Wow! Today was the last day in the field for those volunteers who joined us for the first half-season. It was a fabulous, productive three weeks and to all our part time volunteers leaving this weekend, THANK YOU!
We don't know if any of this year's volunteers will return but every year a few get sucked in and decide archaeology is for them. One such story is particularly fun as it went from one family member coming to Ashkelon, to his entire family joining him on this adventure.
Once upon a time, a young student from Wheaton decided to come try his hand at archaeology in Ashkelon. And so Ben, the one standing in the middle wearing a white shirt and hat, arrived and was assigned to Grid 22 where the expectation was that a large building was just waiting to be uncovered. Ground Penetrating Radar had indicated that a structure, perhaps even a temple, lay not too far under topsoil.
Over the course of three days Ben and his volunteers dug sand. Well, sand and crumbled kurkar (local stone) with only a tiny of dirt thrown in and absolutely no architecture to speak of, not even one little wall.
In came the bagger, heavy mechanical equipment, to dig the area for us. After a day with the bagger it quickly became clear that there was no architecture anywhere in the area. Less than a week after it opened, Grid 22 was closed and Ben and his fellow volunteers were sent to another grid, Grid 47.
Once in Grid 47 Ben found himself faced with large walls, big pottery fills and extensive layers of cement. He slogged through an entire season and decided it was fantastic though it was a hot, difficult season.
Ben loved it so much he came back the next year. And the next year. And the next year. And then this year, he convinced his entire family to come! They loved it or so I am assured. When asked where they would like their family picture taken, the Felker's answered as most Grid 47 volunteers do, "In the sewer," and there they sit, Steven, Gail, Rachael, Lydia and Anna in the Roman period sewer that runs underneath the odeon in Grid 47. The Felker family toiled each and every day with enthusiasm and to them, Ben and all our first half volunteers we say thank you for a great three weeks!
Work continues and in Grid 51 they have fully exposed a layer of collapse on a beaten earth floor. The layer contains a number of broken vessels which, once excavated, will be given to the conservator for restortation. It seems to be part of a destruction horizon that marks the start of the Hellenistic period here at Ashkelon. At the bottom of the picture, you can see a Byzantine period well which cut through the floor and the layer of collapse.
We will try follow Grid 51's progress as they work through this material over the course of the next three weeks. Please check back for more pictures next week!