Saturday, November 2, 2013

Volunteers in Megiddo, Area Q
(from the excavation website)
While there are excavations in Israel year-round (salvage archaeology when a road or building is being constructed, for example), most of the field work is done in the summer. I presume the reasons are that there is virtually no chance of rain, there are greater numbers of volunteers available, and the archaeologists are not busy teaching courses.

The department of Foreign Affairs has published a list of excavations, many of which have their own websites with information on how one can volunteer. The Biblical Archaeology Society has a list as well, although it seems to be still displaying 2013 info.

I have volunteered before, and I hope to again. While I am sure each excavation is unique, I think they are broadly similar to my experience at Megiddo, summer of 2012. Work began early (digging starts at 5 am!), with breakfast eaten on site. We were done digging by lunch and, aside from an hour of pottery washing, the afternoon was free, although some students had classes and homework. Weekends were great for travel, since we were done for the week after digging on Thursday and were free until Saturday night.

Of course I am partial to Megiddo, but there are other digs that might be of more interest. For example, for those who think that a place like Megiddo is a thousand years too old to be interesting, Hippos/Sussita is a site with Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine and Umayyad remains (2nd-8th c. CE).

I was really amazed at the feeling of finding artifacts, even ones that are not that significant. You probably will find thousands of potsherds and not anything that really impacts scholarship; but then again, it does sometimes happen. A volunteer recently found fragments of a sphinx at Hazor and students in Germany, simply doing a mock excavation to learn techniques, found a roman temple. While those amazing finds are few and far between, much of scholarship is really built on those thousands of sherds. 

Isaac M. Alderman
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