All posts by Andrea Elyse Messer

The Remains of Plants

Pottery, metal working, glass making and building all leave fairly large, tangible remains at an archaeological site. Sherds of ceramics, pieces of glass and slag, large stones, walls and floors all stand out when excavating.  However, the remains of crop cultivation and the gathering of plants are not so easily seen, as only charred seeds and plant material remain and they are small and dispersed in the soil.

Archaeobotanists search through soil samples to find seeds and other vegetal remains.  They use water to float the lighter material, including most seeds, to the top while the heavier portion sinks and is caught in a net.  The lighter portion gets searched for seeds and charcoal and the heavy portion contains pottery, slag, iron hammer scales and the occasional bead or tiny sample of red ochre or ancient glass.

Mongoose on the Loose

This has been a year of critters on the tel.  Students and staff have reported seeing green parrots, small raptors, black snakes and even a Palestinian Pit Viper, which was quickly dispatched.  The usual annoyances of ants, flies and mysterious biting insects are of course present.  As is the perpetual mole.  This year he, or she, has moved to another area of the dig, out of MM20, I think, but maybe he is just not showing himself.   Continue reading Mongoose on the Loose

Archaeology at the Tel

Trips to museums, shrines and Neandertal caves notwithstanding, what we are doing as part of Total Archaeology at Tel Akko, a joint project of Penn State and the University of Haifa, is archaeology plain and not so simple.  We dig, screen dirt, record locations, analyze whatever we find and try to piece together what the site looked like during the Persian, Hellenistic, Phonecian or Canaanite times.  We find artifacts that might tell us what people then were doing, where they did it and how.  And perhaps someday we will be able to understand it all.  For now, a simple glimpse of life at Tel Akko.

Parallel Universes

Last weekend we had a trip to a series of varied, but interesting, locations. I found myself unable to walk the distances necessary at some of the sites, but that did not mean my trip was any less enjoyable.

bahay2 First stop was right here in Akko, at the Bahá’í Shrine. If anyone is at all familiar with  Bahá’í locations, it is probably with the shrine in Haifa dedicated to the Báb, founder of the Bábí faith and forerunner of the Bahá’í faith. The Bahá’í faith, begun by the Bahá’u’lláh, a follower of the Báb, in Persia during the 1800s, is a world religion based on universal acceptance of all religions as valid and a belief that all religions believe in the same divinity.   Bahá’u’lláh, unlike the Báb who was executed in Persia, was simply exiled to the Ottoman Empire.  He settled in Akko, which was part of the Ottoman Empire at the time.  He was also arrested and imprisoned for more than 15 years in the Akko prison and spent the rest of his life under house arrest here, all because he proposed a new religion.  So Akko is the holiest place in the world for a member of the Bahá’í faith and there are many Bahá’í followers in Akko.  Continue reading Parallel Universes

Origin (and Demise) of an Idea

For a few days now I’ve been helping with some archaeobotany.  Anyone who knows me knows I don’t really like biology, being more of a physical sciences kind of gal, but, this is interesting.  We take soil samples that are “floated” to find any seeds, and other organic remains.  In the process, there is a portion of the sample that falls to the bottom of the tank of water, the heavy fraction.  I’ve been sorting through the heavy fractions.  We find shells, pieces of pottery, bronze, lead and bones.  On some of the samples, when we run a magnet over them we get pieces of slag, the remains of iron ore processing, and hammer scales, the remains of iron tool making.  These are tiny blobs of iron that are forced off when the hot metal is struck.  The samples are sort of a grab bag of the areas we are working as part of Total Archaeology at Tel Akko, a joint project of Penn State and Haifa University.

A'ndrea Elyse Messer doing archaeobotany. by Melissa Rosenzweig
A’ndrea Elyse Messer doing archaeobotany. by Melissa Rosenzweig

Continue reading Origin (and Demise) of an Idea