Drone Photography

Grid 23 had its first drone photograph this week. It's a time consuming process which begins the day before the photograph when the grid is cleaned and the shade cloth is dropped.  Once it is down, the grid is swept a second time to make sure it is clean and there are no visible footprints.

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The next day, the race is on to beat the sun and the shadows it casts as it rises over the top of the tel. The drone photographer comes and lays out a series of anchor points, which are also surveyed in by GIS, that aid in the georectification of the photograph so we know exactly where we are. Next, the photographer walks around the grid taking photos every few steps. Later, those photos are stitched together to build an Agisoft Photo Scan which is used to build 3D models. 

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Once that is completed, the drone goes up and another series of photographs is taken.

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When the drone photographer is all done, the shade cloth goes up and everyone gets back to work. It may take a lot of time but the bird's eye view offers an invaluable perspective of the grid and all the architecture within it.

Tel Tours

Staff and volunteers alike often get possessive about their dirt. Strange but true. When you spend a great deal of time uncovering your particular corner of Tel Shimron's history, it's easy to understand. You want to know what, where, when, and even why (if possible). It is equally true, however, that we are always curious about everyone else's dirt too. Twice a season, at the midpoint and near the end, volunteers and staff go on a tel tour where they have a chance to see all the excavation areas and ask questions. We went on such a tour last week as you can see in the pictures above. It was clear, as we visited each area, that we've come a long way from Week 1 when we started at ground level. Every area now has exposed architecture and interesting things to see.

We can't wait to see what the next two and a half weeks has in store for us.

Week Four of the Excavation

Excavating in Grid 92

Excavating in Grid 92

Excavating a Hellenistic Oil lamp in Grid 92

Excavating a Hellenistic Oil lamp in Grid 92

Exposing walls in Grid 23

Exposing walls in Grid 23

Excavating in Grid 94

Excavating in Grid 94

Grid 23

Grid 23

It's Week 4! The first half volunteers have departed and we've been joined by a new group of volunteers. We've also been joined by a team of microarchaeologists from the Weizmann Institute of Science. The next three weeks promise to be as busy as the first three as we continue to work. Grid 92 is exposing more of the Middle Bronze Age while Grid 94 continues to excavate the Hellenistic period. And in Grid 23, work continues on the large Roman/Byzantine period building exposed last week.

The Pottery Compound

We are at the midpoint of the season. Thursday the volunteers went on a tel tour and for the first time saw all the excavation areas. It was a fascinating journey that took them to Crusader, Mamluk, and Late Roman/Byzantine levels in Grid 23 to Late Hellenistic/Early Roman levels in Grid 94 and, finally, the Middle Bronze Age in Grid 92. And then Friday was the last day of excavation for our first half of the season volunteers. As they leave this weekend, we will be joined by new volunteers for the second half of the season as our work continues. 

As mentioned previously, much of that work happens not in the field, but rather in the pottery compound. In the pictures below, the archaeobotany team prepares samples for flotation and then examines the results. Our tech coordinator makes sure all the laptops are ready to go while other team members work on publication projects. And all these photos? They are taken by the dig photographer who takes photos in the field as well as photos of special objects in the studio. 

Fieldwork

Archaeobotanists give us vital information about the plant remains on our site. From them we can learn about the crops people were growing and the food they were eating and more about the natural ecology of the site. How does it work? When we come across certain types of layers, such as a floor, a dump, a pit, or a floor bedding, we collect a bucket of dirt and send it in to the archaeobotanists. They then use a flotation machine to separate the heavy fraction (usually small stones, pebbles, shell and other debris) from the light fraction (botanical remains including seeds and pits). Once they've done that, they sort and identify the material and in so doing, give us another clue about the history of Tel Shimron.

In the pictures above, the archaeobotanists visit Grid 23/24 and discuss a flotation sample with the volunteer who collected it. Below, Adam, the Grid Supervisor of Grid 92, discusses stratigraphy and baulks with the co-directors.

The Registrar

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We've talked a great deal about the pottery compound and all the things we do there from eating breakfast and lunch to washing pottery and processing artifacts. It's that last piece, processing artifacts, that we focus on today.

Every day we find pottery, bone, glass, metal and any number of other artifacts during excavation. Many of these go straight to specialists but eventually they all make their way, the special objects faster than others, into the hands of our registrar, Krystal. She has the awesome task of cataloging, as well as describing and identifying, everything we find. It's a lot of work but it also means she gets to see everything we find. Not a bad job if you can get it. That isn't all she does, however. Krystal makes sure the pottery compound runs smoothly, that everyone has a place to work and the tools they need, and, at the end of the day, that everything is put away to await another day of work. 

So, a shout out to our registrar Krystal who helps make sure that our days run according to plan!  

History Comes to Life In Our Excavation

Co-Directors Daniel Master and Mario Martin meet with Ruth Dayan, Head of the Jezreel Valley Regional Council Eyal Betser and Zohar Betser. 

Co-Directors Daniel Master and Mario Martin meet with Ruth Dayan, Head of the Jezreel Valley Regional Council Eyal Betser and Zohar Betser. 

One of the challenges of archaeology is that the ancient remains cannot speak. As much as we learn about the ancient walls, floors, or artifacts, we only grasp a fragment of the humanity of a place. In Grid 92, we had the rare treat to excavate remains and then hear the rest of the story from someone who lived in them.  Just below the surface, we uncovered the remains of Irgun Shimron, a small settlement from the 1930’s.  From teapots and tin plates to bullets and bottles, we uncovered the story of the young people who called Tel Shimron home for a time. This is a typical archaeological story.  But, last week, we were fortunate enough to have one of the original residents bring that chapter of Tel Shimron's history to life.

 

And not just any resident, we met one of the luminaries of Israel’s history. Ruth Dayan, 100 years young, was born in Haifa and grew up in London. Ruth didn't stay in England, however, and she moved to Nahalal to attend the agricultural school (this is the place that we are staying in today).  She lived on Tel Shimron in 1935 where she and her then husband Moshe Dayan (Israel's 5th Minister of Foreign Affairs) lived in the area we now call Grid 92. Her job, along with other residents, was to plant trees on the hills to the east.

She shared many stories with us including one that highlighted her free spirit. As it happened, many of the other residents were from Russia and thought it unseemly for farmers' wives to be barefoot. This never stopped Ruth who always ran barefoot throughout their community, unmindful of such strictures.

Ruth Dayan went on to be a social activist founding a fashion and decorative arts house that provided jobs for new immigrants as well as establishing a Jewish-Arab social club, Brit Bnei Shem (Ibaa Sam).  She also supported women's causes as well as Bedouin rights.

It was a privilege to host Ruth, to tell her of what we had found in her old home, and to have her share her own stories which serve to make our discoveries all that more meaningful.

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Weekend Tours

When not excavating, volunteers have spent their weekends touring archaeological sites throughout northern Israel. Yesterday they visited Nimrod's Fortress. It was the perfect place to crawl around the base of one of the massive round towers and to practice archery.

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The weekend flew by and tomorrow we start our third week of excavation. In Grid 92 they expect to finish with 20th century occupation levels while in Grid 94 they will continue exposing a building that may date to the Late Hellenistic or Early Roman period. And in Grid 23, excavation will continue to expose levels belonging to the Late Roman/Byzantine, Crusader and Mamluk periods.