Sabbatical 2017

Sabbatical 2017
The Jane Austen Centre and Regency Tea Room in Bath, England

Friday, May 27, 2016

Israel 2016, Day 21

Brothers and sisters...I AM an archaeologist! Aaron and I got to play small roles in a major archaeological discovery today!

We went to an archaeological dig this morning. The folks conducting the dig believe they have uncovered the biblical site of Ai. Ai was one of the three cities burned when Joshua occupied Canaan. The other two cites were Hazor and Jericho, both of which we've visited. A few other potential sites for Ai have been suggested but conclusive evidence has yet to be found in support any of those sites as being authentic. 
Of course, we had to climb a hill to get to the site. What would the day be without climbing a hill??
Scott Stripping, the director of the dig gives us a detailed explanation if what they're doing and why he thinks this site is Ai. His explanation is compelling. Scott is with the Association for Biblical Research. The dig is named Khirbet-el Maqatir. 
After the briefing, they gave us assignments at different spots on the dig.
Terry and Tiffany shovel dirt into buckets.
Daniel and Myung loosen the topsoil in their section
Sang sifts with one of the regular crew
Ann brushes loose soil from her site.
Mike does double duty. He brushes and fills a bucket
Chuck sifts with one of the regulars
Paulette uses her trowel to loosen the top layer of soil
Doug removes larger rocks from his site
Brian dumps soil away from their spot in the dig
That small round object is a coin unearthed at Daniel's site. Apparently coins are a big deal as they help establish the date of a layer of soil.
Ian does some heavy work
Ellen is a regular, Her job is to search site and every bucket of soil for metal objects like coins, jewelry, etc. She uses a standard metal detector but has a smaller, hand-held one for finer work. 
Becky, Chris and Esther remove rocks
Tim swings a mean pick axe
Brian helps excavate a wall
Joey does some heavy lifting and shoveling
The base of a large and unusual vessel is uncovered at Joey and Brian's site
Up until this point, I was having a great time documenting all the digging and lugging...and managing to keep my hands clean at the same time. Aaron had gone over the top of a rise to work with two folks at the site of a monastery. I went to snap a few shots of him. He had been busy helping to uncover a floor in one of the rooms.


Steve, the guy running this portion of the dig out me to work right away. Aaron and I were to move those stones so they could begin digging under them. That's when the excitement started. 

As we moved the stones out of the way, Destry, a regular looked down and saw a chunk of plaster with a small green spot in one of the corners. It was an incredibly small coin!

Apparently the coin being embedded in the plaster (in situ) is a pretty big deal. Finding any coin is a big deal. Finding one in plaster gives solid, verifiable dating evidence. The coin is that green spot just above the center of the chunk of plaster.

All of a sudden there was a lot of activity. Phone calls were made, pictures taken, envelopes prepared and great care was taken around the area the coin was discovered. Scott was brought up to the site. Ellen appeared with her metal detectors. Everyone was excited! Below, Destry points to where she found the coin.

When Ellen fired up her detectors, they started buzzing right away. She immediately found another coin, then another, then another. She also found some Roman nails. By the time we had to leave, they had located a dozen coins and a number of nails. 
Some of the very small green tinged coins are in the upper right of the photo. The nails are in the lower left. 
As our group exited the site, Aaron and I shook hands with Steve. He said, "This is a really important find!" I think we're famous!

We moved down the road to Shiloh, where the Ark of the Covenant and the Tabernacle stayed for nearly three hundred years (Josh 12, Judges7) . 
A wine press
Of course the site was....well you know
These flowers grow in small clusters among the rocks on the site
Some of the group standing in the area the tabernacle occupied. 
The visitors center at Shiloh
This valley marks the path of the Patriarch's Highway, an ancient road that ran north/south from the southern border of Israel up to Shechem. It runs right past Shiloh. 
The entrance to the national park where Shiloh is located.
Our Final stop of the day was Mount Gerizim in Samaria. Mount Gerazim is where the Samaritans built their own temple to worship God. We hear about it in John 4 when Jesus encounters the Samaritan woman at the well.

Gerizim is directly across from Mount Ebal. Shechem lies in the valley formed by the Shechem wadi system that runs between the two mountains, the Nahal Shechem. It's all just about in the middle of this map. The modern Palestinian city of Nablus is now were Shechem was. 


In Dt 11, we hear that Mt. Gerazim plays a significant role in the conquest of Palestine. God directs six tribes to gather on Mt. Gerizim and six on Mount Ebal with the priests and the ark in Shechem, also known as Sychar, in the valley below. 

The priests pronounce the blessings promised to Israel if they are  obedient, all the people shout, "Amen!" Then the priests pronounce the curses on Israel if they are not obedient. Again, all the people shout, "Amen!" God is making it clear that His people are to live lives that put His character and nature on display. There will be blessings if they do, curses if they don't. The curses are as severe as the blessings are good.
The city of Nablus
The ruins of Shechem are right in the middle of the city, directly at the bases of Gerizim and Ebal.
The red-domed chapel at the center of the picture is the site of Jacob's well (John 4). 
Mt. Ebal as seen from Mt. Gerazim
As we were leaving, we were reminded that the Samaritans continue to have a yearly sacrifice on Mount Gerazim. This is where that ritual is performed. 

We stopped and enjoyed Kanafeh on our way through the town. It's a fried Arab pastry with a cream cheese filling served with honey and pistachios. It was amazing!
They served it with Turkish Coffee seasoned with cardemon, not a drink for the faint-hearted!

We've traveled the length and breadth of this ancient country. It's been an amazing time of learning. We peered down into man made and natural holes, walked through ruined homes and castles, hiked rugged paths, explored caves, valleys and mountaintops. We've walked on cobblestones that have been tread upon for eons, stood on walls that forgotten people have built and climbed stairways meant for kings and paupers. We've followed the footsteps of legends and losers. We've seen the same vistas the inspired authors of the Bible saw and even dug down into the layers of dirt and touched the past. It's been unforgettable. 

Sunday, we go to Jordan and Petra! Meanwhile....

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