ASOR Heritage Fellow Digs at Tel Akko

By: Kristen Johnson, 2012 Heritage Fellow

My name is Kristen Johnson and I spent the summer digging at Tel Akko in northern Israel under the direction of Ann Killebrew. This trip to Israel was vastly different than my last. It involved very early mornings that started at 5 am, included first and second breakfast, and ended with everyone looking like they had gotten into several fights with a sandbag. We all looked forward to showers afterwards!

The first few days of the dig our group of 50 students and faculty from Penn State, Claremont, UMass Amherst, and Trinity College spent time weeding, sweeping and removing sandbags (and scorpions). Once our site was cleared we split up into 7 squares in site A and started digging through the Hellenistic, Persian, and Iron Age strata. Though we found a few modern artifacts such a nails, a bullet from the 1948 war, and previous excavator Moshe Dothan’s pocket knife, we also found a number of incredible ancient artifacts including sherds of Cypriot bichrome pottery, ungatarions, many complete juglets, stamped amphora handles, bronze nails, fish hooks, Hellenistic oil lamps, beads, arrowheads, slag, and evidence of metallurgy. Though I spent most of my time lowering bulks, articulating walls, and uncovering diagnostic shards from the Persian and Iron Age, I did find a drain, a very thin and painted juglet neck, a bronze nail, and a shard inscribed with a lamed and gimel. My square supervisor, on the other hand, made the find of the season: while glancing at an unexcavated bulk near our square he noticed a small inscribed object that looked similar to a wine bottle’s cork. It turned out to be a Hellenistic cylinder seal with a boat, sun, horse, and a few other undecipherable designs on it.

However excavation at site A was just a small part of the total archaeology that went on Tel Akko this summer. Members of the program participated in underwater excavation at the Akko harbor, survey of the entire tel, digital GIS of its topography, metallurgy labs, and conservation programs. The Tel Akko project also included a lecture course from a faculty of 8 along with guest speakers from the Israel Antiquities Authorities and local Akko. Each week on Sunday we took a tour of Akko to physically learn more about the history of the city. We saw the remains of Crusader, Ottoman, and British Mandate Akko, while learning about the walls, tunnels, compounds, prison, places of worship (mosques, churches, and Bahai shrines), bazaars and bathhouses that comprised the Old City during those periods.

Kristen in Jerusalem

We also took conservation tours to see how the IAA is going about the restoration and preservation of this ancient city. Each week on Shabbot we would travel outside Akko to see more of Israel’s ancient history. We went to Jerusalem, Sepphoris, the Sea of Galilee (including Capernaum, Kursi, and the Jordan River), Caesarea, the Carmel Caves, and Haifa (Hecht’s Museum and the Bahai Gardens). The culmination of all of these experiences, both archaeologically and errantly, informed me more fully about many topics which were already of great interest to me. Aside from learning, I also made a lot of friends from all walks of life whose company made this trip a lot of fun. For this total experience I am truly grateful for the privileged to have been a participant.

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