Last weekend was a lot of fun. I needed to run some errands for the Shiloh dig, so I rented a car. Of course, I used it for the errands, but I also took advantage of the opportunity to go sight-seeing.
On Friday, I rode a bus into Jerusalem, where I picked up the rental car. It was a Kia Picanto, a cute little hatchback with great gas milage, but not a lot of power. Once I had successfully navigated the maze that is the streets of Jerusalem, I headed south. My first official errand was in Beer Sheva, but I had a little extra time, so I decided to make a stop along the way.
Joshua 10 talks about a coalition of five kings that attacked Gibeon, an ally of the Israelites. The Israelites defended the Gibeonites, chasing away the enemy armies. The five kings hid in a cave, but the Israelites found and executed them. Joshua commanded the Israelites to put the bodies of the kings back in the cave where they had hidden and close up the entrance with large stones.
The question is, where was this cave? One of my classmates from TBS has been researching this issue, and he theorized that it might be at a place called Luzit. It is in the area indicated by the biblical text, and there are a lot of natural caves near Luzit, so it seems like a good candidate site.
I managed to find the area. There was a dirt farm road, and since it had recently rained, the road was pretty muddy. I drove partway down it before I decided to park and walk. I had two goals. First, to find the caves, and second, to find a footprint-shaped enclosure that was visible from Google Earth and looked a lot like early Israelites sites from farther north. I found the area with the caves, but it was well-fenced with tall security fencing and lots of “keep out” signs. I kept out.
Next, I tried to find the footprint. It turned out that it, too, was in a fenced area. It was just barbed-wire fencing, probably for livestock, and I thought about climbing through. However, I didn’t want to get into too much trouble, especially since I didn’t have anyone else along to rescue me, so I stayed out of that field, too. I’d like to go back again with some buddies and explore a little more.
I returned to my car and headed back to the road, but my Luzit adventures were not yet over. There were some mud puddles in the road. Apparently I didn’t choose the best route through them on the way back, and the car got stuck in the mud. Thankfully, with some brush thrown under the tires and some careful maneuvering, I managed to get it un-stuck. I’m not sure what I would have done if I couldn’t get it out. I guess I could have taken up residence in the caves.
With muddy boots and tires, I hit the road again and headed to Beer Sheva. I needed to collect Shiloh flints from the flint expert who had analyzed them. He sent me his address, but it wasn’t in Google Maps. I drove around Beer Sheva for a while. Finally, I got him to send me his coordinates, and then I found him pretty easily. There were two (heavy) boxes of flints. He asked me where I was headed next. I said that I had time for a bit of sightseeing, but I hadn’t decided where to go. He recommended Ashkelon because it’s a two-for-one site: You get to go to an archaeological site and the beach at the same time.
I’ve been to Ashkelon a couple of times already, but once he put the idea of going to the beach into my head, I couldn’t think of anywhere else I’d rather go.
Once I arrived, I headed straight for the water. The weather was perfect, warm and sunny with a light, salty breeze. The waves lapped rhythmically on the sand. I walked along slowly, picking up pretty shells.
When I had walked the whole length of the beach, I started touring the archaeological ruins. Ashkelon is probably most famous for being one of the five capital cities of the Philistines. It was also occupied before that, in the Bronze Age, and afterwards, in the Roman and Byzantine Periods. There is an impressive mud brick gate from the Bronze Age. I also found a theatre from the Roman period which I hadn’t seen before. The only thing that I didn’t find was anything from the Iron Age, when it was a Philistine city. I’m not sure how I missed that part. I thought about doubling back and looking again, but by this time it was getting a bit late.
I called it a day and headed home to Ariel. I had strategically rented the car on the weekend because that is the only time that there is any parking available at the university. Sure enough, I was able to find a parking spot near my apartment building. I took a few minutes to knock the excess mud off the car. There were mud splatters everywhere – even on the car’s roof.
The next day, Saturday, was a free day for me. I didn’t have any errands to run. I thought that I would go up north. I wanted to visit Tell Dan and Banias, two sites at the very northern edge of Israel. When I looked at the route, however, I realized that in order to avoid the toll road, I’d have to cut over to the west and drive up the coast. I noticed that this route would take me right past Caesarea, and the thought of spending a little more time at the beach was too good to pass up. I decided to stop there on my way.
Caesarea is a coastal city, famous for its Herodian man-made harbor. It was occupied from the Persian period through the Ottoman period, but it was at its height during the Roman and Byzantine periods. It features a theatre, a hippodrome, a promontory palace, and an aquaduct, among other things.
There is also a well there that I was particularly interested in because of some research I have done on curse tablets, otherwise known as defixiones. The general idea was that if you wanted to curse someone, you would get a magician to do an incantation and etch a curse on a small sheet of metal. You would then fold or roll it up and put it somewhere where the gods could find it and enact the curse. At Caesarea, archaeologists found around 60 curse tablets in this well alone.
I explored the archaeological ruins and then I spent some time on the beach. It was another nice, sunny day. The waves crashed on the ruins jetting out into the sea.
When I finally left Caesarea, I realized that I had spent so much time there that I didn’t have time for my planned trip up north. It was too early to go home, though, so I quickly looked up sites in the vicinity.
I found one a little ways down the coastline called Apollonia. I had never been there before, so I read up on it.
The site was founded in the Persian period by Phoenicians. At that time, it was named Arsuf. It was renamed Apollonia in the Hellenistic period. The city grew and flourished during the Roman and Byzantine periods. There was a glass-making factory there in the Roman period. By the 6th century AD, the city was renamed Suzussa. The Crusaders eventually captured it and built a fortress there, which the Mamelukes captured after a 40-day battle. Eventually, the city was abandoned and never re-inhabited.
I wandered around the site, looking at the archaeological ruins. I particularly wanted to see the glass-making factory, but I never found it. The Crusader fortress was impressive. I spent some time enjoying watching the sea crashing against the rock cliffs. I stayed until the site closed for the evening, and then I headed back to Ariel.
On Sunday, my plan was to go to KAMAT, the regional offices of the Israel Antiquities Authority, and then to return the rental car.
I loaded the flints that I had picked up on Friday as well as a few other things that I had collected over the past few weeks. I pulled the car around to the pottery lab at Ariel University and loaded a storage jar from Shiloh that they had reconstructed. I put it in the back seat and buckled it in.
When I arrived at KAMAT, I pulled the car around to the back, which involved driving around the Monastery of Euthymius, a well-preserved complex with beautiful mosaic floors. I offloaded my cargo into the storage container that is assigned to Shiloh.
Next, I began searching through the small finds from past dig seasons at Shiloh. I had a list of items from various team members who are working on publishing our finds. I needed to measure some items, photograph some, and determine the material type for some. I spent a couple of hours there, and accomplished most of my goals. There were some items I couldn’t find, but given the chaotic state of the container, it’s not surprising. Maybe sometime I will go and spend a day or two organizing it.
Once I was finished at KAMAT, I headed to Jerusalem to return the rental car. My timing was good, and I returned it just shortly before it was due back. On foot again, I headed to the bus stop. I would have liked to spend some time in Jerusalem, but I didn’t want to miss the bus.
There were two busses heading to Ariel. One had a route with a lot of stops in every settlement along the way. The other, which departed about ten minutes later, was much more direct and arrived in Ariel thirty minutes earlier than the other. The first bus pulled up. I had planned to take the more direct bus, but I have learned that the busses are very unreliable. If I waited and the direct bus didn’t show up, I would be stuck for several more hours. I applied the old saying, “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush,” and boarded the bus. It turned out that the length of the ride didn’t matter. I fell asleep and napped most of the way back. And, thus ended my weekend adventure.