Today we have a special blog post from Harvard Summer School student Jeff. Enjoy!
I can still remember the second day of the dig and seeing the birth of Grid 44. I stood with Tracy and watched as the bulldozer began to screech across stone, and I could almost sense the excitement in the air. Tracy explained to me that the expedition had been trying to gain access to this sight for years and, only recently gained permission. Looking around I saw the breath taking, waterfront view and camping locations all around me. This location had a special feel to it. I closed my eyes and the sea breeze took me back through the centuries and I could feel the energy of this space. I was about to peel back the pages of time and come face to face with the cultures that called this grid home.
It would be an understatement to say that grid 44 has been a productive location in just a short five weeks. Massive architecture crowds the entire grid and the artifact finds have been numerous and quality. I’ll focus in on a few things that I have worked on during the dig to help paint a picture of just what this sought after soil has to offer, though I wish could cover it all. One of my main projects I have been working on is a large drainage pit in the north west portion of the grid. This pit lies at the low point of a huge water installation that characterizes our grid. This installation was only discovered after articulating and removing a layer of rubble fill that covered almost all of the grid after the agricultural layer of soil (lets just say the wheel barrow and pick ax became good friends of mine). From the north an open air drain flows south towards the pit. From the south a covered drain flows north towards the pit with a stone line basin at its high point, and a crusader cross carved into the stone. From the east yet another open air drain flows towards this low lying pit. With all of this attention on this point, I chose to investigate the pit and “dive in”...literally I would find out. I followed a stone lining of pit down to a depth of almost six feet. It was a lonely, dark place but exciting at the same time. After days in the pit I found myself almost understanding the language of mosquitoes as they discussed how they would attack me. At its clay bottom I discovered an extension/tunnel leading off to the north, exactly under one of the open air drains on the surface. I discovered bone and pottery ranging from the Roman period all the way to the crusader age. The pits discovery in conjunction with large amounts of slag found in the grid leads us to believe that the water installation might be used for industrial pottery production. While it was damp and dark, I must say I will never forget my pit and my mosquito brethren who got me through the long dig days.
Secondly, our digging has amazingly helped us to uncover the possibly purpose of most of grid 44. We have, as I stated before, discovered a lot of pottery slag and mis-fired pottery. There have also been many discoveries of isolated burning spots. When pieced together with the idea of a huge water installation, the finds point to pottery production. We hope to find a large kiln with future excavation. Worked bone has been the other find that has popped up across the grid. Everything from bone combs to bone dolls (looks like a pre cursor to Gumby) have been found. Worked bone was one of the local industries of Ashkelon and we think we have discovered a workshop of some sort. Both of these attributes leads us to believe we have found a work shop area in grid 44.
Looking back on the last five weeks truly amazes me. I look at the balks and the massive grid 44 mountain of dirt outside the fence and stand in awe of the what we have accomplished. From soil, to rubble fill, to actual architecture; the journey was long (especially when you start at 5 AM) but well worth it. I can only hope that the work that we did this year ensures many more years of digging in this beautiful location. There is a reason why so many campers and picnickers flock to this location. Who doesn’t love the sea view and ocean breezes, however just below the soil lies a truly amazing story waiting to be uncovered. So to next years diggers: bring your pick axes, trowels, gufas, and of course your almighty brushes and delve deeper into what Grid 44 has to offer.