A Day in the Life at Abel Beth Maacah

A dig volunteer shares her story

Excavations at Abel Beth Maacah. Courtesy Nathan Steinmyer, BAS.

Hello from Abel Beth Maacah in the far north of Israel! Being a dig volunteer here has been such a joy and an incredible learning experience. Every morning around 4:45 we arrive at the tel (ancient mound) by bus and we begin our hike up the hill to the main dig site. Once there, we put the shades up over our area, collect our team’s tools for the day, get instructions from our supervisor, and begin!

In the free eBook, A Digger’s Life: A Guide to the Archaeology Dig Experience, step into an archaeological excavation and find out what it takes to find, prepare for, and work on a dig.

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The first week was definitely a shock to the system as the workload is very intense. We had to break new ground and that meant the topsoil was not only thousands of years old, but hard! We use pickaxes, hoes, trowels, dustpans, and brushes. We fill buckets with soil, pottery, finds, and bones that we collect. From there, we bring them to our main site where we soak, sort, and file them away for future study and analysis. The artifacts we have collected will all be recorded and processed over the course of the entire year—so it is very important that our time at the dig site is productive.

Early morning on the Tel. Courtesy Maria Cambra.

We arrive back at our kibbutz, have a meal together, shower, hand wash and hang up our clothing, and then have a rest. We then have a pottery-cleaning hour where we wash the pottery that has been soaking for 24 hours since the previous day. It is a great time to speak with others and I have honestly learned so much from people during this time—teachers, students, professors, volunteers, and directors. They all have so many interesting stories and insights! Afterward, there is pottery sorting where we get to watch all the experts sit around a table and examine and choose the pieces to keep and those to discard. It is so intriguing! They have been doing this for years and it is quite the honor to be here and watch them work. Many of these finds will also be restored and put on display. After this, we usually have an evening lecture, dinner, and then we are on our own. Most go straight to bed and crash, as the days are long and the mornings come so early—but we love it!

Buckets full of pottery. Courtesy Maria Cambra.

Abel Beth Maacah

Located at the meeting point of Israel, Phoenicia, and Syria and strategically positioned between Dan and Hazor, the northern site of Abel Beth Maacah is possibly the capital of the Aramean kingdom of Maacah (Joshua 12:5; 2 Samuel 10:6, 8). In the Bible, Abel Beth Maacah figures prominently in 2 Samuel 20:14–22 when Sheba son of Bichri took refuge there after calling for revolt against King David. Joab’s negotiations with the “wise woman” of the city resulted in Sheba’s beheading. The Bible also notes that the city was conquered by Ben Hadad of Aram-Damascus (1 Kings 15:20) and by Tiglath-pileser III in 733/732 BCE (2 Kings 15:29).

Maria Cambra is a pastor’s wife and mother to three beautiful children. She and her family have lived and served overseas for more than 23 years, but are currently residing in the U.S. Maria was one of ten recipients of a 2023 BAS Dig Scholarship, a BAS program that supports students and archaeological enthusiasts who want to join an excavation project.

Read more in Bible History Daily:

Mud, Monks, and Mosaics

Life Among the Ruins

All-Access members, read more in the BAS Library:

The Volunteer’s Contribution to Archaeology and Vice Versa

Volunteers’ Views

Not a BAS Library or All-Access Member yet? Join today.

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