It’s not glamorous being a square supervisor at a dig. It’s rather like being a sergeant on the front line, directing your “privates”—the volunteers, who pick, shovel and carry—while the “officers”—the dig director, the associate director and the grid supervisors—analyze and plan strategy. But you’re right there where the action is, and you know that the carefulness of your work determines whether archaeology is constructive or merely destructive.
For the past three summers, my job has been to supervise the excavation of one 10 meter by 10 meter square located on top of the tell of Ashkelon, Israel, within sight of the Mediterranean Sea.
The five recruits I supervised in 1987 were typical volunteers. They reported to Ashkelon well scrubbed and a little flabby. Overnight they became like the rest of the staff, thriving on the dirt. In no time they understood the basics of digging and recording. Rapidly they learned how to survive the ruthless battle at dawn to grab tools and wheelbarrows. They even managed to enjoy the afternoon sessions of washing pottery in between jokes and gossip.