Last day on the dig...

Well, the 2015 season has come to an end. We did our final sweep this morning, then had a drone come out to take aerial shots of the different areas to publish the work that we did this year. Next, we put plastic and insulation over our more delicate areas and deconstructed the sandbag staircase that led us in/out of the grid and finished up some last minute jobs. 

These past 2 years have been such an amazing experience and I'm so glad that I had the chance to be part of it! Thank you to the Leon Levy Foundation, Shelby White, and Daniel Master who let me tag along.

Check out the pictures below of the drone over 51 and the final shots of our grid. Until next summer!

More than one way to measure time...

When working on a dig site, you look at time periods two different ways-who was living in the location at the time and how advanced their technology was. In Ashkelon, we are looking at the people (Philistine, Roman, Byzantine), but also more broad time periods of the Bronze Age and the Iron Age. One way that archaeologists are able to determine these time periods is by looking at the pottery in the grid and what is in the clay. Check out one of our grid supervisors, Dr. Kate Birney, explain how this pottery is different, and visit our module to get more information about these time periods.

Tools in Ashkelon

When working in Ashkelon, we have found a few things that I know I thought of when picturing archaeology-pottery and arrowheads. Pottery is something that we find every day, but arrowheads come along a lot less often. I know that my students enjoy finding arrowheads when they are hiking on vacation, but they are not the same as what we normally find here-ours are most often made of metal or bone (mainly because of the time periods we are excavating). One of our volunteers, Chris, actually makes his own stone arrowheads, though, and wanted to show me the process. Check out the video below, as well as our video later on in the week about bone tools that we have found in Ashkelon.

What are some of the cool things we find in Ashkelon?

One of the first questions anyone asks me about being on a dig is what is, "What is the coolest thing that you've found?" There's a lot of things this year that I can answer since we are digging in a layer that was quickly destroyed in a fire, but this is one of my favorite things that came out of Grid 51 so far. One of our volunteers found a scarab from Egypt while she was lowering the floor, and it was amazingly detailed. This shows us that Ashkelon was trading with Egypt during the 604 BCE time period and can help archaeologists determine what was kept in people's homes. Check out the pictures below of what we found, as well as a picture of a real scarab beetle found nearby in our grid that it was modeled after.

Greek Pottery in Ashkelon

The kids in my class love reading Percy Jackson and want to learn more about Greek mythology and history, so they always tell me what they find as they do more research. Because of this, I was very excited to speak with one of our specialists this week, Dr. Becky Martin. She is here studying Greek pottery and how it shows trade throughout Israel and I asked her if there were any pieces that showed the Greek gods. Watch below as her and Jen explain the different types of Greek pottery and show us what we have found so far on the dig! You can also head over to our modules page to learn more about making your own Greek-style pottery at home.

Also - we are one week out from the end of the dig! If there is anything that you want to see as we finish up or have any questions, please email me ( and I will have one of our specialists film a video to answer you.

Rachel tells us about anthropology

One of our staff members, Rachel, just finished her undergraduate in anthropology. She adds a lot to the dig by telling us about adaptations of humans and different cultural practices. I know that in my 7th grade class (life science), my students love learning about adaptations so I asked her to tell me a little about what she studies and what some examples of human evolutionary traits are. Watch her explain below, and if you want to learn more about anthropology, click this link to see our bioarchaeology module!

Jeff tells us about GIS

Every day in the different grids, we have GIS (Geographic Information Systems) staff members come and take readings of how high each floor layer is and where we find our interesting objects. I was always curious what happens after they take the location readings, so I asked Jeff to explain the process to me. Watch below as he shows me how the measurements are taken and how they can be used to track progress in a grid.

The Finds Display!

Last night was one of the best nights of the dig season, our Finds Display. It is a night where we get to learn about what is happening in other grids and see the neat things that they have found. It's a great opportunity for us to talk about or successes throughout the season and goals for what we want to accomplish during the next dig season. Check out the pictures of the objects we found below, as well as one of the Grid 51 workers!

What kinds of pottery do we find in Ashkelon?

Have you ever tried to put pottery pieces together that you found? Just like the corner pieces of a puzzle, if you find the rim, they can be a lot easier to make it whole again. One of the coolest things that archaeologists in Ashkelon told me about was that if they find just a piece of a rim, they are still able to determine how big the whole vessel (jug, pot, etc...) rim would have been and what the vessel was probably used for. Watch below as Adam explains what scientists look for when the pots are pieced back together (you can also watch this video that shows what happens before this when pottery comes in from the field).


In my class, I always have to correct the misconception that when talking about years, 'AD' does not stand for 'after death' (it actually stands for anno Domini, which means Year of Our Lord in Latin). We work a lot with years that are both BC and AD in Asheklon, but I have also heard archaeologists refer to years at 'BCE' or 'CE'. I decided to ask one of our square supervisors, Laura, to explain how archaeologists use different phrases to measure time and if there were any other ways that years could be represented. Check out what she said!

Ashkelon's Timeline

Have you been one of the followers who has been reading our blog for a while? I know lots of you are! Something you may not have noticed about our posts of what we find in Grid 51 is that as we get deeper, things are getting older. In science, the Law of Superposition tells us that older layers are at the bottom, while newer things are built on top (think of it like your laundry basket-what you wear on Monday is at the bottom, and what you wear on Friday is at the top). Right now in Grid 51, we are just starting to hit the Philistine period, but volunteers had to go through other layers first. Check out this timeline to see how periods in Ashkelon are built on each other, and you can even do this lesson to help you better understand how this vertical timeline was created.

What are some of the things we are finding?

In Grid 51, we are digging up some really cool things! We are coming up on a layer that was destroyed in a fire, so we are finding a lot of objects that were left behind when homes were destroyed. Many have pots and other household objects that fell over, so everyday we are uncovering more and more clues to how people in the Philistine period lived.

Below is a picture of something that I have been excavating for the past couple of days. Can you figure out what it is? I will post the answer in the comments so you can learn about it!

Want to see how big it is? It is about the length from your shoulder to your wrist, and about as wide as your elbow to your wrist. 

Want to see how big it is? It is about the length from your shoulder to your wrist, and about as wide as your elbow to your wrist. 

How do archaeologists determine where to dig?

One of the questions that my students ask most is-"How do the archaeologists know where to dig?" That's a great question, and one I had myself. I asked one of the grid supervisors, Dr. Tracy Hoffman, to tell me how this is done. She let me know that archaeologists use the scientific method to not only find where their next dig site will be, but also what to uncover in the grid once they start digging. Listen to her tell more about it below.

Meet volunteers 1

Over the next three weeks, I will be introducing you to some of the volunteers who are here in Ashkelon. Most of them come from Wheaton College, Harvard, Troy, and Wesleyan-but some are here just because they love archaeology! Click below to meet a couple of the people who are here and hear why they decided to come on the dig.

Sheep/Goat bones

We found a pretty cool thing this week in Grid 51 - a big pile of bones! The volunteer who was digging in that area was pretty surprised when they came up, especially since there were so many of them together. When we find animal bones in the field, we call our zooarchaeologists to come out and tell us why they think they are there. Listen as one of our specialists, Paula, tells you about the sheep/goat bone pile (click this link to see why these are called sheep/goat bones).

Compound Day

Rather than digging in the grid today, volunteers stayed in our pottery compound to help clean, label, and organize pottery into different time periods. Since we had to leave early last year, there was lots of pottery that needed to be sorted in addition to what we have found so far this year. Watch below as some volunteers tell you about the pieces they are working with.

How is Archaeology in Ashkelon like Archaeology in America?

How is archaeology in Ashkelon different from archaeology in America? I was curious, so I decided to ask one of the volunteers who works in our grid, Gordy (check out Gordy talking about his job here). He digs in places where people want to build things to see if there are any artifacts in that areas-they want to preserve America's history! It was pretty interesting to hear how our dig site compares to where he works...

Community Day at Ashkelon

Once a year, students from Ashkelon are invited to come dig with us at the different grid sites. There are two main reasons for this.

1. Our dig wants the community to know what we are studying and finding in the sights so they are more connected with their history. It's important to know what happened in the past, especially when it is so close to where you live!

2. We want students to see the importance of archaeology when making decisions later on in life. Archaeologists can't explore if they do not have support of the community that surrounds the site!

Grid 51 had nine students come in to use patiches, sweep, practice pick axe-ing, and move rock walls. (If you want to see how all of these tools are used, watch this video!)

Check out these pictures of students working in the grid and washing pottery, as well as a clip of two students talking about their time with us today.