Yesterday we tapped into our inner archaeologists. Ari picked us up and we drove about an hour through the beautiful countryside southwest of Jerusalem.
Until relatively recently , this was an unsafe area because of terrorist attacks (starting as early as the 1920’s) so it was planted with trees and is now mostly park land. The original trees were not native, but they grew tall and although they didn’t reproduce they created shade for the natural forest to regrow. A true rebirth of the desert.
This is a picture of the width of Israel in this area, 20 miles. At its widest, Israel is 45 miles wide. At its narrowest, only 6.
We made a quick stop at another ruin, which was particularly beautiful because of the clouds and the sky.
We drove by the area where David had his epic battle with Goliath. We stopped in the rolling hills nearby where there was once a small, walled city. Today, the city walls & structures are gone, but the elaborate basements (hand-carved caves) that were under the buildings remain — over 500 — and they are filled with interesting stuff. This is area is now known as the archaeological excavation at Tel Maresha, Israel. Most finds date back to 200 BCE, 2200 years ago!
This is where Herod’s Grandfather (an Edomite) chose to become a Jew when the Macabees conquered the city and gave everyone the choice of assimilating or leaving. It is also the place where Herod was probably born. The ground here is all chalk stone (a kind of limestone). And when you carve blocks of it to build your house, you get a basement at no extra charge!
Each house, as a result, had a mini quarry in their basements which they used for water storage, food storage, and pressing olives into olive oil. Chalk Stone is amazing. It’s easy to carve, it holds water, and you can also quarry large stones from it.
The series of caves is now a UNESCO protected site. The archaeologists here had a brilliant idea of charging groups like ours to help dig the dirt out of the caves and look for artifacts. Because the sites are a really like ancient garbage dumps and not stratified chronologically they don’t need experts to dig. Which is a good thing because there is a lot of digging to be done.
I loved it! I could do it once a week. I got right Into it with my hands. Jim and I were able to dig down to some original flooring which means they have probably reached the bottom of this particular cave. The archeologists was pretty excited. We got to stand where no one has stood for 2000 years.
We found pottery, shells and bones. After the digging comes the schlepping and we all did a bucket brigade to get the dirt up the steps to the surface. Finally, we did the the sifting where you sift through the dirt in the daylight. This is actually where you find most of the cool little things like shells and flint. We found shells, flint and old charcoal from a fire. It truly is touching history. The final step is done by the experts where they wash and analyze the pieces, looking for writing and other important information.
Then we split up and some people went to a totally excavated site while others went to a site where the excavation is just beginning. I choose the site where we had to crawl and Jim choose the other. My area was lit with candles and was a kick to go through. A family with young children joined me.
We ended our day back in Jerusalem for an early meal before the sabbath and a good shower.