The volunteers and most of the staff aren't going to be here until Saturday evening, but I've already been at work for a few days. But, before I start talking about that, I think it might be worth talking about what we're doing here.
In the early 1920s, John Garstang excavated the basilica in Ashkelon. He was in charge of the British Mandate's Antiquities Authority for a while, and the head of a pair of archaeological institutes at different times. And yet, at least in Ashkelon, his field technique left a bit to be desired. He excavated a significant percentage of the Roman-Byzantine basilica in Ashkelon, and left a section of the apse as an open air museum, displaying the statuary that he had found.
Last year, we started excavating a section of the basilica that Garstang hadn't opened. At the time, we had expected to find one of his trenches meandering across that section, but as it turned out, while he recorded a trench there, there wasn't a trench there. Standards were different, back in the 20s. In the upper left corner, there's an aerial photo taken at the end of last season, showing what we did; the bit to the left is what Garstang excavated, the bit to the right is what we did last year.
The apse doesn't really look like that picture anymore. The tree in the middle is gone, and a great deal of earth has been moved, as we're hoping to open up almost the entire apse for excavation. Here's how that went:
Since I wasn't here on Day 1, very little got done. Well, actually, I wasn't here for the first day, and very little got done, but that's a subtle distinction. What I gathered was that there was some difficulty with the equipment. There's a big trench that Garstang seems to have dug, rather than just put on his plan, and earth moving equipment was called in to get the stuff that he filled the trench in with. Unfortunately, the edges of his trench were a bit wavy, and the equipment brought in couldn't really deal with the fine details. So, it didn't do much digging. But there was a floor found that gave us the other edge of Garstang's trench, so a start was made, certainly.
This is when I showed up. Also, a loader/backhoe was brought in, and I have to admit, it probably did more digging than I did. Which isn't to say that I didn't do anything at all. Mostly, I traced the edges of Garstang's trench and looked through what the backhoe was digging up, and taking out the occasional find. There were bits and pieces of marble floor tile, as well as little bits of carved stone, mostly from column capitals. The big find of the day was a blue teapot from the 1920s, providing archaeological evidence for the long held belief that Garstang was British.