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Archaeology – A Lifetime of Love

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Staff Spotlight: July

“This is a perfectly wonderful, normal, regular stone. Well done!”

Have you seen one of our green-shirted staff members patiently teaching one of our youngest volunteers? This was probably Beverly. As one of our older volunteers, Beverly shows us that a love of archaeology is a lifetime pursuit. Her excitement and energy are a huge asset to our staff and we are lucky to have her.

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The joy of every staff member comes when they receive their green shirt at the end of their training

Beverly came to Israel from England 48 years ago and is now living in the town of Tekoa outside of Jerusalem. She retired from work as a Public Health Nurse and is now serving her community by volunteering with the Temple Mount Sifting Project.

Beverly first got involved with our project when she retired and took part in Megalim (Hebrew acronym for The City of David Institute for Jerusalem Studies) – a course with Ir David about the First and Second Temple Periods in light of new archaeological discoveries. She found it to be riveting. Each class had a classroom component but went out into the field as well.

As a long time financial supporter of Ir David, she wanted to continue her association with the organization. She took steps to become a volunteer for one of their projects and ended up here with us at the Sifting Project. This was three years ago. Beverly has been volunteering with us once a week ever since and considers it one of the highlights of her week.

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Volunteers getting their hands dirty and engaging with materials taken from the Temple Mount

Working at the Sifting Project, Beverly has learned a lot about the Temple Mount. Listening to various introductions and wrap up sessions, one gets a feel for the history of the Temple Mount with all its layers and stories. Yet, the most exciting part of learning here is the hands on immersion into the history and the direct contact with the materials that make up the history of the Temple Mount.

Beverly advises sifters not to expect every piece of stone they are looking at to have significance, but to wait for those nuggets of important history that come along and to really learn from the experience. A couple of weeks ago Beverly had a really great day on site. She found two coins and a ring all in one day, but she still considers her most exciting finds to be ones from a couple months back.

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Two uncleaned coins found by volunteers at the Sifting Project. Notice the green tinge.

On a particularly gray and miserable afternoon, Beverly found a really tiny Byzantine coin. When looking for coins, you have to look out for the greenish tinge that comes from the bronze in the coin, so on a day with very little light this task becomes much more difficult. To find such a tiny and important piece of history under those circumstances was extremely exciting.

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Cleaned coins found by the Sifting Project

Beverly’s other favorite find is a stone tool. Made of pinkish stone, the tool has a small shaft and three tiny teeth. When washed it looked as though it could have been modern. Yet when she brought it to the archaeologist, she was surprised to learn that this tiny tool was probably 8 or 9 thousand years old. Not bad for a day’s work. (Sorry no pictures for this one!)

I asked Beverly what her favorite memory was from her time with the Sifting Project. She responded that she loves to work with people. She loves hearing their stories and learning about their backgrounds and enjoys going home and telling her family and friends about the things that we’ve found and the people she’s met. Yet it is when she began to talk about her grandchildren that her face really lit up.

Sharing a Passion with Family

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Special stones collected by the Sifting Project

Beverly’s grandchildren have been to the sifting site twice with their grandmother but numerous other times with their parents, and are really getting a feel for the materials in the buckets. Her 3-year-old granddaughter last year was totally uninterested, but this year was very much engaged in the sifting. She had to stand on two stools in order to see into the sifter and was very cocky about being up so high. Beverly relates that her granddaughter kept lifting up stones and saying, “what is this grandma?” and that she would look at it and respond, “this is a perfectly wonderful, normal, regular stone. Well done!” Her grandson (age 5) was very good at finding pottery and her older granddaughter (age 8) was the family’s flint-finding expert. At one point her grandson became a little bored and said very diplomatically, “grandma, don’t you think we should leave some of the stones for other people to have a look at?” Beverly laughs when she recalls that it was fortunately a very hot day when her family came because at the very end, her 3-year-old granddaughter said happily, “look at me! I’m soaking wet!”

It is with humility, patience, and a spark of excitement that Beverly volunteers with our project and we are very lucky to have her. She is living proof that archaeology is a passion that can be explored and engaged with throughout life.

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10 Books to Read if You’re Into Archaeology and Israel

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sifting-project-1Hello everyone! In case you missed it, our fantastic staff recommended various books in the categories of archaeology, Israel, Jerusalem and the Temple Mount for our Book Week Campaign. The list is a great start to a deep understanding of the archaeology of the Temple Mount and a fun way to learn more about our project.

Books range from archaeological texts to novels and 19th century travelogues. Check out the full list featured in this buzzfeed article! I promise you will find something that you just have to add to your amazon wishlist.

In the comments, let us know what books you would add to the list! Also, if you read any of these, please leave a review and let us know what you think of our recommendation.

The full list can be found at: https://www.buzzfeed.com/jenniferg0027/10-books-to-read-if-youre-into-archaeology-and-is-2ey5j

 

It Figures: TMSP Staff are Experts in their Field

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Staff Spotlight: June

Have you met Aaron?

head shot2Dr. Aaron Greener has been part of the Temple Mount Sifting Project (TMSP) staff since the project’s inception. He has held various positions over the years, but you may remember him as site archaeologist and guide, or fantastic lecturer. He has an extensive and impressive resume and long history of experience in archaeology. He spent a year at the American School of Classical Studies at Athens. He has excavated at many sites in Israel including Tell es-Safi, participates in various projects in Jerusalem, and is currently part of the team at Tel ‘Eton.

When not working in our research lab, Aaron serves as the Ernest S. Frerichs Fellow and Program Coordinator at the W.F. Albright Institute of Archaeological Research, and is currently conducting his post-doctoral research on the numerous groundstone tools which were used by the metal workers community at Timna. His study is offering – for the first time – a typology and quantitative analysis of the groundstones, and an interpretation of how the various types of tools were employed during the copper smelting process.

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Timna Park in located in the Negev Desert about 25 km north of Eilat. It is the site of the world’s first copper mine and thousands of ancient mining shafts are found throughout the park as well as the remains of smelting furnaces from the period of imperial Egypt.

Aaron also directs “Dig the Past – an Israeli Archaeological Adventure,” which recreates Israeli archaeological excavations at North American camps and communities. Definitely contact him if you are interested in this program. The program has received fantastic positive feedback and is a unique experience with huge educational potential. It’s also seriously fun. Check out the website here.

What is amazing is that this is all after recently completing his PHD at Bar-Ilan University. His thesis is entitled “Late Bronze Age Imported Pottery in the Land of Israel: Between Economy, Society and Symbolism” and he is always happy to discuss this subject, among many others.

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Unique among our finds is this Roman Goat Figurine

Now you see why Aaron is one of our expert staff here at the Sifting Project! He is considered our expert on Terra-cotta figurines and statue fragments and is currently conducting research on the numerous examples found by sifters at our site over the past eleven years.

Most (but not all as you can see by the image to the left) of these figurines can be dated to the Iron Age II period (8th-6th centuries BCE), and may be related to cultic activities. The figurines found by the TMSP complement and provide an important addition to thousands of similar figurines which are found in all Judahite sites.

These figurines, consisting mostly of anthropomorphic female pillar figurines and a variety of four legged animals (mostly horses, some with riders), have stirred the imagination of researchers since the dawn of archaeology. Since almost all are found in fragmented condition, some have related them to the Biblical account of Hezekiah’s or Josiah’s religious reforms, during which symbols of idol worship were systematically destroyed and abolished. Numerous books and articles have been written about their possible functions and symbolism.

Do they represent the goddess Asherah or rather mortal women? Were they used for ritual in the unofficial domestic realm or have more of an apotropaic function?

Aaron and the rest of the team are trying to answer these questions and understand what these figurines were used for on the Temple Mount, the political and religious center of Jerusalem and Judah.

We are currently trying to raise funds to be able to publish our findings in a series of volumes dedicated to our site. If you are interested in helping us reach that goal, check out our crowdfunding website which has details about the project, our finds, and the importance of our research and its publication. There are also great thank you gifts for our donors.

Also, if you are interested in figurines and what Aaron is up to in the lab, stay tuned for a video contest about one of our figurines. More details will be on our facebook page and twitter feed at the end of June.

 

 

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