NY Times: Excavating in Ashkelon
The Travel section of the New York Times features an article by a volunteer to last summer’s excavations of the Philistine city of Ashkelon. Sam Roberts writes:
The expedition is a mix of Outward Bound and summer school. The classes are all outdoors — below ground, mostly — in deep pits excavated in grids marked on a 130-acre bowl atop an eroding cliff that overlooks the beach below. The site is part of a national park, populated by picnickers and jackals and mongoose, with guest appearances by the pink, black and white-crested hoopoe, Israel’s national bird.
The accommodations are vastly improved from the first year when, with the group camping out near the dig, the director stumbled into a cesspool and had his pants stolen. These days, the accommodations compare very favorably with sleepaway camp and the hotel food is tolerable (it’s served at a buffet, so at least there’s plenty of it).
What is striking, too, is the juxtaposition of ancient ruins and modern technology. Each artifact and the daily changing dimensions of the dig are meticulously digitized.
“Every field book is typed onto a laptop, every bucket is assigned a bar code to enable us to communicate the results to the archaeological community faster,” said Dr. Daniel M. Master, an archaeology professor at Wheaton College and the expedition’s new co-director with Dr. Lawrence E. Stager, a Harvard archaeology professor and director of the Harvard Semitic Museum, who has overseen the dig for 25 years.
The article includes information about qualifications to volunteer at Ashkelon as well as the cost and deadline. (The cost doubles for those getting academic credit from Harvard.) The writer includes the Israelites as among the ancient groups that lived in the city, but I’m having difficulty recalling when that could have been.