An Area Supervisor in Training

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By: Shane Thompson, Sean William Dever Excavation Fellowship Recipient 

This past summer I worked as an Area Supervisor in Training at the sites of Tel Halif and Khirbet Summeily in Israel. At Tel Halif, led by Professor Oded Borowski of Emory University, I spent the season digging a house. The square which we opened yielded many amazing finds that illuminated what life was like in the Iron Age Shefelah. Among these finds were intact oil lamps, a Judahite scaraboid, and many loom weights. These loom weights are perhaps the most important discovery from my area, as they differ in size and shape from the loom weights found throughout the rest of Halif.

Interestingly, throughout the summer we operated under the assumption that a wall and surface which we found belonged to the late Iron Age, following the Assyrian destruction of the region. However, upon breaking through this surface near the end of the season, the pottery which we found belonged to the Roman era. Never forget the importance of reading pottery!

Life on an archaeological dig is not just about working on the site. It is also about the connections you make with the other participants. This summer I spent countless hours with new friends playing our newly invented game of lemon grill (a game where you toss tiny lemons into holes on cardboard placed over a grill), visiting sites around the country, and just conversing about life. It is immensely satisfying working with undergraduates on their first archaeological dig and remembering how and why you also fell in love with digging and the ancient world.

Working for the first time with more responsibilities on an archaeological dig allowed me to learn many new skills which will let me continue to work in these capacities on excavations in coming seasons. For example, drawing top plans, taking elevations, and drawing balks were skills which I did not possess prior to this season. Learning how to keep an in depth field notebook has allowed me to continue working with this information from Halif following my return home.

After we finished digging at Halif I moved to the site of Khirbet Summeily where I have worked previously. Summeily is led by Dr. Jimmy Hardin of the Cobb Institute of Archaeology, Mississippi State University, Dr. Jeff Blakely of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and Dr. Rachel Hallote of SUNY Purchase. Although our season was cut short at the site due to the Israeli conflict with Gaza, it was a pleasure to return to such an interesting site at which I hope to continue working in the coming seasons. Originally thought to be a farmstead on the border with Philistia, the objects we have found, including bullae, scarabs, and figurines, leads to theories that this site may be of greater importance. Questions of this nature I will leave to those who are better qualified!

One of the most interesting aspects of the summer were the interesting differences between the two sites. Aside from their size, with Halif being a major tel and Summeily being a small site, the length of time spent excavating each provides differing situations. For example, excavations have been underway at Halif since the mid-1970s, while Summeily is only in its third season. However, while many aspects of Halif are known due to this period of time and the extent of the excavations, new things still arise to change our knowledge about this site. One can never fully know what he will find. The only way to keep discovering is to keep digging!  The assistance provided by the Sean Dever Fellowship greatly assisted my ability to participate in these two amazing excavations this past summer.

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