Curiosity #35: Tabun

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Beside the trench containing the Eastern wall of the synagogue, the Huqoq team dug a new trench. This pit would soon expose the continuation of the synagogue wall and its proximate treasures. First, of course, the dig team faced layers of modern soil dense with remains from extensive Arab occupation. Among these modern finds, the team uncovered an old bread oven, or “Tabun,” presumably dating to the Medieval Times. Miraculously, the oven remained perfectly intact beneath centuries worth of sediment. When brushed, it nearly looked ready for use.

I tried to hide my distress when the team received orders to disassemble the tabun, despite the assurance that more ancient wonders would be found underneath. Perhaps competitive administrators in archaeology must learn to privilege one layer of history over another, and of separating the importance of an ancient, communal building from the simple beauty of a humble, Medieval oven. In this regard, however, I am proud to remain an amateur archaeologist; I bear no responsibility to formulate decisions on gradations of historical value. Rather, I maintain my freedom to regard all discoveries with reverence and — ultimately — attachment.

Under the supervision of pragmatic directors, the tabun was disassembled with efficiency. And then, like other layers of superfluous history, it was tossed into the dump.

Medieval Tabun

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