Can You Dig It?

Gezer 2015 – Update Five

By Gary D. Myers

The Ups and Downs of Week One at Gezer

Week One of the 2015 Gezer Water System Expedition is officially in the books. And though we had our struggles and frustrations, we also had times of great fellowship, opportunities to learn about archaeology, and the chance to experience this wonderful land of the Bible.

Our work week got off to a slow start due to a holiday. All of Israel celebrated Shavuot (Festival of Weeks in the Bible) on Sunday. Instead of working that day, we enjoyed a long day of touring Jerusalem (in my estimation, the people-watching capital of the universe). Monday and Tuesday we celebrated the Festival of the Endless Sandbags (setup days) at the site. Wednesday we were ready to begin pulling bags … or so we thought. The dig directors came to Gezer with several ideas of pulling the bags without damaging the ancient steps which are no longer covered by dirt. The ideas ranged from those that are easy to implement and those that take much time to employ. They decided to try the easiest first. We tried pulling a bags over the ancient steps using a plastic container. Unfortunately, it looked as if the container would damage the steps over time. The directors decided to attempt the most elaborate idea – a ramp.

That afternoon the dig directors devised a plan to build 150-foot ramp out of plywood and two-by-fours. The ramp would stretch the entire length of the water system, protecting the ancient steps. The plan sounded … ambitious … even a little extreme. The directors order the wood that same evening.

With the work in the tunnel as a standstill, most of our team worked with Eli Yannai on Thursday. Yannai is investigating how the structures near the Canaanite gate complex and wall relate to the water system. What a treat to work with Eli. He is so knowledgeable and he takes the time needed to explain the whats, whys and hows of traditional, stratigraphic, archaeology. We took turns digging, sifting and washing pottery. We learned much about “control” of the artifacts – pottery buckets must have a numbered tag. Archaeologists use pottery to date the different layers of occupation at a site, so it is very important to know where a sherd was found. It was an exciting day after three days or prep work and the major setback in the water system. That afternoon a small group begin working on the water system ramp after the wood was delivered.

Generally, Friday and Saturday are tour days. While most of the team enjoyed the Galilee region, eight men (who had all been to Galilee before) stayed back to work on the ramp. It took at least 15 sheets of plywood and eight hours to build the ramp. It was hard satisfying work with great fellowship. The ramp is a monster – something like Sennacherib, the siege ramp building king of ancient Assyria, would construct.

The Galilee travelers also had a long and satisfying day visiting sites associated with Jesus. After a little more work on the ramp Saturday morning, the crew is ready to start removing bags. We have a big week ahead of us. I believe the blog posts will tell of great progress in the coming days.

The Treasure of New Friends

As with the previous years, I am always surprised by the people who participate in the dig. What a wonderful group of people. They come from all walks of life and some have little or no connection to the seminary. This year we are blessed to have Dr. Chet Roden from Liberty University School of Divinity with us, along with his student, Terry.

This unique group of people – strangers a few days ago -- came together quickly around their love for the Bible and interest in understanding the people who inhabit its pages. We came together around the task of digging into history and learning how to do archaeology. There are return volunteers, our regulars who come every year and new people who will only be able to come one time. Some are a bit zany, others are more reserved. Each year, God blesses us with the gift of getting to know new people. Deep friendships are formed as we work together during the day, play games like “Spoons” and “High Cotton” in the evening, and travel through the Holy Land on the weekends. It is a great treasure to gain new understanding about the land of the Bible, but it isn’t the only treasure we obtain. We gain priceless new friendships. I really enjoy the work, but the Christian fellowship and the laughter we share makes it a much richer experience.