Jenna Kershenbaum working on the Mount Zion Archaeological Project in Israel (summer 2017)
I've never been one for early mornings, but waking up at 4 o'clock for two weeks to work on an archaeological dig in Jerusalem proved to be quite the experience. UNC Charlotte runs a summer dig session in June and July, and I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to work with men and women of all ages and nationalities to unearth Jerusalem's hidden historic treasures.
Clad in steel-toed boots and sturdy working gloves, I ventured out of the Zion Gate of the Old City at 4:00 AM to a rare silence. The Old City, usually buzzing with tourists, shop vendors, and multi-ethnic residents, was still very much asleep when our group arrived at the dig site. Each morning, we would form a human assembly line to pass supplies from a storage building an up to the site. Such materials included buckets, pickaxes, brushes, and metal detectors. Once everything and everyone was present and accounted for, we would be briefed by Dr. Shimon Gibson, professor of archaeology at the Albright Institute of Archaeological Research in Jerusalem. This would usually include some historical context based off of what we would be digging up that week. After this, we would get straight to work. I worked on a number of tasks, including clearing large boulders from my assigned area, checking for metal objects (such as coins or nails), and looking for other artifacts, like animal bones or glass shards. We would work until midday, when we took a break for lunch. This part of the day was toughest because the sun had already risen and temperatures would reach upwards of 100 degrees (F). Following lunch, we would resume work until around 3:30, when we would begin to pack up the supplies to put them back into storage until the next day.
One of my highlights of the dig was finding a piece of glass from the Roman period. I had spent all day looking for something in the dirt when I saw something glint in the sunlight. I dug a little deeper and pulled out an opal-like shard of class that stood out so beautifully against the backdrop of dirt and dust. Holding this tiny piece of glass, I thought about how the mighty Roman Empire exiled my people from the Land of Israel. Here I was, some centuries later, back in my homeland, holding a tiny fragment of that empire in the palm of my hand. Who would have thought that a tiny piece of glass could hold so much history?