- Posted April 3, 2011 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
'Raiders' turns 30: Your archaeology adventures
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From Biblical Archaeology to Ancient Asian Discoveries, A Grandfather's Inspiration
Vietnam-based journalist and professional adventurer traces his archaeological interests back to a Jones-like grandfather.
As a travel writer and freelance journalist based in Vietnam, I’ve reported on archaeological finds for CNN (see Vietnam’s own ‘Great Wall’ uncovered) and CNNGo (see How to become a modern day Indiana Jones). In fact, I spend a lot of my time exploring the countryside and in the process I’ve found several undocumented temple ruins and citadels (perhaps dating between the 8th to 11th centuries AD) from the ancient Champa Kingdom, in both Vietnam and Cambodia.
As someone who grew up in the 80s, Lucasfilm’s Indiana Jones was an inspiring and influential film series for me. However, there’s another more influential person in the ‘BackStory’ of my career. My grandfather, Dr. David Livingston (not to be confused with the “equally great” explorer and medical missionary to Africa, Dr. David Livingstone), is also a noted archaeologist.
Back to the Bible
Beginning in 1967, my grandfather sought to resolve the archaeological problems encountered in excavations of the ancient Biblical cities of Jericho and Ai (located in Israel). The cities were conquered by the Israelites in the 14th century BC, and their conquest described in the Book of Joshua, found in the Old Testament (Torah). Other sites for the cities had been proposed previously, but their locations and ages contradicted both Biblical and ancient extra-biblical accounts.
To this end, in 1969 David Livingston founded Associates for Biblical Research (which he directed for 25 years), for the purpose of creating a think-tank for scholars and a resource for laymen. Ten years later he initiated excavations at Khirbet Nisya, 12 miles north of Jerusalem, as a result of his search for the Biblical city of Ai (and its neighbor, Bethel). He directed excavations there for 24 years.
I was fortunate to accompany my grandfather on one of his digs in 1996. We rose early each morning to get the hardest work done before the hot afternoon sun. Israel has a desert climate so the intense heat and sunlight can be quite oppressive. The work was grueling at times as I dug out the foundation of a small temple, or carried boulders out to clear a storage cave.
I didn’t find anything remarkable at the time, other than some tiny mosaic tiles, pottery shards and bones from animals that fell into the cave, but I did encounter a rather large tarantula in the cave that was rather exciting . Others were luckier however. Besides piles of mosaic tiles and pottery shards (and a number of whole pots and jars), some of the more interesting artifacts recovered include daggers, arrow heads, jewelry and coins from a variety of periods.
Archaeology isn't ALL Car Chases and Fighting Nazis
Afternoons at the dig were spent cataloging and documenting the discoveries of the day, as well as washing and sorting pottery. Pottery styles vary with different cultures and time periods, so the shards are one of the key indicators for determining the time periods of occupation at an archaeological site, as well as determining dates of adjascent artifacts. It’s fun when you can connect pottery pieces, much like a jigsaw puzzle. While most come from jars, my favorite pieces are small, clay oil lamps (similar in form to “Aladdin’s lamp”).
There definately is some danger in digging in Israel (like stray bullets, arachnid bites and stings or loose rocks tumbling down). Unlike the Indiana Jones films however, most of the work is not done in the field, but back at the office, analyzing relics, comparing ancient texts, and referencing old maps. Writing the final report for the years of excavations was the most monumental task all for my grandfather. He recently published his research in: Khirbet Nisya: The Search for Biblical Ai 1979 - 2002.
About Dr. David Livingston
Dr. Livingston has a Ph.D. in archaeology from Andrews University, an M.A. from Trinity graduate school in Deerfield, IL, an M.Div from Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, and a B.A from Wheaton College. He spent 10 years in Korea with his family from 1956 - 1966, including 5 years as the president of Kwan Dong College in KangNung, Korea.
In addition to directing excavations at Khirbet Nisya, he has also participated in excavations in Jerusalem, Jericho, Jezreel, Bourgata, and Gezer, and conducted more than 25 tours in Israel, Jordan and Egypt. He has traveled extensively in Europe, teaching short courses in schools and seminaries in Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Germany, France, Crimea, Ukraine, and Latvia.
1. At the site for Ai, a Herodian tower is built on an Iron-age foundation, enabling watchmen to see down into the wadi (ravine) from the tel (hill).
2. A trench in this temple foundation at the site for Ai may have allowed water or blood to flow from sacrifices.
3. Sorting potsherds
4. Olive press cave excavated at the site for Ai. The cylindrical stone weight dated from the Byzantine period.
5. A Mikveh, or ceremonial Jewish bath, from the late Hellenistic Period. Christian baptism was adapted from this ritual.
6. David Livingston holds a sling stone found at the site, similar to one that David would have used to kill Goliath in the Biblical account.
7. David Livingston sorts potsherds
8. David Livingston with a Hellenistic storage jar.
9. David Livingston with a small jar recovered in the excavation.
10. Adam Bray (the Author) at the 1996 Dig.