Digging up the past

Again, I had something almost prepared as a reflection on Sunday’s reading. This week the Internet has been equally difficult to access, on to of which life  has been so full that there has been no time to think. At last we are in the region of Galilee – somewhere where Jesus almost certainly was. Below are photos of Capernaum and of sunrise over the Lake of Galilee.

Meantime the experience of an archeological dig is fascinating. Our site is Bethsaida (home to Peter, Andrew, James and John) – though it is a long way from the sea for fishermen. There are a number of important features of the site which goes back to the tenth century BCE and was inhabited by the Turks till about the twelfth century CE. There are well preserved city gates with a clear internal courtyard and several sites are currently being dug. It is clear that it would be impossible to excavate any site without volunteers. At the moment there are several concurrent digs. The process goes something like this. Workers (in this case us), dig down until we find a floor or a path and then we meticulously clean it. Once it is photographed we spoil all our hard work and dig down to another layer. Any pottery, coins, flint or other “finds” are kept to be sorted and identified later and the soil is served to pick up anything that we might have missed.

The day goes something like this. We catch the bus at 5:30am to arrive at the dig at 6:00am (hence the photo of the sunrise!) After we pick up our tools, we proceed to our part of the site and do whatever is the order of the day – dig, brush or seige. At 9:00am we break for breakfast until 9:45. Then we work till eleven when we are rewarded with a Popsicle. Clean up begins after twelve and we are back on the bus by 12:30pm. The afternoon is free though we are too exhausted to enjoy it.

The late afternoon, evening, varies though there is always pottery reading at 5:30. This entails sorting the finds from the previous day and being told something about the more significant finds. (There is not interest at all in first century pottery shards – rims are considered valuable as they can tell something about the vessel.) in the evening there might be a lecture, though one afternoon that was brought forward so that we could hear about and see a first century boat. 

All in all an amazing opportunity. Seeing the New Testament places gives the gospels more comfortable next and helps one to get a better sense of it all.



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