Final Photos, Final Days

We wake up at 3:50 a.m. and put on our work clothes and shuffle over to the truck. We are the first to the site and Dan, one of the directors and the official photographer, perches a top his ladder with two cameras hanging, like a strange collection of ornaments, around his neck. We sweep little pockets of dust off dust and stoop down to pick up little pebbles. This strange ritual can only mean one thing: final photos.

After weeks of picking, hoeing, troweling, and brushing: it has all come to this moment. After we brush away the remaining loose dirt, we walk ceremoniously around the square so as not to disturb the dirt, which we have just smoothed away, with our messy footprints. The sun rises above the Hula Valley as Dan takes up his camera for the final shots. We gather to the side of our square watching; it seems so strange that everything has finished, that all our hours and days and weeks of work is captured by a collection of photographs.

The drone flies in—a buzz that we know well by now, but still it seems to surprise us, make us think for a second we are about to be swarmed by a mass of bees—and closes in to take the aerial shots, and we watch it, sleep-deprived as we are with a strange sort of awe. Each of the squares has had their turn for final photos and now, finaly, we are initiated in this strange ritual.

We take celebratory photos, throwing our arms up in the air, smiling, laughing, with a sense of relief but also sadness; the five by five meter patch of earth we have tended for so long will cease to be ours.

The photos are over. Our final week on the field has ended. We have been picking and hoeing, leveling down all our loci as fast as we can, and then brush off the dirt, cleaning each crevice; it suddenly ends. The sifters come down. The breakfast tent is dismantled. The stakes are removed. And suddenly it seems, with the exception of a few more holes in the ground, that we had never been here, and that the site is resting on the foothills of the Golan as it had been for many hundreds of years before we arrived.

Posted in Articles

Christening of the New Storage Container

A new artifact storage container was christened this Wednesday in an afternoon ceremony attended by friends of the excavation as well as the students, supervisors, and directors. It is a true testament to the endurance and productivity of the Omrit excavations that we have already filled the kibbutz’s old industrial chicken coop and a shipping container to the brim with our finds, and are ready to fill another space. In lieu of a bottle of champagne, a grey slip fine-ware (read: supermarket) vase was duct-taped and zip tied to a piece of shade-pole rope and filled with the excavation’s libation of choice in the field, lemon-lime Gatorade. Jennifer Gates-Foster, resident ceramicist, did the honors. Our kibbutz liaison Grete, the Grossmarks, and other invaluable associates of the project cut the ribbon on the container, and afterwards everyone took to the inside of the container with markers to leave varying inscriptions ranging from simple signatures to extensive inside jokes. In addition to toasting the new container, the ceremony also celebrated the publishing and printing of The Temple Complex at Horvat Omrit, Vol I: The Architecture by directors Michael C. Nelson, Andy Overman, and Dan Showalter, a work that has been 16 years in the making. As we finish up the season waking up at odder hours than usual to take final photos, it is heartening to see the awesome things that will be produced by our labor.

Posted in Articles

Pottery Washing Methodology

In addition to excavating in the field, we at Omrit wash and process the material culture we find. In the afternoons we gather on picnic tables in the quad to scrub the sherds (British spelling of shards, convention in archaeology, unclear exactly why, see also: artefacts) of pottery sifted out of the dirt we remove from our squares. This has been happening in the exact same location for 15 or so years, and the picnic tables have about a quarter of an inch of pottery sediment coating their surfaces and a graveyard of dropped sherds beneath them.

The picnic tables

The picnic tables





Cleaning the pottery makes it possible for our ceramicist to accurately identify the material that we find, but clean pottery always easy to produce. Some of these sherds have been sitting in compacted dirt since Carthago deletus est, so it can take a lot of scrubbing, a lot of time, and many changes of wash water to get them to a state where they can be read. If Jen, our ceramicist, rejects a batch of pottery, we have to rewash it—which no one wants. This happened a couple of times early on in the season.

I’m not sure if we were just doing it wrong before, but over the course of the past couple of weeks my square and I have developed a vastly improved methodology. Part of the problem seemed to be that the wash water was dirty and left sediment on the sherds. But keeping the wash water clean enough to actually clean the pottery required a ludicrous number of bucket changes, consuming time and water.

In our new and improved Two-Bucket method™ the sherds go through two steps- a scrub and a rinse. Sherds are scrubbed with water from a bucket that is free to get as murky as necessary, and when there is no more removable dirt the sherds are dropped or dunked into the rinse bucket. This method produces sherds that have almost no residual sediment once dried, and as we only ever have to change out the rinse bucket it saves both time and water.





This may seem like a minor accomplishment, but we are very proud of the efficiency of our solution. Other squares that have converted say it works well for them too, and Jen is happy— so we are all happy.

Finally, on the very small chance that no one else in classical archaeology washes with the Two-Bucket method™ we would like some intellectual credit for coming up with it sometime around June 8th. @American Institue of Archaeology @ American Archaeological Association @Israeli Antiquities Authority #notactuallytrademarked #butcouldbe

Square J22 aka best square   right to left: Ashley (Carthage) Dolly (Me) Zach (Carthage) Murph ( who knows man)

Yours truly, square J22 
aka best square
right to left: Ashley (Carthage), myself, Zach (Carthage), Murph (SJC)



Posted in Articles

The Kibbutz Store

“Walk north out of your room, follow the walking path past the snail, cross the street and head across the lawn until you get to Pocahontas, then turn left and you have arrived at the kibbutz store.”

The kibbutz store is an interesting place. It is a small community store that manages to carry the most essential and still the most random goods one could need. At first glance, the setting feels familiar: walk through the doors to face four aisles in front. The check out is on the left next to an ice cream refrigerator, which sits across from a table of cookies, crackers, and desserts that tempt customers as they walk in on the right. The aisles are organized by the items it carries: overpriced cereals and dry breakfast foods on the far right are adjacent to the teas, coffees, and condiments, followed by canned and jarred foods, then finally cosmetics and toiletries. A small produce room sits to the far left and the walls are lined with refrigerated goods.

Closer inspection reveals a few miscalculations that I had both entering Israel and on my inaugural visit to the kibbutz store. First, my fears of not having access to my most essential food group, peanut butter, were sufficiently quelled. Before arriving in Israel, and noting the forewarned European skepticism towards the tasty creamy (or crunchy) goodness, I was so concerned about parting with peanut butter that I brought my own. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Every meal is appropriately equipped with at least one jar and if this isn’t enough, the kibbutz store is well stocked with three different brands. In a store barely larger than the 4 by 4 squares we are digging, in a land where olives, hummus, and unidentified spreads abound, this caught me by surprise. Next, I am at a loss to find my most frequent vehicle for peanut butter, bananas, despite the endless acres of banana trees that line the roads to Cesaria Maritima. But for all the bananas that I have not found, the kibbutz store makes up tenfold in quantities of olives and instant coffee. Together every variety of these two commodities occupy an entire half of an aisle.

Soon after orienting myself around the store, I came upon my most fateful blunder. Upon arriving in Israel, one of my first observations was that it is very easy to communicate in English. Most people speak English and signs, directions, and labels are printed in Hebrew, Arabic, and English, so I thought finding the products I wanted would be easy. But this, too, turned out to be a slight miscalculation. I was in search of some yogurt as I wandered to the back of the store. On most products, while the branding and images look familiar, the names are given in Hebrew and Arabic, but only a few are translated into English. In the dairy section, I found single serving cups adjacent to larger four serving containers of what I presumed to be yogurt next to the cottage cheese that we often have at second breakfast in the field. I decided on some white creamy looking dairy product with a blue label and nice cows grazing in the image on the front.

When I got back to my room, I tried my mystery dairy: tangier than most plain yogurts I’ve eaten but similar in consistency to the Greek yogurt that I live on at home. Perhaps different bacterial cultures, my roommates and I surmised after passing around the strange white stuff, and not bad with a little cereal and honey thrown on top. Not having much of an aversion to any food, I didn’t mind this funny tasting yogurt and lived on it for breakfast for a few days. I did this until one afternoon, when I talked with a graduate student square supervisor who mentioned in an off-hand comment how funny it is that even though Israel is geographically close to Greece, Greek yogurt is nowhere to be found. If Israel has no Greek yogurt, then what have I been eating for days? I still have not discovered what my mystery product was, but to be honest I am too afraid to find out. I now stick to the clearly marked single serving Yoplaits which, as far as I can tell, contain the dairy product I desire. Still, I continue to feel a slight exhilaration with every purchase I make at the kibbutz store, as I never know with absolute certainty that the product I buy is what I anticipate. Perhaps I should look into that “hair conditioner” I bought last week…

Posted in Articles

First week in the books

Because I arrived late on Tuesday evening, today marked the end of my first week of work at Omrit. It’s amazing to me – less than a week ago, I didn’t know the difference between a pick and a hoe (let alone how to use them), I had never worn a bug net, and I thought bandanas were worn primarily as a fashion statement. It did not take long to learn that picks are for picking while hoes are for hoeing, despite my best efforts to conflate the tasks. And on the particularly windless days my bug net is my new best friend, with perhaps the exception of my loaned Carhartts, which are so thick and durable they will survive any amount of dirt and rocks I throw at them. The gnats here can be unreal – I’ve never seen so many and never imagined they could be so aggravating. They have become my biggest test of patience and source of paranoia. Some even sneak through the bug net even when I think I’ve secured its bottom edges in my shirt’s neck hole, finding their way to my ears, eyes, and nose. And regarding the beloved bandana, it turns out they win the award for greatest versatility and creativity. They simultaneously act as a bug guard, sun protector, dust blocker, and hair restrainer, in addition to their use as a fashion statement. Everyone has their own unique purpose for a bandana.

In the past week I have learned so many new things, it is actually remarkable to think about. I’m catching on to the jargon of the field. For example, if someone directed me to, “find a patiche and trim the balk on the east side of H16,” I know exactly what to do. Katie of one week ago said, “what’s a patiche?” Put me at a sifter and I can identify pottery, bones, shells, tessera, glass, and nails in 37 seconds per bucket. Give me pottery to wash and I can sit down for six hours scrubbing away because I now have the blister-turned-callous in just the right spot on my thumb from washing the never-ending supply of pottery. Monday was my group’s pottery washing day when we did just this and in the afternoon had a lesson in pottery reading. It provided more purpose and context for understanding what we are doing in the field. So far, the project is off to a good start and looking forward to the coming weeks.

Posted in Articles

Affirmation through Reconstruction

My recent emergence from the shadowy timber post-holes and decayed Roman villas that constitute England’s archaeological landscape and my plunge back into the comforting materiality of Late Roman cities in Israel has set me thinking about the reuse and reconstruction of Roman remains in areas such as Palestine. Although Roman culture quickly disintegrated in Britain and other parts of Western Europe, the political continuity of the Roman into the Byzantine Empire in the Near East ensured the cultural relevance of the Roman legacy in Palestine well into the 6th and 7th centuries. Yet artistic and architectural styles did not remain unchanged. How did the inheritors of the Roman legacy in the East choose to reuse, reconstruct, and reinterpret the Roman remains they took care to preserve along the skylines of their respective cities?

Bet She'an, a Roman Decapolis city south of the Sea of Galilee which expanded and grew during the Late Roman period (4th to 6th centuries C.E.)

Bet She’an, a Roman Decapolis city south of the Sea of Galilee which expanded and grew during the Late Roman period (4th to 6th centuries C.E.)

An interesting case is Bet She’an, a site the Omrit crew visited last month. The site, with its hippodrome-cum-odeon, the monumental scenae frons of its Roman theater, and its sprawling bath complexes, was an impressive statement of Roman power in the recently Hellenized Near East. By the Byzantine period, however, the fabric of the city had begun to change due to the cultural shifts associated with the conversion to Christianity and the collapse of the Empire in the West. Traditionally, the shifts witnessed in Eastern Roman cities during the Late Roman period have been viewed with implicit value judgment, and Byzantine construction is often termed “inferior” to that of the Roman period. At Bet She’an, Late Roman additions to the city often prioritized economic functionality rather than aesthetic attractiveness as determined by the traditional Greco-Roman perspective: new streets meandered away from their straight Roman predecessors, basalt replaced limestone as the preferred building material, Byzantine shops filled in the intercolumniations of Roman porticos.

Yet the Late Roman period was also a time of population and economic expansion, and although the city remained proud of its Roman architectural heritage, it also worked to fit the old values into the very different visual culture of Late Antiquity. In the 6th century, a Late Roman basilica replaced a former Roman colonnade and decorative pool that ran along one of the main east-west streets of the city. Rather than destroying the colonnade, however, the inhabitants of the city used the elegant Roman portico to support a gabled roof. On the other side, a mirroring arcade (of ‘negligent construction,’ according to the excavators) was built with spolia of various sizes and shapes collected from former Roman buildings across the site. In a Greek metric inscription on the building, the personified arcade thanks his benefactor, who, it claims, had prevented the Roman portico from collapse. The Late Roman period dramatically changed the aesthetic of this portico. Yet its reuse nevertheless signifies a continuing allegiance to the Roman tradition—an allegiance indicated by its very reconfiguration of the Roman past according to new cultural values.

In the most recent stages of excavation at Omrit, we have explored the town that grew up around the temple in the Late Roman period. Although excavation at Omrit has not yet found the astonishingly well-preserved remains from the period that are seen at Bet She’an, many of the same trends reappear: the tendency to incorporate Roman spolia into Late Roman basalt walls, the division of Roman porticos into small shops, the localization of ceramics and other material finds. As we continue to excavate at Omrit, we should take care to avoid the value judgments that have been imposed on other sites in the Near East. Even the fact that settlement at Omrit—a settlement that may have grown up as a direct result of the pagan temple–flourished in the Late Roman settlement demonstrates a continued adherence to Roman legacy despite the religious and cultural changes of the 4th and 5th centuries. As excavation continues in future years and no doubt will uncover more Late Roman material, it will provide a fertile ground for the study of the ways in which a post-Roman settlement balanced an esteemed architectural heritage with new artistic values that rejected some of the precepts upon which the Roman visual tradition had been established. Perhaps, as at Bet She’an, the changes seen at Omrit in the Late Roman period did not reject or degrade the Roman tradition, but rather revitalized it through reinterpretation.

In the 21st century, we often think of ‘reconstruction’ in a scientific, exacting sense. Many sites attempt to ‘reconstruct’ their antique past by providing visitors with hypothetical drawings or sculpture that supposedly depict what ancient life ‘really looked like.’ Excavators at Umm al-Qanatir, the site of a Late Roman Jewish synagogue in the Golan, has even used computer programs to locate the original placement of wall tumble, with the ultimate goal of complete reconstruction of the building. In many ways, our ‘scientific’ reconstruction of archaeological sites betrays the same goals as the Late Roman basilica at Bet She’an. Despite our careful measurements and delineation of loci, as we work from the tangled mess that represents the reality of complex stratigraphy, of the ever-feared contamination, we realize that even this reconstruction necessitates interpretation, imagination. Yet this act of imaginative reconstruction–of recreating the past for a new generation–also revitalizes. No less than the Late Romans in Bet She’an and at Omrit, we archaeologists meet the Roman tradition halfway, constantly breathing into its remains the inspiration of contemporary values, constantly searching for its legacy in the aesthetic milieu of the 21st century, constantly reaffirming its continuing relevance by its comparison with our own world.

Posted in Articles

Rebecca’s Omrit Blog Post

The 2014 Omrit Excavation season has officially come to a close. I have really enjoyed my first season at Omrit. I learned a lot, and I leave with many wonderful memories. The past four weeks have gone by so quickly. My square, G16, was originally 5 x 10 meters. The first day at the site, we raked up shrubs and giant invasive onions. That same first day we started picking and hoeing; activities that are essential to archaeological excavations. We even collected a few pieces of pottery. Little did I know that we would eventually collect over 300 buckets of artifacts: pottery, stone, brick, metal, and coins…just to name a few.
As we discovered small pieces of critical and interesting artifacts in some areas, we began sifting. My square’s supervisor, Amy, created a daily rotation of hoeing, picking, and sifting. There were a total of five people in the square including Amy. Tom, another square member, stayed in one area of the square by himself during the season, so he was not part of the rotation. The rotation consisted of Erin, Rich, and me.

G16 after Week 1

G16 after Week 1

G16 after Week 3

G16 after Week 3

After the first day we knew that there was a wall in G16, but we did not know how long the wall was. As the weeks continued and we started opening and closing numerous loci we discovered lots of tumble (basalt and limestone), which we then carefully removed. We found more walls that were adjacent and parallel to the first wall we discovered.

A beautiful sunrise, seen from Omrit

A beautiful sunrise, seen from Omrit

During the last few days the directors wanted us to wall chase in the northern most locus; however, given the limited amount of time and the depth we had to dig down to, in order to find the possible wall from a neighboring square excavated the previous season, we were unable to find the wall. Instead, we abandoned the locus and focused on the southern half of G16. In the southern half there were limestone walls, built in various fashions such as header-stretcher and layers of cut stones.

Taking final photos

Taking final photos

G16 after Week 4

G16 after Week 4

G16 after Week 4

G16 after Week 4

On June 27th we took our final pictures. The other squares took their pictures early in the morning; however, we took our pictures at dusk. It is essential for final pictures that there are no shadows. Rather than hurrying to beat the sun, we were hurrying to still have sun. We were able to finish our final photos successfully.
I am really grateful for this opportunity. This was my first experience in archaeology, and I truly had a great time.
-Rebecca Williams ’17


Posted in Articles

Excavating with a Broken Wrist

I have a broken wrist. On May 4th, while visiting Scotland with some friends, I fell off the National Monument and landed on my right wrist. My third thought, after “that hurts way more than anything else I have experienced” and “should my wrist look like that,” was “how can I dig with a broken wrist?”

My friends and I posing on the monument just moments before my fall.

Me and my friends posing on the monument just moments before my fall.

The word “dig” stuck out in my mind because digging requires shovels and shovels require two hands. However, I have since learned that rarely do we use shovels at Omrit because they displace the dirt too much to catch all that may be hiding within it. Despite my attempts, the hoe is also not for me because in order to get the full benefit of the tool, some wrist movement is needed. And as much as I wanted to try, I am not allowed to use a pick axe.

My approved tools are all geared towards smaller-scale and detail work, such as a trowel or a hand pick. Because of this, I am often given smaller loci to level out or asked to articulate and clean the walls and balks to avoid contamination. Up in Y8, the square is too low for me to get safely in and out so I work on sifting the dirt buckets to find artifacts. Honestly, I love this job because it feels a bit like a treasure hunt and I was always that kid who kept her head down and looked for cool rocks or coins on the ground. Also, the artifacts are an important part of the dig and being able to pick around for them makes me feel like I am being helpful despite my injury. While I am not doing as much heavy lifting or pulling back as much dirt as most people, I have a job that allows me to contribute to the efforts of the team while not risking further damage to my wrist.

Troweling off the top of the balk in Y8.

Troweling off the top of the balk in Y8.

I fear this trip, and this injury, may have given me a new nickname: Bag Lady. Initially, I wore a bag out into the field, as I would when showering, to avoid getting dirt on and in my cast. Realizing how soon I’d run out of the bags I had packed, I requested people give me their spare bags, figuring two or three people may give me bags after trips to the kibbutz store or into town. Instead, I have become the final resting place for most people’s bags, with my room slowly becoming a pile of bags. Unfortunately, at this point in the dig, I have opted to wear a sling to relieve the strain on my atrophied muscle and now have an ever-growing pile of bags which will never see the dirt of Omrit.
My ever-growing pile of bags.

My ever-growing pile of bags.

I’d like to say that being in the cast takes away all my pain and the broken wrist is more of an inconvenience than an injury. But, as is to be expected, my time digging has caused some significant pain to my wrist. There were a few days where the pain was bad enough that Professor Rubin wanted me to go to the hospital or at least contact my doctor back home. It was decided, after assessing the painful areas and consulting with my doctor, that the pain was caused from the use of the muscle which had become atrophied after a month and a half of disuse. This episode prompted me to get a sling to stop the temptation I constantly felt to use my right hand and take the strain of supporting the weight of the cast off the muscles in my wrist. While the sling does not solve all the problems, the pain has greatly decreased and I have to spend less time worrying about my wrist and more time focusing on the dig.

Every day, I have moments of frustration because I cannot do all the tasks everyone else can. After months of building excitement over this dig and the implications it held for my future, to have something holding me back is definitely not ideal. Despite these feelings, I am so grateful to have been given this opportunity and to be treated like a valuable member of my square even if I only have one hand to use.

Posted in Articles

Kibbutz Cuisine

Archaeology is hard work. Hard work, in the hot sun, early in the morning. What we do here takes energy, and this energy relies on a steady source of fuel. Much of the time, students at Omrit live meal to meal. In many ways the food served at Kibbutz Kfar Szold is one of the most important elements of a successful dig season. For that reason, I feel compelled to say at least a few words about what we put in our bodies during a typical day on the dig.

On a normal day, we eat four meals. One consumes the first of those between 4 and 5am, depending on when that person wakes up and gets to the bus. This meal, appropriately titled “breakfast,” is one that we each prepare for ourselves the night before at dinner. Most students fashion some sort of peanut butter sandwich for their morning sustenance. Occasionally there are outliers–students who choose to forego the sandwich option in favor of another, typically healthier, snack purchased at the kibbutz store–but students differ mainly in how they choose to accessorize their peanut butter sandwich. Some opt for a smooth, sugary top layer of strawberry jelly, others spread a thick layer of date spread or apricot jam. A select few accompany the peanut butter with a sumptuous layer of faux-Nutella chocolate spread, ensuring that they will arrive at the site thoroughly energized.

Ignore all that mayonnaise--this is a photo of someone else's sandwich.

A full sandwich with turkey, cucumbers, tomatoes, hard-boiled eggs, a bit too much mayonnaise, and pepper; a slice of fresh-cut cantaloupe, and a savory potato pastry. Served with hot black coffee.

The next meal arrives in the field around 8:30. We call this meal “second breakfast,” though I can’t say that first breakfast is ever substantial enough to be called an actual meal. Second breakfast gives us our first real nourishment of the day–man cannot live on extra gluten-y white bread, processed pulverized nuts, and artificially sweetened fruit spread alone. A typical meal consists of a bread roll, sliced cucumbers and tomatoes, hard-boiled eggs, and either lunchmeat or cheese. Few eat these items piecemeal, choosing instead to construct some sort of sandwich, usually seasoned with a combination of mayonnaise, Tabasco, and dirt. Try as we might, the execution of these sandwiches is usually somewhat spotty. Occasionally, a ray of light will descend from heaven, bestowing upon us heaven’s bounty in the form of egg salad, tuna, or savory flaky pastries (see photo). Fruit is normally served as dessert, and hot beverages abound–or at least as long as there’s hot water in the heater.

Lunch is far less predictable. We eat lunch between 1 and 2pm in “The Factory,” a name we have given it for its normal use as the cafeteria for employees of Lordan, a tube coil manufacturer located on the kibbutz. I welcome this variety, since the daily routine tends to take a rough toll on one’s sanity. Still, the moment this variety transforms into mystery, the lunch experience can have an entirely different feel, the excitement of a novel culinary experience turning into the dread of uncomfortable change. Last year, I picked out what appeared to be a delicious chicken dish, the roughly cut strips of chicken braised in an earthy yellow sauce with dark gray olives. What a joy to be in a Mediterranean country where they serve olives in everything! I was truly fortunate. It was only when I had eaten four or five olives that I noticed the interweaving network of veins and arteries that, irrespective of whether they were figments of my imagination, were clearly staring at me from their place on my fork. I grudgingly ate the rest of this now unpalatable amalgam of chicken and kidneys, reminding myself all the while that there was really nothing wrong with the taste of the dish. Even though I would have no problem eating kidneys when they were clearly labeled, the surprise of this instant was enough to do me in.

Food tastes better served on a plastic tray.

A hunk of roasted chicken, couscous, cucumber and onion salad, a piping hot savory meat pastry, a slice of watermelon, and a tiny glass of water.

That being said, lunches on the kibbutz are nutritious and enjoyable. We first choose entrées, each of the five options characterized as fish, chicken, or “meat,” the latter providing a healthy dose of mystery along with the expected fat and protein. My personal favorite is the “chicken balls”–hollowed out spheres of chicken stuffed with rice and ground beef. Lather on the tahini and you’re good to go. Along with the entrée, we each choose several sides, typically rice or couscous, potatoes, cucumber salad, hummus or baba ghanoush. All of this gets washed down with either water or a vaguely medicinal pink beverage.

Dinner comes at 7:30pm, which is shockingly late given that an excavator’s typical bedtime is between 8:30 and 9 o’clock. I’m convinced this doesn’t give the food enough time to digest, but I suppose there’s no getting around our crazy schedule. Dinner is catered by a neighboring kibbutz, so the food is prepared especially for us. The setup is essentially the same as lunch–a few meat entrées, rice, hot vegetables, soup, and several cold side dishes, the most important being hummus. Meat dishes are typically pretty simple: chicken legs in a mild oily marinade, lamb patties in a thick brown glaze, what appears to be a dense beef stew drained of most of its broth, and the ubiquitous chicken schnitzel. Sides include hummus, tahini (which I place above hummus in the condiment hierarchy, second only to the powerful chunky emerald sauce which I insist on calling “spicy green stuff,” or SGS for short), a simple green salad with delicious cherry tomatoes, red cabbage salad, and sliced pickles. I find this meal the most fulfilling, but I find it strange how quickly it gets eaten. Our food tends to disappear as quickly as it gets on our plates, which demonstrates either how hungry we are or how much we want to get to bed (probably both, honestly).

Just look at all that green. It's like I'm a rabbit. A rabbit who does archaeology. Seriously, can you imagine a rabbit who does archaeology?

A cross section of some unknown animal, potato salad, green salad, pickled vegetables topped with SGS, and soup, served with water in an impressively flimsy plastic cup.

Students and staff tend to speak ill of the food on the dig, but at the end of the day it’s the only thing keeping us going. All things considered, our food is pretty damn good, and the situation has been and could be much, much worse; although I wasn’t around to experience it, I’ve heard many a story about the now-mythical corn pone served in years past. Despite what you may have gathered from the tone of this blog entry, I really enjoy the food served at Omrit, and not just because I prefer it to eggless cornbread.

Posted in Articles

We are at Omrit for archeology, but it is easy to get distracted by the local wildlife. At least, I get distracted; everyone else just squish the spiders on sight get back to digging.

Beyond the dig site stretch hills covered in golden fields of grass and spattered with the round, violet clusters of Globe-thistles. Amongst this austere beauty leap packs of Syrian Rock Hyraxes like so many exotic Guinea Pigs.

That is so damn cute. — Max Dietrich

That is so damn cute.
— Max Dietrich

The resemblance to the Guinea Pig is superficial, as the closest living relatives of the Hyrax are Elephants and Manatees (Hyraxes even have a pair of little tusk-like teeth). They are known to make a loud grunting noise when they chew, and this has caused them to be mistaken for ruminants in Leviticus 11:4-8 and designated as non-Kosher.

The insects abound. The Kibbutz where we stay has already been visited by an elegant giant moth and ghostly white praying mantis. In square J21 alone I coexist with all sorts of cute critters: centipedes, scorpions, fire ants, spider ants, jumping spiders, big spiders, little spiders, black spiders, white spiders, striped spiders, and even a mother spider tending her brood of spiderlings.

With so many spiders around, it is little surprise that a few of spider wasps have made homes in in the rocks nearby. These wasps paralyze spiders with their sting and implant them with eggs. Once the larvae hatch they eat their way out of the host spider: Alien-style. Between the cattle and the wasps (which also live in Williamstown) the fauna at Horvat Omrit can be surprisingly familiar.

Posted in Articles