Shiloh Sifting

At Shiloh we used the normal excavation method of working in 5 meter squares. We “drain the bathtub,” taking down the level of the square in a uniform fashion, unearthing pottery pieces and other objects inside the square.

In addition, they have a full-time metal detectorress, Ellen Jackson. She usually finds several coins per day around the site. When she comes to your square, you remove all the metal tools and vacate the area. Usually it’s time for a water break.

One of the unique features here is the emphasis on sifting. All of the dirt, minus the rocks, from the square is sifted. The team on dry sifting finds additional bones, flint, pottery, etc. The small pieces left in the sifter screen are then bagged in mesh bags.

The bags from dry sifting are then wet sifted. Additional small objects, including coins and scarabs, are found using this method. Julia and I first learned about wet sifting at the Temple Mount Sifting Project back in 2019.

We had a great week if digging and sifting. We’ll stay in the land for a couple days of exploring.


Digging at Shiloh

We’ve been on the dig for two days now. We’re enjoying it immensely. We start with breakfast at 4 AM and on the bus by 4:59. The trip from Jerusalem to Shiloh is through some amazing countryside.

We’re a onsite erecting shade cloth by 6 or earlier. We find about 2,000 pieces of pottery per day. Today we found a sling stone just outside the city wall. We’re working in a Bronze Age layer. George helped discover a wall.

We have lunch at 10:30. We stop digging at 1:00 PM. We wash the pottery, then stop at the gift shop for refreshments. The buses depart at 2.

With dinner at 6, we went exploring this afternoon. We went through Damascus Gate and did some shopping in the market. We visited Udi at Blue and White. We stopped by Moshe’s shop to say hello. We were going to take pictures at the cardo painting but the room was full of IDF soldiers.


Arrival and Day Tour

We arrived in Tel Aviv on Saturday morning. George and Caleb are traveling with me on this archeological trip. We are participating in the dig at Tel Shiloh for a week. We spent most of the day setting in, resting, and eating.

Next day we joined a group of the dig people on a bus tour. Our first stop was Beit She’an.

After a lunch stop we visited the Harod Spring. The spring flows from a cave. This is the site of Gideon’s army being reduced to 300. The main point of this story is not that the 300 best men were chosen, but that the battle is the Lord’s.

We also visited Tel Jezreel. We saw a winepress, and thought about Naboth’s vineyard. The Tel was mostly unidentified stones, with nothing reconstructed.


Last Day in Megiddo

Margaret said she planned to take us around the four other active dig areas in Megiddo next week. Some of us were staying for only the first week, so we did a mini-tour during our last break. Above, Area Z is digging next to the Solomonic Gate to find walls in the area. Caleb was working in this area.

Area K found a human skull. They were on the perimeter of the tell.

Area X found some interesting items, including a gold earing from the Assyrian period.

Area S was digging into the Bronze Age.

I took some final photos of “my” dig site in Area R. We had found a lot of interesting pottery pieces and the bathtub piece. Some orangish and blackened areas gave hints of mud bricks. Was it the floor we were looking for, or material from a collapsed wall? I’ll need to leave it to others to find out.

We enjoyed participating in the expedition. It was hard physical work at times. But the opportunity to participate in discoveries, learn from experienced archeologists, and interact with others interested in the past made it a worthwhile experience.


Another Day On The Dig

Each day we ride the bus to Tel Megiddo, arriving at 5:00 AM. We climb the steep walkway to our dig site. We pass through the Solomonic Gate before the sun is up. In the picture above you can see the empty trailer waiting for our buckets of excavated dirt.

We’re digging up bones, pottery, and even what might be a piece of a bathtub. The sun has risen a million times on Megiddo since this stuff was last used.

The first job upon arrival is to raise the shade cloth.

By the time the sun comes up the dig work is well under way.

By breakfast time at 8:30 we had the first trailer load ready to go. We’re doing faster digging in some of the loci with fewer artifacts.

What interesting things might be just below this surface? We’re still looking for a floor, but so far we haven’t found one in this locus. Finkelstein is pretty sure we found a connecting wall to the original “monumental wall” that brought their interest back to this site. He believes this may be an administrative building for Megiddo.


Ancient Pottery

It feels as though I’m getting acclimated to the hot weather and 5:00 AM (Jerusalem Time Zone) starting time. I had a quite enjoyable day on the dig. I did some more drone photography over lunch time. We see relatively few tourists, quite a difference from pre-Covid days.

The area we’re working in is from the Assyrian time period. We did some cleanup and photogrammetric documenting of what had already been excavated by the Chicago University people about a hundred years ago. After that we were able to start going deeper. We don’t know yet if we’re in eighth or ninth century BC. The locus I’ve been assigned to has proven quite interesting. We found a bunch of plaster-type material. Is it floor or collapsed walls? There are pottery pieces from some nice-sized vessels. I suppose the pottery experts will be able to figure out their origin. We also find some animal bones. Margaret, our area supervisor, says they learn much more from animal bones than from pottery. The material we’re finding is indicative of being indoors, possibly resting on a floor. I’m still looking for a plaque that says, “Solomon ate here.”

Some exposed pottery pieces within our locus. We remove the dirt in layers of 5 to 10 centimeters. These pieces were exposed, then the area was documented with photography and point surveying. On the next layer we removed most of them. The flat piece may be a grinding stone, according to Dr. Finkelstein.

Caleb is working in Area Z, next to the Solomonic Gate in the lower left of the picture. Israel Finkelstein says the gate is later than Solomon’s time. This drone shot is looking out toward the visitor’s center. The buildings in the trees were built with Rockefeller money during the Chicago expedition.

After pottery washing I might listen in on the field techniques class. After dinner there will likely be another lecture. Last night’s was by co-director Matthew Adams. He told us how a tell such as Megiddo is built over the millennia. Not so much the destruction of marauding armies, but people just bringing lots of stuff into their living area. Sometimes knocking down their house and building bigger and better. Digging pits to bury people or things.

The history of this site is mind-boggling. Read about how Josiah, the righteous king of Judah, met his end in 2 Kings 23.



Last evening we were led through the site by Dr Israel Finkelstein, director of archaeology here for the past 24 years. We saw the “Solomonic Gate,” which Finkelstein believes to be later than the time of Solomon. Caleb is working with the group in area Z, around the gate. There may be another gate below the one identified by Albright as Solomon’s.

We saw the stables, originally identified as Solomon’s. Finkelstein did quite a bit of research, including visiting large stables in the United States, before he concluded these were actually stables.

Mount Tabor is prominent on the horizon, looking across the Jezreel Valley from Tel Megiddo.

While the archaeologists here would like to dig into the earlier periods of the tell, the tourists who visit, and therefore the National Park Service, are more enamored by the Biblical connection to Solomon.

We start the day at Megiddo early, first raising the all-important shade cloth for protection from the merciless sun. The early hours of daylight are the best time to get to digging.

After finishing some cleanup, we got into actual excavations. We marked out six areas to dig. Four of us participants dug the first layer here in locus 5. We found quite a bit of pottery, and some animal bones. We’re hoping to find some structural feature, such as a wall or floor. But we’ll peel back layer after layer for now.

Just before 1:00, after the work in the field is finished for the day, we take down the shade cloth so it doesn’t blow away. Back at the kibbutz we’ll wash the pottery. After dinner we’ll listen to a lecture given by one of the directors.


Tel Megiddo

Our first day on the dig started before sunrise. The daily schedule will include working at the dig site from 5:00 AM to 1:00 PM. We have breakfast around 8:30 and another break at 11:00.

The group I’m participating with is working in part of what is known as the Assyrian quarter. We’re cleaning the Assyrian structures that were excavated about a century ago. After documenting photographically, including a digital 3D model, they’ll excavate further to see what lies beneath Stratum 4. Maybe an eighth to ninth century (BC) palace?

The stone structure is Assyrian. The recently uncovered wall in the foreground is of unknown origin. That is the exciting discovery just around the corner. The alignment with a prominent city gate means it could be something monumental.

We’re looking forward to an in-depth tour of Tel Megiddo by the archaeologists.