Episode #304 — The daily life of an archaeologist excavating the treasures of the Holy Land is just a bit different from what the movies might show us! Amanda Hope Haley knows the reality well because she’s been part of multiple fascinating digs. She makes her return On the Road and gives us the real story. She tackles one major misconception right out of the gate. For the most part, the things you find on the dig are pieces of something larger, and not fully intact treasures.

“Mostly that’s how it happens. When I was in Shimron in 2019, there were several occasions where – especially burials – if you find a burial, people often were buried with trinkets and items. So those are areas where you may get an oil lamp or something like that will come out intact. Because it was protected when it was buried, as opposed to that item being on a shelf when the city was destroyed and it falling and breaking. It does happen that these things are found, but when you get out there and you’re digging, the first day you’re literally turning up pottery everywhere. In fact if you just walk on top of a Tel, often you’re walking on pottery. That happens. It just rises to the surface a little bit, and gets kicked up.”

As exciting as the history behind what you’re holding undoubtedly is, Amanda says the process of preserving what you’ve found gets decidedly non-glamorous.

“So it’s great when you first hold this piece. ‘This hasn’t seen the light in 1000 years! This is amazing!’ And you put it in the bucket. You keep going, and you do that several hundred more times over the course of a day. It’s still exciting, but then it really loses its shine later on in the day when you realize you have to wash and dry and catalog every single one of them! Even though you may know from the beginning, typically if it’s a broken piece of pottery that is flat, it doesn’t have any sort of decoration on it, it doesn’t have a handle or doesn’t have anything definitive about it then those pieces are called non diagnostic.”

“Every time you pull up a non diagnostic piece you know when you’re sitting there in the dirt, man I’m going to do so much work for this thing, and it’s going to go in a bag and it’s never going to be seen again! Everything that comes out of the ground is owned by the state of Israel. No one can actually take that home! It would be so nice to have this bowl, a piece of pottery, and be able to take that out, but you will be stopped at the airport! And they will take it away because it’s all the property of Israel.”


Amanda Hope Haley is a lover of the Bible, a scholar, author & archaeologist. She just released her book, The Red Haired Archaeologist Digs Israel.

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On the Road with Amanda Hope Haley

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