For over a century, archaeologists have been sifting dirt at Tel Megiddo ,
uncovering the remains of ancient buildings, streets and the way of life of many
diverse civilizations crammed one on top of the other.
soaring and the sun beating mercilessly down upon them, over 100 young and
not-so-young professional and amateur archaeologists, history buffs – and just
plain adventurous and curious people – from many countries are once more delving
deeper into the layers of secrets still held at Tel Megiddo.
evidence of 27 layers of civilization have been uncovered and recorded. Almost
halfway through the present seven-week dig, there are high expectations of yet
more hidden secrets of Tel Megiddo surfacing and being added to the history of
this important site.
The energetic diggers pursuing the past work in four
groups under huge black awnings, their netting clearly visible atop and clinging
to the steep-sloped sides of the tel from across the valley below.
some days, the teams have been encouraged by the visiting patron of the Megiddo
Expedition, Lord Michael Allenby and his wife Lady Sara, from Britain. The
couple have been staying at nearby Kibbutz Ramat Hashofet, together with the
rest of the expedition members.
On site, at the crack of dawn, the teams
work through until noon before returning to the kibbutz, perched on the Menashe
Hills above the site. After lunch and a hardearned rest, the expedition members
– hailing from Israel, Britain, France, Switzerland, Brazil and across North
America – clean, number, photograph and ‘read’ the morning’s historic booty,
buckets full of pottery shards and other artifacts.
Their evenings are
taken up with workshops studying archaeology-related topics and planning the
next day’s digging.
“We find it absolutely riveting to be here and see
the work progressing so well,” said 80-year-old Lord Allenby of Megiddo, who has
visited the site many times in the past and closely follows developments from
back home in Britain.
Standing atop the expansive tel, Lord and Lady
Allenby were accompanied by British-born Israeli archaeologist Norma Franklyn,
who filled them in on the day’s work.
A long line of young people were
passing buckets of earth up a hillside, where the last in line at the top of the
incline unceremoniously dumped the contents in to a deep pit.
the sun and grunting from the uphill effort to move the earth away from an area
being excavated, the dozen or so global excavators worked quickly and in perfect
unison. When the last bucket was up and over, they all collapsed to the ground –
groaning and laughing at the same time.
“Now isn’t that marvelous,” said
Lord Allenby of the young people as he and his wife gingerly picked their way
along one of the dusty, stony pathways between the areas under
A hereditary peer, Lord Allenby inherited the title Viscount
Allenby of Megiddo and of Felixstowe, Co. Suffolk. He is the great-nephew
of Field Marshall Edmund Allenby, commander-in-chief of the British troops who
in 1918 invaded the north of Palestine through the Megiddo Pass, eventually
leading to the end of Turkish rule of the region.
The remarkable tel was first excavated
over 100 years ago by a team of German archaeologists, who were followed by
teams from the Oriental Institute of Chicago with the financial backing of John
D. Rockefeller Jr. Some of their discoveries were shipped to
The first Megiddo Expedition of the Institute of Archaeology of
Tel Aviv was in 1992. The present excavation – together with a consortium of
American universities – is the 10th. Norma Franklyn, coordinator of the previous
nine expeditions and of the current one, tells of many past expedition members
becoming part of the extended “Megiddo family.” There have been marriages
between folks who met on site, and friendships formed for a
“There are those who have come back a second and even third
time to join in another dig – and this year, we have a couple who met here in
the past, are now married and here again, but this time heavily pregnant! They
are hoping that their child will be born in Israel – although hopefully not here
on site,” says Franklyn with a smile.
One of the team working in an area
known to be from the Iron Age is Ian Cipin of Barnet, London. Cipin, studying
for a Masters in Archaeology of the Eastern Mediterranean and Middle East, came
to dig and discover at Megiddo the first time in 2006.
“I had always
wanted to dig in Israel, but other things cropped up instead. But in 2006 I
jumped at the opportunity,” explained Cipin, who is Jewish and has relatives in
“My first dig was many years ago in Essex, England, and
quite unforgettable as I sweated for a whole week and found nothing. In
few hours of the dig, I discovered one really small piece of
“Here at Megiddo,” he says spreading his arms wide
site, “they come up every day by the bucketful!” Visiting the site was
Mendelsohn, a Canadian archaeologist and linguist who recently made
his family to settle in the town of Karkur, a short distance from the
site of Megiddo.
“Standing on a tel built upon many layers of
civilization and that has witnessed at least three major battles, the
of which dates to the 15th century BCE and the last as recent as in the
is inspiring in its own right,” said Mendelsohn.
with Lord Allenby is especially poignant as it was his uncle, the
Allenby, who was victorious over the Ottomans in the last battle fought
and that is really powerful,” he added.