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American Scene: Fourth in the Field Volume 53 Number 4, July/August 2000
by Kristin M. Romey

[image] Excavation director Martha Sharp Joukowsky, center, and the Bedouin-American All-Star softball team celebrate the Fourth at the ancient Nabataean city of Petra in Jordan. (Courtesy Martha Sharp Joukowsky) [LARGER IMAGE]

On a day when most Americans were firing up their grills, putting the beer on ice, and taking stock of their fireworks inventories, University of Colorado archaeologist Robert Hohlfelder and 40 of his team members--fresh from a harbor excavation at the ancient city of Caesarea in Israel--were waiting patiently at the bottom of the Red Sea for a diver named Howard. It was July 4th, 1988, and Howard Rosenstein, a U.S.-born Israeli, had arranged a special dive. After a "treasure hunt" on a reef, the team was supposed to find a point nearby and sit on the sand in a circle. "So there we were, sitting 40 feet below the surface," Hohlfelder recalls, "and here comes Howard and two other divers with an American flag. They swam into the middle of the circle and reenacted the planting of the flag at Iwo Jima." "We cheered, but you can't hear cheers under water--it just produces a lot of bubbles. But believe me, there were a lot of bubbles rising out of that circle. Howard had remembered how important the holiday was to us." No one has ever claimed that archaeologists are an unusually patriotic bunch; like most academics in our postmodern world, they operate in a profession where expressions of national identity are sometimes better left unexpressed. For American archaeologists who spend their summer months living and laboring in some remote corner of the world, however, the anniversary of their nation's independence takes on an unusual resonance, often in direct proportion to how far from home they are--or feel.

Kristin M. Romey is an associate editor of ARCHAEOLOGY. After spending five Fourths in the field, she is celebrating this Independence Day in the United States.

© 2000 by the Archaeological Institute of America