Wednesday, 18 June 2014

The daily sketch and a decent pot of char (TBS04)

What better way is there to celebrate the 199th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo than by being granted an extra 15 minutes in bed and a personal pot of tea?! It was officially decreed that as from this morning the coach would not be leaving the kibbutz until 04.45 each morning as the outbound journey was not taking as long as anticipated. Hoorah! Another 15 minutes of shut eye each day would potentially add up to an additional four and a half hours sleep over the remaining three and a half weeks. One should be thankful for every small mercy!

Photographic image of D23 taken from the
south baulk, looking north
This morning began on site, as will each morning from henceforth, with a daily sketch of one's square. The purpose of this exercise is both to familiarise oneself with one's domain whilst also making a detailed record of the features, layer numbers and any other useful information that has been observed. In addition, I also plan to capture photographic images each morning which should help serve as an ongoing reminder of progress.

Our main task for the day was to lower and level the south baulk. These baulks, of which we essentially have three, are the strips of land or side walls that separate us from neighbouring squares. They also assist with stratigraphic analysis of the square. The north side of our square is open as the adjacent square in that direction has already been excavated to a lower level. Indeed, immediately to our north and about six feet lower are remains of what is understood to have been a Late Bronze Age palace. The lower we are able to dig in our square, the closer we will get to whatever lies immediately to the south of what has already been uncovered.

The sickle blade showing clearly where it has been worked
Our south baulk also serves as a means of passage between the east edge of the site and all squares from E23 to B23. As such it can get rather busy at times with conveyors of buckets and other passers by. We were to lower the baulk by about one foot and ensure it was level and safe for use as a thoroughfare. At the same time we needed to shore up with sandbags the south-eastern corner as it had partially collapsed over the previous two winters. Here, the baulk wall had partially revealed the rim of a large storage jar which, though most tempting to excavate further, had to be left in place.

However, in the process of lowering, levelling and shoring we did discover a sickle blade - a flint tool from around 3000 years ago though with little sign of use. These were made locally and would have been used in the harvesting of crops in the valley, reminiscent of the time when the Philistines returned the ark to Israel:

Now the people of Beth-shemesh were reaping their wheat harvest in the valley. And when they lifted up their eyes and saw the ark, they rejoiced to see it. (1 Samuel 6:13)
Enjoying my pot of tea, courtesy of Zvi
I also had reason to rejoice at breakfast this morning when I was greeted with a teapot of boiling water with which to make my tea. I was delighted. Those who know me will understand just how important it is to get a decent cup of tea as frequently as possible. To this end one should never travel beyond home shores without a more than sufficient supply of PG Tips. And to this end also did Zvi most graciously furnish the aforementioned tea pot, complete with boiling water. And though my rejoicing may not have been of quite the same stature as that of the ancient Beth-Shemeshites on seeing the return of the ark of the covenant, my official breakfast was now complete.

Enjoying a glass of Bedouin tea, with the Iron Age
temple in the background
Some two hours following official breakfast this morning we noticed a degree of excitement coming from the eastern edge of the site. It transpired that the Bedouin shepherd who lived at the foot of the tel had made some tea. This was now being distributed among the team in small glasses and certainly demanded closer attention. As one would expect, it was a local Bedouin concoction of black tea mixed with what seemed to be thyme, sage and goodness knows what else. It had been sweetened with honey, I suspect, but rumours of it also containing goat pee were likely unfounded. I sampled, then resampled, and though it was a pleasant distraction for occasional enjoyment, I will be sticking with the you know what.

The remainder of the working day at the tel went well. I was amused on our return to the kibbutz for lunch by a sign's translation which read: "Pleas move to the back of the bus" - particularly as I not noticed any get on board. Following another sumptuous luncheon we returned to our main living compound to wash pottery.

Our six o'clock lecture, Canaanites, Philistines and Judahites: Cultural dynamics in Iron Age I Shephelah, was given by Zvi and focused on the people who occupied the area in the late second and early first millennium B.C. This is proving to be a most educational experience.

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