Omrit view

Hello once more friends.

This is Larry for my final and fashionably late blog post. As I’m writing this, I am sitting back home in the USA and my thoughts are filled with reflections of my past month. Not only was everything I did in the past month an incredibly fun experience, but it was also metamorphic. The adventures and experiences were a cocoon that changed me at least slightly. I realized a lot about not only myself, but also a culture that seems a world away.  I was able to see the effects of war being a constant threat and then I was also able to see a bustling city full of people who are idealistically different, but continue to live in relative harmony. One observation that added to my change was the realization that all the people who we may see as radicals or absurdly pious are real people as well. The holy men that tend to the Holy Sepulchre, the Hasidic Jews praying at the Western Wall with more intensity than I had seen in a long time, the Muslim women that are out shopping with their family covered head to toe in clothing are all humans. I realized that many of us often forget this important fact.

Reflection number two is more related to my personal academic career. This experience has completely solidified my desire to pursue archaeology. While it may seem that my options are limited, I have seen that the options are there as long as I am willing to work incredibly hard for them.

As we put the finishing touches on our square (J17 if you had forgotten) I felt a sense of pride from the work that we had done and the knowledge we had contributed to the dig overall. While filling in some of the probes we dug or covering the floor we worked hard to uncover is bittersweet, I can say without a doubt that I have a sense of accomplishment that is well deserved. The days may have been hot and the gnats may have been brutal, but every single other positive aspect outweighed the bad. I know for sure that I’ll miss the view from the site. I can’t wait until next summer when I make my return to Omrit.

Until the next time.

This is Larry signing off.

Was This a Sequel to Literary Masterpiece Holes? Yes.

For the third, and final, time, it’s Ashley!  (#bittersweet)

At the beginning of the trip, I would make quips that I knew exactly what was in store for me, because I had re-read (and re-watched) Holes, which is a fictional story of, if you don’t know, a young boy’s experience paying off jail time at a work camp by digging hole after hole, unknowingly searching for a treasure. Maybe it’s because that’s what I expected, maybe it’s because I said it so much, maybe it’s because the Lord enjoys messing with me, but I’d be lying if I didn’t see any commonalities.

The dig, for all its positives, is hard work. Manual labor. We may not each have to dig a 5×5 hole every day, but we’re moving buckets. Sifting buckets. Packing and moving dirt, only to put it back or haul it away. Our holes in the ground are not perfectly round; they sprawl and curve and reveal new floors and formations with every bit of dirt taken away. Using our trowel as our measuring stick, we have dug up hundreds of buckets of pure, unsifted history, loaded with bones and pottery, glass and coins.

The other people are strange and seem to come from a different world than you (what on earth makes up on archaeologist? Love of dirt? Like a worm?), but you do get to know them very well (and I will miss them). Caveman (main Holes character) too was an outsider, as a wrongly convicted man serving time with criminals, just as I was an outsider in the sense that I was an aspiring lawyer among aspiring archaeologists. I don’t think anyone was a criminal here. But, like Caveman, I quickly came to terms with the idea that they were not their label, they were not just archaeologists, they were people. And a bunch of really cool ones at that! I made a handful of really good friends here, but am probably closest with my roommate, Erin, and the two of us have made plans to meet up at some point after we get home. I’m also excited that Blonde Erin goes to my school, because then it will also be very easy for me to see her again. I also was very glad that I got placed in Kathryn’s square, because out of all the directors, I like her the best (don’t tell the others, or they’ll make me dig more holes. Probably).

Our Carthage Group!
Our Carthage Group!
I am in between the two Erins, if you were wondering
I am in between the two Erins, if you were wondering

There’s a bunch of cool history behind the digging here (and in Holes. See, I’m still comparing), which people root through dirt for days to try and find. In Holes, it was a stolen treasure. At Omrit, it was roughly fourteen million pounds of pottery and other artefacts that would help create a narrative and explain exactly what was happening in Omrit during the centuries it was used. However, I do maintain that there’s probably a grand treasure buried somewhere, even if no one believes me. It happened in Holes. It happened in National Treasure. This is essentially a given, and I will not back down on it.

The treasure is me.
The treasure is me.

To be fair, it isn’t a work camp, which is a plus, but it is my own version of a 200 page adventure tale. I went in to and came out of this dig with a very different idea of what archaeology was, and that is not a bad thing. My body is still sore, there will probably be dirt in my lungs for the rest of my life, but I got a truly once-in-a-lifetime experience that I know I will never forget, cause I dug them holes.

Is this photo even edited? No. Because it's the truth.
Is this photo even edited? No. Because it’s the truth.

Hello All!!

It’s Erin updating for one last time this dig season. It’s amazing how fast this season has flown by and how smoothly everything is coming to an end. On Thursday we (J17) took our final pictures for our work this season and continued working in H17 to take a probe through the floor in hopes to help date when the floor was made. Unfortunately we didn’t find any buried treasure or even a coin but we found plenty of pottery sherds that will hopefully be sufficient enough to give a date for the floor. The probe was my first experience with a “critical locus” and it was exciting to be working with something so important. The dating of the floor surface is important because the floor stretches into multiple squares surrounding J17 and H17; being able to date these floor surfaces from the probe would give dates for the extent of the floor.

J17 looking nice and tidy for final photos
J17 looking nice and tidy for final photos
Racing the rising of the sun for photos (shadows aren't flattering for squares either)
Racing the rising of the sun for photos (shadows aren’t flattering for squares either)
Action shot of the drone taking aerial photos of the square
Action shot of the drone taking aerial photos of the square
Our beautiful probe in H17
Our beautiful probe in H17
"Artsy shot" of the floor but in it you can easily see the lower plaster surface and top pebble surface
“Artsy shot” of the floor but in it you can easily see the lower plaster surface and top pebble surface
Probe = finito
Probe = finito

This season has been another incredible learning experience and having the opportunity to be an assistance square supervisor has only strengthened my aspirations to continue in the archaeology field. As a “rising” senior, my two seasons at Omrit have provided guidance for my future. Not only is the work experience here beneficial but also the interaction with graduate students and professors. On Thursday all of the current graduate students gave a mini lecture on their experience and offered their advice. Their advice and experiences are definitely things I will consider when making my plans for the future.

These last few days and next few will consist of final clean up and packing up. For example, today we created a human chain passing buckets filled with dirt to cover up the floor found in our square. While conservation is incredibly important, it was a bittersweet goodbye to all our hard work this season.

I’m excited to be leaving for Jerusalem in a couple days. It will be exciting to experience another side of Israel and it will be nice to no longer have a 4.30 wake-up call.

Thanks for following us this season & stick around for everyone’s end of the season posts!




Adventure Time

Salutations all!

This is Larry reporting back in. This wonderful time we have spent is coming to a close. I have had many great experiences that will certainly stick with me for life. For example, this most recent weekend our group went to the sight of Gamla. This sight was a Jewish settlement that rests in a valley near the Sea of Galilee. Not only was this a sight to behold because of the natural beauty, but the architectural remains were fascinating as well. One such ruin was the only Jewish Synagogue that predates the first Jewish rebellion. Now this may seem a tad insignificant, but from an archaeological perspective, it is quite fascinating. The beauty and ruins were all fantastic and to top it off, myself and several other members of the group climbed to the top of the hill on which the settlement was built. From the top, the entire valley and the Sea of Galilee were clearly visible. It was a sight I’ll never forget. Then on Father’s day we went to the sight of Zippori which was a resovoir for the nearby ancient city. Above ground it was none too imlressive but underground was incredible. But out of the natural earth was a multi-chambered resovoir. I had the pleasure of taking an adventure here as well. I traveled the underground tunnel beteween twk of the chambers. The tunnel itself was not mind boggling, but my meer passage through the incredible structure was incredible.

Our weekends are certainly focused on the excursions, but I cannot leave out one of the most important parts of our weekend: wiffleball. Every Saturday, the staff plays the students in a “friendly” game of wiffleball. The Sheiks (the staff) have bested the Syrian Rock Hyraxes (the students) on the previous two saturdays, but this most recent saturday was a historic moment. The Sheiks lost for the first time EVER against the students. This contest breeds friendly competition that is then turned into camaraderie as we transition from fierce wiflleball competition to the delicious barbeque dinner we have on Saturday’s. The exception was that this Saturday we ended the game a little early and had dinner at the Grosmark’s, loved supporters of the dig.

My home away from home, square J17, has been working hard as we prepare for final pictures and the completion of our square. We have found beautiful pebble flooring and wonderful artifacts. As everything begins to come to a close I could not have asked for better people to work with than the other members of J17 ( Matt, Erin, and Megan). I know for sure that when I look back, I’ll only have the best of memories about all the nubbins and tesserae we found. I’ll be back for one more post in a few days.

Until next time my friends.
Larry Gill

View from atop Gamla

View from atop Gamla


Me overlooking the valley and the Sea of Galilee

As a traveller to Israel 

Money in Israel 

The first thing that shocked me coming to Israel was the money. Not the actual physical money, although it does look fake like Monopoly money for the bills, and the coins… well there are two coins that have 10 on the and when you go to buy ice cream you find out quickly which is ten shekels and which is a tenth of a shekle by the weird and confused looks you get from the person selling it to you.

I guess the best way to put it is that it’s an adjustment you have to make when four shekels is worth one dollar. I still have to do the math in my head when I go to buy things because once you start getting into the higher numbers, the slightest increase doesn’t seem as significant and I always want to make sure o get a good price.

We went to Tiberias this past Sunday and we were able to roam around the downtown area of the city for a good hour and a half. I first went looking at all the shops, comparing prices as I always do and everything that I was interested in was the same price from vendor to vendor. The only difference between them were patterns. I wound up stopping and buying souvenirs from one shop that had many things of interest to me. They’re sort of like Costco where the more you buy the better the price you get per pound or per item in this case. I wound up spending 160 shekels!  I got three skirts, a decorative metal bronze hand to hang on the wall, a hand bracelet, and postcards. Most of it was to be given as gifts to my mom and aunt, of course one skirt was for me and the metal hand decoration was also. All in all it turned out to be about fourty dollars, which is not bad at all for the quality of goods that I bought.

One handy thing to note is that the vendors here do haggle. I only had fourty shekels left in cash and one vendor did not accept credit cards, so when I asked how much a dress was, and they said fifty, and I only had fourty left, embarrassingly I laughed and asked if they’d take fourty and they did.

People of Israel 

One of my first interactions with natives of Israel other than those who are employed here was on the kibbutz, Kfar szold.  They were Druse from a small village north east of here.  They were very kind to me. I first began talking to them because there was a cat near where they wee sitting outside, and me being an animal lover, I had to go over and see if I could pet the cat. I picked the cat up and they said hello, well Ana named Joseph said hello. I later found out that one of the other two woman sitting with him was his wife and the other his wife’s sister in law (her husband was inside).  They were sitting outside talking, earlier they had a barbecue going and were eating. The women wore head scarves but ones that did not cover all their hair. Their clothes were long and covered everything for modesty, which I found to be interesting because this is considered the country and not as many people are here as you would think. It can be quite quiet at times, but when the barbecue gets going everyone seems to be outside enjoying the fresh air and the smell of their food cooking.

They kept talking to me, asking me questions about my life and telling me about theirs and their family members lives. For instance, his son is studying to be a doctor in Germany and is learning German there but plans to come back to Israel according to his father because Israel has a shortage of doctors, as does everywhere else in the world it seems. His brother is in Tel’Aviv right now and he plans to go visit him. He himself was in the army as a olive hoarder controller for 27 years and just recently retired. He had fought in the war against Syria in 2010 and has a lead bullet still in his left shoulder (which doesn’t set off metal detectors or raise any issues when he travels via airplane. They offered me coffee but by that time it was 9 pm and I was ready for bed, so I politely declined. They offered me sweet cherries so how anyone deny those! Then they went and got some leaves from a plant near the office, he said they make tea with it, and they did and offered me some. It was similar to spearmint but different too. It was good.

I then went inside to sleep but didn’t want to forget by of the Hebrew they were teaching me as we were sitting there taking, and him translating between English to Hebrew to the ladies. I went back out with a pen and notebook and wrote down the English word and the Hebrew word – phonetically written out so I can later say the word correctly. The first word I learned from them was cat because nearly the entire time I was holding this car and petting him and hiding him from the dog that kept coming around. The first phrase I learned was go home, and that is what I kept saying to the dog to leave the cat alone. She was a Hebrew speaking dog so she listened somewhat but kept coming back, probably hoping I left already. They were such lovely people, they smiled and tried to understand me as a person. They seemed genuinely curious about me and my life in the states.

He told me he had visited the states once and went to Pittsburg, Niagara Falls, Texas, and somewhere in the west coast, all the time staying in people’s houses. They later came to Israel and stayed in his house. He seems well travelled. It was harder to understand the ladies because they spoke little English but they seemed eager to learn more and come to know who I am as a person. It was truly a pleasure meeting them and talking with them.
– Theresa

Digging and Dogs

Hey, it’s Ashley again!

We’re nearing the end of the third week now, and I can definitely feel it. My whole body is sore, and bruised, and I’m pretty much perpetually exhausted. But I’d still contend that it’s worth it, and I’m still happy I came. We dig five and half days a week, and I’m working in what is lovingly referred to as ‘the trench’ and ‘the pit of despair’. It’s roughly six feet deep, and probably about 10 by 10 feet. It was some sort of basement, cellar, thing. We’re not entirely sure yet.

It’s actually a pretty cool place to work, we’ve deemed it’s an ancient Roman lamp shop, because we find a ton of lamp. (By ‘we’re not really sure what it is’, I of course meant ‘it’s most likely a ancient discount lamp emporium’). We actually find a lot of really cool stuff; a ton (literally buckets, every day) of pottery (some is even patterned, glazed, or painted), a lot of bones (animal bones), and glass. We even found a small coin, and a brass pin! But we’ve found a disproportionate amount of lamp in our square, which is very cool because it feels like we’re winning.

I usually end up working the sifter, and have recently been helping out another square as well, because our team is moving slower as the dirt becomes more compact and more difficult to move. I really like working the sifter, because then you get to see all the cool things we pull out of the ground, instead of just shoving everything into buckets and getting it out of the way. I also prefer to be the person who’s keeping everything organized and sorting than the person who’s just tearing everything up and making piles. So sifting suits me more than digging. Not to mention, my arms are basically glorified noodles and pick axing is hard. In terms of what is harder labor, sifting is lighter, but it’s definitely still work. My noodle arms reflect this.

Now, I like a lot of parts of this trip. The excursions are very cool, I feel like I’m contributing something to history, but the one thing that soothes any physical and/or emotional pain digging causes are the many, many dogs here. As I am writing this post, three are sitting around me and honestly I have never felt more alive. Roughly fifteen of them roam the kibbutz freely, being the pets of the people who live here all the time. I love each and every one of them and I cannot bear to leave them.

Here is the site we are digging!
Here is the site we are digging!

Above is the site we’re digging, though not our specific square, as I’m not entirely sure I can post those? But it’s a very lovely site. You can see for miles, and I can look at Lebanon every day from my square. I have yet to get tired of that, and don’t think I ever will.

Halfway Done Already!


It’s Erin again!

It’s amazing that tomorrow marks the middle of the season; our time here is going by so fast! We’ve gotten to visit some beautiful sites that Larry and Theresa have already told you about. To add to our list, we visited Bet She’an on Sunday. Amid the scorching heat and lack of shade this site is incredibly remarkable and one of my favorites that we have visited. This city is one of the Decapolis and was once the most important city in Northern Israel. It is the home of an incredibly well preserved Byzantine bathhouse as well as a well preserved ancient public latrine- of course this is a highlight of the trip. I think the most interesting part of this site is the fact that the majority of it is still uncovered with only the public areas being fully exposed.

Panoramic view of the site
View of Bet She'an
View of Bet She’an
William's College graduate Alyssa & I at the public latrines
William’s College graduate Alyssa & I at the public latrines

On Saturday a group of us went “rafting” on the Jordan River. I think it might be safer to say we went on a natural “lazy river” while only using our paddles to race against each other. It was an enjoyable experience to get off the kibbutz and do something “adventurous”.

From the field side, things are moving quite quickly in J17. We’ve managed to hit a stone pebble floor surface in some areas while finding some wall structures. Along the way we have found an endless supply of pottery, glass, and tesserae that would have once been a beautiful mosaic. It’s exciting to be moving so fast and I’m looking forward to finishing our square.

Hopefully I’ll have more to say about the interpretation of square next time!

See you soon,


Carthage College students chronicle their experiences during the 2015 excavation in Omrit, Israel. Professor Daniel Schowalter leads a group there over each summer break.


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