One Final Goodbye

Even though this is the end of another season for Omrit, I feel as if the real goodbye is for everyone who helped. A goodbye to the professors  (until the fall semester). A goodbye to the kibbutz and the wonderful staff. And a heartfelt goodbye to our new friends all over the United States. To them, I can honestly say a blog post isn’t enough to express my gratitude and inspiration from you all. But I can say from all of these adventures we had, and the stories we shared, and the injuries we sustained, the best part of it all has been to experience it with all) of you. Until we all meet again. Don’t forget, “potatoes and molasses are all good things.”


Finding yourself (and a few other artifacts along the way!)

Hey y’all, it’s Melody again. As many of you would assume, the point of an archaeological dig is to find stuff. And by stuff I mean different architectural fragments, pottery sherds, glass, bone, and any other artifacts you might come across.
But for me (and I don’t mean to get cheesy here), it’s also been about finding myself. All my life I’ve dreamed of being an archaeologist, and I never really thought that my dream would come true. Not only that, but I was terrified that I’d get here and realize that I hate it. Luckily, I found out the opposite. It may be a pain to be digging in the dirt all day, but I loved every minute of it! This dig has helped me figure out what I want to do with my future, and who I want to be as a person. I’ve also met so many people along the way that I hope will continue to be my friends for long after the trip is over. In fact, some of us are already trying to make plans to get together before the school year starts up again!
So we did discover some pretty important finds in the field this year, but it was also a learning experience. We were able to find ourselves out in the dirt, along with learning so many different things, whether is was about archaeology or history, to just about everything else. It’s been so fun, and I can’t wait to come back!

Can ya dig it?

Hey everyone it’s Lea here! Today we cleaned and got most of the site ready for the closing of an incredible season. I cannot believe in just a few short days we will be leaving the kibbutz and traveling south for the end of the trip. This season here at Our it has changed my life and I am so grateful for the opportunity to be here. When I first came here I was very nervous due to the fact that I am an archaeology major and didn’t know what to expect. All I could think was what if I ended up not liking to dig? Thankfully this was not the case and I began to see myself doing this for the rest of my life very early on in the trip. Now that the season is coming to a close I can’t help but wish there was more time to dig and learn. I have gained so much knowledge while being here. I now know how to read pottery, do a balk drawing, draw a top plan, and I even got to help with the reconstruction of a jar! I will take everything I have learned here with me and never forget these skills. I am hoping to come back next year so this chapter in my story will hopefully be reopened soon enough! I am carefully looking over a few research topics from the site that I can possibly develop a senior thesis out of. This trip has inspired me to be the best I can be as a student. This trip has truly had a huge impact on my life and has motivated me to pursue this field of work.

Experience and A Dream is only a Dream until you have a Plan

June 16th

Amanda Roman here again, to share a little bit about my thoughts on Experience.  We are coming up on the end of our third week already, and oh the experiences I have had in the time so far.  The goal of this trip for me was to get the experience of what it is like to be an actual archaeologist.  I suppose when anyone goes to school for any subject they are going with the intent of using the education they receive in the real world someday after college.  I always wanted to be an adventurous sort of scholarly person, a more refined type of Indiana Jones with a bit less chaos involved.  However as time went on in my long career as a Carthage student I realized that I am already in the real world with a full time job, a husband and four kids.  I began to think about things like can I really do this as a profession?

I appreciate the fact that the Carthage Classical Archeology program requires that a student must take field work as a class in order to graduate.  I can say with certainty that this has been the best decision to come and Experience all that is involved in this profession. It is a necessary and important part of the process to discover if I can in fact pursue archeology as a career.

I can say I have experienced being an archeologist at least on an amateur level (although amateur, it is still going on my resume, Professor Ben Rubin said so).  I knew that I needed to feel and learn the process and work involved in this profession in order to really appreciate what I was getting into.  I get lots of jokes from people when they ask what my major is, jokes like “you know there are spiders right”? Or “How are you going to dig up a job”? Or even things like “But you’re a mom”! My response is always “Yes”, I am fully aware of all of this.  However none of that detoured me I knew I needed to come and experience this amazing adventure.  I came to see if I would even like it! I was terrified to think that I could be preparing myself for something I absolutely hate in the end.  Therefore I came, I tried it, and after these last few weeks of unbearable heat, sweat, spiders, big spiders, dirt, rocks, rocks, and more rocks I can say I love it!

So far on this trip I have met undergrads with the same hopes and aspirations as me, professors that I have grown to admire and respect, scholars that I look at like celebrities, and just simply amazing people that exist in this tiny world of archeology.  Our team started and finished our first square in 9 days.  My supervisor Kevin Kellmes is an amazingly intelligent and driven undergrad at UNC that I have learned much about the archeological process from.  I work next to some of the hardest working students from Carthage and St. John’s, and I am excited to wake up at 4A.M. every day because I am because I cannot wait to go see what we might find.  Every day is hard work, but it is necessary work and someone has to do it.

I am grateful for the professors and their drive, the wonderful donors that believe in the project, and the volunteers that are so willing to show us the ropes in order that we might succeed in our endeavors as well.  This is a necessary experience that anyone getting into must have, it is important and should always continue to be encouraged.

I believe that experiences in life define us more than anything else.  One can come from all different ways of life and upbringing, yet no matter how one is raised it is all about the “things” in life that you experience that really shapes you, changes your center, and creates “The you” of the future.  I know that when I leave here, I will be a better, more informed me than before I came.  I am experiencing life here.

The spider death toll is currently at 25. Why won’t they leave me be!

June 25th

Greetings from Omrit, Amanda Roman here to share some wrapping up thoughts.  Today going through all of the books and articles I brought to read on other sites in the area, I ran across a book on a site called Banias I purchased about ten years ago.  I do not know how I never noticed a few folded up pages in the back of the book I must have left long ago.  I was about to throw them away until I read the date at the top of the pages.  It was an email sent to me by Professor Dan Schowalter from Carthage College dated November 1st 2006! I started as a freshmen in fall of 2006! The email was encouraging me to join the Classics program and information on going to Omrit Israel. It was also an invitation to attend a lecture on Carthage’s campus held by Michael Nelson from McAllister College. I thought hmmm, I know Michael Nelson, he is a co-director of the Omrit dig, that’s Nellie! The email went on encouraging me to give the program and the trip a shot.  I then looked on the back and realized I went to Nellie’s lecture ten years ago and I was just as excited then in my notes as I am today in the lectures and experiences I’ve had.  Wow, what a discovery in an old book!

I am very glad I came back to Carthage, and followed the guidance of Professor Schowalter.  It really has been a dream come true.  I have crossed many things off of my bucket list, although Professor Schowalter says I’m too young to have a bucket list.  I swam in the Mediterranean, I shopped at an ancient Souk (marketplace in Akko), I heard the call to prayer from the streets in the holy land, I have swam (rafted actually) in the Jordan, I visited Capernaum where Jesus stayed for many years, I walked in the sea of Galilee, and touched pottery with the makers finger prints still inside from two thousand years ago.  The biggest accomplishment of all was just getting to Israel and digging in the sacred, ancient dirt I grew up romanticizing about.  Yes, I dreamt of dirt! I made it here, only now that I have done what I set out to do, I am even hungrier for the next step in my life.  I will be a senior and it is time for a new dream and a better plan.

All of the places we visited, and things we have done really allowed me to gain several perspectives of this country I had not otherwise been able to gain by reading or writing about it.  Going to other dig sites in the region allowed me to see professionals that call this career their life in action.  I work at a bank and I never thought about archeology as another job like profession.  The reality is that there are plenty of people, in this small world of archeology, that have made their passions their jobs as well.  I saw sites that were just being started, being finished, and some that are long finished and now national parks.  There is a whole world of work that real people with real lives do.  It is no longer fantastical for me, rather a feasible aspiration that I can definitely see myself doing for the rest of my life.

I have tried to learn as much as I possibly could on this trip. Not wasting a single moment.  I have inserted myself into every step of the excavation process with my supervisor Kevin.  I asked if I could shadow him whenever possible, learning how to top plan (draw the “stuff” before digging it out), take elevations, draw bulks, construct daily narratives, and then create a final report after a square has been completed.  I also wanted to learn the beginning to end process of cataloging artifacts. I excavated a layer on my own after my supervisor was comfortable with my knowledge, I found lots of partially intact pottery, I tagged everything, washed the pottery, read and sorted the pottery and now I am reconstructing it before it gets packed away for the year.  This beginning to end process really was amazing in teaching me how meticulous and hard work this career path is.  I love it! I heart Ceramics by the way!

We will be packing up this week and since our second square is now complete and all artifacts are brought in from the field I can spend more time in the lab getting some more instruction from Jen.  Professor Jen is amazing, she is what I want to be when I grow up (I’m 28), she is our Ceramicist at Omrit, a wife and mother, a professor, and she digs in Egypt as well.  She has taken me under her gracious wing to show me how to love ceramics.  I may even write my thesis on something ceramic like.  She has given me lots of guidance along with all of the professors here, on what my next move in academia might be.  There are many possibilities available, it all depends on me and how far I am willing to go to turn this dream into a reality, and it all starts with a new plan! Omrit is amazing, the staff, the bakfar, the work, and the site itself.  Omrit is not just a dig site, but a place for many, which is the beginning of something more.  Going home will be hard, but I will go home a newly motivated woman with a new agenda… watch out world.

Also my spider death toll is now up to 32! I think I am officially over my fear of those nasty, creepy, crawly things!

Parking Lot

The first day of work was an interesting one, everyone new to the project was given new information to take in. We saw the temple, learned about its history, and saw where the returning students had worked in; but the most memorable thing for me that day was a passing comment: “this is only the parking lot”.

At the time, I was talking about the kibbutz and how wearing a seatbelt was the equivalent of changing a jeep into child’s toy car. The ride was already making my fellow classmates hop out of their seats as though we were on a great rollercoaster. Once we hit the dirt road the rollercoaster had ended and the bumper cars had turned on. When we were not out of our seats, we perpetually shook back-and-forth, and side-to-side. Thankfully, the only dangers that stopped our joy were short one-day viruses, and one or two injuries.

Soon after we had started excavating with our new groupmates, we had the opportunity to visit old excavated sites. These sites were just as unique as ours; a castle on a high mountain, a cave at the base of a cliff surrounded by lush vegetation, an open market with bath houses and an outdoor amphitheater being overlooked by an abandoned temple on what might as well be a marathon runner’s hill (tall), the list goes on (and the bus rides were great).

Each time we returned to Kibbutz Kefar Szold, prepared for the next day, but sadly soon to be no more. Our time at this kibbutz will end this week and we can no longer enjoy a home away from home. Nearly all the spots we began excavating are finished and all the pottery sherds we have found have been washed. This is our first (and only) Sunday without leaving to visit a different site, a day of rest basically.

If there is anything to take away from the kibbutz alone, it can be this: our journey began here and it was our lifting point on the road to discovery as well as our gracious place of respite. I hope that everyone who came on this trip—archaeologist or not—can look back to this place as another bustling parking lot in the eventful world we all live in.

-Grant Casto

Rocks, Ruins, and Revelations

Hey, it’s Rich again posting during the home stretch of excavations here in Omrit. A lot has happened since the last post; a lot of dirt, sweat, and tears.

The last time I posted, I clued you in on the change of scenery from J22 to L18. Now that we have had some time to work on the area, many new elements have come into play. It started out as a search for the stylobate blocks (aka the foundation stones) for one of the structures on our sites and looking at how they coincided with some of the other features of our square: the columns, the walls, and so much more. Once again, dirt was moved and muscles were stretched to their breaking points, but the fruit of our labors is coming to fruition. We have found quite a few walls, and even though their placements in time and space continue to puzzle our team, they are welcome additions to our square. When excavating in the west side of our square, we discovered more stylobate stones that we had not necessarily actively looked for. Those were great, but the exciting part came when clearing the dirt and stones from around and above these stones. We found about a quarter of a column base that seems to sit at about the same level as those blocks, helping us to date it.

Hopping around a bit, once we exposed the bedrock in the large eastern portion of our square, we took to the “divide and conquer” approach. We each were given our own mini squares in which to work, and let me tell you, I was liking what I was finding. A little insight into some of my passions in this field: I have come to love architecture since my studies abroad. So when Kevin and I decided I would be taking down a roughly 1 meter by 1 meter square on my own next to the wall and new stylobate blocks, I was happy to dive in, not knowing that I would be eating those words. The square ended up being a construction trench that went down all the way to bedrock a few feet below. It descended to the point were a normal sized adult could crouch down in the fetal position and probably completely out of sight of any passerby. The finds, though, were well worth it. I found buckets upon buckets of ancient brick as well as a few pieces of marble. What does this mean? Well, isn’t that the question of the week. Personally, I think that there was at some point a floor of some sort, possibly with some marble tiles, but who knows; anything is possible.

These last few days of cleaning has really shown me what I can do and what I have learned over the years. I believe I have learned what it takes to effectively run a square and lead a team in proper excavation. The methods of digging, the organization of objects and thoughts, and the interpretations stemming from those thoughts have all become second nature for me. and I think that I have what it takes to face bigger challenges in future seasons to come. That doesn’t mean I won’t need the help of a good team to do good things, but I think that the guidance of all of the great people leading us here at Omrit has prepared me to take that step from novice to veteran. And with that, I’ll leave you with one last thought as I finish up this post tonight and my square tomorrow: open your eyes, your ears, your mind to all that surrounds you in the life that you lead, for you’ll never shine bright yourself unless you have those starting sparks from those burning brighter around you.

I Dig Digging and Soccer

Hello all once again,

It’s Larry Gill again. I know it’s been awhile since I last posted, but that’s due to the number of wonderful people that are also posting. Over the past few weeks, I have had an absolutely wonderful and educational time. Let’s start out with what’s been going on in the best square ever, M21. So since I last posted, we were really just starting the excavation process of our square. Since then, we have cut through several surface layers and the leveling layers beneath them. Our job in this square is incredibly important as it reveals the dating of the road surfaces and even the dating of the stylobate of the stoa. As we dug deeper and deeper, our square became affectionately known as, and pardon my French, The Pit to Hell. We have given our trench this nomenclature due to the fact that when one is excavating in the bottom of the trench, the sun and the heat are pretty intense. However, the reward for digging in this convection oven of a pit has been certainly worth it all. We have found wonderful pieces of dateable pottery as well as 20 fantastic coins, the most on the site this year.  Digging in this trench is also worth the heat, thanks to my phenomenal trench mates. Katelin, Larry, and Lauren are some pretty fantastic people who never cease to make me laugh no matter how tired I am, or perhaps madness has set in.  Today we finished the final touches on our square by clearing out a water feature. Hopefully, the finds form this trench provide invaluable information for the research of this dig.

Outside of the splendiferous time digging, we visited several sites since my last post. These sites have included; Caesarea Maritima, Capernaum, Sephoris, Akko, and several others. All these sites were beautiful experiences, that will always be impactful experiences. Caesarea will always be my favorite site that we visit during this trip. It’s beauty and architecture will never cease to inspire me, the swim in the Mediterranean doesn’t hurt either I suppose. The trips to these sites are just as important as the excavation itself because the provide perspective for the architecture and lifestyle of all the various sites around Israel in correspondence with what is happening at Omrit.

After a long day of digging and travelling, there is nothing quite as refreshing as soccer after dinner. Playing soccer with all the new people that I have met, and some professors, is certainly a great way to bond with the people that I see every day and spend hours upon hours with. I don’t think that I will ever have a truly bad time while I am doing what I love surrounded with some incredible and intelligent people. So, until my next post, this is Larry Gill saying goodbye.

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