Study Leave — Week Two

After the excitement of the first week—with my arrival in Israel, settling into the house and the first trip to Jerusalem to work in the coin department at IAA—this has been a much quieter week.

My first excursion at the IAA coin department was so productive there was no need to return to Jerusalem this week. I had more than sufficient material to keep me going all week. Instead of returning south, I remained in Tiberias and worked away at the task of checking that all of the information on each of the 350+ index cards has been included in the Excel spreadsheet that serves as a temporary database file. As I write I am within sight of the end of that task, and should have it done by this evening.

One result of staying in Tiberias was that I have had considerable solitude. That is a very different reality than my usual work and life context, but an interesting set of dynamics to experience. I am rarely alone with my thoughts and never find myself feeling lonely, but at times this week it has felt very lonely.

The highlight of the week on a personal note was my birthday on Monday, with greetings from family and friends around the world.  I was treated to a lovely dinner at a local Chinese restaurant by the lake in Tiberias.

On Wednesday I was finally able to visit the Bethsaida site, which looks so very different in its Spring greenery. We were having another Khamseen event that day, so the sky was filled with dust and there was limited visibility. It still made for some lovely photographs of the site.

The long days sitting at the laptop and checking the index cards given me a good sense of what coins are in the collection at this stage, and where we have gaps in the recorded information. I still find myself surprised to be dealing with coins from Alexander the Great, Herod, Claudius, Trajan, and the like. Some of them minted right here in Tiberias, all of them in circulation here at some stage in the past—and now recovered from the dig at Bethsaida.

I am finding that my Hebrew cursive skills are developing as this project proceeds. I am now recognising the names of mints, denominations, etc even though they are only recorded in hand written modern Hebrew. Doubtless this will also assist with the challenge of  grocery shopping when all the labels are in Hebrew.

Next week I will be spending a few more days in Jerusalem to push into the next phase of the coin project. This will involve tracking down published descriptions of the coins, as well as descriptions of similar coins, so these can be prepared for inclusion in the database. Along with the images of the coins, these technical numismatic records will add real value to the database as a research tool for my colleagues in the Consortium for the Bethsaida Excavations Project.

However, in the meantime we have the Jewish weekend (Friday/Saturday), so it is almost play time for me …

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