When I was a child I was fascinated by the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disneyland, and I read lots of books about pirates and buried treasure. I dreamed of growing up and finding the treasures of Captain Kidd or Blackbeard which were buried or lost at sea 400 years ago. Now in my fifties, I’m uncovering ancient treasure at Tel Hazor from 3,300 years ago!
I’ve subscribed to Biblical Archaeology Review magazine since I was in my early 20s. Once a year the magazine publishes a “Dig Issue” describing all the excavation sites in Israel. In 2006 the magazine published an article about the search for the palace and cuneiform archive (library) of the late Bronze Age king of Hazor in northern Israel. At that time my three children were all in college or graduated, so my summers were no longer filled with family vacations. So, in 2007 I went to Tel Hazor to fulfill a childhood dream. It was such an amazing experience I’ve gone back to Hazor nearly every year since.
Our excavation team – a mix of grad students and volunteers from all over the world, led by professional archaeologists from Hebrew University – has found lots of ancient treasure. I’ve been there when film crews from CNN, Discovery Channel, and national newspapers came to report on our discoveries. I was there when the Prime Minister of Israel visited. I’ve been there when some of the most famous archaeologists in the world have visited to see what we uncovered. And I’ve dug up treasure myself including an intact Iron Age cooking pot, eating bowl, jug, cosmetic pallet, and the beginning of a Bronze Age basalt monumental staircase leading to…? (likely the king’s palace but time will tell).
I suppose you might be reading this because you are considering participating in a dig in Israel as either a grad student or as a volunteer. You’re wondering if you would enjoy it. In my opinion, if you are reading this blog then the answer is obvious – you have an interest and you should satisfy it. Why? Because it’s thrilling to uncover secrets and treasures from the past. Because it’s completely different from whatever your regular career is and you’ll be doing something hardly anyone else you know has done (it will make you a more interesting person). Because it will inspire you to get into better physical shape before you come, and if you get hooked and decide to come back you will be motivated to stay in better shape year-round (which happened to me). Because you’ll make a new set of friends with other volunteers from all over the world (I have dozens of international friends now from more than two dozen countries).
Why should you choose Tel Hazor instead of one of the other dig sites? Because the leaders have created an indescribable family culture. Because even as a rookie you will be respected and given significant things to do. Because it’s such a great experience volunteers like me and dozens of others keep returning summer after summer.
Now that you have read this maybe you will come to Tel Hazor. And maybe you will get hooked too. At the very least it will be one of the greatest experiences and adventures of your life.