Community excavation: Mamilla

A community excavation is an excavation in which professional archaeologists excavate an ancient site together with local residents. Its goal is to empower the community through the experience of researching the past, and to encourage conservation of the site as a significant public space in the local landscape.

During the months May and October 2012, an archaeological community excavation  was carried out in the old water cistern located in the Mamilla cemetery, today part of the Independence Park in Jerusalem. This was a joint project of Emek Shaveh, Friends of the Earth Middle East (FoEME) and the Experimental School in Jerusalem under the academic sponsorship of The Nelson Glueck School of Biblical Archaeology at the Hebrew Union College.

In two weekly sessions, groups of middle school students from the Experimental School took part in the excavation. The children donned protective helmets, took up their small hammers, builders’ shovels and brooms, and tried their hand at the process of working on the foundations, all with a level of patience that one rarely encounters during an ordinary classroom lesson.

המערה (Medium)   תלמידי הניסויי בחפירה (Copy)

During the excavation, artifacts were discovered that concretely exemplified the story of the Independence Park area during different periods: packaging, documents from stolen wallets, syringes, eating utensils, pottery, and even antique marble and an ancient nail.  During the second stage (the October excavation), a large portion of the cistern floor was exposed, from which many pottery shards were collected. While they were working, the participants discussed the changes in the local environment and in the way of life, as reflected by the artifacts remaining in the field, as well as the relationship between these factors and the changing function of  the findings over hundreds and thousands of years. The activity enabled the participants to become better acquainted with the space in which they lived and its history, and to feel that they were part of it.

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