Today we have a blog post from Miranda one of the Harvard Summer School students. Later this afternoon or tomorrow I will post some pictures of Community Day.
Hello from the Harvard Summer Program in Ashkelon, Israel! I’m here as a student in the field school, working in Grid 51 to uncover the settlements at ancient Ashkelon. Grid 51 has been open for a number of seasons, so this year we’ve exposed and begun to excavate Persian period walls and surfaces. This ancient architecture lies several feet below the ground surface and was built well over two thousand years in the past.
Early in the excavation season, a supervisor described archaeology as the "science of destruction," a description that has come to feel very accurate. We disassemble everything. There have been few times in which we're carefully picking at a wall with delicate instruments to excavate an artifact. More typically, we’re wielding pickaxes and handpicks, trying to remove as much dirt as possible from the remaining architecture, and sometimes, we’re dismantling the walls themselves. The ground is studded with pottery sherds, so many that we actually can't record each individually, but everything of interest gets carefully documented. This week in my gird, we've been trying to reach "Phase 7," an informal site-specific name for the early Persian period. We frequently find sherds from cooking pots and amphoras, large vessels that were used in the trade and transport of goods. Recently, we also uncovered a small pit, about a foot in diameter, containing large, partially worked slabs of basalt, a type of stone that was historically used for grinding.
Some of these finds are anticipated, but many are unexpected, as each day we uncover stories and questions that had been buried for thousands of years. As a new student of archaeology, this dynamic between the known and unknown is particularly fascinating to me, and ancient Ashkelon, as the site of a critical port city along an ancient trade network, offers many surprises and answers to those willing to dig.