Friday, July 31, 2009

The Mad Dash

Our mad dash toward coming home began yesterday (Thursday) morning at 4 AM. We headed up for our last day of the dig. I got to work in ZZ99 helping to uncover the remainder of the floor. We uncovered it, rinsed it with water, covered the hole with a board and then covered the floor with door (in order to preserve it). Then we headed down the hill and had our "Last Supper" at the Fish Restaurant connected to the kibbutz.

Andrea and I are now working on packing. We've already gotten rid of most of our dig clothes, and are trying to figure out how to come home with one less bag (Andrea's big bag lost a wheel on the way over here...) Should be an eventful, thoughtful, memorable, sad day. I uploaded a lot of pictures to our flickr page -

Take a look at how we started, and ended, our day yesterday...

The Last Sunrise (by Candid Cameron)

Dock at Night. (by Candid Cameron)

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

"I Don't Trust the Alarm Clock"

That's what Andrea said last night...she was sleep-talking, but even in her sleepy state she was not wrong about the alarm clock. In fact, nothing is quite as invigorating as waking up to your wife saying, "Cameron, it's 4:30..." and realizing that you are supposed to be up in the parking lot and ready to head up the mountain by 4:40...and it's the second to last day of the dig and it's laundry day so all of your laundry needs to be dropped off at the womens' quarters which is slightly out of the way...

That was our early morning wake up call, but we made it to the parking lot before the bus arrived, and were up on the hill "dark and early" just like the 17 days of digging prior to this one.

My day started in the Southwest corner of square ZZ99 looking for the opening of the drain that we had found in ZZ0, and which I worked on yesterday. I poked around for a while looking for drainage channel, found some rocks, plaster on the walls, more rocks and some dirt. Then, upon close inspection, realized that I was a few centimeters too close to the wall and began to poke around further. However, there was a rock sitting adjacent to the wall that was covered in plaster...and the plaster was attached to the wall. With permission I carefully removed the stone in order to look for the opening - no luck. Then I decided, since I was so close to the other side yesterday, that I would try and poke a piece of rebar through just one more time. I fiddled around with the rebar and began hitting the other side. I heard someone say from the other side of the wall "Look at the plaster - Cameron keep doing that." And then the rebar passed through the other side...

FINALLY! (by Candid Cameron)
You can see, below and to the right, where I was initially looking for the channel and drainage hole. The hole had been completely covered which further suggests that the room in ZZ99 had been used for something other than it's initial purpose somewhere during the history of the city. After Dr. Schuler documented the plastered over hole he asked me to expose the drain the rest of the way...I removed the plaster from the wall, loosened the stones that had been placed to block the hole and reinforce the plaster and...voila!

All the Way Through! (by Candid Cameron)

Yes. (by Candid Cameron)

Having finally completed my drain I moved on to helping the rest of the crew in ZZ99 to uncover the stairs that they had found, and try to (hopefully) find the floor.

Again, this was a mission accomplished - and what fantastic results!

Our first find of the day came while Anna was using the turreah to move some loose dirt. Suddenly she yelled "I found a hole." We all came over to look and sure enough there was a hole large enough for a turreah handle to fit in. Dr. Schuler came over and measured the hole with a tape measure and initially thought it was approximately 3.5 meters deep, and we thought we had found a cistern - which made sense considering the drain that I had just uncovered. As we continued to clear away stones, however, things got strange as we discovered that the hole had a square corner...

A Square Hole? (by Candid Cameron)

Then Arny mentioned that some of the stones seemed to have different "textures." He grabbed a brush and began to sweep, and we found...

Different Colored Tiles!
A tiled floor! The hole appears to be a cave of some kind (there is a definite draft that can be felt when you put your hand or face close to the opening) that may have collapsed during the earthquake or at some point in the last 1400 years.

Rachel and Anna have been working off and on in this square since the first day nearly four weeks ago, and finally they have a floor to show for it - and what a floor it is.

Anna's Floor...Finally!
Anna was so excited to find the floor that she kissed it...

Darryl, however, was a fan of the hole...
Darryl, or an Ostrich? (by Candid Cameron)


Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Welcome back, dear Dinosaur!

As Cameron already mentioned, today was cistern diving day, and I was excited! There's not that much to get excited about - it's just a big hole in the ground, with air that is even warmer and more humid than what we are surviving everyday on the top of the mountain, but for some reason it is fun. I am pretty sure it has something to do with the fact that I have a dinosaur headlamp (it actually roars when turned on) that I used 3 years ago and have been trying to convince Dr. Schuler to use ever since. It's a game: I get excited about the cistern and announce that I have my lamp if he needs it, and he rolls his eyes, shakes his head and says, "I am not wearing that." So I wear it, make it into a bigger deal than it needs to be and we giggle about it a little. Really, it has sentimental value to the first cistern I went down and the first reaction I got from Dr. Schuler when I finally unveiled the Jurassic headgear - it is the dinosaur's second trip to Israel, and although I know I will never win the "wear this, Sir" game - it doesn't mean I won't play.

I'd like to continue by telling you how absolutely amazing a cistern is and that there was actually a tunnel and caves and bones and gold and all kinds of other amazing finds, but it really is just a hole with a lot of dirt in the bottom. It is dark, the plaster is falling off the walls, and the walls are very lumpy. It is just fun to go down a hole using a rope ladder on an archaeological site.

This is one of the fun parts - things being lowered down via rope. In this case, my drawing board is coming down so I can take measurements and draw a floor plan and a profile of what the cistern looks like. It is one of the "perks" of being the illustrator - I was the second one who got to go down because I had to in order to draw it!


Awwww - isn't it cute?! Cameron and me in a cistern together all sweaty and dirty! Sweet!

Only 2 days left, and seeing as how digging and drawing are both slowing down, I will only be going up the mountain for the first part of the morning tomorrow so that I can come back and have time to finish my final drawings. I will be putting up pictures of the oil lamps I am drawing (and explaining more about them) and will show you a picture of a finished drawing so that you can see what I do here, so stay tuned!

Lying Down on the Job

Cleaning out the Drain (by Candid Cameron)

Remember that drain I told you about yesterday? I think I failed to mention that after Dr. Schuler said "Yeah, it's a drain" he finished by saying "and you know what we find in drains?!" He was referring to coins. Over the past years there have been a few drains excavated and they have found coins which have washed down the street, into the gutter and then gotten stuck in the drain...So, today was my day to see what I could find in our drain...I didn't find coins. In fact, I didn't find much. I didn't even find the other side! That will come tomorrow however as we continue to work in ZZ99 (what a cool name, right?!)

I spent most of my morning lying on my stomach in the channel between the two drains. After digging some dirt out I scooped it into buckets which were then sifted by Hannah.

Drain 3 (by Candid Cameron)

Drain 1 (by Candid Cameron)

Having been thoroughly disappointed by the drain I moved on to helping heave rocks out of ZZ99, and then got to go cistern diving (they found a cistern in ZZ4 - I would recommend Brennan's blog for more information on that).

On the Rope Ladder (by Candid Cameron)

Up the Cistern

And, speaking of lying down on the job, I'm not quite sure how Brennan found the time for this (or who took this photo...seriously, Andrea didn't take it and neither did I but it was on our camera), but kudos for ingenuity...

Wheelbarrow Nap

Monday, July 27, 2009

My Own Worst Critic

My family has a tradition of watching Jeopardy during dinner. There is a long standing joke between my dad and I concerning my mom's tendency to say "I was going to say that" after the correct answer had been revealed. Suffice it to say that I had an "I was going to say that" moment today.

We started work clearing the stairs and floor that we initially uncovered yesterday.

We Have Stairs. (by Candid Cameron)
The top step that you see in this picture is actually a stylobate, or a straight row of stones on which columns would generally be placed. So, as you can see, we have two real steps and then the floor - which is at a slight slant (more on why it's slanted later...)

Old Stairs, New Stairs (by Candid Cameron)
In this picture you can see the stairs and our "bucket-lifting platform" - the stack of six rocks on the left-hand side of the frame - resting on the stylobate.

After we cleared much of what needed to be cleared from this area we moved to the west in our square. There was a clear delineation between the eastern part of this area and the western part made by a row of limestone rocks. As we cleared the dirt we again found floor, but of a different kind. It seemed to almost be one piece of stone, and for a time we thought we had something really interesting. As we dug further and further, however, we realized that there are a few seams in the stone. Most of these seams have been filled with plaster, and in fact we found A LOT of plaster today. Moving more and more toward the western wall of the square there was an edge on the stone. I dug down further and found more plaster. As I was digging in a small crevasse that was perhaps 20 centimeters, just less than one foot, wide I realized that it was beginning to look like a drain and gutter. This is where I made my big mistake...I didn't say anything! However, I knew Dr. Schuler would be around in just a few moments to take end of the day photos.

We moved on to different work removing all of the stones from our "bucket filling station." Dr. Schuler came by to take photos, and as we were preparing the next rock I pointed out that I had found plaster on the floor in this area. His immediate response was, "Yeah, it's a drain." And I thought to myself..."Why didn't you say something!? You were right!" Now, I will leave it to you, dear reader, to decide whether or not to believe me, but I thought it and I was right...there may be a future for me in this business yet.

That pretty much wraps up the day for me. In other news, work on the dig went for nearly 30 hours between yesterday and this morning. Two surveyors came in to take an electronic scan of the site which will be used to construct a digital record of what has been uncovered at the North-East Church. Not only did they work through the heat of the day (yesterday afternoon), they pulled an all-nighter last night in order to get the scanning finished before they leave tomorrow (there are rumors floating around about Dr. Schuler sleeping in a wheel-barrow, and I am hoping for pictures soon). I will be very interested to see the results of their work.

Because of this work, the mosaic floors in the church have been uncovered. They are heavily damaged, but still impressive. Especially this one from the skeuophylakion (yes, I looked that up), the room where the clergy would prepare - if I remember correctly.

Mosaic Floor (by Candid Cameron)

Sunday, July 26, 2009

The Beginning of the End

Dig Week Four has begun! Incredible. I won't say I'm ready to leave this place, but I'm ready to be heading home in a few days. Bacon cheeseburgers, pepperoni pizza, Dr. Pepper, cable TV - here I come!

The weekend was relaxing, but made for a difficult time waking up this morning. Once on site I was awake and ready for some digging - which I did...a lot a short amount of time. If I had to estimate, I would say that I filled somewhere in the neighborhood of 100 buckets today, and at 25 to 30 lbs. each...well, you can do the math. We moved a lot of dirt today. Why did we move so much dirt out of hole that we should be nearly done with? I'm glad you asked!

Unfortunately our square was...not...quite...square...So, with picks in hand we straightened the wall the best that we could. The fill dirt that fell in was easy to scoop, but really put in crimp in us making real progress on the square.

Squaring up the Square (by Candid Cameron)
As you can see, bringing down the balk (which here means the dirt surrounding the square) created quite a cloud of dust.

Continuing the trend from last week we were called away rather consistently to help move rocks out of the two other squares that are currently being worked on. Even with all of this we were still able to expose a part of what looks like a wide staircase heading downward out of our square (pictures forthcoming tomorrow).

As things begin to wind down on the dig, I can't help but wonder about the possibility of returning to this can hope, right?

Holy Covered in Dirt Batman! (by Candid Cameron)
Archaeology is a dirty business, at least the digging part.

Friday, July 24, 2009


Three weeks of digging down, and one to go. On Sunday a group arrives who will be doing a 3-D scan of the entire site, so we're not even sure how much digging we will be able to do next week.

I can't believe this is our last weekend in Israel. Time has absolutely flown by.

There were really no new developments on site yesterday...So, I will share one of the perks that we have enjoyed this year - POPSICLES!

Everyday at 11 AM we have a "fruitbreak" usually consisting of plums or apples, but over the past weeks we've also had popsicle breaks at least once a week (we actually had two popsicle breaks this week!). Nothing tastes as good as a frozen treat when you're hot and dirty and sweaty. I don't know how he gets them up on the hill still completely frozen, but my kudos to Edmond (the kibbutz representative to the dig who helps with logistical things like breakfast, etc).

In other news, Arny somehow managed to get an ostrich egg for Kristina...none of us can quite figure out how he managed to do it, but there has been some speculation about crazy contraptions and ninjas being involved.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009


Archeology inspired poetry...

the floor...The Floor...THE Floor...THE FLOOR
We dug today, and found the floor!
We dug four days to find the floor!
We dug through dirt and rocks galore.
And then today we found the floor.
We heaved out stones and heaved some more.
And finally, FINALLY, found the floor!
We cleaned and scraped and swept the floor.
Yes, finding it was quite a chore
But at least we found the floor.
Now, if only we could find a door...

Clearing the Stone Floor (by Candid Cameron)

Stone Floor (by Candid Cameron)

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

"Things taste better with sound effects."

After 17 days in Israel, most of which have been spent the heat...digging through dirt and's really no wonder that some of us are starting to lose our minds. Although, it could be argued that we all were a few fries short to begin with. This statement about our sanity explains why this morning at breakfast four men had their pictures taken with bowls full of dirt (if it's not explained elsewhere, I promise to follow up on True Grit Cereal for Archaeologists at a later date) and why Andrea was quoted saying the statement above (albeit after we had stopped work and were enjoying a relaxing afternoon).

We started the day the same way we started yesterday, moving out the slough from two squares that were uncovered last year. We should be finished with that cleaning project tomorrow.

After that we moved back to ZZ-0 and swiftly got to work moving rocks out of ZZ-1...However, after this initial push we spent the rest of the day in our square, and my what a day it was!

Remember that Corinthian capital I showed you yesterday - well, it's not longer in our square. AND, I found my own capital. However, it was only an Ionic capital so Darryl wasn't nearly as excited...Both capitals and two column drums were removed by the tractor, which made for quite a show. The tractor driver is incredible, as evidenced by the photos you're about to see.

Ionic capital (by Candid Cameron)
My Ionic capital.

Moving the Capital (by Candid Cameron)
On it's way out.

Just a Bit Further (by Candid Cameron)
Getting Ready for the Corinthian.

Barely Touching the Shade... (by Candid Cameron)
Barely hit the shade on the way out. As an update on the Corinthian capital - Dr. Arthur Segal, who heads the dig, explained that it was most likely constructed around 220 or 250 AD and said that it was one of the best examples of a Roman Corinthian column that he has seen on the site!

Column Drum Number One (by Candid Cameron)
Column drum number one, on it's way out. This is the drum with a hole in it - It was possibly used as some sort of weight or counter balance for an olive press.

Column Drum Number Two (by Candid Cameron)
Column drum number two on it's way out.

Finally, remember what I said about our relaxing afternoon. Well, we found out (at lunch today) that there was another special trip planned for this afternoon to some natural springs in the area of Bet She'an. The springs were amazing...and cold...and the afternoon was wonderful. Only six of us from our team ended up going, and unfortunately we missed Darryl's second devotion! Guess I will have to ask him about it tomorrow. Anyways, the quote came at one point when Andrea was passing out some pieces of fruit leather to people...Don't remember exactly what the context was, but it was entertaining nonetheless.

Swimming in the Springs

Monday, July 20, 2009

"Don't give this kid any sugar today!"

"Don't give this kid any sugar today," said Dr. Schuler to Kristina late this afternoon, concerning (you guessed it) - me! Why would he be making such random statements about sugar? Could it be he's concerned about my diet? Or could it be he believes I am still hyper from finding an inscription on a stone early this morning?! I believe it has to do with the latter. Here is how it all went down:

I was sent to draw square F8 - the square excavated by Arnie's Army the first two weeks which had been "abandoned" after being swept (to expose the lovely paving stones) and photographed yesterday. F8 is on the western side of the church complex, and all digging has now been moved to the eastern side of the church. It should be noted that F8 is a very deep square. (Eric is pictured below to show you how much we dug out - the original dirt level was about where his hand is!)

The level of this floor is much lower and farther away than the other areas which are now being dug, so I was very much isolated from the group with the drawing task ahead of me. My job when an area is completed is to do a top plan, including stones in all the walls, and ALL the paving stones on the floor. I literally draw every rock.

I set up my lines to measure from, made it through part of my drawing (a wall and set of stairs that seem to lead to nowhere) and as I started to look at the stones trying to decide where to start, I noticed that one of the stones seemed to have very neat dirt lines. I thought I could see the shape of what looked like an "X" and "H" in the stone, so I took my finger and pressed into the rock to see if I could feel anything. For a while I was convinced it was nothing, because the room had been swept and photographed, and I hadn't heard anyone talking about writing on the floor, but just to be sure I decided to go over to Kristina. I asked her if she could stop by before breakfast just to look at something, that was probably nothing but I wanted to be sure and thought she should look at it before I got Dr. Schuler all worked up. She came right away, and said, "Uh, this is writing!" At which point I lost all control, jumped up and ran back to yell at the boss to bring his camera, ran back to Kristina, then back to meet Dr. Schuler to tell him I found an inscription. Every year, he asks for an inscription. In four years, I've never found anything (because I'm always drawing). He said I saved the best for last. He also said he's seen me bouncy, but never quite so bouncy as this.

The stone seems to be in secondary use - taken from somewhere else and used as part of this floor. It is written in Greek, and although much of it is pretty worn, the first line (translated) says "Good fortune..."

Please visit the "Dig It" blog on the dig website ( ) - Dr. Rhoda Schuler has posted other pictures, and a video of me making faces while Arthur Segal (the dig director), Dr. Schuler and Kristina are trying to translate.

"Good Fortune..."

Check it out.

And in other news... I have an apprentice! Hannah Applebaum - going into her senior year of high school - accompanied her dad this trip, who is on his 3rd dig this year. She likes to draw, so Dr. Schuler figured it was time to train her in the ways of rock drawing, and put me "in charge." Seems risky on his part, entrusting me with the training of another dig illustrator... but I won't complain! Anyhoo, today her job was to draw a chunk of mosaic found in one of the squares finished last week, so here we are, down in a hole with all our fancy drawing toys as I attempt to instruct her how to get started. For the record, she is off to a good start.

Andrea's Apprentice

Andrea's Apprentice 2

Andrea's Apprentice 3

Home Sweet (New) Home...Kind Of.

As I mentioned yesterday I was moved to a new square; ZZ-Zero. However, today we spent a lot of time working in other squares it seemed...

New Home = Nice View (by Candid Cameron)

Our first task right away this morning was to move some of the dirt and rocks out of squares C and D-6. The squares were excavated last season, but over the past year a lot of junk had fallen in. It needs to be clean when they come to do the new survey of the site next week. So, after working there for just about an hour, and after the excitement of finding one of the biggest scorpions I've ever seen, we headed back to our own square...not so fast...ZZ-1, the square next to ours needed some help moving a few big rocks...another chunk of time not spent on our square, but they found the floor (and two column capitals) and might even have that square mostly cleared by the end of the day tomorrow.

Finally, just a little bit before breakfast we got to move back to our square and really begin work for the day...

Then, breakfast was called...

Breakfast (by Candid Cameron)

Finally, back at it...

ZZ-1 has more stones that need moved...

Toward the end of the morning we did have a good chunk of time where we were able to focus primarily on the task at hand, ZZ-0. We moved a lot of dirt in a short amount of time, and made a couple more significant finds. First, we believe we've found a column "in situ." Which means it is sitting where it would have been sitting when the city was thriving and when people could have actually seen it sitting there! Unfortunately, it is directly underneath the east wall of our square, and we only have five or six centimeters visible - if it truly is in situ we will have to move the square out in order to fully expose it.

Our other find came as we were dismantling what looked like (and maybe used to be) a wall. Darryl was clearing some dirt and rocks away when he came upon this...

Uncovering the capital (by Candid Cameron)

Acanthus Leaves (by Candid Cameron)

Corinthian Capital (by Candid Cameron)

Darryl (by Candid Cameron)

Columns and Capital (by Candid Cameron)

It's a beautiful Corinthian capital. At some point we'll have to have the tractor come over to take it out, but we need to clear more around it first. All-in-all, it turned out to be a pretty good day in if we could just get those rowdy neighbors to stop digging up so many rocks!

On the Way Down the Hill (by Candid Cameron)