Week 6 & the 2008 excavation season has come & gone. As usual, wonderful groups of volunteers contributed to a successful season of uncovering & defining structures, finding pottery sherds & other special finds.
Jane Marshall, who studied at the prestigious Palazzo Spinelli school of restoration in Florence, Italy, conducted restoration & conservation. See the conservation page.
A ground penetrating radar (GPR) survey was conducted by Jessie Pincus Ben-Avraham on the plaza leading (east) to the main city gate & the street within the gate that runs between the 4 chambers. Jessie is a doctoral candidate at Bar Ilan University, Israel, & has 6 -7 years experience making this kind of survey. GPR is a geophysical method that uses radar pulses to image the subsurface. This non-destructive method uses electromagnetic radiation in the microwave band (UHF/VHF frequencies) of the radio spectrum, and detects the reflected signals from subsurface structures. GPR can be used in a variety of media, including rock, soil, ice, fresh water, pavements and structures. It can detect objects, changes in material, and voids and cracks.
The depth range of GPR is limited by the electrical conductivity of the ground, and the transmitting frequency. As conductivity increases, the penetration depth also decreases. This is because the electromagnetic energy is more quickly dissipated into heat, causing a loss in signal strength at depth. Higher frequencies do not penetrate as far as lower frequencies, but give better resolution. Optimal depth penetration is achieved in dry sandy soils or massive dry materials such as granite, limestone, and concrete where the depth of penetration could be up to 15 m. In moist and/or clay laden soils and soils with high electrical conductivity, penetration is sometimes only a few centimetres.
The Ptolemy coin found during week 5 was additionally cleaned using a simple, small "home made" electrolysis bath built by myself. Most coins are found so encrusted that its nearly impossible to ascertain what type they are. Being able to make a preliminary cleaning enhances the excitement of the dig. If you go to the photo gallery (Picasa online album) & click on the coin pic you'll be able to see the beautiful detail of the large bronze coin.
A coin (lower left) depicting the Roman emperor (Caesar) Trajan turned up in area A west. It cleaned up beautifully after just a few hours in the electrolysis bath & it was quite easy to read the inscription "Trajan Caesar" & see his countenance. We also tried to clean the "Philip coin", found earlier in the excavation. Philip was the son of the notorious Herod the Great, & at the death of his father Philip became the tetrarch of the northern part of his father's kingdom, which of course, included Bethsaida. The temple is quite pronounced on the reverse of the coin, although the figure on the obverse is hard to discern. Hopefully, professional cleaning at the Israel museum will clearly show the countenance of Philip. Rami says that this is only the 5th Philip coin found at Bethsaida during the 22 years of excavation, & that only 50 of them are in existence. During the last hours of the dig a few pieces of Hellenistic bowl were discovered. They are red on black with white paint. Rami says that they are "one of the best of its kind" & was originally produced in the Athens area in the 4th century BCE & probably arrived here during the 2nd century BCE.
An interesting pick-axe "dolabra" made of iron was found in area A west. This looks very similar to picks that we use to dig out the dirt & rocks, only the dolabra is bigger, being ~33 cm long. The pick-axe of the Roman Legionnaire is a standard issue tool. In Caesar's "Commentaries" and other contemporary writings, it is clear that Legionnaires built elaborate camps of earthworks at the end of the long day's march. This is one of the primary tools they used.
The Roman army already had a long tradition of using entrenching tactics in both offensive and defensive operations when Marius, in the beginning of the 1st century BC, reorganized the army. Among his innovations were increasing the self-reliance of individual legionnaires by having them each carry their own mess provisions, basket, sickle, part of the tent, and a dolabra for cutting, digging, and hammering. This enabled the legion to clear land, and pitch an entrenched encampment at a moments notice as well as build bridges and siege engines. The dolabra was sometimes used as a weapon as well.
Link to all the pictures I took this season - CLICK HERE
Note : Interesting archaeology blog - http://archaeologydigs.blogspot.com/
Human interest - http://www.communitycorrespondent.com/kptm/, search for Judith Schwartz