The Ashkelon Experience -- By: Benjamin Felker

Journal: Bible and Spade (Second Run)
Volume: BSPADE 22:4 (Fall 2009)
Article: The Ashkelon Experience
Author: Benjamin Felker


The Ashkelon Experience

Benjamin Felker

Getting There

For any archaeology student, whether archaeology is a career, potential career, or a hobby, the crowning point of the study of archaeology is the dig. For me, this was no exception. To actually participate in the archaeological endeavor, to unearth the relics of the past, whether they are fragments of clay pots or the remnants of the buildings that graced the landscape, is the dream of many an archaeology enthusiast. During the summer of 2008,1 had the opportunity to participate in the excavations at Ashkelon, the great port city of the Philistines and the ancestral home of Herod the Great. It was a wonderful experience, and I hope to repeat it many times in the future. I will share it here with you.

First of all, how did I get involved with the excavation in the first place? I am a student at Wheaton College, studying archaeology. Participation in an excavation is required as part of the degree program. The reason I decided to dig at Ashkelon is that my academic advisor, Dr. Daniel Master, is the director of the Ashkelon excavations. I could have very easily gone to another of the scores of excavations in the Holy Land. It is easy to volunteer at an excavation. Just apply and pay the fee (to cover room and board and any touring trips taken during the trip), and you are all set! It is even easier to go with an institution, such as a school or ABR, which takes care of organizing nights. But I wanted to spend the summer with my classmates and professors, so I chose Ashkelon.

Once I arrived in Ashkelon, after a journey fraught with belligerent airport security guards, we were shown to our accommodations. We were housed in a relatively nice hotel (the upper floors were something like 4-stars) for all six weeks we were there. We had breakfast and dinner provided at the hotel, and lunch on the site. One of the points in favor of excavating at Ashkelon is that it is right on the beach. The warm Mediterranean is right around the corner from the hotel, though you do have to watch out for the jellyfish. At the dig there were students from several schools, including Wheaton College, Harvard University, Boston College and Cornell University.

The Excavation

The Ashkelon dig is organized in a slightly different manner from most other excavations. The majority have their excavation areas delineated by letters, such as areas A, B, and C. These areas are usually named in the order in which they are opened up, so it is possible to have areas A and B at opposite ends of the site, while area L is next to area A. At Ashkelon the entire site is divided into 100 x 100 m (328 x 328 ft) units known as “grids,” which are then subdivided into 10 x 10 m (33 x 33 ft) units known as “squares....

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