This has been the second last week of my period of study leave. It has been a time for drawing together some of the loose ends, and a time when the mind naturally begins to think about what lies just ahead when life returns to its ‘normal’ setting in a few weeks’ time.
Sunday and Monday were spent at the coin department of Israel Antiquities Authority, as we worked through the last 50 or so coins concerning which there were unresolved questions. After carefully reviewing the annotations (in handwritten Hebrew) on the index cards during the previous few days, I was well prepared for the visit and we made great progress. There remains a lot of work to update the records, fill gaps, find missing information in the field records, etc. However, the critical elements—and those parts best done while in the country and with access to the physical coins—have been finished.
Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday were spent on the dig at Bethsaida, as we opened up a new square in Area T. Work in this area had begin only in 2012. We are seeking to find evidence for the presence of non-elite population at the site. After going down just 40cm across the 5m x 5m square, we have already found a packed earth floor from the Mamluk period (ca 1300–1500 CE) and some domestic walls. We have lots of pottery shards and the occasional items in glass and iron. By the time we finish the season at the end of June we may well have found material from the Early Roman period as well.
Friday has been spent at the house, leaving Area T in the hands of my colleagues while I attended to some key writing tasks as well as the growing pile of unanswered emails. My paper for the Biblical Characters in the Three Traditions seminar at the International SBL meeting in St Andrew’s, Scotland next month is now finished, and so is the Keynote presentation that I will use on the day. The current big task is to finish the Bethsaida Coin Report for the years 2001 to 2012, and then find a way to turn it into a presentation for the Bethsaida Seminar at St Andrew’s as well as a vaguely interesting chapter for a colleague’s Festschrift.
I have also begun to pile up (and weigh) the books and other papers that have accumulated during my study leave. They will need to be posted back to Australia in the next week or so, as that extra 10 kg just cannot be added to my checked luggage!
It is now just one more week before the Australian volunteers will arrive to join us for the dig, and then stay for a special one-week course at St George’s College in Jerusalem. Once that happens I shall have moved from sabbatical mode back into teaching mode. It will be good to see so many familiar faces from home here in this place that has become so special to me. At the same time, it will be hard to begin the process of saying good-bye to people here who are now such a special part of my life. Happily, I am coming back in November to serve as a speaker at the Sabeel conference in Jerusalem.