Monday, September 16, 2013

Real Indiana Jones and The Return of the Blogger

Yes, I know I haven't written in a very long time. What an awful blogger I am! However, after an intense month in the Middle East and a week of cramming for the GRE in northern Sweden, I was ready for a proper three-week vacation in Stockholm, Germany, France, and Iceland. I decided that I really needed that vacation and I'm still trying to prevent myself from being guilty of letting go for a little while of the billions of commitments I set up for myself.

Alas, guilt got the best of me and here I am, in the midst of the most stressful time in my life, juggling schoolwork, paid work, and freaking out about being a college senior and suddenly facing the enormous treacherous ocean of adulthood, and I decide to start blogging again. Nevertheless, I owe the blogging world a whole slew of posts about my crazy adventures this summer. I owe it to all the travelers who could someday benefit from all the misadventures and adventures I experienced over the past couple of months. It's also a way for me to stop romanticizing my journey and remember that traveling is one of the most mentally and physically taxing things you can do - but also one of the most beautiful and addictive endeavors in life.

The excavation at Tel Kabri in northern Israel was a life-changing experience replete with new friends, new landscapes, and above all new knowledge about our ancient past. Techniques and ideas that I had memorized in my Introduction to Archaeology class back at George Washington University were put into practice and, in the process, made more understandable and fascinating.

Before my trip I felt nervous but excited to embark on this new and rare journey. I had no idea what to expect and both before I left and when I arrived I felt like I had packed all the wrong things. However, a lack of preparation didn’t diminish the fun I had on the dig. The perseverance, mental and physical strength, and good humor of my companions on the excavation inspired me every day to work just as hard with just as wide of a smile. I truly respect the field of archaeology and its enthusiastically practicing archaeologists now more than ever before. I would like to see Harrison Ford try and move as much dirt as we did!

After the first week I already knew how to make pieces of chalky mud fly with a pickax, clear up dirt with a turia and a bucket, run a wheelbarrow full of dirt up a hill laced with tree roots, and carefully shape the sides of a dirt square with a trowel or handpick. Our first probe didn’t seem to reveal anything, so we closed it up for the time being. The next two weeks I started working elsewhere on the dig site, such as trying to prevent an Iron Age trash pit from contaminating with the Bronze Age palace, uncovering a plaster floor, and articulating huge pieces of pottery. You can learn more about what we found at this excellent guide written by one of the participants on the dig:

Tel Kabri: The 2013 Excavations

Throughout the three weeks the skills I learnt by physically excavating were complemented by learning how to measure elevations and differentiate soil and pottery types in on-site workshops, measuring out a square and drawing a wall properly in workshops at the field school, and learning the archaeological history of the site through lectures. Not only that, but new friendships forged on the excavation site were strengthened in evenings by breathtaking Mediterranean sunsets, local wine, Druze pita, and Israeli chocolate. After three weeks had passed, despite being exhausted from pushing myself to my utmost physical and mental limitations, I felt more energized than ever from a newfound passion for knowledge production, new friends, and the exhilaration of getting physically engaged with the earth of civilization’s ancestry.

In my next posts I hope to finish up some stories about Israel, starting with a photo essay of my visit to the incredible caves of Rosh Hanikra, literally on the Israel-Lebanon border, and a 24 Hours in Haifa piece, as well as detailed instructions about how to get to the obscure northern border crossing to Jordan at Beit She'an. I can't wait to relive all of these experiences by telling you about them. It feels good to be back!

WARNING: I am way too ambitious for my own good. I will do my best to keep updating this blog, but blogging falls under procrastination time so all I can promise is that I will do my best. Hugs to you all until then!