A great find

I didn’t know it then, but the find of loom weights and other objects would occupy me for many years to come. I came back to Tell Halif and continued to excavate the area around it. And I was able to shed a lot more light on what we have found. But here’s the letter from July 3rd, 2007.

As the sun sets over the coastal plain it is shrouded by the mirky haze that so characerizes modern Israel. In the distance I see the outline of a grain elevator where the summer’s wheat harvest is stored. Pidgeons coo in the
forests covering the hillsides while the barren slopes to the north appear empty and deserted. Soon bands of jackals will slink across the valley and fill the night with their howls. I am sitting on Tell Halif, away from the
Kibbutz and the excavations. It really is a peaceful place in the evening. I have come here more often at night lately, usually with a few otheres. As the kibbutz is fully fenced we usually need a key to get in and out, but I have also found a way through the barbed wire for the more agile.

Today was really the last day of excavation. In the next few days we have to clean the site, prepare it for final photography and protect it for the next season.

One of the more significant finds was made in our square: while I was getting out rocks and scraping away dirt with few results a whole weaving factory was uncovered on the other side. In a space of approximately 3m x 2m we found about 50 loom weights and over 20 pottery vessels, several spatulae, weights, a wetstone and a knife. One of the jars was still totally intact, while the others were shattered but most pieces still present. There was a large ceramic vat of about 1m diameter.

An incense altar from the Persian period was also found in our square. Other squares found small pomegranates carved from stone, a bracelet and an Assyrian rosette attachment. The course of the walls is still difficult to determine so future excavations have to provide a clearer picture.

On Friday a few of us explored the surroundings a bit and stood on the hill from which Richard the Lionheart may have successfully attacked one of Saladin’s caravans. On Saturday I watched the sun rise over the Dead Sea, standing in the desert fortress of Masada. Herod bulit an amazing stronghold on this rock plateau. On all sides sheer cliffs drop away to deep wadis or the rift valley below. It is an amazing site (and sight). The Jewish rebels captured it and made their last stand against the Romans, finally being defeated in 73 AD. The enormous siege ramp the Romans constructed to conquer the fortress still stands today and we ascended a path leading up its side.

As usual I was the last one to leave the site (as on previous field trips about which I did not write) but was not the last to arrive at the bottom: I ran down the snake path. With over 700 steps and more curves at gentler grades it was real fun to get down that hill. I certainly need the fresh orange juice at the bottom. We then went to Qumran, where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found. An interesting place. I’ve never seen so many baths in one place as in the community complex. The people that lived there must have purified themselves constantly. With another guy I climbed up the sides of the valley to emerge on the desert plain above.

By now the jackals howl across the vally, the first stars have appeared in the sky and in the West a band of red and blue hues marks the end of another day in Israel.

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