Adventures in Jezreel
By: Tim Smith, Recipient of a Member Supported Fellowship
As an archaeology major, I have spent the last three years learning about many things archaeology related, but I have not had the chance to use that knowledge by participating in field work until this summer. Thanks to the ASOR fellowship donors I was able to travel to Israel for my first field school experience. I spent four weeks in Tel Yizre’el, or Jezreel, which has a commanding view of the gorgeous Jezreel Valley. Instead of working on the upper tel, which is not really a tel, the 2015 Jezreel Expedition focused its attention on what is believed to be the lower tel just above the spring. Our day started when we got up at 4:30 and we were out on the site by 5:05, just in time to see the sun rise over the valley. We spent the morning working and had breakfast around 8:30 at the Jezreel Spring, then we worked some more until lunch time around 12:30. In the afternoons, we would have pottery readings or field trips to nearby archaeology sites and other locations of interest, and sometimes after dinner we would have lectures from professors participating in the dig on something related to Jezreel. During the pottery readings we were taught about the different types of pottery that were coming out of each of our squares and what that meant for what we were uncovering. Overall our education in archaeological field work was fairly extensive because we were taught everything from how to swing a pickax correctly to how to collect and input data into the databases.
I was assigned to area S on the lower tel in square H7. The first several days of digging, all we found were rocks and we started saying our favorite phrase “Jezreel Rocks”. As we moved the rocks we discovered baskets and baskets worth of pottery hidden in-between them. The layer of rocks and pottery was about a meter deep and seemed like fill from the Roman or Byzantine period because of all the mixed pottery types. Once we got past all the rocks we discovered a pit with many large pieces of pottery in it, including what could be a couple restorable pots. Even though there was no architecture found in the square that I worked in, I still got the chance to work on what might be an Early Bronze Age curved wall. I was moved over to a different area to take down a baulk in-between two squares from the previous season to try and discover a more precise date for the wall. Digging down we also discovered a surface on the outside of the wall, but it was not until we got below the surface that we started finding lots of pottery and lots of flint blades. When we read the pottery that we found around the wall, it seemed to point to the Early Bronze Age.
We were not just stuck on the Kibbutz and tel for four weeks, we also got to take field trips to other archaeological sites nearby. Some of the impressive sites we visited included Megiddo, Caesarea, and Sephora. It was very interesting to see other archaeological sites in the area and compare them to Jezreel. Of course all three of these sites were bigger than Jezreel, so I had to keep that in mind when comparing them. At these sites, I could see the some of the amazing discoveries found, as well as see good archaeological practices and bad archaeological practices. We saw the massive trenches of Megiddo that were dug by the University of Chicago in the early 1900’s. I also noticed how much work and money that it might take to turn Jezreel into a tourist site.
Working in Israel on tel Jezreel was a great experience that I will never forget. I learned so much from the experience that I will be able to use on future excavations, and I can’t wait to go on my next one. Working in Jezreel has reaffirmed my drive to become an archaeologist and to go on digs whenever possible. I do not know what the future holds for me, but I hope that I will be able to return to Jezreel and continue working at such an amazing site.
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