Today’s trips to several archeological sites around the trip of Israel consisted of a series of fairly exciting underground adventures. At the sites of Ben Guvrin/Maresha as well as Tel Beer Sheeva, we ended up trekking many dozens of feet under ground, into various cisterns and storage areas hewn into the stone. I particularly loved the dovecotes, with their walls peppered with small hollowed out niches as well as the tomb that we saw at Beer Sheeva, not unlike the dovecotes with its own intricately carved out spaces. The focus of today’s site visits, as well as the lecture, was largely on daily life in the ancient world. As one of my classmates pointed out, these sites had far fewer tourists than other sites that we’d previously visited, particularly those with strong political or religious significance, like Masada or the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Our class TA, Ben Gordon, pointed out that it’s far easier to get a well-funded excavation when it’s likely that the artifacts that you will find will prove politically or religiously relevant to contemporary people.
Interestingly, sites like Ben Guvrin and Beer Sheeva are actually essential to our understanding of religious texts like the Bible, even though the sites don’t always pertain directly to biblical figures. For example, as we discussed during our lecture today, these archaeological sites allow us to catch a more thorough glimpse into the lives of women during the historical periods depicted in the Hebrew Bible. By excavating their living spaces, we can see that they likely held prominent, valued positions in society and actively countered our current stereotypes about the “unseen, unheard” women of the Hebrew Bible.
The practice of archaeology, as Dr. Meyers mentioned today, relies heavily on the interpretation of artifacts, not only their recovery. In this respect, the discovery of a prized household item, like a spool or a comb proves just as significant as a flashy bronze stature for a scholar trying to piece together the past.
Just got back from a wonderful night of celebration in Bethlehem as we welcome the New Year. What fun to spend non-academic time with my classmates and professors. Happy New Year!