Digging With ABR at Hazor -- By: Ben Felker

Journal: Bible and Spade (Second Run)
Volume: BSPADE 18:1 (Winter 2005)
Article: Digging With ABR at Hazor
Author: Ben Felker


Digging With ABR at Hazor

A 16-year-old and his father share their impressions

Ben Felker

It was like a page from one of the magazines. The arid landscape, punctuated by bush like trees that looked like spiky cotton balls, gave way to buildings made of the most common building material in the land, stone. It looked as if the land grew the buildings like we grow fingernails. Such were my first impressions of Israel as we drove through the countryside on that first day. The dig at Hazor was my first time overseas, and practically my first time outside the U.S. (Oh, I had been to the Canadian side of Niagara Falls, but as one digger commented to me, that doesn’t count).

At the dig itself everything was positive. My career aspiration is to be an archaeologist, so not only was it valuable to have this experience, it was also fun to see how it really worked. Don’t get me wrong, it was a lot of hard labor and toil, but it never felt like you were digging a hole. The most difficult part was waking up at 4 am every morning. I had an alarm set, so I heard Shaoul as he walked down the hall each day with his knife, banging on the doors until you responded. The first three days are the hardest, says conventional wisdom, and it’s right in this case. After that it’s all downhill, or, to put it another way, deeper into the squares!

ABR Hazor dig group. 2004. Standing, left to right: Edward Bez, William Stowe, Paul Boesche, Patricia Stenger, Ben Felker, Benjamin Thomas, Connie Payton, Donald Bassett, Lilly George, David Eitel, Steven Felker. Kneeling, left to right: Krista Freiling, Nancy Bassett, Heidi Thomas, Virginia Toms. Not shown: Walter Pasedag, Sandra Souza.

And the people that you meet and talk with are fascinating as well. I learned almost as much talking with my “cellmate” (my square partner was a Ph.D. candidate in archaeology) as I did from the dig supervisor. It was all fun. In my square I was constantly finding something, whether it was a 3500 year old sheep jawbone, a bronze needle, or a piece of pottery. It was all there in the ground. I learned how to dig and it was surprisingly simple: Take up 5 cm (2 in) or so with the pickaxe, pick through it until you have gotten out all the pottery and bones, then put it into the buckets. Then somebody shouts “BUCKET CHAAAIIIINN” and everybody gets into a line and passes buckets up and out of the square. That became something of an inside joke among the diggers. If you come up to a digger and say, “bucket chain” you’ll get an interesting reaction.

Choosing Sides at Hazor

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