Local time at Horbat Omrit, Israel

Friday, June 6, 2008

Day 21

What a slob I've been - no posts for over two weeks - apologies to all my fans!

Life here has settled down to a steady routine which occupies most of my time: work at the site in the morning, lunch, then hide away from the heat in the afternoon (temperatures are regularly over 102F in the shade), drinks, then dinner followed generally by bed at around 9pm! We’ve also had a number of lectures after dinner several of these focussed on temple architecture and religious practices in Roman times. I found these extremely useful in understanding the work we are doing on site.

Work at the site is hard but enjoyable, I've spent most of my time picking away at the dirt and levering out boulders - all this with the aim of revealing the original structures on the site

Where I am working we think we have found part of a pavement of unknown date but likely post-Roman. In other places we’ve found an olive press, a wall with a decorated plaster finish and numerous other buildings of unknown function. The problem is that stones from many of the original Roman structures have been reused in Byzantine times creating a real jumble of partially collapsed structures. It takes real skill and imagination to work out what has gone on.

Our current theory is that people would travel to the Temple and stay there for a day or two, requiring food and overnight accommodation for themselves and their animals, so there should be evidence of all this in the area.

One of the most interesting projects we’ve started has been an attempt to survey on foot the whole area of the site looking for evidence of these other buildings. Apart from the difficulties arising from the undergrowth, it seems that many of the useful stones from early structures have been re-used much more recently to form what look like farm buildings, nevertheless there are still many cut pieces of limestone lying round likely where they fell centuries ago. It’s going to be really difficult but very worthwhile to sort out what’s going on. I think this is the start of a long term project.

At weekends we’ve been on visits to other archaeological sites, but also during the week we’ve been to some nearby sites, one of the most impressive being at Kadesh up towards the Lebanese border. There we saw the remains of a vast administrative centre which had been in use since Phoenician times, perhaps acting to tax people travelling between Damascus and the coast. The building had some superb mosaic floors which had survived and walls built in a Persian style and designed to withstand earthquakes. Over the hillside were the remains of many other buildings and residences – hopefully the sort of complex remaining to be discovered at Omrit!

It’s weekend today, so after some work on the pottery we’ve found, we’re off on visits both today and a full day visit tomorrow…..then it’s a few days of really intensive cleaning up at the site in preparation for photographs before we close up for the season.

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