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Study Abroad in Israel- More than an educational experience!

September 8th, 2013

Study Abroad in Israel- More than an educational experience!

Eric Walters

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(Photo by Author)

            Where should I even begin? This trip was designed to be a field school for archaeologists and conservators alike; yet, it was more than just a field school. Study abroad in Israel was an educational, professional, and personal trip for me. I was able to expand my educational boundaries restricted by text books, gain an understanding of what it takes to be an archaeologist or conservator, but most importantly I was able to broaden my horizons by challenging myself to venture on this expedition.

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(Photo by author)

            Year after year I sat in classrooms reading about the history of countries located in parts of the world I couldn’t fathom going too. However, in the summer of 2013, I found myself in a place where the history was endless and the evidence was there to prove it- Israel! After everyone had arrived we were all ready to handle artifacts from time periods unimaginable. Within the first couple of days we had begun walking in the ruined fortifications that were thousands of years old. These ancient ruins included Israel’s fifth largest port city and ancient coastline defense, a fortification known as Ashdod (see photo above). In addition, we walked through the world’s oldest arched gate, which was used for defensive purposes, known as the Canaanite Gate (see image below). These were only two of the many locations we visited! Before I realized I found myself on a century old Kibbutz, a Jewish settlement, which was something I had never heard or read about. Furthermore, to my surprise, while residing on the Kibbutz I was rooming with one of the lead archaeologists of the area Dr. Jeff Blakely.

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The Canaanite Gate

(Photo by author)

        It couldn’t get any better than this! I prepared my list of questions to gain more insight as to what it took to become a professional archaeologist. I wanted to use my time wisely and find out how someone like me could follow in the footsteps of someone such as Dr. Jeff Blakely. While on the Kibbutz I was able to preserve eleven artifacts from various time periods including a chalice from the 10th century. I learned how to properly examine, handle, clean, and preserve all types of artifacts. The day came when we departed the Kibbutz only to find ourselves working in the labs of the Israel Antiquities Authority, the I.A.A. It was here that I was able to reconstruct and preserve a 10th century Roman oil lamp. While working on the oil lamp I couldn’t help but think about the various preservation labs we had visited. I began comparing the conditions of the facilities such as the ability to control atmosphere conditions, the equipment, and the ability to store artifacts. All of the facilities, except the Kibbutz, were able to properly control the atmosphere with air conditioning and equipment which was of a higher standard. Here, we can clearly see how the availability of funds can affect both archaeologists and conservators while out in the field or in a permanent structure such as a lab.

Untitled 4 The I.A.A Conservation Lab

(Photo by author)

          As I come to a close I think it is important for anyone interested in studying abroad to know what it takes to commit to such an adventure. For me, it was standing on my own two feet in the real world as I experienced a lot of firsts! This trip was my first time out of the country, my first field school, my first hostel experience where I roomed with people from around the world at the same time, spoke to people in a foreign country in a foreign language acting as a translator in one scenario, and my first time being alone in the world without family or friends down the street to hold me up when I was weak. This trip gave me almost an entire month of self-reflection which had an effect on my life that words can’t even begin to describe! I realized some personal strengths and equal amounts of weaknesses. Just as important, I was able to see another culture that was similar to mine but so different on so many levels. However, being able come back home holding my head high knowing I accepted such a challenge and completed it successfully was worth everything I experience while on this trip to Israel!

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(Photo by author)

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Israel Summer Study Abroad: A Blog of Beginnings

September 8th, 2013

Israel Summer Study Abroad: A Blog of Beginnings

 Emily Holley

                  The summer program in Israel was an adventure full of firsts for me. Aside from the trips I was too young to remember, this was the first time I’ve ever been out of the country. The international terminal at my airport was a mystery until now, the flights to Paris and Istanbul were nothing but a distant wish. This trip to Israel was an amazing experience and everything a first-time traveler could have hoped for. We saw so many important historical and cultural sites and artifacts. As a student of anthropology and history and a Christian, all of the places we visited and all of the things we saw had an impact on me at a personal level as well.

The most memorable of all the many things we did for me was the tour of the holy sites in Jerusalem. As a religious person, those places were mind-boggling. To think that entire basis of my religion was centered on this rock, this altar, this place, and I get to see it and touch it. It made a lot of the theoretical and intangible aspects of my faith real and alive. That is something you only get to experience once in your life.

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                  Scientifically, the trip was more than educational, it was enlightening. We took tours of the conservation labs in famous facilities like the Tel Aviv Museum of Art and the Israeli Antiquities Authority. Observing and working with conservators in their element gave me just a taste of what it would actually be like to do this kind of work. We were set up in a field lab on a Kibbutz that revealed the real world conditions and obstacles that conservators are faced with. These are important things to learn and understand about the field and they are things I will take with me on my next steps toward my education and career.

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                  While this trip was brimming with huge learning experiences and deep personal revelations, a lot of the things that made this trip what it was, were simple and mundane. Tasting an authentic Israeli falafel, or getting a movie ticket and fortune cookie written in Hebrew, or even just seeing the sun set from over the Mediterranean were all just as important experiences. They are experiences I am grateful to have had the chance to feel and will stay with me always.

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Thoughts on a Study Abroad in the Holy Land

September 8th, 2013

Thoughts on a Study Abroad in the Holy Land

Samantha Sheffield

            Jerusalem is an experience unlike any other.  It is half major tourist attraction and half actual religious experience.  The faithful are everywhere.  But so are the tourists.  Religious symbols are sold on everything from key chains to carpets.  Want a Hand of Fatima keychain? Or how about a star of David embroidered on a Yamakah? Not Jewish who cares – you can take it as nifty souvenir.  The streets are narrow and lined with shop stalls and the noise decibel is set to a steady roar.  There are stairs everywhere and the stones are so polished from centuries of walking that are very slippery if you are wearing flat-soled shoes.  The beauty of the old city is dampened by the crush of people and that odor that clings to all cities – the combination of exhaust, sweat, trash and urine.

While we stayed in the Christian Quarter, the idea of the city being divided into quadrants: Muslim, Christian, Jewish, and Armenian is not as clear-cut as the name nor maps suggest.  They blend into one another a great deal and seeing Jewish people walking in the Muslim quarter or vice-versa is a very common sight.  The Muslim quarter however is much older and less well kept but that is because of the political situation and not a reflection of the population at all.  We never had a poor experience or a rude encounter.  Which is even more incredible when you take into account that we were there during Ramadan so they were forbidden from eating during the day.  I don’t know about other people but I tend to get grumpy when I haven’t eaten!

On our approach into Jerusalem I was the navigator – which was okay – if they actually used street names that were printed on the map.  Everything is abbreviated at best, and at worst it is the slang.  Our hostel had a terrace and gorgeous views of Jaffa Gate, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.  We capped off our first night in Jerusalem by going to eat an Armenian restaurant – one of the highlights of the trip was eating all the new food.

Our first full day was spent at the Israeli Antiquities Authority.  They receive all the artifacts from all the digs around the country.  They are the national repository so they conserve, preserve, document and store: metals, pottery, organics, and anything else they come across.  Emily and I were assigned the negatives from the period of the British Mandate (pre-1948).  We had to remove them from their packaging and re-label and re-package.  It was pretty mundane but very important and we got to look at some amazing dig sites and artifacts.  One of the most amazing things I’ve ever been able to do in my life so far was to see and handle the original glass plate negatives of the Dead Sea Scrolls.        There are many things about Israel that are similar to the United States: the prevalence of English, beautiful beaches, big cities, lots of places to spend lots of money, but in Israel there is always a thread of unease.  The political situation is very different than what we as Americans are exposed to at home.  There is not outright danger of bodily harm, usually; it is more insidious it is psychological conditioning of an us versus them mentality.  Everything from art museums to where and how people live is to distinguish those who belong from those that do not.  Even in the museums when they are referencing pre-1948 when present-day Israel was called Palestine they do not call it Palestine they call it Eretz Israel.

I greatly enjoyed my trip to Israel it is a beautiful country with many wonderful people.  I encourage people to go there and see for youself.

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An Ode to Fieldwork

August 26th, 2013

An Ode to Fieldwork

Taryn Ricciardelli

             Although professional discourse often dissuades us from thinking that archaeology and conservation share any similarities, ECU’s recent conservation field school in Israel showed me that both of these specialties have the same, ultimate goal. We want artifacts to be expertly handled and preserved so that researchers in the present and the future can glean all possible knowledge from objects which others might see as trash, or land which others might see as a development opportunity. Archaeologists and conservators want the history of objects to mean something to the public. We want adequate storage for the multitudes of cultural objects connected to self-identity, and we want the story of our past to continue developing, so that we can feel connected to our ancestors (or learn from their mistakes). We want the opportunity to travel– to learn from others whose perspectives might offer new insights into our own individual and professional growth. But most of all we want artifacts to get the respect and attention they deserve, both in the field and in the lab.

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         Photograph 1. Dome of the Rock seen from the Jaffa Gate Hostel

            The conservation field school in Israel was what all successful field schools are: one part good planning and three parts good luck. No matter what you expect from a field school going in, you should always mostly expect the unexpected. Working in the field, in both archaeology and conservation, requires you to become comfortable with flexibility. A constantly changing environment, a limited amount of tools (or budget), and a variety of artifact materials make work especially exciting, while play is no less of a shocking experience. There are new smells at every turn, colors you never thought imaginable blur your vision, you start waking up to the cultural sounds of a very distinct people. In other words, your senses are completely overwhelmed from start to finish, and your history starts to mingle with others’ histories. It’s common knowledge that for a traveler, you can never go home again. The explanation behind this is that everywhere becomes home.

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 Photograph 2. The Mediterranean as seen from Ashqelon

            The biggest challenge for those first starting fieldwork is understanding that fieldwork is both mentally and physically strenuous. The climate is never perfect. Almost all landscapes have hills to climb. Artifacts are heavy. Shovels cause callouses, or in the case of a conservator, your neck and eyes hurt after scrutinizing one artifact for six hours. You are constantly thinking and researching and asking yourself, “What the hell is that?” And, yes, the first week makes you reconsider your career choice. But once you get over the shock of constantly being in motion or the nuisance of changing your schedule fifty times to accommodate new surprises, you start realizing that you love being exhausted at the end of the day. You love eating bugs for the first time and meeting people who are genuinely interested in what you do. I admit it, I personally like the chaos. Chaos breeds new experiences in a way that planned trips never can. Professionally, chaos creates the perfect venue to meet new, exciting people. In Israel, we had a chance to learn from wonderful archaeologists and conservators alike. And, although they might not agree that we met amidst chaos, there were certainly plenty of loose artifacts to invoke the idea that we were all heading in the right direction.
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 Photograph 3. Chelsea Freeland, Samantha Sheffield, and author holding up the arch of Ashqelon

            Israel was an ideal place for an archaeologist’s first fieldschool with a conservation focus. I saw more artifacts in one place than I have ever seen in my life. Israel’s history is so deeply rooted in archaeology that its cultural attributes are highly valued, and, therefore, most artifacts are either on display or being conserved by the Israel Antiquities Authority (henceforth referred to as the IAA).   The IAA sees every artifact from both private and public archaeological sites pass through their office. Every prehistoric pottery sherd, every Roman glass piece, every waterlogged coin is conserved by a specialist and put in storage. This is incredibly different from American archaeology, in which artifacts are not required to be conserved by a central party, and so are spread out among universities and researchers across the country. There are benefits and downsides to both systems, but in both countries artifacts play a central role in politically-charged conversation. In other words, archaeology and conservation are relevant fields, and they remind us that people do care about their history and what is becoming of their material heritage.

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Photograph 4. The Negev Desert

             If you choose to go into archaeology or conservation, remember that we all want the same things. We love artifacts and the reconstruction of the people behind those artifacts. We want to represent cultures fully and accurately, while still embodying their humanity. If you want to be in archaeology or conservation, my advice is to love fieldwork for what it is. You probably have an addiction to adventure, and, even though you will complain, even your worst days in the field will be productive and inspiring. How else can a professional know they have reached the pinnacle of their career unless they have had the experience of cleaning one artifact for four hours and then having a colleague (or professor) lean over them and say calmly, “Have you started cleaning that yet?”

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Photograph 5. Author sitting next to Petrie’s old archaeological tunnels in the Negev

 

Note: All photos are by the author and should not be reproduced without the author’s permission.

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Preservation in Israel-Summer Abroad

August 12th, 2013

Preservation in Israel-Summer Abroad

Chelsea Freeland        

Israel was #19 for me.  The more countries I visit, the easier it is to think I’ve seen everything at least once.  Israel has Roman and Hellenistic ruins, like Italy and Greece.  It has international wars in its recent past, like Serbia.  Like Morocco, all the signs are trilingual.  But I found Israel to be a stand-out trip: somewhere I couldn’t group with my other experiences.

Israel is a good country to visit to learn about history: Israel’s history, world history, and your own story.  I saw the world’s first piece of artwork.  I went to the Holocaust Museum.  I stood at the Western Wall with women from every country imaginable.  Overall, it was an immensely entertaining, educational, and memorable trip.

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Author at Western Wall, Jerusalem.

(Photo by Samantha Sheffield)

 Because the purpose of the study was conservation-oriented, I also learned about Israel’s cultural heritage in a way not usually presented to the public.  There’s something to be said for seeing Islamic glass in a museum, and actually meeting the conservator who attempts to piece the vessels back together.  I found that conservation in Israel is a somewhat developing field.  Most conservators we met at the Israeli Antiquities Authority are not academically trained as conservators, but rather as chemists or artists.  Those who do receive formal degrees do so in other countries, notably Italy.

I don’t envy the task of the Israeli Antiquities Authority conservators who work with everything from the recent past to some of the oldest human remains in the world.  The pottery assemblage alone is simply mind-blowing.  Because the IAA receives and records all artifacts found during excavations in Israel, they are responsible for the documentation, conservation, and storage of thousands of artifacts each year.  The amount of talent present in that office is amazing, particularly given the volume and variety of artifacts.

Our field experience in Ruhama gave me my first taste of an on-site lab set-up.  Strikingly different than my sterile chemistry labs, it gave me the first-hand knowledge that you do the best you can for the artifact with the materials given.  The experience convinced me that rescue conservation, with limited resources and a quick turn-around, is extremely important, even if frustrating.  Equally as important, I know now that I have a good understanding of the variety of conservation conditions and can be prepared for new experiences throughout my career.

As I write this, I’m sitting in my airplane seat, about to land in Chicago.  While also craving Israeli chocolate cake and some strawberry mango juice, I look forward to the next time that I can visit Israel.  Of all my travels, I think this will be the hardest to catalogue, hardest to document, and hardest to share when I get home.  How can I explain what it felt like looking at the Dome of the Rock from the Mount of Olives?

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Mount of Olives, Jerusalem.

(Photo by author)

How do I explain how badly an invasive-species jellyfish sting hurts?  How can I look at Caesarea and just say, “I went snorkeling and we saw some columns?”  My pictures do justice to nothing, but certainly not to the splendor that is the “Holy Land.”

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Caesarea Harbor.

(Photo by author)

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Study Abroad-Israel 2013

February 6th, 2013

Summer Abroad 2013

Program Itinerary and Academic Schedule

July 7-July 27, 2013

Ever wondered what it would be like to travel to the Middle East? Curious to see first-hand the sights described in the Bible? Maybe you are interested in gaining valuable field experience in archaeological conservation? Join us as we travel through Israel to Tel-Aviv, Haifa, Jerusalem, Tel-el Hesi, Ashkelon, and Ashdod. Our 20-day journey will take us to active archaeological excavations, the Israel Antiquities Authority, and several local and national museums.

 

Title: Preservation of Cultural Heritage in Israel

Program Location: Tel-Aviv, Haifa, Jerusalem, Tel-el Hesi, Ashkelon, Ashdod

Program Overview: The preservation of cultural heritage is critical to societies internationally in order to retain personal identity, cultural history, and experiences of the past for the future. This process includes the conservation of built heritage, archaeological sites, material culture, and artworks that are inherent in modern society. This study abroad experience allows students to visit historic and archaeological sites that are critical to our understanding of culture within the human race. Students will gain real world experience in archaeological site preservation techniques by visiting active sites and gain insight into the preservation challenges that archaeologists are facing with material culture from a maritime and terrestrial environment. Israel offers a diverse range of cultural experiences that will enrich student’s exposure to Middle Eastern cultures and experience a variety of lifestyles and customs that are unique to the area. Students will work closely with local conservators and gain hands on experience in field conservation techniques that benefit site interpretation.

 

Credit Hours Possible: 9 CH

 

Graduate Courses Offered:

HIST6992: Directed Studies in History, 3CH

HIST5005: Field Methods in Archaeological and Museum Artifact Conservation, 6CH

 

Undergraduate Courses Offered:

HIST4533: Directed Studies in History, 3CH

HIST5005: Field Methods in Archaeological and Museum Artifact Conservation, 6CH

 

Primary Faculty Director:

Susanne Grieve

Director of Conservation

East Carolina University

252-328-4407

GrieveS@ecu.edu

 

Cost: $3721.20 (w/out airfare)

 

For More Information on ECU Summer Abroad Programs, visit: http://www.ecu.edu/cs-acad/summerabroad/.

 

Frequently Asked Questions: (Currently Being Updated):

1) Do I need a visa to travel to Israel?

2) What paperwork do I need to have for traveling?

  • A valid passport that doesn’t expire within 2013.
  • Complete the STEP form.

3) Is it safe to drink the water?

4) What kind of food is there? What if I have a specific dietary concern?

  • Please let the trip leader know if you have any allergies or dietary needs. Most restaurants and eateries have a variety of food options including vegetarian. It is important that you are open to a variety of food options as they can be limited while working in the field. Israel is a melting pot of food. The trip leader is a vegetarian and can attest that the food across the country is delicious! For more ideas on food, check out Israel Food Guide or Wikipedia.

5) Is is safe to travel to the Middle East?

  • While there is conflict occurring in Middle Eastern countries, Israel can be considered relatively safe to travel in. The trip will be canceled in the event of conflicts escalating in Israel to the point that it is no longer safe for Americans. This decision will not based on news headlines or popular media commentary, but rather travel advisories by the Department of State. Please review the current information on Israel for updated information: Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza.

6) Will we be near any of the current conflicts?

  • Israel is located between Egypt, Syria, and Lebanon which have experienced recent conflicts. The Gaza strip and West Bank area are also known to have associations with armed conflict and it is important to be diligent in your awareness of current events and personal safety. We will not be traveling into these areas. The closest we will travel to the West Bank will be Jerusalem for three days and the furthest South we will go is Ruhama.

7) What kind of clothes should I bring?

  • We will be continually on the move, so it is important to wear clothes that are comfortable and easily transported. While we are working in the field, its important that you have clothes that can get dirty and that also protect you from the sun. In July, temperatures reach 75F to 95F during the day with anywhere from 70-90% humidity. The sun is very strong in Israel and you should bring clothes that keep you cool, but also protect you from sunburn. Good places to buy one or two good key pieces are at REI or other outdoor shops which can also give you advice on clothing. Also, bring your swimsuit!

8) What will the temperature be like?

  • Israel is part of a Mediterranean environment. Averages temps can be found at The Weather Channel. It can easily reach 100+F when working in the field.

9) Is this a religious tour?

  • No, this program is for those interested in material culture that has been produced by prehistoric and historical societies. We will be visiting the sites that are described in the Bible which is interesting for those who are both religious and non-religious. Attendees on this trip absolutely must be open to other viewpoints and religions.

10) My parents are concerned about my safety, what should they know about traveling there?

  • It is understandable that you or your family would be concerned about traveling in Israel and the Middle East. Parents are welcome to contact the trip leader if they have any specific questions. We will cancel the trip if we feel that the attendees will be in any possible danger. There is always some degree of risk when traveling overseas, but we will do everything we can to minimize that risk. With that said, it is important that students can take personal responsibility and be able to take direction.

11) What experience does the trip leader have?

  • Susanne has been traveling internationally since she was 12 years old. She has visited, both individually and in groups, Alaska, Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, Hawaii, Canada, Virgin Islands, Haiti, Bahamas, Costa Rica, Mexico, England, Scotland, Amsterdam, Cyprus, Israel, Namibia, and South Africa, She participated in leading a group of graduate and undergraduate students around South Africa in conjunction with other faculty. The other professionals that we will interact with on the program also have extensive experience in leading groups in Israel.

12) Is it expensive to purchase food or othr items in Israel?

  • Much like other countries, it will depend on what cities you are in. Food will be covered in the study abroad fees, and will be of similar quality that you would have while traveling (sandwiches for lunch and hot meals for dinner). There are lots of great areas for shopping and opportunities to indulge in the local culture. For an idea of costs, check out Numbeo.

13) Do I need to be an ECU student to attend?

  • No, students from other universities can enroll as well. Please contact the ECU Study Abroad office for more details.

14) What is the itinerary?

  • Specific sites to be visited are still being confirmed. More details will be provided here. Some of the activities will depend on the desires and experience of the attendees.

15) What is expected from me as far as coursework?

  • Students will be expected to actively participate in discussions as well as provide a research paper at the end of the semester. This paper will directly contribute to the sites we visit or conduct conservation treatments with. Students will also give presentations on a specific aspect of Israel before departing. More details will be provided.

16) Can I take more than one Directed Study?

  • Yes, please refer to your advisor for more information on how these courses will fit into your curriculum.

17) Does the recent activity in Israel and Gaza affect the program?

  • At this point, we are not canceling the trip due to the fact that events change very quickly in this area. It is important to stay up to date on the events in Israel and we will be watching for new develoments closely. A great deal of the activity could be due to upcoming elections in January. We will make a final determination in the Spring.

18) Will I recieve a refund if the trip is cancelled?

  • Yes, you will recieve a full refund if the trip is cancelled.

19) What kind of housing will we be in?

Since we will be traveling across the country side, we will stay in variety of housing options including hotels and hostels. The excavation site we will visit in Ruhama will use a kibbutz as a base. See their website for images and more: http://www.orhanruhama.co.il/.

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