Day Twenty-One

If you haven't yet checked out Nichole's blog you really should.  You can find it here.  Nichole posts a new video almost every day and they are a lot of fun.  Watch them to see your favorite supervisor or volunteer in action, to learn about what we do on a daily basis or to exercise your brain -- really, homework during the summer is okay -- as you try to answer some of Nichole's questions.  It really is a great blog and well worth your time.

Though it has not yet been featured, there is another very interesting project this summer.  This season we are fortunate enough to have Dr. Paula Wapnish with us as she works to finish the excavation and processing of dog burials from Ashkelon's Persian period dog burial ground.

How is that possible you wonder?  Many  undisturbed burials were excavated in a special way if it was found intact.  Some burials were plastered over, like the cast you get on a broken arm, and then undercut so the burial could be lifted from the ground all in one piece.  This process meant that the dog burials could be studied out of the field without slowing the progress of work in the field.

To the left, Joel works on excavating one of those dog burials.  Once finished, the bones are removed, measured and studied to learn things about age, sex, disease and more.

One of the interesting things they found this summer was that a complete knife was buried near the head of one of the dogs.  According the Dr. Wapnish there was no evidence the knife was used on the dog and so the mystery deepens.

The dog burials of Ashkelon are one of the most interesting discoveries ever made by the expedition.  More than 1000 dogs of all ages, from a day old to old age, both males and females were carefully laid out in pits and buried.  There is no evidence for disease, no evidence they were sacrificed and little understanding of the reason for their importance though there are many theories.

The dog to the right comes from Grid 50, a spot which overlooks the Mediterranean, where the burials covered an area that had once been full of warehouses.  A wide open space, dogs buried in this area were laid out in natural repose.  In Grid 38, the dogs were not so fortunate and they were buried in more of a scrunched position, crammed into any available space in streets and courtyards.  This year's excavation of the dogs should help us better understand these burials and the importance of the dogs to the people of Ashkelon.