Hannah Klingbeil is a sixth-grade homeschooler living in Silver Spring, Maryland. Her dad (or “Papa”), Gerald is an associate editor of the Adventist Review and Adventist World magazines who studied the culture and history of the ancient Near East and has excavated at Tell el-‘Umeiri, Jordan, with the Madaba Plains Project. We asked Hannah to talk with her dad about archaeology. Hannah's mom, who is a teacher and instructs Hannah and her sisters, came up with the quiz questions. Read the interview first and then see how you do with the quiz (see below).
Hannah: Why would grown-ups want to dig in the sand?
Gerald: That sounds as if adults normally only like work! Digging in the sand in order to discover ancient history is not only fun (and hard work) but also an important way of discovering things about the past. We call this science archeology.
Hannah: What is archeology?
Gerald: Archeology is a way of getting to know past history by studying things left over from the past. Where did people live? How did they build their homes? What did they eat? What kind of technology did they have? Archeologists dig in the dirt to find answers to these questions. Every time they dig, however, they destroy the past. So, the digging needs to be done very carefully and everything that is found needs to be documented.
What does an archeologist do?
Gerald: He or she first has to get up very early, especially when excavating in the Middle East. During summer when most archeologists dig, it can get up to 104 degrees (maybe more), and so everybody gets up at 4:00 a.m., has a big breakfast and then arrives at the site just when the sun comes up around 5:30 a.m. The site is divided in squares (usually 15 by 15 feet), and in each square two people carefully dig up the dirt and collect the pottery (remains of broken ceramics). Sometimes archeologists find seals or even inscriptions. However, most of the time they get excited about the remains of a house and pottery. Everything is carefully noted in a dig journal and then entered in to a big computer database. Every afternoon all the pottery is washed and then interpreted. A good archeologist can look at the shape and style of a broken bowl and date it to within 30 to 50 years.
Hannah: How do you find out the age of an object?
Gerald: If pottery is found with the object it can help to establish a date. There are more technological ways of establishing a date, but pottery is definitely the most important. Just imagine your desk at home, which at times can be pretty full and covered with books, clothes, and other stuff. Logically, the things on top were added last while the stuff at the bottom is the “oldest” (and may have been there for a couple of weeks!
Hannah: How does archeology relate to the Bible?
Gerald: People in Bible times lived in cities, built walls and houses, ate and drank and consequently left things behind. Biblical archeology tries to connect the Bible with the archeology of sites in Israel or the countries surrounding Israel. Excavating a site in North America or China would definitely not be very helpful for biblical archeologists, even though biblical archeologists use the same techniques as an archeologist working on a Native American burial ground in South Dakota.
Hannah: Are there any exciting finds from Bible times?
Gerald: Every year archeologists find new exciting material. Very often they do not have enough time to write all their findings down and publish them so that other people can also study the information. Let me give you a good example of a very exciting recent find: In 1993, which may seem like long ago (before most of you were born), but it is recent for archeologists who work with things from so long ago, a team of archeologists from Israel found a stele when they excavated Tell Dan. Dan is a city mentioned in the Bible (Gen. 14:14; Deut. 34:1) and is located in northern Israel. A stele is a big standing stone (more than 3 feet high) that has images or writing engraved on it. The language of the stele was Aramaic, which we also know from the Old Testament (in the books of Daniel and Ezra). For the first time, we found a text outside the Bible that referred to David. The stele was engraved about a hundred years after the death of David, but it refers to the “house [or family] of David.” Some people do not believe nowadays that David actually existed, so finding this stele was very important.
Hannah: Thank you for your answers and explanations.
Test Your Archeology IQ
By Chantal J. Klingbeil (Hannah’s mom)
1. What is a Tell?
a. A small hill
b. A kind of pottery
c. A small well
2. What is broken pottery used for?
a. To cut things
b. To check the temperature
c. To establish a date
3. What is a stele?
a. A kind of metal
b. An ancient bottle
c. An engraved standing stone
4. What is Aramaic?
a. A tool for diggin
b. An ancient biblical language
c. An ancient city located near a well
To check your answers, go here.