Nov 02 2010
A Canaanite settlement dating back to the Bronze Age, Tel Esur, has been exposed at a unique excavation project - the biggest community dig ever to be held in Israel, conducted by University of Haifa researchers with high school students from schools in Israel’s Menashe region, north of Tel Aviv and south of Haifa. “We did have many concerns about this, but seeing the excitement, eagerness and commitment that these youngsters demonstrated, not to mention the professional results, we can definitely say that this project has been a great success,” said Dr. Shay Bar of the University of Haifa who is directing the excavations.
Tel Esur, on the western edge of Wadi Ara in Israel, was first excavated in 2001-2003 by Prof. Adam Zertal. The project was then continued and turned into a community dig by a group of friends, “Itzik’s Friends”, who are active in carrying out various projects in memory of Itzik Drori, secretary of Kibbutz Metzer, who was murdered in a terror attack in 2002. Despite professional concerns that were brought up, it was decided to set out on a pilot venture with 9th grade students from a number of schools in the area - Mevo’ot Iron, Gvanim, and Ulpenat Kfar Pines - which readily sent out 370 pupils altogether, each school’s team spending a week digging at the site.
“The site is located within one kilometer of these schools, but these kids had never heard of the place before. It’s been incredible to see how when they were taken away from their computers and Facebook, they eagerly got to work and were so excited by every piece of pottery that they discovered. I can say with full confidence that there have been many students here who I would happily have with me to dig at other sites,” said Dr. Bar.
The community dig not only took high school students out of the classrooms and into the tangible discoveries of the past, but also contributed greatly on an historic level. The professional team and participating youngsters have been excavating an impressive system of ancient fortifications and were taken by surprise as they unexpectedly uncovered a remarkable administration structure from after the Assyrian conquest of Israel (late 8th/early 7th century B.C.E.). At the current excavation season, archaeologists and students also managed to reveal a destruction layer that has been dated back to the late Bronze Age (13th century B.C.E.).