Community excavations

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.

Download flyer as PDF pdf

Video about the excavation and the exhibition that was held in the cistern:

Community Excavation – Rogem Ganim

The film “Rogem Ganim: The Past on our Doorstep” tells the story of a summer spent at community excavations in Jerusalem’s Ganim neighbourhood.

For years, there was a dump in the heart of the Ganim neighborhood in Jerusalem. It was an eyesore for its residents and a paradise for local junkies. Until one day eight years ago, local greens got together with an archeologist and a few visionaries, and began to clean up the dump. Soon, an area rich in antiquities was exposed, and the cleanup operation developed into community archaeological excavations. The local people themselves wanted to excavate the area and then turn it into a public park that would revive the ancient terraces and wine presses hidden beneath the layers of history and dirt.

The film follows local residents digging up the past of their neighbourhood, which goes back 2,700 years. Two archaeologists help them to understand their finds. Hard work, excited discoveries and interactions between the veteran residents and recent immigrants from Ethiopia create a colourful mosaic of a summer spent at community excavations.

Watch it on Youtube:

Community Excavation: Ein Lamur/Ein Limon

The film documents a community archaeological excavation conducted by Emek Shaveh with participation of residents of Ein Rafa village, west of Jerusalem. The excavation focused on the ancient pool Ein Limon/’Ein Lamur located at the edge of the village. The cooperation between Emek Shaveh archaeologists and the residents combined the return to physical work and to the land with learning about archaeological research methods and local history.

The village residents were involved in every stage of the dig—planning, excavating, and discussing the finds and their significance. In Emek Shaveh we believe that a community excavation is a valuable means to foster a community’s connection to its environment and to the remains of the past. This stems from the perception that historical remains do not belong to a particular nation, but are integral to the place where they have left their mark.

Back to top