Hi-ho Hi-ho: It’s Off to Work We Go

Helen Alesbury writes:

While hitting the snooze button for the fifth time this morning at 4 AM I came to the startling and slightly amusing realization that we are a lot like the 7 dwarves in Snow White here at Megiddo. We dutifully get up and catch the bus (well, most of us) and march across rocky, untamed terrain with little tiny pick axes and buckets ready to dig away at the earth. Granted we are not in a mine shaft, and there is no evil witch plotting to take down our beloved caretaker, and lets face it, Snow White wouldn’t last a second in the hot Israeli sun, she would be as red as her poison apple in no time.

Regardless, we have gotten into a little routine after these first couple of days. Attempt to get at least 4 hours of sleep, defend your square like it is the last frontier, eagerly articulate walls and turn over stones hoping to find it signed “with love, from Shishaq”, and lather up with sun-block, until 1 when we drag ourselves down to the buses, and begin the second half of the day of pottery washing, lectures, and 20 minute power naps that turn into 3 hours. While pick axing this morning I was reminded of another Hollywood film, Holes, and proved it correct: the second day is always the hardest. While area Q will be the most marvelous area on the tel, there is no question that these first few days have been kind of laborious and tiring–I knew that archaeology was not swinging through booby traps with my lion whip while just swiping my swanky leather hat out of danger’s way, but I was not anticipating the level of weeding and clearing that we had to do. No matter how much we took off, there seemed to be more of the stubborn yellow grass everywhere we looked. After the first day of swinging pick axes and tearing out roots, we had to do it again yesterday. Muscles ached, and I know it sounds crazy…but it feels good. I am surprised that we all seem to have the same level of excitement of digging around in a 5 by 5 square from 5 AM to 1 PM to maybe find a nice pot or a pile of rocks. Perhaps we were all dropped as children, or simply left unsupervised at the sand box a little too long.

Granted, now we have strung the squares and there are some finds being had, no secret rooms with golden idols and sharp blades ready to decapitate us, but…we did find a really nice smooth rock…. My square (G 6) is one of the most irritating to dig around. There is a very clear room, with at least 4 walls that extend in each direction into other squares, but there are also many unimportant rocks that have been added over the past 100 years (such as in 1948 for armament–it still strikes me even today that Megiddo is such a strategic and valuable location for battles) and have nothing to do with the Assyrian stratum that we are attempting to uncover and understand. That being said it is a bit confusing to have the area supervisor, Norma come over and say “do not move anything” and then have Phillip, a bubbly and amazing Frenchman working in the square next to me shouting every once and a while “oh, calm down, it is just a rock” as he looks around for Norma and throws a rock over the ledge, hoping that she didn’t see. Honestly it is one of the most amusing, if not confusing, things I have ever seen.

Overall, this week has been one of the most tiring, and amazing weeks ever. I have spent so much time reading about technique and how-to and researching famous discoveries and civilizations and battles only to have to imagine it in my head. Here we have actual walls, actual features and layers. After the first day of weeding and getting the shade up and more weeding and singing hi-ho hi-ho in my head as we picked away at the dry dirt of Israel, it really is starting to look like an archaeological dig–

Time to go get 4 hours of sleep and then dig for 20…


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