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First Person: The Anonymous Archaeologist, Hershel Shanks, Biblical Archaeology Review (28:5), Sep/Oct 2002.

Hershel ShanksIt’s time to link the finder with the find

In the 1980s Gershon Edelstein, an archaeologist with the Israel Antiquities Authority, was excavating ancient farms at Ein Yael, outside Jerusalem.(a) These were not jazzy sites (except for a villa where the Roman boss once lived, which contained mosaics(b), but there was a lot to learn anyway—about the ancient food supply and economy, as well as about ancient farming techniques and crafts. As Edelstein wrote, “I was not looking for the kind of breathtaking artifacts that tourists ooh-and-aah about in museums.” Instead, he was interested in investigating terraces built on natural foundations, a wine-producing installation, oil presses, grinding stones, pottery manufacturing techniques, cisterns, water conduits, reservoirs, pathways, fenced enclosures and man-made caves.

Edelstein had a dream. He wanted to make the site into the “living museum” of Ein Yael.(c) With the help of the Jerusalem Foundation, Edelstein realized his dream. Through hands-on workshops and exhibits, visitors of all ages are now introduced to daily life on an ancient farm. In the ceramics workshop, for example, you start by collecting clay from the hillside. You end up with a fired pot. Or you can milk some goats and make goat cheese. Or try spinning sheep’s wool into thread, or throw a shuttle through the warp of a replica of an ancient loom.

Read the rest of First Person: The Anonymous Archaeologist in the online Biblical Archaeology Society Library.

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