Third Letter from Nazareth and Jerusalem

Sunday June 11 Through Sunday June 18, 2017
As I begin, it’s Sunday evening and tomorrow we start our last week in the field.I’m sitting near the top of a hill called Jebel Qat, just east of our site and a little over a mile north of Sepphoris.I’ve driven students to their field exam among the ruins on this hill, and I am listening to the wind rattle the loose cover of the porch roof that shades my head.The porch belongs to a hut that houses young men who guard the surrounding fields from produce and livestock poachers.The western breeze cools me.
This is the week I most wish to be back home but have the most to do. Closing down a dig season may require more work than starting one.Crew members will be at their busiest too, as they finish digging, trim and draw balks, sweep for final photos, and help other squares to do the same.Many will spend both mornings and afternoons at the site, so we will be on the lookout for exhaustion.The evening work, however, feels more relaxed and peac…

Second Letter from Nazareth

Sunday June 4, 2017
Dear Family and Friends,
Today is Pentecost Sunday for Christians, the month of Ramadan for Muslims, and a few days past the feast of Savuoth (Weeks) for Jews, and we are now at the midpoint of the dig.It seems improbable that time could move so swiftly.We must start thinking about how to close down excavations, and I am anticipating returning to Laura and sharing the rest of my summer with her.The work, however, is immune to such longings.It still demands precision.For its part, precision requires that we care about what we’re doing.That is part of the human element I talked about last week.
In the life cycle of the Shikhin Excavation Project, it is also time to start thinking about when to halt, or to interrupt, excavations in order to publish.Digging not only uncovers buildings and objects, it also reveals more questions, and we have to decide which ones we will try to answer.In the end, sometimes we conclude that we will publish what we have. I am learning t…

First Letter from Nazareth

Sunday, May 28, 2017
Dear Family and Friends,
It has been a busy 11 or so days in Israel, and I missed my deadline for my first letter.I have been pleased with the people and the weather: both are suited for our operations.
This year I feel acutely the void left by my parents, Jim (“Abuna”) and Carolyn Strange.This is not because we cannot operate without them.After all, expeditions all over Israel get by without either of them setting foot on their sites.It is because of who they are to me and to the dig.I feel it most, not at breakfast, which my mother brings to the site, or at pottery reading, for which I rely on my father’s expertise, but as I pass by their room while knocking on doors at 4 a.m. I hope for their return in 2018.
The early crew arrived on Tuesday May 16 and quickly got to work the next day.They prepared our store room, oversaw the delivery of tools and toilets to the site, began digging the southern half of a square that we opened last year, shot i…

Fifth Letter, from Jerusalem

19 June 2016
Dear Family and Friends,
This Father’s Day turned out to be special.I hugged my dad this morning and we wished one another “Happy Father’s Day.”Then I left with a group of students and others for a tour of the Old City designed to take us to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and then to the Russian Mission in Israel, down the Via Dolorosa, and thence to the Pool of Bethesda compound, which includes the Church of St. Anne, the mother of Mary. The Russian Mission houses some antiquities at the eastern extent of the original Sepulcher compound, some of which date to the time of Hadrian and others to the time of Constantine.According to Christian tradition, Jesus walked bearing his cross on the “Way of Sorrow.”If he did walk this route, he was several meters below the level of the current street.
Because today is Sunday, various masses being held by different branches of Christianity made some parts of the Sepulcher off limits to us.These included the tomb itself and the t…

Fourth Letter from Nazareth

12 June 2016
Dear Family and Friends,
Today is Shavuot (also Pentecost) for Jews.This year the holiday falls within the Muslim month of Ramadan. Western Christians observed their own Pentecost on May 15, which marks the gift of the Holy Spirit.So now we are in the second period of “Ordinary Time.”Shavuot has a dual significance: it is a harvest festival and a time to celebrate God’s gift of the Torah.Ramadan is a month of daytime fasting, also to celebrate God’s first revelation to Muhammad and to engage in almsgiving.The color for Ordinary Time is green, and even in mid June the lingering green here reminds us of God’s gifts of rain, sun, crops and herds.That is, of life.The authors of both Genesis 1 and John know that God’s speech is life giving.
I write this from the top of a Galilean hill.Monday the heat will come but for now temperatures are in the mid 70s Fahrenheit. A breeze cools my back, so I must be facing east.Traffic on Highway 77 whispers over my left shoulder.Every no…
Third Letter from Nazareth Sunday June 5, 2016
Dear Friends and Family,
We have completed our second week of excavations and tours, and exhaustion has arrived right on schedule.The dig’s work makes demands on the body, even when people are drawing top plans under shade.There is time for rest in the afternoon, but the early mornings restrain the full effects of sleep (even if people go to sleep at a sensible hour, but who wants to be sensible during this sort of experience in the Holy Land?).For example, this Sunday morning it’s 8:25 a.m.On a weekday, by now we would have been working for 3 ½ hours and second breakfast would be five minutes away.Today by 7:00 a.m. all of the crewmembers over 50 had eaten and while sipping their coffee and tea were remarking on how late it was.By contrast, I have seen exactly two undergraduate students.Neither said much after “good morning,” and might not have gotten that much out if someone else hadn’t said it first.
Yesterday we spent from 8 a.m. til…

Photos from the advance crew and the first week of digging

Rebakah and Mason staking out points  Jeff running the gun
 Emily Drennen The complete and whole Herodian lamp Emily found