A Labor of Love
Raquel Amador Pursues her Interest in Culture
by Lisa Heer
Few people would consider digging in the dirt for nine hours a day in 100 degree weather to be enjoyable. UI Anthropology and Spanish student Raquel Amador is one of those few, however, and found herself doing exactly that while excavating Tel Dor this summer in Israel.
Amador says that it was her interest in history that made her want to pursue Anthropology.
“In high school I started to become aware of very important historical events that had been neglectfully left out of my high school curriculum,” said Amador. “This led to my interest in Native American history which then led to my love of culture.”
Her trip to Israel this summer certainly gave her an intensive sample of another culture. While excavating there for a little over six weeks, Amador was pulling 13 hour workdays out in the field.
A typical day of excavation began at 4 a.m., when the group would take a bus from the K’far Galim School they were staying at to the dig site at Tel Dor. After digging for nine hours in humid weather, they had an hour lunch followed by two hours of pottery washing.
“I was excavating at a portion of the site that is dated from the Iron age to the Persian period. It’s located on the coast of the Mediterranean, so during breaks we could cool off in the sea,” said Amador.
The group dug with trowels, pick axes, and mini hammers with the Hebrew name “patish.” They even took down ancient walls with sledge hammers.
“The intensive hard labor was a shock, especially in the heat,” said Amador. “There was a time when I was like ‘what did I sign myself up for?’”
Following the pottery washing, the group had two hours of lecture, then dinner, then homework time.
Amador’s hard work paid off though. She was able to find a couple of beads, a chuck of Royal purple pigment left from an ancient dye manufacturing operation, and three complete Persian pottery vessels. In addition to all the hours of excavating, Amador had the opportunity to travel on the weekends.
“I met some really wonderful people from all around the world and made some really special friendships that continue today,” said Amador. “The most memorable parts of the trip were the group excursions to Jerusalem, the Masada, and rafting on the Jordan River.”
Tel Dor was Amador’s first excavation site, but it exceeded her expectations.
“It was the most labor intensive thing that I have ever done in my life, and I enjoyed every minute of it,” said Amador. “I would do it again in a heartbeat.”
While back at the University, Amador works as an archaeological technician at the Alfred W. Bowers Laboratory of Anthropology where she is responsible for organizing the collections housed at the lab. She deals with lithic identification, database work, and end processing, which she refers to as “bagging and tagging.”
Using her areas of studies and experiences, Amador hopes to blend the worlds of Anthropology and Spanish in a way that would enable her to work in Central or South America after graduating. Amador’s second major in Spanish is inspired from her own Spanish background—her mother is from Honduras and her father is from Peru.
“I love Anthropology because it provides a better sense of understanding the ‘others.’ It allows me to experience other cultures and in turn, I gain a better understanding of my own culture,” said Amador.
In the future she would like to work in conflict areas, ultimately fashioning her career to follow a diplomatic route.
“The soft sciences are beautiful in that way, in better understanding the people in the world around us,” said Amador. “I think it is important for everyone to be educated in this way and I hope it will lead to less cultural conflict.”