Meet the Crew!!

We are a small but mighty crew this year at Marj Rabba. Joining long timers – Yo, Mo, ACH, and AD are rising seniors archaebotany student JF (UCONN) and 2 former W.F. Albright Institute Interns (the College of Wooster and Columbia U), and recent CUNY grad JR. Here are some action shots of the crew.


AD – lawyer, soon-to-be LLM student, registrar, database manager!

Blair and Gabby

GB and BH at Montfort


BH – The College of Wooster


Genius ACH multitasking in the field – ipad and tablet in hand.


GB – Columbia University

Jocelyn 2

JR – recent CUNY grad


JR on her first dig!

Joyce 2

JF – University of Connecticut


JF happy in her work!

Yo and Mo

Mo and Yo – everyone wears a hat!


Yo in the field


Another Saturday, another “one big happy family” outing!

This time to the Crusader Castle of Montfort. Located in the Upper Gailiee, Monfort has spectacular vistas of the gorge of Kziv Stream and the deep green densely forested mountain slopes – mostly oak trees. Built in the 12th century, the castle was originally for agricultural rather than military purposes. For further insights and reading see Adrian Boas (2008): The Montfort Castle, a New Survey, Hadashot Arkheologiyot – Excavations and Surveys in Israel, No. 120.
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AD on the path

AD on the path

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Local vistas

Local vistas



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Floors and pots!

Apologies for the delay in updating our activities at Marj Rabba, it has been a busy week. One of the goals for this small season was to locate the floor in Room 1 and to define better the associated structures (including floors) to the east of the room. We have had a lot of success this week as careful excavating has uncovered at least three flattened pots, possibly sitting on a floor.

Flattened pot lying on a floor??

Flattened pot lying on a floor??

Flattened pot lying on a floor??

Flattened pot lying on a floor??

Flattened pot lying on a floor??

Flattened pot lying on a floor??

Sometimes to get a good image of the pots in situ we have to make our own “shade”.


Make shift shade!

Our weekend – Site Visits!

Today we visited some Chalcolithic sites as one big happy family. First we stopped at Tel Teo.

A man in tall grass, checking out a tel site

A man in tall grass, checking out Tel Te’o

Tel Te’o is a very tiny tel. A small portion of the site was excavated in advance of road development. The Tel Te’o publication states that there is evidence of the Pre-pottery Neolithic B, Pottery Neolithic, Chalcolithic, Early Bronze IA, and the Early Bronze II. It was fairly hard to see anything on the surface due to the long grasses and thistles. We did see some basalt and pottery and some large stone walls on the surface


The gang at Tel Te’o


Some folk stayed at the road side to get an overall view of the tel (“I thought that tells were huge and you could see them from anywhere” direct quote from one of our excavators).



We found a skeleton!

We found a skeleton!

After Tel Te’o we made our way to Rujm el Hiri, which is a standard weekend visit for the Marj Rabba crew. This year we found a cow skeleton – a poor cow that was quite old and suffered from some calcification on its bones.

Girl power at Rujm el Hiri

Girl power at Rujm el Hiri

Rujm el Hiri is an ancient megalithic monument, consisting of concentric circles of stone with a tumulus at center. For many the site is believed to be an ancient observatory and stellar calendar. Today we saw evidence of this in the form of coloured crystals left on the basalt structure. Perhaps folk were visiting during the summer solstice?

Talking about the landscape

Talking about the landscape

Jocelyn R. checks out some crystals left at the site.

Jocelyn R. checks out some crystals left at the site.

Joyce F. prepping for the walk back to the van.

Joyce F. prepping for the walk back to the van.

After two site visits we stopped off on the way home at the Golan Brewery – makers of the Bezelet (basalt) Beer.

Rewards after a morning of Chalcolithic sites.

Rewards after a morning of Chalcolithic sites.

All present and accounted for!!

We are up and running in the field – a total station (many thanks to AD for the donation!), 2 tablets, 3 shepherds, 8 archaeologists, a herd of cows and a herd of goats – no one can stop us! Our last archaeologists arrived last – welcome Jocelyn R. We hope you have a great first visit to the region.


A man, the total station, and two tablets…

Genius Chad - 2 tablets in the field!!

Genius Chad – 2 tablets in the field!!

Tablets in the field!

Tablets in the field – a dream come true.

We start our days at 5:00am when we climb into the van and head to the site. At 8:30am we eat breakfast on site – sandwiches, yoghurt, granola bars, veggies, and other strange items (today we had weird banana chips). Sometime we share our breakfast spot with a herd of goats and/or a herd of cows.

Sometimes we eat breakfast with goats

Sometimes we eat breakfast with goats

Gabby B in the house

Gabby B in the house – tools of the trade

Day 1 – A small but mighty crew (-1 who arrives this evening)


JF cleans the baulk and finds some rather large spiders . . .

Day 1 in the field – lots of cleaning thistles, wrapping barbed wire, lots of sandbags, two frogs, a mouse, and a few scorpions. Our final tally is 8 intrepid souls and 8 disappointed folks back in the US. Over the next three weeks we hope to find some floors, to understand the construction of various building, to make some 3D models, and to bid farewell to Marj Rabba.


Director – Yorke Rowan supervises the clean up.

Sherd dump and barbed wire fencing

Sherd dump and barbed wire fencing

At many archaeological sites in this region the non-diagnostic pottery pieces (mainly body sherds) are dumped back at the site, once they have been weighed, counted, and studied.

BH cleaning

BH cleaning

JF, ACH, GB cleaning in Area BB

JF, ACH, GB cleaning in Area BB

In the coming days guest bloggers will tell tales of the dig – stay tuned for future updates!

The Final Season – MR 2014

Last season we left without finding the bottom of Room 1 in Area BB, which left us feeling that the excavations at Marj Rabba were incomplete. On Sunday we head back to the field where we will be concentrating on this area and wrap up any other unfinished business. It’s a small experienced crew from the following institutions: The College of Wooster, Columbia University, Whitman College, the University of Connecticut, the University of Chicago, DePaul University, and KPMG.

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Area BB and Room 1 – the object of this year’s affections

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Close up of Room 1 and the storage area

We hope to keep our friends and families up to date by blogging regularly about the season. Check back on our progress over the three-week season as we wrap up at Marj Rabba.

Field Practicals

This week students at Marj Rabba learned about the wonderful worlds of lithics (stones) and pottery from two of our expert analysts. We had hands-on practicals in the afternoon after our long day in the field, yummy lunch, and siesta. Every day in the field we collect up all of the artifacts (broken pieces of pottery, animal bone, lithics (worked stone)). We find the artifacts in situ (that means in their original place/archaeological context) or we find them in the sieve. At Marj Rabba we are doing 100% sieve from all contexts except the very disturbed topsoil. Here Achmed and Amir are sieving the material from their excavated area:


We bring back the artifacts from the field and in the afternoon we record, wash, sort, and label them for the experts to analyze.


Washed pottery drying in a fruit flat.


Here Dina explains some of the intricacies of Chalcolithic . . .

Dina Shalem, PhD Haifa, is the leading expert on pottery from the Chalcolithic in the Galilee. She came by this week and gave us a tutorial on the types of wares, vessel shapes, and elements that go into studying pottery.

Below Yorke talks to the MR crew about lithics. Lithic analysis is the study of stone tools and other chipped stone artifacts using basic scientific techniques. At its most basic level, lithic analyses involve study of the artifact’s morphology, the measurement of various physical attributes, and examining other visible features (such as noting the presence or absence of cortex, for example).


We learn something new everyday at Marj Rabba!

Field Trip – Tel Akko

On Friday the Marj Rabba team took a field trip to Tel Akko.


Marj Rabba visits Tel Akko

We had a great tour courtesy of Prof. A. Killebrew of Penn State. Akko has served as a major trade center in the ancient world, with Bronze and Iron Age levels and appearing prominently in ancient Egyptian, Ugaritic, Assyrian, Classical, and biblical accounts. Prof Killebrew told us that locally Tel Akko is known as Napoleon’s Hill


Napoleon Hill

It is famous as the city that withstood Napoleon’s two-month siege and marked the end of his campaign to conquer the Middle East.


Excavations at Tel Akko

Excavations on this ancient mound have uncovered remains of Canaanite, “Sea Peoples,” Phoenician, Persian, Greek, and Hellenistic culture.

Getting into the swing of things

It is day 3, and we are really getting going.

All of the areas are looking good:

The walls are so high!

Allen’s room in area BB

We have been using our trusty Total Station to relocate missing or migratory stakes:

so laser-y

Our TS looking out into area CC

Students have been getting lessons in what to look for when screening:

Is this a flake?

MH helping new diggers identify artifacts

We are now removing soil in earnest:

so much dirt still left to move

hard at work in area AA

P sweeping her area

and our area supervisors are already losing it:

Dont make BJ angry.

BJ calmly drawing a daily top plan