Taygete Atlantis: Excavation Blogs (Antiquity)


Tom Elliott (tom.elliott@nyu.edu)

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February 11, 2016

The Tell es-Safi/Gath Excavations Official (and Unofficial) Weblog

Scientific American podcast on the Philistines and Tell es-Safi/Gath

As mentioned previously, a few months ago I was interviewed at the tell by Kevin Begos, for a Scientific American podcast.

In the podcast, I talk about our current understanding of the Philistines, based primarily on our finds from Tell es-Safi/Gath.

The podcast has now been put online – here is the link.

Check it out – I think it came out very nice.


February 08, 2016

The Tell es-Safi/Gath Excavations Official (and Unofficial) Weblog

David and Goliath in the Stained Glass windows of the York Minster

Here is a very nice picture (taken and sent to me by Alisa Maeir, my sister, who recently visited there – thanks!) of the depiction of the battle of David and Goliath in the extraordinarily beautiful stained glass windows of the York Minster.

Very interesting!

David and Goliath from York Minster glass windows

February 07, 2016

The Tell es-Safi/Gath Excavations Official (and Unofficial) Weblog

In honor of the Chinese New Year – Year of the Monkey

In honor of the Chinese New Year – the Year of the Monkey – which will be celebrated tomorrow, Feb. 8th, 2016, I thought that a monkey from Philistia is definitely called for.

So, although we don’t have a monkey from the excavations at Tell es-Safi/Gath, there is one (well, actually, a baboon, but close enough…), from adjacent Tel Miqne-Ekron, Stratum IV (late Iron I/early Iron IIA – just about 3000 years ago).

Happy new year!

Ekron IV Baboon

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

2016 Offseason Week 6

Fatimid Inscription

Fatimid Inscription

The 1993 field season was a big one for excavation areas on the North Tell. In Grids 3/10 on the northern slope of the North Tell, excavation uncovered a 22 line Fatimid imperial inscription. The piece commemorated the building of a tower in 1150 on the orders of the Grand Vizier in Cairo. Three years later after a seven month siege Ashkelon fell to the Crusaders. Almost a century later a knight named Sir Hugh Wake, traveling to Ashkelon with Richard of Cornwall, inscribed his shields over the earlier Fatimid inscription providing the latest direct evidence for the Crusaders in Ashkelon.

In another area on the summit of the North Tell excavation uncovered the remains of a small bath.



Elsewhere on the North Tell, more of the gate complex was uncovered and in another area an Islamic and Crusader period workshop was excavated. On the South Tell, excavation continued in Grids 38 and 50 where there were a few more dogs to excavate.

February 03, 2016


Our Last Days for the Season

Catharine Roehrig

Yesterday was our last day of work at the site. We spent the morning finishing up with drawing small finds, sorting pottery, and overseeing the workmen covering the excavated areas with sand.

covering the site

Workmen carrying sand to cover the site

Our inspector, Shereen, wanted to have a photograph taken of those of us who are still here, and we took another photo of the excavation crew after the last basket of sand was put in place.

last day

Janice, Diana, Shereen, and Catharine with our spectacular backdrop, the Theban cliffs

excavation crew

Excavation with Diana at the end of the day

Today we took our small finds to the magazine and packed up the equipment for next year. And late yesterday afternoon, they finally got the electricity hooked up for our guard house (upper right in the photo above)!

Shereen at Palace.jpg

Catharine, Shereen, and Diana at the Palace

February 3, 2016

The Tell es-Safi/Gath Excavations Official (and Unofficial) Weblog

A “post-mortem” on the so-called “Jehoash Inscription”

Prof. Ed Greenstein, of the Bible Dept. at Bar-Ilan University, has published an excellent essay in which he provides a “post-mortem” overview of the so-called “Jehoash Inscription” – demonstrating quite conclusively that it is a forgery – and should be related to as such.

Well worth reading!


Sy Gitin’s Eulogy for Trude Dothan

Prof. Sy Gitin, who co-directed the excavations at Tel Miqne-Ekron along with the late Prof. Trude Dothan (z”l), delivered a beautiful and very moving eulogy for Trude at her funeral, on this past Sunday, in Jerusalem.

See here the text of the eulogy – may her memory be blessed!


February 02, 2016


The Guardhouse

Diana Craig Patch

Last season the Inspectorate of the Antiquities of the West Bank asked us to consider building a guardhouse at Malqata to aid in the site’s protection. Each year JEM has undertaken to do something to improve the state of the site. So we agreed to build this structure for the MSA. We chose a high natural hill that doesn’t have any cultural material associated with it –west of the West Settlement and the North Village− and provides a great lookout for the main structures of the site. Last year we dug the foundation and put up the walls, the roof, and installed windows. The guardhouse seemed virtually done.

Guardhouse w plaster and waiting for hiba (6)

The guardhouse, plastered and waiting for its hiba coating

Well we were wrong because a group of ten workmen have been working very hard for three weeks giving it the finishing touches. They applied a mudplaster surface to all walls inside and out and then added two more coats to make the building a desert color while protecting it a bit from rain. They added a concrete floor and concrete surfaces to the eight mastabas or benches that are against each wall inside and out. One of our talented workmen installed all the wiring for the circuit breakers, switches, sockets, and plugs.

IMG_2337 resized

The finished guardhouse

The last unfinished step, a big one, was connecting the guardhouse to electricity. The company came last week and laid the large cable but were unable to finish the timer and hook up to the main power. Apparently that happened this evening, so we hope to see lights in the new guardhouse and satisfied guards, who will help protect the site.

February 2, 2016

The Tell es-Safi/Gath Excavations Official (and Unofficial) Weblog

Aharoni Day Poster (March 3, 2016)

As mentioned previously, on Thursday, March 3rd, 2016, the annual “Aharoni Day” will be held at TAU. See below the official poster with the updated schedule and lecture titles.

I will be giving a paper on a new approach to understanding the structure of the Judahite Kingdom in Iron II.

Sounds like it will be a very interesting day!


Aharoni Day notice

February 01, 2016


Lost and Found

Diana Craig Patch

During work in the area west of the Audience Pavilion, we have consistently recovered small molds made from pottery. The fabric is Nile clay tempered with fine sand, and frequently with lots of coarse sand, which I refer to in my notes as grit. Grit for me is very visible as little dark irregular chunks.

Rosette resized.

Mold for a round-petalled rosette

The molds were used to make the beautiful little faience ornaments like the mandrake featured in an earlier blog (An Ancient Egyptian Aphrodisiac). The most common image that we have collected is that of a rosette. Rosettes come in many varieties: ones with clear rounded petals, ones where the petals are long and thin so the rosette looks ridged, and ones I refer to as “spotted.” (I am sure there is a more elegant or technical term, but for now I know exactly what a “spotted” one is!)

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Mold for a “ridged” rosette

The people who were producing these ornaments would press faience paste into the mold to take the impression, which would then be trimmed and set it aside to dry. When dry the faience would be baked to harden it and produce the shiny bright blue color that is so familiar to us. At Malqata though, one finds other faience colors besides turquoise; dark blue, yellow, and even green faience occur.

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Mold for a “spotted” rosette

The other day we collected a piece of “plaster” in a level in N150 E180, the square where we have excavated the most this year in this site. Yesterday I had a chance to study it and noted the ball was evenly round and closer observation made me realize that the material wasn’t plaster, but a white substance with grit: faience. I am guessing that one ancient Egyptian workman’s task was to make little round balls of faience for another workman to press into a mold. He lost one and we just found it!

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Faience “preform” ready to be pressed into a mold

February 1, 2016

January 31, 2016


Out in the Desert – Again

Catharine Roehrig

Yesterday, Joel’s last day at the site, we went for a walk along the ancient roadway that borders Malqata to the west. Behind the Amun Temple, the roadway is raised and easy to see, but in other areas, where the elevation of the desert is higher, it becomes invisible. We decided to follow it south as far as we could, and we found this easier than we had expected. For example, the roadway forms a ridge that almost blocks the wadi to the south of the Coptic monastery, Deir el-Moharab.

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Raised roadway blocking the wadi south of the monastery

A bit farther south, there is another raised section that continues for about 100 yards. And each time we encountered a wadi, the remnants of the roadway were visible.


On the raised roadway heading south

Along the way, the road turns southeast at two points until it is heading straight for Deir el-Shalwit, a temple that honors the goddess Isis. Although the current temple is from the Roman period, there was almost certainly some sort of shrine there during the Eighteenth Dynasty, and probably before. On the way to this shrine, the road would also have passed by the Kom el-Samak, a small shrine built by Amenhotep III and excavated by Waseda University in the 1970s. (See Malqata South)

We finally lost all trace of the roadway just south of the power lines at the southwest corner of the Birket, but we could see its final destination about half a mile away.

end of the road.

Deir el-Shalwit and Kom el-Samak in the distance

January 31, 2016

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

2016 Offseason Week 5

The 1992 field season was another one filled with discoveries both large and small. 

Attic Red-figured cup with an owl.

Attic Red-figured cup with an owl.

In Grid 50 signs of Nebuchadrezzar's destruction of Ashkelon continued to appear.

Grid 50

Grid 50

And on the North Tell, the Canaanite Gate emerged.

Grid 2

Grid 2

January 30, 2016


Analyzing the King’s Plasters

Alexandra Winkels •

This season, I had the pleasure of working with the Joint Expedition to Malqata (JEM) team for twelve days to analyze the site’s archaeological mortars and plasters. As a freelance wall painting conservator and conservation scientist I am performing a research- and PhD project investigating mortars and plasters in Ancient Egyptian wall painting and architecture from the pre-dynastic and pharaonic periods, and into the Greco-Roman period. Malqata, as one of the two preserved ancient Egyptian royal cities, is of course a very interesting place to examine which different mortar and plaster materials have been used for the construction of architecture and the decoration of architectural surfaces.

As the analysis had to be carried out on site, I set up my mobile “field laboratory,” with portable photographic and analytical equipment, in the old mud brick guard house next to the King’s Palace. Though it got a bit crowded at times, I enjoyed sharing the tiny room with hundreds of clay plaster fragments with elaborate bright colored wall painting decoration, uncovered by Peter Lacovara during this season (iMalqata Blog | January 19, 2016).

1_Field lab-sm

The little mud brick guard house turned into a temporary little “field lab” and wall painting shelter.


For the comparative analysis of plaster materials from selected archaeological sites in Egypt I am implementing conservation- and natural scientific methods. Besides the analysis of the chemical-mineralogical composition of the original plasters I also investigate and document technological features that reveal the applied plaster and wall painting technology. At Malqata, I collected small mortar and plaster fragments from several areas of the site in 2015 and 2016. These include the King’s Palace, houses of the North Village, and the Amun Temple. Here is a short glimpse of what I found so far.

In the recent analysis, eight major mortar and plaster types, each being processed for individual technological functions, could be differentiated. For example, dark brown clay mortars, with varying contents of plant fibers as organic fillers and reinforcement, were used as basic floor, wall, and ceiling plasters. In some buildings, however, millimeter-thin yellowish- to brownish-white “plaster washes,” containing a high content of calcium carbonate and marl clay, were applied to floors and walls of selected rooms, and onto several throne platforms within the King’s Palace.

2_Cross sections.jpg

Cross section of a yellowish-greyish white mortar with upper thin clay and white wash layer used to set and plaster stones of a bathroom basin (iMalqata Blog | February 16, 2015). Below, the cross section of a dark brown clay plaster fragment with white and Egyptian blue paint layers from a ceiling of the King’s Palace.

The most elaborate treatment was given to apparently more significant throne platforms and sections of floor within the palace. In these places, a fine layer of pure lime plaster covers the visible surfaces of the clay-plastered mud brick superstructure. This plaster type is much more stable than clay plaster as it cannot be dissolved in water.

In terms of wall painting technology, the polychrome wall and ceiling paintings of the King’s Palace were created directly on a smoothed clay plaster surface, without the overall interlaying of fine white wash or paint layer that we see in the painted tombs of the Theban necropolis. Aside from this, traditional construction methods were used in the composition of the paintings on the walls and ceilings of the palace as seen in the photograph below.


3_Wall painting construction features

Wall painting fragments from the King’s Palace showing lines and drips from a cord string soaked in red color, and traces of red outline drawings that preceded the polychrome paint application.

The color spectrum includes a differentiated use of varying blue and green colors that could be investigated further by visible-induced luminescence (VIL)-imaging (See VERRI, G. (2008): The use and distribution of Egyptian blue: a study by visible-induced luminescence imaging. In: Uprichard, K and Middleton, A, (eds.) The Nebamun wall paintings: conservation, scientific analysis and display at the British Museum. (41 – 50). Archetype: London) Egyptian blue emits a bright luminescence that lies in the infrared range when it is excited by visible fluorescent light. With an infrared-sensitive digital camera, this luminescence can be photographed. A special filter applied in front of the camera lens captures the IR-radiation, but blocks out all visible light. Using this technique, the tiniest traces of Egyptian blue that are not noticeable in visible light can be shown in the digital VIL-image.

In case of the Malqata paintings, the multi spectral imaging method helped to determine that the early synthetic pigment Egyptian blue was used not only in its pure form. Apparently, to achieve brighter bluish green color shades, it was also mixed with Egyptian green and a natural green earth pigment containing glauconite. The latter is a pigment production technique that continued into Roman times.


Wall painting fragment from palace room K1 photographed in visible light and with visible-induced luminescence imaging (levels increased). The outlines of the pure Egyptian blue color application (reduced due to pigment loss) are clearly legible in the VIL image. The bright shining dots in the bluish-green colored paint of the lotus flower show the luminescent pigment grains of Egyptian blue in mixture with Egyptian green.




Detail of a spiral from a ceiling plaster fragment, visible and VIL-image (levels increased); the green colored center of the spiral was painted with a natural green earth pigment containing glauconite. The bright luminescence of pigment grains within the green paint shows the additional intermixture of Egyptian blue.

January 30, 2016


January 29, 2016


A Quiet Friday


We spent much of today, our official day off, writing notes and catching up with things at The New Memnon, our home away from home. In the afternoon, we took a quick trip to the east bank to take care of some business at Chicago House and do some last-minute shopping. The weather was beautiful, and we enjoyed our time across the river.


Diana and Catharine enjoy the sunshine as we travel across the river to Chicago House

January 29, 2016

January 28, 2016


Meanwhile, Out in the Desert: Pots and Pits

Joel Paulson and Catharine Roehrig

The amount of broken pottery found around the palaces and other buildings at Amenhotep’s festival city is staggering considering that the area appears to have been used for only a few months during each of Amenhotep’s three festivals. Even if preparations at the site began a year before each celebration of the king’s Heb-Sed, the city and its villages would have been occupied for only three to four years at most. And the main settlement area is not the only place at the site where one finds masses of pottery from the time of Amenhotep III.


Sherd-scatter photographed in 1917

A century ago, and probably long before, odd features were noted in the desert to the west of Malqata and the Birket Habu. Over a vast area, huge swathes of pot sherds litter the desert surface, and many of the sherds seem to be associated with well dug pits. The pottery includes the same types that are found around the buildings of the festival city, and a large percentage appear to have been large open-mouthed storage jars. But, it’s not just the types of pottery that are of interest – it’s their vast quantity and their unexpected location.

The initial impression is that the pottery was buried in pits and, at some later time, the pits were dug out and the pottery was strewn about. Whether the pots were buried whole and broken when they were dug out, or whether they were broken in some ceremony connected with the Heb-Sed and then buried, is not clear. Either way, they appear to have been smashed on site with groups of sherds from the same jar lying in and around the pits. At this time it’s impossible to make even a crude estimate of the number of pots that the ancient Egyptians took out into the desert to bury.


Joel and our assistant, Feisel, in the distance using the GPS unit to plot a huge concentration of pits and sherds

Another major point of curiosity is the location of the pits and sherds, which extend intermittently in large and small concentrations over an area ranging from a hundred meters (the length of a football field) to almost a kilometer from the King’s Palace. Why the ancient Egyptians would haul the pottery so far from the palace for disposal is one of the mysteries of these pot sherd pits.

For the past two days, we have been surveying the area covered by the sherd pits and scatters to determine their locations and extent. Next season, we will ask permission to study these areas in more detail. Scientific excavation and pottery analysis may help answer some of the questions about the purpose and function of these interesting features.

January 28, 2016

The Tell es-Safi/Gath Excavations Official (and Unofficial) Weblog

Prof. Trude Dothan has passed away

Sad news is out today that Prof. Trude Dothan has passed away, following a long illness. Prof. Dothan (or Trude to all) was a leading figure in the archaeology of Israel for many years, and was to a large extent the founding figure of the modern study of the Philistines. Her book, “The Philistines and their Material Culture” was a landmark volume, and her excavations (particularly at Tel Miqne-Ekron) were of substantial importance for the study of the Philistines and many related issues.

I had the honor of studying with her at the Hebrew University, and hearing from Trude, in her lively and unforgettable manner, her views on the Philistines. I recall how about 15 years ago, when we found at Tell es-Safi/Gath the base of a decorated “head cup,” and I brought it to Trude’s house to show it to her, she was so excited that she kissed me!

To a large extent, the current flourit in the study of the Philistines is due to her visionary and seminal work on this fascinating topic.

May her memory be blessed. יהי זכרה ברוך

January 27, 2016


Site K

Peter Lacovara

Thanks to a generous grant from the Institute for the Study of Aegean Prehistory, we were able to survey an interesting and enigmatic feature of Malqata, a strange outlier to the Birket Habu mounds. Called “Site K” by Barry Kemp, who excavated it in the early 1970’s, the place is a small, mysterious mound. When trenched, it appeared to be filled with material from the destruction of a palace decorated with murals on mud plaster. The contents of the mound were sampled and found to contain not only remains of painted decoration similar to that in the King’s Palace where we are working, but also fragments with much more clearly Aegeanizing motifs. Examples are a rosette terrain (a circle or dot design) and wild plants in a rocky landscape that bring to mind paintings like those found on Santorini and Crete.


Recording the stratigraphy at Site K with Mahmoud Mohammed Hussein

The King’s Palace at Malqata also had some Aegean motifs, such as a leaping calf, bull’s heads with rosettes, and running spirals. Daressey reported, but sadly did not illustrate, some other scenes that could have been inspired by Minoan or Mycenaean art.


Ceiling Painting with Bull Heads from the King’s bedroom, Malqata; MMA excavations, 1910–11, Rogers Fund, 1911 (MMA 11.215.451)

Why would these foreign style paintings be in an Egyptian palace? I think it was for the same reason that French furniture was chosen in the Eighteenth Century for the White House in Washington, D.C. and for the Catharine Palace in St. Petersburg. Rulers always like to show their cosmopolitan tastes, and Amenhotep III was certainly no exception.

Bull's Head Rhyton, from Knossos, Crete; Late Minoan I, ca. 1600-1425 BC.; serpentine, limestone, rock crystal; Athens National Museum “Dolphin Fresco” from the Palace of Knossos, Crete; Late Minoan I, ca. 1600-1425 BC.

It has been unclear as to what building these fragments at Site K may have belonged, but one possibility is that it represents an earlier palace that was demolished and re-built elsewhere during the expansion of the Birket. The demolition might also correspond to the later re-orientation of the site. To get a better idea of Site K and how it relates to the rest of Malqata, several sections were drawn through Kemp’s old trenches, which are still visible. These trenches will also be tied into the work of Angus Graham of The Egypt Exploration Society Theban Harbours and Waterscapes Survey (Searching for the Venice of the Nile) who is making a study of the Birket and the other harbors in the Theban area. Hopefully these studies will add more to our picture of the history of the site and Amenhotep’s grand and ever-changing design.

Wild Plant from Site K “Blue Bird fresco” from Akrotiri on Thera; Middle Minoan, ca. 1700-1525 BC

January 27, 2016

January 26, 2016


101 Years Ago at Malqata

Catharine Roehrig

In the winter of 1914/15 the Museum’s excavation season was rather short-staffed due to the outbreak of the First World War in Europe. That fall, the first arrivals were Norman De Garis Davies, director of the Graphic Section of the Egyptian Expedition (Met Around the World-The Egyptian Expedition Graphic Section) and a young artist named Hugh Hopgood, both of whom were British. Wanting to employ as many of the Museum’s workmen as possible, Davies oversaw excavations in a number of tombs, including Theban Tomb 52, which belonged to a scribe and “astronomer of Amun” named Nakht who probably served in the reign of Thutmose IV and may well have lived into the reign of his son, Amenhotep III (Facsimile painting from the tomb of Nakht).


Facsimile painting of a wall in the tomb of Nakht, Norman DeGaris Davies and Lancelot Crane, Rogers Fund 1915 (15.3.19b)

In 1914, the upper sections of the tomb were accessible, and the first chamber, with its charming decoration, was well-known. However, the shaft and burial chamber had not been excavated. In the debris that filled the shaft, Davies discovered a small, kneeling statue of Nakht holding a stela inscribed with a hymn to the sun-god Re. As one can see from the black & white photograph taken in Egypt, the paint on the statue was well-preserved, and the only damage to the text was the excision of the name of the god Amun which had occurred during the reign of Akhenaten only a few decades after Nakht’s death. At the end of the excavation season, this statue was given to the Museum in the division of finds. Tragically, it was lost at sea when the ship it travelled in was sunk by a submarine on its way to New York. (For a similar statue, see Statue of Roy)

Kneeling statue of Nakht Kneeling statue of Roy, Gift of J. Pierpont Morgan, 1917 (17.190.1960)

Davies’s work in the tomb, including the watercolor facsimilies he painted of the decoration (now on display in the SE corner of gallery 135 at the Museum) were published as the first volume of the Robb de Peyster Tytus Memorial Series, which had been funded by the mother of one of Malqata’s early excavators (imalqata-Special Guests).

Part-way through the 14/15 season, another British member of the expedition, Hugh G. Evelyn-White, arrived and began excavating at Malqata in an area north of the King’s Palace on the other side of a cultivated field. Here, remains of another mud brick structure, built on a perpendicular axis to the King’s Palace, were visible on the surface. In the course of the season, a large structure with several outbuildings emerged. Now called the North Palace, it was dubbed White’s Palace in the excavation report. The North Palace is slightly lower in elevation than the King’s Palace. In 1914/15, it was between two cultivated fields. Consequently, it lies very close to the water table and the area is now covered with a healthy, and tenacious stand of halfa grass. At some future date, we hope to work in this area, but for the moment, we try to keep the halfa grass in check.


“White’s Palace,” photographed early in 1915 at the end of the excavation season

January 26, 2016

January 25, 2016


An Ancient Egyptian Aphrodisiac

Diana Craig Patch

The small fragile faience ornaments that were collected during the first years the Met excavated at Malqata have always been favorites of mine.   These colorful images of floral elements were probably used to decorate different things, including broad collars. This season one of the images for these pendants, fruit of the mandrake (Mandragora sp.), has appeared on several objects.

A faience pendant depicting a mandrake from the King’s Palace at Malqata, Rogers Fund, 1911 (11.215.226) A closeup of Tutankhamun from his golden shrine with mandrake elements clearly visible in his broad collar

The mandrake is a short plant whose leaves occur in a basal rosette on the ground. Found traditionally around the northern and eastern part of the Mediterranean, it appeared in Egypt during the New Kingdom, grown in gardens of the elite members of Egyptian society.

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Ipuy’s garden with a mandrake plant growing along the canal to the right, Rogers Fund, 1930 (30.4.115)

A perennial herbaceous plant, it is best known for its long thick branched root that in many folk cultures were assigned human characteristics. The flowers are greenish white, pale blue, or even violet and its short-stemmed fruit, a berry, is a deep yellow to orange with a calyx in dark green. The fruit was translated into Egyptian imagery as bright yellow fruit whose calyx in paintings is green and in faience, a deep blue.

A mandrake with its fruit A mandrake fruit
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A tile illustrating a mandrake plant in a garden, Purchase, Edward S. Harkness Gift, 1926 (26.7.942)

The leaves and root contain deliriant hallucinogenic tropane alkaloids, making the plant potentially poisonous. Depending on the amount ingested, which varies from plant to plant, the parts used, and preparation technique, emetic, purgative, and narcotic side effects are likely; a mandrake can cause a toxic overdose. Based on what records survive from antiquity, it appears that the plant was used medicinally. Greek literature suggests possible applications for treating gout, wounds, and sleeplessness; for the Sumerians, it was a remedy for pain.

The mandrake, however, becomes a popular image in Egyptian art because the plant and its berries are associated with the concepts of love and desire, possibly to be achieved or aided by a potion made from the plant. As suggested by Kate Bosse-Griffiths, the mandrake had connotations for male potency and the strengthening of sexual power, especially in the mid to late Dynasty 18.

Nakht banquet with mandrakes.

A young woman at a banquet in Nebamun’s tomb passing mandrake fruit

In love poems and in contexts where rejuvenation is the theme, such as in the festival city of Amenhotep III, we find many images and representations of this beautiful but toxic little fruit.

A fragment of a blue painted vessel with a portion of a mandrake fruit preserved Fragment of a wall painting with mandrakes from the King’s Palace


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A pottery mold from an industrial area (N150, E180) at Malqata used to make faience elements in the shape of mandrake fruit

January 25, 2016

Interesting reading:

Kate Bosse-Griffiths, “The Fruit of the Mandrake in Egypt and Israel,” in Amarna Studies and Other Selected Papers (ed. by J. Gwyn Griffiths), pp. 82-96, Orbis Biblicus et Orientalis 182 (Fribourg, Switzerland and Göttingen, 2001).

January 24, 2016


Planning the Palace

Peter Lacovara and Tony Crosby

In today’s world of computer-aided design we often don’t realize how ad hoc earlier construction was. From ancient Egypt we have very few surviving “blueprints.” These are mostly rough sketches on limestone flakes or pottery sherds known as ostraca. In Egyptian temples one can sometimes see lines cut into the paving indicating where stone blocks for walls should be placed. It has been harder to figure out how mud brick buildings were laid out.


Ancient plan of the Mentuhotep temple at Deir el-Bahri and its tamarisk grove, found sketched on a sandstone slab (from H.E. Winlock, Excavations at Deir el Bahri, 1911-1931, p. 50)

In cleaning the walls in the King’s Palace at Malqata we began to see small, rough limestone rocks in the ground below where corners of walls meet. These turned up at the corner beside the entrance corridor and the continuation of the enclosure wall, at the intersection of magazine M3 and room R4, and in the northeast corner of the great court (H). There may be others that we will find as we do further cleaning of the walls and floors. But from what we have seen so far we think that these must relate to the initial layout and construction of the Palace. The ancient architects must have indicated where the major wall junctures were to be, probably pacing or stringing off the design, much like our builders do now.

Stone in Corner

Limestone rock below the Northeast corner of the central court

Although we don’t have the complete body of evidence for planning, design and construction, we do have the remains of the product of their efforts. We have mentioned in past blogs that the actual construction of walls in the Palace was “casual,” to say the least, with various sizes of bricks, different bonding patterns, less than stellar masonry quality, and varying quality of bricks and mortar. However, the relationships between rooms and open spaces, the often complex pedestrian routes for accessing different areas of the Palace, the consistency in the layout, and the relationships between rooms of different functions certainly reflect a sophisticated planning process.

Final Palace plan-reduced

Plan of the King’s Palace

January 24, 2016

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

2016 Offseason Week 4

Grid 16

Grid 16

We are just four months away from members of the senior staff heading to Israel to prepare for the season.

During the 1991 field season, work continued in Grids 2, 38, 50 and 57. 

Grid 50 Square 47

Grid 50 Square 47

In Grid 50, Square 47 was opened and excavation began in an effort to bring it into phase with the remainder of the grid. Elsewhere, excavation moved the grid closer to the 604 destruction of the city.

Grid 50 Square 58

Grid 50 Square 58

Grid 38

Grid 38

In Grid 38, work focused on the excavation of a large courtyard building flanked by a street on its western side.

Over on the North Tell, excavation continued to reveal the towering mudbrick fortifications of the Bronze Age city.

January 23, 2016


There Is a Now, But There Was Also a Before

Tony Crosby

During the present project at Malqata we often have questions about certain architectural details, feature orientations, and conditions that are often critically important in making preservation and presentation decisions. Information that may have been present during the earlier excavations has since been lost and is unavailable to us today. The earliest site plans that we are still using date from the first MET expedition in 1910-11, but often we have questions about their accuracy, as some of the information they contain contradicts the conditions we see on the site today. Fortunately, we do have a collection of high quality photographs from that period; unfortunately these often lack proper identification and we are left again with more speculation. However, during our last day of fieldwork, Gina, our wonderful architectural intern, clearly identified two photographs that do provide us with important information, and we were able to record the same scenes as they exist today.


The southeast area of the site with the common features of the trash pits in the foreground

The first pair of photographs is of the area in the southeast part of the site, with ancient trash pits in the foreground and the south magazines beyond. Many of the features that were present in 1910 have either disappeared or perhaps have been reburied. The exact identification of this historic photograph, and the ability to replicate it today will help in future preservation work in this area.


Looking across the central court at the suite of rooms to the west

The second pair of photographs is from the southeast corner of the central court looking into the suite of rooms to the west. Features such as doorways, walls, and decorative surfaces can be identified specifically and help us present features that are missing today. The presence of significant amounts of wall painting that existed in ca. 1910 will assist conservators in developing a better understanding of the overall schemes and the extent of the decorative surfaces, and will provide more information on areas where fragments of painting may yet remain.

January 23, 2016

January 22, 2016


A Site Visit on our Day Off

Peter Lacovara and Janice Kamrin

This morning, Egyptian President Sisi and Chinese President Xi Jinping toured the West Bank, but we had distinguished visitors of our own: Cornelius von Pilgrim, Director of the Swiss Institute for Egyptian Architectural and Archaeological Research in Cairo, stopped by to visit Malqata before heading to Aswan. He came with his wife and colleague, Beatrice, and the Deputy Director of the Institute, Wolfgang Müller.


Peter explains the Palace plan to Cornelius von Pilgrim, Beatrice von Pilgrim, and Wolfgang Müller

Cornelius has been working at the ancient town of Elephantine for many years. The building remains here date back to the first dynasties and continue through the Roman Period. Both to protect the ancient remains and to prepare the site for tourism, Cornelius and his team have pioneered the restoration and presentation of mud brick. Now open for public visits, the town provides a wonderful picture of the development of an ancient Egyptian settlement over the centuries. For more information on the site see: Elephantine: Archaeology of Ancient Egypt

It was great to see Cornelius, and to discuss our plans for the Palace site with him. And as a bonus, we got to see an entire cavalcade of Chinese and Egyptian dignitaries roar by in their buses and black sedans, on their way back from visiting sites on the West Bank.

January 21, 2016


Shereen, our Antiquities Inspector for 2016

Diana Craig Patch

Every year the local inspectorate here on the West Bank of Luxor assigns us a member of their staff to assist our expedition. We have always had wonderful inspectors and once again we are lucky in the selection of Ms. Shereen Mohamed Hosni by Mr. Talat, the Director of West Bank Antiquities. She joins us for the month of January from the Carter Magazine where she is the inspector responsible for a storeroom of finds excavated at Deir el-Bahri.

Diana and Shereen resize

Diana and Shereen discuss molds for making faience decorations.

Shereen is from Luxor having grown up in the village of Qurnah, although now she lives in another area on the West Bank near the house of the famous religious scholar, Al-Azhar Grand Imam Ahmed el-Tayyeb. She took her degree from the Department of Archaeology in 2007 in the Faculty of Art at the University of Qena. In 2011, Shereen joined the Ministry of State of Antiquities as an inspector and was assigned to the newly opened Carter House, the wonderful tribute to the life of Howard Carter. The following year she was transferred to the Ramesseum where she had the opportunity to work with our colleague Christian Leblanc who lives in the French House near Malqata. She has also had assignments at Medinet Habu, where she worked with our colleagues from Chicago House, Deir el-Medina, and Kom el Hettan before beginning her current assignment at the Carter Magazine.

Catharine and Shereen pottery resize.

Catharine and Shereen sort pottery from the West Settlement.

Our inspector is dedicated to learning as much as possible about archaeology and is interested in everything that we do. Her favorite subject in Egyptology, however, is the study of the art and archology of New Kingdom tombs, especially how they are decorated and how their styles change over time. We can’t help her with that interest, but Peter has been finding beautiful mud painting fragments so she definitely gets New Kingdom art at Malqata.

Janice and Shereen resized

Janice and Shereen discuss the plans of the West Settlement.

Shereen has received many certificates for her abilities, including one from Dr. Leblanc for excavation and another from Dr. Johnson of Chicago House for drawing; she also has completed courses in computer skills (IC3) and English.   Shereen has a talent for language and has made our life at the dig easy because of her expertise in English.

Total Station resized.

Shereen looks through the total station.

2016 is a lucky year for Shereen because she has found a soulmate in Mohamed El-Kelany. Shortly she will be married and move to Hurghada to join him. We wish her all luck and success in her future.

January 21, 2016

The Tell es-Safi/Gath Excavations Official (and Unofficial) Weblog

Upcoming lectures at the annual “Aharoni Day”, March 3, 2016

Having just arrived in Hong Kong for a weekend of talks at the United Jewish Congregation, Yuval Gadot has kindly informed me that the official schedule for the upcoming annual “Aharoni Day” (meeting in memory of Yohanan Aharoni z”l), will be held at Tel Aviv University on Thursday, March 3rd, 2016.

See below the announcement and schedule, which includes a lecture by yours truly. Do come to this event – should be very interesting!


The Annual Aharoni Day Symposium of the Institute of Archaeology of Tel Aviv University will be held this year on Thursday, March 3, 2016, in Room 223 of the Gilman Building, Tel Aviv University
The theme of the symposium is Avinu Malkenu (Our Father, Our King):  Patrimonial Kingdoms in Israel and the Ancient Near East
The schedule of events is as follows:
15:45-16:15         Gathering
16:15-16:30         Greetings and awarding of scholarships
16.30-18.00    First Session: The Ancient Neat East
Chairperson: Yuval Gadot

David Schloen (University of Chicago)    The Patrimonial Kingdom in Theory and Practice
Amir Gilan (Tel Aviv University)    “She Did Not Call Me Father; I Will Not Call Her Daughter”:The Political metaphor of the ‘Father’ in the Old Hittite Kingdom
Sylvie Honigman (Tel Aviv University)    Rhetoric of Kinship and State Structures in Ancient Greece

18.00-18.20        Break

18.20-19.30    Second Session: Israel
Chairperson: Dafna Langgut
Aren M. Maeir (Bar-Ilan University)    Reassessing the Character of the Judahite Kingdom: How Centralized Was It?
Omer Sergi (Tel Aviv University)    Local Versus Collective Identities: Another Look at Israelite State Formation
Yifat Thareani (The Nelson Glueck School of Biblical Archaeology) “And the King of I[s]rael Has Advanced in My Father’s Land”: Is That So? A Reassessment of  Dan’s Political Status in the Early Iron II.

January 20, 2016


Ebony but no Ivory (yet!)

Janice Kamrin

Among our random finds from the West Settlement is a small fragment of fine-grained dark wood that we believe to be ebony. This shows clear signs of working, and was once part of a high-status object.


Fragment of ebony; from N145/E135; 7 x 3 cm

The ancient Egyptians valued ebony, which can be polished to a lovely sheen, and used it for luxury goods from early in their history. Ebony labels have been found in the royal tombs of Dynasty 1, and this wood is mentioned in texts as early as the Third Dynasty. By the Middle Kingdom, it was being used in the manufacture of a variety of objects, from arrowheads to boxes to small sculptures.

Cosmetic Box of the Cupbearer Kemeni

Cosmetic Box of Kemeni and Mirror of Reniseneb; late Middle Kingdom (ca. 1815–1700 B.C.); from Thebes, Asasif, Carnarvon/Carter excavations, 1910; purchase, Edward S. Harkness Gift, 1926 (MMA 26.7.1438 and 26.7.1351)

The species of ebony used in pharaonic times was the African Dalbergia melanoxylon, acquired through trade with Egypt’s southern neighbors. Logs of this wood are seen being readied to load onto one of Hatshepsut’s ships in the Punt reliefs from her memorial temple at Deir el-Bahri.


Piles of exotic goods from Punt, including ebony logs (and a giraffe), ready for loading on Hatshepsut’s ships for the return to Egypt, from  her mortuary temple at Deir el-Bahri (drawing by Johannes Duemichen, 1869)

In letters preserved from Amarna (EA5 and EA31), Amenhotep III records that he has sent a large number of ebony objects to some of his neighbors to the northeast: 13 chairs and 100 logs to the king of Arzawa, and 4 beds, a headrest, 10 footstools, and 6 chairs to the king of Babylon! We know that this king was very fond of ebony for himself, as several of his shabtis were made of this exotic wood.


Shabti of Amenhotep III New Kingdom (ca. 1390–1352 B.C.); from Egypt, probably from the Valley of the Kings, tomb of Amenhotep III (WV 22); Rogers Fund, 1915 (MMA 15.2.10)

Amenhotep III’s putative grandson, Tutankhamun, included a number of items made from this wood with his tomb equipment. In addition to a child-sized chair, several stools, a bed, and a number of ebony sticks and staffs, he was buried with objects that had ebony veneer or inlay, both common uses for this material.


Objects in situ in the Antechamber of the Tomb of Tutankhamun, including an ebony and ivory chest (Carter no. 32) and a child’s chair of ebony (Carter no. 39). (Burton photograph 0020 © Griffith Institute, University of Oxford, colourised by Dynamichrome (Griffith Institute))

The ebony was usually contrasted with materials of other colors, such as ivory, cedar wood (which has a reddish color), or even colored faience or glass. It is likely that our fragment was used in this fashion, perhaps as part of a box or chair.


( Chair of Reniseneb; New Kingdom (ca. 1450 B.C.); Purchase, Patricia R. Lassalle Gift, 1968 (MMA 68.58)

The term for this dark wood in ancient Egyptian was hbny, which morphed through Greek, Latin, and Middle English to become our word, ebony.

January 20, 2016

The Tell es-Safi/Gath Excavations Official (and Unofficial) Weblog

Apply for a Dig Fellowship from ASOR

For those of you who want to join the Safi team in 2016 and need some financial assistance for this, see here the call for applications for dig fellowships from ASOR.

The deadline is Feb. 15th, 2016 – so do send this in soon if you are interested!


January 19, 2016


Paint Chips

Peter Lacovara

So that Tony could finish up the reconstruction of the suites of rooms on the western side of the Palace, we began cleaning one corner in room K1 that was buried under a mound of debris. Although many earlier expeditions had worked here –Tytus in 1901-2, the Metropolitan Museum in 1910-11, and Waseda University in 1985-88– we were surprised by the enormous number of fragments of painted mud plaster left behind.

Palace_Peter cleaning ptg frags-1-sm

Painting debris in Room K1

Over the course of two days we removed several hundred fragments from this area. Unfortunately, they were not in their original position and there were all sorts of patterns and pieces mixed in together with modern rubbish. Still they give a fascinating and informative view of how the Palace was constructed and decorated. As we examine, measure, draw, photograph, and inventory these many fragments over the coming days we will be blogging about the more unusual items. Fortunately, at this time we have with us Alexandra Winkle, an expert on New Kingdom decorated mud plaster, and her help and advice has been invaluable.

Palace (1-14-2016) wall-dado-decoration-2 7am-sm

The cleared wall in the northeast corner of K1

For now, we will just mention the wall painting that was still in place in the corner behind all the fragments. Like many of the walls in the series of suites that lined the central hall of the Palace they were decorated with vertical stripes in blue, red, yellow, green and white with an undulating line below. One person looking at the image said, “what are all those mouse holes doing there?” They are not mouse holes, but rather the whole pattern is a simplification of a very ancient type of decoration known in Egypt as “palace façade.” This pattern in a much more elaborate form is found decorating the mud brick tombs of the First and Second Dynasties. It is in imitation of colored woven matting that would have been used to embellish early structures of reed and wood. The undulating line represents the rope that would have secured the matting to “curtain rods” running above and below the matting.

False door painting small

An Early Dynastic palace façade decoration and detail of the rope lashing

January 19, 2016


January 18, 2016

The Tel Burna Excavation Project

Another Generous Donation from the Weisselbergs

We are pleased to announce another generous donation to the Tel Burna Archaeological Project by Edward and Myrna Weisselberg!

Edward and Myrna have supported us since day one of the project andtheir support has played a huge role in the effectiveness of the project to date – thank you Weisselbergs!



The Archaeology of Thebes and The Met

Catharine Roehrig

Although Malqata was the first site where the Museum’s Egyptian Expedition conducted full-scale excavations in the Theban necropolis, the Museum’s work several miles north in the royal temples at Deir el-Bahri, and in the tombs of officials in the Asasif Valley and adjoining cemeteries, is better known. Last Friday, on our day off, Janice and I walked over to Deir el-Bahri to see the New Kingdom temple of female pharaoh Hatshepsut, one of the best known and most visited sites on the west bank (Met Around the Word-Deir el-Bahri).


Upper Terrace of Hatshepsut’s Temple at Deir el-Bahri

In the area in front of the temple, the Egyptian Expedition uncovered dozens of intentionally shattered statues of Hatshepsut where they had been dumped in two large depressions. Many of these were free-standing granite statues that were reassembled and are now in the Egyptian Museum, Cairo or the Metropolitan Museum in New York. Others were of limestone and had originally been part of the temple itself, the majority having been attached to the portico of the upper terrace. The Museum conducted substantial restoration work in the temple in the early 20th Century, and, since 1961, a joint Polish/Egyptian Mission has been further studying and restoring the temple (Polish/Egyptian Mission). One area of concentration has been the upper terrace, where they have restored and reattached a number of the statues representing Hatshepsut as the god Osiris, and this part of the temple is now partially open to the public.

Next to Hatshepsut’s temple, one can see another MMA excavation site – a royal temple built 500 years earlier by the Middle Kingdom king Mentuhotep II (Met Around the World-Mentuhotep II).


Relief of Nebhepetre Mentuhotep and the Goddess Hathor, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of the Egypt Exploration Fund, 1907 (07.230.2)

On our walk to these temples, Janice and I passed several other MMA sites, including an area, called Lower Asasif, which lies at the east end of the long causeway that used to lead from the river’s cultivated flood plane to the temple (Met Around the World-Lower Asasif). Most of this area now lies beneath the modern road to the temple.


Tombs of Senenmut and Dagi on Sheikh Abd el-Qurna Hill

Of the many tombs excavated by the MMA, two lie on the edge of Sheikh Abd el-Qurna hill to the south of the modern road. One of these is a tomb chapel belonging to Senenmut, one of Hatshepsut’s most important officials, who also had a tomb that tunneled beneath the first court of her temple (<aMet Around the World-Senenmut). The other belonged to a Middle Kingdom vizier named Dagi. This tomb was also reused more than 2000 years later as the site the Coptic Monastery of Epiphanius (Met Around the World-Epiphanius).

January 18, 2016

January 17, 2016


Sometimes You Feel Like a Nut

Diana Craig Patch

During the work, we often find unexpected objects. The other day for me it was a large dom nut –part of the fruit of the dom palm tree—located in fill just above the sterile desert surface. Of course I can’t be sure how old the nut is because its find spot was too close to the surface to be straightforward. However the preservation of organic materials at Malqata is amazing so I suspect it is ancient.

Doum palm from W of AP reduced

A dom nut from Square N165/E175

Although not as common as the date palm, the dom (Hyphaene thebaica) is a well-known tree in Upper Egypt and the desert oases where there is a consistent groundwater supply. It is apparently not as common now as was in ancient times, however. Its forked trunk leads to multiple branches distinguishing it from the date palm, as do its lovely fan-shaped leaves.

A dom palm near our hotel A dom palm in the Ramesside tomb of Sennedjem

Its fruit is sizeable and shiny, and each has a hairy nut like the one we found surrounding a kernel enclosed in juice. Apparently after the fruit is soaked, the spongy covering surrounding the nut has a gingery taste. The fruit can also be used to infuse a drink used in folk remedies to treat stomach complaints and fever. Recent medical research confirms that the dom has properties that can assist in the treatment of blood pressure and maintaining healthy cholesterol.

These nuts were important in ancient Egypt as food, and are included with burial goods as early as the Badarian Period (ca. 4400-3800 B.C.). They remained an important offering throughout ancient Egyptian history; for example, several times Ramesses II (ca. 1279-1213 B.C.) apparently offered large quantities to Amun-Re in Thebes.

dom palm nuts-2

Dom fruit from the Met’s excavations at Deir el-Bahri

The dom palm is considered the sacred tree of the god Thoth. Baboons are fond of the dom fruit, and because baboons can represent Thoth, scholars believe that is the source of the association.

Olive Baboon, Eating Doum Palm Fruit

An olive baboon eating, dom fruit. (Photo courtesy of Phil Perry pperrywildlifephotos.org.sz)

In Rekhmire’s tomb (ca. 1479-1425 B.C.), there is an amusing painting that illustrates bags of dom nuts ready to be delivered. A number of green (vervet) monkeys scamper over these bags, stretching their hands through the net bags to steal the fruit (metmuseum.org/collection/the-collection-online/search/544629!).

January 17, 2016

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

2016 Offseason Week 3

During the summer of 1990, excavation continued in Grids 2, 38, 50, and 57. 

Grid 50

Grid 50

Grid 38

Grid 38

It was a summer of discoveries both big and small.

"Brindisi" amphora dating to the Hellenistic period

"Brindisi" amphora dating to the Hellenistic period

Ivory comb depicting a hunter on horseback.

Ivory comb depicting a hunter on horseback.

This was especially true on the North Tell where even greater expanses of the ancient fortifications were revealed. Of course, the North Tell is also where one of the most important "small find" discoveries on site was made.



The "Silver Calf"

The "Silver Calf"

January 16, 2016

The Tell es-Safi/Gath Excavations Official (and Unofficial) Weblog

Chris McKinny’s book is out

Kudos to Chris McKinny with the appearance of his new book – “My People as Your People: A Textual and Archaeological Analysis of the Reign of Jehosaphat” (American University Studies VII: Theology and Religion 335; Peter Lang, New York, 2015).

Way to go Chris!



Special Sherds

Janice Kamrin and Peter Lacovara

This year, as usual, we are finding a great many sherds scattered throughout the site, both at the Palace and at the West Settlement. At the Palace, most are typical simple jars and bowls, including some of the famous blue painted pottery that is sometimes called “palace ware.” Some of this palace ware was quite elaborately decorated, and in some cases even included three-dimensional additions. An example of this is a lovely vase found during the 1910-11 season of the Metropolitan Museum’s original excavations at the Palace of Amenhotep III. The shoulder was painted with a garland of blue lotus petals as well as the body of an ibex; the head of the ibex was modeled in three dimensions to rise up and join the neck and rim of the vessel.


Blue-Painted Ibex Amphora; New Kingdom, Dynasty 18, reign of Amenhotep III, ca. 1390–1353 B.C.; From Egypt, Thebes, Malqata, Palace of Amenhotep III, MMA excavations, 1910–11; Pottery, white cream slip, paint; H. 39.5 cm (15 9/16 in); diam. 21 cm (8 1/4 in); Rogers Fund, 11.215.460

At the beginning of the season, a sherd from a similar vessel turned up in one of the suites in the Palace. The paint had worn off and the head of the ibex was missing, but the rising boss of clay, which to judge by its shape was not the base of a handle, indicated that this must have belonged to a comparable vase.


Sherd from Malqata Palace; Room K4; Pottery, white cream slip; Diam. 36 cm. (14 1/8 inches)

The pottery from the West Settlement is in general less elegant than what is found in the Palace; this year we are finding a preponderance of jar sherds, with only the occasional sherd of blue painted ware. However, as we were writing this blog, we found a piece from an elaborate vessel. This object is the foreleg and part of the body of a three dimensional ungulate modeled in clay. It would have sat on the shoulder of a very large, fancy amphora similar to an example in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.


Animal appliqué from the West Settlement; N145/E135; Pottery; L. 9 x W. 7 x Depth 5cm (3.5 x 2.8 x 2 in.)


Amphora with applied decoration and lid; New Kingdom, late Dynasty 18, 1390–1327 B.C.; Height x diameter of rim: 62 x 21cm (24 7/16 x 8 1/4 in.); Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 64.9

Such pottery vases were imitations of foreign vases of precious metal brought as diplomatic gifts from Syria and elsewhere, and would have added to the cosmopolitan atmosphere of the Palace in its glory days.


Painting of a presentation vase with ibex head From the Tomb of Amenhotep Huy, Viceroy of Nubia New Kingdom, Dynasty 18, reign of Tutankhamun, ca. 1336–1327 B.C. Egypt, Thebes, Qurnet Murrai, TT 40

January 15, 2016


The 10th Annual Archaeologists’ Day

Peter Lacovara

Friday is our day off work, at least at the site. We usually spend the time doing research in the Chicago House Library or catching up on notes, visiting other sites, buying supplies or doing all of the above. Our break this week comes, appropriately, just after Egypt’s tenth annual Archaeologists’ Day. To celebrate the work of Egyptian and international archaeologists, the Ministry of Antiquities made admission to all archeological sites in Egypt free for Egyptians and foreign residents.


The Minister of Antiquities, Mamdouh El-Damaty, announced that the goal of this policy is to raise awareness of Egypt’s heritage, and also to celebrate the work of both Egyptian and foreign archaeologists. He hopes many more people will visit museums and archaeological sites, and support the preservation of this heritage, which belongs not only to Egypt, but to the whole world.

Egypt began celebrating this day in 2007, selecting January 14th because this was the date on which Egyptian archaeologists took over the management of the country’s Antiquities Service from the French, who had run it from the time it was founded in the 1860’s until 1952.

January 15, 2016

January 14, 2016


Close Encounters with an Archaeologist

Diana Craig Patch

Last season I began work in an area west of the Audience Pavilion, a large mud brick platform probably used by the king. When the Met worked there a hundred years ago, they dumped their archaeological debris to the west in huge mounds. A couple of years ago I noted chunks of carnelian and slag from kilns and decided last year to look for the zone where the glass making, carnelian carving, and faience manufacture were taking place. As you may remember, I recovered interesting material in the first squares I opened up in 2015, but did not find any undisturbed work zones before my disastrous fall (and broken arm) at the Luxor ferry that ended my digging season.

W of Audience Pavilion small dump.

Arrow points to the small mound.

So this year, I decided to continue to explore farther afield from the Met dumps in an area that looked less disturbed. There are three small mounds that did not appear comparable to the Met dumps so I thought that perhaps windblown material had built up over some kind of ancient debris, creating small hills. A kiln of course was the hope.   I began cutting a trench across one end to get a section so I could see the strata. The material was soft and sandy with some sherds, fragments of carnelian, and a few odds and ends. Some pieces are very interesting, and those you will be hearing about soon.   I got down to tafla, the local word for desert surface, without any undisturbed strata, and I began to have a bad feeling about the little mound. At the last gasp of clearing the level, however, mud flooring and a chunk of white plaster appeared at the corner and encouraged, I decided to excavate the other half of the 5 x 5 m square.

N165_E170 N Trench Level 3 reduced  (5).jpg

Level 3 in the N trench

The first two levels were worrisome as the material here was soft and full of different colored strata. I should have known. In the next level I found a glass bottle. It turns out I am carefully excavating a colleague’s dump. True, it seems that there is undisturbed material at the very bottom, but still!

The bottle is actually interesting, although clearly not informative of the time of Amenhotep III. The base –what survives– is heavy and the glass imperfectly made; the thickness varies up to 2 mm. It is stamped with Ste Badiot. So having my handy iPhone, standing in the middle of the Egyptian desert, I was able to find that this is the brand for Saint-Galmier Badiot, a French company that has produced mineral water from the Loire Valley since 1778. So the archaeologist that created this little heap was probably French. Not likely to be Lansing or White (the Met excavators), we are guessing it was Georges Daressy, the man who dug up the entrance to the King’s Palace. Why he piled his small spoil heaps so far from anything, in an area we had no idea he explored, is one of those archaeological mysteries. I have written Ste. Badoit to see if someone will look at the bottle and tell me the ranges of dates during which it was manufactured.

N165_E170_Level 3_Ste Badiot bottle background fixed reduced

The base of the glass bottle

Saturday I go back to the little archaeological spoil heap to see if it really sits on top of remains from the time of Amenhotep III.

January 14, 2016

January 13, 2016


Preserving the Architecture of the King’s Palace Continues

Tony Crosby

Although the actual preservation program this season will be relatively short, we have several very important issues to address. In the January 10th blog the two primary purposes of preservation and presentation were discussed and defined as actually preserving the remains in such a way that they are also understandable to the public once the site is open and accessible. In previous seasons our first priority was insuring that the walls and wall fragments were protected in the main Palace area. While that basic approach continues, we are also concentrating on reconstructing several walls where little remains of the original and nothing remains above the present ground level.


Overall view of the west side of the main palace where we are currently working.

The reconstruction of these walls in the west side of the main palace will complete most of the basic “footprint” of this important section.

Work began this season by completing the west perimeter wall, which defines the extension of room suite to the west before completing the majority of the footprint for the west side. Several sections of this wall had been preserved in past seasons and our first priority was completing that feature. We have now moved into a section of this west suite of rooms, adding known features, reconstructing missing walls, and modifying details as more information becomes known, and repointing existing masonry. Our goal is to complete all of this work over the next several days and move on to the next priority of completing the south perimeter wall and preserving the wall of the east side of the main courtyard. In the process we will lay approximately 6,000 to 8,000 mud bricks and repoint approximately 200 meters of walls.


Workmen reconstructing a portion of a wall to complete the “footprint” of this area. 1910-11 Met site plan in foreground.

We will not be working this season in the section of the Palace that contains Amenhotep III’s private chambers as conservation of the more extensive wall painting in that area has to be undertaken first. These areas are currently protected until that more extensive painting conservation work can be undertaken.

We continue to plan future preservation work for the two purposes described above by cleaning, mapping and documenting construction details such as brick sizes and coursing patterns and prioritizing the specific walls and areas by condition, conservation needs and interpretive significance.

January 13, 2016

January 12, 2016

The Tell es-Safi/Gath Excavations Official (and Unofficial) Weblog

Great Exhibit on Tel Rehov Iron II

This evening (Tues., Jan. 12, 2016), a very nice exhibition on the Iron IIA finds from Tel Rehov opened at the Eretz Israel Museum in Tel Aviv. The exhibit, curated by Irit Ziffer, with a superb catalogue written the excavator of Rehov, Ami Mazar, included a fantastic collection of finds from the 10th-9th cent. levels at Rehov, including: the unique beehives, cultic finds, inscriptions, oodles of pottery and many other cool things.

Quite a big crowd came to the opening of this well-worth the visit exhibit!

Here is a picture of the entrance to the exhibit, and of Debi, Itzik and myself holding copies of the great catalogue (Hebrew/English)


Rehov exhibit entrance_1-16 Debi Itzik and Aren at Rehov exhibit_1_16


Back to the Ghost Town

Janice Kamrin

I’m thrilled to be back at Malqata for my second season with the JEM. I’m working again in our “West Settlement,” where we have started by opening up two new squares just north of the 2015 excavations. I’m happy to have on my team two of the experienced excavators with whom I worked last year, Mahmoud and Ja’allan.


Ja’alllan (left) and Mahmoud (right) working in Square N145/E130, West Settlement

On the first day, we cleared the surface level of both squares, and collected LOTS of pottery – according to Peter, we have at least one imported amphora, at least one local amphora in palace ware (but probably more), and then a lot of village-type pottery. We know the surface is very disturbed, though (some of my favorite sherds actually turn out to be Roman!).

W-settlement (1-12-2016) N145-E130+N145-E135_looking E 7am

“Ghost” walls in the West Settlement

We’ve gotten off to a good start over the past few days, going down a few centimeters at a time from the surface level. On Monday, Mahmoud found our first “ghost” wall, and today, as we went down further, more walls have started to emerge. We’ve got a few nice groups of “in situ” pots, mainly along one of the walls in the southeastern part of our excavation area. It looks like we have the sherds from at least one nice-looking amphora; some large red-ware bowls; and some coarser ware. To make it more interesting, we’re also finding some charcoal and a fair number of bones, mainly from smaller animals or birds and definitely from some fish.


The walls of the West Settlement begin to appear.

We find mostly pottery and bones in this area, but we do also find some fairly interesting odds and ends. On Monday, among other things, we’ve found the fragment of a ring that looks like its bezel was in the form of a cartouche; a nice piece of wood; a tiny lump of cupreous material; and part of a mysterious ceramic object, which Peter has now identified. We will blog about this in the next few days, so stay tuned!

Fragment of a faience ring with a cartouche-shaped bezel Flint blade


January 11, 2016

The Tell es-Safi/Gath Excavations Official (and Unofficial) Weblog

Short drone overfly of Safi

Short, but very nice clip of drone (by Satellite Bible Atlas) flying over eastern side of Tell es-Safi/Gath (looking west towards sea) with a view of Areas A and E. Short but sweet, and during the winter, with the tell all green!

Check it out!


Back to Ballas

Peter Lacovara and Janice Kamrin

Today after work some of us made a field trip to the site of Deir el-Ballas, about which we blogged in 2014 (https://imalqata.wordpress.com/2014/02/20/a-visit-to-another-palace-city/). This site is interesting to us for many reasons. For one thing, it it is a Palace-City, like Malqata, but is much earlier, dating to the Second Intermediate Period and the very beginning of the Eighteenth Dynasty. It is also a reminder of how fortunate we are that the Antiquities Service (thanks to Zahi Hawass and Mustafa Waziry!) had a wall constructed to protect Malqata. Deir el-Ballas has no such protection, and has suffered from the uncontrolled expansion of the modern town of Ed-Deir.

ballas map

Plan of the Settlement at Deir el-Ballas

Deir el-Ballas was originally excavated in 1900 to 1901 by the Phoebe A. Hearst Expedition of the University of California under the direction of George A. Reisner. During one season’s work, Reisner uncovered the remains of a large royal palace, which he named the North Palace, and a massive watchtower at the Theban end of the site, which he called the South Palace. In addition, he cleared a series of cemeteries, villas, and a workmen’s settlement. Unfortunately, these excavations were never published and Reisner’s field notes were so brief that any in-depth study of the excavation is impossible.



The modern houses between the North Palace and the South Palace (taken from the remains of the North Palace)



An casemate at the South Palace, recently and illegally re-cleared

In order to understand the site better, Peter undertook four seasons of survey and clearance (in l980, l983, 1984 and 1986) under the sponsorship of the American Research Center and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Since the 1980’s, many significant features of the site have been damaged or destroyed. It is hoped that The Ancient Egyptian Heritage and Archaeology Fund can work with the Antiquities Inspectorate in Qena to define those areas threatened by urban expansion and devise strategies to protect them from encroachment. It will be vital to act soon to undertake the stabilization, protection and preservation of these important monuments.


Tony points out layers of dried grass placed between every four layers of bricks at the South Palace.


Our visit to the South Palace


January 11, 2016


January 10, 2016

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

2016 Offseason Week 2

Ashkelon 2010 t-shirt

Ashkelon 2010 t-shirt

What will make the cut and be put on the Ashkelon 2016 t-shirt? Have any ideas? Let us know what you think might be worthy of the final dig shirt.

Yes, it is Ross Voss front and center. He is not, however, a current staff member. Someone else in the photo is on staff and has been since 1991. 


Welcome Visitors!

Peter Lacovara

Our restoration goal in the King’s Palace is twofold: preserving for the future the fragile mud brick walls with surviving plastered and painted surfaces, and presenting the site for visitors in a way that makes the complicated mud brick building understandable.

Because it is a famous site, Malqata has always had tourists, some of whom inadvertently knock over mud bricks or damage the remaining paintings. Once the MSA has decided to open it for public view, we want visitors to enjoy the King’s Palace, so our goal is to create a safe pathway through the Palace that gives the visitor the opportunity to view a number of different rooms. Presentation plans impact our ongoing restoration efforts because we must take into consideration the best circulation pattern through the Palace, one that will give people an understanding of how the structure was designed and used while protecting the site from wear and tear.


Peter, Tony, Diana, and our inspector, Sherine, reviewing plans for the Palace.

We plan in the upcoming seasons to produce replicas of some of the beautiful paintings that decorated the Palace and hope to install them where they were originally found. Also we want reproduce column bases, bathing slabs, and other features of the Palace that would give people a better sense of what the building originally was like.

Signage will be another significant element of the presentation. We want to place a large sign at the entrance displaying an overall plan of the Palace as understood from multiple seasons of excavation. Then as the visitor walks along the modern pathway, smaller signs will highlight individual components of the Palace so that visitors will be better able to interpret what they are seeing on the ground in front of them. We have been studying various signs posted at other archaeological sites in Egypt, to see which ones are the most durable, readable, and affordable. Some of the most successful signage we have seen is represented in two large panels installed at Luxor Temple by our friends at Chicago House. Made of aluminum, the text and images are printed on a white or colored background with electrostatic paint. Electrostatic paint works by giving the paint a positive charge and the surface a negative charge. This draws paint particles to the surface, and creates a strong, lasting bond.

As you can tell from this blog, restoring the King’s Palace is a long and complicated process. Every day Tony Crosby, Diana, and I discuss the current state of the work and review which walls will need reconstruction that goes beyond simply protecting the surviving ancient mudbrick and its decoration, so that future visitors will get a clear sense from the scattered remains of what King’s Palace at Malqata was once like.

January 10, 2016

The Tell es-Safi/Gath Excavations Official (and Unofficial) Weblog

We are in yet another 2015 list

The gate of Gath, discovered last summer, is in yet another list of the 10 most important finds in biblical archaeology – this time in Spanish!


HT to Elana Oberlander

January 09, 2016


The Work Begins

Diana Craig Patch

We all happily went off this morning to our first day of the 2016 season at Malqata. It was a lovely clear day, a welcome change to the dusty and low visibility day we had on Friday. However, it was quite chilly and we all wore many layers of clothing. A brisk wind picked up about mid-morning with gusts that challenged anyone who wanted to get a plastic bag out of a box or a piece of paper from a notebook. Nevertheless we moved forward.

The first order of the day was hiring this season’s workmen, including the specialized excavators, the builders, the men who mix mortar for bricks, and individuals who are willing to carry away debris from the excavations, rip out the unwanted camelthorn, and to take care of the odd jobs. We were all delighted to see so many old friends among the men waiting when we arrived at 7 AM at the King’s Palace. Hiring went quickly and the various tasks began rapidly. Today most men worked on cleaning active sections of the site and starting to collect the ingredients for mortar, which takes a few days to mix.


Janice gets ready to measure a new square with Catharine.

Janice, Catharine, and I went off to the West Settlement (Janice’s site) and the area west of the Audience Pavilion (Catharine and I focus on these squares), which are close to one other. The first task of the day was locating the stakes we had installed last season with Joel Paulson, our surveyor. They were all there and still very solidly in place. Using meter tapes, we subdivided the 10 m x 10 m squares, which are too large to excavate, into the more manageable 5 m x 5 m squares that we want. By 11 AM, we had enough squares outlined in string that excavation could begin.


Catharine and Azib string one of the new squares in the West Settlement.

In the first few minutes working in a new square west of the Audience Pavilion we recovered a broken awl. You may remember we found four of these lovely little flint tools last season. I believe this is a good omen.


Broken flint awl from a new square west of the Audience Pavilion.

January 9, 2016

January 08, 2016


The New Memnon’s Big Surprise

Diana Craig Patch

Once again we are staying at our favorite hotel on the west bank, The New Memnon, located across the road from the Colossi of Memnon. Since today, Friday, is our day off, this morning after breakfast we went off to visit Chicago House to see the director, Dr. Ray Johnson, as well as many of our friends and colleagues who were there. We also made arrangements for photographer Yarko Kobylecky to work with us later in the season, and finished up by doing a little shopping in Luxor’s suq.


One of our new duvets!

When we returned to the hotel in the late afternoon, we were all greeted by nicely cleaned rooms with impressive new duvets. Each bedcover sports a large white capital M centered in an embroidered pink oval around which runs the name of The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Such attention makes all of us feel very special and most welcome in this lovely home away from home. Thank you, Sayed!


The New Memnon’s salute to The Metropolitan Museum of Art


January 8, 2016

Back in Egypt

Catharine Roehrig

Diana, Janice and I arrived in Egypt last Saturday night and spent two days in Cairo. On Sunday, we got our contract signed at the offices of the Ministry of State for Antiquities (MSA), and then we went back to the offices of the American Research Center in Egypt (ARCE) to finish some other formalities. On Monday, we visited the Egyptian Museum, where they have started allowing visitors to take photographs again. We looked for some of our favorite pieces, some of which were excavated by the Metropolitan Museum during the last century. A good example is the group of models found in the tomb of Meketre. These were excavated here in the Theban necropolis by the MMA in 1920. Half of the models were given to the Metropolitan Museum in the division of finds (for a model now in New York, see 20.3.4 (metmuseum.org/collection/the-collection-online/search/577298), which is currently on display in the special exhibition Ancient Egypt Transformed, The Middle Kingdom, metmuseum.org/exhibitions/listings/2015/ancient-egypt-transformed), and half of them are now in Cairo.


Model of a cattle counting scene from the tomb of Meketre (Egyptian Museum, Cairo)

On Tuesday, we flew to Luxor and were met at the airport by Peter, our excavation manager, Hassaan, and our driver, Mohammed. We had to present our papers to the General Director of Luxor Antiquities, Dr. Mustafa Waziry, and then we drove across the bridge to Qurna and the New Memnon Hotel, where we were given a warm Egyptian welcome.

On Wednesday, we were introduced to our inspector for this season, about whom we will talk more in a later blog, and we drove out to have a look at the site, which has fared well over the past 10 months.


Diana, Peter, Hassaan, and one of the Malqata guards at the Palace

Today was Eastern Orthodox Christmas, so we spent part of the day visiting sites on the west bank. We particularly liked the three tombs that have been opened in the cemetery called Qurnet Murai. Two of the owners had a relationship with Amenhotep III: Amenhotep, called Huy (TT 40) was the King’s Son (Viceroy) of Kush in the king’s reign. One of the facsimiles at the Metropolitan Museum represents an entire wall of this tomb (30.4.21, metmuseum.org/collection/the-collection-online/search/548571). The second man, Amenemonet (TT 277) lived generations later, but served as a priest in the king’s temple sometime at the end of the 19th Dynasty (for this tomb, see osirisnet.net/tombes/nobles/ameneminet277/e_ameneminet277_01). The tombs are charming and well worth the climb up the hill. That evening, Tony Crosby, our mud brick specialist, flew in to join the team.

January 7, 2016

Lapis Gabinus: official blog of the Gabii Project

Gabii Project at the 117th AIA Annual Meeting

Jason Farr will present a paper titled "Lapis Gabinus: Quantifying the Economy of a Roman Tufo Quarry." The presentation is part of Session 3F - The Economics and Logistics of Roman Art and Architecture, and is scheduled for Thursday, January 7th 2:10 p.m. (Plaza Room A, Lobby Level).

Giulia Peresso and Arianna Zapelloni Pavia are scheduled to give a presentation on "Decay or Repurposing of a Roman City: Gabii in Late Antiquity" in Session 6G - From Foundation to Decay: Town-Planning and Urban Development in Ancient Italy on Friday, January 8th 4:15 p.m. (Plaza Room A, Lobby Level).

J. Troy Samuels and Matt Naglak will talk about "Dress to Impress: Elite Status and Textile Production at Early Gabii" in Session 7F - Textiles, Dress and Adornment in Antiquity  on Saturday, January 9th 8:50 a.m. (Yosemite Ballroom A).

Open to all Gabii aficionados attending the meeting!

The Tell es-Safi/Gath Excavations Official (and Unofficial) Weblog

Field trip to Miqne, Safi and Ashkelon

Yesterday (Jan. 7th), I took a group of BIU students for a field trip to Miqne, Safi and Ashkelon.

First of all, it was my first visit to Miqne in quite a few years. There is not a very good road to the site, even for a bus during the winter, and thanks to the hard work of someone from Kibbutz Revadim (Idan), the site is well-kept – and even on the way to becoming a national park!

We then went to Safi and did a long tour – and the site is looking good. So far, not too much damage from the winter weather (but we are only at the beginning…)

And then, we went on to Ashkelon for a short visit.

Here is a picture of Shani and Bracha at the bottom of the site, next to the sign. For Shani, this was the first time she was at Safi during the winter, when it is all green – very different from the dried out version which she got to known in previous seasons of excavation!

Shani and Bracha at Safi_Jan 2016

January 05, 2016

The Tell es-Safi/Gath Excavations Official (and Unofficial) Weblog

Scholar in Residence in Hong Kong

On the weekend of Jan. 22-24, 2016, I will serve as the “Scholar in Residence” at the United Jewish Congregation in Hong Kong, and will give a series of five (!!) talks/lectures. So, if you are, by any chance, in Hong Kong that weekend, this might interest you!

Here is the (rather intensive…) program:

January 22-24, 2016
UJC Scholar-in-Residence
Archaeologist Aren Maeir
Prof. Maeir teaches Biblical and Ancient Near Eastern Archaeology at Bar-Ilan University in Ramat Gan, Israel. He is a prolific author and is the director of the Ackerman Family Bar-Ilan Expedition to Gath.

Join us for this exploration of the fascinating world of Biblical Archaeology.

Friday, 22nd January 2016
8:00am“What Kind of Job for a Nice Jewish Boy: A Life in Archaeology.”
Breakfast Chavurah

7:00pm “What Biblical Archaeology Can Tell Us – and What it Can’t.”
Professor Maeir will speak at Shabbat services and the discussion will continue at Shabbat dinner.

Saturday, 23rd January 2016
9:30am“The Battle of David and Goliath Through the Lens of Archaeology (text study).”
Bagels, lox, and a thought-provoking discussion.

7:30pm“Politics and Archaeology in Israel and the Middle East.”
Join us for havdalah, dessert, and discussion with Professor Maeir.

Sunday, 24th January 2016
10:30am“The Search for the Home of Goliath: Excavations at Gath of the Philistines.”
A light bagel breakfast will be served.

January 04, 2016

The Tell es-Safi/Gath Excavations Official (and Unofficial) Weblog

Workshop on LB pottery from the Shephelah – Ariel 28/1/16

Sabine Metzger (TAU), Yuval Gadot (TAU), and Itzik Shai (Ariel) are organizing a very interesting workshop on Thursday, Jan. 28, 2016.

Here are the details:

Revisiting the Pottery of the Late Bronze Age Shephelah: A hands-on workshop for the study of LB ceramics

The workshop will take place at Ariel University on January 28th (Building 56.4.10).


09:30: Gathering

09:45-10:00:  Rachel Ben-Dor: “The Tel Miqne-Ekron LB Pottery Assemblage”

10:00-10:15: Itzick Shai: Two Cypriot Pithoi from Late Bronze Age Tel Burna

10:15-10:30: Itamar Weissbein, Igor Kreimerman and Yossi Garfinkel: “Pottery in Cultic Context: Assemblage from Level VI Temple at Lachish”

10:30-10:45: Sabine Metzer: “The 13th and 12th century BCE at Tel Azekah – a view from the local ceramic”

11:15 – 12:00: Chair: Ayelet Gilboa: Discussion and hands on selected pottery from Azekah, Lachish, Ekron

12:45: Lunch Break

13:30: Visit to the Tel Burna Lab

If you are interested in participating, please contact Dr. Itzik Shai (shai.itzick@gmail.com)

January 03, 2016

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

2016 Offseason Week 1

Excavation expanded during the 1989 field season to include Grids 1, 2, 9, 16, 38, 50 and 57. 

Supervisors and volunteers in Grid 38 (This was the first season of a current staff member. Can you guess who it is?)

Supervisors and volunteers in Grid 38 (This was the first season of a current staff member. Can you guess who it is?)

Excavation in Grid 38 continued to reveal a complex stratigraphic sequence dating to the Roman and Byzantine periods. 

Grid 38

Grid 38

Excavation also produced a wealth of small finds including a cache of oil lamps many of which, but not all, depicted erotic images.

Oil lamp 

Oil lamp 

In Grid 50, there were more sea views, more dogs, and more evidence for earlier Persian occupation.

End of season Grid 50 photo

End of season Grid 50 photo

On the North Tell, excavation uncovered an impressive section of the mudbrick ramparts. 

Mudbrick ramparts on the North Tell

Mudbrick ramparts on the North Tell

The Tell es-Safi/Gath Excavations Official (and Unofficial) Weblog

We are also in the BAS list for 2015!

Thought I had already noted this, but do note – the Gate of Iron Age Gath is also included in the list of most important finds of 2015 in the Biblical Archaeology Review!

Not bad!


January 02, 2016

The Tell es-Safi/Gath Excavations Official (and Unofficial) Weblog

The gate of Gath in yet another list of important finds of 2015

The discovery of the city gate of Gath in the 2015 season at Tell es-Safi/Gath is listed in yet another list of the most important finds of 2015!

We are sizzling! :-)


December 31, 2015

The Tel Burna Excavation Project

Happy new year and congratulations to Chris!

First of all, we here at Tel Burna would like to wish all of our friends a very happy New year! May 2016 be a very productive and exciting time for all of bus and May we have another great archaeological year at Burna!

But wait! Big news, Chris Mckinny’s book has appeared! The book, titled “My People as your people: A textual and archaeological analysis of the reign of Jehoshaphat”, is based on his ma thesis. Way to go Chris!!!! May this be the first of many.




December 28, 2015

The Tell es-Safi/Gath Excavations Official (and Unofficial) Weblog

Gate of Gath among the 10 most important finds of 2015!

Woohoo! The discovery of the Iron Age gate of Philistine Gath has been included in a list of the 10 most important (and astonishing!) archaeological finds in the world for 2015!

Not bad! I wonder what we will find in 2016? One of the ten most important finds in the solar system? Milky Way galaxy? Universe? :-)

Nice way to sum up the year…

Happy new year, season’s greetings – and great finds – to all!


P.S. Thanks to Liz Arnold for the HT

December 27, 2015

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

2015 Offseason Week 23

A couple of fun pictures to end the year.

The stones that archaeologists collect during excavation...

...must get moved for final photos.

(With a little help from some friends, of course.)

We'll see you in 2016!

December 24, 2015

The Tell es-Safi/Gath Excavations Official (and Unofficial) Weblog

Visit with students to Ashdod Museum and Tel Qasile

Today, I visited the Ashdod Museum of Philistine Culture and then Tel Qasile, with my students from the BIU course on the Sea Peoples and Philistines.

Always nice to be at these two places.

And just for fun, showed the students from up close the two-horned stone altar from Tell es-Safi/Gath, and demonstrated to them, conclusively, that there never were two additional horns in the back that had fallen off (as some have claimed and even published), as it can clearly be seen from a close examination of the back of the altar that this part still has the original rock as removed from the quarry – and absolutely no sign of horns that had been removed or had fallen off.

But on the other hand – don’t confuse people with the facts…



December 23, 2015

The Tell es-Safi/Gath Excavations Official (and Unofficial) Weblog

BAR dig issue for 2016

As already mentioned, in the BAR “Dig Issue” for 2016, Safi gets great coverage – and that was for the online version. And now, I just received the “hard copy” of the issue – and it’s even better in print!

The Tell es-Safi/Gath excavations, and some of the team members (Carl, Leslie, Darra, Shani and Seng) are definitely the stars!

So, if you want your shot at fame and fortune (and have a great time and learn a lot) – join the Safi team this summer!


Windows in the lab!!

Although to most having windows is no big deal, since the Safi lab is located in a large air raid shelter (good place to be if the Iranians attack…), for years we have been working without direct sunlight and/or fresh air! And as you all know, oxygen and vitamin D are important factors for daily life…

But now, this has changed! As of today, windows have been installed on one side of the lab – and we will have fresh air and natural light! Woohoo!

See here pictures of Dina and Lindsay looking into the lab from outside!

What’s next? A sushi bar?


new windows in lab new windows in lab 1

How to roll out a cylinder seal

As I had mentioned previously, this last season, a very nice Late Bronze Age cylinder seal was discovered in Area E.

See me demonstrating how to roll it out on clay, in this short clip (shot by Amit) below:


P.S. And just in case you should ever have a cylinder seal in your hand and want to roll it out on clay, to insure that the clay does not stick to the seal after the seal is rolled over the clay (and it is then rather hard to clean the clay from within the incised patterns on the seal), spread some talcum powder on the clay surface before rolling. Tricks of the trade… :-)



December 21, 2015

The Tell es-Safi/Gath Excavations Official (and Unofficial) Weblog

Lecture at the PEF meeting – and a note on good and bad archaeological methods

As mentioned previously, yesterday I participated in the meeting about the early research in Israel by the PEF, which took place at the University of Haifa. In addition to presenting my paper (and thanks to all the in absentia co-authors), I heard a few papers which dealt with various archaeological, historical and geographical issues stemming from the PEF research, whether looking at little aspects of their findings, or assessing them in the light of more recent research.

In my paper, I discussed the dating of the fortification wall which Bliss and Macalister first reported at the site, and demonstrated that it was first erected in the Early Bronze Age, but then reused, in different parts of the site, during the MB, LB and Iron Ages.

During my lecture I noted that one of the best aspects relating to the PEF team and their work on the site – is that they only excavated at Tell es-Safi/Gath for three weeks, which saved the site from much destruction – as in my opinion the quality of excavation and publication was sub-standard even for what was being done at the turn of the 19th century CE.

During the discussion, this was debated, with one of the discussants, Dr. Shimon Gibson, who is very familiar with the PEF materials, claiming that the poor excavation at the site was due to Macalister’s methods, while Bliss was a much better archaeologist, trained by Petrie.

I did not agree with this for two reasons:

First – Bliss was the director of the excavations at Tell es-Safi/Gath – and in the reports he clearly states that Macalister was sidelined to rather minor responsibilities during the work on the site (such as documenting the rock cuttings and installations around the site).

Secondly – if in fact the poor work was the result of Macalister’s methods – why did not Bliss, as the director, step in?

In any case, the standard of excavation and publication was very poor, and when you compare it to Petrie‘s work (which also had much to improve upon, but is much better) this can be seen, but even more so, if you compare it to the methods employed by Pitt Rivers during the 19th cent CE, in the UK, there is no reason to accept poor quality work in the field. Even though famous archaeologists such as Schliemann excavated poorly at more or less the same time, if a high standard had been insisted upon by the PEF directors – for all the work conducted under the PEF’s auspices in the Levant – much more information would have been gleaned from these excavations – which in many cases is not much more than a catalogue of objects without much understanding of their find context.

I firmly believe that as archaeologists, whether of the past, present or future, we must strive to use the best methods available for our time – and constantly work to improve them. I have no doubt that in 50 years from now, archaeologists will view the methods employed by the current excavations at Tell es-Safi/Gath as very antiquated, but I hope they will recognize that we tried to conduct them at the highest standards available for our time, searching for an implementing as many new methods of excavation and analysis as possible – anything else is unacceptable!


December 20, 2015

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

2015 Offseason Week 22

As 2015 comes to a close, and planning for the 2016 field season kicks into high gear, it's time to think about:

...one more day in the dirt...

...helping out with one more guffah chain...

...enjoying one more Pottery Compound Day...

...one last chance to find something amazing.

December 18, 2015

The Tell es-Safi/Gath Excavations Official (and Unofficial) Weblog

Lecture on walls of Gath at PEF conference in Haifa

As mentioned previously, this coming Sunday-Monday (Dec. 20-21, 2015), there will be a very interesting conference at Haifa University “The PEF and the Early Exploration of the Holy Land”.

As part of the conference, on Sunday, I will be presenting a paper (along with Haskel, Itzik, Jeff, Eric and Jill in absentia) on the dating of the city walls of Tell es-Safi/Gath which had been uncovered by Bliss and Macalister in 1899 – on the basis of the results of our excavations.

To give a quick summary – we show that this wall was first built in the EB, as part of the large EB city of Gath, and then subsequently reused during the MB, LB and Iron Age.

If you can make it to Haifa – do come to the meeting – it should be interesting!

Here is the full schedule of the meeting:




December 16, 2015

The Tell es-Safi/Gath Excavations Official (and Unofficial) Weblog

Two quick visits to the tell

Yesterday (Wednesday) and today, I had two quick visits to the tell. On Wednesday, I was with a TV crew who is filming a chapter on the Kingdom of Judah for an Israeli Channel One series on the history of the Land of Israel, which should be aired sometime in the future. In fact, I had already been filmed for this series at the tell in the past, for the chapter on the early Iron Age. And to make it even nicer, Dr. Omer Sergi, from TAU was the “host” for the chapter filmed yesterday – so we had a great time – both on the tell, and later that day when they came to the Safi lab in BIU to film some finds.

Today, I gave a tour to a very nice group from the Albright Institute in Jerusalem.

It was great weather on both days – and as usual, the green color of the tell during the winter is quite a spectacle! All told, the tell is in good shape, despite the recent rains, but due to the fact that we are only at the beginning of the winter – we have yet to see what the winter will bring…



Short discussion of the Philistines Cities

A short discussion of mine on the Philistine Cities has appeared on the Bible Odyssey website – check it out!


The Tel Burna Excavation Project

Generous Donation from Yeshua Bride Preparing Ministry

We are very happy to announce that we have received a very generous donation from Yeshua Bride Preparing Ministry! Paul Chang and several members from his congregation joined us this last summer in the field and we hope that they will join us again! We would especially like to thank Paul and his wife Esther.

As always, any donations of any sum in support of the Tel Burna Archaeological Project are most welcome.

1796823_869752023091745_5250654165929888105_oPaul hard at work in Area A2, summer 2015


December 15, 2015

The Tell es-Safi/Gath Excavations Official (and Unofficial) Weblog

Great coverage in the new BAR “Dig Issue” for Safi!

The Safi excavation got some GREAT coverage in the newly appeared “Dig Issue” of BAR.

Read here the very nice article explaining what it is to participate in a dig team, with great interviews with Safi veterans Carl Schwanke from Texas (2015 was Carl and Leslie’s (his wife) 3rd season on the excavation), Seng Tawng from Myanmar (currently studying in Hong Kong), Darra Stuart from Kansas, and Shoshana Guterman (now from Bar-Ilan), who tell about their experiences at the dig.

Check it out – great article and great pictures!

And for those of you who are thinking of joining the Safi team this summer – a great way to get a feeling of what it is all about!

And, all that’s left to do is see you in the summer!


December 13, 2015

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

2015 Offseason Week 21

Grid 47 staff and volunteers in 2012 (first half of season)

Grid 47 staff and volunteers in 2012 (first half of season)

It's no secret 2016 will be the last field season for the Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon. We are asking for stories and photos and anything you might want to share as the project comes to a close. Over 50 past and present staff and volunteers have contacted us with some wonderful memories. If you'd like to contribute, you can email us at Ashkelon2016@gmail.com.  We will be collecting photos and stories until March. There is plenty of time to see what you can "dig up!"

Our celebration of the excavation will culminate in a week of events in Ashkelon from July 3rd - 7th. Details coming soon.  

December 09, 2015

The Tell es-Safi/Gath Excavations Official (and Unofficial) Weblog

Nice article in the Atlanta Jewish Times

When I was in Atlanta a few weeks ago for the SBL, I was interviewed by Michael Jacobs, editor of the Atlanta Jewish Times, about the excavations at Tell es-Safi/Gath, and about archaeology in general.

See here a link to the very nice article which was just published.


New article on Philistine inscriptions

A new article that just appeared in IEJ, spearheaded by Brent Davis, along with Louise Hitchcock and myself, in which we discuss the small corpus of “Philistine” inscriptions from Iron Age Philistia, and suggest thoughts regarding the identification of writing systems, language and function, and attempt to place them within a more general context of current understanding of the Sea Peoples phenomenon and the appearance and development of the Philistine culture.
The full title is:
Davis, B., Maeir, A. M., and Hitchcock, L. A. 2015. Disentangling Entangled Objects: Iron Age Inscriptions from Philistia as a Reflection of Cultural Processes. Israel Exploration Journal 65(2): 140–65.
Here’s a link where you can find the full text.
P.S. And on the same occasion – please note the other articles in this very nice issue of IEJ!

December 08, 2015

The Tell es-Safi/Gath Excavations Official (and Unofficial) Weblog

Leipzig University Delegation Visits the lab

Today, we had the honor to host a senior delegation from the University of Leipzig, led by the Rector, Prof. Dr. Beate Schüking. The visit, part of a larger visit to Israel and to BIU in connection with the celebrations of 50 years of diplomatic relations between Israel and Germany, was focused in particular on the joint German/Israel Minerva Center for the Relations between Israel and Aram in Biblical Times (RIAB), which Prof. Angelika Berlejung (Leipzig) and I co-direct.

In the visit, we presented about the work at Tell es-Safi/Gath and of the Minerva Center.

See pictures of the visit below


Leipzig visit 1 Leipzig visit 2 Leipzig visit 3 Leipzig visit 4 Leipzig visit 5


December 07, 2015

The Tell es-Safi/Gath Excavations Official (and Unofficial) Weblog

Some more lamps for Channukah!

In continuation of the last post for Channukah, and to make sure you have enough lamps for all of Channukah, here’s a few from the exhibition in our lab – from the Bronze Age until Modern times…

Happy Channukah!

Lamps from lab

Happy Hannukah to all!

Happy Hanukkah – the Jewish Festival of Lights – to all!

And here’s an ancient “candle”…

Iron IIA lamp

December 06, 2015

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

2015 Offseason Week 20

Today, some more people shots from 30 years of the Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon.

The early days of Grid 38 when it was a step trench.

The early days of Grid 38 when it was a step trench.

"Clean" the dirt, find a pot.

"Clean" the dirt, find a pot.

A nearly complete jar gets ready for its trip to the Pottery Compound.

A nearly complete jar gets ready for its trip to the Pottery Compound.

One of the most common building materials at Ashkelon? Mudbrick.

One of the most common building materials at Ashkelon? Mudbrick.

There's always another dark corner to explore.

There's always another dark corner to explore.

December 03, 2015

The Tell es-Safi/Gath Excavations Official (and Unofficial) Weblog

Eric Welch in the spotlight at KU!

Check out this nice interview with Eric Welch on the KU website!

Way to go Eric!


A week of media appearances…

This week I had two appearances on Israeli TV – not directly connected to Safi, but to archaeology in general. Both interviews are in Hebrew – for those interested – see below:

  1. Interview on Channel 10, on Rafi Reshef’s program on Monday, 30th of November, 2015, about the possible discovery of the tomb of Nefertiti, inside Tutankhamun’s tomb. I discuss who Nefertiti, Akhenaten and Tutankhamun were, and what would be the significance of this potential discovery. The interview can be found at this link, and I appear from 41:10 onwards.
  2. An interview on Channel 1, on the late night news broadcast, on Wednesday, December 2nd, 2015, on the just announced discovery of a bulla of King Hezekiah of Judah. What I stress in the interview is that while this is a very nice and exciting find – a “twitter tweet” from the past – it is not a ground shaking discovery. There is no doubt regarding the existence of Hezekiah as a historical persona – as he is known both from the Bible and the Assyrian texts. In the interview I briefly talk about the background of the period, etc. Follow this link for the interview: the portion on the bulla starts at 52:07, and my interview at 54:30.


December 02, 2015

The Tell es-Safi/Gath Excavations Official (and Unofficial) Weblog

Japanese Delegation at Safi lab

Today, a delegation from the Japanese Holocaust Education Center, led by Mr. MAKOTO OTSUCA, director general of the center, visited the lab, along with Prof. Moshe Kaveh (former president of BIU) and Prof. Shmaryahu Hoz.

Amit, showed them around the lab and explained about the finds.

Here is a picture from the visit:

japanese holocaust museum visit_Dec 2015


Online Registration for the 2016 season at Tell es-Safi/Gath is up and running!

To all potential team members of the 2016 season at Tell es-Safi/Gath:

Great news! The online registration is now up and running – and you can get to it from the Excavation Application tab on top.

So, for all those interested in joining us for a fascinating, fun-filled and memorable season of discovery – go ahead – and sign up!

Please note that as of yet, the Ackerman Fellowships are unfortunately not available. There is a chance that in February this will change, so do keep looking for this – I’ll be sure to notify if it is (or any other funding) available. For those interested in the fellowships – I suggest you sign up to reserve your place and if you cannot manage to join us without the fellowship – you can always cancel your registration.

Looking forward to seeing you in the summer,


December 01, 2015

The Tell es-Safi/Gath Excavations Official (and Unofficial) Weblog

Safi lecture at conference on PEF in Haifa

On December 20-21, 2015, there will be an interesting conference at the University of Haifa – entitled: The PEF and the Early Exploration of the Holy Land.” This is an academic conference marking 150 years of The Palestine Exploration Fund!

Among the various very interesting talks that will be presented, the Safi team (Jeff, Eric, Jill, Itzik, Haskel and yours truly) will present a talk on the new dating, based on recent results of our excavations, of the city wall of Tell es-Safi/Gath that was discovered in the PEF excavations at the site by Bliss and Macalister in 1899.

For the full program, see here.




November 30, 2015

The Tell es-Safi/Gath Excavations Official (and Unofficial) Weblog

Brent Davis is King Minos!

Brent Davis, long-time member of the Safi team and senior assistant to Louise Hitchcock of the U of Melbourne team, has just received the most fantastic review of his recently published book (mentioned previously here) –

Brent Davis, Minoan Stone Vessels with Linear A Inscriptions. AEGAEUM, 36. Leuven; Liège: Peeters, 2014.

The review appeared in Bryn Mawr Classical Review, and can be read here.

Way to go Brent!!!


40 Futures – BAR

The Biblical Archaeology Society has put out a very nice publication, in which they asked 40 leading archaeologists, historians, biblical scholars, epigraphers and scholars from cognate fields, to make their predictions and suggestions in honor of 40 years to the Biblical Archaeology Society.

Very nice collection of some very nice ideas about what the future holds for our profession. I have a short article in which I call for a greater amount of inter-disciplinary studies in the field – in particular relating to the humanistic sides of our research and in particular when dealing with the interface between Bible and archaeology.

See here a link to my article.



November 29, 2015

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

2015 Offseason Week 19

During the 1988 field season, work continued in Grids 38. 50, 57 and 64. For the first time, work expanded to the North Tell where portions of Grids 1 and 2 were excavated.

Grid 50

Grid 50

Apsidal building in Grid 38

Apsidal building in Grid 38

Each area produced a wealth of small finds including ceramics, always the largest category of artifact, glass, metals, animal bone and more.



Worked bone offcut

Worked bone offcut

November 25, 2015

The Tell es-Safi/Gath Excavations Official (and Unofficial) Weblog

New article on EB faience beads

And yet another article from the Safi team has appeared (so far, only online).

The study, spearheaded by Adi Eliyahu Behar, deals with chemical and physical analyses of faience beads from EB contexts at Tell es-Safi/Gath, and sheds light on the various materials and production processes that were in use.
The full title is:
Eliyahu-Behar, A., Elbaz, S., Shai, I., Maeir, A. M., and Greenfield, H. J. In press. Faience Beads from Early Bronze Age Contexts at Tell es-Safi/Gath, Israel. Journal of Archaeological Science Reports.
Here is the abstract:
A total of thirty-eight beads, including one pendant securely dated to the Early Bronze Age III, were recently unearthed at Tell es-Safi/Gath, Israel. The beads were subjected to analysis by FTIR spectrometry in order to identify the mineralogy and materials used for their making. Among the various materials identified, such as carnelian, steatite and shells, twenty-five were made of faience. The microstructure and chemical composition of two faience beads were analyzed by electron microscopy and are the focus of this short report. Results show that cementation glazing was most likely used for one, whereas efflorescence glazing was most probably used in the production of the other. These preliminary results shed light on the variability that existed in manufacturing procedures and choice of raw materials for the production of early vitreous materials during this period.


A link to a PDF of the paper can be found here.



November 24, 2015

The Tell es-Safi/Gath Excavations Official (and Unofficial) Weblog

New paper on environmental archaeology around Tell es-Safi/Gath

Just got back from Atlanta (SBL meeting) and found in my inbox the PDF of the just appeared article, spearheaded by Oren Ackermann, which deals with a case study from the surroundings of Tell es-Safi/Gath, demonstrating the potential of soil and sediment study for the reconstruction of environmental history.

The full title is:
Ackermann, O., Greenbaum, N., Osband, M., Almogi-Labin, A., Ayalon, A., Bar-Matthews, A., Boaretto, E., Bruins, H. J., Cabanes, D., Horwitz, L. K., Neumann, F. H., Porat, N., Schilman, B., Weiss, E., and Maeir, A. M. 2015. Chapter 19: Soil and Sediments as an Archive of Landscape History: The Case Study of Tell es-Safi/Gath, in the Eastern Mediterranean. Pp. 281–94 in Soils and Sediments as Archives of Environmental Change. Geoarchaeology and Landscape Change in the Subtropics and Tropics, eds. B. Lucke, R. Bäumler and M. Schmidt. Erlanger Geographische Arbeiten Band 42. Erlangen: Palm und Enke Verlag.
A link to the paper can be found here.

November 22, 2015

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

2015 Offseason Week 18

Column bases standing in north end of basilica

Column bases standing in north end of basilica

Ashkelon was well represented at ASOR's Annual Meeting in Atlanta. Staff members presented papers in a number of sessions including Food and Feasting, Crusader Archaeology, the Classical Periods and Carthage. Between sessions, the senior staff met and started planning the upcoming 2016 field season. 

Have memories or pictures of earlier seasons to share with us? We'd love to have them! 



November 20, 2015

The Tell es-Safi/Gath Excavations Official (and Unofficial) Weblog

Safi team supper at the ASOR meeting in Atlanta

Last night, a bunch of Safi team members (past, present and future…) got together for a really nice supper, at a restaurant right near the ASOR meeting in Atlanta.

I was a great chance for all of us to catch up on what’s doing with some great friends!

Safi team supper at ASOR 2015

November 17, 2015

The Tell es-Safi/Gath Excavations Official (and Unofficial) Weblog

New paper on LiDAR at Tell es-Safi/Gath

A new paper has just appeared on the initial application of LiDAR technology for the documentation and analysis of a complex archaeological sites, at Tell es-Safi/Gath.

The article is entitled:

Greenfield, H. J., Wing, D., and Maeir, A. M. 2015. LiDAR Technology as an Analytical Tool at Tell es-Safi, Israel. Pp. 76–85 in Breaking Barriers: Proceedings of the 47th Annual Chacmool Conference, November 7–9, 2014, eds. R. Crook, K. Edwards and C. Hughes. Calgary: University of Calgary.

The full article can be found at this link




November 16, 2015

The Tell es-Safi/Gath Excavations Official (and Unofficial) Weblog

Call for papers on geoarchaeology of cultural landscapes

Oren Ackermann has asked me to post about a very interesting meeting which will take place in April 2016, in Vienna. See details below:

Dear Colleagues,
We are pleased to announce a Call for Papers and Posters for the EGU2016, 17-22 April, 2016 Vienna, Austria
For the session entitled:
Soil in Cultural Landscape -The Future is in the Past: Insights from the Cultural Soil Archive SSS3.5
Soil is an excellent archive that documents and records the environmental landscape history. Today, the anthropogenetic impact on the landscape is immense. Studying history through examination of the soil archive enables us to explore the long-term impact of ancient human activities. This enables us to build prediction models for a more sustainable future.
You are invited to submit abstracts to lecture on the subject described above. The lectures should present case studies and/or research that examine landscape history through the soil archive. We invite both field-based or modeling studies. Results and conclusions from these studies should allow for the construction of better landscape management models in the future. read more
(See attached flyer)
Abstract Submission Deadline
1st of December for early career scientists and scientists from developing countries
13th of January,13:00 CET, general submission
Looking forward seeing you in Vienna!

November 15, 2015

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

2015 Offseason Week 17

Brochure from 1990

Brochure from 1990

No, you didn't read those dates incorrectly. In the early years, there were several times the excavation ran for double seasons. There is nothing like digging in Ashkelon in May when the grass is green, the flowers are blooming, and an occasional sprinkle cools you off and colors the dirt.

Check back for a report from ASOR next week.  

November 12, 2015

The Tel Burna Excavation Project

New BASOR article on Area B1 by Itzick, Chris and Joe

We are pleased to announce that BASOR (Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research) has just sent the final proofs of our article “Late Bronze Age Cultic Activity in Ancient Canaan: A View from Tel Burna,” which was authored by Itzick, Chris and Joe!

Here is the abstract:

Excavations at Tel Burna, Israel, have uncovered portions of a large structure from the Late Bronze Age IIB, yielding numerous finds that suggest ritual and cultic practices occurred in the building, particularly in its central courtyard. is article presents the finds from the excavations, examining the meaning of the cultic artifacts discovered and comparing the building with the nearby Fosse Temple at Lachish. It is hoped that the discovery and presentation of the finds will help yield important information on cultic practices occurring in the 13th-century b.c.e. Shephelah.

Bibliographic Details:

2015: Shai, I., McKinny, C., Uziel, J. “Late Bronze Age Cultic Activity in Ancient Canaan: A View from Tel Burna.” Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research 374: 115-133.

November 10, 2015

The Tel Burna Excavation Project

2016 Excavation Season Application

We are excited to officially open up registration for the 2016 season at Tel Burna – season number 7 – which will undoubtedly be the most fantastic and productive one yet!

The paper form can be found here or go to “Join us” in the toolbar above.

But for those who are more tech-savvy – we have created an online form which can also be accessed from the toolbar under “Excavation Application.” Besides (hopefully) streamlining the application process – the online application provides some details related to a “pre-excavation tour of Israel” that will take place right before the excavation – led by myself (Chris).

Look forward to seeing you this summer! :)


November 09, 2015

The Tell es-Safi/Gath Excavations Official (and Unofficial) Weblog

Safi exhibition at KU!!

Eric Welch of KU, long-term core staff member of the Safi team (currently co-director of Area F, and soon to become director of the new Area K) has informed me about an exhibition that Darra Stuart (twice member of the KU Safi team) and Eric himself prepared on the excavations at Safi.

Here is Eric’s description:

This weekend Darra and I set up a gallery at KU promoting our Safi work with Study Abroad and the Center for Undergraduate Research. We’ve taken some the best Safi images and had them framed and then arranged them chronologically with selections of pottery from KU’s teaching collection. Since Darra did a lot of work on the EB wall, we used yellow tape to reconstruct the dimensions of the EB wall across the gallery. We’ve already had great reactions to being able to see how massive the wall was!

People are already very excited about this. We’re hoping this will help us recruit a large team !

See below the pictures that Eric sent – very cool. And clearly, we expect an awesome KU team this summer!


IMG_6127 IMG_6126 IMG_6125 image1

November 08, 2015

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

2015 Offseason Week 16

The ASOR Annual Meeting, this year in Atlanta, is right around the corner. Ashkelon will be well represented as many staff members will attend and a number will give papers on a range of subjects from Hellenistic to Crusader Ashkelon. It should be a great time as always.

Planning is well under way for 2016 and with that planning, thoughts of getting back to work. The start of every season is marked by two unavoidable tasks; cleanup and staircase building/repair. 

Cleaning Grid 47

Cleaning Grid 47

Stairs in Grid 47

Stairs in Grid 47

The deeper we dig, the bigger the cleanup and the taller the stairs. Consider joining us as we go through it one more time in 2016. Check  the "Join Us" section of the website to learn more. 

November 03, 2015

The Tel Burna Excavation Project

2016 Season Flyer

Check out our flyer for the 2016 season! We will be posting the registration details shortly.

Poster_Chris 2016

November 01, 2015

The Tell es-Safi/Gath Excavations Official (and Unofficial) Weblog

Grant for students from NYC to participate in archaeological excavations!

Check out this very nice grant for archaeology students from NYC to cover partial expenses at an archaeological dig.

Needless to say – apply and come join the team at Safi for the summer of 2016!

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

2015 Offseason Week 15

During the 1987 field season Grid 38 was split into upper and lower, Grid 50 expanded, Grid 57 went deeper, Grid 37 wound down and Grids 64 and 71 were opened and excavated for a single season. 

Bath and apsidal building in Grid 38

Bath and apsidal building in Grid 38

In Grid 38U, it was all Roman period as excavation uncovered the remains of a bath and a large apsidal building. 

Grid 50

Grid 50

Grid 50 expanded in 1987, adding new squares to the excavation area. The more they dug, the more excavators encountered what would become one of the most fascinating discoveries made at Ashkelon; the dog burials.

Dog burial in Grid 50

Dog burial in Grid 50

In Grid 37, excavation of the large Islamic period house first uncovered in 1986 continued. The highlight of the season was finding more pieces of gold filigree jewelry, several pieces of which were found in 1986. Today, the jewelry is on display in the Israel Museum.

In the southwestern corner of the site, off the South Tell, excavators found a building at the base of the large earthwork mound on which the medieval fortifications stand in Grid 64.

Grid 64

Grid 64

We're digging in 2016! Check back soon for more information on our last season of excavation.

The Tell es-Safi/Gath Excavations Official (and Unofficial) Weblog

Jill Katz on the recents finds at Gath on the YU blog

Jill Katz, of Yeshiva University, long time staff member and in recent years the director of Area P, is interviewed for the YU news blog, and discusses, among other things, the finds from this year in the lower city – the gate and the fortifications.

Check it out!


October 29, 2015

The Tell es-Safi/Gath Excavations Official (and Unofficial) Weblog

Biblical Scholars interested in digging? Try this!

If you are a biblical scholar who wishes to experience digging at a biblical site, check out the following notice (and clearly, apply for this and then come to dig with us at Tell es-Safi/Gath!):

The William G. Dever Archaeological Fellowship for Biblical Scholars was established in 2015 by an anonymous donor.

This prestigious fellowship enters its second year in 2016, and the amount will be increased to $7,000. This two–month travel-study award will be made available in the summer of 2016 to a qualified American non-tenured faculty member in the field of biblical studies who wants to acquire elementary, first-hand experience in field archaeology and research in Israel. 

The application deadline is December 15, 2015. Link: http://www.asor.org/fellowships/wdever.html

New Journal: Archaeology and Text – edited by Itzik Shai and David Small

The website of a new journal, which will be of interest to many dealing with archaeology, history, textual studies, anthropology and hermeneutics (etc.), has gone on line.

The new Journal, Archaeology and Text has the following objective – to serve as “a journal for the integration of material culture with written documents in the ancient Mediterranean and Near East”

The editors are Itzik Shai (long-time, senior team member of the Safi team and director of the Burna excavations), and David Small, an anthropological archaeologist from Lehigh University.

This looks like a very important journal in the making!


October 28, 2015

The Tell es-Safi/Gath Excavations Official (and Unofficial) Weblog

Way to go Natalie Renkes – 2015 team member – great piece on the ASOR blog!

Natalie Renkes, who was a member of the GVSU team led by Liz Arnold this last summer, has written a great blog entry for the ASOR blog, about her participation in the Safi dig.

Way to go Natalie – nice work (on the dig and writing the piece)!!


Don Verdean – a movie to watch!! :-)

I received a head’s up (from my son Uri) about a movie that is about to come out – Don Verdean, which should be a lot of fun – especially for biblical archaeologists! (but see a not-so-great review here). It’s a comedy about a biblical archaeologist who is funded by people with ulterior motives to prove the bible, and what comes from this…

What’s even funnier is that in the movie they are apparently looking for the skull of Goliath! They should have asked me – I have it already… :-)

See the trailer below:


October 25, 2015

The Tell es-Safi/Gath Excavations Official (and Unofficial) Weblog

General Bolden’s visit in the Jerusalem Post

This last Friday (Oct. 23, 2015), the Jerusalem Post had a short article on General Bolden’s visit to BIU and the Safi lab (as we already noted here).

See below for the section on the visit with pictures (and here is the link to the online version without pictures)


The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

2015 Offseason Week 14

Some pictures from dig life this week. See yourself in one of them? Let us know. Tell us your story. We'd love to hear from you.

Want to see yourself in one of these pictures? We're digging in 2016! Join us and help us investigate the history and archaeology of Ashkelon in our final season. 

A view of the medieval fortifications.

A view of the medieval fortifications.

Supervisors in Grid 38, 1985.

Supervisors in Grid 38, 1985.

Volunteer with undoubtedly the find of the day.

Volunteer with undoubtedly the find of the day.

Consultation in the field.

Consultation in the field.

October 23, 2015

The Tell es-Safi/Gath Excavations Official (and Unofficial) Weblog

New paper on the changes in the ecology of LB and Iron Age Philistia

New paper from the Safi team has appeared (see here for the PDF):

Olsvig-Whittaker, L., Maeir, A. M., Weiss, E., Frumin, S., Ackermann, O., and Horwitz, L. K. 2015. Ecology of the Past – Late Bronze and Iron Age Landscapes, People and Climate Change in Philistia (the Southern Coastal Plain and Shephelah), Israel. Journal of Mediterranean Ecology 13: 57–75.

In this paper, spearheaded by Linda Olsvig-Whittaker and Liora Horwitz:

we present a case study using modern ecological data (collected over the period 1948-2014) to assess changes that took place in plant and animal occurrences in the 12th century BCE in Philistia – the southern coastal plain of Israel and the Judean foothills in its immediate hinterland, as a result of either shifts in anthropogenic behavior or climate. Using published archaeobotanical and archaeozoological data from several archaeological sites in this region (e.g. Tel Aphek, Tell es-Safi/Gath, Tel Miqne/Ekron, Ashkelon), we compared habitat associations of these palaeo-assemblages to observations on modern plants and animals from the same geographic region. Multivariate analytical methods, DCA and CCA ordination, showed mesic to xeric gradients in both the modern and the archaeological data. The clearest pattern in the archaeological data was a separation of Late Bronze Age (mesic) from Iron Age I and Iron Age II sites (xeric). We interpret this shift as reflecting the decrease in rainfall between the Late Bronze Age (ca.1550-1180 BCE) and Iron Age (ca. 1180-586 BCE) periods, a phenomenon that has been documented in the Eastern Mediterranean in general by other palaeoclimatic proxies (e.g. pollen, cave speleothems and the Dead Sea level).

Check it out!


October 19, 2015

The Tell es-Safi/Gath Excavations Official (and Unofficial) Weblog

BIU press release about General Bolden’s visit

An official BIU press release about General Bolden’s (NASA Administrator) visit to BIU and the Safi lab (see our blog on this here) has been put on line.

Check it out!


The fortifications of Gath in the “Archaeology”

A small news item on the new fortifications at Tell es-Safi/Gath, we which we discovered this season has now appeared in the semi-popular journal Archaeology (November/December 2015 issue).

Please the link to see it: Gath – Archaeology 2015

And thanks to Joe Lauer for the head’s up and the scan!


October 18, 2015

The Tell es-Safi/Gath Excavations Official (and Unofficial) Weblog

Prof. Adam Zertal has passed away

This afternoon, the sad news is out that Prof. Adam Zertal, the renown Israeli archaeologist, has passed away. Adam was well-known for his extensive surveys of the Land of Manasseh, and of his famous, but at times, controversial excavations at Mt. Ebal (which he connected to Joshua’s altar on Mt. Ebal), El-Ahwat (which he identified as a Sea Peoples site) and the so-called Iron I “Sandal Sites” (as well as several other sites).

Adam was an extremely nice, friendly, generous and warm person, and he was an excellent field archaeologist.

He will be missed by friends, students and colleagues.

יהי זכרו ברוך!


The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

2015 Offseason Week 13

A current staff member in 1999

A current staff member in 1999

Here's a familiar face from the 1999 field season. Need a hint? He's working in Grid 38.


October 17, 2015

The Tell es-Safi/Gath Excavations Official (and Unofficial) Weblog

Sharon Staub is interviewed the excavations at Safi!

Sharon Staub, who was one of the staff of the Australian team led by Louise Hitchcock, was interviewed about the excavations at Safi for an Australian program called “in focus“. See the video clip here.

Check it out – very nice – way to go Sharon!


October 15, 2015

The Tell es-Safi/Gath Excavations Official (and Unofficial) Weblog

General Charles Bolden – NASA Adminstrator – visits the lab!

Today we had an absolutely awesome visit to the lab, General Charles Bolden, the administrator (=director) of NASA!!!

General Bolden, who insisted that we call him Charlie (and is an extremely friendly, open and interested person), came to the lab (along with Prof. Hershkovitz [BIU president], Mrs Hershkovitz, Prof. Arieh Saban [BIU VP for Research], and Ruthi Cohen [director of BIU external affaris division]), and received an explanation about various things that we are doing on the project.

I started out by pointing out, in humor, that archaeologists have many common things with NASA – one of them being aliens – NASA tried to find alien life forms, while we have to convince the lunatics that the pyramids were not built by aliens…

But seriously, we showed General Bolden several of the finds, and discussed their significance, particularly in relationship to the Philistine culture.

As just a few days ago we identified a very nice Late Bronze Age faience cylinder seal (which was found this year in Area E but was mislabeled as a bead), we showed General Bolden and the other visitors how one rolls the seal on puddy to see the incised scene (see picture below).

Then, after explaining how we try to utilize various aspects and types of scientific analyses the excavation, Adi very nicely demonstrated the use of our handheld XRF. We took the seal, and on the spot identified its composition. General Bolden was actually interested in knowing whether such a handheld XFF would be useful for Mars exploration (and help in discovering evidence of life forms [actually not…]). I also noted that the types of analytic equipment we take to the dig (IR Spectrometer, hXRF, microscopy, etc.) is quite similar to the range of analytic equipment that is on the Mars Rovers.

We then got into a very interesting discussion about similarities between the exploration of Mars and archaeological work (and we all offered to serve as archaeologists if they are needed in the future on Mars…). General Bolden also told us some interesting details about the recent discovery of water on Mars – and their significance.

And finally, we gave him one of the T-shirts from the last season, and explained that its connection to rocketry (Iron Domes…) fit in well with his background as well! Needless to say, we invited General Bolden and his family, to join us on the dig in the future!

Here are some pictures – what an astounding visit!

20151015_125032-1 IMG_1579-1  20151015_120312 20151015_120844 20151015_12163720151015_12020320151015_12022920151015_12025220151015_120448

October 14, 2015

The Tell es-Safi/Gath Excavations Official (and Unofficial) Weblog


Just got my copy today of: Metheny, K. B., and Beaudry, M. C., eds. 2015. Archaeology of Food: An Encyclopedia. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, in which I have entry on Philistine Foodways (as I noted before).

This 2 volume set is simply great – highly recommend it to all and any interested in the ancient world! It is chock-full of super interesting entries on an extremely broad range of topics relating to food in the ancient world. Very nice – and thanks to the editors for their work!


October 12, 2015

The Tell es-Safi/Gath Excavations Official (and Unofficial) Weblog

New article on early date of LB/Iron Age transition at Safi

The online, pre-publication version of a new article, spearheaded by Yotam Asscher, with various co-authors (Dan Cabanes, Louise Hitchcock, Elisabetta Boaretto, Steve Weiner and myself) has appeared online (see here for those without access to the journal’s website).

In this study, we argue the following:

The Late Bronze Age to Iron Age transition in the coastal southern Levant involves a major cultural change, which is characterized, among other things, by the appearance of Philistine pottery locally produced in styles derived from outside the Levant. This transition in the coastal southern Levant is conventionally dated to the 12th century BC, based on historical and archaeological artifacts associated with the Philistine pottery. Radiocarbon dating can provide a more precise independent absolute chronology for this transition, but dating for the period under discussion is complicated by the wiggles and relatively flat slope in the calibration curve, which significantly reduce precision. An additional complication is that the stratigraphic record below and above the transition at this site, as well as at most other sites in the region, is far from complete. We thus used a variety of microarchaeological techniques to improve our understanding of the stratigraphy, and to ensure that the locations with datable short-lived materials were only derived from primary contexts, which could be related directly to the associated material culture. The 14C dates were modeled using Bayesian statistics that incorporate the stratigraphic information. Using this integrative approach, we date the appearance of the Philistine pottery in Tell es-Safi/ Gath in the 13th century BC.

The full title is:

Asscher, Y., Cabanes, D., Hitchcock, L. A., Maeir, A. M., Weiner, S., and Boaretto, E. 2015. Radiocarbon Dating Shows an Early Appearance of Philistine Material Culture in Tell es-Safi/Gath, Philistia. Radiocarbon 57(5).

This article is in continuation of a previous article (see here) in which we also argued that the Philistine culture may first appear at a slightly earlier stage than previously thought. This seems to indicate that the process of the appearance of the Philistine culture may have been a more complex and drawn out process than is usually assumed!

Check it out!


October 11, 2015

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

2015 Offseason Week 12

Brochure from 1989

Brochure from 1989

Before the internet, social media, and the ability to sends texts from one country to another free of charge, there were airmail letters, tokens to use the pay phone to call home, and paper brochures advertising the expedition. Much has changed over the years. Today, we even use laptops in the field.

Field data entry in Grid 47

Field data entry in Grid 47

October 04, 2015

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

2015 Offseason Week 11

It's no secret 2016 will be our last season of excavation. As we inch ever closer to next summer, a process which is moving unnervingly fast for some of us, we're revisiting past seasons, retelling favorite stories and sharing memories. Have a story to tell us? A favorite picture you want to share? Send it along. Our institutional memory is long but by no means comprehensive. That moment when you determined archaeology was for you? We want to hear about it. The one thing you found that has stuck in your memory until even today? We want to know why. 

Check back soon for more details on how you can be a part of or contribute to festivities celebrating the Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon during the 2016 field season.

Ryan cleans off the remains of a column shaft found in Grid 47 -- 2010 field season

Ryan cleans off the remains of a column shaft found in Grid 47 -- 2010 field season

The column in the picture above is part of a fascinating story, one which we love to share with visitors. We rediscovered it while excavating Grid 47. It was first discovered by John Garstang during his excavations in the 1920s. It's what we refer to as a "heart shaped column," two columns adjacent to each other which would have stood in a corner. What makes this column so special is the line in the center, the one just under Ryan's brush. While carving the column up into pieces to be used in other building projects, workers ran into a little trouble; their saw got stuck. We discovered this once the column was fully excavated and we found rust stains running down one side of the stone. When we peered in the cut, we could see the remains of the iron saw still stuck inside. It's a fascinating discovery and a wonderful story.

September 29, 2015

The Tell es-Safi/Gath Excavations Official (and Unofficial) Weblog

Short entry on Philistine Foodways

A short encyclopedia entry which I wrote about Philistine Foodways has recently been published – check it out!

Here is the full quote:
Maeir, A. M. 2015. Philistine Foodways. Pp. 402–04 in Archaeology of Food: An Encyclopedia, eds. K. B. Metheny and M. C. Beaudry. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.

Erin Hall – fame and fortune!

Erin Hall, who was one of the staff (assistant area supervisor in Area D), and received a fellowship from ASOR that enabled her to join the team, has written a very nice summary of her experiences for the ASOR blog. Check it out here.

Way to go Erin!

Philistines from the North?

A lot of people have asked me about an article which appeared in Haaretz (here is the English version) in which there is a claim that recent evidence from excavations in southern Turkey, indicate that the Philistines (known from the Bible and from excavations in the southern Coastal Plain of Israel – at sites such as Tell es-Safi/Gath) in fact derived from this region in Turkey.

Well, the story is a little different…

It seems that as part of the so-called “Sea Peoples phenomenon”, which includes the Philistines, many changes occurred in the ancient Near East during the transition between the Late Bronze Age and the Iron Age. This included various peoples of more or less “western origin” (from the Aegean, western Anatolia, Cyprus, etc.), who settled in various places in the eastern Mediterranean. This includes some of the foreign peoples from whom the Philistines were comprised, and apparently, peoples who settled in southern Turkey as well.

Thus, it is not that the Philistines originated from Turkey – but some of the Philistines and the peoples who lived in Southern Turkey in the early Iron Age may have had similar origins in the west.


September 27, 2015

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

2015 Offseason Week 10

Today the ancient city of Ashkelon is a national park that attracts thousands of visitors every year. It is also a nature preserve, a facet of the park we've gotten to see more of recently. Turtles, foxes, and, oh yes, cats are all familiar, if not sometimes surprising, sights. It's fair to say, we never know what we might see when we stick our heads up out of the grids.

September 23, 2015

The Tell es-Safi/Gath Excavations Official (and Unofficial) Weblog

Haskel and Tina Greenfield in the Canadian Jewish News on Safi

Here’s a nice little piece (save for them misspelling my name…) in the Canadian Jewish News on the excavations at Tell es-Safi/Gath and in particular the results of the last season, based on interviews with Haskel and Tina.

Check it out!


September 22, 2015

The Tell es-Safi/Gath Excavations Official (and Unofficial) Weblog

The Safi team at “Leil Hamad’anim” (scientists’ night) at BIU

Last night, the annual ליל המדענים (scientists’ night) was held at BIU. At this event, kids (and their families) come to get a taste of various types of scientific research at BIU, in a very hands-on, inviting manner.

As in past years, some of the Safi team presented our work as well (and a big thanks to Dina, Natalie and Sivan [and Amit, behind the scenes]), and needless to say, were VERY popular. In addition to displaying and explaining about some archaeological finds (real and replicas), the hands-on activity was to create ancient Hebrew seals. This was so popular, that all the materials that had been prepared (to make 300 seals) were used up before the event was finished!

Here are some pictures of the Safi corner at the event:

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September 20, 2015

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

2015 Offseason Week 9

A trio of old photos today. Enjoy.

Grid 38

Grid 38

Pottery marking -- the pre-Sharpie way with fingernail polish and ink

Pottery marking -- the pre-Sharpie way with fingernail polish and ink

Director Larry Stager

Director Larry Stager

The Tell es-Safi/Gath Excavations Official (and Unofficial) Weblog

Two Shout Outs for Chris McKinny!

Chris McKinny, long-time team member of the Safi expedition, and now senior member of the Burna team, has just put out two things that are definitely worthy of a “shout out”:

  1. An excellent series of charts, in digital form, on the chronology of the kings of Judah and Israel (for more details and how to obtain this, see here). Here is a brief description of the charts prepared by Chris: “The Regnal Chronology of the Kings of Judah and Israel illustrates “every year” from 1050-550 BC/BCE by showing how the biblical calendars of lunar years relate to our Gregorian years in the context of every biblical king. Every biblical text related to a Judahite or Israelite king’s accession to the throne is included next to his specific chronological timeline. Additionally, every extra-biblical text mentioning a biblical king is also included usually with a high resolution photo of the object. The handbook also includes detailed charts of the kings of Neo-Assyria, Egypt, Neo-Babylonia, Ammon, Moab, Edom, the Philistine cities, Aram-Damascus, and Tyre. All of this (and more) is illustrated with over 100 high resolution photos from the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands collection. In our opinion, this resource would be especially useful for courses or classes related to the history of ancient Israel, biblical archaeology, and the book of Kings.”
  2. His new book (based on his MA thesis, of which I was one of the advisors), “My People as Your People: A textual and archaeological analysis of the reign of Jehoshaphat” (Peter Lang, 2015) is about to appear and it can already be pre-ordered. Here is a brief description of the book prepared by Chris: “My People as Your People: A Textual and Archaeological Analysis of the Reign of Jehoshaphat investigates the reign of Jehoshaphat (872-848 BC/BCE) by comparing the textual material of 1 Kings 22, 2 Kings 3, 2 Chronicles 17-20, the Mesha Stele, and the Tel Dan Stele to the available archaeological data from the late Iron IIA in the regions of Benjamin, the Judean Shephelah, the Judean hill country, Negev, and Aravah.”

Way to go Chris!


September 19, 2015

The Tell es-Safi/Gath Excavations Official (and Unofficial) Weblog

U Manitoba promotional video with Haskel’s lab in it!

Haskel Greenfield has passed on a promotional video for U of Manitoba (great video, except that they don’t show that 11 out of 12 months of the year it’s covered by snow…:-) in which Nour Ashour and Talisha Chaput, Haskel’s students and Safi team members, appear in Haskel’s Near Eastern archaeology lab.

Check it out here.


September 18, 2015

The Tell es-Safi/Gath Excavations Official (and Unofficial) Weblog

Great clip on this season’s work in Area P by Sima!

Sima Fried, 2nd year with Jill Katz’s YU team and who served as a square supervisor in Area P this year, has made a really nice clip on the work in Area P.

Check it out on this link

Way to go Sima (and thanks to Sue Frumin for the HT)!


September 17, 2015

The Tell es-Safi/Gath Excavations Official (and Unofficial) Weblog

Visited the tell today and two developments: Podcast for SciAm and fixed up road!

Today, I visited the tell and the following transpired:

  1. I was interviewed (by the excellent journalist, Kevin Begos) for a podcast to be put out by Scientific American. This should be online sometime in the fall and I’ll post more details when available.
  2. On the way to the site, I was pleasantly surprised that the paved road leading towards the tell has been completely fixed up. From the  main road (Route 383) until the turn to the power stations, the road is repaved, painted and even has safety barriers along parts of it. And from the turn to the power stations towards the tell, the first half is now paved (that will save the cars and buses a lot of bumps!), and the rest of the way, which still is a dirt road, has been flattened out very nicely. I hope this will stay as nice until the summer – will make things a lot easier…


September 16, 2015

The Tell es-Safi/Gath Excavations Official (and Unofficial) Weblog

Online – radio interview on “Bible and Spade”

A recent interview that I had for the radio program The Book & the Spade, with host Gordon Govier, is now online. In the interview I discuss the excavations in general, and the recent finds in particular.

Check out the two parts of the interview – one and two.


September 15, 2015

The Tell es-Safi/Gath Excavations Official (and Unofficial) Weblog

Great answer to bogus archaeology…

A great collection of book reviews by REAL archaeologists trashing pseudo archaeology book has appeared in American Antiquity (one of the reviewers is Eric Cline!).

As most archaeologists are familiar with people who contact them and have alternative explanations to various aspects of antiquity (I’ve been having such an email exchange with someone in the last few days) – it is nice to see a serious attempt to answer some of these baseless, but very popular, theories.

The reviews can be downloaded for free (here).


P.S. I’m sorry to inform you all that aliens did not build the Sphinx, the Inca are not Phoenicians, and Atlantis has not been found…

September 13, 2015

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

2015 Offseason Week 8

In 1986, excavation expanded in Grids 38, 50, and 57, all of which had returned promising results during the 1985 field season. Work was completed on the church in Grid 34/41 and several new areas were opened.

Grid 22

Grid 22

Grid 22 was opened on the edge of the southern end of the North Tell after EB sherds were found in the vicinity. Though excavation did not produce Bronze Age material, it did reveal the remnants of a Byzantine period building and sewer system.

Another new area, Grid 37, was opened to the west of Grid 38 closer to the Mediterranean Sea. Excavation quickly hit a common feature in all the areas excavated at Ashkelon; rubble.

Early days in the excavation of Grid 37

Early days in the excavation of Grid 37

Underneath the rubble, a large building slowly emerged. In the debris of that building, archaeologists discovered one of the most important Islamic period artifacts excavated at Ashkelon.

Published by Miriam Rosen-Avalon in 1991, these two pieces, along with another two found during excavation in 1987, were very fine examples of filigree work.

It wasn't just the new areas that produced interesting results. 1986 marked the arrival of dogs in Ashkelon. During the excavation of Grid 50, the burials of over 30 dogs were discovered. They were to be the first of many -- over 1200 to be exact. The dogs remain one of the most intriguing and debated discoveries at Ashkelon.

September 12, 2015

The Tell es-Safi/Gath Excavations Official (and Unofficial) Weblog

Great misquote – on a totally baseless story… (hint – relates to Goliath)

Here’s a link to a completely made up story, which includes, among other things, a misquote of mine (with my name misspelled…). It supposedly reports on the discovery of Goliath’s skull, with a hole in it, in Jerusalem. And if you believe that – I’ll tell you another one :-)


(HT – Haskel Greenfield)

September 11, 2015

The Tell es-Safi/Gath Excavations Official (and Unofficial) Weblog

Louise is interviewed on ABC

Louise Hitchcock just sent me the link to her interview on ABC radio (that’s the Australian Broadcasting Corporation for those of you who are American-centric readers…), where she talks about the excavations, her research interests and other cool things.

Check it out!


September 10, 2015

The Tel Burna Excavation Project

Shana Tovah!

On Sunday Night, the Jewish New Year (Rosh Hashana) will take place. Happy New year to all of our friends from Tel Burna!!! Shana Tovah!!

And just in time for the Jewish new year – check out the nice piece on Area B1 by Itzick in the current edition of BAR! Way to go Itzick!

2015: Shai, I. “How Canaanites Worshiped.” Biblical Archaeological Review 41(05): 30-31.

The Tell es-Safi/Gath Excavations Official (and Unofficial) Weblog

Another article in Haaretz!

We are definitely sizzling… :-)

Another article relating to our work on the project has just appeared in the Hebrew version of Haaretz (see below a PDF of the full article).

צפריר רינת בהארץ על פליאואנתרופוקן בצבע

Tsafrir Rinat, the Haaretz environmental correspondent, wrote a nice piece about the article which we recently published which dealt with the Palaeo-Anthropocene in Israel (this study was spearheaded by Oren Ackermann).

In the Haaretz article, Oren get’s a nice shout out, and a link is also provided to the Haaretz article about Philistine invasion biology which appeared just recently (see here for the Hebrew version and here for the English version of this).

Not bad – three Haaretz articles in about a month…


September 08, 2015

The Tell es-Safi/Gath Excavations Official (and Unofficial) Weblog

Opening the gates of understanding

In the Babylonian Talmud (Rosh Hashana 21:2), it says that “the world was created with fifty gates of understanding”.

Now that we seem to have found a gate at Gath, for the upcoming Jewish Near Year (which starts this coming Sunday night), it is a good occasion to wish you all that during this new year you will all find at least one (and perhaps more) of these “gates of understanding”!

Shana tova u-metuka!


September 06, 2015

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

2015 Offseason Week 7

Today, we have a picture submitted by Gordy, a volunteer each of the past four seasons at Ashkelon. 

"Wheelbarrows can be used for many tasks!"

"Wheelbarrows can be used for many tasks!"

Can you guess who is in the picture?

The Tell es-Safi/Gath Excavations Official (and Unofficial) Weblog

Full version of the English article in Haaretz

Here is the full version of the article on Philistine invasion biology which appeared in the English edition of Haaretz (mentioned previously):

Haaretz_Philistine invasion biology_September 1, 2015


September 04, 2015

The Tell es-Safi/Gath Excavations Official (and Unofficial) Weblog

English version of Haaretz article on Philistine Invasion Biology

Today, the English version of the Haaretz article on the Invasion Biology perspective on the appearance of the Philistine culture has appeared (which are both based on our article on this topic in Scientific Reports).

The link above is to the pay-for-view version – I hope to post a fully accessible version ASAP.



September 02, 2015

The Tell es-Safi/Gath Excavations Official (and Unofficial) Weblog

Sue Frumin’s interview on Channel 10 about Philistine invasion biology

Sue Frumin was interviewed a few days ago on the popular program “London and Kirschenbaum” on Israel Channel 10 (in Hebrew), and she spoke about our study on an invasion biology perspective on the appearance of the Philistine culture.

Check it out here – Sue is interviewed from 35:05 onwards.

Way to go Sue!


August 31, 2015

The Tell es-Safi/Gath Excavations Official (and Unofficial) Weblog

Joe Uziel get’s press on his discoveries in the City of David

Joe Uziel, long-time team member and co-editor of the forthcoming Safi II volume, appears in a nice article about his discoveries in the IAA excavations which he runs (Nahshon Zanton, who is writing his MA on the Iron IIA pottery from Safi and co-directs the excavations is also mentioned). Specifically, the finds described are a very nice portion of the steps leading up to the Roman period temple in Jerusalem.

And here is the official English press announcement by the IAA

And here is a video clip (in Hebrew) with Nahshon explaining about this interesting feature.

Check it out!


3D model of the Iron Age gate at Bethsaida

Rami Arav has been kind enough to pass on a link to a very nice 3D model of the Iron Age gate and associated structures from Bethsaida, which was created by their project architect, Nic Brit.

Check it out below. Who knows – maybe we will find something similar at Gath?

August 29, 2015

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

2015 Offseason Week 6

The blog is on vacation for a week but I didn't want to leave without posting a couple of pictures of dig life. Below, the North Tell in the early days.

The MB rampart emerging on the North Tell.

The MB rampart emerging on the North Tell.

Looking south, from the area of the Club Med, towards the MB rampart.

Looking south, from the area of the Club Med, towards the MB rampart.

August 28, 2015

The Tell es-Safi/Gath Excavations Official (and Unofficial) Weblog

Article in Haaretz on Philistine Invasion Biology

Today, the Hebrew version of Haaretz has an article (by the excellent Nir Hason), about the study which was published this week by members of the Safi team (Sue, Udi, Liora and yours truly; mentioned previously here) on the changes in plants and plant use (and the “invasion biology” implications of this) with the appearance of the Philistine culture in the Iron Age.

Here is a PDF of the article in Hebrew: Haaretz article on Philistine plants_Aug 2015


August 26, 2015

The Tell es-Safi/Gath Excavations Official (and Unofficial) Weblog

Talk about networks in archaeology: KU and Safi, in German…

Eric has informed me that the KU press officer managed to get an article into a German media outlet, on the KU team working at Safi.

Das ist sehr schoen!

Check it out.

And see the very nice video clip in which Eric talks about the project and KUs involvement in it!

August 25, 2015

The Tell es-Safi/Gath Excavations Official (and Unofficial) Weblog

New Article on Philistine Invasion Biology

A very interesting new article has just appeared in the prestigious journal “Scientific Reports”. This study is an outcome of a FIRST/BIKURA grant that Udi Weiss, Liora Horwitz and myself received (from the ISF) a few years ago, and was spearheaded by Sue Frumin (as part of her PhD research). In the study it is demonstrated that with the appearance of the Philistine culture in Canaan, not only did new species of plants appear, species which originate in different parts of the eastern Mediterranean, but new modes of utilization of various plants species already existing in the Levant can be seen. This not only strengthens previous evidence of the multiple origins of the Philistine migrants, but also shows that the Philistine culture had new and different food patterns and agrarian traditions. In addition, it demonstrates the applicability of an “invasion biology” perspective in the study of bioarchaeological remains, and its implications for understanding past and present biodiversity.
The article is entitled:
Frumin, S., Maeir, A.M., Horwitz, L.K. and Weiss, E. 2015. Studying Ancient Anthropogenic Impacts on Current Floral Biodiversity in the Southern Levant as reflected by the Philistine Migration. Scientific Reports 5:13308 | DOI: 10.1038/srep13308
The online link to the article (which is open to all) can be found at: http://www.nature.com/articles/srep13308
Hope you find this interesting!

The Tel Burna Excavation Project

New Hebrew Article by Amit and Chris on the History of Research at Tel Burna

A new article on the history of research at Tel Burna was just published in Moreshet Israel. Way to go Amit and Chris!

The full citation is below (click to read):

2015: Dagan, A. and McKinny, C. “The Beginning of Modern Archaeological and Historical Research at Tel Burna.” Moreshet Israel 12:11-29.