uncovering ancient Jerusalem
13.6 Reese goes down a shaft
13.6 Bucket line
13.6 Diggers smile
13.6 Brent and Omrit
13.6 Amir and Kyle
13.6 Dry sifting
13.6 Dig workers
13.5 Inside a cave
13.5 Morning on the dig site
13.5 Dig Site View North
13.5 Dig Site View Northeast
Dec Slide 12
Dec Slide 11
Dec Slide 9
Dec Slide 5
Dec Slide 4
Nov Slide 9
Slide 10.10
Slide 10.9
Slide 10.3
Slide 19
Slide 20

The 10th Century B.C.E. Scarab

Dig volunteers demonstrate the process of dry sifting and talk about what it’s like to work on the dig. At the end of October, workers in Area A uncovered a scarab beetle from the 10th Century, B.C.E. The scarab was used to seal letters and is of Egyptian design. Dr. Eilat Mazar theorizes, “We know King Solomon married an Egyptian princess. Was it hers?”

Ophel Purification Baths

Two mikvah purification baths located next each other in Area B were cleared off in October, along with a third that was discovered in Area A. Another especially large bath located on the site is 10 by 10 meters. It is the only purification bath known of that is above ground.

Speaking Hebrew

We are several weeks into the dig now and I am already well versed in the art of swinging a pick, scraping, brushing and, of course, participating in the bucket lines. Where I find more difficulty is in the area of communication. While most of the workers on the site can speak English, the Israelis all prefer to speak Hebrew in casual conversations with each other. When that happens, I listen to the flurry of conversation going back and forth and try to pick out the occasional word. With the help of Pimsleur Hebrew lessons, a course that all the Herbert W. Armstrong College dig volunteers are taking, I can understand the most basic of sentences.

Often as the Hebrew conversations continue back and forth, I stand bewildered to the side until they ask me something. This is it: the culmination of weeks of Hebrew training are about to be wielded with all the skill I can muster. I promptly stutter out, Ani lo mevin.” (I do not understand.) That is one sentence I can use on a regular basis.

I know, I know. I have a long way to go before I will be able to converse with the Jews in their native dialect, but thankfully, they are patient with me and seem to know English far better than I know Hebrew. One man on the dig told me that he came to the dig with the intention of learning better English. So the conversation is not completely stagnant. The Israelis are happy to teach me Hebrew words, and I can lend my knowledge of the English language to them.

In fact, the Jewish people are delighted to hear that the international workers are attempting to learn Hebrew. They are quick to lend a hand with the odd word or phrase that will help bridge the language gap. They will correct a misspoken word, and compliment a well-used Hebrew term with a congratulatory, “Tov me’od!” (Very good!)

Sometimes, there is a word that just cannot be communicated between the two languages, and a more creative means must be used to convey information. One such instance was when a man was trying to ask me where he could find some tin. He did not know the English word for tin, so a lengthy dialogue ensued involving a number of people, culminating in them singing a song from “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.” From this brief musical exchange, we were able to make a link to the tin man and from there, to tin.

So, language will continue to be something that we will work to overcome while we finish out our stay in Israel. There are a few hurdles to face—but with perseverance, even a lo kolkach tov (not so good) understanding of the language now can eventually turn into a yofi (great) mastering of Ivrit (Hebrew).

Until next time, Shalom!

The Byzantine Tower

In October, the diggers discovered a fragment of a large architectural decoration from the Herodian period while excavating the ruins of a Byzantine tower.

The First Bes Discovered in Jerusalem

On October 9, the day after Sukkot, a mysterious, tiny, chalky item fell out of a wall that was carefully being dismantled. The artifact, only about an inch tall, is a necklace pendant depicting the ancient Egyptian idol named Bes.

According to Dr. Eilat Mazar, the white pendant is made out of faience, and was originally green. She said that it was a miracle that the artifact survived after being buried in between dirt and stone. It is also the first Bes idol ever to be found in Jerusalem.

Bes was believed to be ancient Egypt’s god of fertility who helped with childbirth and was a protector and entertainer of children. He was often portrayed with a large head, feathered crown, protruding tongue and bowlegs.

New information regarding Bes has been revealed recently in drawings on a pithos discovered at the Kuntillet ‘Ajrud excavation in the Sinai desert. The drawings on the pithos, though first discovered in the 1970s, have since faded to reveal a change in the figures depicted.

Biblical Archaeology Review wrote in their November/December 2012 issue, “According to Pirhiya Beck, who interpreted the drawings for a 1982 article (she has since died), the two main figures [in the pithos drawing] … are both male. All agree that they are depictions of the Egyptian deity Bes with typical wide-legged stance, arms akimbo, grotesque facial features, feathered headdresses, and only a lion skin for a garment.”

After several years, however, the soot on the pithos faded to reveal that the second figure might actually be female. The pictures of the drawings on record were updated accordingly in 2012, and some say the update could “change the interpretation of the whole scene” (ibid.).

Whether or not the ancient pagan god Bes is proven to be exclusively male or that he is sometimes depicted as a male and female couple, it is interesting that this latest revelation and subsequent debate coincides with our discovery of the first Bes idol in Jerusalem.