By Katharine Horstkotte ’10
Winnetka, Illinois

June 10, 2010

Omrit, Israel

We’re halfway through the season right now and I’m absolutely loving it. This trip is reminding me of all the things I love about the study of classics and history, and has me seriously considering an advanced degree in archaeology.

The square that I’ve been excavating—with a group of people from Macalester, Carthage College, and Queens College—was rough going at first, as we had almost a meter of contamination to dig through (half of our square was a dump heap from the excavations done in 2006).

Once we got through it, however, we hit some water pipes from the 5th or 6th century, and a floor of some monumental building. The directors of our dig think that it may be part of a large basilica from the later period of the site. We’ve opened up a new square just to the south of our original one in the hopes that we’ll find more of the floor, a wall, and some pottery that will allow us to more definitively date the floor. For more on the site and on our square in particular, see a blog written daily by one of the staff members

Our day starts at 4:30 a.m. with a wake-up knock from one of the dig directors and a cheery Boker tov! (good morning in Hebrew). We head out to the field at 5 a.m., dig until 8:30 a.m., eat a second breakfast, and dig again until about 11:30 a.m. After lunch we usually have the afternoons to ourselves. I spend my afternoons washing pottery, helping out with paperwork, napping, exploring the kibbutz, or going to the pool. Occasionally I study some Hebrew phrases so I can communicate with the kibbutzniks. A few of them have mistaken me for Israeli, which I find entertaining, given my Scots-Irish and German heritage.

On Saturday, a half-day, we often visit other archaeological sites. Site visits so far have included Kedesh (the ruins of an ancient Canaanite village), the Yam Kinneret or Sea of Galilee (it was pretty dirty where we went in, but the swim felt so good in the heat), the city of Hippos (also known as Sussita, this was the central city of the Golan during the Hellenistic and Roman/Byzantine periods), and Beit Shean (a major Biblical city). All of these tours have been fabulous and many offered a breathtaking view of the Hulah Valley.

Everything feels pretty safe up here on the border with Lebanon and Syria (we can see into Lebanon from the site). We’ve noticed a few more helicoptor patrols overhead, but there hasn’t been even a hint of a rocket. As we were told by a local policeman and former Israeli Defense Forces member who lectured us on landmines, the season for war isn’t usually until July or August. A grim joke, but one that does seem to ring true.

About the Dig

Archaeological excavations conducted by Mac began at Omrit, northern Israel, in May 1999. Omrit is located at the northern part of the Hulah Valley, where the Golan Heights and the Upper Galilee meet the Lebanese and Syrian borders. Ancient Omrit rests upon a bluff overlooking the Hulah Valley and is on the ancient Roman road to Damascus. A fire in this region in August 1998 exposed this previously unexplored archaeological site. Surveys by the Israel Antiquities Authority confirmed that Omrit is likely to be a site of great historical importance. The classics professor J. Andrew Overman takes a group of students to Omrit every summer to help with the dig.

Related Pages

Omrit Blog

July 30 2010

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