So, Assaf, tell us a little about yourself
I’m a Ph.D. candidate at Tel Aviv University, my PhD dissertation deals with the material culture of the border regions between the Northern Kingdom and Aram Damascus; it is funded by the Sinergia project (“The History of the Pentateuch: Combining Literary and Archaeological Approaches”), which is a joint project between Tel Aviv, Zurich and Lausanne universities. My thesis, which was written under the supervision of Prof. Israel Finkelstein, focused on the history of the central Coastal Plain during the tenth and ninth centuries BCE. I’ve been a staff member of the Megiddo Expedition since 2010.
Where was your first excavation?
I did my field school at Tel Beth Yerah under Prof. Raphael Greenberg. It was long time ago, but I still remember that (hot) summer as a really good experience.
What was your first staff position on an excavation?
It was at Tel Megiddo, during the 2010 season, I worked with the zooarchaeologist of Megiddo, Dr. Lidar Sapir-Hen, and analyzed faunal remains from the dig.
What do you think helped you most in terms of your field techniques?
For my MA thesis, I published part of Moshe Kochavi’s excavation at Tel Aphek. That really forced me to immerse myself in what goes on in the field. Other than that, I’ve been on many excavations, in different staff and non-staff positions (such as Yavneh-Yam, Hippos, Ramat Rahel, Khirbet er-Ras and more). I’ve learned a lot from everyone I’ve worked with. I think the best way to learn is to actually be in the field and to ask questions. You have to be curious about what’s going around you at the dig, even if you’re not part of the staff or have to write a report at the end of the season.
What’s your favorite part of a season out in the field?
I think it has to be the second week. By that time, we’ve finished cleaning out all of the topsoil or winter wash and we start hitting the interesting archaeological contexts (“the good stuff”). So, there’s always a general excitement on what will come out from these loci. Also, by the second week everyone’s already in the swing of things and knows pretty much what’s expected from them and where they’re supposed to go and do. After we finish the first week, everybody also gets to know everyone else pretty well; it makes the evenings and free time much more fun.
So, now for the question everyone wants to know – how did you end up here?
A lot of hard work. Archaeology is a lot of fun, but sometimes people forget how much hard work it actually is. If you’re just starting out, and thinking about a career in archaeology, the best thing you can do is to go out there and join an excavation for at least one season. This way you not only experience archaeology first hand, but you also meet people who have been doing this for some time. Everyone going out to this season at Kiriath-Jearim are amazing people, who will be more than willing to take the time to talk to anyone who’s thinking about going into archaeology. There is much more to archaeology than being out in the field, so even if this part of it isn’t for you, it’s a chance to learn about the different aspects, which may interest you more.
Last question, what’s your pro-tip for a successful season?
Don’t forget to bring sun screen! But other than that, come with an open mind and a good attitude, get to know everyone who’s out there with us. You never know how this season will change your life.