The Tel Burna 2022 excavation season came to a close this week. We did very little digging. Most of our time was spent closing down the excavation.
Area D, where I was working, finished on Monday. We completed the excavations on Sunday. Monday morning was devoted to sweeping and cleaning to make the area look nice in the final photos. We took the shade tent down before we started sweeping, since dragging it across the excavation area would likely mess up our nice cleaning job. Sweeping kicks up a lot of dust, so when we finished cleaning the area at breakfast time, we were very hot, tired, and dusty.
After breakfast on Monday, I went to Area A1. They were still excavating and still had their shade tent up. I spent the rest of the day helping them finish up excavations. On Tuesday, we took down the shade tent and then swept and cleaned the area. Again, it was hot, dusty work.
Area B3, where I flew
After breakfast on Tuesday, I went to Area B3. They had finished excavating and were ready to start sweeping. They decided to risk taking the tent down after cleaning. It was nice to work in the shade.
Once the area was clean, we started taking the tent down. Since we didn’t want to mess up the squares, we were very careful to hold the tent well off the ground. I took one side. As I walked along the edge of the excavation area, I bunched up the tent in my arms so that none of it would drag. When we were about halfway across the excavation area, a strong gust of wind came up. I knew that if I let go of the tent, it would start flapping wildly, kicking up dust, and totally undoing our sweeping job.
I held onto the tent, both arms wrapped securely around the bundled edge. And then I flew. The wind caught in the tent lifted me off my feet and carried me into the excavation area. I alighted on a large wall stone for a moment before being lifted up again. Then the wind died and deposited me gently into the square. I was sitting on the ground, still holding tightly to the tent. I stood up as carefully as I could, trying not to create any damage to the carefully swept surface. I climbed back out of the square and we proceeded to finish removing the shade tent. Apart from a scattering of dry grass blown in by the wind, the area still looked quite nice.
At this point, Area B2 was the only area still working, since in addition to the areas that I helped with, Area G had also finished up at some point. I went to Area B2 and helped them clean and brush. Like Area B3, they opted to take down the shade tent after cleaning. I decided not to help with that since Area B2 is very deep, and my equilibrium was still a bit off after my little adventure in Area B3. I didn’t want to risk flying or falling into Area B2!
The excavation team stays at a kibbutz near Tel Burna. I wasn’t staying there, since my friend Leah lives nearby and offered me a place to stay, but I went to the kibbutz each afternoon because there was more work to do there.
On Tuesday afternoon, after eating lunch, we washed pottery for the last time. Then, while the dig staff read pottery from the previous day, I labelled the sherds saved from the previous pottery reading.
Once our work was finished at the kibbutz, we took off on a field trip to Tel Gezer. Gezer is an important biblical city and an impressive archaeological site. Recently, a wildfire swept across Tel Gezer, burning all the grass and brush.
The Tel Burna team, some of whom had excavated at Gezer in the past, wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to look for a missing boundary stone. Apparently, in decades past, someone found a piece of bedrock bearing an ancient inscription that marked the border of Gezer. Since then, the exact location of the stone has been lost, and nobody has been able to locate it in some time.
Some of the team members decided to go look for the boundary stone in hopes that it would be easier to spot after the fire had cleared the brush. The rest of the group would go on a tour of the site. I had been to Gezer multiple times before, so I opted to go with the group looking for the boundary stone. When we arrived on the far side of the tel at the portion of the site where the boundary stone was supposed to be, we discovered that this part of the tel had escaped the fire. In some places, the brush was well over my head.
I cheerfully pushed through the brush, inspecting every piece of bedrock that I found. The other team members did the same thing. We found multiple stones with interesting lines in them, but nothing that really looked like intentional writing.
I was having a great time, but it was a hot day, and I suddenly found that I was very tired. I laid down on a flat piece of bedrock and took a nap. I was rudely awakened by red ants biting me. I did not feel well, and I suspected that I had heat exhaustion. I could see two of my team members heading back across the tel. Nobody else was in sight. I followed but couldn’t keep up. Several times I had to sit down to rest.
Thankfully, someone noticed that I was missing. One of the cars stayed back when the group left and two of the men came looking for me. I was about ready to collapse when they found me. They helped me back to the car, got me some Gatorade, and drove me to Leah’s house, where I was staying. The electrolytes helped immensely, and after a cold shower and a good night’s sleep, I felt a lot better.
Wednesday was the final day at the site. The photography team took the final photos and flew a drone for aerial pictures. Then, we laid down felt in the squares and reinforced the walls with sandbags. This should help protect the site from erosion caused by the winter rains.
We headed back to the kibbutz, where part of the group had been packing things up. The dig staff did a final pottery reading and I helped label the final pottery sherds.
At this point, the work was finished, so the team decided to pay a visit to Tel Lachish. There are two active excavations there and a third one starting soon. We visited both active excavations. Yosef Garfinkel is excavating on the northern side of the tel. He is looking for the tenth-century occupation layer. We arrived during the team’s watermelon break. They shared their watermelon with us and Professor Garfinkel gave us an explanation of what he is finding in his excavation. He asked that we not take photos, since he has not yet published his findings.
We then crossed the tel and visited the excavation of Hoo Goo Kang. He is a former student of Professor Garfinkel and is trying to find a wall that corresponds to the wall in the northern excavations. This excavation area, on the side of the tel, is the steepest excavation that I have ever seen. I am not sure how they started the excavation without falling off the slope. There was a row of fence t-posts at the top of the hill. We speculated that perhaps they tied themselves to the posts via long ropes so that they wouldn’t fall.
Now that they have excavated level squares, the excavation area is much safer. They have not yet found the wall that they are looking for, but they have found several interesting things including a destruction layer.
After the Lachish tour, I headed back home to Ariel. It is so nice to be home and to sleep in my own bed. I had to go grocery shopping to re-stock my refrigerator and cupboard. Today I plan to unpack and clean house. The excitement of the summer excavation seasons is over, and I am ready to transition back into normal life.