Tales from the trenches at one of Israel’s most fascinating sites
This is the first post in an exclusive Bible History Daily series on excavating in the Bible lands. All conversations have been edited for clarity and readability.
Perched atop a small hill overlooking the coastal plain and modern Tel Aviv is the fascinating site of Tel Hadid, biblical Hadid (Ezra 2:33; Nehemiah 7:37). First excavated by Tel Aviv University archaeologists in the 1990s, the site has revealed occupation levels extending from the Intermediate Bronze Age (c. 2500–2000 B.C.E.) to today. Among the more interesting discoveries at the site has been evidence for the site’s Assyrian occupation and especially cuneiform tablets that record business transactions between Mesopotamian deportees and local peoples. Other incredible finds include a beautiful Byzantine mosaic and a wine press.
However, with many questions left unanswered, a team led by excavation co-directors Ido Koch (Tel Aviv University), Jim Parker (New Orleans Southern Baptist Theological Seminary), and Eli Yannai (Israel Antiquities Authority) returned to the site in 2018 to see what Tel Hadid has left to reveal. Despite missing some time in the field due to the Corona-virus pandemic, the team is still hard at work. We caught up with volunteers and students at Tel Hadid during their 2022 dig season to ask what makes excavating at the site so exciting, what they are looking forward to, and what advice they have for others who are interested in joining a dig.
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Mariane Strube (New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary): I think everybody expects to find something meaningful that can contribute to history or biblical studies. But even if you do not find anything, it is still a great experience. When we started digging, our leader said, we need to be careful not to mix the material because we are stepping into the past, so that is a really cool way to see archaeology.
Diana Haibucher (University of Zurich): If you are a historian, you sit in an office and study texts and ancient artifacts. Being here, you bring [texts] to life and see that these are not just dry and boring texts. You are always surprised when you find something that was made thousands of years ago by real people.
Noa Ranzer (Tel Aviv University, area supervisor):
I didn’t have much experience before digging here. So my favorite [part] is experiencing the entire procedure. We conducted a survey, a shovel test, and a lot of probes. I got to know this site very intimately, so this is what I like.
Davi Faria (New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary): You must be someone who wants to learn. You are going to learn a lot from the people here, from the ground, and from the things you find. However, you have to come with the mentality that you are here to help and to learn.
Bruno Biermann (University of Zurich): It is a really fun experience. It gives you a totally different perspective on the stuff you normally see in a museum. It really gives you a different relationship to history.
Peter Cooper (United Kingdom): Try it, honestly. The company is always fantastic. If you are thinking about [joining a dig], do it!
Noa: First of all, it is hard work, so I would advise you to take it easy and not to be stressed. It is fun, and it should be fun. It should not be painful or make you suffer. Secondly, have an open mind about the periods [you excavate]. Many people are interested in only one period. But it is all part of history.
Mariane: The whole team is really thoughtful. They are very patient to explain and to teach, so I really appreciate that.
Davi: I like how they show you how to improve. They get in the hole with you and show you what to do.
Noa: I love it. I love that I’m surrounded by people that are from very diverse groups. For example, one volunteer worked with me in 2019 and he came back. I am really happy about it because we already knew each other and I know I can count on him.
Bruno: The overall atmosphere is hospitable and friendly. It is really nice to dig in smaller groups and have time together, breaks, and everything else. I feel like the atmosphere is really constructive and supportive.
Diana: One plus is how international the group is. You get to meet people that you would otherwise never meet.
Mariane: It’s been a really awesome experience, learning about the culture in Israel that is so different than our culture, and learning about archaeology and learning about the people we work with is just very nice.
Peter: The knowledge gained and the professional people always willing to pass on their knowledge is great.
Davi: I think Tel Hadid is a really cool place. It is a huge tell. It has a huge history. It has been here for so long and you never know what you’re going to find.
Noa: Another aspect of the Tel Hadid dig is its connection with the community that lives in the surrounding area. For example, there are many visitors to the site because there is the walking trail, there are bicycles, and there are so many people that come just to enjoy nature. We do not want to disturb them but we also want to expose them to what we do here.
Dozens of archaeological digs in Israel, Jordan, and elsewhere are looking for volunteers to help them excavate history. Whether you are interested in the worlds of Kings David and Solomon, want to walk in the footsteps of Jesus and the apostles, or work in an ancient Phoenician city, the Biblical Archaeology Society has a dig for you. Check out our digs page to see how you can get involved at sites like Tel Hadid, and many others!
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