Blog post by Nathan Downey
At the conclusion of the work week, the GPP squad is allotted a glorious 36 hours to rest our weary trowels. But even when we are not busy slinging soil and sweeping silt, the appreciation of archaeology, ancient history, and all things old remains firmly rooted in our minds. We are extremely fortunate to have our weeks punctuated by short excursions to the Galilee’s finest archaeological offerings.
Scaling the Mt. Arbel cliffside
After the first week of tireless excavating we set off southward towards the Sea of Galilee to hike the cliffs of Mt. Arbel. We were saddened to find that much of the Iron Age fortress embedded in the cliffside was closed for conservation. Nevertheless, the crew thoroughly enjoyed exploring the many caves dotting the rock face and spotting local wildlife such as Procavia capensis, the Rock Hyrax. We returned to our van after a steep climb and set out to the eastern end of the Sea of Galilee to visit the Roman period site of Hippos (Susita).
Looking out over the Sea of Galilee from Susita
Week two’s day off consisted of an excursion to the site of Rujm el Hiri. The site, possibly Chalcolithic or Early Bronze Age in date, is known for its megalithic concentric stone circle arrangement as well its purported reputation as a new age energy vortex. Guided by nothing but a faint memory of past visits and the swirling lifeforce of the universe our fearless team leader led us to the peripheral settlements of the sites and then on to the central megalithic structure, and eventually into the inner sanctum.
Learning about the arrangement of ancient Chalcolithic houses near Rujm el-Hiri
Rosemary gets caught in the vortex of Rujm el-Hiri
We made a b-line for the beach for our third day off, enjoying a short day trip to the coastal city of Akko. First, we were treated to an exquisite multimedia presentation on the significance of the Turkish bathhouse in Akko, highlighting the rich history and practices at the once-bustling social hub. At the Treasures in the Wall museum we examined the day-to-day life in Akko through the material culture left by prior generations of inhabitants. Later, the gang went a little deeper into the winding subterranean tunnels beneath the streets of Old Akko. Once we returned to the surface, we stopped at Hummus Said, a reported contender for the coveted “best hummus in Israel,” moniker, to sample the spread and assess the hype.
The Turkish bathhouse presentation may or may not have been narrated by a young Steven Seagal
In the tunnels beneath Old Akko
Our 4th week of hard work was rewarded with a trip travelled to Montfort castle, a hilltop outpost built by the Crusaders. After exploring the ruins, we made a quick stop in Ma’alot-Tarshiha, for the first falafel sandwiches of the field season.
Before the hike across the valley to the castle
For our final day off in the field, our friend from the kibbutz and regional cycling guru, Eli, took us to view some dolmens he happened to come across on his many bike rides around the North. Many of these ancient stone tombs sit a mere stone’s throw from the roadside, countless motorists whizzing by scarcely giving these ancient tombs a second glance or thought.
The gang assesses the mighty roof slab of a dolmen
On the next ancient rock tomb
Listening to Eli’s tales of Kibbutz Gadot
I am immensely grateful for the opportunity to visit these amazing sites. I would like to thank the directors for organizing these trips. I would also like to thank our friends at the kibbutz especially Eli for his perspective and direction. I will remember these day trips and adventures fondly long after I have left the Galilee. And should I have the good fortune find myself in any more old city tunnels, mountain fortresses, turkish bathhouses, or hummus shops, I will be reminded of the joy that I felt peeling back the layers of history with the GPP 2017 excavation team.