Through the ASOR Platt Fellowship, I was able to participate in my first dig. I attended a field school run by UNC Chapel Hill at Huqoq Kibbutz in northern Israel. The site we worked on consisted of a modern Arab village abandoned in 1948 that was built over the remains of a Byzantine-era Jewish settlement. This was the first season of excavation at the site, so I got to see what archaeology is like from the beginning. Even though our goal was to locate the Byzantine-era synagogue, we paid as close attention to 20th century remains as to 6th century ones.
The first square I worked in was in the room of a house from the modern Arab village. We excavated through several layers of plaster until we reached a uniform plaster surface covered with rubble, ash, and burnt timbers. When we found a coin dating from 1927-1945 in this destruction layer, we knew that the building had burned down at some point after 1927 but before the settlement’s abandonment.
The second square I worked in was in an area with several architectural fragments characteristic of Byzantine-era synagogues lying at the surface. We had many interesting modern finds in the square, including leather shoes, bone combs, a cache of musket balls, the barrel of a musket, and a pair of scissors. However, as we dug deeper we began turning up tesserae squares and Roman minum coins. In the last week of the season, we uncovered the first course of a massive east-west running wall that is possibly the wall of the synagogue, but because we were so close to the end of the season, we left it unexcavated. This decision taught me a valuable lesson about the need for patience and forethought when seeking to learn as much as possible from a site.
The month in Israel allowed me to experience archaeology in a way that a textbook can never fully describe: the long days of hauling dirt, the important and often difficult task of identifying loci, the need for meticulousness in every decision, and above all the excitement of discovery. I am extremely grateful to ASOR for providing me with this opportunity.