Many years ago, I played high school football. I will never forget what the beginning of summer practice felt like: two-a-day workouts in steamy heat, pushing ourselves as hard as we could. For at least a week, we’d be sore all over from the unaccustomed strain on our muscles.
That’s the way Susan and I are feeling after three days of digging: eight hours a day of bending over to work with a hoe, pick, or trowel; filling buckets with dirt and then schlepping the heavy buckets to be sifted; then emptying the buckets into the sifter and shaking it down – over and over again — all of that takes a bit more physical effort than typing and nursing back home, even with housework and yard work thrown in.
Our second day (Monday) had a little glamour mixed in with the work. After a photographer took progress photos, Susan was allowed to remove the pyxis she found from the ground so it could be sent to a lab at Hebrew University for cleaning and analysis. I was given the task of removing the many pieces of a large jug that had been shattered by falling mudbrick while Susan moved over to another concentration of broken pottery.
Soon however, it was back to the gritty grind of digging and schlepping and sifting and eating lots of dust – but we loved it.
Pottery is collected in colored buckets that are filled with water after our return to the camp. Following a much-needed siesta break, we all gather around for “pottery washing,” using little brushes to scrub away the dirt and reveal the color beneath. Most of the sherds are red or gray. Some are covered with a beige colored slip, and a few have painted designs on them.
The experts “read” the pottery to determine its age and type. The dig is officially a field school, with a number of students here, so we have lectures three nights each week. On Monday night we heard Prov. Martin Klingbeil of Southern Adventist University in Collegedale, TN give a presentation on the importance of seals used in the ancient world.
Tuesday was largely a repeat of Monday, without the glamour of nice pots to remove. Most of the effort in our square was given to trying to articulate a line of mudbricks and determine whether they had originally been part of a wall. That’s not an easy job, because the mudbricks deteriorate over time unless they’ve been in a fire, and it’s hard to distinguish between the edge of a mudbrick and the surrounding soil.
Tonight it was my turn to lecture, and I presented an article I wrote for the current issue of the Review and Expositor: “A King Without Respect: Insubordination as a Theme in 1 Samuel.” It’s more academic in approach than most of my writing, but available at this link for anyone who might like to see why King Saul was the Rodney Dangerfield of the Old Testament.
Unless we find something really exciting to report on, my next post (when personal stamina and the camp’s wifi permit) will deal with “a day in the life” of volunteer archaeologists.
In the meantime, happy reading!
Professor of Old Testament at Campbell University Divinity School in Buies Creek, North Carolina, and the Contributing Editor and Curriculum Writer at Good Faith Media.