By Marcela Zapata
Who would have thought that an eight-year-old´s dream would have become reality and furthermore reach its 10th anniversary! Looking in retrospective it is incredible. We remember in detail each year that we have spent in Magdala. They have been ten great years of experiences, lessons, and overall meeting amazing persons who have for days, months and even years “handled history with their own hands.”
Archaeologists live in two realities; one foot is in the past and another in the present. The present allows us to ask questions, hypotheses, possible scenarios as well as dig into endless information to enable us to have an idea of that which we are investigating and want to uncover. In our other reality, we live with all the evidence and material which we register –a product of our excavations– to help us establish links and patterns that give us insights to reconstruct the past in an objective way. This of course is done with the support of scientific research and tools to help us complete these puzzles of history.
These past ten years we have worked like this in Magdala. It is a project that has become the center of our lives, a project that has allowed us to travel in time, to feel history through the excavated ceramics, coins, glass, metals and many other materials which have been discovered in their respective spaces and structures. Each discovery, for small it may be, is joy, not only because of the finding but for what it means to each volunteer that has dug day in an out with pick and shovel from the earliest hours of the morning. Bucket after bucket they have unearthed our findings, and eventually our volunteers realize patience is their greatest tool. The greatest feeling is to see them look up with great big ear-to-ear smiles and shout “coin!” A new discovery, and new evidence to help us reconstruct the past.
Magdala goes beyond the science of archaeology, not only have these past ten years allowed us to find aspects of daily life of a settlement that spans the late Hellenistic period until the second or third century A.D. It has allowed us to imagine the persons who lived in the synagogue of Magdala, purifying themselves in the mikva´ot, or purchasing their products in the market to then take them home on their donkeys or walking. We have imagined the women of the town holding miniature glass objects with precious oils or medicinal balms and the men pulling in their nets from the Sea with the day´s catch ready to be cleaned and salted.
Magdala has transformed the lives of each one of us who take part in this project. The project has touched our hearts with a piece of ceramic, coin, a smile, an unending chat at night with friends who arrived without knowing anyone and who today are family.
The dream of an eight-year-old girl to become a great archaeologist is today the dream of many and the reality of others. I hope that this brief reflection serves as a show of gratitude to all those persons who have trusted in and supported this team of Mexican archaeologists. I also take the opportunity to thank the Anahuac of University of Mexico, Magdala, the Israel Antiquities Authority and the Institute of Anthropological Research of UNAM.
Many thanks Magdala Family for these first 10 years and to many more to come!