Archaeological dig was hot, hard, tiring and great

Published 6:00am Sunday, June 16, 2013

By Dr. James Troglen
Well, I’m back! Most of you did not even know I was gone, did you?
First Baptist gave me a wonderful 10 year anniversary gift. They paid my way on an archaeological dig in Israel and gave me a three week sabbatical to go.
I chose the city of Bethsaida on the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee and just got back Monday night. It was great and let me again thank First Baptist for their kindness and generosity towards myself and our family these past 10 years. I look forward to many more.
Now, about the dig. Imagine, if you will, paying someone so you can go and do their work for them. Paying them so you can get up at 4:30 a.m. each day, be at the site at 5 a.m. each day and then pick, shovel, trowel dirt, lift stones and move brush until 1 p.m. each day. Then you get to sort pottery and the other finds and clean them until 4:30 p.m.
I’m not done. Then you have to show up and examine and categorize these finds at 6 p.m. and attend a lecture by one of the archaeologists at 8 p.m. – and you pay them!
Hey, I even had to do my own laundry in the bathroom sink! It was great and one of the standout moments in my life.
We found some great things. The city was the home of several of the apostles as you probably already know. We found a stool that was designated John and Andrew’s time out chair still sitting in a corner of the house.
We even found some textiles, including a toga with an ancient screen print that said, “Peter went on a preaching tour with Jesus and all I got was this lousy toga.” Things don’t change much do they?
We found some hair curlers that belonged to Absalom (Absalom’s mother was from this city when it was Canaanite), my he had thick hair. There was even some graffiti on one of the city walls that said “David loves Maacah” (Absalom’s mom; 2 Samuel 3:3).
Imagine our surprise when we found a bronze age Rotary Club sign saying “Rotary Club meets here each Tuesday at noon.” Wow! Sorry, it seems they had no Lions Club. There was even an old tag that must have fallen off a chariot that said, “If you love Solomon honk.”
OK, seriously, we found none of that and I hope you could take a joke. We did find some great things such as the outer city walls on the south side, a royal plaza near the Iron Age gates, the position in the outer wall breached by the Assyrians in 734 B.C. We discovered hundreds of sling stones used against the Israelites.
We uncovered some Bronze Age platters that date more than 5,000 years old. Rami, the chief archaeologist, stood by me as I uncovered one and said, “James, just imagine the man who made this platter formed it at the same time the foundations of the pyramids were being laid.”
Several ancient coins were discovered by students from Canada and even human bones we cannot explain why they were found where they were.
Bethsaida no longer sits on the Sea of Galilee. Due to earthquakes and changing climate it sits about two kilometers inland. However, climatologists have discovered that a lagoon led from the Sea of Galilee right up to Bethsaida’s walls and we also found the remains of fisherman’s homes.
It was hot. It was hard. It was tiring. It was dirty. It was a long time from home, family and church. But it was also great!
Three weeks excavating the city of the Apostles, the city where David acquired the mother of Absalom and Tamar and which was conquered by the Assyrians in 734 B.C. What a great summer.
In the next few weeks I will be bringing a detailed presentation to the dear members of First Baptist Wetumpka and you’re all invited to attend. Be watching in this column for the date and time. Got to go and clean up the ark – oh, I didn’t mention we found that did I?

Dr. James Troglen is pastor of First Baptist Church of Wetumpka.

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