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From Author

Rick Gore

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From Photographer

Robert Clark

In most cases these accounts are edited versions of a spoken interview. They have not been researched and may differ from the printed article.

Photographs by Marie Louise Brimberg (top) And David Coventry

image: compass
At the Ashkelon Dig

Field Notes From Author
Rick Gore
Working at the site itself and with so many fascinating specialists was the best experience for me. Larry Stager’s team included experts in subjects ranging from biblical and Babylonian studies to Islamic history, and the interchange between them was extremely exciting. Sitting in the breakfast room before dawn—they start work around 4:30 to avoid heat stress—I found myself immersed in discussions as academic as who the Canaanites derived from and as chatty as the relationship between Samson and Delilah.
The team included not only professors but also a large contingent of students and volunteers from all over the world. Their ages ranged from late teenage to seniors. Some were obsessive learners. Others liked to party with the locals at night. But all worked intensely and together created a feeling of nonstop discovery and exploration. Discoveries were frequent. And whether they were skeletons or inscriptions, they brought to life the ancient and medieval worlds that are preserved in the layers at Ashkelon.
The worst thing about Ashkelon was the heat. I admire to no end the endurance the crew had under broiling sun. Sweat constantly filled our eyes and dripped on our notebooks after around 8:30 in the morning. I’ve never drunk so much water in my life. Nor have I used so much sunscreen. For a weekend religious retreat, a group of extremely Orthodox Jewish women took over the hotel where the team stayed. Only one floor was open for non-Orthodox or male visitors. Screens were put around the pool to prevent men from seeing the modest ladies. The halls were filled with chattering women wearing traditional attire and pushing baby carriages. Most Israelis dress casually and not very covered up in the summer. But these religious women, who represent an important minority in the country, were a reminder of how much cultural diversity remains even among Israelis. That diversity is emphasized by the modern city of Ashkelon, where immigrants to Israel from Russia and Ethiopia have flocked in the past few years. In some parts of modern Ashkelon I saw almost as many signs in Russian as in Hebrew.

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