I supervised the area at Tel Dor where the scapula was found. More than a year later, I can still feel the thrill of that moment. The hard physical labor, the intensive report-writing, the early rising hours—all seemed trivial in the wake of finding the scapula.

I first came to Tel Dor in 1992 as a volunteer. I hoped that a season here would put to rest my dream of working on an archaeological dig. Instead, my dream turned into an irreversible passion when, on the last day of the dig, we uncovered a complete skeleton, fondly christened “Dorine.”c Dorine reminded me that the earth has many stories to tell. I was compelled to return again and again to pull these tales from the dry, dusty earth.

In 1993, I supervised 12 volunteers in four “squares,” the 5×5 meter units of excavation. Each night my area supervisor, Robyn Talman, and I planned the next day’s strategy, discussing the loci (distinct archaeological features) we would excavate and the questions we hoped to answer. I began that particular morning as usual by explaining to my team what areas we would excavate that day. In the early morning light, I pointed out subtle color changes in the soil. The difference between a grey-brown sandy earth and a dark brown moist soil can indicate areas of possible intrusion from another stratum, such as a pit or a robber trench where a wall was dismantled for reuse. I assigned each individual specific tasks and soon the sound of pickaxes striking the earth, “tureas” (hoes) scooping dirt into buckets and trowels scraping walls signalled the start of another day’s work.

My team included students, adults, archaeology enthusiasts and nature lovers—all united by a common interest in the treasures and knowledge contained in the soil. Laughter was common as we dug. Conversations flowed in German, Italian, Hebrew and English. A volunteer who encountered something unusual would call me over: Identifying objects can be tricky when their true nature is covered by millennia of accumulated dirt. I had to react quickly, often jumping over walls and pits to answer the many questions that arise during the course of a day’s dig.

On this particular morning, Aaron Bin-Nun, a first-year archaeology student at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, shouted for me to come over. Aaron, who had an excellent eye for detail, was excavating one of the many Persian pits in the area. This particular pit had already yielded a number of small finds—faience beads, bronze nails, restorable pottery. Still I was skeptical when Aaron said he had found “a bone with writing on it.” Bones are nothing unusual: In an average day, we retrieve many of them.

Aaron placed two dusty bone fragments in my hand. I wiped away a bit of the dirt and saw strange markings incised into the bone surface, markings that were clearly not accidental scratches. I immediately called over Ayelet Gilboa, our supervising archaeologist, who quietly examined the find. She admitted that the etching looked like writing, but unlike any she had seen before.

Then she carefully turned the bones over and tried to fit the two pieces together. Suddenly the picture of a man in an Egyptian-style headdress came into view. I burst into tears of excitement. I laughed, I cried, I screamed from pure joy. Ayelet was soon also in tears; Aaron was simply beaming. What was this amazing object? Where did it come from? What were its secrets?

Within moments, word spread across the tell. Looking up, we saw the entire staff and volunteers circled around our area, watching us from five meters above. Professor Ephraim Stern, the dig director, suddenly appeared beside us, and the photographer snapped pictures from every imaginable angle. Everyone’s attention was focused on the beautiful artifact of an anonymous artisan, now destined for the annals of history.

Professor Stern calmly asked if there were more bones to be found. Aaron indicated the spot in the pit where the bones had been uncovered, and there were indeed more fragments visible in the soil. We sat at the edge of the pit to excavate the remaining fragments. With delicate wooden sticks and paintbrushes, Aaron and I dug around the bone fragments so they could be lifted out of the ground on a pedestal of earth. The soil from the pit was carefully sifted through a sieve to retrieve any tiny pieces that could aid in reconstruction. By slow, painstaking work, we recovered every splinter of bone.

Now that the scapula has been restored, seven splendid figures are readily visible on one side, and a votive inscription on the other, the letters that Aaron first saw.

The fifteenth season at Tel Dor is just a few short months away. As I prepare for the excavations, I feel sure that more treasures are waiting to be uncovered.