The UW Tel Dor Archeological Excavation and Field School — whose students in 2009 unearthed a rare gemstone with the image of Alexander the Great — has completed another summer’s excavation work.
And this year’s biggest find, in which UW student archaeologists played a support role as excavators and soil samplers at the site in Israel, was evidence of a 3,000-year-old spice trade between the Far East and the West.
A dozen UW students participated this summer — all women, as it happened — led as usual by Sarah Stroup, associate professor of classics, who created the field school program with colleagues at Hebrew University and the University of Haifa.
Stroup said perhaps the best thing about the annual six-week summer field school is that her students, most of whom have no archaeological training, become her fellow researchers — even her teachers.
The Tel Dor site
The structures seen here are massive industrial buildings dating from the Hellenistic and Roman periods (3rd century B.C. to the first century). UW student excavation in this area has contributed significantly to our knowledge of industrial activity (glass and metal casting, purple dye production) and trade in the ancient coastal Levant. Trevor Layman
Swinging the sledge
UW classics alumnus Kyle Vormestrand prepares to sledge a large ashlar, or wall block, for removal. In the background, David Armo, a UW anthropolgy alumnus, works as the area recorder, cataloging all artifacts. Trevor Layman
Morgan Palmer, David Armo, Kyle Vormestrand, and Jasmine Isaacson work together to remove large wall stones from Area D4, the location of UW team activity. Trevor Layman
Sifting the soil
Jasmine Isaacson and Kyle Vormestrand sift earth for smaller finds for items such as coins, bones, beads and glass which may have been missed during primary excavation. Trevor Layman
Sifting up close
A up-close look at the sifted material shows that a bronze coin from the Hellenistic period (3rd to first century B.C.) was found. Trevor Layman
Flight of the robot balloon
At the end of the season, a "robot balloon" is brought in for aerial shots of the entire excavation area. Trevor Layman
An early find
UW student Nicole Aqua holds up one of the first finds of the season — a complete Roman period unguentarium, or perfume vessel. The presence of such finds informs the team both of localized trade and aesthetic preferences, and of the daily life of ancient Dor’s inhabitants. Trevor Layman
Unearthed - One unguentarium
Professor Stroup holds a Roman period unguentarium, or perfume vessel. Trevor Layman
Revealed - one 'juglet'
Students carefully excavate a complete vessel — this time, a Roman period juglet, possibly an oil container. After excavation, the soil in the interior of the vessel is sent for soil analysis at the Weizmann Institute in Israel. This analysis is then able to reveal the original contents of the vessel. Trevor Layman
Preserving the site
At the end of the season, all teams work together to carefully preserve the excavated areas with tarp and 10 centimeters of backfilled earth. Here, Raphaelle Gans catches an empty bucket while Kyle Vormestrand, Nicole Aqua, and Sarah Luckey work below. Trevor Layman
View from above
A view from above: After six weeks of excavation, Stroup says, the students have become fellow researchers and archaeologists, and have both learned about the past and contributed to our knowledge of it. Here, a view down into the Roman period remains of our area. Trevor Layman
The Tel Dor group at season's end
The entire Tel Dor group — the UW team together with the University of Haifa and Hebrew University teams — together for our end-of-season photograph. Professor Stroup is in the front row, in a blue shirt and hat. Trevor Layman
She said her students do more than merely learn about the reality of modern archaeology, “they themselves contribute to it. Whether they find a rare gemstone, as in 2009, or help solve the complex stratigraphic relations of massive industrial buildings, as they did this summer, every year our students are not merely consuming knowledge, but are adding to it.” Stratigraphy, she explained, is the relation between strata, or layers of construction phases.
A “tel” is an archaeological mound built up over centuries of human occupation. Dor was an ancient port city on Israel’s Carmel Coast and a strategic hub of the Middle East and the Eastern Mediterranean area for thousands of years. The field school website explains, “Dor’s inhabitants have left behind a cross-section of 3,000 years of history, including Hellenistic catapult shots, Roman jewelry, a Crusader fort, and the cannons of Napoleon’s army.”
With excavation work during the days and evening lectures taught by international experts, Stroup said the program offers “the kind of intensive, focused and personalized learning that would be completely impossible in a campus setting.”
- Read a student blog post by Nicole Aqua presented by the Stroum Jewish Studies Program: “Can you dig it? Learning hands-on archaeology at Tel Dor.”