Second time around  |  by Maryke van der Walt

With Gillian Hovell’s words in mind that Archaeology is the art to “discover how to visit the past and bring yesterday’s stories into our lives today” I was off to my second visit to Tel Hazor, Israel.

I departed from Johannesburg, South Africa, and travelled to the ‘Head of all the Kingdoms’ where I met up with the rest of my “digging buddies” from all over the world. As Hazor stood years ago in the middle of many trading routes, it stands once again in the middle of people willing to work hard with picks and trowels. The hard work was rewarded with air-conditioning and Wi-Fi at the Kibbutz. Three weeks of holiday, a working holiday I might add, quickly becomes a blur of 4am alarm clocks, coffee breaks with cookies from all around the world (please just not lemon wafers), bucket chains to prove we actually removed dirt while having serious fun digging away, to finally enjoying ice cold watermelon while we washed the treasures we had found. These treasures were mostly pottery shreds and beautiful Basalt grinding bowls that stayed perfectly preserved lying under hundreds of years of history and dirt. Did I mention pottery? Yes, I once felt like I was cleaning up after a Greek party I did not attend. With the roof collapsing due to a fire in what once was a huge room in the Middle Bronze Age Administrative Palace, many Pithos shreds were found. Layer after layer was discovered and carefully removed while we excitingly waited to see what lay underneath it. A perfect preserved Dear Antler had our imagination running wild with jokes about Santa’s origin.


I can’t even try and explain the amount of dirt, not the dirt in a bucket, but on you. A warm sweaty body is a magnet for dirt which brought me to a new formulation. The more dirt you have on you, the happier you are! There is nothing like enjoying a good shower with your clothes still on after returning from a day’s hard work. You quickly learn a new method of showering and washing clothes all at once. Like everything in life, it is not always about work. Activities such as lying next to the cool swimming pool, playing word games during bucket chains and enjoying the good old traditional Sangria on a Friday afternoon all adds to a fantastic adventure. This is one of those adventures where you arrive as an individual but you leave as part of a family, the Hazor family. This is only my second (definitely not my last) visit and then there are those who have been coming for 22 years.

This clearly testifies that there is something in digging in old ancient soil, swinging picks and most definitely the organizers of this excavation, that make people come back time and again. Thank you to Prof Amnon Bentor and Shlomit Bechar who made my second trip possible with a scholarship. My wish is that more people will be able to participate in the future in this wonderful experience. They should just be aware: It is extremely addictive!!!

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