mohammad – who came down from Amman to join us – gave me the royal tour of their excavations throughout the Wadi Faynan area, especially the large-scale copper production sites of Khirbet en-Nahas and Khirbet al-Jariya and the Iron Age cemetery site of Wadi Fidan 40.
We also lived royally at Tom’s dig house – the Qasr Faynan – during our visit, especially because of the gourmet meals prepared for us by Tom’s cook, Abu Jamil.
It was hard to leave. But leave we did – to visit Robert and Erin Darby’s dig at Ayn Gharandal. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to see Erin, who was spending the day at the dig’s lab, in Aqaba, but Robert gave us a great tour, focusing on the Roman fort that produced the stunning monumental inscription unearthed in 2013 (learn more about the insciption on the ASOR Blog) and the nearby bathhouse, which is in a remarkable state of preservation – including pictorial and epigraphic graffiti that are preserved on its walls (learn more about Ayn Gharandhal on the ASOR Blog).
Then, from Gharandal, it was back to Amman, and from Amman, back to Jerusalem –with a great stop along the way to visit the iron mine of Mugharet al-Warda. The result is the only known picture of me in a hard hat!
The last stop on our grand tour was CAARI, the Cyprus-American Archaeological Research Institute. CAARI’s director, Andrew McCarthy, was – like Matt Adams at the Albright and Barbara Porter at ACOR – super-helpful in arranging our itinerary, which included – as in Amman – both site visits and meetings with various officials in Nicosia: Dr. Despo Pilides and Dr. Giorgos Georgiou, the Curator of Antiquities and the Senior Archaeological Officer in the Cyprus Department of Antiquities, and Professor Charalambos Bakirtzis, Director of the Anastasios G. Leventis Foundation.
As for sites, we were able to visit Lindy Crewe’s excavations at Kissonerga-Skalia, where we got to see an Early Bronze Age mud-plaster domed structure, which was used as a kiln to dry malt and make beer. We also heard a report on the excavators’ efforts to reproduce this Early Bronze Age beverage, and while it was described as drinkable, it also sounded like none of them were going to be making it their regular brew! Next, we stopped at the Chalcolithic site of Cholarakas-Palloures, where excavations are being directed by Bleda Düring. The dig here is just beginning – we visited on the fourth day of its first season! Still, the team had already uncovered some significant architectural features and was just beginning to find pottery and ground stones.
We in addition got a behind-the-scenes look at the diggers’ lives by visiting their accommodations at the Lemba Archaeological Research Center, where we also met with the director, Paul Croft.
Finally, we visited Andrew McCarthy’s own digs, the Middle Chalcolithic cemetery at Souskiou, where excavations took place from 2001-2011, and Andrew’s current project at Prastio-Mesorotsos. This site is notable for remains that span almost the entire duration of Cyprus’s history, from the Neolithic through the mid-twentieth century. Only the Late Bronze Age is unrepresented. A highlight of this year’s work at the site was the building of a replica of a large Pre-Pottery Neolithic roasting pit and then using it to cook what sounded like an incredible feast. If only the team at Kissonerga-Skalia had sent over some beer . . .
And if only we could have stayed longer, for it turns out that three weeks was not nearly long enough to see every excavation we wanted to visit in Israel, Jordan, and Cyprus. To those of you we missed, our apologies. But Tom, Alina, and I had such a great time that we hope to come back and see you on some other visit!