JUC (Jerusalem University Collage) has been given permission to excavate a tel. Tel Bernah is about an hour drive South and West of the school. This tel has not been explored before, the only digging that has been done on it is some trenches made by the Israeli army during the 1948 war of independence. It is not easy to be granted a site, besides having to meet many criteria, you can be denied just because they don't want you to have it. Yesterday Don's archeology class went to the site to begin preparing it for excavation. I went too.
Eight AM, the bus pulled to the side of the highway and stopped in front of a dirt road, we piled out, and started hiking up the hill to Tel Bernah. First order of business, get rid of the tangle of brush and dried grass so that we can see the topography. It looked like an imposable task. I imagined 20 students, a couple of archeologists and a surveyor all hacking away at bushes and pulling up weeds......... imposable task............lets all go home! Dr. Coe, (Dons teacher and aerologist in charge) asked if any one in the group had fire fighting experience, one girl raised her hand and said that her boy friend is a fire fighter, would that do? The process of how to manage a controlled burn was explained to is and shovels, hoes, mops (for stamping out flames) and buckets of water for dipping the mops were handed out. There were not enough "tools" for everyone so I graciously let the others take the tools and I deemed myself the official photographer. I kept busy trying to avoid the smoke (the wind direction changed frequently) and taking pictures while the rest of the group managed the fire. Don and the others were enjoying themselves, this was one of the few times, and maybe the only time, in their lives that they could play with fire and not get in trouble for it. We ran out of matches but found that dried cow dung would smolder. Smoldering dung would be taken to a patch of dry grass and the grass would ignite. There were only a few casualties, a water jug that wasn't removed from the path of the fire fast enough, and several people were stung. The bees were upset because we burned out their home, they are very vindictive. The hill that had been covered with brush was now black and speckled with white rocks. Parts of an ancient wall could be seen, the army trenches could be seen and bits of broken pottery.
While the surveyor and his assistant were finishing up, Dr. Coe lectured about the site. I sat on a warm rock with the others, feeling tired dirty and sooty and looked down at the valley around us and the hills beyond. How beautiful it is, the valleys, the rolling hills, other tels and cities in the distance. I could see the highway that brought us, winding through the valley and fading off into the distance. What is that on the highway? It has been there for a while, it's quite a distance away......... maybe a mile or two. It looks like a bus sitting by a dirt road. "I hope that's not our bus, that's a long way to walk." I thought. When Dr. Coe finished his lecture, he asked if there were any questions. I raised my hand and asked "Is that our bus way down there?" After showing him what I was referring to, he said something about idiot bus drivers, pulled out his cell phone and made a phone call. The bus then began to move and while we collected our tools and hiked down the hill, the bus came and parked in front of our dirt road. We got home around 5:30 and I was glad that I had loaded the crock pot before I had left that morning, dinner was waiting.
Today was my second time in the History of Syro-Palestine class. It is a very interesting class, among other things, I learned that if you ask a question, you may be assigned extra reading and asked to make a report on it. Oh well.........it's only 25 pages and I have a week to do it.
# 1 Starting fires at the bottom of the tel. Don in the lower right of the picture.
# 2 Fire moving up the tel
# 3 On the top of the tel, after we burned off the brush, we found a star. It was probably put there by soldiers who were encamped there during the 1948 War of Independence. A live shell exploded on the top of the tell when the fire passed over and an unexploded shell was found by one of the girls.
# 4 Some of the students resting in a rare bit of shade.