To delight in the aspects of sentient ruin might appear a heartless pastime, and the pleasure, I confess, shows a note of perversity.
—Henry James, Italian Hours
Ever-present dust, relentless sun, field-kitchen food and temperatures in the 90s day after day. Sound like the ideal summer vacation? Some people think so. What we’re describing are the spartan conditions at many archaeological digs in Israel.
Volunteers live in tents, dormitories or youth hostels. The work itself is demanding physical labor and volunteers are up before dawn to arrive at the dig site at sunrise before the day’s heat drives everyone to shelter. Yet every year hundreds of passionate amateur archaeologists converge on Israel with one purpose: to uncover a piece of the past.
A 1979 veteran of the Tel Anafa dig in northern Galilee sums up his experience as “Hard work, bad food, and well worth it.”
Like many dig participants, he admits to the lure of the unknown. “You never know what the next trowelful of dirt will uncover and many big discoveries are completely accidental.”