Thank You

Today, I am going to beg everyone's indulgence and end regular posting on the Ashkelon blog on a personal note.

 Grid 38 1989 -- that's me in the yellow shirt

Grid 38 1989 -- that's me in the yellow shirt

My first season was in 1989. I spent the summer in Grid 38 digging open air sewers in Roman streets. I loved every minute of it. I returned the following year and spent another summer in Grid 38. By then there could be no doubt, the archaeology bug had bitten me and I was hooked.

In 1991 I joined the staff and moved from Grid 38 to Grid 50 which was just a short run down the dump from the Mediterranean and swimming during fruit break. There I dug robber trenches, dog burials (approximately 100) and meters and meters of the Persian period.

 Grid 50 -- 2016

Grid 50 -- 2016

In 1997, I opened Grid 51 where I spent the summer excavating the Islamic and Byzantine periods.

 Grid 51 -- 2016 (today)

Grid 51 -- 2016 (today)

It was back to Grid 50 for a year and then when I returned, Grids 23, 47, 44, 32, 25 and finally, the cemetery of Philistine Ashkelon. Each excavation area was another piece of the puzzle that told us about the history Ashkelon. There was the bedrock sand and the elusive cardo in Grid 25, the dogs in Grid 50, the dense Islamic and Crusader residential settlement in Grid 44, and so much more. 

My Ashkelon story is one that lasted 20 excavation seasons over the course of 27 years. It is not a unique story. Co - Director Daniel Master also reached 20 excavation seasons this summer. Many of my fellow staff members passed the decade mark years ago (Adam and Kate to name two) and many others are hovering right around it (Josh). I am sure there are others as well. Some have participated only a year or two or three and at least two staff members, Lawrence Stager and Paula Wannish, were here in 1985 and again in 2016.

We all have similar stories, as do the countless specialists from zooarchaeologists, physical anthropologists, microarchaeologists and geologists to archaeobotanists, conservators, and surveyors who have helped to make sense of the material we found.

I believe many of us would tell you that most seasons, we were the least important people in our excavation areas. The people who really mattered? The ones who ensured we learned so much about the history and archaeology of Ashkelon? The volunteers: students, retirees, professors, nurses, computer scientists, artists, architects, engineers, theologians, historians, people from all walks of life. Everyone who got their hands in the dirt, who rode the bus at 5:00 in the morning, who dived into the containers on a compound day, who relished the challenge of sweeping the dirt clean, who collected EVERY sherd, bone, and piece of glass, played an important role in telling the stories of ancient Ashkelon.

With the help of more than 1,000 staff and volunteers, we uncovered the earliest occupation at Ashkelon (Chalcholithic/EB), excavated Nebuchadnezzar's destruction of the city in 604, explored daily life, and death, in Philistine Ashkelon, traced the development of orthogonal city planning in the Persian and Hellenistic cities, revisited the city's Roman period bouleuterion, excavated and restored the MB II Canaanite Gate, tracked urban developments in the Byzantine, Islamic and Crusader periods, and deciphered the sequence of the fortifications ringing the city.

We have learned a great deal about ancient Ashkelon in the 30 years of the Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon. There is more work to do but not for us. Now we return the archaeological site to the national park in which it is housed. Today Grid 51 is a field of dirt but nature works quickly and it won't be long before it is reclaimed just as has happened with previous excavation areas.

 Grid 37 -- excavated 1986-1987

Grid 37 -- excavated 1986-1987

 Grid 44 -- excavated 2013

Grid 44 -- excavated 2013

Our excavation is done but our publication work continues as does our commitment to leaving a lasting legacy for the park and the people of Ashkelon. The Philistine house in Grid 38 will be conserved in the future while work on the restoration of the bouleuterion is well under way. Stage 1, an IAA excavation preparing the surrounding landscape, is in process.

 Grid 47 -- 2016 IAA excavation preparing for restoration of bouleuterion

Grid 47 -- 2016 IAA excavation preparing for restoration of bouleuterion

 Grid 47 -- bouleuterion (2016)

Grid 47 -- bouleuterion (2016)

Good-byes are hard, especially after 30 years, but it's time. On behalf of the 2016 Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon staff, I'd like to thank everyone who helped us excavate Ashkelon, to everyone who ever helped us tell the story of this remarkable city, and to those who will help us finish the publication program. I'd like to thank the Israel Antiquities Authority and the Israel Nature and Parks Authority.

It was the vision and support of Leon Levy and then the continued and unwavering support of Shelby White and the Leon Levy Foundation that made it all possible and allowed us to excavate Ashkelon for 30 years. Thank you.

Finally, to the Ashkelon staff, more an extended family than a group of co-workers, thank you. It was a fantastic run and I loved each and every minute of it.

 Sunset over the beaches of Ashkelon -- 2015

Sunset over the beaches of Ashkelon -- 2015

2016 Postseason

On Friday, Melissa climbed a tall ladder and took the Grid 51 final photos. She also took a picture of grid supervisors Laura and Jonathon as they stood in the grid one last time.

Today, the bulldozer came and backfilled Grid 51. 

That's it.

We're all done in the field. 

The Leon Levy Expedition has completed its excavation of ancient Ashkelon. 

2016 Field Season Day 41

The 2016 field season is done. Last night we enjoyed all-you-can eat ice cream as we celebrated the end of the season and tonight the volunteers start heading home.

There is still a lot of work to do to shut everything down. One such project had volunteers back in the field this week covering the shrine in Grid 38.

Sunday morning we sleep in until 6:00 at which time the staff will meet to go over the schedule for staff week. We have a few days of post-season until everyone heads home. Check back next week to see what is happening in the Pottery Compound.

2016 Field Season Day 40

The season is almost over. Tonight is the final party and the expedition will be celebrating at the 2nd "All You Can Eat Ice Cream Party" at Polar Bear Ice Cream. What's not to love about ice cream?

This morning the expedition had a chance to unwind and celebrate a successful season during Adam Aja's annual Tell Games. The 2016 edition was awesome and fun was had by everyone who participated as well as those who watched safely from the sidelines.

2016 Field Season Day 38

Grid 51 is still in the field digging a probe to bedrock. They have reached Iron I and are now starting to go even earlier. The Pottery Compound is also busy as end of season inventory begins and we start to pack the containers. Photos of all of this coming tomorrow. 

Today, a few more pictures from the exhibit at the Rockefeller.

 Fatimid inscription with Crusader shields

Fatimid inscription with Crusader shields

 "Pottery River"

"Pottery River"

 Byzantine inscription

Byzantine inscription

2016 Field Season Day 37

This afternoon Adam Aja was interviewed about the cemetery of the Philistines at Ashkelon. You can find the video here.

Last night, the IAA held their annual reception for foreign expeditions. It coincided with the  opening of a special exhibit on the Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon at the Rockefeller Museum. Below, some photos from the exhibit opening.

2016 Field Season Day 36

This morning, Co-Directors Lawrence Stager and Daniel Master along with Assistant Director Adam Aja and Physical Anthropologist Sherry Fox announced the discovery of a Philistine cemetery at Ashkelon. First uncovered in 2013, the cemetery was excavated for four seasons by staff and volunteers who did not speak of what they found until today. It's a remarkable story and more will come out in the next few days, weeks, and months.

Today, pictures from four seasons of excavation in the Philistine cemetery. 

 2013

2013

 2014

2014

 2015

2015

 2016

2016

 2016

2016

 2015 -- desalination pool

2015 -- desalination pool

 2016 -- conservation of a juglet

2016 -- conservation of a juglet

2016 Field Season Day 35

The end of the season is right around the corner. We have one more week of excavation. Grid 51 will continue to excavate the 7th century while also digging their probe to bedrock. Their final goal for the season is to establish the full occupational sequence in their area of the tell. 

We'll also start shifting volunteers and staff to the compound as we begin end of season, and end of excavation, projects. This week promises to be one of the busiest of the entire season.

Today, some more staff photos from previous seasons.

 1989

1989

 1993

1993

 1996

1996

2016 Field Season Day 31

The Leonardo Hotel chain has been a good friend and partner since the expedition moved to the Leonardo Hotel in Ashkelon in 2014. Tonight, the hotel held a poolside reception and dinner for us.

It was a wonderful evening and everyone had a great time. 

There was even a little dancing!

2016 Field Season Day 29

It was another great day in Grid 51.

We aren't just adding to the history and archaeology of Ashkelon this season, we are also looking back at 30 years of excavation. One of the ways we are celebrating is with a special exhibit at the Rockefeller Archaeological Museum in Jerusalem. The entire expedition will be there next week at the gala opening. It promises to be a wonderful evening.

2016 Field Season Day 28

Weekends are wonderful because the sun wakes up before we do. We have an old picture and a couple of new pictures today.

 Excavating in 1989

Excavating in 1989

 The park in bloom, part I

The park in bloom, part I

 The park in bloom, part II

The park in bloom, part II

It really is a beautiful place to work and we are back at it tomorrow.

2016 Field Season Day 26

The afternoons are just as busy as the mornings. Instead of digging, however, we process pottery, archaeobotany samples, registered MCs and more.

The afternoon is also one of the busiest times of the day for two of our teams. Melissa, our dig photographer, works on photographing not only objects in the field but also objects to be used in publication projects. Much of that work happens during pottery washing.

The GIS team, George, Jeff, Trent and Ben, is equally busy mapping all the day's finds as they prepare top plans for each square. Can't dig without a plan and they do a great job of updating them daily.