Taygete Atlantis: Excavation Blogs (Antiquity)

http://planet.atlantides.org/taygete

Tom Elliott (tom.elliott@nyu.edu)

This feed aggregator is part of the Planet Atlantides constellation. Its current content is available in multiple webfeed formats, including Atom, RSS/RDF and RSS 1.0. The subscription list is also available in OPML and as a FOAF Roll. All content is assumed to be the intellectual property of the originators unless they indicate otherwise.

December 21, 2014

The Tel Burna Excavation Project

Academic Credit for Summer Season

We are pleased to announce that we are now offering academic credit for participation in the excavations of Tel Burna!

For those interested see the following:

Academic credit is available through Ariel University – please contact project director – Itzick Shai at shai.itzick@gmail.com

  • 3 credit hours for 2 weeks of field/academic work ($500)
  • 6 credit hours for 4 weeks of field/academic work ($600)

December 19, 2014

The Tel Burna Excavation Project

New Articles by Matt and Itzick

Check out the new articles that were recently published published by Itzick and Matt respectively.

Shai, I. 2014. Ashkelon: The Seventh Century B.C. By Lawrence E. Stager; Daniel M. Master; and J. David Schloen. Final Report of the Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon, vol. 3. Winona Lake, Ind.; Eisenbrauns, 2011. Pp. XV + 817, illus. Journal of American Oriental Society 134.2:516-519

Suriano, M.J. 2014. “Breaking Bread with the Dead: Katumuwa’s Stele, Hosea 9:4, and the Early History of the Soul.” JAOS (134.3).385-405.

Suriano, M.J. 2014. “The Historicality of the King: An Exercise in Reading Royal Inscriptions from the Ancient Levant.” Journal of Ancient Near Eastern History (1.2). 95-118.

Way to go!


December 16, 2014

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

Two weeks to the deadline for submission for the Ackerman Dig Fellowships!

Only two weeks are left to submit requests for receiving the Ackerman Family dig fellowships for the 2015 season at Tell es-Safi/Gath (deadline is Dec. 31, 2015).

If you are interesting in applying  (and why not!) – do this ASAP!

Aren


December 15, 2014

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

Christina and Zach describe their time on the Safi team – thanking BAS for their dig scholarships!

Christian Nelson and Zach Margulies, both old-time Safi team members (otherwise known as “repeat offenders”…:-), both have short pieces in the new BAR in a section in which various people who have received dig scholarships from the BAS tell about their experiences. Read them here – and don’t forget to apply for the scholarships for next season!

Aren


December 13, 2014

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

Josh Tyra is a star!

As previously mentioned, Josh Tyra, who was on the 2010 team at Safi, wrote and performs a great song on being a biblical philologist (“I am the very model of a biblical philologist”).

And now, in addition to the recording which we already put up on the blog before, there is a great Youtube clip!

Here it is:

Way to go Josh!

Aren


December 12, 2014

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

Tell Jemmeh report

Yesterday, I received a copy of the new Tell Jemmeh report – courtesy of the editor, David Ben-Shlomo (thanks!).

This is without a doubt a monumental report, of just under 1100 pages (!!), summarizing the excavations at Tell Jemmeh which were directed by the late G. Van Beek. Important finds from the MB, LB and in particular the Iron I-III, are described in the report. A lot comparative materials for our work at Safi is of course in the volume – such as various finds related to the Philistine culture.

Note – the report can be downloaded on the Smithsonian Institution website!

Kudos to David for doing this fantastic work and putting out this volume – on finds that otherwise might have remained unpublished for many years!

The full quote is:

Ben-Shlomo, D., and Van Beek, G. V., eds.
2014 The Smithsonian Institution Excavation at Tell Jemmeh, Israel, 1970–1990. Smithsonian Contributions to Anthropology 50. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Scholarly Press.

Aren


December 11, 2014

The Tel Burna Excavation Project

Great Aerial Video of a Very Green Tel Burna!

Check out this aerial video of Tel Burna – notice how green the site looks! The video was made by AirCamz using a DJI phantom. Cool!


December 09, 2014

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

Talk on an archaeological perspective on feasting in Papua New Guinea – Dec. 16, 2014 at BIU

Next Tuesday, in a meeting of the departmental colloquium of the Dept. of Land of Israel Studies and Archaeology at BIU, I will be giving a talk on an archaeological perspective on feasting in Papua New Guinea, based on some of my experiences in PNG.

Here is the Hebrew invitation to the talk: מאיר_סמינר מחלקתי 16.12.14

You are all invited! Should be a lot of fun – and a lot of great pictures – and even a few video clips!

Aren


December 08, 2014

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

BAR Dig Issue

Current and former members of the Ashkelon staff figure prominently in this month's issue of Biblical Archaeology Review. Look for them in "Digs 2015: Blast from the Past." More importantly, the issue includes important information about how to volunteer for excavations, including ours, that accept student volunteers for their summer programs.

Take a look.

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

Tell es-Safi/Gath in the BAR “Dig Issue”!

The BAR “Dig Issue” has come out – and needless to say, the 2015 season at Tell es-Safi/Gath appears there!

So now – no excuses not to sign up.

And remember – there is still until December 31, 2014, to apply for the Ackerman Fellowships!

Aren


The Tel Burna Excavation Project

New Article on Tel Burna Seal Impressions in ZPDV

Check out our newly published article on the “private” stamped handle (and a few other impressions – LMLK and Rosette) that was found at Tel Burna in 2012 in 8th and 7th century BCE contexts.

It was just published in the Zeitschrift des Deutschen Palästina Vereins (ZDPV):

Shai, I.; Dagan, A. Riehl, S.; Orendi, A.; Uziel, J.; and Suriano, M. 2014. A Private Stamped Seal Handle from Tel Burna, Israel. ZDPV 130: 121-137. 

Four-winged LMLK and RosetteFour-winged LMLK and Rosette
Private Seal Impression - Ezer HagaiPrivate Seal Impression – Ezer Hagai
Private Seal Impression - Ezer HagaiPrivate Seal Impression – Ezer Hagai

December 02, 2014

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

MA and PhD Stipends at the University of Manitoba

Haskel Greenfield has requested to post the following, regarding the possibility of MA and PhD stipends at the University of Manitoba, working on the EB materials from Tell es-Safi/Gath.

Here’s the notice:

MA and PhD Fellowships Available (University of Manitoba)
Two to three MA and/or PhD Fellowships are available in the Department of Anthropology (and Near Eastern and Biblical Archaeology Laboratory) of the University of Manitoba under the supervision of Prof. Haskel Greenfield, as part of his “Nature of early urban neighbourhoods in the southern Levant: Early Bronze Age at Tell es-Safi (EBAS)”, SSHRC Partnership Research Program with Bar-Ilan University, Israel.
The term of funding for the MA is for two years (minimum of $12,000/year) and the PhD for four years (minimum of $18,000/year), beginning September 1, 2014. PhD students or Post-docs may have the opportunity for sessional (part-time) teaching if courses are available, contingent on funding.
The fellowships are available for the scientific analysis of remains from the EBA of levels at Tell es-Safi, Israel, including (but not limited to):
·        Lidar scanning technology
·        Digital imaging of artefacts
·        GIS and spatial analysis
·        Archaeobotany
·        Phytolith
·        Scientific analyses of ceramics
·        Micro-debris analysis
·        Lithic source analysis
·        Trace element analysis
·        Geoarchaeology
·        palaeoenvironmental
·        Other specialties are open to discussion
Knowledge of any of the above archaeological methods, in addition to ceramic analysis, zooarchaeology, geology, chemistry, chronometric analysis, and palaeoenvironmental reconstruction are beneficial.
The successful candidate is expected to have a background Near Eastern Archaeology, the archaeology of complex societies, and archaeological field work and methods.
Experience in archaeological data management and knowledge of Microsoft Office products (including Access), imaging software, spatial analytic (e.g. ArcGIS) programs, Leica Cyclone, and SQL databases (e.g., DB2) would be an asset.
Applicants who are not Canadian citizens or landed residents must have their applications approved by Immigration Canada and acceptance by the Faculty of Graduate Studies by the start date of the fellowship.
Interested applicants should contact Prof. Haskel Greenfield (Haskel.Greenfield@umanitoba.ca) before January 1, 2015.
Completed applications for the graduate program should be submitted to the Faculty of Graduate Studies of the University of Manitoba by January 15, 2015 http://umanitoba.ca/faculties/graduate_studies/admissions/index.html.


November 30, 2014

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

Ashkelon in San Diego

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon was well represented at ASOR's Annual Meeting which was held at the San Diego Westin the week before Thanksgiving. A number of staff members chaired panels, while several others gave papers on subjects ranging from Islamic period Ashkelon and identity in early Roman Ashkelon to animal remains at Carthage.  In the midst of all the work, there was even a little time for staff to enjoy some good food together.

Dates for Ashkelon's 2015 field season have been set. The season will run from June 6 - July 17. Go here to learn more. The 2015 volunteer application will be available in the next week or so. As winter deepens, it is definitely not too early to start thinking about plans for the summer.

November 28, 2014

The Tel Burna Excavation Project

Scholarship Opportunity Jane C. Waldbaum Archaeological Field School Scholarship

If you are looking for some financial support to help fund your time at Tel Burna this summer – Check out this scholarship opportunity from the Archaeological Institute of America.


November 23, 2014

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

Last day of lectures in San Diego

After a lecture which I gave last night for Foundation Stone on the Philistines, today I’m on the final lap of the lectures for this trip. I start with a presentation at the BAS BibleFest at the US Grant Hotel – an update on the 2014 excavations (entitle: “From the Iron Age to the Iron Dome”…), and then in the evening, I have a presentation at the SBL in a session on methodology in the study of ancient Israel, where I make a plea for more inter-disciplinary research.

Should be a really nice day – and then I start the long way back to Israel.


November 21, 2014

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

Safi talks went very well!

Today, the various talks related to Safi went very well. My general update on the 2014 season was well-attended (people came in right before and left right after…), and the session on the EB was a success as well. Louise also gave a nice paper on the ivory bowl from the 2013 session – which I could not attend since I had to co-chair the EB session.

Ho ah!

:-)


November 17, 2014

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

New BAS video with Safi lecture included

Carl Schwanke, who has been on the Safi team for the past two years, has kindly given me a head’s up on a new video put out by the Biblical Archaeology Society – “Ancient Israel and Judah – 2 DVD Lecture Set”, which includes a lecture that I gave on the archaeological evidence for Philistines cult and religion, mainly at Tell es-Safi/Gath.

Check it out (and thanks to Carl!)

Aren


November 16, 2014

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

Busy week of lectures ahead…

I’m about to leave to the US, and I have quite a few lectures coming up.

On Tuesday, I’m giving two lectures at Grand Valley State University, the first for students and the second is open for the public.

On Thursday, at the ASOR meeting in San Diego, in the morning I first give a paper on updates on the 2014 season at Tell es-Safi/Gath, and then in the afternoon, I co-chair a session on the EB in Southern Canaan, with a few lectures relating to the EB finds at Tell es-Safi/Gath.

Then, on Saturday night I’m giving a talk for Foundation Stone at the Beth Jacob Synagogue in the San Diego area, talking about Philistines.

On Sunday morning (23rd of Nov) I giving a talk at the BAS BibleFest on some of the exciting results from the 2014 season at the Safi excavations.

And finally, on Sunday afternoon, I’m giving a talk at the SBL on call for interdisciplinary methodology in the study of ancient Israel.

If you can make any of these – would be happy to see you there!

Otherwise, I think all these lectures should keep me out of trouble…

Aren


IMPORTANT: Ackerman Fellows – submission of materials

For all those of you who have submitted, or are planning to submit, materials for the Ackerman Fellowship to participate on the Safi excavations this summer (remember, deadline is Dec. 31st, 2014!), please note the following:

If you have not received confirmation that you sent the materials, please do send them also to my regular email (arenmaeir at gmail.com) – seems that this address is not working for everyone!

Aren


Congratulations to Amanda Rose for her PhD!

Seems like a lot of people connected to the Safi project are finishing their degrees nowadays!

Louise Hitchcock has informed me of the good news that her PhD student, Amanda Rose, who worked on the Safi team, just give in the final submission of her PhD, which is entitled:

“Interpreting the Wine-Dark Sea: East Mediterranean Marine Symbolism”

Way to go Amanda!

Aren


November 13, 2014

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

Louise Hitchcock lectures Safi for the AIA in Washington DC

Yesterday, Louise presented a lecture on the excavations at Safi, and in particular on the Philistine remains in Area A, and of course on our understanding of some of the Philistines as pirates. The lecture was for the Washington, DC chapter of the Institute of Archaeology, and it was hosted by Prof. Eric Cline of George Washington University.

The lecture was entitled:

Fifteen Men on a Philistine’s Chest (Yo Ho Ho and a Krater of Wine)
Aaargh!

Well done Louise!


November 12, 2014

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

Congrats to Chris Mckinny – his MA thesis officially accepted!

Kudos to Chris McKinny! Chris’ MA thesis “The Reign of Jehoshaphat: Text, History and Archaeology” has now been fully OKed at BIU and Chris, long-time team member of the Safi team, joins the ranks of MA holders connected to the project!

Having barely finished the thesis, Chris was already contacted by a respected publishing company which are interested in publishing the thesis in book form!

And add to this – Chris will be starting his PhD right away!

Way to go Chris!


Kudos to Merav Levmore-Raziel for her MA!

Congratulations to Merav Levmore-Raziel, who was a Safi team member for quite a few years, for completing her MA! Merav’s MA thesis was approved yesterday and she is now officially a master! :-)

The title of her MA thesis was:

“Ground Stones in Ancient Times as a Tool for Analyzing and Understanding Domestic Activities and Living Areas: Tell es-Safi/Gath as a Case Study”.

In her thesis, she examined the ground stone finds from three separate buildings, from the LB, Iron IIA and Iron IIB and discussed the finds and their implications.

Way to go Merav!

Aren


November 07, 2014

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

A Parting Shot

A little rain, a little baulk trimming, and what do you get? More information, of course. Shimi sent  a few more photos, one of which is below, before leaving Ashkelon. 

Mosaic floor in Grid 32

Mosaic floor in Grid 32

ASOR's Annual Meeting is fast approaching. This year the meeting is in San Diego and Ashkelon will be well represented.  Pictures and updates from sunny California coming soon.

November 04, 2014

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

The End

Dig a probe under Roman material and what do you find? Yellow bricks of course.

The probe in Grid 32

The probe in Grid 32

Excavation is done. Now, the cleanup begins. So, to Shimi, Ben, Kate, Meghan, and Jeff, congratulations on a job well done. Grid 32 proved to be endlessly fascinating.  This salvage excavation leaves us with a lot to think about over the winter as we start planing the 2015 season. 

Who's ready to get in the dirt?

Grid 32

Grid 32

That's a wrap, everyone.

 

November 03, 2014

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

Long Day

Shimi tells me it was a 6:00 am - 5:00 pm day in the field today.  Stratigraphically, they have moved into the Hellenistic/Early Roman period. The plan is to dig a small probe tomorrow to see if there is any differentiation between that earlier material and the Roman/Byzantine period structure they've largely finished excavating.  

The team sent along pictures of several interesting finds:

Fibula

Fibula

Unguentarium

Unguentarium

Finally, Jeff has returned to Ashkelon and he sent along some pictures. This one is of Shimi with Jacob and Uri, two members of the team of Israeli workers. They worked with Shimi during the summer field season before things were cut short and then resumed working with him this month.  Along with the entire team of workers, they did a great job moving a lot of dirt. It goes without saying, work in Grid 32 has made a major contribution to what we know about the site of ancient Ashkelon.

Shimi, Uri and Jacob

Shimi, Uri and Jacob




November 01, 2014

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

Improvisation

The Pottery Compound

The Pottery Compound

When it rains it pours.  It doesn't stop the work, however.

"Office" in a container

"Office" in a container

Meghan found a dry corner...

A cramped but serviceable "office"

A cramped but serviceable "office"

...and so did Ben.

Every moment counts and there is always work to get done.  Looks like there is a couple more days of digging which means we'll definitely have at least one more update. Check back next week.

It's never too early to start thinking about next year.  Information about the upcoming 2015 field season will be available soon.

October 31, 2014

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

Rainy Day

It was a quiet day in Ashkelon. Rain kept the workers away.

Puddles in Grid 32

Puddles in Grid 32

One of the benefits of rain, which is generally not an archaeologist's best friend, is that it helps colors/soil changes to really pop. 

"Clean" dirt

"Clean" dirt

Here is a view to the north. It's easy to see the large cut in section ending at the cut portion of wall U66 at left. This may have been to clear rubble before installation of the cistern. The cistern is the installation at the top of the picture (look for the empty sandbags).

Shimi tells me they've asked for workers Sunday and Monday. Check back next week for one last update.

October 30, 2014

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

The Next to the Last Day

Better system = more dirt moved.

Better system = more dirt moved.

As of this morning, the crew is 40 centimeters away from the desired depth. Tomorrow is going to be a big day.  

A second installation, a probable tabun, has appeared.

New tabun appearing next to robber trench

New tabun appearing next to robber trench

Want to know more about the building Ben is sweeping?

Grid 32

Grid 32

So do we. We won't be digging here in 2015, this area is being turned over to the park, but there is every possibility we will dig somewhere nearby. Grid 32 has exceeded our wildest expectations and produced a rich corpus of material. The above building, which still appears to be Byzantine in date, is substantial and may stand close to the cardo, one of the city's main streets. It's size and the remnants of the luxurious materials looted from it, suggests it was of some importance. One has to wonder, what might be found in its vicinity. Hopefully, we'll find out during the 2015 summer field season.

October 29, 2014

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

Work continues

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another day, a lot more dirt moved.

The crew at work.

The crew at work.

As work continues, the "tabun" gets more and more interesting and its identification as such no longer seems certain.

Amphora inside installation

Amphora inside installation

The search continues for a preserved surface.  So far, the best evidence for anything that can be associated with a surface is in the picture below.  Shimi tells me, the white "lump" protruding from the top course of the lower wall is s surface bedding meeting the wall.

Surface bedding running up to wall

Surface bedding running up to wall

Two more days of digging to go.  

October 28, 2014

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

Destruction Layer

Today, Shimi and crew dismantled walls as they continued excavating. There is still much to do to reach the required 4 meter depth by the end of the week.

Taking down wall segments

Taking down wall segments

As they continue to excavate, the team is finding greater quantities of ash and indications they might be hitting a layer of destruction debris. Unfortunately, there is still no sign of a floor.

It's not all heavy work all the time, however. Kate pulled a double cleaning some of the painted plaster on one of the wall fragments.

Cleaning some painted plaster

Cleaning some painted plaster

What about the date of this building? Right now, all the evidence points towards the Byzantine period. With any luck, the stratigraphy will allow for a firm date when work is finished.

Only three more days of digging and then the countdown to the 2015 field season begins.

October 27, 2014

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

Walls, Walls and More Walls

Daniel Master surveys the walls in Grid 32

Daniel Master surveys the walls in Grid 32

There are walls and there are WALLS. Whatever Shimi, Ben and crew are finding in Grid 32, it is substantial. I asked Daniel for his thoughts. He told me that before the building was systematically looted it would have been impressive. The remnants of painted walls and multicolored marble floors, recovered during excavation, make that clear. He also told me that, as is often the case at Ashkelon, the building was thoroughly robbed making the interpretation of the structure, all that much more difficult.

Ben standing in a robber trench

Ben standing in a robber trench

It doesn't help that there are no preserved floors, another common pattern at Ashkelon.  Tomorrow, Shimi tells me they hope to float the large pieces of fallen rubble in the middle of the picture.  

Only a few more days of work remain and there is still a meter or so to go. Fortunately, Shimi, Ben, Meghan and Kate have found a way to keep their energy up.

Ashkelon staff enjoy a special dinner during their October field season

Ashkelon staff enjoy a special dinner during their October field season

October 26, 2014

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

Grid 32

The JCB stands ready to haul away stones as wall U12 is dismantled by hand

The JCB stands ready to haul away stones as wall U12 is dismantled by hand

Grid 32 is busy -- and is even using a mechanical "wheelbarrow" to help cart away stones from dismantled walls. There sure are a lot of walls, too, and for everyone that comes down, another wall gets bigger and goes down deeper. Some very complicated stratigraphy in this grid.

Ben standing next to a new wall/pier uncovered during excavation

Ben standing next to a new wall/pier uncovered during excavation

This area has surpassed all our expectations.  The fragments of the building being uncovered are impressive.  As of yet, the function of the building remains undetermined but with a few more days of excavation to go, there is still time to learn more.  Onward and downward!

Progress in Grid 32

Progress in Grid 32

It goes without saying that Shimi, Ben, and the crew of Israeli workers digging this area are doing a tremendous job and adding significantly to what we know about "late period" Ashkelon.

They are not alone in Ashkelon, however. Co-director Daniel Master is in Israel helping with the final shutdown of the 2014 season and planning the 2015 season. Dr. Kate Birney, in Jerusalem for several months, has been assisting as necessary while also making progress on the publication of Hellenistic period Ashkelon. Jeff, one of the 2014 season volunteers, has lent a hand as well. And this week, our registrar Meghan will arrive to assist in processing the material being uncovered in Grid 32. 

Shimi is sending pictures on a near daily basis. Check back often to see the progress.

October 24, 2014

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

Small Finds

Shimi, Ben and crew have been busy in Ashkelon. This week saw Shimi and Ben power through more than 40 buckets of pottery.  There's nothing like digging it up and cleaning it too!

Pottery laid out to dry

Pottery laid out to dry

They had a number of interesting small finds this week including a glass base, likely from the Roman or Byzantine period, and a jar fragment incised with three letters.

Glass base

Glass base

Jar fragment

Jar fragment

Small finds aren't all they're finding, either. I'll do another post in the next few days showing some photos of the architecture/stratigraphy they are uncovering.  As suspected, digging near the cardo has proven to be very interesting.

With only one more week of excavation -- and 1.25 to 1.5 meters -- there is still a long way to go. Watching the progress over the next few days promises to be very exciting.

October 23, 2014

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

Excavation Continues

Shimi, Ben and the crew of workers continue to make significant progress in the salvage excavation.  With 5 days left, they are racing to complete the project so that the Park Authority can continue with its infrastructure improvements. As always, the workers display an enviable ability to multitask.

When work was stopped in early July, the rubble in the middle of the picture above was just being exposed. Even then it was surprising and interesting: pieces of plastered ashlar blocks, piles of floor tiles, and lots of nails.  Of particular interest was the fact that the stones were simply left where they were and covered over.  It's rare that such great building material was, in essence, ignored. 

The resumption of work has revealed even more of this rubble including colorful patterned mosaic fragments, coins, nails, marble veneers and moldings, ashlars and lots of mortar fragments.

Painted plaster on wall fragment

Painted plaster on wall fragment

There is still much to learn about this area and the structure being uncovered. I anticipate we'll know more in the next few days. Hopefully, we'll have an update before it is all said and done. I, for one, can't wait to learn more.

October 20, 2014

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

We Are Back in the Trenches!

We have a team back in the field for the next three weeks as we race to stay ahead of the winter rains. The main focus of attention is Grid 32, the salvage excavation project, where Shimi and a crew of hired workers are continuing their excavation of Byzantine and Islamic period occupation levels.

Cleaning up Grid 32

Cleaning up Grid 32

Once excavation is completed, this area will be turned over to the park for the installation of a large pump which is part of a major sewer upgrade for the park.

Shimi -- happy and back in the dirt after passing his comprehensive exams

Shimi -- happy and back in the dirt after passing his comprehensive exams

There is also a little cleaning to do in Grid 51.

Ben in Grid 51

Ben in Grid 51

I'll try to post regular updates the next few weeks while work continues...and even when it doesn't. A rain delay had people scrambling to improvise work spaces.

Co-director Daniel Master waiting out the rain

Co-director Daniel Master waiting out the rain

October 13, 2014

The Tel Burna Excavation Project

Area B Featured in LiveScience!

Check out the nicely written article (with lots of quotes from Itzick) at LiveScience:

A massive cult complex, dating back about 3,300 years, has been discovered at the site of Tel Burna in Israel.

While archaeologists have not fully excavated the cult complex, they can tell it was quite large, as the courtyard alone was 52 by 52 feet (16 by 16 meters). Inside the complex, researchers discovered three connected cups, fragments of facemasks, massive jars that are almost as big as a person and burnt animal bones that may indicate sacrificial rituals.

One of the large pithoi mentioned in the articleOne of the large pithoi mentioned in the article

October 06, 2014

The Tel Burna Excavation Project

Congrats to the Tavger Family!

Congratulations to staff member Aharon Tavger and his family on the arrival of a new baby boy! Mazal Tov!

Here is Aharon, Benjamin, Chris and Itzick during the last summer's season Here is Aharon, Benjamin, Chris and Itzick during the last summer’s season

October 02, 2014

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

Jeff Chadwick sings the “Tell es-Safi blues”

Jeff Chadwick (aka Achish Melekh Gath), field supervisor extraordinaire of Area F, is also a talented musician (and a stand up comedian…).

See below a clip of Jeff performing the “Tell es-Safi Blues” – sung to the melody of Folsom Prison Blues, by Johnny Cash.

http://youtu.be/vQkLls8cNlE

And here are the lyrics:

I hear the wind a blowin’, it’s comin’ round again,

And I ain’t seen the balk line, since I don’t know when,

‘Cause I’m stuck at Tell es-Safi, and time keeps draggin’ on,

And I’m fillin’ up these buckets until this dirt is gone.

 

When I was just a baby, my Mama said one thing,

Always be a good boy, don’t ever touch a sling,

But I took a wadi pebble, and then I let it fly,

When it hit that giant’s forehead, I saw him fall and die.

 

I bet there’s some folks eatin’ breakfast down at Revadim,

They’re prob’ly drinkin’ coffee, then have a little swim,

Now I know that Aren’s comin’, he’s down in P or D,

But this balk line keeps a movin’, and that’s what tortures me.

 

Well when this season is concluded, when I bid this dig goodbye,

I’m getting on an airplane, and then I’m gonna fly

Far from Tell es-Safi, that’s where I ought to stay,

But I know I’m comin’ back here, I just can’t keep away.

 


October 01, 2014

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

New Suggestion for the origin of the Philistine bird… :-)

Seems that Safiites can’t keep from getting in trouble… ;-p

Richard Wiskin, our photographer in many seasons, just came back from a trip to Canada, and came up with a suggested origin for the Philistine bird!

Here’s a Philistine bird – and next to it a Canadian Goose – nuf said… :-)

2013 bird sherd cropped Richard Wiskin picture of Canadian goose


September 30, 2014

The Tel Burna Excavation Project

Registration Open for 2015 Season!

We are pleased to announce that registration for the upcoming 2015 Tel Burna Expedition is officially open! This will be the 6th season of our project. Check out our Join Us Page for the details.

2014 Season Min with a complete Iron IIB bowl


September 18, 2014

September 08, 2014

The Tel Burna Excavation Project

New Lab Sign – Tel Burna Conservation and Excavation Project

Check out the brand-new sign for our archaeological lab at Ariel University. Our official project name is the “Tel Burna Conservation and Excavation Project” – a special thanks goes to donor Yaacov Farber! 

New Sign for the Lab at Ariel New Sign for the Lab at Ariel

September 05, 2014

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

Fall Update

Backyard BBQ

Backyard BBQ

Co-Director Daniel Master hosted his annual back-to-school BBQ for new and returning archaeology students at Wheaton College last weekend.  Needless to say, Ashkelon was well represented.  Volunteers and staff had fun catching up on the summer and our adventures together.

A small group of staff is returning to Ashkelon next week to do some work and start a proper shut down of some of the excavation areas.  I'll try to get a picture or two to share.

Check back periodically for more Ashkelon news as we slowly work our way towards the 2015 season.

August 19, 2014

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

A Little Staff News

Ashkelon in South Dakota

Ashkelon in South Dakota

It was quite the Ashkelon reunion in South Dakota in early August as a number of former and current staff/volunteers made their way west to attend the wedding of two of our favorite staff members, Josh and Sarah.  It was a beautiful sunny day and great fun was had by all.  

Congratulations Josh and Sarah!

 

August 05, 2014

Lapis Gabinus: official blog of the Gabii Project

Android Tablets at Gabii

BY J. TROY SAMUELS, PhD student in the Interdepartmental Program in Classical Art and Archaeology, University of Michigan

Buon Giorno from Rome! This summer, the Gabii Project, a University of Michigan archaeological excavation and field school, undertook our sixth full season of fieldwork focused on the ancient Latin city of Gabii. Directed by University of Michigan professor Nicola Terrenato, this large-scale open area excavation aims to both increase our understanding of this city, a neighbor and rival to Rome in the first millennium BCE, and educate students in archaeological method, theory, Roman history, and myriad other topics. To that end, this season we welcomed forty-two volunteers from a variety of undergraduate and graduate colleges and universities to Rome, who, along with various staff members, spent the last five weeks significantly expanding our understanding of the city of Gabii, its people, and its history.

Gabii Project 2014 Team
Gabii Project 2014 Team

Alongside the normal challenges and opportunities offered by such a large-scale undertaking, the 2014 edition of the project featured a massive shift in recording strategies. Instead of the paper forms used in previous seasons, this year we decided to go paperless in the field. All data was recorded exclusively on four Panasonic Toughpads and seven Android tablets. Despite early trepidations, perhaps best exemplified by the Seven Deadly Sin–themed names assigned to the seven Android tablets, this new system has proved highly successful. Paperless recording not only cut down on off-site data entry but also encouraged a degree of student autonomy in information gathering and recording. The individual nature of tablet data entry encouraged students to attempt to record and understand the archaeology on their own terms before seeking the help of their supervisors. By the end of the second week, it was commonplace to see five students on their own tablets, independently entering data pertaining to the stratigraphic unit they had excavated by themselves. The presence of excellent students helped this transition go smoothly, and paperless recording will certainly be a feature at Gabii for years to come.

Matt Naglak (University of Michigan, IPCAA) creates a photo model while Dr. Marilyn Evans (ICCS) instructs Rachel Goldstein (Yale University) in her work on “Wrath,” the Android tablet.
Matt Naglak (University of Michigan, IPCAA) creates a photo model while Dr. Marilyn Evans (ICCS) instructs Rachel Goldstein (Yale University) in her work on “Wrath,” the Android tablet.

In terms of archaeological discovery, this season was also highly successful. The large size of the project allows for two distinct areas of excavation, Area F, focused on expanding our understanding of the monumental complex revealed last season, and Area D, focused on an occupation area from the early, formative phases of the city. While vastly different in terms of surviving architecture and excavation method, both areas continue to provide important information that will shape our understanding of the cities and people of first-millennium BCE central Italy. We are excited both about the many things we uncovered and the future seasons that will help us continue to better understand the multifaceted, fascinating material history of this important site.

For more information please visit our websites, Facebook page, or read our wonderful student blogs.

http://gabiiproject.org/
http://sitemaker.umich.edu/gabiiproject/home
https://www.facebook.com/gabii.project
http://agergabinus.blogspot.it/

This post was adapted from Troy Samuels' post to The Kelsey Museum's blog.

July 30, 2014

The Tel Burna Excavation Project

Scanning the Wavy Line Pithoi for Analysis with Avshalom Karasik

Today, we had the pleasure of Avshalom Karasik of Hebrew University visiting the Burna lab. He came in order to create a measureable 3D scan of our huge (!) Cypriot (?) Wavy Line Pithoi that we found in Area B a couple of years ago. The whole process was very interesting and should provide some great results for comparison with other similar vessels (e.g. Ulubrun Shipwreck) and their function in Burna. 

Avshalom setting up the scanner Avshalom setting up the scanner
Avshalom reconstructing the models Avshalom reconstructing the models


July 28, 2014

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

Everyone's Home

A view of the neighborhood

A view of the neighborhood

No, this picture is not directly related to our excavation in Ashkelon.  It is, however, indicative of the sights and sounds of summer back home as the last of us to return from Israel settle back into life stateside.  

In no time at all, believe it or not, one of our staff members will be returning to Israel with the help of an NEH grant.  Dr. Birney will be stationed at the Albright Institute as she continues to work on the publication of Hellenistic Ashkelon.

An additional team of staff members will return in October to complete the excavation of Grid 32, the salvage project which in just two weeks of excavation added greatly to our understanding of the post-Roman period city plan.  I can't wait to see what two more weeks of work will reveal.

With luck, and cooperation from the involved parties, we'll update everyone on the progress of these two projects.

Finally, another picture from our study tour of the north.  This is from the site of Gamla.

Staff member Mark Lester at the site of Gamla

Staff member Mark Lester at the site of Gamla



July 23, 2014

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

One More Day

The cancellation of flights in and out of Israel on American carriers means that the dig season goes on a little longer.  This morning we were back in the courtyard of the Albright sorting objects to be sent to restoration, drawing, photography and storage.  We also spent some time talking over the latest events with Matt Adams.  

We are all in agreement -- no one can remember a season quite like this one.

July 22, 2014

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

Mystery Object

Work in Grid 32

Work in Grid 32

About that mystery object, the one about which  "at least two supervisors" got very excited.  It's a column base we found dumped into a water cistern, visible on the left side of the picture above, excavated in Grid 32.  The reason why it is so exciting is the material found at the center of the column base.

Column base from Grid 32

Column base from Grid 32

There in the center, you can see the metal fasteners -- an iron spike or similar object with a lead seal around it -- used to hold the pieces of column together.  Metal was so valuable in antiquity it was usually cut out of discarded architectural features, such as this column base, and to find it in this context was unexpected.

What a crazy, wonderful season!  Thanks to everyone who followed along.  This is the last daily post for the 2014 field season.  Can't get enough of Ashkelon?  Check back periodically during the offseason.  We'll post updates periodically and then come October, if plans for the salvage excavation come together as we hope, we will have some new material to present.

July 21, 2014

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

Albright Dinner

Daniel Master and Matt Adams in the Albright courtyard

Daniel Master and Matt Adams in the Albright courtyard

We ate dinner under the stars tonight as Matt Adams and the Albright hosted dinner for the fellows in residence as well as those of us from Ashkelon.  We enjoyed a wonderful meal of lentil soup and makloubeh.

We are in the last few days of the season.  The remaining staff currently camped out in Jerusalem heads home on their regularly scheduled flights Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.  Soon we'll be swapping memories of this season with our friends and families.  Hard to believe.

July 20, 2014

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

Albright Courtyard

Early Morning in the Albright Courtyard

Early Morning in the Albright Courtyard

Not a bad place to work, not at all.

Today is a data input heavy day with lots of lists and inventories getting uploaded into OCHRE, boxes of more data (old school pencil on paper) are getting taken to the post office this afternoon and, as mentioned yesterday, hard drives are getting backed up and ready for their return trips to Wheaton and Harvard.  

We are here in Jerusalem for a few more days and then by the end of the week, everyone will be on their way home.

July 19, 2014

The Tel Burna Excavation Project

New 3D Model of the Tell

Check out our new 3D model of the entire tell. Thanks to Limor and Griffin Aerial Imaging for the aerial shots (like their page at the link)! 

3D Image here (works in Google Chrome, click on “3D Model” – you can then pan and zoom and get a good view of the tell). 

The view of the tell on the south and east is particularly interesting as this may very well be the location of the gate. The 3D model also gives you a nice view of how Tel Burna dominates the Nahal Guvrin and the route that ran through it. This model also gives you a great view of the mostly square c. 75x75m fortified area of the Iron II casemate walls. Enjoy!

See the more detailed models of Areas A2 and B here. 

View of Tel Burna from North 2014View of Tel Burna from North 2014

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

Ashkelon-Megiddo Dinner

Last night the staff and volunteers who spent their last week at Megiddo enjoyed a nice evening out in Tel Aviv.

Dinner in Tel Aviv

Dinner in Tel Aviv

After dinner, the staff returned to Jerusalem where work resumed this morning at the Albright.  Meghan achieved a great milestone today -- she finished the inventory of the Vault.  What does this mean?  It means that we can now move out of the Lab and hand the keys over to our landlord who is already eagerly looking for new renters.  With the Lab closing, tomorrow will see the first trip to the post office as we work on shipping items back to Wheaton and Harvard.

Our remote season shut down continues to go smoothly.  Books are done, computers and hard drives are almost all backed-up, plans are in the work to bring a team back in October to finish the salvage excavation and staff members still here are turning their attention to the various Ashkelon research projects for which they are responsible.

July 18, 2014

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

Final Summer School Posts

I have the last two Harvard Summer School student posts today.  I'm a bit tardy with the first but it is a good read.  Thanks to all the students and staff who contributed to the blog this year.  

So, first up Stela:

***

Hello! My name is Stela Martins, I am from Brazil, where I live and study architecture and urbanism. 

 

As I started meeting the other volunteers and telling them about my nationality, they

always asked, “Aren't you sad you're missing the World Cup?” The answer was always no.  As the brazilian team entered the soccer field, here I was on the other side of the world entering an archaeological field for the first time as part of the Harvard Summer School Program in Ashkelon trying to determine if archaeology is what I wanted to do for life. And as the players put on their uniforms and got ready, I grabbed my hat and trowel, and started my own personal match, trying to grow and beat the difficulties of using turreahs, guffas and patiches for the first time. Soon my colleagues and I became a team: together we helped each other into achieving the same goal. Our supervisors worked as the golees, letting no knowledge pass, and being there for us anytime we needed them.

As Brazil scored goals in Fortaleza, Rio de Janeiro and Minas Gerais, I scored some goals on Grid 20, Square 68 and in the compound. After only a couple of weeks I'm able to identify layers, foundations, I know how to use every tool, I can use the flote-tech machine and know how to separate floatation samples into heavy and light fraction, and I have even helped with pottery diagnostics!

As the excitement of the Brazilian people grew after we beat Colombia and reached the semifinals, my excitement in Ashkelon grew as we reached the 4th week. It's amazing to think that in such little time besides the field work, I have also learned how to use OCHRE, the total station, and have acquired so much knowledge from our lectures! And as Brazilians in Brazil can't wait for the final match, this Brazilian here in Ashkelon can't wait for the final week, when I'll be able to look back at all that we accomplished, at all of our beautiful findings - that so far go from beautiful Roman columns to Hellenistic walls - and at how much this experience has been enriching and life changing for me, as it was crucial to help me with my decision of pursuing a career as an archaeologist.

So, after all, I believe that i have taken part of a personal World Cup that led me to one of the best experiences of my life.

***

To finish things off, a picture from the Megiddo Ashkelon group enjoying some much deserved gelato and the final student blog post which comes from Caroline.

Megiddo Ashkelon Group

Megiddo Ashkelon Group

I'm Caroline Marshall and I am a rising sophomore at Harvard and a member of the Harvard Summer School in Ashkelon. Last week the volunteers from the dig in Ashkelon were given the option of staying to finish out the season with a week of digging at the site of Megiddo. Eleven volunteers and 3 Ashkelon staff members participated in the Megiddo dig. The skills that I learned while digging in Ashkelon have proved transferable; we've fallen right into the routine here at Megiddo  and are helping with their excavation. The archaeological experience at Megiddo has somewhat differed from that of Ashkelon for me. In Ashkelon, I was digging in Grid 51, a previously excavated residential and commercial area. In the past few days at Megiddo I've watched a site transform from rubble and indistinguishable topsoil to a fully functional archaeological square in the beginning of the excavation process. Being able to participate in two different archaeological digs has been a valuable experience. It has opened my eyes to the adaptability of archaeological skills and techniques while simultaneously showing the differences in geography, architecture, and soil composition that can be found when digging even within the same country.

July 17, 2014

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

Picture for our Guest Post

Cheating a little bit today and posting a picture of Emily who filed a great post for us yesterday.

Emily at Megiddo

Emily at Megiddo

Today is actually the last day of excavation for the students who went up to Megiddo.  From everything we've heard, they had a great experience.

Now, random fun picture.  I'll tell you more about it tomorrow.  See if you can guess why at least two Ashkelon supervisors got excited about finding it.

??

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July 16, 2014

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

Guest Post from Megiddo

Today, courtesy of Emily, one of the Harvard Summer School students, we have a post about our study tour last week as well as working at Megiddo.  Enjoy.

***

Hi, I'm Emily, one of the Harvard Summer School Students and one of the remaining members of the dig after being relocated to the Megiddo Excavation in the north of Israel. I am a rising sophomore at Harvard College planning on studying Human Evolutionary Biology and Chemistry, and decided to participate in the summer school to learn about the field of archaeology, to travel, and for the rare experience of participating on a dig. And it has been quite an experience. 

In Ashkelon, I was part of the team in Grid 51 beginning to uncover the 604 BC destruction by Nebuchadnezzar, but I am currently with 13 other members of the dig now working in Megiddo. Between our current digging on the new site and the rest of the group departing, we continued our tour of Northern Israel. On July 11th we enjoyed an evening in Caesarea, which has been a port city since in was built by Herod the Great in the Roman Era. The integration of the ruins with the modern harbor made it a fascinating and beautiful place to be. On July 12th, we visited the Hecht Museum in Haifa where we all lit up with the incredible collection of artifacts, as well as ones we recognized from Ashkelon like the dog burials, and went to Old Akko where we immersed ourself in both the culture by dining on Arabian food in the bazaar and tourism through exploring the Crusader underground tunnels and citadel. These trips only added to the previous days of touring sites around the north.

The past few days we have been volunteering at the Megiddo dig, which is quite a different experience than Ashkelon. I feel very privileged to be able to see what another site is like and am very glad that I remained in Israel. Though it was not what I expected and would of course rather be spending this week in Ashkelon, the trip to the north and now Megiddo have added a whole other dimension to the summer. 

***

July 15, 2014

Lapis Gabinus: official blog of the Gabii Project

The Gabii Project: Archaeology in The Information Age

Racel Opitz demonstrates use of the tablets to students .
Racel Opitz demonstrates use of the tablets to students .

Rachel Opitz doesn’t dig much at Gabii, but rather records. Leading a core team of four, her topography, data entry, and photogrammetric modelling unit is tasked with the construction of a digital database on a large scale.

“We have scale issues,” Rachel chuckles, “Well, they’re not issues because the method works.”
Rachel’s team has implemented strategies and introduced technologies aimed at increasing efficiency within The Gabii Project to support a large open area excavation. They upgrade software and propose new methods nearly every field season. Most recently, Rachel brought tablet technology to the scene, replacing almost all of the paper recording formerly done in the trenches with direct to digital recording on Panasonic ToughPads and Android tablets, linked in real-time to the project’s ARK database and GIS system.

“One of the reasons we were able to open such a large excavation area as is that the recording is just so fast,” Rachel states plainly. “You can answer very different archaeological questions working at this scale”

Several forms of digital recording can be uploaded and processed in real-time using the current configuration.
Several forms of digital recording can be uploaded and processed in real-time using the current configuration.

The Gabii Project isn’t the only dig using digital recording. Excavations at Çatalhöyük and Pompeii—to name a couple high-profile cases—are also making use of similar systems, and such methods have been increasingly adopted in recent years. In Rachel’s opinion, what sets The Gabii Project apart is Program Director Nicola Terrenato’s insistence on using these systems extensively from the beginning.

“More and more people are doing some variant on what we’re doing, and that’s a good thing. Of course we try to stay at the forefront, so five years from now we’ll be doing something totally different.”

You can follow Rachel’s work at: http://gabiiserver.adsroot.itcs.umich.edu/gabiigoesdigital/

This post was adapted from James Reslier-Wells'  post to The 2014 International Day of Archaeology on behalf of The Gabii Project.

The Gabii Project: A Moment with Field Directors Anna and Marcello


Gabii Project Managing and Field Directors Marcello Mogetta and Anna Gallone visit Area F to see how things are going.
Gabii Project Managing and Field Directors Marcello Mogetta and Anna Gallone visit Area F to see how things are going.

The Gabii Project is an excavation and field school run jointly with The University of Michigan and The University of Verona. We are excavating the Ancient Latin city of Gabii, about 20 km East of Rome. The city grew alongside Rome through the first millennium, BC, and into the 3rd century AD, when it was finally abandoned. Throughout its existence, the city underwent many of the same changes as its more famous neighbor except for one crucial point: it hasn’t been developed further. This fact allows us pure excavation of the site, without millennia of modernization stacked atop it.
But today, we focus less on the story of the site, and more on those who have cultivated it. First, we have Managing and Field Directors Marcello Mogetta, and Anna Gallone…

Anna Gallone and Marcello Mogetta taking a quick break.
Anna Gallone and Marcello Mogetta taking a quick break.

“Archaeology is one of the best activities ever,” begins Marcello, “because you have the feeling of discovery; I guess that’s what drives us despite the effort, the grueling conditions associated with digs.”

At The Gabii Project, however, Marcello’s work is mainly administrative. As a so-called “big dig,” there is a lot of logistical work to be done not only on-site, dealing with safety concerns, and choosing where to dig and where to spend money, but also during the off season where securing permits, writing and submitting papers, and choosing new staff take precedence.

“The important point to realize is that these are not isolated tasks,” maintains Marcello, “It’s so linked together… and this is not something that starts on June 1st and ends on August 1st, it continues throughout the off season.”

“What happens here in five weeks is the result of ten months of preparation,” Chimes in Anna, whose work is also primarily logistical.

Even with all of the preparations and planning, the two are still very busy during the field season. This affords the two little time to participate in the actual fieldwork, their real passion. While they do make time to buck this trend where they can—such as when they lead the excavation of a lead sarcophagus in 2009—the two long for their days working in the field.

“Our secret dream is to go work as volunteers in another field school, with fewer responsibilities,” Marcello half-jokes, with Anna adding: “Back to the old days, when the only thing that really mattered was excavating a layer correctly and finding something cool.”

Anna Gallone and Marcello Mogetta snag a rare moment to join the active excavation
Anna Gallone and Marcello Mogetta snag a rare moment to join the active excavation.

Regardless of the desire to get back out to the field, both are fiercely proud of The Gabii Project and their roles therein. In fact, both of their favorite parts of the program have to do with its inherent structure.
“I’ve been a field archaeologist for 20 years now,” states Anna. “I have never ever seen a site with so many people working together at the same time on so many different aspects.”

As for Marcello, “The project is constantly evolving, I mean the way we started six years ago, you would hardly recognize it. In a way, this is like a living organism, growing and changing, so I’m very curious to see what this is going to look like in 10 years.”

This post was adapted from James Reslier-Wells'  post to The 2014 International Day of Archaeology on behalf of The Gabii Project.

The Tel Burna Excavation Project

Aerial Video of Khirbet ‘Atr with Burna in the Distance

Check out this aerial video taken by Iftah Gold (Ron’s son) from his DJI Phantom “drone.” We took this footage and other aerial photos at nearby Khirbet ‘Atr (biblical Ether). The site of Ether is mentioned only once in the bible.

Libnah (Tel Burna?), Ether (Khirbet ‘Atr), Ashan, Iphtah, Ashnah, Nezib, Keilah, Achzib, and Mareshah: nine cities with their villages.” (Joshua 15:42–44 ESV)

Thanks Iftah! Maybe next time we can find and identify Iphtah for you :)

Tel Burna from above Khirbet 'Atr (Ether) - view from south.Tel Burna from above Khirbet ‘Atr (Ether) – view from south.
Khirbet 'Atr (Ether) aerial looking south towards Lachish, notice the wallKhirbet ‘Atr (Ether) aerial looking south towards Lachish, notice the wall

 


The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

The Legacy Hotel

Another hotel, another great view.  Right now, we are in the Legacy Hotel which is adjacent to the US consulate in Jerusalem.  It's a perfect location situated as it is within walking distance of the Old City, Mamilla, Ben Yehuda street in West Jerusalem and, most importantly, the Albright, our temporary base of operations.

 

July 14, 2014

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

Work at the Albright

Setting up shop in the Albright basement

Setting up shop in the Albright basement

Staff members are rolling off books and moving on to other assorted tasks as works continues here in Jerusalem.  

Last night  a contingent attended the IAA's annual dinner for foreign expeditions.  There were a lot of familiar faces in the crowd.  It was good to exchange stories, talk about the season's progress, and think about getting back into the field.

 

July 13, 2014

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

Megiddo Group Goes Touring

Touring Acco

Touring Acco

Thanks to Adam for sending this picture of the "Megiddo" team touring the city of Acco.  After one last day of sites, the plan was for them to be up bright and early to work on the Megiddo excavation this morning.  As I get more updates, I'll pass them along.

Meanwhile, here in Jerusalem the remaining staff is up and back at it as we work to finish reports, phase plans and all of the other end-of-season paperwork supervisors need to submit. We're all looking forward to another productive day.

 

July 12, 2014

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

The Albright

Hummus and pita anyone?

Hummus and pita anyone?

The staff is back at work today in the courtyard and basement lab of the W. F. Albright Institute of Archaeological Research in Jerusalem.  Objects are getting processed, bookwork completed, and articles written.  Time was taken to enjoy pita and hummus from Abu Hassan's -- delicious -- and then it was back to work.

Our Megiddo group is off touring Haifa and Acco today.  Sunday they'll start digging.  We'll try to get pictures of some of the tour and/or digging to share with everyone in the next couple of days.

 

July 11, 2014

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

End of Week Five

Arbel Cliffs

Arbel Cliffs

8:00 in the morning and where is the Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon?  That's right, climbing down the Arbel Cliffs.  Amazing trek, amazing views, and for those of us who don't really like heights, a once-in-a-lifetime experience.  Really, we've done it once and now we're good.

Our stop there was followed by one at the  Beit Alfa (Alpha) Synagogue famous for its zodiac mosaic.

Mosaic in Beit Alfa (Alpha)

Mosaic in Beit Alfa (Alpha)

Volunteers taking photos at Beit Alfa (Alpha)

Volunteers taking photos at Beit Alfa (Alpha)

What an amazing tour we've had.  Today's last stop was Megiddo where a number of our volunteers, accompanied by members of the Leon Levy Expedition staff, stuck around to excavate for another week.

The remainder of our volunteers are heading home today and are already in Tel Aviv awaiting their flights, a process being overseen by our co-director.

The remainder of the staff is in Jerusalem doing, you guessed it, book work.  We'll be here a few days and then we'll see what's next.

On behalf of the entire Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon staff, I'd like to thank and commend the volunteers and staff for all their hard work and willingness to get into the dirt, their positive attitudes and calmness during a busy, challenging week and, above all, for being part of a truly memorable season.  From 604 B.C. and Islamic period workshops to the Snake Tower and tumbled medieval fortifications, it was an informative, productive, and surprising season.  

We'll still be blogging as long as we are here though with less frequency -- check back for more updates.  

I leave everyone with this really fabulous picture from the staff bus ride to Jerusalem.

Tired staff members after a three day tour...

Tired staff members after a three day tour...


July 09, 2014

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

Up North

I'll try to add some pictures of the first day of our study tour soon.  Today we saw Tell Dan, Nimrod's Fortress, Hatzor and the Arbel Cliffs.  Fun was had by all and we are enjoying a relaxing evening.  

More to come soon.

July 08, 2014

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

Study Tour

It's been a busy day here in Ashkelon.  The good news is everyone is safe and sound and looking forward to getting back to work when conditions to permit.  Tomorrow, the entire expedition will be headed north for a three day study tour which will include a range of sites from Caeasrea, Acco, Belvoir, Bet Shean and Nimrod's Fortress to Gamla, Hatzor, Dan, Megiddo, Gamla and whatever else time permits.  I'm looking forward to a phenomenal trip.

We'll be staying at one of the Leonardo hotels in Tiberias (which, we aren't yet certain).  We plan to return to Ashkelon Friday night.  Saturday will be our usual day off and then Sunday we'll be back at it.

I anticipate that we will have internet access as we tour the north though we will all be out and about a lot and that access may be more limited.  Check back for updates and pictures.

 

In the Hotel

We are working in the hotel today as we keep an eye on events.  Work will still be happening, however, as staff members make sure their books are up to date, GIS works on producing plans, and others continue writing in-progress articles.  The day looks a little more exciting for volunteers who will get to enjoy some time watching movies or hanging out at the pool or gym or best of all, catching up on sleep.  The good news is everyone is safe and we expect to get back to work soon.

Just one picture today.  Grid 47, the Roman odeon, which we finished excavating in 2012.  It seems to be weathering life just fine.


July 07, 2014

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

A Helping Hand

How do you move sandbags from one excavation area to another?  With a bulldozer of course.

Sami provides some assistance

Sami provides some assistance

It's a hot one today.  Exciting things happening.  The Snake Tower is winding up excavation.  They should be done tomorrow and we'll try to post a picture of the final results.  They've done a lot of work, answered their questions, and are now ready to move on to a new project.

In Grid 16, the Step Trench, they continue to expose more of the bedrock.  Their most interesting discovery of late, however, does not involve architecture.  Rather, it offers an explanation for what happened to the architecture, in this case the fortification walls.  They now have evidence for the sapping of the walls -- the only question is what period the walls (which have tumbled down the slope) belong to.

Grid 51 is deep into 604 B.C. and we're hoping to get some more pictures of the material to share with everyone.

Last by not least, in the Salvage Excavation they are excavating a pit full of iron implements -- blades, nails, tacks, what looks like hinges and all sorts of things.  It is very, very interesting material.

As promised, the last two weeks look to be full of great discoveries and lots of work.

July 06, 2014

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

Finds Display

A couple of pictures from the Finds Display today.

Co-Director Daniel Master examines some of the finds of the season

Co-Director Daniel Master examines some of the finds of the season

A number of finds are visible in this picture including a knife blade with a worked bone handle, a bronze handle for a metal vessel, oil lamps and an enigmatic find we are still trying to identify.

The Finds Display

The Finds Display

It was a wonderful evening.  Congratulations to Meghan and Annikka for putting together a wonderful display and to everyone who worked to make it such a successful night.

July 05, 2014

The Tel Burna Excavation Project

2014 3D Models of Tell and Excavation Areas

Check out these models of the tell and the excavation areas. The models load best in Google Chrome. Once you are in the model click on “View 3D.”

General tell view (the model is rough with some holes in the mesh. Zoom into tell for a nice view of the west, north and south side of the tell.)

Area A2

Area B

I am of the opinion that these models are very helpful for visualizing the excavation areas. Remember the excavation squares are 5×5 meters, including the sections (balks/baulks) between the squares.

Please let us know if you have viewing problems. Enjoy!


The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

Special Guest Post

We have another special guest post today.  Enjoy!

***

Hello Everyone! I’m Abby VanderHart, a rising sophomore at Wheaton College studying Biblical Archaeology. I decided to come to Ashkelon this summer in hopes that it would give me a taste of what it’s really like to be an archaeologist, and help me decide if this is a career I would like to pursue. I’ve been here for four weeks, and am amazed at how much I’ve learned in that time.

I am working in Grid 20, also known as “Snake Tower.” Because of our excavations there we can begin to trace the ways in which the fortifications have been repaired and reused, all the way from the Hellenistic to the Crusader period. Sherds of pottery and other artifacts we find can help us in dating the wall. We’ve found pieces of Roman ceramics, glazed pottery from the Fatimid Period, ancient glass, and yes, we’ve found a couple of snakes to!

The program here at Ashkelon is well designed not only to give us experience on the field digging, but also to teach us how information and data gathered from the field is processed and interpreted. It is awesome having so many professors, scholars and supervisors working closely with us who are eager to help us learn and understand. I am excited to continue with the remaining two weeks of the season, and to continue with my schooling back at Wheaton this Fall!

Early Days in Grid 20

Early Days in Grid 20

July 04, 2014

The Tel Burna Excavation Project

Aerial Photos – End of Season 2014

Yesterday we took our the final aerial shots of Area A2 and B. This was our first time using a helicopter instead of a balloon. It was really cool to see this machine in action!

In other news, we have set our schedule for next year’s season – June 7-July 5, 2015. Based on our findings from this season – next year should be our best season yet, as we hope to excavate the complete plan of the large 8th century BCE building in A2, the eastern half of the large cultic building in B (including the parallel squares where the most cultic finds were uncovered), and finally begin the great east-west section of the site in which we will hopefully establish the full stratigraphic sequence of the tell. Hope to see you then!

Shaun placing some sandbags in Area B Shaun placing some sandbags in Area B

Heli Heli 2 heli 3 heli 4

Area B from the monitorArea B from the monitor

 

This was really cool - it took 7 minutes for 74 photos!This was really cool – it took 7 minutes for 74 photos!

 

Benjamin waving to the helicopterBenjamin waving to the helicopter
New (top left) and old (bottom right) excavation squares in Area BNew (top left) and old (bottom right) excavation squares in Area B
General view of excavation areas from west General view of excavation areas from west
Area A left, Area B right - in the same picture but separated by over half a millennia Area A left, Area B right – in the same picture but separated by over half a millennia
Area A2 - in the right side of the picture there is a very nice Iron IIB building coming up with a destruction layer. This will be very cool to see next year... Area A2 – in the right side of the picture there is a very nice Iron IIB building coming up with a destruction layer. This will be very cool to see next year…
New squares in Area B - notice the high bedrock and the tabun in the upper right squareNew squares in Area B – notice the high bedrock and the tabun in the upper right square

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

It's Friday

As always, Daniel Master offered a spirited and informative summary lecture on this season's excavation results.  One of the themes?  The city plan and how it changes over time from the Hellenistic through the Crusader period.  Another theme was the diversity of the site as represented by the different types of excavation, the different questions being asked, in each of the excavation areas.  

It's always interesting to see what everyone else is doing and then, of course, to see each excavation area's special finds.  A big thank you to the staff and volunteers this year for all their remarkable hard work to date.  Another thank you is owed to the Leonardo Hotel which, on very short notice,  hosted a wonderful party.  It will be hard to top the first four weeks but over the next two weeks we'll try.  

Everyone was up and out early today heading off to Masada, Jerusalem and places in between.  I'll try to gather pictures from people in the next couple of days to highlight some of the fun.  In the interim, a picture of Grid 51 supervisors intently examining their stratigraphy.  


July 03, 2014

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

The Day of the Party

Fun in the Pottery Compound

Fun in the Pottery Compound

Tonight is the culmination of our patron Shelby White's week long visit.  It starts with Daniel Master's season summation lecture at 4:30 followed by the Finds Display and dinner.  The team's youngest archaeologist is excited and so is everyone else who gets to enjoy a rare afternoon off from work.

Week 4 is officially in the books and it was another busy one.  604 B.C. in Grid 51.  More Byzantine pottery and mudbrick in Grid 16.  In Grid 20, more and  more layers of rubble which when removed, revealed more of the fortification sequence.

Rubble fills in Grid 20

Rubble fills in Grid 20

And in our salvage excavation, Grid 32, things keep getting more and more interesting as Shimi digs deeper and deeper moving ever closer to the 3.6 meter depth needed by the Parks Authority.

Almost there...

Almost there...

In addition to the fallen wall segments, some of which have well preserved plaster facing, excavation has uncovered travertine floor tiles and more evidence for collapse.

It's the second and last long weekend of the season.  The volunteers are off to Masada tomorrow and then everyone has Saturday off before we head back to work Sunday morning.  Hard to believe its 4 weeks down and only 2 to go!

Wednesday Already?

Who doesn't like mudbrick?

Who doesn't like mudbrick?

Lots of internet trouble yesterday.  Our apologies.  

Here is a picture of the mudbrick structure in Grid 16 -- it's the yellow blocks you see towards the back of the picture.  What is it?  Only time and more excavation will tell.  How old is it?  Well, they're working on it though the answer is still early.

Today is our Finds Display and party.  We'll try to post pictures of some of the activities later today or tomorrow.

July 02, 2014

The Tel Burna Excavation Project

Office Work…

Yesterday, was our last day of work at the tell. We were able to close all of the excavation squares and remove the shades. We also had the pleasure of showing Prof. Bill Dever around the site. He told us many interesting anecdotes about his prior archaeological activity in the region. We were very happy to have him out for a visit.

Today we finished all of the pottery washing (!) and reading, as well a packing up the office and the equipment in our brand new storage container.

In the morning Prof. Yoram Tsafrir came to visit us at the camp and I also took him to the site and showed him the excavations.

This evening we heard an interesting lecture by Dr. Antonio de Frietas on the ancient Near Eastern seals and tablets at a museum in Portugal, where he acts as curator. Also in the afternoon, a few of us went back to the nearby site of Kh, Eter (חורבת עתר). It is a very promising site with Iron Age remains (but also later periods) located midway between Lachish and Tel Burna.

Tomorrow morning @ 5:15 am! we will have the final aerial photos and then we will take all of the finds to the lab at Ariel University.

We will post some of the aerial shots over the next couple of days.

Tel Burna from Khirbet Ether (south) Debi, Shaun and Cook at Khirbet Ether Pottery Registration at the Office Pottery Washing Joe and Itzick discussing the finds from the season Dever with the Tel Burna Staff Dever and Itzick

 

 


July 01, 2014

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

What in the World?

Fallen wall segments in Grid 32

Fallen wall segments in Grid 32

Looks like a big pile of stones, right?  Well, that tells only half the story.  What makes this "pile of stones" so interesting is that it consists of a number of wall fragments -- walls that were once cemented together -- some of which still have their plaster facing in place.  They are a surprising, and interesting, find because such stones were prized building materials and we seldom find them abandoned and unused.  These stones were, in fact, buried under a large leveling fill and completely ignored.  We hope to learn more about them as we continue to expose more in the coming days.  Were they part of a building that was demolished?  Did the building they come from collapse in a natural event such as an earthquake?  If we're lucky, we'll be able to answer these and many other questions.

Grid 16

Grid 16

The week continues to be a busy one as each grid is deep into their material.  I hope to walk the site tomorrow to take photos of each excavation area to catch up on everyone's progress.  One thing you can be sure of, each area is going to go deeper.

June 30, 2014

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

Week 4 in Full Swing

It's all Persian to me

It's all Persian to me

It was another fabulous day of work.  We woke up to coffee, muffins, and cookies for breakfast. Lunch at the new hotel included made-to-order crepes.  So far, the lodgings are proving to be a wonderful home.

Grid 51 is deep into 604 B.C. and looks to be there for the remainder of the season.  604 B.C. also means there's a lot of book work to do.  What better place to work than deep in a pit?

Working in the pit

Working in the pit

The Snake Tower is still exposing more walls in the fortification system and Grid 16, the Step Trench, is working through large Byzantine pottery dumps, a sewer and a mudbrick construction of an uncertain though likely early date.  

June 29, 2014

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

New Digs

View from a balcony in the Leonardo Hotel

View from a balcony in the Leonardo Hotel

Just a quick note to say that we've had a successful move.  The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon has decamped from the Dan Gardens Hotel, which is closing tomorrow for what is believed to be a two year renovation, and taken up residence in the Leonardo Hotel.  Just a quick 10 minute walk north from the hotel, the new place is a world away as you can see from the picture above.

It's a big week for us.  Our patron, Mrs. Shelby White, has arrived for her annual visit.  We have a fantastic lineup of lectures, starting with Professor Larry Stager on Carthage tonight, and series of events which will culminate with our annual Finds Display and party this Thursday.

And yes, there was a lot going on today in the field including the early arrival of 604 B.C. in Grid 51.  The next few weeks promise to be very interesting.

June 28, 2014

The Tel Burna Excavation Project

Week 3 Summary

Three weeks done, one more to go! It was a fantastic week in which we finished working in the Late Bronze Age remains in Area B, defined the plan of 8th century building in Area A, and exposed a destruction level in one of the rooms with complete and smashed vessels in situ. Nearby on the pavement, we uncovered a collection of some 40 burnt olive pits in the cracks of the pavement – hopefully this clean context will provide us an absolute (through C14) date of this building and its destruction. In addition, two more Rosette stamped handles were found from the Iron IIC, which strengthen the Judahite 7th century BCE affiliation of Tel Burna. This is an important argument relating to the site identification with biblical Libnah (Hamutal from Libnah (2 Kings 23:31; 24:18; Jer 52:1).

Finally, as we mentioned last week – we now know the location of the Late Bronze Age cemetery – thanks to some inside information from Herzl and Ido of Kibbutz Beit Nir. On Thursday, we were able to spend a few hours sifting through the materials just inside and around this tomb. This pottery will be read next week and hopefully will provide us a clue to the period or periods associated with this tomb. We already have several nice vessels from the grave robber dump that Herzl reconstructed and graciously allowed us to photograph. Check out the rough 3D model of a Mycenaean IIIB bowl (i.e. 13th century BCE import from Mycenae) that we created. (In order to see the 3D image click on “3D View”)

Old Squares in Area B after balk removal and cleaningOld Squares in Area B after balk removal and cleaning
2014 excavation squares - down to bedrock 2014 excavation squares – down to bedrock
Closing Area B at the beginning of the week Closing Area B at the beginning of the week
J drawing the Iron IIB building in A2 while Ido, Benjamin and Min workJ drawing the Iron IIB building in A2 while Ido, Benjamin and Min work
Min with a complete Iron IIB bowlMin with a complete Iron IIB bowl – Very Cool!
Complete jugletCooking Jug in situ in the Iron IIB building
Min and Benjamin removing a balk in A2Min and Benjamin removing a balk in A2
Sandy, Cook and Min picking up the tent in the morningSandy, Cook and Min picking up the tent in the morning
Rosette 2Another Rosette from the pottery wash/read
Some mother daughter diggingSome mother daughter digging
Ben with a complet Iron II jugletBenjamin with a complete Iron II jug
DSC_0777Itzick explaining the significance of this week’s work at the end of week tell tour
DSC_0770Area B tell tour
Daily pottery reading from this week Pottery reading from this week
To be or IronIIB... To be or IronIIB…
Chris and Andrew Sifting TombChris and Andrew Sifting at the LB tomb
Matt taking some levels in A2Matt taking some levels in A2
Itzick using a microscopic camera to photograph one of the 2 rosettes we found this weekItzick using a microscopic camera to photograph one of the 2 rosettes we found this week
Debi taking a picture in PlanGrid of Benjamin in the nice late Iron IIB destruction that we uncovered this season in Area A2Debi taking a picture in PlanGrid of Benjamin in the nice late Iron IIB destruction that we uncovered this season in Area A2
Benjamin removing a nice cooking juglet from the Iron IIB destructionBenjamin removing a nice cooking jug from the Iron IIB destruction
Shawn excavating soil from a tomb that was robbed out in the 1970sShaun excavating soil from a tomb that was robbed out in the 1970s
Cook working at the Late Bronze Age tombCook working at the Late Bronze Age tomb
Debi showing off J Rosenberg's updated plans of the large and now well-defined late Iron IIB building in A2Debi showing off J Rosenberg’s updated plans of the large and now well-defined late Iron IIB building in A2
Debi explaining what we have to do next year to get the full plan of this buildingDebi explaining what we have to do next year to get the full plan of this building
Courtyard in front of the Iron IIB building in Area A2. We found a cluster of c. 40 burnt olive pits on this pavement. This should provide is with a nice C14 absolute date for the destruction/abdononment of this building and pavementCourtyard in front of the Iron IIB building in Area A2. We found a cluster of c. 40 burnt olive pits on this pavement. This should provide us with a nice C14 absolute date for the destruction/abandonment of this building and pavement
Stone removal! It seems that every year we have to move this pile one more square over :)Stone removal! It seems that every year we have to move this pile one more square over :)
Shawn at work in A2Shaun at work in A2
Most of the Shai clan (Nimrud, Ohad, Abiathar and Elah) washing some pottery Friday morning at the tellMost of the Shai clan (Nimrud, Ohad, Abiathar and Elah) washing some pottery Friday morning at the tell
Some experienced and beginning diggers came to visit on Friday morning this weekSome experienced and beginning diggers came to visit on Friday morning this week
Cook excavating in the nice destruction that we uncovered in the last couple of daysCook excavating in the nice destruction that we uncovered in the last couple of days

 


The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

Guest Post #3

Today's guest post comes from Matt.  Enjoy.

Cleaning the Snake Tower 

Cleaning the Snake Tower 

Hey there, Matt here! If you've been following the blog so far, I'm sure you have learned a lot about the different tools and archaeological methods used at Tel Ashkelon, and even about the lives of the archaeologists and volunteers themselves, some of whom are my own peers in the Harvard Summer School Program. I'm a rising junior at Boston College studying Linguistics and Economics. I became involved in this program because my Biblical Hebrew professor suggested I try out archaeology. Although I do not plan to work in the field of archaeology, this trip has been extremely informative. I have been able to situate my modest knowledge of the Ancient Near East in a historical and geographic context. For example, yesterday many of the volunteers here left on a field trip to two other archaeological sites in the Biblical Shephelah, otherwise known as the low lands. One of these sites was Azekah. This tell borders the Valley of Elah, which is mentioned in 1 Samuel 17 as the place where the Israelites met the Philistines in battle and presumably where David fought Goliath. This process has been extremely intriguing to me.

Archaeological finds are especially interesting to me because I mainly focus in texts in my linguistic studies. Therefore, since I have mainly learned about the Ancient Near East through texts, I had not previously had the experience of digging through ancient people's garbage to discover how they REALLY lived, not just how they said they lived. This has given me a different perspective on ancient life and on the nuances between idealized and realized life in both ancient and modern contexts.

I hope to continue finding out more about digging and Ashkelon as I work on the so-called “Snake Tower” in Grid 20. It has been an absolute privilege to work there, and I know that it will be an experience that will change my work ethic moving forwards. I can guarantee that I have never moved this many buckets (well, guffas) before in my life! As we discover more about the free-standing walls, the towers, and the newly uncovered walls, I hope to understand the relationship between people and architecture, and how those relationships span through different periods of occupation. This has been a more than thrilling experience so far and I can't wait for what comes next. I'll leave off with a quote that has reassured and motivated me throughout the dig: “The answers lie beneath.”

June 27, 2014

The Tel Burna Excavation Project

Events This Week

I will post a summary of the week’s excavations tomorrow, but first a recap of this week’s visitors to the site, our tell tours and evening lectures. This week we added two new volunteers, Shawn (South Africa/US) and Cook (China). They were a great help this week and will be returning for the final week along with Benjamin and Min from Taiwan. Long-time team member, Sandy (not pictured), also dug with us this week until Thursday. Thanks for your hard work Sandy – and we will see you next year.

The Cerw Part 1The Crew Part 1
The Crew Part 2The Crew Part 2

We also had to say goodbye to two staff members this week – Andrew and Andrea. Thanks Andrew for your hard work as a staff member in Area B this summer. Best of luck finding virgin soil of the massive (EB?) fortification at Tell es-Safi/Gath in the coming few weeks. And Andrea, as always, thanks for your hard work and providing us with the ability to look for even the dietary elements of the ancient Canaanites and Judahites who inhabited the site. We will see you both next year!

Andrea having fun with a soil sample. She was very happy to see Germany win last night :) Andrea having fun with a soil sample. She was very happy to see Germany win last night :)
Andrew in Area BAndrew in Area B

On Monday, we had the pleasure to host Prof. Gunnar Lehmann of Ben Gurion University, and while showing him the site and the excavations we discussed various aspects of the Late Bronze Age and Iron Age settlement pattern and material culture in southern Israel. In particular, it was interesting to compare his work in the northern Negev (Qubur al-Walaydah and other sites) to the Shephelah region. We also had a tell tour at the mothership (Tell es-Safi/Gath).

Tell tour at Tell es-Safi/GathTell tour at Tell es-Safi/Gath

On Tuesday, we heard a very interesting lecture by Ron Tappy, the excavator of Tel Zayit. His lecture pointed to many connections and differences between our site and Tel Zayit, which is only about 2 km to the west of Tel Burna. There are some very intriguing Late Bronze connections between Zayit and Burna which we hope to investigate more of in the future. On Wednesday, our very own textile expert, Debi Cassuto, presented a very nice talk on the development, usages and typical archaeological findings related to textile production. We all had fun trying our hand at the spindle with spindle whorl at the end of the talk. Also on Wednesday Matt, Benjamin, Min, Andrew and myself took an impromptu visit to Khirbet ‘Atr, which is about 2km to the east of Tel Burna next to Tel Goded (Maresheth-Gath?) and Tell Sandahanna (Mareshah).

Chris on what appears to be Iron II fortification at Khirbet 'AtrChris on what appears to be Iron II fortification at Khirbet ‘Atr

On Thursday, Tell es-Safi/Gath staff members, Jeff Chadwick and Eric Welch (Area F), came by to see what we were up to. They begin their season this Sunday and – as always – the continued joint exposure of our site and Tell es-Safi/Gath should greatly illuminate our understanding of the Shephelah and its borders in the Early Bronze-Iron Age II (c. 3300-586 BCE). Throughout the week, we had many visitors and volunteers working at the site and back at the kibbutz in pottery washing. Thanks to all those who came out! DSC_0729

Ohad is very pleased with his pottery washing abilities Ohad is very pleased with his pottery washing abilities
Filling buckets for pottery washingFilling buckets for pottery washing
Abiathar and Sam doing some serious pottery washing Abiathar and Sam doing some serious pottery washing

DSC_0743_2

Boys, mud (from the flotation machine) and trucks - this was Sam's "pool" Boys, mud (from the flotation machine) and trucks – this was Sam’s “pool”

Aaron and Hanoch Visitors 3 Visitors 2 Vistors 1


The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

Week Three and Done

Well, it's time to say good-bye to the half-season volunteers who signed up for the first three weeks of our 2014 field season without having any idea what they were getting themselves into this summer.  Safe travels to everyone leaving later today.

Excavating a sunken jar

Excavating a sunken jar

This weekend we will also welcome a new group of volunteers.  If the next three weeks are anything like the first three, it should be a great experience for everyone.

One last picture today courtesy of Melissa our dig photographer.

June 26, 2014

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

Week Three Almost Over

It's hard to believe we've almost reached the end of Week 3.  One more day for our first group of half-season volunteers and then they head off for their next summer adventure.

It was another busy day of digging.  Work did end a little early so that volunteers could go on a tell tour during which they had an opportunity to see all the areas currently under excavation.  Before the tour, however, there was lots of work to do.

In Grid 51 they continued dismantling walls. 

The walls are coming down

The walls are coming down

And really, after all that hard work, who wouldn't want to take a bow?

Taking a bow

Taking a bow

June 25, 2014

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

Archaeobotany

Today we have a special guest post from our archaeobotanist Kathleen Forste.  Her post follows.

Hi there! I'm Kathleen, a member of the archaeobotany team, giving a brief report on flotation this season. We are processing the soil samples that each grid produces as they continue to reveal more and more about Ashkelon's occupants. 

What is flotation? In essence it is washing away the dirt in soil samples taken from specific archaeological contexts in order to recover carbonized botanical remains -- predominantly burned seeds and wood charcoal -- as well as smaller artifacts that might be overlooked during excavation -- fish bones and other small bones, bits of colored glass, small pieces of ceramic vessels, beads, etc. To process the samples we use a machine called a Flote-Tech, a fantastic piece of moveable equipment that pumps water from a holding tank into a flotation tank through a series of jets that help to wash away the dirt and separate the light fraction (the material that floats, like carbonized plant matter) and heavy fraction (the material that sinks, like ceramics and large bone). I am training a handful of our volunteers to use the Flote-Tech to continue the flotation process for the duration of the season.

Fotation

Fotation

So far, we've recovered a lot of fish bone and carbonized plant remains from Grid 51. 

Fish bone in HF of Grid 51

Fish bone in HF of Grid 51

Carbonized wheat grains and wood charcoal from Grid 51

Carbonized wheat grains and wood charcoal from Grid 51

We have also recovered some cool colored glass from Grid 16 that is hundreds of years old.

Colored glass from Grid 16

Colored glass from Grid 16

What can all this material tell us? We use the archaeobotanical data to learn about what the inhabitants were consuming and growing in fields and gardens, and what types of wood they were using as construction materials and as fuel for their fires, among other things. The class of smaller bones can tell us more about fishing practices and fish consumption. These two data sets would be underrepresented if the material were recovered in excavation alone, and thus give us a more complete look into the economies and lives of Ashkelon's inhabitants throughout it's history. 

 


June 24, 2014

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

As Promised

Hellenistic wall in Grid 20

Hellenistic wall in Grid 20

As promised, here is a shot of the Hellenistic wall uncovered during the excavation of the Snake Tower.  What am I talking about, you ask?  The wall is right in the middle of the picture and is easily distinguished by the white mortar laid down between courses.  

Photographing Grid 32

Photographing Grid 32

Everyone stepped in to help this morning when Melissa had to climb the ladder to take pictures of Grid 32.  It was worth the effort as the photographs look spectacular.

Tomorrow is Community Day when a group of 30 middle school students come dig with us for the day.  This program is now in its fourth year and it offers young residents of Ashkelon an opportunity to learn about archaeology and the history of their city.  It's usually a great time for everyone and tomorrow should be no different.

June 23, 2014

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

Walls are Moving

Didn't make it to the Snake Tower today unfortunately.  I'll definitely have to get over there tomorrow as I hear they have found even more of the earlier Hellenistic fortifications on which subsequent fortifications, dating to the Byzantine, Fatimid and Crusader periods, were founded.

I did make it over to Grid 51, however, where the wall removal is in full swing. 

The mudbricks were flying this morning!

In Grid 16 they are digging through a Byzantine pottery dump, amongst other material, that is so dense with pottery they are putting the sherds in crates.  Buckets simply aren't big enough.

Finally, on a "we work in a great place" note, today ancient Ashkelon is a national park filled with wildlife.  This week there have been sightings of mongoose, a kestrel, ibex, goat herds and desert foxes.  

 

June 22, 2014

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

Sunday of Week Three

Grid 16 in the early morning

Grid 16 in the early morning

Grid 16 keeps getting deeper and deeper.  In the process, they are finding some interesting objects.  The ceramics are quite varied and notable pieces have included a glazed oil lamp, a Roman bowl stamped with the image of an urn shaped vessel and a porcelain bowl (imported from China in the Islamic period).  The faunal material is equally intriguing and includes equid remains.

Grid 51 at work

Grid 51 at work

Grid 51 had a productive day today removing floors as they continue to prepare for the removal of the remaining insula walls.  They had a number of interesting discoveries today including part of a calf's head, an Eye of Horus, a sunken store jar (painted), and much, much more.

Tomorrow I'll check on the Snake Tower and see what's happening there.

June 21, 2014

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

Saturday Guest Post

Today's guest post comes to us from Sami, another Harvard summer school student.

***

Hi, I’m Sami.  I wish I could introduce myself as a bona fide archaeologist, but I have only just finished my first undergraduate year at Johns Hopkins, so I have a long way to go.  I joined the Harvard Summer School program in Ashkelon to fulfill my fieldwork requirement for an archaeology major.  This is my second year to work at Ashkelon, I just had to come back for more.  

I have been fascinated with ancient history since I was a kid.  I have always loved, and continue to love, to hear stories about ancient peoples and their lives.  Now, I get the stories first hand, straight from the ground that ancient people walked on, ground that has not been seen by humans in centuries.  This realization gives me chills.  

Besides the work I get to do, Ashkelon has already yielded a wealth of artifacts and architecture, which have given new insights into Israel’s history, that are strewn through out the site.  Around the park there are remnants of churches, theaters, walls and gates ranging from the Caananite Period to the Crusaders.  

Despite early mornings and hard work, fieldwork has been very rewarding.  I have found many pottery sherds and had the opportunity to tear down two walls (with the intention of seeing what is below them) and trace a floor.  I am very excited to dig further and further down as I hope we will stumble upon Nebuchadnezzar’s destruction of 604 BCE, which remains in the layers below, soon.  

I have also gotten the chance to meet people who are enthusiastic about discovery and are willing to suffer the physical weariness with me.  As this is my second year at Ashkelon, I have noticed that I feel more experienced and knowledgeable about what I am doing and what I am good at.  For example, I find that I am pretty good at articulating small spaces and tracing surfaces, although I may do so slowly sometimes.  Although I mostly use smaller tools like a patiche, trowel and brush for these jobs, I occasionally like to use the bigger tools like a pickax to tear down walls and the like.  Before I ever did fieldwork, I never knew archaeology could be so destructive.  Because of my past experience, this year I have been given opportunities to work with the computer system OCHRE and work more directly with my supervisors, who are helping me develop better skills of observation and interpretation of what is found.  I have learned a lot so far and hope to build on that learning the rest of my time here.

***

June 20, 2014

The Tel Burna Excavation Project

Week 2 Summary

Today marked the end of the second week. We have two more to go. It was a great week, in which we now better understand  the large LB (cultic) building in Area B, and expanded the 8th century building in Area A. In A it appears that the Israeli defenders of Tel Burna in 1948 dug a very deep foxhole into the southern end of this building – one of our goals over the next two weeks is to find the end of this pit and hopefully stop finding bullet casings and start finding LMLK seal impressions :) In B we uncovered our 4th “cup and saucer” in addition to large amounts of restorable 13th century BCE pottery. We also have a large circular installation that appears to be a silo in area B – (of course we are hoping for a favissa :)) – Andrea’s flotation work with the material from inside this installation will hopefully provide some answers next week for this interesting feature.

We also had the pleasure of showing the site to Jeff Blakely who came with Michelle Stillinger (of the Tell el-Hesi Project) who sampled one of the LB tabuns for her paleomagnetism study. This should make for some interesting joint research in the future.

It was also the last day of Caitlin and Jacob and we hope to see them in the future at Tel Burna. 

Now some pictures…

Our great team for the second week Our great team for the second week
Caitlin happy in the squareCaitlin happy in the square
Jacob and Matt hoping that they have finally reached the end of the pitJacob and Matt hoping that they have finally reached the end of the pit
Ron in Area B sweep, sweep sweepRon in Area B sweep, sweep sweep
Andrew flashing some teeth Andrew flashing some teeth

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

TGIF

The walls are coming down in Grid 51.

Grid 51

Grid 51

It's not only the walls that are coming down.  Today Grid 51 got a little help from Grid 32 dismantling their Persian period sidewalk.

Dismantling the sidewalk in Grid 51 with a little help from Grid 32

Dismantling the sidewalk in Grid 51 with a little help from Grid 32

After a morning in the field, everyone moved into the pottery compound after breakfast for some pottery washing and marking, botanical processing and other assorted tasks.  Popsicles for fruit break made it a great day.

Now everyone is enjoying a much deserved weekend before we head into Week Three.

June 19, 2014

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

It's Thursday!

Who doesn't love digging a sewer?

Who doesn't love digging a sewer?

Grid 16 doesn't just have a sewer, they have a sewer that is forcing us to rethink some of our theories.  Oddly enough it flows roughly northwest down to the southeast -- in other words, away from the sea.  More importantly, it is forcing us to reassess some of our theories about what we believed to be a Crusader cut through bedrock on the North Tell to create a moat for a 13th century fortress.  Questions, questions, and more questions.  It's a good thing we have four more weeks to find some answers.

June 18, 2014

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

Wednesday Already?

Excavating at the base of the Snake Tower

Excavating at the base of the Snake Tower

Made it over to the Snake Tower today to see what's going on.  As promised, they have a wall where they didn't expect to find one.  It will be interesting to see what emerges as works continue.

Grid 51 has started removing walls.  Can't wait to see what it looks like over there.  

Didn't get a chance to visit Grid 16.  I'll to check on them tomorrow.

June 17, 2014

The Tel Burna Excavation Project

June 17

So we’re into the second week and clearly making progress. In Area B we’ve exposed bedrock in every square and as usual very nice finds between the bedrock in the 20 to 30 cm of debris. We have several complete vessels and a tabun.

In Area A we’re continuing to work on our three southern squares. In the corner of one of them we’ve uncovered restorable storage jar sherds from the seventh century bce amongst a stone collapse. We hope to reveal more of the walls which have begun to appear in the other squares and hopefully belong to our eighth century structure.

After breakfast Itzick took us to visit a looted LB burial cave which Ido had pointed out.

Today was Michael’s last day. We wish him all the best and look forward to seeing him with us again next year.ImageImageImage


The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

It's Tuesday and It's Hot

Meghan and Annika at work early in the morning

Meghan and Annika at work early in the morning

Volunteers and staff in the field aren't the only ones at work during the dig week.  The pottery compound is actually quite busy during the day.  The registrars run things making sure everyone has the supplies they need, welcoming expected visitors, and processing all the objects that we find during the dig day.

The bright light visible in the corner behind the registrars is the light from the microarchaeologist's work area.  Bridget has some very interesting equipment about which I might be able to get her to tell us more in the future.

A member of the archaeobotany team at work.

A member of the archaeobotany team at work.

In addition to the registrars and the microarchaeologist, other specialists and scholars work on their projects in the compound.  Here, for instance, is one of our archaeobotanists working on processing and storing botanical samples.  Today, we also had some scholars come look at Persian period figurines.  

And finally, the big news of the week is that Grid 16 has some architecture and the verdict is in -- it's a sewer!  Congratulations to Grid 16.

Grid 16 volunteer excavating sewer

Grid 16 volunteer excavating sewer

I spoke withe Denys about the Snake Tower today and he tells me they have a new wall where they didn't expect to find one.  I'll try to get up there tomorrow to check it out.

June 16, 2014

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

Happy Monday!

Grid 16 has some new architecture -- a sewer -- to go with it's oil lamps.  They are also seeing some signs of mudbricks, which are used in the construction of everything from houses to the MB ramparts ringing Ashkelon.  What exactly the mudbrick might be is yet to be determined.

Visited Grid 51 today and have a couple of fun shots to show everyone.

Grid 51 at work

Grid 51 at work

Supervisors staring at walls

Supervisors staring at walls

Kate tells me there is one less wall in this picture then in previous ones -- not that you can tell.  I expect, however, the absence of walls to be much more noticeable in the next week or so.

June 15, 2014

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

Good Sunday Morning

Grid 51 started the day with a pick party.  Everyone was in the street dropping it down.  Nothing like getting dirty to start the week off right.

Work in the Snake Tower continues to reveal more of the tower which looks more and more impressive.

Grid 16 is in the hunt and continues to dig deeper into the North Tell as they work to give us a view of Ashkelon's settlement sequence from the Bronze Age through the Crusader period.

Today we started work in Grid 32, our salvage excavation next to the park offices and our pottery compound, and were rewarded with some walls, a few more walls, and, unsurprisingly, even a few more walls.  In all seriousness, Grid 32 seems to be displaying, architecturally, patterns we've already seen in other areas -- meaning, residential buildings constructed over earlier monumental buildings.  Of course, we've just started uncovering the walls so we could, in time, find we have something all together different but there is little doubt we have a lot of excavating to do in the next five weeks.

 

June 14, 2014

The Tel Burna Excavation Project

Week 1 Summary

Our first week of excavation is now in the books. It was quite a successful week of work. In area A we seem to be just above the remains of the large late Iron IIB (8th century BCE) building that was uncovered in previous seasons. Here and there we seem to have remains of either later Iron Age or perhaps Persian architecture that is not very well preserved. Of special note was the finding of an Attic Ware sherd from the Persian Period, which is a well-known Greek import during this period. In area B, we have found lots and lots of restorable Late Bronze pottery including a few complete vessels in situ (i.e. in their place, without being moved). The prize find of the week was a complete Middle Bronze Age (2000-1550 BCE) juglet found beneath a Late Bronze IIB (1200s) wall. This is very interesting as it likely indicates that the vessel had a long “shelf-life” before being purposefully deposited beneath the wall of the building. Even more amazing was that this vessel was found by our oldest team member, Julio, who is 94 1/2 year-old and gleefully insisted that the juglet was full of whiskey :)

All told, it was a great week filled with hard work from our excellent team. Now some pictures…

Kevin taking a break and a drink from a Waco Import :) Kevin taking a break and a drink from a Waco Import :)
Juilo (left) and David, son (right) excavating the MB juglet! Juilo (left) and David, son (right) excavating the MB juglet!
Chris removing the jugletChris removing the juglet
Abiathar and Sam working hardAbiathar and Sam working hard
Ian sweepingIan sweeping
Michael pondering his square and wondering how the Rangers let it slip away :) Michael pondering his square and wondering how the Rangers let it slip away :)
Casey making his way back to the excavation area with Kiryat Gat in the backgroundCasey making his way back to the excavation area with Kiryat Gat in the background
Bill digging in Area B

 

MB sherd! Stratigraphy!
Pat and Heinrich Laughing
Jacob and Aaron instructing some younger team members
Andrew and Chris assessing the work

 

2014 Team Photo

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

Guest Post

Today we have a special guest post.

***

Hello!  I am Laryssa Shipley, a Baylor University student participating in the Harvard Summer School Program in Ashkelon, Israel.  I joined this program to learn more about archaeology, and I can truthfully say I am acquiring more knowledge in the field in one week than I would have ever acquired in the classroom.  The wealth of ancient history here completely astounds me- I would love to be a local and just go about my daily life with the ruins of Ashkelon's ramparts in the background.  In a way, though, I feel like I've been here my whole life.  It's hard to believe that just a few days ago, I didn't know what a patiche was or how to trace the floor of a courtyard.  Already I have found dozens of pottery shards and several pieces of bone.  Every day my connection with the people of the past grows stronger, and as I walk along Grid 51's ancient street, I feel my own pathway of life couldn't have led me in a more positive and enriching direction.

June 13, 2014

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

It's Friday

Well, after a rushed breakfast the volunteers are off to Jerusalem.  We'll get an update and possibly a picture or two from Josh later today.  Meanwhile, the staff, after a more leisurely morning, is hard at work entering data into OCHRE, working on individual research projects or enjoying a day at the beach.

The wall removal in Grid 51 has already started.  Below, Mackenzie works on removing a Phase 6 (Persian) mudbrick wall.  

"The Bandit" takes down a wall

"The Bandit" takes down a wall

The Snake Tower continues to look more and more impressive.  Denys, Hannah and their crew have made substantial progress on clearing off the front of the tower which now looks quite impressive from the road.  Below, you can see a view from the top.

Clearing off the Snake Tower

Clearing off the Snake Tower

June 12, 2014

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

End of Week One

We made it!  Our first week of excavation -- and everyone is excavating -- is done.  It was a great first week.  Grid 20, the Snake Tower, is already starting to clarify, slowly but surely, the constructional sequence of the tower and related features.  The most interesting development? Perhaps the fact it was a round tower.

In Grid 16, the steps are cut and the volunteers are making progress cutting into the side of the North Tell as they look to uncover and identify the occupational sequence from Bronze Age Ashkelon to the last Crusader period occupation.  So far, they've more fully exposed a fallen piece of masonry and they are excited to see what the dirt reveals next.

Standing at the bottom of the Grid 16 step trench looking north

Standing at the bottom of the Grid 16 step trench looking north

In Grid 51 they continue to finish the excavation of the insula and its earliest phase of occupation, during the Persian period, in preparation for removing this remarkable building.  It has dominated the landscape of the grid for years and it will be very interesting to see what lies underneath it.  

Work in Grid 51

Work in Grid 51

The volunteers are off to Jerusalem tomorrow on their first dig sponsored field trip.  Much of the staff will also be off to relax while the remainder will stay here and do ever popular things like bookwork.  We'll be back at it on Sunday including our salvage excavation where a morning of cleaning by the staff revealed the corner of a large building.

June 11, 2014

The Tel Burna Excavation Project

June 10 – Great Team!

After two days of work it has become clear that we have a great and hard working team. Today, we made some real progress in Area A and B in our new excavation squares. In Area A, it seems that we are starting to approach Iron Age II remains in all 3 of the squares that we are excavating. And in Area B, we have already reached a level that seems to be providing restorable vessels from the 13th century BCE. We also seem to have either a tabun or large pithos (see previous post) coming up as well. Here are some photos of our excellent group in action.

Kay washing some pottery at the kibbutz Kay washing some pottery at the kibbutz
Caitlin working hard in Area A Caitlin working hard in Area A
Matt doing some balk straightening Matt doing some balk straightening
Joe and Ian manning the wheelbarrow Joe and Ian manning the wheelbarrow

 


The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

Seminar Day

A good day all around.  The staff was up bright and early for work in Grid 32, the location of our salvage excavation on behalf of the Parks Authority, followed by a morning of working on various individual research projects.  

The volunteers enjoyed the luxury of sleeping in until 6:30 at which time they were able to enjoy a hotel breakfast -- a nice treat I must say.  They then walked out to the site, just a mile away, and attended a series of seminars on various aspects of the excavation. 

Volunteers learn about animal bones

Volunteers learn about animal bones

A volunteer attends an archaeobotany session

A volunteer attends an archaeobotany session

Volunteers listen to Denys Pringle on the Late Periods (Roman - Crusader) Site Tour

Volunteers listen to Denys Pringle on the Late Periods (Roman - Crusader) Site Tour

Tomorrow we are back in the field digging.  I'll try to get a picture of all the excavation areas so everyone can see what a difference a week makes.

June 10, 2014

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

Day Three -- the Step Trench

Well, everyone has survived three days of work. More importantly, all three of the excavation areas have finished cleaning and are now excavating.  Best of all, no digging tomorrow for volunteers -- just a fun project for staff.

Tomorrow is Seminar Day when volunteers will attend five sessions of their choice on various aspects of the expedition.  Sessions include walking tours of site, introductions to GIS, XRF, microarchaeology, botanicals and zooarchaeology not to mention some free time to relax and soak up the warm Mediterranean sun.

Thursday we are back at work before a two day weekend that includes a one day tour of Jerusalem for volunteers. 

And now for the picture of the day:

Grid 16 looking like a step trench

Grid 16 looking like a step trench


June 09, 2014

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

Supervisors at Work

Supervisors at Work

Cleaning continues and what a difference a day makes!  Each of the excavation areas look completely different just a short 24 - 36 hours into the season.  A couple of fun pictures today:

Kate Birney explaining things to her volunteers

Kate Birney explaining things to her volunteers

Sarah Vander Vorst hard at work on the computer

Sarah Vander Vorst hard at work on the computer

Denys Pringle explaining the construction of the Snake Tower

Denys Pringle explaining the construction of the Snake Tower

And finally, the picture of the day

Looking up at the Snake Tower from near its base

Looking up at the Snake Tower from near its base

And now we are off for an afternoon of work at the pottery compound.  Have a great day.

The Tel Burna Excavation Project

First Day of the Season!

Our summer season has officially begun. Today, we were busy setting up the tents and cleaning up the mess from the winter, however, we were able to continue our work in Area B in the new squares that we opened in the spring. Actually, we seem to have reached a surface of smashed pottery next to a wall that we noticed in the spring. It never ceases to amaze that the 13th century BCE can be found literally 2-3 inches (10-15 cm) beneath the surface. So this is an exciting development – with hopefully much more in store for us in future days… Not to mention the great potential of the new squares that we have opened in Area A, in order to understand the large pillared 8th century BCE public building. 

Now time for a swim and then a tour of nearby Tel Erani, a site that our very own Matt Suriano has identified with Beth le-aphrah of Micah 1:10

Tell it not in Gath; weep not at all; in Beth-le-aphrah roll yourselves in the dust.” (Micah 1:10 ESV)

Image

 


June 08, 2014

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

Day One is Done

Day One is Done

The first day of the excavation is always a whirlwind of activity and, I might add, the only day when every single person on the dig makes the 5:00 am bus on time.  Why you ask?  Because most of the team is jet lagged and, much to their disappointment, up long before their alarm clocks go off in the morning.  Today was no exception and things got off without a hitch.  I have a glimpse of each grid as they cleaned in preparation for the start of actual digging in the next few days.

Grid 51 -- Persian period occupation on the South Tell

Grid 51 -- Persian period occupation on the South Tell


Grid 16 -- cutting into the North Tell through the Crusader moat

Grid 16 -- cutting into the North Tell through the Crusader moat

Grid 20 -- the Snake Tower and uncovering the medieval fortifications

Grid 20 -- the Snake Tower and uncovering the medieval fortifications

We're back at it tomorrow at 4:30 am.  I'll try to post something, hopefully with frequent guest posts, every day so check back often to see what's happening on site.

June 07, 2014

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

Day of Arrival

Busy day today in the pottery compound where work on a total station (equipment the GIS team uses) and the sorting of Hellenistic pottery was followed by the tool draft and general organization of the compound.

It is, as everyone knows, also a busy day in the hotel with staff and volunteers arriving throughout the day.  A big "thanks!" to Josh who went to the airport not once but twice during the night to pick up some early arrivals.

Everyone has the same schedule tomorrow.  We'll wake up at 4:30 am.  The bus out to the tell is at 5:00 am.  Be on it.  Everyone will go to the pottery compound, gather the necessary tools and then head off to their respective grids.  Breakfast is at 9:00 followed by fruit break sometime during the 11:00 hour (usually).  Remember, if you want fruit for your fruit break, you need to take some at breakfast and save it.  We're done and on the bus back to the hotel at 1:00 pm.  Lunch is followed by an organizational meeting and then some free time which may amount to little more than trying to stay awake until bedtime.  

Remember your hat, sunscreen, water bottle and whatever else you might want to bring in the morning.  We won't be coming back until the end of the work day.

Get ready.  Tomorrow is "Day One."

June 06, 2014

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

Friday

Co-Director Daniel Master and Assistant Director Adam Aja

Co-Director Daniel Master and Assistant Director Adam Aja

Assistant Director Adam Aja has arrived and things are moving into high gear.  We finished clearing the overburden from the new excavation areas today which means minimal clearing for Grids 20 and 16 before they'll be able to start digging.  

Dr. Kate Birney, supervisor of Grid 51, has inspected it and tells me that there'll be a few days of cleaning to do but that they too should be excavating mid-late week.

Our registrar, Megan Gegner is here getting the pottery compound organized and ready for Sunday morning.

Lots of staff members and even some early volunteer arrivals today.  Hard to believe two weeks (almost) have already passed and the season is about to start.  Can't wait to see what we'll learn this season.

June 05, 2014

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

Tool Draft

Today the pottery compound is virtually empty.  Well, empty except for the vicious mosquitoes (or perhaps sand flies) that delight in biting on the legs of whichever archaeologist is standing in their vicinity.  Tomorrow, the pottery compound will be the site of our annual tool draft when the grid supervisors convene to negotiate over and, ultimately, divide up the tools for the season.  Tomorrow promises to be quite busy.

The Tel Burna Excavation Project

Just Around the Corner…

Today we are prepping the moshav for the beginning of the season – which begins this sunday, June 8. We are very excited for what Tel Burna has in store for us this summer! Here is a preview of our dig shirt for the year – based on a Late Bronze fertility plaque figurine found last season. If you ever imagined what you would look like as a Canaanite fertility goddess – this is your chance!  Image

FYI If anyone is interested in the shirt please comment below. 


June 04, 2014

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

Airport Shuttles

It's a holiday today, Shavuot, so things are quiet.

As a visual aid for Saturday, and those of you who might like one, I'm posting a picture of Elise, the volunteer coordinator, who will be leading the two shuttles to the airport.  

Find her and she'll make sure you get to the right place.

June 03, 2014

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

Logistical Matters

Saturday is fast approaching and with it some practical matters with which to deal.  Most importantly, if you are flying in to Ben Gurion on Saturday there are two scheduled shuttles to ferry volunteers and staff from the airport to the lovely Dan Gardens Hotel in Ashkelon.  The first shuttle is scheduled for 3:00 pm and the second 8:00 pm.  The shuttles will be led/hosted by a member of the Ashkelon staff, likely our volunteer coordinator Elise.  

If you haven't already let Robyn at Harvard know which shuttle you plan/hope to be on, it is a good idea to do so.  We want to make sure everyone gets to Ashkelon.

If you don't want to wait for the shuttles you have few options as it will be Shabbat and neither the trains nor the buses will be running.  Best bet is a taxi in which case you also want to round up other volunteers, if any are around, as taxis can get expensive.

The good news is that there are several seating areas, some shops, an ATM, and several cafes once you pass through customs and all that.  While there is no good place to hang out while jet lagged, Ben Gurion isn't the worst of your options.  It may, in fact, be quieter than the hotel which will be full of guests.

Work starts first thing Sunday mooring with a 4:30 wake up call.  See you then if not before.

June 02, 2014

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

Daily Update

Walked out with Ben and Josh to go over shooting in Grid 16, the new step trench on the North Tell.  It's a hike but it has a great view.

June 01, 2014

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

Daily Update

We were back in the field today.  The first order of business was preparing a new area for a salvage excavation ahead of the installation of a large pump for the park's new sewer system.

This new area is adjacent to the park offices and our pottery compound.  Our goal is to excavate a 10 x 10 meter area down 3.6 meters (the depth required for the pump).  It's going to be an intense 5 weeks once we get started.  

While a  GPR survey done several years ago as well as a coring project revealed little archaeological material in the area, the wider expanse we'll be opening has great potential.  This location is more or less 30 meters from what we believe to be the approximate location of the cardo (the main north-south street of the city from the Roman period onwards) and may hold, therefore, structures associated with the street.

We start this project in two weeks so check back then to see our progress.

May 31, 2014

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

Overcast

New construction around the Dan Gardens Hotel

New construction around the Dan Gardens Hotel

Overcast start to our Saturday.  Wind was so strong this morning it rattled the doors.  No rain though.

Looking at all the new buildings around the hotel, it won't be long before our view of the Mediterranean is blocked.  Better enjoy it while we can.

May 30, 2014

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

A Week to Go

It's a hot one today so we are all working in the lab.  Supervisor computers are updated and ready to go.  Ben is preparing the total stations for the summer.  Josh is making sure we have enough supplies, tools and other sundries.  As for everyone else?  We're working on various research projects.

The first volunteer arrives tomorrow, a group of supervisors arrives on Sunday which is the same day we'll do some digging in a salvage excavation project we are conducting in cooperation with the Parks Authority.  The next big wave of arrivals appears to be Thursday when much of the remaining staff arrives in town.  The season is definitely picking up steam.

I'll try to blog each and every day which is our informal way of keeping friends, families, volunteers, and whoever else decides to stop by informed of our progress.  I'll highlight the various excavation areas, with pictures, throughout the season.  I'll also feature special guest posts by volunteers so check back often to see what is happening on the excavation.

 

 

May 29, 2014

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

The Lab

Just a quick post on a very busy day.  

After more then 15 years we are saying goodbye to our longtime lab (the "Mabada").  Here you can see the first floor looking a little empty.  The boxes are filled with pottery sherds/vessels waiting to be checked against the hundreds of drawings that were done over the winter.  Still a lot of work to do before we close the Lab for good at the end of the season.


May 28, 2014

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

Pottery Compound

Did some work in the pottery compound today where things are still on the quiet side.

We also walked over to the Snake Tower to get a look at things there.  Its all cleaned up and ready for volunteers.

The path we took to get to the Snake Tower took us through the old camp where the team stayed during the first season of excavation in 1985.  Abandoned for years, it looks a bit different now.

Great weather today, overcast and breezy but it isn't supposed to last.  Friday's forecast is calling for 104 degrees.  Sounds like a good day to work in the Lab.

May 27, 2014

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

waugh

It's official.  The preseason has started.  We arrived yesterday, spent the night wrestling with jet lag and fatigue, per the usual, and were off and running this morning.  Today, Daniel Master and I participated in a conference at Ashkelon College on Ashkelon and its environs.  Ben Felker, a member of our GIS team spent his day in the Lab working on various projects.  And Josh ran around doing Lab Director business ahead of a Thursday run up to Jerusalem to get supplies for the season. 

Tomorrow we will be out in the pottery compound planning the remainder of the preseason.  I'm looking forward a productive few weeks.

Randomly, a note about the hotel, our fabulous home away from home.  This year they've installed an ATM machine.  Old timers will appreciate the importance and value in this.  No longer do weary volunteers or staff members need to trudge up the hill to get money.  Now, it's just a hop, skip and a jump down to the lobby. 

Check back soon for pictures from the site.  I hope to walk around some of excavation areas in the next few days.

May 19, 2014

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

The Snake Tower

Today, a brief word about a new excavation project this summer.  We are lucky to have Denys Pringle joining us this season to conduct an excavation of the fortification system.  The Snake Tower in point of fact.  For six weeks he and Hannah Buckingham will lead a team of volunteers in a project that promises to shed light on the construction, organization and chronology of ancient Ashkelon's fortifications.  This work will build significantly on Pringle's exhaustive survey of the fortifications.  I, for one, am eager to see what they come up with.

Remains of one of the medieval towers

Remains of one of the medieval towers

Preparations are well under way as we move closer to the start of the season.  The first staff members head over in a week.  Many of the specialists follow soon after and then it will be only a week or so before the remainder of the team arrives and we get to work.  Josh Walton, grid supervisor and the current Lab Director, tells me the summer is already a scorcher so get ready.  It promises to be a hot one.

The Tel Burna Excavation Project

New Publication and Deadline Extension

First off – we are extending the deadline for this summer’s excavations until this Thursday, May 22. So if you have been waiting to the very last minute you have one more chance.

Second – Joe, Itzick and Debi have just published an article in a book published in honor of Sy Gitin – see the article and pdf at the link below. Way to go Joe, Itzick and Debi!! You can also see all of the teams Burna-related publications and presentations on the publication page.

2014: Uziel, J., Shai, I, Cassuto, D.”The Ups and Downs of Settlement Patterns: Why Sites Fluctuate” in Material Culture Matters: Essays on the Archaeology of the Southern Levant in Honor of Seymour Gitin, edited by John Spencer, Robert Mullins, and Aaron Brody. Winona Lake: Eisenbrauns. 


May 15, 2014

The Tel Burna Excavation Project

Ariel University Opens up Summer Course at Tel Burna

For all of you students at Ariel University – enjoy this summer digging at Tel Burna – and get credit for it!!! Ariel University has opened up a two week course at the dig – see links below. make sure to sign up before May 22nd!

 

http://www.ariel.ac.il/messages/site/academic/excavations-in-tel-burana

http://www.ariel.ac.il/images/stories/site/homepage/messages/22-05-14.pdf


May 09, 2014

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

Questions and Answers

So now its time to talk a little more about where exactly we'll be digging.  The site is quite large, approximately 150 acres or so.  In our almost 30 years of excavation we have excavated only the smallest portion of the site in part because our research design requires depth in our excavation areas and because, as archaeologists, we want to leave research material for future generations that might approach the site with different questions, methodologies and technologies.  We still have a lot to learn, however, about our ongoing excavation areas as well as several new ones that we'll be digging this summer.

First up, Grid 51.  Located on the South Tell, Grid 51 was first opened in 1997.  It is currently, and has been for some time, under the leadership of Kate Birney.  Under her direction, excavation has revealed a complete sequence from the Islamic/Crusader period down into the Persian period.  Looming large this year is Nebuchadnezzar's destruction of Ashkelon in 604 B.C.  In fact, this year for the first time in several years, Grid 51 will have all its squares open.  It should be a very exciting year.

Next, the new grid on the North Tell.  This is an exciting new project that will be under the direction of Josh Walton.  He will be digging a step trench in an attempt to uncover a complete Islamic/Crusader through Bronze Age sequence on the North Tell, something we've never been able to do before.  I asked Josh for more information on what he plans to do this summer and here is what he told me:

"A few thoughts on the North Tell: I hope that this step trench will prove interesting for a number of ongoing projects at the site including both the later and early history of the site, although this year we will probably be primarily excavating later levels.  The majority of excavation so far at the site has taken place on the South Tell (Grids 38,50 and 51) and outside of the site on the North Tell (Grid 2). The North Tell itself is underexplored, with the primary data coming from Grid 23, which had some nice remains from the hellenistic and later periods, as well as traces of EB pottery. The hope is to get a better understanding of the settlement on the north tell, to fill in some gaps in our understanding of the site. Because we are digging at the edge of the crusader moat we may get some material relating to its construction. For the Islamic and Hellenistic periods any architecture we find can hopefully be linked up with the finds from Grid 23 to help with our understanding of site planning and layout. Since this would have been on the acropolis of the north tell there is also the chance that we find some substantial later period architecture, which is always exciting. In future seasons the hope is to find some remains from the Bronze and Iron Ages, including architecture from the earliest settlement on the site from the Early Bronze Age. But as of this moment the only MB finds we have are from the gate area, and no architecture from within the city to go with it. Any domestic structures from the MB would be very interesting and obviously quite significant. The same is true for the Iron Age, where we know the rampart was refortified and towers were constructed in the Iron IIA, but very little has been found within the site. By excavating here the hope is to add to our knowledge of settlement across the site by getting a complete section of the occupation levels of the North Tell."

 

A special project will be led by Denys Pringle and Hannah Buckingham in the area of the medieval ramparts.  Their work will focus on trying to elucidate the sequence of the fortification system.  This project is part of a thorough survey and reassessment of the fortifications, some of the most visible and impressive archaeological remains on site.

Ongoing research and publication projects and several other small projects figure into the mix as well for what promises to be another very busy summer in Ashkelon.  


May 05, 2014

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

The Field School

Now its time to get down to the business of archaeology.  That's why we are all coming to Ashkelon, right?  To hold history in our hands.

Volunteers and staff clean up Grid 51 at the start of the 2013 field season

Volunteers and staff clean up Grid 51 at the start of the 2013 field season

Curious about an archaeological field school and what it entails?  Simply put, its six weeks of the most intensive "learn by doing" program imaginable.  Six days a week volunteers get hands-on experience as they learn about archaeological method and theory.  The most important component is daily excavation -- it is very important to make it to the field each and every day -- when the bulk of instruction takes place.  Work in the field is supplemented by an evening lecture series by Ashkelon staff members as well as visiting scholars.  Students enrolled in one of the affiliated summer school programs are required to attend the lectures.  Those volunteers not enrolled are also encouraged to attend if at all interested in the history and archaeology of Ashkelon and the wider Near East.

One of the highlights of the first week is a day long program of seminars which introduces volunteers to various aspects of the excavation's work.  There are tours of the site and sessions on everything from XRF, GIS and botanicals, to zooarchaeology and microarchaeology.  It's a great opportunity to learn about the technologies used on site.  We don't spend all our time in the dirt.

Adam Aja leads a session on XRF on Seminar Day.

Adam Aja leads a session on XRF on Seminar Day.

The expedition sponsors several field trips each summer which introduce volunteers to places such as Jerusalem and the Dead Sea as well as important archaeological sites including Masada and other nearby excavations.  These trips are included in the volunteer fee and are lead by staff members.

The goal of the field school is that every volunteer, whether enrolled in a summer school program or not, will understand the fundamentals of archaeology by the end of the season. Students enrolled in summer school will have additional requirements which they will learn about from their instructors.  Everyone, however, should be full trained and able to take their skills to other excavations or back to the classroom.

For some, this will be the initial preparation for a career in the field of archaeology.  For the majority, this will be an amazing summer experience that provides you with good stories and even better memories.  Whatever brings you to Ashkelon, welcome.

 

May 02, 2014

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

Planning for the Summer

Only three weeks until the first group of supervisors heads over to Ashkelon to help Josh Walton, Lab Director and Grid Supervisor, prepare for the season.  That means the volunteer departure date cannot be far behind and along with it, lots of questions about the summer.

Ashkelon is a seaside town located 45 minutes south of Tel Aviv.  The site itself is in a national park right on the beach and it is not unheard of for volunteers to run down the hill and go for a swim during Fruit Break.  While breezes off the Mediterranean Sea provide much needed cooling throughout the day it is, nevertheless, a challenging work environment.  Hydration is key to making it through the day.  Fortunately, water is plentiful (and drinkable) in the park.  A water bottle is a must.  Many volunteers bring Gatorade or other similar products to add a little flavor.  It is difficult to impossible to find such items in Israel so you do need to bring it with you if you want more than water.  Sunscreen and hats are also very important in helping to manage the sun.  Many but not all excavation areas will be shaded by "shade clothes" but it is wise to come prepared for any situation.

What to wear you wonder?  Closed toe shoes are a must.  No sandals are allowed in the field.  This is true for volunteers and staff alike and is really a safety issue.  Beyond that requirement there is a great deal of flexibility.  Shorts and t-shirts are most common.  Some people decide on pants and long sleeve shirts.  Basic rule of thumb is to make sure whatever you plan on, it's comfortable.  Same is true for out of the field.  There is one big party a year which gives everyone a chance to put on their "good clothes."  In Ashkelon this often means putting on the nice pair of sandals.  The best news?  We get laundry service twice a week. 

The hotel offers us a lot of comforts that many excavations don't get to enjoy.  Rooms are air conditioned and come equipped with small refrigerators and an electric teapot.  So bring your Via or other favorite coffee or tea, you'll be able to make some in the room.  Most of our meals are eaten in the hotel and food is plentiful.  Breakfast in the hotel, with all the fresh pastries on tap, is always a special treat.  Most days, however, we eat breakfast out in the field in the location below.

Breakfast spot by Pottery Compound

Breakfast spot by Pottery Compound

We work six days a week stopping at 1:00 on Friday to give people time to travel before the start of Shabbat.  Israel is a small country so the good news its easy to travel and get to almost any place you might want to see.  The expedition sponsors several field trips, including one to Jerusalem, to help orient everyone to the sights.  Buses and trains run before and after Shabbat, rental cars are readily available (you just need your American driver's license), and taxis, both local and long distance, generally run all the time.

Many people decide to stay in Ashkelon on weekends.  The beach is a ten minute walk from the hotel.  The marina lies a short walk to the north and there are a number of restaurants, some with free wifi, that are great for dinner, grabbing a coffee, or just wandering around to take in the sights. Walk up the hill away from the coast and you'll find yourself at the grocery store or, more importantly, the "close mall" where you can grab a coffee at Aroma, Israel's major coffee chain, go shopping for a book or even stock up on gummies.  Just a little further is McDonald's if you find you have a craving for home.  There is a movie theatre in town and all the major summer releases will be showing there usually only a week or two later than their release date in the US.  In other words, there is plenty to do close to your summer home-away-from-home. 

ATMs are also readily available though there is a small service charge for using one.  You can use credit cards almost every where with the exception of many of the small local stores.  It is also fairly easy to find money changers if you prefer to go that route.

Finally, what about internet access?  The good news is that the hotel has free wifi in the lobby.  It's also possible to buy wifi.  As mentioned previously, many of the cafes near the hotel offer free wifi so it is easy to stay connected.  Bring adaptors appropriate for Israel so that necessary electronics can be charged.

Next time, we'll talk a little more about the field school and a day in the field.  Until then, here's another glimpse of the small fair that set up shop in Ashkelon this month.

The Tel Burna Excavation Project

Deadline Extended to May 15th

If you have been procrastinating and/or forgetting to sign up for a summer’s worth of hanging out with Canaanites, King Josiah’s in-laws (2 Kings 23:31; 24:18; Jer 52:1), and of course Tel Burna staff’s smiling faces – I have good news the deadline has been extended to May 15th! See forms here English form - Hebrew form.

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April 28, 2014

The Tel Burna Excavation Project

Albright Fellows visit Tel Burna Plus We are Extenting the Registration Deadline for our 2014 Season

A week ago Tuesday, I took some of the Albright Fellows to visit the tel. The weather was lovely and the tel was covered in wild flowers. We disturbed a pair of storks upon our approach to Area A but we left the bulls resting in Area B to themselves. It was a great opportunity for me to see the great work done in March (I was in Jordan that week).

I’m adding here the photos from that day – all taken by Yinglan Zhang, Noble Group Fellow, AIAR.

Please Note that we are extending our registration deadline for the 2014 season to May 10th so don’t delay! There won’t be anymore wildflowers but the tel will be there waiting for us to discover its secrets.

Debi

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Stork taking flight

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Area A1 discussing the dating of the Fortification Walls disturbed by 7th century bce silo (see article http://telburna.files.wordpress.com/2013/01/the-fortifications-at-tel-burna.pdf)

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Pointing out inner fortification wall in the northeast corner

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View to the east from the northeast corner with the Guvrin Valley below looking towards the hill-country.

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Area A2 the pillared structure – waiting to be further revealed

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Area B towards Tell es-Safi/Gath – we didn’t get too close because the bulls looked like they didn’t want to be disturbed at all

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Part of exposed wall on the northern side of the tell looking westward

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The northeast corner of the tel from the eastern agricultural area including one of the agricultural installations

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This is what awaits us June 8th!


April 22, 2014

The Tel Burna Excavation Project

New Equipment – Thanks to the Weisselbergs!

Thanks to a generous donation from Edward and Myrna Weisselberg we were able to purchase Tel Zayit’s excavation equipment from Ron Tappy! This equipment will be a great help to us in the field for this season and coming seasons. Thanks Edward and Myrna Weisselberg!


April 21, 2014

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

Welcome Volunteers

The application deadline has passed and planning for the summer season is well under way.  Welcome to everyone who will be joining us this summer.  I imagine there will be some familiar faces as well as many new ones.  

Curious to know more about what you have gotten yourself into?  This website is, of course, the best spot to learn everything you could possibly want to know about the Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon and our ongoing work. 

The following links can tell you a little more about the site, the city and where we stay.  (Please note, these sources are independent of the excavation.)

Rick Gore's 2001 National Geographic article on Ashkelon can be found here.  It provides a good overview of the site and its history.

Want to learn more about the Dan Gardens Hotel where we stay?  You can find pictures and more information here.   Not too shabby, staying in a hotel with laundry service, air conditioning and a swimming pool.  If your family asks, the answer is "yes,"  we really are doing archaeology.  

If you want to learn a little about the city of Ashkelon, you can go here.

Check back over the next few weeks for more information as we continue to prepare for the 2014 season.

Organizing 2013 volunteer/staff photo

Organizing 2013 volunteer/staff photo

April 07, 2014

Calixtlahuaca Archaeological Project

Calixtlahuaca’s Market Brought to Life!



By Brad Andrews
           In my earlier blog on how art and archaeology work together, I summarized the work of Michael Stasinos, professor of Art at Pacific Lutheran University. Michael has provided our project with a means of artistically bringing to life the city of Calixtlahuaca based on the archaeological efforts of the Calixtlahuaca Project. He has now finished the market scene, a site-wide shot of the Calixtlahuaca cityscape with a marketplace in the foreground. As I pointed out before, Calixtlahuaca’s actual marketplace has not been identified, but Mesoamerican archaeological and ethnohistoric scholars agree that it was an extremely important economic institution throughout Central Mexico and beyond (Smith 2003). By the time of the Spanish conquest the market was an important component of what is referred to as the highly commercialized Postclassic Mesoamerican world system focused on the Basin of Mexico (Smith 2001). As applied to the study of prehistoric societies, the world systems concept refer to a macro-regional network of trade that linked individual political units - societies – into larger functioning units. For Prehispanic Mesoamerica, it has been argued that the market was the primary means by which people provisioned themselves with daily material necessities, both utilitarian and ceremonial.

As I mentioned in my previous blog on the topic, Michael’s challenge began by selecting a photo of Cerro Tenismo, upon which Calixtlahuaca is situated, that provided a “sense” of the whole, but enabled the incorporation of details in the foreground. The foreground is the focal point of the market scene, which he masterfully brought to light in consultation with those of us working on the Calixtlahuaca Project. The details of the market-focused daily activities were inspired by other ancient Mesoamerican market scenes, photographs of modern Mexican markets, and ethnohistoric information from a variety of sources. Hours of painstaking revisions were necessary to give full magic to the final product. Besides the market, he incorporated a reconstruction of the monumental Structure 4 (pyramid complex in the central part of the scene), the hillside populated with domestic households, vestiges of the water control ditches that drained the site during the rainy season, temples that occupied the top of the hill (complete with smoke produced by the probable burning of copal incense), and an ethereal skyscape of clouds, complete with birds drifting round and about. Note the increased density of households in the upper left-hand portion of the cerro. This detail depicts the variation in the layout of the urban center that was identified during the project’s survey efforts. Lots to see here, much of which is unfortunately obscured at the scale needed for this posting.

We extend many thanks to Michael Stasinos for his invaluable contribution to our project. We hope you agree his efforts were well worth it!



Smith, M. E.
            2001    The Aztec Empire and Mesoamerican World System.In Empires, edited by S. E. Alcock, T. N. D'Altroy, K. D. Morrison and C. M. Sinopoli. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

            2003    The Aztecs. Second Edition ed. Blackwell Publishing, Malden, Massachusetts.

March 30, 2014

The Tel Burna Excavation Project

Area B Restoration Process

Check out the restoration one of the large pithoi from area B – way to go Yirmi! This is one of several large storage vessels found near the ritual masks, figurines, chalices and unique cultic vessel.  Very nice! Of course if you want to see the rest of these vessels and their siblings you will have to come join us this summer :)

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March 25, 2014

The Tel Burna Excavation Project

Final Day of Spring Season – Looking Towards the Summer

Today was our last day in the filed until June, when we will kick off our Summer season of 4 weeks! Today we worked with the ICB students up in Area A, continuing the three new squares we began work in. Thanks to them and the Master’s College students who joined us Sunday and Monday, plus Jeremy, Sandy and Ofer – this spring we managed to do have some real progress towards helping our goals of expanding the Iron Age II and Late Bronze Age exposures. This will make our summer even more prosperous – make sure to SIGN UP NOW FOR THE SUMMER EXPERIENCE!!!

Here are some shots from our last day of work.

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March 24, 2014

The Tel Burna Excavation Project

Day 2 – Spring 2014

Today we went into working in Seven new Squares!!!!

The ICB team broke topsoil in three squares in Area A, while Ofer and Sadn – two of our core team of volunteers that come back every year for more – continued to work in one of our existing squares, discovering what seems to be remains of a destruction on an Iron Age surface, with much burnt material and even discovered most of the pieces of an Iron Age Lamp!

The team from the Master’s College worked in Area B, opening 4 squares and discovering more walls of the Late Bronze Age structures there, picking up along the way many nice pottery sherds, including a piece of an imported Cypriot Basering Bowl and a sherd of an imported Mycenean Jug! here are some pics of the group enjoying themselves – thanks for all your hard work! Tomorrow is our last of the spring season – can’t wait for the summer!

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The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

New Excavation Area

The walk has been made and Grid Supervisor Joshua Walton has a new excavation area to call home.  This summer he will open a step trench on the North Tell in either Grid 16 or 17.  (The exact location will be identified by the GIS team prior to the start of the season.)

New Grid on the North Tell

New Grid on the North Tell

The goal for this and subsequent seasons is to get as complete an occupational sequence from the Bronze Age through the Islamic/Crusader period as possible.  

Visible in the photo?  Probable remains from the medieval fortifications.

Since work first began in 1985 we have learned a great deal about settlement on the North Tell but this promises to be one of the most informative years yet.

There's still time to join the volunteer staff.  Get your application in today!

March 23, 2014

The Tel Burna Excavation Project

Day 1 of 2014 Season kicks off

Today was day 1 of the 2014 season, with three days of spring work starting today. As always Day 1 is a lot of logistics, but the great teams we had from Israel Bible College (headed by Sheila Gyllenberg) and the Master’s college (headed by Chris McKinny) got off to a fabulous start.

DSC06477The Master’s College 2014 Team
IBC 2014 TeamIBC 2014 Team

We moved all of Ron Tappy’s equipment into our new container at Kibbutz Galon (thanks Ron – longtime excavator of our sister site Tel Zayit – and good luck with publication!), and then headed up to the tell, which was covered in green and yellow. unfortunately the green and yellow need to be removed in and around the squares, but people seemed to make excellent use of these colors!

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"if you're going to Tel Burna, be sure to wear some flowers in your hair"“if you’re going to Tel Burna, be sure to wear some flowers in your hair”

We cleared the squares and marked them with the help of J, and got all set to sink our teeth into the ground tomorrow morning. keep your fingers crossed ! here are some more pics:

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March 21, 2014

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

Rainy Season

While many students and faculty were enjoying Spring Break here, several staff members went off to Ashkelon to continue preparations for the summer.  The greatest challenge to making progress on various projects?  The rain.  Dr. Kate Birney, in Ashkelon working on an assessment of the Hellenistic period ceramic corpus, was challenged to improvise a work space during periods of heavy rain.  The solution?  One of our storage containers.  I'll include a picture, the poor quality is my fault not hers, to give you a sense of just how dreary it can get. 

Dr. Daniel Master, co-director of the excavation, was also in Ashkelon walking the site with Josh Walton, one of the grid supervisors, selecting the location for a new excavation area on the North Tell.  We should know more soon about where that work will take place.

Volunteer applications are due April 7th.  With several new areas opening and Grid 51 racing towards 604 B.C.E. it promises to be an exciting season.  Get yours in today!

March 17, 2014

The Tel Burna Excavation Project

Spring Season in 6 Days!

We would like to remind everyone that we will be conducting a short 3-day spring season at Tel Burna from Sunday-Tuesday of next week (March 23-25). The principle participants, as in past years, will be students from Israel College of the Bible and the Master’s College. Should be a very interesting three days – as we will be opening new squares in and around the large 8th century BCE structure in the center of the tell and several squares in area B around the 13th cent. BCE cultic building.  If you are in the area and free on one or more of these mornings please come join us – the tel will be beautifully dressed in spring flowers and greenery :)  


March 09, 2014

The Tel Burna Excavation Project

Visit to Tel Burna March 9 – with Prof. Dr. Michael Rohde

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Today, under cloudy skies Itzick, Chris and I visited the tel with our guest Prof. Dr. Michael Rohde, of Theological seminar Elstal (University of applied sciences), in Wustermark near Berlin.

It was a perfect opportunity to see the tel dressed-up in green and sprinkled with wild flowers.

While showing Michael around we discussed plans for the short March season and the opening of new squares in two weeks.


March 03, 2014

iMalqata

Last Day at the Site

Monday, March 3, 2014

Today we went to Malqata for the last time. Over the past couple of days, the North Village has been covered with sand to protect the fargile mud brick from the elements.

North Village looking toward the cliffs of Western Thebes

North Village looking toward the cliffs of Western Thebes


The weather has been odd this week, with lots of dust in the air and quite a bit of wind, which made working outdoors challenging.
A few days ago, it was decided that the pots from pit 21 that Azib and Ali were gluing
Inspector Mohammed Ibrahim, Azib, and Ali reconstructing pottery

Inspector Mohammed Ibrahim, Azib, and Ali reconstructing pottery


together should go to the storeroom along with our small finds (including the mud seal impression and the jar label). We had two boxes made and spent the early morning today packing them with the pottery, and at 11:00 we took them to the Carter Storeroom (named for Howard Carter and located just north of the house he lived in during his years working on the west bank in the early 20th century). Next season, we will ask to bring them back to the site to see if more frogments from pit 21 can be attached.
Malqata storage box at teh site

Malqata storage box at teh site


We hope you have enjoyed the season as much as we have.
Goodbye until for now.
Catharine Roehrig and Diana Craig Patch at Malqaata, 3-3-2014

Catharine Roehrig and Diana Craig Patch at Malqata, 3-3-2014

Catharine Roehrig
Diana Craig Patch


Tell Edfu - The 2011 Season

Wager Spain Netherlands World Cup

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March 02, 2014

iMalqata

Drink and Be Merry

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Beer Jar and Saucer in situ

Beer Jar and Saucer in situ

While working along the east side of the North Village, we came across a small pit sunk into the earliest mud plaster floor in the room. The pit had been sealed over with fill and a second mud plaster floor when the set of rooms had undergone renovation. The pit wasn’t very large and after clearing the remains of floors and walls, we opened up the pit.
It turned out not to be a pit, but a large jar that was only partially complete because the upper part of the jar had most likely been removed during the room’s renovation. Although no rim remained, one could see it was a large, straight walled jar of Nile silt with a slightly pointed base, a form that is quite common in Dynasty 18.
Inside the jar was a nice find – two vessels completely preserved although well worn.

Saucer and Beer Jar

Saucer and Beer Jar

The two pieces comprised a set: a red-coated Nile silt drinking jar and a little saucer. Such sets are well known from ancient Egyptian banqueting scenes where a servant pours liquid from the small cylindrical jar into a little saucer, often for a woman. The

Drawing of a Scene showing a Servant pouring liquid into a dish. Tomb of Rekhmire (TT 100)

Drawing of a Scene showing a Servant pouring liquid into a dish. Tomb of Rekhmire (TT 100)

saucer can also function as a cover for the jar when it rests in a jar stand, so that insects and dirt don’t fall into its contents. Men taking part in harvesting scenes are shown stopping to drink out of a larger version of this jar type.
That brings us to the type of liquid that this jar once held. It was most likely beer, a staple in an ancient Egyptian’s life. Beer was made from cereal grains, generally emmer wheat or barley, which were soaked to break down the starch. After that stage was completed, yeast and lactic bacteria were added to ferment the liquid brewing the beer. This description is an extremely simple version of a process that has been given much attention and we suggest that anyone who wants to learn more consider reading Delwen Samuel’s chapter on “Brewing and Baking” in Ancient Egyptian Materials and Technology edited by Paul T Nicholson and Ian Shaw.
Ancient Egyptian beer as many of you probably know is unlike the brew we drink today and instead was probably similar to a number local African beers, thick, and nutritious. Samuel suggests that dates may have been used to flavor beer occasionally, although they were not apparently common. Interestingly, the most consistent botanical material we have recovered at the North Village has been date pits, although we don’t have many.

Modified Beer Jar

Modified Beer Jar

Nearby in this upper fill, we found another of these drinking jars, but this one, which was also quite worn, had been modified. The upper half had been knocked off and the sharp edge smoothed to create a “rim” so that the jar became a cup or scoop.

Diana Craig Patch


March 01, 2014

iMalqata

Pharaonic Dates

Saturday, March 1, 2014

The date palm, Phoenix dactylifera, was as prized for its sweet fruit in antiquity as it is today. It was a fruit to be eaten fresh or dried, baked in cakes, and used as a sweetener in beer and wine. The Egyptian word for date, bnr, also means sweet.

Date palm, dom palms and sycamore figs. Tomb of Sennedjem. Facsimile detail, Rogers Fund, 1930 (30.4.2)

Date palm, dom palms and sycamore figs. Tomb of Sennedjem. Facsimile detail, Rogers Fund, 1930 (30.4.2)

The date also figured in Egyptian mythology. One of the epithets of the goddess Hathor was Lady of the Date Palm. The date palm tree was also associated with the sun god because of its tall stem and ray-like leaves reaching to heaven.

Dates were popular with all classes of Egyptians and we found date pits this season in the North Village as well as wooden model dates in the King’s Palace. These model

Model dates from the King's Palace

Model dates from the King’s Palace

dates were painted yellow and probably would have decorated a throne kiosk similar to one from Theban Tomb 226 that is now in the Luxor Museum. In the facsimile below, you can see grapes as a motif on the part of the kiosk above the king’s head. On other kiosks, the decoration would have been dates or other plant motifs.

Facsimile painting of a scene depicting Amenhotep III and his mother, Mutemwia. Rogers Fund, 1915 (15.5.1)

Facsimile painting of a scene depicting Amenhotep III and his mother, Mutemwia. Rogers Fund, 1915 (15.5.1)

Earlier expeditions to Malqata (those led by Tytus and later by Waseda University) also found these model dates, which appear to have been arranged in horizontal rows. This decorative motif may have evolved into the “egg and dart” molding found in Classical architecture and still popular today.

Peter Lacovara


February 28, 2014

iMalqata

Our Friends the Dogs

Friday, February 28, 2014

dogs

Last week we got to the site at 7:00 am and I noticed something very odd. We have been storing our pottery at the southwest corner of the village in one of the large pits that was excavated a century ago. We’ve never had any problem doing this in the past, but as I walked over to the pit to retrieve some unsorted bags of sherds, I saw that a number of the bags were not where I had left them the day before. A dozen or so had somehow managed escaped the pit and were lying on the ground to the east. A couple had been pushed under the edge of of the hill where our sun shelter is located. A few were on clean sand that had been used to cover areas excavated last year. A couple had been ripped open and the sherds were lying on the ground.

sherds on sand

It took me a moment to figure out what had happened. It seems that our friendly neighborhood dogs had gotten curious about the bags. We collect the sherds in the same type of yellow plastic bags that are used in the local markets, and the dogs probably though they might contain something to eat. They must have been very disappointed once they had opened one or two and found just a bunch of very old pot sherds.
Luckily, the opened bags were on clean sand, and on an area that had been used for sorting pottery last year, so, with a few exceptions (which we discarded), it was easy to reconstitute the bags. The had also taken only the bags of pottery that had already been sorted and recorded, so we didn’t lose much information.
Catharine Roehrig


February 27, 2014

iMalqata

It’s All Hieratic to Me

Thursday, February 27, 2014
During the first season of excavation, we eagerly kept an eye out for jar labels. These are the dockets written on large storage jars and amphorae that identify their contents and the place delivering the provision. In the 1916-17 season, Ambrose Lansing uncovered a very important deposit of them just outside the south wall of the Amun temple among hundreds of sherds from vessels that had been opened and then thrown away. Many of the sherds bore inscriptions and those jar labels made their way to MMA at the end of the excavation in a division of finds undertaken by the Egyptian Antiquities Service in 1917. (see blog post “Food for the Fiest, February 10, 2013)

Jar label found on Feb. 26, 2014

Jar label found on Feb. 26, 2014

We looked in vain in 2010 and 2012 for a sherd bearing a docket. By 2013, I no longer expected to find one, although the workmen continued to check both sides of each sherd. We have analyzed many bags of pottery without a single jar label surfacing. However, our luck changed two days ago. Mahmoud was brushing over the top

Jar label as found

Jar label as found

of radim, that is, material made from a mix of mud, mud-brick, pottery sherds, and sometimes little stones from the desert that is all swept together and packed into large spaces as support for flooring or walls. It is not dissimilar in concept to leveling fill, but is used in much bigger spaces and can be created from material taken from a number of different sources. The thin levelling fill we see under house floors comes from debris generated in the village.

After Mahmoud called to me, he showed me this lovely little sherd lying there in situ with its inscription up and clear (well fairly clear). It is amazing that it was found just like that. Those of you who know me, know that I am definitely a field archaeologist and not an ancient language specialist. However Catharine and Joel, who arrived Sunday night to carry out mapping, both dredged up their rusty hieratic and made a stab and definitely ended up in the right direction. We did all agree though to send it off to several colleagues for comment and the general concensus was that the readable inscription (a small section at the top is too abbreviated and unclear to translate), says “king’s wife,” may she live. According to William Hayes, who published the earlier MMA cache, the phrase is often part of the phrase “the domain of the king’s wife” from which fat, wine, ale and other things were supplied to Malqata. The king’s wife mentioned may well have been Tiye.
Niv Allon, a research scholar at the MMA, kindly assisted us and found two parallels from the dockets on display at the MMA which we include here.

Jar Lable 17.10.400. Rogers Fund, 1917

Jar Lable 17.10.400. Rogers Fund, 1917

One reads: “[ale] (for) offerings of the domain of the king’s wife, may she live…for the first Sed-festival of his majesty, life, prosperity, and health.”

Jar label 17.10.23. Rogers Fund, 1917

Jar label 17.10.23. Rogers Fund, 1917

The second says: “ [Year X]+1, wine of …[the domain] of the king’s wife.”

Diana Craig Patch


February 26, 2014

iMalqata

A Bowl of Plaster

Wednesday, February 26, 2014
Archaeologists love a good garbage pit and I am no exception. Last week we found a small one, by garbage pit standards. It was about the size of a container we would use in a kitchen today. However, it was packed with pottery sherds, animal bone, and a few other bits and pieces. Our chief excavator, Azib, also works for the Museum’s excavation at Dahshur, just south of Cairo. For years he has helped that expedition’s ceramic specialist, Susan Allen, with reconstructing pottery vessels from broken fragments. So, I set him to work on the impressive pile of sherds he had just

Azib reconstruction pottery

Azib reconstruction pottery

excavated. He has done an amazing job and, finally, after seasons of drawing only small pieces of rims and the occasional base, I now have some largely complete jars and bowls with which to work. To be honest, only one bowl is actually complete, but the rest are close enough that you can easily understand what the original jar or bowl looked like.
There are many interesting clues developing from this find, but one particular bowl unequivocally tells you its purpose, or at least its last use. The shape, a deep, sharp

The "carinated" bowl from the pit

The “carinated” bowl from the pit

shouldered (carinated) bowl, is a well-known type among our sherds, although it’s not the most common type of bowl in the village repertoire. That award goes to shallow bowls with everted rims.
The carinated bowls are most often made from Nile silt that generally produces a red, red-brown, or brown vessel as is the case here. This example is one of the largest we have recorded, with a thick wall that makes it a very sturdy example. Initially, when I was looking at the first sherds of this bowl when they came out of the pit, I thought it had a white “slip” – a liquid-like clay that is applied after a vessel is finished. A slip can be of the same color clay or it can be a completely different color. We do get some white slipped Nile silts. However, a closer examination showed that the bowl had a

Interior of "carinated" bowl with remains of plaster

Interior of “carinated” bowl with remains of plaster

lightly burnished red slip and the white was had an entirely different cause. After Azib skillfully reconstructed the bowl, it was clear that it had been used to mix a batch of gypsum plaster.

Detail of plaster in the bowl

Detail of plaster in the bowl

We have found a few places in the village where a scrap of remaining mud brick wall in

Plaster on a mud brick wall

Gypsum plaster on a mud brick wall

a room still had the remnants of gypsum plaster white wash. I also mentioned in yesterday’s blog that gypsum plaster had been used in creating a sloping surface to the mouth of a buried jar. Today I found the interior walls of a room that had been white washed. All that remains are a few inches of wall above the floor. This is enough, however, to make it clear that the room probably was once entirely white.

Remains of white washed walls in the corner of a room

Remains of white gypsum plaster in the corner of a room

Diana Craig Patch


February 25, 2014

iMalqata

Rebuilding in the North Village

Tuesday, February 25, 2014
Dockets from Malqata indicate that the site was used for three sed-festivals, but documenting that the North Village was occupied more than once is not easy. It is especially difficult because the small structures are constructed on uneven ground. Such terrain rarely produces strata that clearly communicate a progression of time. During the 2010 season, we did note that, in the middle of one room, there was a

Traces of an earlier wall are just visible in the foreground

Traces of an earlier wall are just visible in the foreground

slight trace of marl brick. [Actually with two more seasons at the site, I know now that I observed the remnants of the marl plaster laid down on the desert or gebel surface prior to the laying of any wall’s foundation brick and not the brick itself.] Regardless, there was a trace of wall in the middle of an open space providing a clear indication that there was a second period of rebuilding in a room on the highest part of the North Village.

In the 2013 season, we uncovered a large pit full of sherds from large pottery vessels with fresh breaks. This indicates that they had been rapidly buried. The material seemed to reflect what one would expect in palace garbage which is not surprising since the Queen’s Palace was only meters away. On top of this pit, we found the remains of a wall belonging to a village structure. The contents of the dump must have been created during the sed-festival prior to the construction of this wall.

This year we have uncovered two great examples that demonstrate two periods of occupation. The first is in a small room to the north that was originally plastered with a mud floor on the desert surface. This floor is well preserved in the southwest corner of the room. Very close to this space, the original owner buried a huge storage jar in the

Jar buried beneath earlyier floor with sloping plaster connecting it with second floor level

Jar buried beneath earlier floor with sloping plaster connecting it with second floor level

floor. Sometime later, one assumes another sed-festival, a layer of what we call leveling fill was laid down and a second plaster floor was added. When this took place, the new owner wanted to continue using the jar in the floor, but the new floor was going to make the jar’s mouth too low. So he laid down a white (probably gypsum) plaster layer around the jar that slopes from the new mud floor level down to just under the jar’s mouth (the old floor level). Visible in the photo, this plaster was capped by a second plaster layer of the traditional mud. As you can see in the picture, although there is a steep slope to the mouth, the jar is still useful for storage.

The second example is on the east side of the village where we again found a mud plaster floor under leveling fill, which was subsequently capped by a second mud plaster floor. In this location, another jar installed below the floor was capped over by the new floor instead of being kept in use. The fill layer had been deposited over destroyed house walls to make a foundation layer for a new wall. The reason for this

Jar buried under original floor was later covered when a new floor was created

Jar buried under original floor was later covered when a new floor was created

restructuring was that the North Village’s eastern perimeter, which previously may not have been clearly defined, was now provided with an enclosure wall. This new wall created a corridor between the Queen’s Palace and the North Village. After the enclosure wall was built, new rooms in the village were created along the enclosure wall’s western face.

Village house with enclosure wall over fill

Village house with enclosure wall over fill

Diana Craig Patch