Back in Vilnius Again

We have returned to Vilnius to continue research at the Great Synagogue site.  The trip over was long, but uneventful.  I left from Pittsburgh, and went to Newark, then Amsterdam and then on to Vilnius.  The flight into Vilnius was on a cramped prop plane. I was glad when we landed and was even more glad to see my equipment bag arrived.  Air Baltic flight 610 is below.

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Below is an ERT image that depicts a cross-sectional transect across the buried ruins of the synagogue.  Precisely, this transect crosses the mikveh, the ritual bath behind the synagogue.This is the excavation target for this year. The two darker color areas are of particular interest, especially the one on the right that is over four meters in length.  An archaeological square that is 2.5 meters wide and ten meters long was placed on the land surface above this anomaly.

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This is the excavation one hour after the corners were laid out, surveyed in for the map and digging had begun.  You can already see what appears to be a toppled wall in the closet part of the excavation.

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This is the excavation on day two.  Other features are starting to become better defined.  The anomaly that appeared in the ERT is under where Dr. Richard Freund is standing.  It is about one additional meter below the surface.  We hope that it is exposed sometime tomorrow (June 22) so we can see what feature is precisely causing the anomaly.

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Also of note is the fact that the research is being filmed for a PBS documentary for the show NOVA.  Kurt Wolfinger, who we worked with at the Cave of Letters in Israel and who was the producer/director for the documentary “Ancient Refuge in the Holyland” that was shot during that project, is again the producer/director for a film about our work at the Great Synagogue of Vilnius” and other sites in and around the city.  Below is the film crew getting set up for some preliminary shots related to the opening of the first archaeological square.

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Tomorrow (Wednesday June 22) marks a second phase of the project for me, in that we will begin mapping in Ponary Forest which was the site of the Ponary Massacre which occurred from July 1941 and August 1944. Upwards of 100,000 Jews were murdered at the is place which is near Paneriai, now a suburb of Vilnius.

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