Wednesday, July 28, 2010


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. 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 America.

To date, 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.

For 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.

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 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 lifetime.

One of the volunteers said, “However, being here with Lord Allenby is especially poignant as it was his great uncle, the Lord Allenby, who was victorious over the Ottomans in the last battle fought here – and that is really powerful,” he added.


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