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El Araj Season 4: Day Five (Week 3)

Updated: Jul 8, 2019

Soft chalk limestone fishing weight mold.

Today was the final day of Week Three with one more week to go. There were significant finds today. In the early morning we opened two new squares (A6 and B6) to the east and directly over the former Ottoman aristocrat's home. Yesterday afternoon a tractor had removed the top 12 inches of concrete and cobblestone foundations for the pavement. We began the process of leveling and digging down to the Byzantine level in the hope to uncover more of the mosaic from the church. To the north in Area C they continue to find coins and pottery from the early Roman period. The team in the second square in Area C is lowering the ground level at a quick pace. In the morning they unearthed part of a roof roller used the reseal the roof of the ancient houses each year. The first square in Area C is working within tight confines. Still they are discovering fascinating features, plastered floors and walls. Zachary Wong and others in the Hong Kong team removed portions of the Roman flagstone in Area A to see if it covered a water channel. It does not. Its purpose is not yet known. However, in the channel they found a limestone paver, mud bricks and even tesserae which resemble those we found in 2017 in the Roman bath house. The highlight of the day was uncovering more of the mosaic that belonged to the Byzantine church. Sunya, Kathryn and Sandra Arias got the honor to uncover the mosaics from the church that had been covered for almost 1500 years. They don't get to do that every day. Such a joy to touch history! Our day ended with a fascinating hands on lecture by Yeshu Dray. He was addressing the unknown purpose for the small chalk stone engraved with what looks like tree branches. It seems it was a chalk mold for making lead fishing weights. Yeshu constructed a duplicate mold, brought a small kiln, melted the lead and actually made the lead strips, which would have been cut and rolled around the string of a fishing net. These weights are what allowed them to cast the nets. It seems that the "tree branch" design was intended to mark the ownership of the nets, somewhat like branding cattle. So, not only do we have hundreds of lead fishing weights in our excavation, but we actually have a mold from which many were made.

Opening up two new squares (A6 and B6).

Sifting in Area C.

A portion of a roof roller.

Close confines in Square One of Area C.

Digging through the Roman flagstones in Area A.

Mother and daughter uncover the Byzantine mosaic.

Touching history!

Roman tesserae similar to those we excavated from the Roman bath in 2017.

Small Roman tesserae.

Yeshu Dray.

Lead plate made from the chalk mold.

Limestone mold and the lead strip.

Lead weight encasing string.

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