Wednesday, January 25, 2012
When we went to visit Maresha I had the distinct pleasure of having Sherry Whetstone act as tour guide. Sherry worked in our lab, and dealt with all the filing and logging of our finds at the tel. She basically ran the office.
The nice thing about our group at the dig was how wonderfully nice they all were, and how interested in sharing information they knew about their specialties. Sherry was no exception, and she had some great experiences working at Tel Dan and helping excavate Maresha.
Maresha was a city built by the Idumeans around the time of the Babylonian exile, and existed until after the Helenistic period. The Idumeans were descendants of the Edomites, who moved into Israel during the Babylonian exile. Maresha itself was no more than a 10-minute drive from my dig site, and was clearly seen from both Gath and Lakish.
The Idumeans had similarities to the Jews, including evidence of mikvah, and similar prayers. There have also been differences; a tomb was found at the site dating from the Hellenistic period.
Maresha was one of my favorite places to visit. I don’t think I expected that. The site itself is not flashy; as with most sites it was destroyed, so there really isn’t much left above ground of the city that once existed at the location.
So then why was it so enjoyable? Many who had been there before mentioned caves below ground, and at first I was under whelmed with the idea. But these caves are unlike any caves I had seen before, or could have imagined.
Man made and ranging in size, the caves acted more as basements than caves. The city sits on chalky limestone, so the basements were carved into the ground and were used for storage of as a site where the occupants could engage in trade. We saw a cave with an olive press, and another where pigeons lived. It was simply fascinating.
It is hard to tell, but this is the pigeon basement, and it is actually quite large, in depth and in size. All the cubbies are where the pigeons lived.
This is one of my favorite pictures from the trip. The olive press.
Dating from a later period was a Hellenistic burial chamber, and even later were the Bell Caves, a quarry carved out by prisoners for the chalky stone.
The Bell Caves
I don’t think I expected to like Maresha as much as I did. The fascinating difference of this site, coupled with Sherry as a tour guide made the experience enjoyable and memorable.
Sherry explaining how she stumbled upon this particular cave. The light behind her is how they initially entered.
The first day we got to Israel I wanted to pull out my camera and begin taking photos. Well, my camera broke, so I fortunately used my fathers spare on loan through the trip. It had some fantastic zoom, but really had other weird quirks that made it more of a hassle that a pleasure. One was how often the battery died, as has been the case before. Thank you to Kendra Dye for the photos of the Bell caves, and parts of the burial chamber.
A cistern, complete with stairs along the side so the citizens could easily get to their water.
These are the chisel marks along the wall from those who initially carved the cistern.
The Hellenistic burial chamber. These are not the original images; the site was originally on the land of a sheik. When he heard of the finding, he went and had the original destroyed to keep it in accordance with Islam's teachings. Thankfully someone had made detailed drawings of the images, so they were able to be recreated.