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2015 Fellow Dig Blog at The Jezreel Expedition

Marilyn Love received her BA in Religious Studies with a concentration in Ancient Near Eastern Religions from Chapman University in 2015. She has previously worked on the Megiddo Expedition and is currently an Assistant Area Supervisor on the Jezreel Expedition. Marilyn intends to pursue a PhD in Near Eastern Studies.

Excavation: The Jezreel Expedition

Directors: Norma Franklin (University of Haifa) and Jennie Ebeling (University of Evansville)

Marilyn will be working as an Assistant Area Supervisor on the Jezreel Expedition from May – June, 2015. She will be working closely with Dr. Julye Bidmead to research how water was carried and stored during the Bronze and Iron Ages at Tel Jezreel. Dr. Bidmead and Marilyn hope to learn more about women’s lives in Ancient Israel through this project. Their field research will contribute to a paper that they are co-authoring: “Women, Water, and Walkways: An Example from Tel Jezreel.”

The Water Carrying Experiment

A Brief History of the Idea of Water Carrying As part of our research at Tel Jezreel, Dr. Bidmead and I are studying water carrying in the Late Bronze and Iron Ages in Israel. Water carrying was an important task in the ancient world—just think about how much water we use on a daily basis for cooking, bathing, and drinking. If we did not have access to modern plumbing and sewage, we would have to haul our water just like young women did in Ancient Israel.

Part of a Lachish relief depicting what may be young women carrying water (Ferrell Jenkins)There are some misconceptions over how water was carried—many scholars have assumed that women always carried water jugs on their heads. However, Dr. Bidmead’s research suggests that women in ancient Israel may not have carryied water on their heads until the Hellenistic period. The perception that the water jug has always been carried on the head is based on later iconography as well as several series of posed photographs of women from the early 20th century. There are many examples of earlier iconography that illustrate young women carrying water on their shoulders or at their sides. Just one example of this is a relief from Lachish that depicts young women fleeing from the Assyrians while carrying small jars of water in their hands. Textual evidence from the Hebrew Bible also clues us into the world of water-carrying: women go out in the early evening to draw water and carry the vessels on their shoulders (Gen. 24:11, 15). Experimental Archaeology: Carrying Water at Jezreel There is no evidence of large-scale water system at Tel Jezreel. Based on the 2012 survey season—in which over 180 cisterns were found and in which a LiDAR scan showed a path from the spring to the top of the tel—we are assuming that young women would have carried the water for daily use from the spring to their households. Based on the size of a typical storage vessel and on ethnographic research, we also assume that each woman would have carried 6 – 8 liters of water up the tel everyday. We thus wanted to test these two hypotheses—that young women would have been physically capable of retrieving the water in a reasonable amount of time, and that they would have carried the water on their shoulders.
(Julye Bidmead)
(Deborah Appler)So, we recruited three young women from our expedition—myself, Katie Mickus, and Kate McDermott—to carry 6 liters of water from the spring to the winepress on the tel (which was excavated in the 2013 season). We began our walk at sundown so that we would remain consistent with the only piece of textual evidence we have regarding the time women would go out to retrieve water (Gen. 24:11). We timed ourselves carrying 6 liters-worth of water bottles in vinyl laundry hampers all the way up to the winepress—in total, it took about 45 minutes. We tried out carrying the “water vessels” on our shoulders, head, and hips—and we found that carrying the “vessels” on our heads was by far the least strenuous of the three. Walking up to the winepress did not require much exertion, and could easily have been a daily task. Our preliminary experiment suggests that water-carrying was a daily task for young women in Ancient Israel. While we found that carrying the “vessels” on our heads was easiest, that does not necessarily mean that that is how Ancient Israelite women carried them. Further Research
We rewarded ourselves with water after hiking up the tel (Julye Bidmead) So far, our research has left us with more questions. Next season, we would like to do a similar water-carrying experiment, except with replica Iron Age vessels filled with water. This way, we can see if the shape of the vessel affects how it would have been carried. We also will be looking at osteoarchaeology from various Late Bronze and Iron Age sites in Israel. Examining bone density in human remains will give us further insight into how water was carried in Ancient Israel, as wear and tear from daily activities is visible on the skeleton. I look forward to exploring this topic further. Source:Julye Bidmead, “Women, Water and Walkways: An Example from Tel Jezreel.” Presented at Society of Biblical Literature Annual Meeting, San Diego, CA. November 2014.

Posted 30th June 2015 by Marilyn 0

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Excavating the Surface and the Pit/Potential Installation

Flat-lying pottery sherds are normally a sign that you've found a surface!It was a Friday afternoon, and after two weeks of unearthing mountains of medium and large fieldstones, my team and I were beginning to get discouraged. Would we ever find anything but rocks and random pottery sherds? However, there was a glimmer of hope: in the final hour of excavation, just as we were getting ready to clean up for the day, one of my teammates found a partial vessel lying flat on the ground! This suggested that we had found a surface composed of packed earth, which was quite exciting. After encountering the surface, we then switched from demolition mode to meticulous mode, trading our pickaxes and turiyahs for trowels and soft brushes. The surface has to be carefully scraped, and all the dirt we remove from it has to be sifted to ensure that we do not throw away the tiniest artifact or pottery sherd. Everything we find on the surface tells us a story about what it may have been used for, and in what time period(s) it was occupied. Since we were working at a much slower pace, it took us about 3 days to clean up and expose the surface, which comprised the majority of my square. We then began to articulate the flat-lying pottery on the surface to see if there was anything beneath it.

Sifting requires a lot of patience (Sara Gensler).This is when we noticed that there was a pit containing numerous restorable vessels in the northwest quadrant of the surface layer. We could see that we had a pit lined by a small stone installation by looking at the stratigraphy in the section. This suggested that the soil in the pit was composed mostly of tightly-packed clay with very few fieldstones. This small sector of my square was completely different from the surrounding area, which had loose sand and a large quantity of pebbles and fieldstones. These clues helped us to determine that we had a pit (or perhaps some other sort of installation) in my square.

View of the pit or installation's stratigraphy.Now, we had to excavate the pit and remove the pottery. This meant that we had to work just as carefully as we had worked with the surface, especially since there was such a large quantity of potentially restorable vessels. It took two full days to remove all the pottery sherds! In fact, we found so much restorable pottery vessels that we did not get a chance to finish reading the pottery from my square before I left the kibbutz, but it was later determined that most of the pottery dated to the Early Bronze Age. After about a day’s work in the pit, we reached the end of it, and discovered that it was about 1.05 meters deep. Some pottery sherds were caked inside a broken vessel’s base, which was filled with the clay material. This partial vessel will be sent off to the laboratory in Haifa for residue analysis.

While finding a surface and a pit filled with pottery may not seem like the most exciting discovery, it helps us to better understand the story of Tel Jezreel—a story which we will know more of once all of our finds are thoroughly analyzed.Posted 22nd June 2015 by Marilyn 0

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A Typical Day on the Jezreel Expedition

Most people ask about what I do on an average dig day, so here’s what that looks like at Jezreel. I wake up around 4:15 AM so that I have time to drink a cup of instant coffee before heading out to the tel, because I'm basically a zombie until I've had my caffeine fix. After I finish getting ready, I walk to the kibbutz bus stop, hop into one of our vans, and am whisked off to our dig site. The tel is only about a 5 minute drive from the kibbutz we're staying at, which is nice, because it means I get to sleep in a bit (you know you're on a dig when 4:15 is "sleeping in").

View of our dig site (Sara Gensler)We arrive at the site around 5 AM, and then the work begins! All of the exciting stuff at Jezreel is buried under several layers of rocks, so my first week has consisted of the following: pickaxe, toss the heavier rocks, turiyah up the remaining rocks, brush up the loose dirt, repeat. Most sane people probably cannot imagine doing this for 7 hours a day, 6 days a week, but I find it to be very relaxing. Plus, it hasn't been all rocks and dirt—along with the usual pottery sherds and flint blades, we've found quite a bit of mud brick in my square. Usually when you reach mud brick, it means that you're excavating inside or near a building, so this is a very promising find! However, digging isn't all grunt work. Since I'm a square supervisor, I have quite a bit of paperwork to do everyday. Archaeology is a very precise science—we have to diligently record and label everything we find as well as keep detailed field notes.
Taking a break for breakfast by the spring (Julye Bidmead)We break for a light breakfast from 8:30 - 9, eating by the Spring of Jezreel. What's exciting about this spring is that during this excavation season, I am helping Dr. Julye Bidmead study how water was carried up the tel, and we are eventually going to use experimental archaeology to simulate carrying water in jugs. Part of the path between the upper tel, across the lower tel, and to the spring was excavated in the 2014 season. Perhaps we will find another section of it in the squares I am working in. In order to conserve water, we wash our pottery at the end of the morning in the spring that we eat breakfast by. Our work day ends around 1 PM, and then we have lunch back at Kibbutz Yizre’el.
A flint blade found in my square (Sara Gensler)After lunch, we have about a two-hour break, and then we meet up to read pottery. This is when we sort through the sherds we have found thus far and decide which diagnostic pieces we want to keep and photograph. Diagnostic pieces are any sherds that are distinctive enough to tell which time period they are from. It is important for us to keep a record of our diagnostic pieces so that we can tell which time period we are digging in. So far in my square, we have sherds from the Neolithic era to the Roman-Byzantine period. The bulk of the pottery is from the Early Bronze period. After pottery reading, it’s time for dinner, and then we normally have a lecture around 7:30 PM. Lectures are given by our senior staff members and by visiting scholars, and are intended for students who are working at Jezreel for class credit, but I usually will attend them anyways because they are interesting! When the lecture is done, then we normally go to bed early to prepare for another day of hard, yet rewarding work!

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