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Season 6, Days 0 & 1: Returning to El Araj

Updated: Jul 19, 2022

I arrived back in Israel this morning in preparation for season 6 of our excavations at el Araj. I will dig for a few days with Motti Aviam and his students from Kinneret College and then on Friday we will have over 40 volunteers arrive to dig for two weeks. This season presents some special challenges. The Sea of Galilee is as high as I have seen it at this time of the year. The Israel Water Authority refuses to open the dam at the southern end of the lake and they are even discussing pumping desalinated water into the lake to keep it full to the brim. The current lake level is at least 7 meters (22 feet) higher than the known level in the first century and this impacts the water table near the lakeshore. As you can see, some of the squares in the Byzantine church that were dug last summer are now filled with water. Our focus this season will be the area along the north and east walls of the church. We hope to answer some lingering questions. In late October we will resume digging in the church and its mosaics to address other questions. Stay tuned over the next couple of weeks and follow my daily reports.

El Araj (Bethsaida-Julias) Excavation Project Season 6 (2022) Day 1 - Today I joined Professor Motti Aviam and his students from Kinneret College as we prepared the site for the excavations this season. We set up shade cover initially in two areas (this will expand over the next three weeks). Two squares along the north wall of the Byzantine church and three squares along the eastern wall. We hope to discover if there existed any structures outside of the church. More importantly we hope to find a doorway into the church. This was one of the unanswered questions from last season Where was the door? The initial tasks in a dig are not terribly exciting. After the shade tarps are erected, 5x5 meter squares are marked off and we begin to remove the topsoil. This layer seldom has any significant remains in it, and the hard soil and rocks on the surface make it rough going. However, in the coming days we will work our way down to the earlier levels where we hope to find our answers. And with archaeology, there is always the unexpected! Here are a few pictures from the day. Again, nothing riveting but necessary to the process. The final picture is of Dr. Achiya CohnTavor teaching the Kinneret College students after the morning dig.

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