Dear Prof. Nakassis,
I am writing you in partial fulfillment of my “obligations” to the AIA for receiving the Joseph and Maria Shaw Travel Scholarship this year. I would first like to express my deep gratitude for the aid you, the AIA, and its members have provided me. Without this bursary I would quite literally have been unable to attend the Tel Huqoq excavation project this summer. I truly found the experience invaluable. By excavating, attending the various lectures and field trips, and through interaction with the myriad of intelligent, friendly, and helpful individuals that comprised the staff, I feel that my knowledge and prowess in archaeology were greatly increased through my participation in this project.
As you may already know, the Tel Huqoq project aims to excavate the c. 5th century A.D. synagogue at the site, as well as parts of the village in which the synagogue was situated. My work this season took place in the synagogue (referred to on-site as area 3000). I was fortunate to be in one of the new squares that were opened this season, square 2/5 – the northern most square in area 3000 – and even more fortunate to have been a part of the team that discovered and excavated two of the three mosaics found this season. First, a very small rectangular section of a mosaic was found in the Northwest of our square. Situated in a stratum that appeared to be from the “Mamluk period” (as it was referred to by staff), it was not as extravagant as the “Samson” mosaics discovered over the past two years, but none-the-less seemed to hold promise of more mosaics to come, and was considered significant for its presence in a medieval synagogue – something I understand was not very common at the time in that region. The second mosaic found in our square seems to have been contemporary with the two Samson mosaics that have been uncovered at Tel Huqoq, and consisted of three registers, each containing a different scene, perhaps parts of a story. The general consensus thus far is that this second mosaic represents a telling of the stories from the books of Maccabees.
Other important discoveries from square 2/5 included the continuation of the Eastern wall of the synagogue (labeled Wall 310), which was constructed using well-hewn ashlar blocks. Interestingly, located perhaps no more than a half meter to the West of this ashlar wall was a second ashlar wall, referred to as Wall 311. It is believed that this wall represents a top course of Wall 310 that was reused in a later period, possibly contemporary with the “Mamluk” period mosaic previously mentioned. Though it was carved into Wall 310, an entrance threshold that was found appears to have been contemporary with Wall 311 and supports the notion that the threshold and Wall 311 represented a repartitioning of that part of the synagogue. Also, besides pottery and other artifacts that were found in square 2/5, a number of coins were discovered that helped us to date our various strata more concretely.
Importantly, we also excavated the bulldozed remnants of the modern Arab village that once stood on the site. This has provided an ongoing window into the most recent habitation levels at the site, and enriched our understanding of the way-of-life that existed at the village of Yakuk (the modern Arabic name for the site), as well as its use-history after the village’s “depopulation” by the IDF in 1948.
In all, this season at Huqoq has allowed me to improve previous skill sets, develop new ones, gain an increased knowledge of the late Roman-era Galilee, and perhaps most importantly interact with and learn from a number of professionals in a field I wish to enter. As a result of my work this season, I have been offered to return to Huqoq, possibly as a square supervisor and, given the approval of Prof. Michael Chazan, fill a sort of liaison role between UofT and the Huqoq excavation project, hopefully furthering the school’s participation at Huqoq.
August 28th 2013