One of my goals in coming here is to make some work that is inspired by the pottery we've found, things we've seen, and/or experiences we've had. I've been so impressed by some of the large scale vessels that we've excavated, and how they were an everyday part of people's lives. I'm considering re-creating some of these large scale vessels, like the storage jars we talked about in a previous post, but with my own aesthetic and voice. I'm imagining an installation of large storage jars, all in porcelain, sitting as they would in a Canaanite home perhaps. Maybe it would communicate something about taking notice of some of the things we use every day, emphasizing a beauty in our surroundings. I'd like to make the pieces in porcelain because I think it helps the viewer to see the vessel in a new and unexpected context, allowing the subtleties of the form to be observed more carefully. Typically, the jars would have been made out of a red clay, filled with sand and grog, built with thick coils, while porcelain is typically used to make delicate, thin-walled vessels and was not used in this region.
I've been thinking too about more sculptural forms...the plants here are so new to me, and beautiful in a unique way. Recently Jeremy and I were on the top of the tel of Lachish, and I heard a rustling sound. I saw these tall plants with many individual flowers that had dried out, paper-thin, and were swaying in the breeze. It was inspiring to me; I am continually amazed by the beauty and individuality of living things.
The first weekend we were here Jeremy and I went to Jerusalem and stayed in a hostel called the Citadel Hostel...it was perfect. right in the Old City so we could walk everywhere we wanted to go (pretty much). We saw the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the Western Wall, the City of David, the Israel Museum, and walked through Hezekiah's Tunnel. It was amazing. As a quick highlight, Hezekiah's Tunnel was a really fun experience...King Hezekiah had the tunnel built in order to reach Jerusalem's water source, the Gihon Spring, and it was an incredible engineering feat. They found an inscription on the wall of the tunnel at the halfway point that describes the sound of the pickaxes from the other side as they were about to meet. It was completely pitch black with water sometimes up to our thighs...the ceiling was low at some points...and incredibly high at others. We had a hard time with our camera taking pictures at the right time in the dark.... : )
So last week Jeremy and I were in the same square each day, progressively digging and analyzing what steps to take next. By the end of the week we had a fairly good picture of what had happened in our site. There's a large wall, and beside the wall we started to uncover several large vessels which were "in situ," meaning that the vessels were still in the same spot that they were placed by a canaanite 3,000ish years ago...the vessels had been broken by the upper portion of the wall falling over. It was determined that the vessels were very large storage jars of a specific style. Here's an image that we saw in the Israel Museum of a complete, restored vessel of this type (the one on the far left is most similar we think).
It was exciting to see these complete (broken, but fairly complete) vessels emerge from the ground. They stopped us several times in our digging in order to document where the vessels were as they were destroyed. It's really interesting because often they'll be able to tell what the jars were used for; one of our jars contained some legumes! (in the above picture, you can see the figs that were in the jar) In the picture below, you can see the wall I was describing on the left side, and to the right are the vessels lying smashed in situ.
We also have found four hammer stones in our square, which were probably used for anything that you would use a hammer for.... : )
It seems like our square was the kind of area where they would cook or store food....we'll let you know if there are any further developments!
Today we thought we'd tell you a little bit about some of the history that we've been learning since we've been here...it's so helpful and incredible to be seeing some of the things we're learning about!
The region that we're living and working in is called the Shephelah (sh-FEY-lah), which means "lowlands." This region is known for it's fertile soil (we mentioned the field of sunflowers earlier...). The kibbutz that we're staying at is located in the Elah Valley; this is the valley mentioned in 1 Samuel 17:2 where it's told that David fought Goliath. There's a stream running by our kibbutz where he would have picked up his smooth stones...Last week we went on a field trip to Tel Socoh (1 Sam. 17:1). We climbed up the tel, and stood on the top where some of the staff told us the significance of where we were standing. They read the biblical account of David and Goliath, which describes the Philistines encamped on one side of the valley (possibly where we were standing....) and the Israelites (King Saul and his army) on the other. It was incredible to imagine the scene as we listened to the story....
This is the view from the top of Tel Socoh looking down into the Elah Valley, looking toward Azekah.
The tel itself is thought by the archeologists to be biblical Libnah; this city was the only city in Judah that revolted against Jerusalem. It's also mentioned in Joshua as one of the towns that was conquered in the conquest.
J and I standing at the top of Tel Socoh...
At the end of this past week we uncovered some really interesting things at our site...we'll be posting pictures and telling you all about it maybe tomorrow...
Today was our second day at the site. We have to get up early...but it's light out so it's not too bad. It's beautiful and cooler in the mornings...our first morning there was a bull hanging out at the top of the tel when we got there...
There are two different locations to excavate at the site, and Jeremy and I are working on the older site (we're walking down to it in this picture).
So much of what we find as we dig is pottery...and at first I was so carefully collecting each piece I found, placing it in a bucket, surprised when other people just tossed their shards of pottery. It is over 3,000 years old! and what if the piece I'm picking up is integral to this excavation! but, there is pottery everywhere. all over the ground, even where we're staying, there's ancient pottery shards filling in the gaps between walkway stones. I'm a lot less careful now.
We spend the morning excavating, and then wash the dirt off pottery and bones and pieces of flint that were potentially used for tools in the afternoon. It's been really interesting and fun for me to investigate and try to figure out how vessels were made, fired, and decorated just by looking at shards. Here's the bottom of a pot, most likely built with coils of clay and shaped on a slow, stone wheel. (the potter's assistant was in charge of turning the wheel...)
Today we were sifting through the dirt that we had collected from our excavation square, and Jeremy spotted a tiny bead, which one of the supervisors said was made of stone.
Sadly...the bead later got smashed..
We have loved seeing the beautiful land, creatures, and plants that grow here. We're in an incredibly fertile valley, one that was coveted by the neighboring Philistines. (we pass by a huge field of sunflowers on our drive to the tel in the morning) This flower was one of the most bizarre we have seen....and inspires me in its form.
There's so much more to tell...I'll be writing more soon!