Why We Dig: A Professional Addendum

A week or so ago I published a blog post explaining why we dig in the ancient soil of Israel, from the material objects we seek to the immaterial motivations for excavating the remains of civilizations past. In doing so, I jotted down my own ideas, shaped as they necessarily are by my own participation in academia. Ultimately, I explained that we dig to allow these ancient peoples–Hazorites, in my specific case–a voice through which to tell their individual and collective stories, and so that through this discovery we can learn more about their civilization and ours.

On Wednesday, before leaving Anderson, I spent a few hours at the university library collecting journal articles, book chapters, essays and other materials published about Hazor by various scholars and archaeologists who have worked at the site for the Hebrew University of Jerusalem since 1955. These articles, written both for scholarly audiences in more obscure publications like the Israel Exploration Journal and for relatively popular audiences in Biblical Archaeology Review, have been listed among the basic bibliography provided to me in advance by the dig directors, given that I have opted to take the excavation as a formal course through the Hebrew University.

I began to read these articles on my bus ride to Chicago, and the following comes verbatim from Dr. Sharon Zuckerman, co-director of the Hazor excavation. At the time of the article’s publication, she was exploring the interesting possibility that Hazor’s destruction may not have been entirely by Joshua and the Israelites, but also (if not predominantly so) by a revolution of the common Hazorites:

This different possible interpretation of one crucial event in the history of Israel has led me to delve deeper in the search after “the common people.” The ordinary people, those shaping the existence and form of society by simply “being there,” form the “silent majority” of all ancient (and modern) civilizations. Their daily activities and mundane chores, conducted in the context of domestic quarters and simple dwellings, are often hidden from current research in Ancient Near Eastern and Israeli archaeology [and] as a result, the Canaanite and Israelite commoners–men, women and children–usually remain voiceless and their stories untold.

Through the combination of both archaeology and related sciences (such as archaeobotany, archaeozoology and geoarchaeology), I hope to suggest a comprehensive reconstruction of the functions of the simple households of the humble Hazorites and their daily activities. Such a reconstruction might shed a different light on every aspect of the life of these people: What did they eat, and where did they cook and consume their food? What kinds of artifacts did they produce and use? What was the nature of their domestic ritual activities? Where and how were they buried? In short, how did the ordinary Hazorites live and die, and how were they affected by the large political processes of the rise and decline of the kingdom?

I hope those common households will be “given a face” and can contribute to our understanding of the history of the city. I believe that investigating “from the bottom up” might afford us new insights to the processes of the rise and the fall of Canaanite Hazor, the mighty kingdom whose impression on the history of ancient Israel lasted for millennia.

Sharon Zuckerman, “Giving Voice to the Silent Majority of Ancient Generations,” Biblical Archaeology Review 34.1 (Jan/Feb 2008), 26; 82.

I’m taking it as a positive sign that I will be digging for the same explicit purpose as one, if not both of, my directors. Surely, it can’t be a negative sign.

Contact Me in Israel

I’m getting ready to board the (delayed) plane for Poland now, so this’ll be my last blog post from the states for a while! Since some have asked, I thought I would compile a post about my contact information while in Israel. You have several options, and I’d love to hear from you! Easiest and most efficient will be email, of course: heatonrd (at) gmail (dot) com. (Note: change the (at) to @ and the (dot) to a period, as you would for a normal email address. I’ve typed it this way to, if possible, avoid generating random spam to my inbox.) For those desiring different options, read on.

Except for emergencies, my phone’s regular capabilities (calling and traditional texting) will be switched off. But If you have an Apple device (iPhone, iPad, etc.), you can reach me through iMessage, which is like texting except it’s free. Send a message to rdheaton (at) anderson (dot) edu. If you’re brave enough, you can also try to FaceTime me with this same address.

I may get a calling card or Israeli cell phone, but I expect that the cost might be too silly. I can chat with voice over Skype, though. If you’d like to Skype with me at some point, drop me an email and we can try to figure something out.

Of course, if you’re Facebook or Twitter savvy, I’ll be checking those regularly as well. I keep my Facebook pretty restricted to people I know, but anyone is welcome to tweet me @heatonrob.

Like to write letters with pen and paper? You’re in luck as well. Snail mail to Israel takes 7-12 days, but if you plan ahead, you’ll be able to catch me at the two locations where I will have scheduled extended stays. Make sure to buy the appropriate amount of postage!

Mail to the kibbutz for the Hazor dig, where I’ll stay June 24-July 13 (send by July 1):

Guest Rob Heaton
Hazor Archaeological Expedition
Kibbutz Kefar HaNassi Village Inn
Kibbutz Kefar HaNassi 12305 ISRAEL

Mail to the convent/hostel in Jerusalem, where I’ll stay July 14-25 (send by July 13, but not before July 7):

Guest Rob Heaton
Ecce Homo Convent
Via Dolorosa 41
Jerusalem 91190 ISRAEL

And now, it’s time for some other details that I simply haven’t written elsewhere yet…

Time Zones: Israel is 2 hours ahead of Greenwich time, which means it’ll be 7 hours ahead of the current Eastern time and 8 ahead of Central time. If you’re in another time zone, or just want to know exactly what time it is where I am, check out the Time Zone Converter.

Dig Schedule: In another post I alluded to the dig hours and schedule, but a complete and detailed schedule is available (along with a bunch of other great information) from the Hebrew University’s Hazor Excavations Project website (click on “2012 Season Information” and scroll down).

My Itinerary: I’ve had a slight change of plans from those I posted a month ago. When I scheduled my flights back in early May, I wasn’t smart enough to realize I’d be landing in Tel Aviv on the Sabbath, which means that I generally wouldn’t be allowed to check into a hotel until sundown. (Oops.) So instead of spending Saturday night in Tel Aviv, where I’ve found only Jewish-owned hotels, I’ll spend my first night in Haifa, where I found a Christian-owned establishment. Nothing against Jewish-owned hotels, of course–I’ll stay at them later in my trip–but after 38 hours in planes, trains, and automobiles, I think I’m going to need some quicker sleep! As an added bonus, I’ll get to do some touristy Old Testament-related things around Haifa (Mt. Carmel is located nearby) that day.

I’ll type at you next from Poland or perhaps Israel; thanks for reading!

The Road To Israel, Part 3: Five Centers of Recreation and Exploration

My departure for Israel is fast approaching (i.e., in the next few hours!), and given the groundswell of interest in my trip, I decided to create a three-part series to provide more information about what exactly I’ll be doing there. Part one covered basic facts about the history of Hazor, while part two covered the intentions and goals of modern archaeology (especially for biblical sites). Part three features some ideas and details about my journey around Israel once my three-week excavation is complete. (See also, my basic itinerary.) So, let’s dig in, shall we?


Except for two free weekends during which I may or may not schedule trips with my dig comrades, the next three weeks are pretty well accounted for. Wake up at 4:15 am, begin digging at 5:00 am, finish at 1:00 pm, in bed by 10:00 or 11:00. But soon enough, July 14 will roll around, and I’ll be on my own! Though I’m scheduled to stay in Jerusalem along the Via Dolorosa (i.e., the Way of the Cross, at least by the record of tradition), this will primarily be my nightly anchor spot for various trips around Israel.

To make this subject matter as easy to follow as possible, I have grouped the “attractions” I may or may not see/visit directionally from my post in Jerusalem. And I put “attractions” in quotation marks, because the word doesn’t seem quite right for the Holy Land. But, it’s the best I have for now, so we’ll work with it.

Jerusalem Itself: I reckon that you could spend an entire 12 days in Jerusalem and not exhaust your options, but I will self-limit to about 4 or 5 in order to see the other “centers” of Israel as well. Must-visit highlights include Yad Vashem (the Holocaust Memorial and Museum), the Israel Museum (where the Dead Sea Scrolls are housed–I may try to find the curator of this museum and introduce myself, because he is coming to Anderson University in the fall), the Western Wall (thanks for the yarmulke, Jasmine), King Hezekiah’s Water tunnel system, and of course, the numerous holy sites associated with Jesus’ last week. These include the Mount of Olives, Gethsemane, the Via Dolorosa, the Upper Room, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, and many more.

Galilee (North): My dig is taking place in Upper Galilee, so I’ll get many chances to tour around the region of Jesus’ origin. I am excited to kayak or canoe on the Sea of Galilee, as well as touring towns along its banks: Tiberius, Chinnereth, and Capernaum (including the traditional home of Simon Peter), and more. Certainly, I will also visit Sepphoris, Nazareth (including the Church of the Annunciation) and Mt. Tabor, where Jesus was said to have been transfigured before Peter, James and John.

Beersheba, Masada and the Negev (South): Two main cities south of Jerusalem that I plan to visit include Beersheba, which is strongly associated with, and may contain a well used by, Abraham, and Masada, where the last stages of the Jewish-Roman War took place around 70 CE. Since the Negev is basically desert, I think I’ll put this last on my list of priorities.

The Mediterranean Coast (West): There are a number of great locations to visit along the coast of what the Israelites knew as the “Great Sea”: the remains of the ancient Philistine cities Ashkelon and Ashdod, Tel Aviv, Caesarea, where an inscription of Pontius Pilate’s name was found, and Haifa. In Haifa, I may visit the cave where Elijah was said to have hidden, the Baha’i Shrine, and a naval museum dedicated to Jews who sought refuge from Europe during World War II. The entire coast is also full of amazing beaches, judging from the photos I’ve seen.

The River Jordan and Dead Sea (East): I will have to be most careful about travel to this region of Israel, as it includes the West Bank. I would like to visit Jericho and some towns along the west bank of the Dead Sea, but I will have to ask around to see if it’s safe for Westerners. Either way, I will be able to float in the Dead Sea at the very least while I tour Masada. In addition, my mother-in-law found a very interesting restaurant while looking in my Fodor’s travel book: in a town called Abu Ghosh, there is an American-style diner called the Elvis Inn. I may visit in tribute to my aunt, who is an Elvis fanatic.

I haven’t planned out an exact recreation/exploration schedule for myself to allow for flexibility where necessary, either as it is financially prudent or as my interest drives me (or the need to do laundry prevents me). In some cases, I may make reservations for scheduled tours from one of the tour companies in Israel, while in others I will travel mostly solo. So the exact details may be few and far between in this post, but for the time being, these are the ideas I’ve got bouncing around in my head. Rest assured, there will be more to come, and I’ll do my best to capture it with words and pictures right here on the blog.

Got any great ideas I didn’t mention? Want to encourage me to go somewhere I have mentioned, or just want a postcard from my travels? I’d love to hear what you have to say in the comments below.

Israel? And A Quick Update…

    Hazor lies north of Chinnereth and the Sea of Galilee in Israel, as shown in this map from bibleatlas.org.As you may or may not know, I am extremely hopeful that I will be able to travel to Israel for an archaeological dig this summer at the northern Galilean site of Tel Hazor (simply meaning “Mound” or “Hill” of Hazor). At various points in the seventh and eighth centuries B.C.E. and further back in antiquity, Hazor was occupied by Canaanite and Israelite populations, and the archaeological program I’ve found would explore these time periods. If you’d like to learn more about the history of Tel Hazor, check out the Hazor Excavations Project hosted by the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Anyhow, I’m highly excited even to have the opportunity to consider traveling to the Holy Land, let alone being there for 4-6 weeks to study and explore. I should know within the next week whether or not my proposal for this upcoming summer will be funded. Won’t you pray that I may be allowed to participate in this experience, should it be in the will of God? Thank you so much 🙂

With that duly introduced, I think a quick update is probably in order as well, seeing as it’s been almost two months since I last did so. My wife and I are all moved in to our new apartment in Anderson, and it goes without saying that we love it. I am not kidding when I say that we tripled in space, going from around 430 sq. feet to nearly 1300 sq. feet. Sometimes we don’t know what to do with all of the space!

The only downside that I’ve found this semester is that getting into a groove has been difficult. When I knew I had a 45-minute commute to and from campus, that made my time all the more valuable; I knew that I had to use what little I had wisely. I’m not saying I’ve been slacking this semester… just the opposite, actually. I feel like I’ve worked my tail off even though I remain behind. A good part of this may be due to the MLK holiday and our numerous snow days in recent weeks – there has yet to be a normal week this semester, so to speak. I am confident it will all come together when I gain an appreciation of the normalcy of the semester!

As for my classes, two are continuations from courses last semester. The second semester of Greek has proved somewhat harder, as we’ve been introduced to participles, which are nasty beasts in their own right. The second semester of Old Testament History and Literature is shifting the focus to the prophets and wisdom literature, which has so far been enjoyable. Reflections I’ve done on Jonah and Joel, as well as some other selected classwork, will hopefully be soon posted to the blog!

My other two classes are not taken in a traditional classroom. I am taking Church of God history as an online class because the in-class section has a time conflict with my OT2 course. While I thought this course would be dry and boring, it’s been worthwhile to understand the history of the movement with which I now identify closely. Furthermore, I am taking an independent study entitled “Christians and Old Testament Theology,” which has proven enlightening in the regard of relating to the beliefs and understanding of Yahweh espoused by people of Old Testament times. In some cases I believe we read too much into the text, i.e. by trying to reconcile the Scriptures in the light of Jesus. Sometimes we can go too far by stretching the text beyond what would have been understood by the writers and original hearers of these treasured books. But, I digress.

Thank you for reading and for being hopeful along with my regarding Tel Hazor in Israel! Until next time…