Taygete Atlantis: Excavation Blogs (Antiquity)

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Tom Elliott (tom.elliott@nyu.edu)

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June 29, 2015

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

2015 Field Season Day 23

After a very successful two week excavation in Grid 25, we backfilled it today. Before we did, we left some modern objects, small coins and a few strips of plastic, in the bottom of the trench so that future archaeologists would know that we had already excavated the area. 

Backfilling Grid 25

Backfilling Grid 25

Tomorrow we will dig a new test trench to the south of the odeon. There, we will continue to explore the Roman, Byzantine, Islamic and Crusader periods. Check back tomorrow to learn more about our new excavation area.

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

First day of work for the 2015 season

Today, we had the first day for the full team in the field for the 2015 season!

Although I don’t think anyone did any “real” digging today, the season is off to a great start! We have an absolutely fantastic team – altogether about 90 members this week – and things are looking really super.

As in previous seasons and in other excavations, the first day is a very technical day, in which a lot of equipment is moved up to the excavation areas, thorns and plants are removed from in and around the excavation areas, and the tarps above the excavation areas are finalized. In addition, the team members of the various areas get to know each other (for many, it is the first time in the field) and get a feeling what goes on during the excavation.

Tomorrow, all the areas will start actual excavation – so I hope we will commence having some nice finds right away!

Looking forward to a great season!

Aren


June 28, 2015

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

2015 Field Season Day 22

Dark clouds over Ashkelon

Dark clouds over Ashkelon

It was another morning of crazy weather in Ashkelon. This time, it did rain for a minute or two. Eventually the cool, windy morning gave way to sunshine and things got back to normal. Through it all, work continued.

Chris works to expose some animal bones in Grid 51

Chris works to expose some animal bones in Grid 51

A "pot splat" in Grid 51

A "pot splat" in Grid 51

Tomorrow, Grid 16 will expand once again as the team tries to establish the full dimensions of the mudbrick wall they have exposed. And later in the week, we will dig a new test trench as we seek to better understand the Roman, Byzantine and Islamic periods here at Ashkelon.

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

The Safi team is converging on Revadim!

Today is the first day of the 2015 season at Tell es-Safi/Gath, and the team members are coming together at Kibbutz Revadim. Its nice to see old friends – and new ones – for what I’m sure will be a great season!

And those who did not join us – keep checking for updates – they will start with tomorrow.

Aren


June 27, 2015

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

2015 Field Season 21

A big thank you to all our first half volunteers, Gordie, Kathleen and Kim, who helped to make the first three weeks of our 2015 field season so successful! We look forward to seeing them again in the future. This afternoon, we welcome seven new volunteers for what promises to be a very exciting three weeks.

A few fun pictures as we enjoy a day off. 

A quiet moment in Grid 51

A quiet moment in Grid 51

Pottery laid out for cataloging

Pottery laid out for cataloging

Daniel Master surveys Grid 51

Daniel Master surveys Grid 51

June 26, 2015

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

2015 Field Season Day 20

It was another day of pottery in the compound. This time, we were working through crates of Grid 50 pottery. Grid 50 is most well known as the location of the market destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar, the majority of Ashkelon's Persian period dog burials, and deep Islamic period robber trenches that dismantled the area's warehouses. 

The first hour of work

The first hour of work

The task was the same today as it was last week; to sort "unclaimed pottery" by period so that ceramicists working on specific periods  (i.e. Roman or Hellenistic or Islamic) see and have access to all the pottery from their period of interest.

A volunteer consults with Becky about Greek pottery

A volunteer consults with Becky about Greek pottery

Unsurprisingly, the majority of the pottery proved to belong to the Persian period. There was also a large amount of Islamic, from secondary contexts, Roman/Byzantine, and even some Hellenistic.

Volunteers sort bags of pottery

Volunteers sort bags of pottery

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

Preparation day at Tell and Revadim

Yesterday, the staff members who were in Israel got together for another, very successful preparation day, at the tell and at Revadim.

On the tell, we prepared the tarps in the excavation areas and logistical areas. In addition, Danny, from the Nature and Parks Authority came with a motorized scythe – which did wonders at knocking down the “monster thorns” around in and around the excavation areas and paths.

In addition, some of the staff worked to set up the labs and offices at Kibbutz Revadim.

It was a very successful day – and part of the day it was even cloudy – which made working without tarps much easier.

Thanks for all for all the hard work.

And just for fun, here’s a picture of a really nice, rather large piece of the so-called “Red, White and Blue Ware” dating to the Middle Bronze Age, which I picked up on surface near Area F.

RWB sherd from surface near F 2015

And on Sunday – the rest of the team arrives – and this year’s adventure begins!

Aren

P.S. Following up on a comment by Chris McKinney, this is about a week too early for July 4th…


June 25, 2015

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

2015 Field Season Day 19

Some mornings you just find yourself marveling at the size and diversity of ancient Ashkelon. Venturing out to Grid 16 this morning, I wandered through this area of the park --in a word, beautiful. (Again we had rain clouds, and again, no rain fell.)

I turned the corner and found myself at Grid 16 where Josh, Emily and their crew of volunteers are doing some amazing work. Their effort follows on that of last year's group which launched the excavation area with the goal of identifying the occupational sequence on the North Tell.

Digging pits cut into the Grid 16 mudbrick wall.

Digging pits cut into the Grid 16 mudbrick wall.

Last year, Grid 16 was able to demonstrate the vertical cut through an outcropping of bedrock along the North Tell, long suspected to be a Crusader era moat, pre-dated the Hellenistic period. In fact, with evidence that the mudbrick wall they are uncovering is associated with the bedrock scarp, the thought is both features might be earlier. Much earlier. Perhaps as early as the Early or Middle Bronze Age. 

To date the wall, the team needs to find a surface or another feature associated with the construction and/or use of the wall. As of this morning, the mudbrick wall fills their excavation area! There is no more room to dig, so it's expansion on Sunday. 

Grid 16 -- rewriting the history of early Ashkelon?!?

Grid 16 -- rewriting the history of early Ashkelon?!?

Next week promises to be very exciting in Grid 16.

Grid 51 continues to get further and further into 604. We'll have more pictures next week.

Grid 25 is being closed on Sunday but the search for Roman period Ashkelon continues. Look for some news on that front next week.

Tomorrow we are back in the compound and then it's the weekend for us. We'll be saying farewell to our half-season volunteers, those here for the first three weeks, and welcoming another group who will be with us until the end of the season. It's hard to believe we are almost halfway through the season. Where does the time go?

 

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

2015 T shirt design

And here is a preview of the T-shirt design for the 2015 season at Tell es-Safi/Gath (that is the back of the shirt – the front has the project symbol and a 20th season added):

2015 shirt


June 24, 2015

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

2015 Field Season Day 18

Today we have some pictures from Community Day. Each year, we host a group of junior high and high school students on the excavation. The students learn about the archaeology and history of the city in which they live and our volunteers get an opportunity to share their new expertise.

A volunteer discusses some pottery with an Israeli student

A volunteer discusses some pottery with an Israeli student

The students excavated for two hours, ate breakfast with us, got a tour of the ancient site, and then washed some pottery. It was a fun day for everyone.

Laura, one of the Grid supervisors in 51, explains brushing.

Laura, one of the Grid supervisors in 51, explains brushing.

Co-Grid Supervisor Jonathan Wylie and Ben move a big stone

Co-Grid Supervisor Jonathan Wylie and Ben move a big stone

A volunteer explains the dirt

A volunteer explains the dirt

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

Team Orientation in Lab

Today, we had a staff orientation in the Safi lab at BIU. Most of the staff is in Israel already, and we met in the lab to go over plans for the season, update on recent developments in project related research, get to know new members, and some training on the total stations.

In addition, we raised yet another toast to a new PhD – Dr. Eric Welch!

Great day – and tomorrow we are out in the field getting the tarps ready.

It’s going to be a great season!

Aren


June 23, 2015

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

Toast in the lab for Dr. Shira Gur Arieh!

Today, we celebrated Shira Gur Arieh’s PhD in the lab, with a special toast in her honor. The Safi lab members and others came to join in the celebrations.

Congratulations to Shira!

Aren


The Tel Burna Excavation Project

Daily History Post on Tel Burna – Volunteers

We have had a very nice group of participants the first two weeks of the 2015 season at Tel Burna, with participants from all over the world, including Taiwan, England, New Zealand, the Czech Republic, South Korea, Rwanda, the United States, Israel, the Philippines and more. For both volunteers and staff, this multicultural experience is one of the most enjoyable aspects of the excavation process. At Tel Burna, this leads to people from all over the world from many different ethnic, political and religious backgrounds interacting (and sometimes debating) while cleaning broken Canaanite and Judahite dishes!

Read the rest here.


The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

2015 Field Season Day 17

Today it is all Grid 16 where they are uncovering more of their mudbrick wall every day. Approximately 6 meters of the mudbrick construction is uncovered and it shows every sign of continuing.

Digging brick mining pits in Grid 16 

Digging brick mining pits in Grid 16 

Picking down to mudbrick or bedrock, whichever comes first.

Picking down to mudbrick or bedrock, whichever comes first.

Dan, Kate and Josh discuss the pits cutting the mudbrick wall.

Dan, Kate and Josh discuss the pits cutting the mudbrick wall.

Finally, a great picture of Dan and Adam doing some heavy lifting.

June 22, 2015

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

2015 Field Season Day 16

Some great pictures from Grid 51 today.

Gordy excavates a beam

Gordy excavates a beam

Chris holds a lamp

Chris holds a lamp

Laura examines a possible artifact

Laura examines a possible artifact

Kerrie Rovito, a teacher from Chicago working on our curriculum project, is now on site. She and co-director Daniel Master discussed ideas for the summer. Check back soon for new videos and fun projects on her blog for kids.

Dan and Kerrie discuss the summer's goals

Dan and Kerrie discuss the summer's goals

We'll try to get some pictures of Grid 16 tomorrow.  There might even be something from Grid 25 where the supervisors are digging some probes in an effort to better understand the sand uncovered previously.

June 21, 2015

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

2015 Field Season Day 15

There is a saying amongst archaeologists that the most spectacular finds come on the last day of excavation, often at the last possible minute. That proved to be the case today, in Grid 25, as we are done excavating. Our goal was to assess the occupational sequence in this area and establish how it relates to the cardo, the classical city's major north-south oriented street. What's the answer? Well, we didn't find the cardo. In fact, we didn't find anything under the Islamic period occupation except two meters of clean sand. It's back to the drawing board as we continue to hunt for the cardo or any of the site's major streets.

Of course, about the same time we realized excavation would be ending, we found seven coins which were, by far, the most interesting material culture to come out of Grid 25 this year.

Coins found in Grid 25

Coins found in Grid 25

After breakfast, it was time to clean. 

Sweeping for final photos

Sweeping for final photos

Tomorrow, Grid 25 will have it's final photo and then it will be on to new projects.

Work continues in Grid 16 and 51, however.

Grid 16 moves some big dirt

Grid 16 moves some big dirt

Excavating a possible pit line in Grid 51

Excavating a possible pit line in Grid 51

Check back for more updates as our season continues.

The Tel Burna Excavation Project

Week 2 Summary

This week we had the largest group of volunteers and thanks to them we were able to make a great progress in all four areas. We also had a nice tour on Monday to Tel Erani and heard several interesting lectures from Antonio (Tel Burna epigraphic and gly[tic finds in their wider context), Michal (summary of past research relating to archaeological landscapes and ancient ecology) and Chris (the Historical Geography of the Libnah District – Joshua 15:42-44).

Team from Week 2

Area A2 – the remains of the Iron Age IIB building are expanding to the east and south and a nice complete tabun was also uncovered.

Sheila taking a level in Area A2
Working hard in Area A2

Area B2 – the outer wall of the Iron II fortification was clearly defined and it has the same width as was exposed 4 years ago in Area A1 (on the eastern side of the summit). In addition outside of the fortification wall one more Iron Age IIC silo was discovered. There is also an indication to metallurgical activity in this area (again outside of the wall)!!

Levi and Daniel from ICB removing the collapse of the Iron II fortifications outside of the walls in B2


Area B1 – more of the Late Bronze Age public building has been exposed including pavement, smashed vessels in situ and architecture.

Complete smashed pithos from B1
LB arrowhead from Area B1

Area C – this Area is located on the eastern slopes where agricultural installations are visible, but the date is unknown. A new square was opened in order to date the human activity in this area. It is clear now that this should be dated to the Iron Age.
In addition Drs. Michal Hejcman and Ladislav Smejda are sampling soil and features all over the site with the portable XRF and the results looks very promising. Dr. Tina Greenfield is analyzing the fauna (focusing in Area B) and Dr. Antonio de Freitas is studying the glyptic finds.

All in all great finds, great week and wonderful volunteers!


June 20, 2015

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

2015 Field Season Day 14

It's another wonderful morning in Ashkelon. Today is all about sleeping in and catching up on some rest, three great meals in the hotel, and relaxing at the pool, beach or in the quiet of the hotel room. 

Some pictures of various excavation areas to enjoy today:

Digging a large constructional fill in Grid 25

Digging a large constructional fill in Grid 25

Sweeping off a stone wall in Grid 16

Sweeping off a stone wall in Grid 16

Discussing an artifact in Grid 51

Discussing an artifact in Grid 51

June 19, 2015

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

2015 Field Season Day 13

Today was a pottery compound day which means the entire expedition, staff and volunteers, was in the pottery compound working on a single project. Bright and early this morning, we opened container 6B and started pulling pottery crates from Grid 38. What made these crates so important was that they had not been assigned a phase. Today's project was about identifying the pottery in those crates so it could be given to the appropriate specialist. Pottery from the Persian, Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine, Islamic and Crusader periods was identified, sorted and restored until it is time to examine them. When we finished Grid 38, it was on to Grid 50.

Co-director Daniel Master identifies a sherd

Co-director Daniel Master identifies a sherd

Robyn identifies a bag of pottery

Robyn identifies a bag of pottery

Everyone was treated to popsicles at fruit break and then, a few hours later, off for the weekend. It's been a very productive two weeks. Check back next week for pictures of the progress in each grid.

June 18, 2015

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

10 days to go to the 2015 season!

So, there are now 10 days to go to the 2015 season!

Looks we are going to have a great season, with a fantastic – and quite large – team! On average, we will have around 90 team members for each week.

And now, all we have to do is get those finds to pop out of the ground! :-)

Aren


The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

2015 Field Season Day 12

A field season isn't just about excavation. It's also about research projects, material culture processing and assorted processes. Lots of activity in the pottery compound on a daily basis.

Examining Roman pottery

Examining Roman pottery

Pottery laid out for research

Pottery laid out for research

Work also continues in the field. In Grid 16 it's all about moving dirt in the hunt for more mudbrick rampart.

Smiles after dumping some dirt

Smiles after dumping some dirt

Grid 51 keeps excavating the last of the Persian period and inching closer and closer to the full exposure of 604.

Which to use? Patiche or trowel?

Which to use? Patiche or trowel?

In Grid 25 there is only one question; where is the cardo? The Islamic period, the 11th c. to be precise, has been exposed. What lies underneath? Right now, sand. Almost a meter deep and virtually empty of material culture, the sand comes as a complete surprise. Will we find the cardo? Next week should tell the tale.

Excavating sand constructional fill under Islamic period walls

Excavating sand constructional fill under Islamic period walls


June 17, 2015

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

2015 Field Season Day 11

The season is cruising right along and every excavation area is making great progress. Grid 51 continues to move closer and closer to full exposure of 604. Grid 16 has exposed a mudbrick rampart, the date of which has real implications (potentially) for understanding the Middle Bronze Age settlement. And in Grid 25, excavation continues to uncover more Islamic period occupation.

Excavating a fallen capital

Excavating a fallen capital

In the first week and a half of excavation in Grid 25, work has uncovered a long north-south oriented wall containing several doorways, with thresholds and door sockets, a staircase, a drain with a subsidiary channel, and destruction or collapse debris. In other words, we have good context and are doing all sorts of work.

Sifting an ashy layer of collapse or destruction debris

Sifting an ashy layer of collapse or destruction debris

It isn't all fine work. There has also been a lot of heavy work.

Swinging the big pick

Swinging the big pick

What has all the hard work uncovered?

Doorway with destruction or collapse debris in front

Doorway with destruction or collapse debris in front

Excavation has uncovered some beautiful stone architecture. Next up? Well, we are hoping for the cardo.

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

Marking squares on the tell before the excavation

Today, a bunch of team members went out to the site to mark squares in the different areas where we will be working this season.

See below some pictures of the work – including a series of pictures of me fighting the thorns with the trusty PNG machete…

We had a great time – and looks like this will be a GREAT season!

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Aren


June 16, 2015

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

2015 Field Season Day 10

Grid 16 not only fine grided today (broke a surface down into 1 x 1 meter areas for excavation) but also excavated almost 20 postholes, as well as a fire box and several small pits, cut into the plaster surface of a courtyard.

Excavating the courtyard floor found in Grid 16

Excavating the courtyard floor found in Grid 16

View of the courtyard floor in Grid 16

View of the courtyard floor in Grid 16

After exposing the full extent of the floor and carefully excavating the postholes and pits, it was time to photograph the floor, flot it (send in sediment samples for archaeobotanists to examine) and then excavate it.

Inspecting the dirt

Inspecting the dirt

It was a great day of excavation in Grid 16.

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

Congratulations to Oren Ackermann

Oren Ackermann, project geoarchaeologist, has been commended as one of the top lecturers at BIU.

Here is Oren getting the prize from the dean and rector of BIU.

Way to go Oren!!!

IMG-20150615-WA0001


June 15, 2015

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

2015 Field Season Day 9

Chris sitting alongside a Phase 7 (5th c.) drain in Grid 51

Chris sitting alongside a Phase 7 (5th c.) drain in Grid 51

To make up for yesterday, lots of people photos from Grid 51 where they are making great progress excavating the resettlement of Ashkelon after the destruction of the city in 604 as well as the the destruction itself.

Excavating a donkey scapula

Excavating a donkey scapula

Identifying an object

Identifying an object

Just keep digging...

Just keep digging...

June 14, 2015

The Tel Burna Excavation Project

New Article on Tel Burna during the Iron II

We are please to announce the new publication of an article that deals with the remains related to the Iron II city (Hebrew) in the annual series of Judea and Samaria Research Studies. Way to go Itzick, David, Debi and Joe!

Here is the full reference.

2015: Shai, I.; Ben-Shlomo, D.; Cassuto, D.; and Uziel, J. “Tel Burna in Iron Age II: A Fortified City on Judah’s Western Border.”  Judea and Samaria Research Studies 24: 27-34


The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

2015 Field Season Day 8

Look who dug a big  hole.

Emily standing on top of newly exposed rampart

Emily standing on top of newly exposed rampart

Grid 16 is well on its way to answering their fundamental research question which is to understand the sequence of fortifications on the North Tell. 

It was a good day all around. More pictures coming soon. (Right now, the internet connection is not cooperating.)

 

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

Mazal tov to Dr. Shira Gur-Arieh!

Great news!! Shira Gur-Arieh’s PhD dissertation has been approved by BIU!

The title of the dissertation was: An Experimental, Ethnoarchaeological and Archaeological Study of Cooking Installations: Case Studies from Iron Age Southern Levant, which is an interdisciplinary study of cooking installations (and in particular, Philistine hearths) from the Iron Age Levant and related issues.

Dr. Gur-Arieh, who currently has a prestigious post-doc position at the Max-Planck Center for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, has not yet announced when she will start seeing patients…

:-)

Way to go Shira!

Aren


June 13, 2015

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

2015 Field Season Day 7

Studying Hellenistic Pottery

Studying Hellenistic Pottery

The weekend continues. For most staff members, the primary difference between a Saturday and a Sunday is where they work on their computers. Pottery compound, or 

GIS team

GIS team

mobile office, or 

Data entry in the field

Data entry in the field

in the field most days, and then on Saturday, the comfort of the hotel. 

Many of the volunteers stayed in Jerusalem for the weekend, many are at the beach at Ashkelon, and more than a few are almost certainly catching up on all the sleep they didn't get last week. Tomorrow is another dig day and 4:30 is going to come fast.

The Tel Burna Excavation Project

Week 1 Summary

We had a very nice group of volunteers this week with participants from all over the world including – Taiwan, England, New Zealand, the United States, Israel, the Philippines, and more. Here is a group shot of the whole crew from the first week.

Week 1 Participants

On Tuesday – Aharon and myself led the crew over to the Maresha National Park where we discussed the impressive ruins of the (mostly) underground city.

On Wednesday, we also had several visitors this week including friends who had participated in past seasons and even a film crew from Faith Life Bible/Logos Bible Software who interviewed our staff as part of their production of a mobile education course and documentary on the relationship between archaeological fieldwork and the biblical accounts (headed by Prof. Craig Evans). Later that evening – Ron (Area B2 supervisor) gave us a very nice lecture on the Lamp-Bowl deposits in the southern Levant from the Late Bronze and early Iron Age.

Sheila interviewed by Prof. Craig Evans and the Faith Life/Logos Bible crew Sheila interviewed by Prof. Craig Evans and the Faith Life/Logos Bible crew

After spending the first couple of days dealing with the enormous amount of winter weeds (aka – the Forest of Libnah!) we have already started to witness the appearance of several nice finds and architecture.

In Area A2 we seem to have reached the upper level of the 8th century BCE occupation inside the large “four-room” house in both of our 2 new squares.

Kay cleaning a square in A2
Opening a square in A2 from earlier this week
The Shai family hard at work

In Area B1 we have already reached bedrock in both of our new squares and have begun opening another square towards the tell. In one of these squares we have two complete storage vessels and yet another locally made chalice – we are hoping that the context of this find will allow Dvory Namdar (our Residue Analysis expert) to determine the contents of the chalice.

A chalice from Area B1 with an “action” field shot of the PlanGrid/iPad registration

In Area B2 the complex architecture below the enormous collapse is starting to become clearer as several small walls have now been exposed – we will remove these later walls next week in order to determine their relation to the presumable fortifications beneath.

Ron and Andrew registering the finds in B2
Teresa, Daniel and Mike working hard on the Iron II fortifications

In sum – it was a great start to the season and we still have 3 weeks to go!


June 12, 2015

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

2015 Field Season Day 6

Swinging a pick in Grid 16

Swinging a pick in Grid 16

It's hard to imagine what archaeology is really like until you do it. Hard, physical labor? Yes. One of the most fun, challenging, amazing things you will ever do? Yes. An opportunity to surprise yourself and your friends and family? Most definitely yes.

After just a week of excavation, each of our areas has made a great deal of progress and everyone is digging.

Emily making dirt

Emily making dirt

Even GIS needs a little help

Even GIS needs a little help

This is one of our rare two day weekends. Tomorrow is another day to rest and relax. Sunday we return to the field.

June 11, 2015

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

2015 Field Season Day 5

Rainbow over Ashkelon

Rainbow over Ashkelon

A beautiful, surprising morning in Ashkelon today as we enjoyed a brief sprinkle and then a rainbow. It's hard to see in the picture but it's there and it put a smile on everyone's face.

Volunteers in Grid 25

Volunteers in Grid 25

Today was the last digging day of Week 1. Tomorrow the volunteers will head off for a tour of Jerusalem as they enjoy their first free weekend.

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

Genetic origins of European peoples – very interesting!

Two new articles in Nature (summarized here in the NY Times), indicate very interesting origins, in at least 3 waves, of European populations.

Wish we had some good genetic data on the Philistines – would be great to ascertain and understand what we believe is their very mixed origins. Unfortunately, so far, the levels of preservation of Philistine skeletal material, at Safi and other Philistine sites, is not that good, so as of now, this type of data is not available.

:-(

Aren

P.S. But one never knows – all this could change this season…


June 10, 2015

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

2015 Field Season Day 4

Co-Director Daniel Master leading a field tour on Seminar Day

Co-Director Daniel Master leading a field tour on Seminar Day

Today was our fourth annual Seminar Day on which we take a day off from digging and instead hold a series of "classes." Each 45 minute sessionsoffers volunteers the opportunity to learn about different aspects of the excavation. Sessions offered included tours of early and late period Ashkelon, an introduction to GIS (our survey team and their work) metals analysis and zoo archaeology, to name a few.

Students learn about GIS

Students learn about GIS

Students hear from Paula Wannish, one of the expedition's zooarchaeologists.

Students hear from Paula Wannish, one of the expedition's zooarchaeologists.

We have a large number of returning volunteers this year and many of them worked on other projects in the pottery compound. It was a busy day for everyone and this afternoon we'll be back at work washing, reading and marking pottery.

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

Team manual for 2015 season!

Just sent out to all the members of the 2015 team at Tell es-Safi/Gath the manual which explains various technical, logistical, archaeological and other issues relating to the upcoming season. It includes (at the end), the schedule for lectures and field trips during the season.

Just in case and of the team members did not get the mail, I’m posting it on the website as well.

Those of you who are not joining the team (for whatever excuse this is due to…) can get an idea of what’s to be expected as well.

English_Volunteers_guidelines_2015

This is a definite sign that we are about to start! The 2015 Safi fever has officially been diagnosed! :-)

drooling in front of bowl

Aren


June 09, 2015

The Tel Burna Excavation Project

And We are Off! 2015 Season Begins

Over the last two days, we have successfully broken ground in two new squares in each of the three excavation areas – A2, B1 (Area B in previous seasons) and B2 (new area). So far we have managed to make it through topsoil and are already finding a large amount of pottery.

In area A2 Debi Cassuto and her team are trying to determine the southern extent of what appears to be a very large “four-room house” on the summit of the site. In order to accomplish this we will be excavating through the Persian and late Iron II periods that we have encountered in past seasons.

Kay and Debi - opening new squares in A2Kay and Debi – opening new squares in A2
Kay hoeing some weeds on the summitKay hoeing some weeds on the summit

In area B1 (B is for Bedrock!) we are continuing to expose the very interesting large cultic structure that is built directly on the bedrock. We are hoping to find the outer edge of the structure in order to have an architectural plan of the structure. Of course, we are also hoping to find many nice Late Bronze Age finds as in past seasons.

Benjamin hard at work clearing the winter weeds (some of which could be qualified as small trees!)Benjamin hard at work clearing the winter weeds (some of which could be qualified as small trees!)
John and Casey raising the excavation tent in Area B1John and Casey raising the excavation tent in Area B1

In the newly opened B2, which is supervised by Ron Lev, we are exposing a section of the Iron II fortifications on the western side of the tell – beyond the interesting 7th and 8th (and hopefully earlier Iron II) centuries that we will encounter – B2 is an important part of our long-term goal of creating an east-west cross-section across the center of Tel Burna. Ron’s team already has exposed some of the casemate walls.

Mike and Daniel working hard in the Iron II fortifications Mike and Daniel working hard in the Iron II fortifications 

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

2015 Field Season Day 3

Pottery marking

Pottery marking

Yesterday, the second day of digging, saw everyone on the Leon Levy Expedition venturing into the Pottery Compound for the first time. Every afternoon, staff and volunteers return to the field to process the day's finds. Volunteers wash the pottery and animal bones collected earlier in the day, while staff members, both field archaeologists and specialists, "read" pottery (identify and date the collected material) and the animal bones.

Sorting pottery

Sorting pottery

Several team members, Josh included, are working on publication projects. In the photograph below, Josh measures rim fractions as he begins work on the publication of Persian period Ashkelon.

Josh with a crate of Persian Period pottery

Josh with a crate of Persian Period pottery

The afternoon pottery session is also a time when the registrars work on recording objects, such as glass, metals, and worked bone, sent in from the field that morning. The GIS team works on preparing new top plans for each excavation area. The microarchaeology and paleobotanists can also be found working on their material.

And the pottery that has been washed and read? Well, it also gets marked. This means that every diagnostic sherd that is kept gets an identifying number written on it. This year, work in the pottery compound started with bone washing and pottery marking as the 2015 field team helped us catch up on materials processing after the abbreviated 2014 field season. 

There is always something for everyone to do in the pottery compound and yesterday was no exception.

 

June 08, 2015

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

2015 Field Season Day 2

Grid 16, view to the north

Grid 16, view to the north

The excavation of Grid 16 is well under way. They have architecture -- a remnant of a possible floor and a line of stones which might just be another drain -- and big holes, as you can see below.

Emily stands in the hole she dug. Today

Emily stands in the hole she dug. Today

Emily is standing on top of some geotech. All the dirt on top of it? Backfill covering last year's excavation. It's a benchmark as they work to expose a mudbrick wall (possibly a fragment of a rampart) first uncovered last year. And how do they plan to move all that dirt?

Wheelbarrow standing alone

Wheelbarrow standing alone

By hand, of course.  With Josh to haul the dirt for the grid, nothing else is needed.


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

Website of the Minerva Center for the Relations between Israel and Aram in Biblical Times (RIAB)

Check out the new website, which is slowly being expanded and content added, of the new Minerva Center for the Relations between Israel and Aram in Biblical Times (RIAB).

Here’s the new symbol of the center:

Minverva new symbol smallest

The center’s 6-year term officially begins on July 1st, 2015, and we have already begun updating the site with information regarding the center itself, center members, forthcoming activities, grants, publications, relevant links and other relevant materials and activities.

Check it out!

Aren


June 07, 2015

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

2015 Field Season Day 1

Drain Channel in Grid 25

Drain Channel in Grid 25

The first day of excavation, you never know what you are going to find. Unless, of course, you are opening a new grid, in which case we actually do have a good idea of what we might find. Usually about a meter below ground level we hit walls and other types of architecture. In the case of Grid 25 (which we thought was going to be the new Grid 32 but which proved to be further north than we realized) excavation started uncovering a drain. Surprising? Not in the least. Almost every excavation area on site which has produced Islamic and Crusader period material has had a drain, a sewer, a well or a sump pit. Now we know, Grid 25 is going to be no different.

The first day of excavation is challenging for a number of reasons from fighting off jet lag while doing manual labor to wrapping your head around the idea you need to sweep the dirt to make it clean. The learning curve, in ways both expected and unexpected, is always significant the first few days of work. It can be all that more difficult when you are in direct sun which is why the sight below is a welcome one in whichever grid volunteers and staff are working.

Hanging the shade cloth in Grid 25

Hanging the shade cloth in Grid 25

It makes a big difference having that bit of shade. The hearty volunteers and staff in Grid 16 worked all day without shade. With any luck, though, they enjoyed the strong breezes coming off the Mediterranean. Speaking of Grid 16, Josh expanded it quite a bit this summer. Hopefully, we'll have some pictures soon.

In Grid 51 volunteers began cleaning up after the wet winter. Right now the expectation is that it will take them at least four days to clean up, after which they'll be able to start excavating.

Day One is in the books and the 2015 field season is officially under way. 

June 06, 2015

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

Arrival Day

Supply Container

Supply Container

Volunteers arrive today and the registrar's newly designated, and organized, container stands ready. Digging starts tomorrow!

June 05, 2015

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

Preseason Day 13

Dan and Josh 

Dan and Josh 

Lots of activity today with everyone working in the compound. It started with Josh, who will be running the compound this summer, and Dan organizing the space and strategizing compound days. 

Annual Tool Draft

Annual Tool Draft

It continued with the annual tool draft. Grid and square supervisors spent the morning sorting tools, selecting the best picks (perhaps the most important tool of all) and generally getting their grid supplies organized. Wheelbarrows were filled, buckets distributed and the "good" brushes sorted from the "bad" brushes.

Trent checking drawings

Trent checking drawings

Undaunted, Trent continued checking objects against drawings in a race to make sure the tables are cleared ahead of digging on Sunday. We are off tomorrow and then Sunday, bright and early, we start the 2015 field season.

June 04, 2015

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

Preseason Day 12

Walked through the old neighborhood yesterday and there were a lot of familiar sights. The Dan Gardens Hotel, home to the expedition from 1986 until mid-season 2014, still stands. It's empty right now but will soon, it is believed, undergo a major renovation.

Dan Gardens Hotel in Ashkelon

Dan Gardens Hotel in Ashkelon

Bigger changes are afoot at the old Ashkelon Excavations Lab which is clearly already in the midst of a major renovation. 

Old Ashkelon Lab.

Old Ashkelon Lab.

Today we opened Grid 32, expanded Grid 16, repaired the fence in Grid 51, and continued making progress sorting and analyzing pottery. Tomorrow is the annual tool draft, the final organization of the pottery compound and preparation for the arrival of volunteers on Saturday. Our first 4:30 am morning rapidly approaches and with it the official start of our season.

June 03, 2015

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

Preseason Day 11

Processing pottery

Processing pottery

Ben was joined by several other staff members today as they continued to work through sherds and their respective drawings.

Breakfast area

Breakfast area

Meanwhile, outside of the pottery compound, Gimi and his crew continued to prepare for the start of the season. The shade cloth is up in the breakfast area -- it's a great location full of grass and shade and even some good scenery.

Statuary and architectural fragments from the odeon

Statuary and architectural fragments from the odeon

Tomorrow staff will be working on everything from opening Grid 32 and further preparing Grid 16 for excavation, to, you guessed it, processing pottery and more. With more staff arriving today and tomorrow, the preseason is in full swing.

 

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

Lecture by Raymond Ackerman on how to run a compassionate business

Raymond Ackerman, who just received an honorary doctorate from BIU, and who along with his wife, Mrs. Wendy Ackerman, are primary supporters of the Ackerman Family Bar-Ilan University Expedition to Gath, gave a talk two weeks ago at BIU, on the occasion of the BIU International Board meeting, on how it is possible – and advantageous – for a business to run in a compassionate manner. Very inspiring talk!


June 02, 2015

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

Preseason Day 10

It was more of the same today as staff worked on various projects.

Matching drawings with sherds

Matching drawings with sherds

Several members of the staff worked on checking pottery drawings against the actual sherds/vessels that were drawn. If the drawing was deemed accurate, it got checked off and the drawn item was put in the "to be filed away," pile. If there were any concerns with a drawing, the staff put it aside to confer later with co-director Daniel Master on the best way to fix the problem.

"Typing" pottery

"Typing" pottery

Kate worked on identifying pottery types as she continued to refine the Hellenistic period ceramic typology.

Staff members are arriving daily-- several today and four more tomorrow. We are only days away from the start of the 2015 field season!

June 01, 2015

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

Preseason Day 9

Stacks of Hellenistic bowls

Stacks of Hellenistic bowls

Today, Dr. Kate Birney took a look at some bowls found in a mudbrick bin in Grid 50 approximately 20 years ago. Most of the bowls are the same form, Hellenistic incurved rim bowls from the 2nd century, but different sizes. What this means is that it is possible to get an idea of the dish "set" -- think fine china -- that might be found in a household. In this case, however, think fine china at Ikea prices. Believe or not, these dishes are mass produced, inexpensive dishes found in many households.

Discussing Hellenistic casseroles

Discussing Hellenistic casseroles

The vessels which people used for eating and drinking weren't the only subject of conversation today. Later in the morning, Dan and Kate engaged in a spirited conversation about the cultural significance of the diffusion of Hellenistic casseroles. 

All in a day's work during the Ashkelon preseason.

May 31, 2015

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

Preseason Day 8

Things are busy even during the offseason. Two of the biggest tasks? Pottery restoration and pottery drawing.

Tables filled with drawn and/or restored pottery

Tables filled with drawn and/or restored pottery

Today we started pulling out pottery that is back from drawing and restoration. During the season, staff members will check drawings against sherds (or whole vessels) to make sure the renderings are correct. Those pieces that haven't been photographed will be as they continue to move through the publication process. 

At the end of the season, we'll send off more pottery and the process will start over again.

We continue to enjoy amazing weather. Today it's 80 degrees and sunny with a stiff breeze. If only we could bottle this weather and keep it for the entire season!

 

May 30, 2015

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

Preseason ay 7

We've been here a week already and have settled in to the usual sleep, eat, and work routine. With the exception of one really hot day -- and some hazy skies afterwards -- the weather has been perfect. The scenery is just as wonderful. So today, it's the garden edition with a few pictures from around the park. Unfortunately, the flowers won't last too much longer but we can hope that the good weather sticks around.

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We are a week away from the arrival of volunteers and the start of the season. More staff will arrive this week, a number of specialists and scholars will be visiting to discuss research projects, and we'll be meeting with the park director to go over our plans. Just another week on the Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon.

May 29, 2015

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

Preseason Day 6

How quickly does the park reclaim shuttered excavation areas? 

Grid 23

Grid 23

We last excavated Grid 23 in 2008. Over the course of three seasons we uncovered an occupational sequence from the Hellenistic through the Crusader period. The centerpiece was a likely insula with units that shrank and expanded as the structure was renovated and rebuilt repeatedly. Today, after the winter's torrential rains, it is a beautiful garden.

Grid 47

Grid 47

Grid 47 was last excavated in 2012 and last cleaned in 2013. Over the course of five seasons of excavation we uncovered a Roman period odeon, as well as other architecture, and confirmed the results of John Garstang's excavations in the 1920s. The park may have free reign here now, but the odeon is scheduled for restoration. In a few years this area will look completely different.

The dingy sky in the photo? Khamsin. Happily, today is sunny and in the 70s with a fine breeze blowing. A great day to end the week.

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

Interesting take on the Philistine Favissa at Yavneh

The Israeli media is reporting (see for example here) on the analyses conducted on vessels from the Philistine cultic favissa found in Yavneh, with particular focus on the drugs with psychoactive properties that were identified in the organic residue analyses of some of the vessels.

Although this is hardly fresh news (this appeared in the excavated report which we mentioned quite a while ago), it nevertheless is an interesting tidbit – which clearly catches the medias’ and the public’s attention.

As far as the title of the article (“Sex, drugs, and Philistines”) goes – I can only promise the latter of the three this season at Tell es-Safi/Gath… :-)

Aren

P.S. But it would be nice to find a cultic favissa at Gath…


May 28, 2015

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

Congratulations to Dr. Eric Welch – on PhD and position at KU

Eric Welch (aka Chris…) has some great news to share:

His PhD dissertation, whose title was “God, Oil, and Politics: Hebrew Prophetic Texts and Dynamics of Regional Economy in the Southern Levant During the 8th and 7th Centuries B.C.E.” has been officially OKed at Penn State. So, as of the coming season, we will have to call him Dr. W.

And to top off the great news, Dr. W has been awarded a new position at the University of Kansas as Visiting Assistant Professor of Jewish Studies!

Way to go Eric!!

Here’s what Eric looks like when he gets something nice… :-)

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The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

Preseason Day 5

Omri, the director of national park where the ancient city of Ashkelon is located, took us on a field trip south of the fortifications. There, nature runs riot and ancient things are constantly appearing as the winter rains subside. It was a fascinating reminder of the role and importance of Ashkelon's hinterland throughout the city's history.

The trip also afforded us some very interesting views of the city.

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Earlier in the day, it was business as usual with fencing in grids, updating computers, and analyzing pottery. It's been a busy week and the schedule only gets more intense as the start of the 2015 field season is a little over a week away.

May 27, 2015

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

Preseason Day 4

Ben preparing to survey in Grid 16

Ben preparing to survey in Grid 16

Believe it or not, we'll be excavating here in less then two weeks. 

 

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

Update on work in feature south of Area A

Amit, Emuna and Dina continued to work today in the interesting feature (water system? cave?) south of Area A, and things are getting interesting – and still not too clear.

What now is clear is that this is a typical cave for the region – with a hard nari (calcrete) roof and sides of soft chalk. Very often, as in this case, the roof collapses, creating a depression. What is interesting though is that in the depression there are some walls, as well as a plastered area. So, most probably in addition to have served as a cave – it was reused for other functions at some stage.

So far, more than that is hard to say….

Here are some pictures from today. Note that the temperature outside today was unbelievably hot – something like 44 degrees centigrade in the shade!

Here are some pictures – as you can see – even though they were working in a depression – they were not depressed…

Amit et al in shade 27_5_15excavating depression south of A_general view_27_5_15 close up of wall and plaster in depression south of A_27_5_15 Emuna and Dina in depression_27_5_15


May 26, 2015

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

Preseason Day 3

Took a ride out to Grid 51 with Gimi today. Inside, the grid doesn't look so bad -- Gimi and his crew have been hard at work. It's up top where you get a real appreciation of how much rain Ashkelon had during the winter.

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

Updates on today’s work at the tell

As mentioned yesterday, today we are doing some work at the tell at a feature that might be water system. So far, the tractor is digging out a lot of modern fill in this depression, and it’s hard to tell what this is. It be a water system going deeper, but it also might be cave with a collapsed roof…

We will wait and see.

Here some pictures from today’s work:

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May 25, 2015

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

Water system at Tell es-Safi/Gath?

For many years now, an intriguing feature has piqued our interest at Tell es-Safi/Gath. Just to the south of Areas A and P, there is a round depression in the ground, in the small valley that is formed to the SE side of the upper tell (for those of you familiar with the site, on the way down to the bus parking). For many years, we have thought that this might represent a water system, but up till now, have not done anything concrete to check this out.

Well – all that will change as of tomorrow!

In collaboration with Zvika Zuk of the Israel Nature and Parks Authority, who is a well-known expert on water systems (and is a co-director of the Tel Gezer Water System Project), we (Amit will be supervising the work in the field, I’ll come for a visit here and there…) are going to work with a tractor (yes, a tractor – I guess we will appear in BAR about this…), to clear the sediments that have accumulated at the top of this depression – and see if there is anything that can indicate that in fact this is a water system.

So, tomorrow and on Wednesday, we may have some interesting insights on what this interesting feature is.

And what can I say – I do hope it is some sort of water system (or the entrance to the unplundered tomb of Achish…) :-)

Updates will follow!

Aren


The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

Preseason Day 2

Work continued in the compound today. The morning's tasks included setting up the internet, further organizing the work spaces, conferring with Gimi and his team of workers, as well as other logistical matters. We also spent some time re-establishing benchmarks as planning turns towards cleaning and preparing the grids for excavation.

Remember our salvage excavation in Grid 32 last summer? Well, the area looks a little different now. (Click on the image to see more.)

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A bit of a heat wave this week. We had a high of 97 today and a high of 104 is forecast for Wednesday. We may be looking at a hot summer.

May 24, 2015

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

Preseason Day 1

We are back in Ashkelon! Yesterday was all about staying awake long enough to attempt sleeping through the night.

Today, we got down to work. First up, taking a look at the pottery compound. Gimi did a lot of cleaning ahead of our arrival so we focused on allocating spaces for specialists -- everyone from the zooarchaeologists to the microarchaeology team -- pottery reading, registration, and more. 

We also took in our two new mobile offices.

Mobile office which replaced Container 9A

Mobile office which replaced Container 9A

One office will be used by the GIS and microarchaeology teams, while the second will be used by staff members working on publication projects. These two spaces replace our lab which we closed down last year.

Ben also took inventory of the dig computers and got to work updating them for the season. This is a lengthy process, particularly with no internet in the compound as of yet, and will likely take several days to complete.

Table of sorted computers with the second mobile office in the background

Table of sorted computers with the second mobile office in the background

The start of the 2015 field season is less then two weeks away!


May 21, 2015

The Tel Burna Excavation Project

Restored Pottery Vessels

Check out Yirmi’s recent work on the restoration of the pottery from Areas A and B. Hopefully we will find more of the same

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

The David and Goliath Story and Biblical Redaction

See here a short and very nice piece by Deane Galbraith on how the versions of the David and Goliath narrative can be used to explain some of the complexities of biblical redaction.

Check it out.

Aren

HT – Jack Sasson


May 17, 2015

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

Leonard Cohen in the Elah Valley (well, almost…)

See this beautiful rendition of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” sung in the Elah Valley (right near Tel Socho) by the Israeli band “Makom Balev” (a place in the heart). And the clip was prepared by my cousin (“Avitz” Maeir)!

The clip can be found here

Aren


May 14, 2015

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

New article on the origins of the “Late Philistine Decorated Ware”

A new article, by Itzik Shai and myself, has just appeared in Tel Aviv. In this article, we reassert (as initially stated by us a few years ago in an article in BASOR), despite claims to the contrary, that there is a definite stylistic connection between the Iron IIA “Late Philistine Decorated Ware” and the decorative traditions of Iron I Philistine pottery.
The article is entitled:
Maeir, A. M., and Shai, I. 2015. The Origins of the “Late Philistine Decorated Ware”: A Note. Tel Aviv 42(1): 59–66.
Aren

Adi will give a lecture on “Microarchaeology” in the chemistry department at BIU (May 20, 2015)

Adi Eliyahu, the Safi archaeological science coordinator, will be giving a lecture next Wednesday (May 20, 2015) in departmental colloquium of the chemistry department at BIU. If you can – do come to the lecture – should be very interesting.

See details below:

Wednesday, May 20, 2015, 11am, Chemistry Building (# 211), Seminar room (#112)

SPEAKER: Adi Eliyahu Behar

TOPIC: Micro-archaeology: The crossroads of Science and Archaeology

The archaeological record is, for the most part, fragmentary in that only a limited part of the original materials are buried, what is buried undergoes change over time, and when excavated, not all is being retrieved.  Archaeological excavation is a destructive procedure. During excavation architecture is usually exposed, and macroscopic objects related to the material culture of the inhabitants are collected, such as ceramics, metals, bones etc. It has been recently acknowledged that microscopic aspects of these macroscopic finds as well as microscopic finds (traditionally ignored), contain invaluable information regarding human culture development. The micro-archaeology approach aims to this information, therefore enabling a more complete reconstruction of the archaeological record to be achieved.  Applying this approach means the utilization of various analytical methods that enable us to add in the levels of materials and atoms and to see what cannot be seen by the naked eye. In turn, this is then utilized in order to formulate and answer historical and archaeological questions. A great deal of this is done in the field during the act of excavation, the rest is continued later at the Lab.

Excavation at Tell es-Safi/Gath, provided a unique opportunity to develop micro-archaeological excavation methods. Field work was followed by further chemical and microstructure analysis of the artifacts using XRF and  SEM-EDS. Results enabled us to deal with some key issues in ancient technology: how, where and when iron became the dominant metal in use, replacing copper and its alloys?


May 13, 2015

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

Doctoral Stipends from the Minerva Center for the Relations between Israel and Aram in Biblical Times (RIAB)

The website of the Minerva Center for the Relations between Israel and Aram in Biblical Times (RIAB) is now officially opened, and our first item is a notification on doctoral fellowships that are offered as part of the center’s activities.

Check this out here.

In the near future, we will add more content on the website regarding the Center, its activities, its members and other things.

Aren


May 11, 2015

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

Archaeology and Text Dialogue conference – was great!

As previously mentioned, yesterday and today, in Jerusalem and Ariel, there was a great conference organized by Itzik Shai and Yonatan Adler on the dialogue between text and archaeology. We had two days of great papers, covering various angles, periods, methodologies and issues relating to this broad topic. Fascinating meeting – way to go!

Tomorrow the conference participants are invited to visit the Dead Sea Scrolls conservation lab at the Israel Museum – should be VERY interesting as well.

Aren


May 07, 2015

The Tel Burna Excavation Project

Archaeology and Text Conference at Ariel University

Next week Ariel University will be hosting part of the Archaeology and Text conference (full title Archaeology and Text: Toward Establishing a Meaning Dialogue between Written Sources and Material Finds). The conference begins on May 10 at the National Library of Israel in Jerusalem and continues the following day at Ariel University (May 11). There appear to many interesting lectures for both days (including one co-authored by Joe) – if you are in Israel you don’t want to miss it.

See schedule here.

Also – remember that there is just over a week left before the deadline to apply for our best season yet ;)


May 05, 2015

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

Popular article (in Hebrew) on an Ethnoarchaeological Perspective from Papua New Guinea on aspects of the archaeology of the ancient Near East

A popular article on ethnoarchaeological perspectives and insights on some aspects of the archaeology of the Near East, as seen from my observations in Papua New Guinea, has just been published in the Israeli online paper nrg.co.il (the online version of the newspaper “Maariv”)

Check it out! Even if you don’t read Hebrew – there are some nice pictures!

Aren


May 04, 2015

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

Grid 51

Dr. Kate Birney will not be in charge of the daily supervision of Grid 51 this summer but she is always good for a brief comment on what is happening in the area. I asked her what we can expect from Grid 51 in 2015 and she told me, 

"When we left off last season, we had just uncovered a small area of the 604 B.C. Babylonian destruction layer. In it were two unfortunate victims, who had been crushed by the collapse of a building as the city was burnt to ashes. This summer, Grid 51 will be exposing this destruction layer across the entire 300 m2 grid."

Grid 51 at work

Grid 51 at work

It promises to be a very busy, very interesting summer as we uncover more of the 604 B.C. destruction of Ashkelon.

April 30, 2015

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

Extension of deadline to sign up for 2015 season

Since people are signing up to the various last minute (official deadline was May 1st, 2015), and I’m been told that several more people need a few more days, the official deadline for signing up for the 2015 season at Tell es-Safi/Gath has been extended to Friday, May 15th, 2015.

So, if you wanted to join us by simply could not do this by tomorrow, May 1st, now you have no excuse!

:-)

Aren


April 27, 2015

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

Conference: Archaeology and Text: Toward Establishing a Meaningful Dialogue between Written Sources and Material Finds

On Sunday-Monday, May 10th-11th, 2015, a very interesting international meeting will be held in Jerusalem and Ariel, organized by Drs. Itzik Shai and Yonatan Adler of Ariel University.

The conference “Archaeology and Text: Toward Establishing a Meaningful Dialogue between Written Sources and Material Finds”, will deal with the interface between text and archaeology from various perspectives, dealing with methodological and practical issues relating to various periods, cultures and examples.

See here the details of the very interesting program: Archaeology and Text meeting – Schedule

I will be giving a paper on some thoughts on the interface between archaeological and the Bible (The Interface between Text and Artifact: Back to Basics? Some thoughts on “Bible and Spade”), and there are quite a few lectures which I am very much looking forward to hearing. I assume that the discussions will be very interesting as well!

Aren


The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

The 2015 Field Season

The 2015 field season is right around the corner. As fun as it is to look back, it is time to turn our thoughts to the upcoming summer. We have a lot to do and some important questions to answer. The next two seasons will be devoted to investigating the following:

  • the occupational sequence on the North Tell
  • Nebuchadnezzar's destruction of the city in 604
  • the Roman period cardo

Grid 32 and the cardo:

It is a commonly held theory that the Roman period cardo and decumanus, the main north-south and east-west oriented streets of the city, influenced the subsequent development of Ashkelon well into the Islamic period. It is time to test that theory directly. 

Last season, a salvage excavation conducted in Grid 32, just outside the park offices, identified a familiar occupational sequence; monumental, likely public, Roman/Byzantine period architecture which was replaced by industrial, and possibly residential, structures in the Islamic period.  The stratigraphy was dense and the material uncovered strongly suggested we were close to one of Ashkelon's major streets.

During the 2015 season, we will move even closer to the presumed location of the cardo and open a 5 x 10 meter area as we expand our search for this important feature of the ancient city.   

 Destroyed walls in Grid 32

 Destroyed walls in Grid 32



The Tel Burna Excavation Project

Deadline Extended to May 15th

We have extended the deadline to sign up for excavating this summer to May 15th. Now there are no more excuses for not coming this summer :)

The Cerw Part 1The Crew Part 1

April 26, 2015

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

Reminder – “Young Scholars’ Conference” – this Thursday, April 30th, 2015

As I mentioned previously, this Thursday (April 30th, 2015), there will be a “Young Scholars’ Conference” of the Department of Land of Israel Studies and Archaeology at BIU, at which graduate and doctoral students will briefly present on various aspects of their research.

From the Safi team, Shira will be talking about the research on the faience beads from the EB layers, and Nahshon will be talking about his work on Iron IIA pottery from Safi. In addition, there will be quite a few interesting papers on other topics. Note – all will be in Hebrew.

Here is a link to the program – looks like this will be a very interesting day meeting. I’m the session chair for the first session, so I get there from the very beginning… :-)

Aren


April 24, 2015

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

Microarchaeology and the Philistine Household

A new article in which I discuss the use of micro-archaeological methods and analyses at Tell es-Safi/Gath, and how this can be used to understand more about the Philistine household during the Iron Age has just appeared.

It appeared as part of a very interesting volume on various approaches to household archaeology (note – the entire volume can be downloaded for free here).

The article is:

Maeir, A. M. 2015. Micro-Archaeological Perspectives on the Philistine Household Throughout the Iron Age and Their Implications. Pp. 307–19 in Household Studies in Complex Societies. (Micro) Archaeological and Textual Approaches, ed. M. Muller. Oriental Institute Series 10. Chicago: Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago.

Check it out!

Aren


April 22, 2015

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

Pictures from the Ackerman Family Workshop in Biblical Archaeology

As promised, here are some pictures from the 1st Annual Ackerman Family Workshop in Biblical Archaeology, which was held on April 15th-16th, 2015. As you may recall, the first day was a full day of lectures at BIU (see the great picture of all the participants during the lunch break), while the 2nd day was a field trip by some of those who presented lectures on the 1st day, to sites in the Shephelah.

It was a great workshop!

Philipp stockhammer at workshop Aren Maeir lecturing at workshop Aren Maeir at Tel Burna Ackerman field trip at Tel Burna Ackerman workshop participants


April 21, 2015

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

What’s in my bag? Check it out!

Since Eric told us what’s in his bag, I thought you might want to know what is in mine: check it out here on the ASOR blog.

Aren


April 20, 2015

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

Mini-season on the tell today

As mentioned yesterday, today, a group of us (Steve, Amit, Yotam, Shira, Erin, Maria, Jeff, Dina and yours truly) went to the tell for a “mini-season” to do some sampling and check for potential places to carry out 14C dating of the LB/Iron I transition. We worked in Areas A and F, and actually do seem to have found a couple of places which may serve us during the coming season for possibly finding good sequences of 14C dates for this transition. The reason why we are so interested in this is that we now have two sets of dates (one published and one about to be published) which indicate that this transition (and in particular the earliest appearance of early Philistine pottery), at Tell es-Safi/Gath, may have already commenced in the late 13th cent. BCE – somewhat earlier than seen at most sites.

See here some pictures of the work in Area A, and fragments of a very nice Philistine Bichrome “stirrup jar” (if you look closely you can see a bird decoration!) – which I found sticking out of a freshly washed-away section of the cliff just below Area F – where we often find interesting “goodies”.

In addition, we could not get over the thorns that have grown all over the tell. They are like a jungle – with some of the more than 7 feet high, making some parts of the tell, simply inaccessible! In all the twenty years of work on the site, I don’t remember any year in which the overgrowth, and especially of these really nasty thorns, was so high!

Aren

IMG_3541 IMG_3534 IMG_3532 IMG_3529


April 19, 2015

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

Short, one day season at Tell es-Safi/Gath tomorrow

Tomorrow, Monday, April 20th, a small team will be going out to the field for a one day season at the tell. We will be looking for good samples for 14C dating which we hope to find in various locations in Area A and F. In particular, we are looking for samples from some specific contexts representing the transition between the Late Bronze and Iron Ages.

Should be interesting – I’ll update on this tomorrow.

Aren


April 17, 2015

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

Ackerman Family Annual Workshop in Biblical Archaeology

As mentioned previously, this past Wednesday-Thursday, the 1st annual Ackerman Family Workshop in Biblical Archaeology was held, and the topic was the Late Bronze Age in Southern Canaan. The first day consisted of a full day of lectures that were given at BIU, by scholars from various universities in Israel and US and Europe. In addition, to the 20 odd speakers, about 70 colleagues and students, from all the universities in Israel (as well as a nice amount of visitors from abroad), joined us for the day. The talks were very interesting and thought provoking, and interesting discussions developed – both during the sessions and in the breaks between them. Needless to say, it was also nice to see so many friends and colleagues.

The following day, on Thursday, a group of the lecturers went on a field trip to various sites that were discussed in the talks, including Beth Shemesh, Lachish, Burna and Gath. At each site, we were guided by the directors of the excavations, and very interesting discussions developed.

Based on what I can say, and the reactions of many of the participants, this meeting was quite a smashing success!

I hope to post pictures next week.

Aren


April 16, 2015

The Tel Burna Excavation Project

Recent Articles and Presentations

Last week, we (Chris, Debi and Itzick) published a brief preliminary report on the last 5 seasons (6 including the survey) of the project at the Bible and Interpretation. You can read it here.

Itzick also presented a lecture at the Ackermann Family Expedition to Gath LB Workshop (Bar Ilan) on the cult in the Late Bronze Age based on our findings from Area B (Chris and Joe were co-authors).

Chris gave a lecture on Area B to a very interested audience at Lakeview Baptist Church in Mathis, Texas.

There is still time left to take part in the next round of amazing finds!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA


April 15, 2015

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

1st Annual Ackerman Family Workshop on Biblical Archaeology – Today at BIU!

Today and tomorrow, the First Annual Ackerman Family Workshop in Biblical Archaeology, will be held at BIU. The workshop, which is entitled: “And the Canaanite was then in the land (Gen. 12: 6): Canaanites in Southern Canaan during the Late Bronze and Early Iron Ages”, will deal with recent finds and research on the Late Bronze Age of Southern Canaan.

There will be a very interesting day today (April 15) of lectures by scholars from Israel and abroad, mostly on the results of recent excavations in the Canaan, for the most part in the Shephelah region.

Tomorrow, Thursday, the invited participants will go on a field trip to various sites that were discussed.

Here is the program and abstracts of the workshop: Ackerman LB workshop program book_April 12 2015 final version

Should be very interesting!

Aren

Bar-Ilan University, April 15th-16th, 2015


Philistine names lecture online

As you may recall, a couple of weeks ago I presented a paper (my co-authors were Louise Hitchcock and Brent Davis) on some of the Philistines names, at the 12th International Conference on Jewish Names which was held at Bar-Ilan University on March 18th, 2015. Yigal Levin, who was among the organizers of the meeting has given the heads up that the presentations from the meeting are now online.

See below the link to all the conference lectures. To get to my lecture, click on the play list on the upper left hand corner and go to number 9:

Aren


April 14, 2015

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

TV interview about ISIS destroying Nimrud on Israel TV Channel 10

Today I was interviewed for Rafi Reshef’s evening news program on Israel TV, Channel 10, and discussed the destruction of the antiquities in Nimrud by ISIS.

For those of you who understand Hebrew, here is a clip of the interview (the beginning was not recorded) that Amit took from his TV (and towards the end you can hear one of his kids talking…).

The full interview will probably appear on the Channel 10 website by tomorrow.

Aren


April 13, 2015

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

2015 Field Season

A little Ashkelon news as we continue to prepare for the rapidly approaching 2015 field season.

Josh Walton standing at the top of Grid 16

Josh Walton standing at the top of Grid 16

Congratulations to Dr. Joshua Walton, supervisor of Grid 16, who successfully defended his dissertation this month.

Applications are in and with the first wave of supervisors heading over in just five weeks, preparations are well under way for the upcoming season. This will be the second year of excavation in Grid 16 where work will continue to investigate the occupational sequence on the North Tell. 

Work will continue in Grid 51 where excavation should uncover further evidence for the 604 destruction of the city.

Supervisors Kate Birney and Jonathan Wylie discuss stratigraphy 

Supervisors Kate Birney and Jonathan Wylie discuss stratigraphy 

Finally, we will be opening a new area near last season's salvage excavation in a hunt for the Roman period cardo.

So, what about the accommodations in 1985? Well, this is what they look like today:

Campground where excavation members stayed in 1985

Campground where excavation members stayed in 1985

What a difference 30 years make. Obviously, it didn't look like this when the excavation was housed in the campground during the 1985 field season. The location couldn't be beat but the excavation stayed here only one year before moving down the street to the Shulamit Gardens Hotel. 

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

Snake update: Its been caught! A Coluber najadum

News flash from Dina Levine – the snake in the lab has been caught, and it has been identified as a זעמן – a Coluber najadumor in English – a Coluber snake.

For those of you who were worried – it is not venomous…

Here’s a picture that Dina sent:

Snake in the lab_April 2015

Aren


Snake in the lab! Yikes!

I’m not in the lab today, but Shira just called to say that a snake was seen in the lab! Everybody went out of the lab and they called the environmental services office of the university, who hopefully will send a snake catcher to get rid of this pest!

Yikes!

Aren


April 12, 2015

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

Nice article on new directions in archaeological research – particularly at Tell es-Safi/Gath – in ERETZ magazine

A very nice popular article, by Heidi Gleit, has appeared in Eretz Magazine, on the new directions in field archaeology, and in particular, those relating to the expanded collaboration with “archaeological science.” Heidi interviewed Elisabetta Boarreto (WIS) and Ruth Shahak-Gross (formerly of WIS, and now of U of Haifa), and yours truly, on this topic. While I gave the perspective of the “plain vanilla” archaeologist (I know, I’m modest…:-), Lisa and Ruty presented the perspectives of the archaeological scientists.

Needless to say, a lot of attention was given to the finds from Tell es-Safi/Gath.

Check it out – it’s quit nice!

Gleit_Archaeological Science_ERETZ 150_2015

Aren


April 07, 2015

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

Eric Cline lectures on the LB collapse at the OI – check it out

Eric Cline gave a talk about his great book on the 1177 BCE collapse at the Oriental Institute in Chicago. So, those of you who are too lazy to read through the book (but please, don’t tell Eric about this – tell him you bought his book…), check out the lecture!

Aren

P.S. And he mentions my lecture on the Philistines at the OI at around 11:10 minutes into the lecture…:-)


Louise Hitchcock on why the Aegean matters for Biblical Archaeology

Louise Hitchcock, field supervisor of Area A, has put out a very nice piece in Biblical Archaeology Review, on why the study of the ancient Aegean cultures is important for the archaeology of the ancient Near East and biblical archaeology.

Check it out here: Hitchcock_Why the Aegean matters_ArkiViews_BAR_2015

Aren


April 01, 2015

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

Lectures at the Archaeological Congress

As I mentioned previously, today the annual archaeological congress in Israel was held at BIU. There was a full day of lectures – many of which were very interesting. I have gave a paper on feasting in PNG and implications for the archaeology of the Ancient Near East – which I believe was received very well – and needless to say, I had a lot of fun giving it.

Amit gave our joint paper on the excavations in Area D – the lower city of Gath – and this as well went very well (see the pictures below of Amit giving his paper).

During the lunch break, we got together in the Safi lab, Safi team members and various friends, to raise a toast (see pictures below) in honor of Pessach/Passover – happy holidays to all!

photo 4 photo 3 photo 2 photo 1

Aren


New article on the Exodus as Cultural/Collective Memory

Just in time for Pessach/Passover, a paper on the Exodus from a cultural/collective memory perspective, has just appeared in a volume edited by Tom Levy et al., the proceedings of a conference on the Exodus which was held in San Diego two years ago.
The paper is entitled:
Maeir, A. M. 2015. Exodus as a Mnemo-Narrative: An Archaeological Perspective. Pp. 409–19 inIsrael’s Exodus in Transdisciplinary Perspective – Text, Archaeology, Culture, and Geoscience, eds. T. E. Levy, T. Schneider and W. H. C. Propp. Quantitative Methods in the Humanities and Social Sciences. Heidelberg: Springer.
Happy Passover/Easter for those of you who are celebrating!
And for those participating in a “Seder” tomorrow night – please feel free to use ideas that are presented in the article! :-)
Aren

March 31, 2015

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

“Young Scholars” conference at BIU, April 30th, 2015

This coming April 30th, 2015, a “Young Scholars” conference of the Dept. of Land of Israel Studies and Archaeology at BIU will take place. In the meeting, graduate and doctoral students from the department will present lectures (in Hebrew) on aspects of their research.

Among the various lectures, there will be two related to Safi: 1) Shira (Kisos) Albaz will speak about the faience beads from the EB at the site. 2) Nahshon Zanton will speak about new aspects of the typology of the Iron IIA pottery from the site.

In addition, there will be many other very interesting talks. The meeting is open to the public – see below the program: Kenes Hokrim Zeerim_BIU 2015 Should be very interesting – do join us! Aren


Archaeological Congress tomorrow (April 1st, 2015)

As previously mentioned, tomorrow, Wednesday, April 1st, 2015, the annual Archaeological Congress in Israel will be held at Bar-Ilan University and is open to all.

Among other lectures that will be presented at the meeting, you can hear me lecturing on feasting in Papua New Guinea and possible insights on the archaeology of the ancient Near East, and Amit, who will present (in my name as well), a summary of the last 7 years of excavations in the lower city of Gath (Area D).

Hope to see you there!

Aren


March 29, 2015

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

“Caveat lector” on a new book on the Sea Peoples…

A new book on the Sea Peoples has now been published by Osprey Publishing, who put out many popular books on military related themes. Some of these books are excellent, some less.

The book, which I purchased during my recent trip to Paris is entitled:

D’Amato, R., and Salimbeti, A. 2015. Sea Peoples of the Bronze Age Mediterranean c. 1400 BC – 1000 BC. Elite 204. Oxford: Osprey.

What can I say – caveat lector

Aren


March 28, 2015

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

What’s in Eric’s bag?

If you want to know what is in Eric Welch’s bag, as of the upcoming 2015 season, the co-director of Area F (with Jeff Chadwick), check out this very nice post on the ASOR blog.

Aren


March 27, 2015

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

Definitely “for the birds”…

A new book has just appeared in the OBO series, which seems to combine between two of my most passionate interests – the Ancient Near East and ornithology!

Definitely interested in checking out this new volume:

von der Osten-Sacken, E. 2015 Untersuchungen zur Geflügelwirtschaft im Alten Orient. Orbis Biblicus et Orientalis 272. Fribourg: Academic Press.

Here is the blurb which describes the volume:

This monograph studies the economic use of birds from the beginning to the domestication of some of them. Since when do humans hunt birds and how did they use them? The development of methods and significance of fowling and bird keeping are examined with a particular focus on economically relevant, especially fowl-like species.
Different kinds of ancient Near Eastern evidence and source materials (archaezoological, archaeological and philological) are examined and compared to ancient Egyptian and Greco-Roman sources. The book is based on a revised habilitation thesis that was critically evaluated by experts of all relevant disciplines and topics. In its breadth and comprehensiveness, it is an unique work and will be the indispensable reference work on poultry in the Ancient Near East for many years to come.

Aren


March 25, 2015

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

New article published online – on the environmental effects of Hazael destruction on the environs of Tell es-Safi/Gath

An article, whose research and publication was spearheaded by Oren Ackermann (our geoarchaeologist) – and a big team of collaborators (including yours truly), has just been published online in the journal Anthropocene.

In this article we discuss evidence retrieved from a deep section which was cut in a valley to the east of the site. The sediments in this pit were analyzed by a very broad team of experts in may fields (and thus, the long list of co-authors). From this study, which builds on earlier research which we conducted in and around the tell, we see that the destruction of Tell es-Safi/Gath by Hazael (ca. late 9th century BCE) had a significant anthropogenic effect on the landscape. Among other aspects, evidence shows that the sedimentation rates increased after the destruction of the site. We suggest that this can be used in other cases as well in which the correlation of a high sedimentation rate and an anthropogenic marker in the sediment, with a documented human event, may enable the deciphering of anthropogenic fill.

The full title of the article is:

Ackermann, O., Greenbaum, N., Ayalon, A., Bar-Matthews, A., Boaretto, E., Bruins, H., Cabanes, D., Horwitz, L. K., Neumann, F., Porat, N., Weiss, E., and Maeir, A. M.
2015. Using Palaeo-Environmental Proxies to Reconstruct Natural and Anthropogenic Controls on Sedimentation Rates, Tell es-Safi/Gath, Eastern Mediterranean. Anthropocene (doi: http://dx.doi.org/doi:10.1016/j.ancene.2015.03.004).

The online, pre-proofs version of the article can be found at:

http://ac.els-cdn.com/S2213305415000090/1-s2.0-S2213305415000090-main.pdf?_tid=94101852-d2e2-11e4-97b5-00000aacb35d&acdnat=1427283311_51ea286b7edf979e55a37e90d7540171

Aren


March 24, 2015

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

Lecture by Ami Mazar on the Rehov apiary

Today, Prof. Amihai Mazar (HU), have a very interesting lecture, with his up-to-date thoughts on the apiary (honey producing installation) which he and his team discovered at Tel Rehov. The lecture was given as part of the departmental seminar of the Dept. of Land of israel Studies and Archaeology at BIU.

As usual, Ami was stimulating, interesting and threw out quite a few interesting ideas!


March 23, 2015

The Tel Burna Excavation Project

Excavation Academic Credit and Scholarship Opportunity

We are pleased to announce that academic credit is now being offered to participants of the Tel Burna Excavation project who wish to take part in this summer’s field school. The credit will be given through Ariel University in either 3 (two weeks) or 6 (four weeks) credit hours, which are transferrable to a student’s home school. The two week/3 credit course costs $500 and the four week/6 credit course costs $1000. For those interested please contact Dr. Itzhaq Shai at shai.itzick@gmail.com.

If you are looking for a way to fund your summer adventure at Tel Burna – here is yet another scholarship opportunity – this one is offered by Israel Scholarship.

2014 Season Min with a complete Iron IIB bowl


March 22, 2015

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

Visit to Tell Rumeideh and Hebron,

Today, I had the opportunity to visit Hebron and Tell Rumeida. Not only did I get a chance to see, once again, the antiquities on Tell Rumeida (including the new excavations) and the Al Haram el-Khalil/Tomb of the Patriarchs site, I had a very interesting tour with Thomas, a former member of the TIPH observer group, who showed us around central Hebron through his perspective – which is not one that you get to hear very often.

As you may know, Hebron is one of the most highly debated, and some say craziest, places on this planet, and to hear a slightly different perspective from those that I’ve heard until now (including both Israeli and Palestinian views of all kinds) on someone’s daily experiences in Hebron was very interesting.

Here are some pictures next to the EB and MB fortifications on Tell Rumeideh, which I took today:

photo 2 photo 4

And just for fun, here is a photo of Jeff Chadwick, aka Achish Melekh Gath, posing at the same place, way before the most recent excavations, when he was MUCH younger… :-)

Rumeide_MB_fortifications_with_Jeff

Aren


March 21, 2015

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

The Elephant from Revadim…

A very interesting study has been published by colleagues from TAU, BGU and other institutions, on evidence of early butchery of elephants found at the prehistoric site near Kibbutz Revadim (about 1/2 a km to the east of the kibbutz, just to the south of Route 3), where the Safi team stays during the season. This site, the Revadim Quarry site, is of the late Acheulian cultural complex, of the Lower Paleolithic period, and dates to ca. 500-300 thousand years ago.

Various aspects about this site have been published in the past (such as herehere and here), but this new study shows some very interesting evidence of early human butchery of elephants, and even more interestingly, animal fat residue on stone tools relating to this.

So, while dealing with much earlier periods than those that we usually deal with at the Tell es-Safi/Gath excavations, this is quite an interesting aspect of the early history of this region.

Aren


March 20, 2015

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

“…and the corn is as high as an elephant’s eye”!

Today (March 20th, 2015) I visited the tell with some friends (and my son Noam) and we walked around the for a couple of hours. While the damage from the winter rains was a bit too much to make one happy, it nevertheless was great to get out to the site. As always, the site during the winter is quite a site to see – completely green – so different from colors in the summer.

What was particularly astonishing, and in fact I don’t remember this from past years, was the massive growth, and in particular the height of the thistles and thorns that were growing all over the tell.

To paraphrase the the song from the movie “Oklahoma” – they were as high as an elephant’s eye!

Here are some pictures of the greenery on the tell. For those of you familiar with the tell and how it usually looks, notice the colors, the massiveness of the growth, and how the paths are completely encroached by the growth! Notice how the remains of the village mosque are almost covered over by the bushes!

photo 5 photo 4 photo 3 photo 2 photo 1

And just in case you don’t remember the song “Oh what a beautiful morning” from “Oklahoma,” here it is:

:-)

Aren


March 18, 2015

The Tel Burna Excavation Project

Popular Archaeology Article Published

Check out Itzick’s newly published article on Tel Burna at Popular Archaeology (subscription required).

An archaeological team is excavating a site that is showing evidence of having been a fortified settlement belonging to the kingdom of Judah both before and during the time when the Assyrians were sacking the kingdom’s cities in the 8th century BCE.

Known today as the site of Tel Burna, the mound is located in the fertile rolling plains of the Shephelah, a region between the coastal plains and the Jerusalem mountains in central Israel. It is an area that, anciently, served as a strategic borderland between the Philistines in the west and ancient Israel and the kingdom of Judah to the east. Today, Tel Burna is surrounded by other ancient sites that have been intensely investigated and excavated over the years.  But this site has seen relatively little exploration and research—until now………….

LMLK, Personal Stamp, and Rosette seal impressions from the 8th-7th centuries BCE

March 15, 2015

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

Completely missed my point on the destruction of Mesopotamian culture heritage – but what’s new…

I was interviewed by the Jewish Chronicle Online regarding the destruction of cultural heritage in Syria and Iraq, even if the interviewer was interested more in the possible Jewish heritage being destroyed. I tried to explain that the Jewish side of this tragedy was rather limited, and that the general destruction of cultural assets is the problem (and even more so – the horrible acts of barbarism to the people living in these areas).

For some reason what was understood was that I was more upset about the destruction of the artifacts than the sites…

Well, at least they spelled my name correctly – oh, actually – they did not even do that… :-)

Aren


March 11, 2015

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

Reading an interesting book: “Disasters in Field Research”

I’m reading a very interesting book – “Disasters in Field Research: Preparing for and Coping with Unexpected Events“, authored by Ice, Dufour and Stevens.

Disasters in research cover page picture

This book is an excellent basic handbook on how field researchers in various fields (e.g. archaeology, anthropology, geology, biology, etc.) can prepare for the various types of mishaps – and in some cases – disasters, that can occur out in the field, and what to do when these things do actually happen.

The book covers a wide range of materials, scenarios, problems and solutions. While a lot what is covered is not new for someone who has been in the field in various places for many years (and add to that several years in army service), there are some great points even for an “old timer”.

And needless to say, those who are relatively new at doing research out in the field – this is a treasure trove of healthy and sound advice. I would read it – this may help you recover from various screw ups in the field – and even save your life in others.

A good thing to remember in any case, and this shines through in this book as well, is the well-known “Murphy’s Law“: Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong…

Aren


March 09, 2015

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

Official BIU notice on the new Israel/Aram Minerva Center

See here is the official Hebrew press release by BIU on our new Minerva Center dealing with Israel/Aram relations in the biblical periods. The English one can be found here.

And here is the notice on nrg.co.il.

Here it is on the nocamels.com site.

Here on the Jewish business news site.


March 07, 2015

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

College de France lecture online!

As previously mentioned, I presented a lecture at the Philistines at the College de France in Paris on Feb. 25th, 2015.

And, as promised, the video (and audio) of the lecture is now online, and below is a link to the lecture on youtube:

Check it out!

Aren


The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

1985

The excavation of Ashkelon, initially sponsored by Leon Levy and Shelby White and now the Leon Levy Foundation, began in 1985. Under the direction of Lawrence E. Stager and Douglas Esse, the associate director, four areas were opened for excavation. One of those areas, Grid 38, would become the longest continually excavated area on site. Two other grids, 50 and 57, would become sites of long term excavation. The final area, Grid 34/41, which was excavated for only two seasons, held one of the best preserved buildings uncovered in ancient Ashkelon.

The first official photo of the excavation

The first official photo of the excavation

As excavation began, some areas revealed their secrets quickly.

Fresco in church standing near Jerusalem Gate

Fresco in church standing near Jerusalem Gate

Work didn't always move as quickly in other areas.

Grid 57

Grid 57

There are a lot of familiar names on the list of Ashkelon staff in 1985 but two stand out, two staff members still work with the excavation today. The first is Lawrence Stager and the second is Paula Wapnish.

Who else was at Ashkelon in 1985? What about the stories of the accommodations? Can they possibly be true? The answers to these questions and more coming soon.

We have two more seasons of excavation and are looking for volunteers to join us for the 2015 field season. You still have time to submit an application. Consider joining us and becoming part of the Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon team.

March 04, 2015

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

Paper on Philistine names at upcoming “Names Conference” at BIU

Dr. Yigal Levin has sent out the program for the forthcoming 12th International Conference on Jewish Names which will be held at Bar-Ilan University on March 18th, 2015 (which by the way is my birthday…)

Among other papers to be presented at this interesting meeting, I will be giving a paper (along with Louise Hitchcock and Brent Davis in absentia) on a fresh look at Philistine names and terms, and what they can and cannot tell us about Philistine origins, language(s), social structure and other issues.

Here is the complete program of the meeting:

Bar-Ilan University

The Faculty of Jewish Studies

The Israel and Golda Koschitzky Department of Jewish History and Contemporary Judaism

The Project for the Study of Jewish Names

The Twelfth International Conference on Jewish Names

Wednesday, March 18, 2015, Feldman Hall, Bar-Ilan University, Ramat-Gan, Israel

Session A, 9:00-10:30: Names in Bible and Epigraphy

Chair: Dr. Michael Avioz, Bar-Ilan University

Mitka R. Golub, The Hebrew University in Jerusalem: Personal Names from the First Temple Period: Archaeological and Biblical Sources (Heb)

David Shneor, Shaanan College: Criteria for the Identification of Biblical Toponyms in the Writings of Ishtori Happarhi (Heb)

Asher Ovadiah, Tel Aviv University: Hebrew Inscriptions with Jewish Names in Elijah’s Cave at the Foot of Mount Carmel (Heb)

Yigal Bloch, The Hebrew University in Jerusalem: A Jewish Name in a Babylonian Toponym of 425 B.C.E. (Eng)

Session B: 10:45-12:15: Names in Eastern Jewish Communities

Chair: Prof. Yaron Harel, Head of the Department of Jewish History and the Dahan Center, Bar-Ilan University

Victor Hayoun, The Association for the Heritage of Tunisian Jewry: First Names in the Jewish Community of Tunisia (Heb)

Leah Bornstein-Makovetsky, Ariel University: Surnames of Izmir Jews in the 18th and 19th Centuries: Social and Historical Aspects (Heb)

Dov Cohen, Bar-Ilan University: Family Names of Cohanim in Izmir – the Cohen-Arias Family (1670-1970) as a Test Case (Heb)

Esther Shkalim, Tel-Aviv University: Family Names of Iranian Jews: Their Sources and Meanings (Heb)

Session C: 10:45-12:15 (room 102): 10:45-12:15: Names in the Ancient and Medieval Periods:

Chair: Dr. Itzhak Shai, Ariel University

Aren M. Maeir, Bar-Ilan University; Brent Davis and Louise A. Hitchcock, University of Melbourne: Philistine Names and Terms Once Again: A Recent Perspective (Eng)

Elody di Vito, EPHE Paris, Hebrew Names in Phoenician Inscriptions (Eng)

Phillip I. Ackerman-Lieberman, Vanderbilt University: Jewish Onomastics, the Cairo Geniza, and Westward Migration in the Medieval Period (Eng)

Ricardo Muñoz Solla, Universidad de Salamanca: On Hispano-Jewish Medieval Anthroponomy: The Case Study of Medina de Pomar (Burgos, XVth century) (Eng)

Lunch Break

Session D: 13:30-15:30: Names in Different Jewish Communities:

Chair: Dr. Orly C. Meron, Bar-Ilan University

Yosef Rivlin, Bar-Ilan University: The Meaning of Fictitious Names in the Responsa Literature (Heb)

Chanan Rapaport, The International Institute for Jewish Genealogy and Paul Jacobi Center: Jewish Family Names Composed of Acronyms – Notaricons (Heb)

Aharon Gaimani, Bar-Ilan University: The Influence of Rabbi Yehudah Heḥasid’s Ethical Will on Names in Jewish Communities (Heb)

Reuven Enoch, Ariel University: Last Names of Georgian Jews Based on Word-Combinations (Heb)

Reut Green: Name Giving as a Major Component of the Development of Hebrew Identity (1882-1914) (Heb)

Session E: 13:30-15:30 (room 102): 13:30-15:30: Jewish Names East and West:

Chair: Dr. Debra Kaplan, Bar-Ilan University

Johannes Czakai, Freie Universität Berlin: The Galician Konskription of 1785: The First Jewish Name Regulation (Eng)

Felicia Waldman, University of Bucharest: Sephardic Names in Late 19th and Early 20th Century Bucharest (Eng)

Grant Smith, Eastern Washington University: The Semiotics of Antonio and Shylock (Eng)

Alexandre Beider, Paris: Etymology of Jewish Surnames from the Maghreb (Eng)

Session F: 15:45-17:45: Names in Modern Hebrew Literature and Linguistics:

Chair: Prof. Aaron Demsky, Head of the Project for the Study of Jewish Names, Bar-Ilan University

Greetings: Rabbi Prof. Daniel Hershkowitz, President, Bar-Ilan University

       Prof. Elie Assis, Dean, Faculty of Jewish Studies, Bar-Ilan University

       Prof. Yaron Harel, Head of the Department of Jewish History and the Dahan Center, Bar-Ilan University

Erez Biton, Poet, Bialik Prize Laureate for 2015: Names in My Literary Ouvrage (Heb)

Ofra Matzov-Cohen, Ariel University: Names and their Contribution to the Text: A Comparative Study of the Novel Ahavah Shel Saltanat (Saltanat’s Love) and the Biography Zion Ezri, Beoz Ubehahavat Zion(With Courage and the Love of Zion) (Heb)

Ziva Feldman, Ariel University: The Poetics of Hanoch Levin and the Names of the Characters in his Works (Heb)

Tsvi Sadan, Bar-Ilan University: Toward the Onomastic Lexicography of Modern Hebrew (Heb)

Session G: 18:00-19:30: Names in the Land and State of Israel:

Chair: Dr. Dotan Arad, Bar-Ilan University

Shlomit Landman, Achva Academic College: The Cultural Perspective of Given Names in Israel, Based on Qualitative Interviews with Parents (Heb)

Sapir Omer Osias, Bar-Ilan University: Hebraization of Names in the Yishuv Period from the Second Half of the 19th Century: Perception, Progression and Effects (Heb)

Matanya Weynberger, Ariel University: The Hebraization of Family Names: Knesset Discussions from the 1950s (Heb)

Adel Shakour, Al-Qasemi Academy: Giving Children Hebrew Names in Druze Society in Israel (Heb)

The organizing committee: A. Demsky, Y. Levin, B. Kotlerman, I. Breier, T. Sadan


March 03, 2015

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

41st Archaeological Conference in Israel schedule

The schedule of the 41st Archaeological Conference in Israel, which will be held at Bar-Ilan University on April 1st, 2015.

There will be some very interesting lectures at the meeting, including one by me on archaeological insights from Papua New Guinea and by Amit Dagan on the Iron Age cultic finds from Area D at Tell es-Safi/Gath.

Here’s the schedule – hope to see you there!

41st archaeological conference plan_April 2015

Aren


And yet another article – on Bliss and Macalister’s excavations at Tell es-Safi/Gath

Just received the PDF of another just-appeared article :-)
Avissar Lewis, R. A. and Maeir, A. M. 2015. Bliss and Macalister’s Work at Tell es-Safi/Gath: A reappraisal in light of recent excavations. In Wolff, S. (ed.), Villain or Vissionary? R.A.S. Macalister and the archaeology of Palestine. PEF Annual XII. Maney: London.
In this study, Rona and I present an overview and assessment of the results of Bliss and Macalister’s excavations at Tell es-Safi/Gath in 1899, particularly in light of the finds from the current excavations at the site.
Once again, it can be found on my academia.edu website.
Best
Aren

Two new articles on feasting have appeared! One on the Philistines – the other on Papua New Guinea.

Today I got the final, published PDFs of two new articles:

1) Hitchcock, L. A., Horwitz, L. K., Boaretto, E., and Maeir, A. M. 2015. One Philistine’s Trash is an Archaeologist’s Treasure: Feasting at Iron Age I, Tell es-Safi/Gath. Near Eastern Archaeology 78(1): 12–25.
In this study, my colleagues and I discuss archaeological remains from late Iron I Tell es-Safi/Gath which we interpret as evidence of feasting activities, and discuss this within the broader framework of Late Bronze and early Iron Age cultures of the eastern Mediterranean.
2) Maeir, A. M. 2015. A Feast in Papua New Guinea. Near Eastern Archaeology 78(1): 26–34.
During a recent trip to Papua New Guinea, I participated in a traditional feast, in the remote village of Teptep. In this article, I note some of my observations on the feast and some possible insights relevant to the archaeology of the ancient near east.
For those interested, the articles can be found on my academia.edu webpage (along with many other publications of mine).
Aren

March 01, 2015

iMalqata

Goodbye to all that

Peter Lacovara

Yesterday we finished up at the site for the season. We carefully re-buried all the ancient surfaces that were exposed in the Palace, North Village and West Settlement with clean sand to protect it from erosion until we return next year.

The West Settlement covered with a protective layer of sand.

The West Settlement covered with a protective layer of sand.

All our equipment, supplies and fashionable old clothes we wear to dig in went into storage and we submitted our final reports to our colleagues in the Ministry of Antiquities. We brought the season’s small finds with a police escort to the Antiquities Storage Magazine at the other end of Western Thebes where we entered through the massive, squealing, iron doors and past about forty snarling Sekhmet statues to deposit them with great ceremony into the JEM’s storage trunk.

Our last task is to return the survey equipment to Chicago House and bid our fond farewells to our workmen and assistants, our colleagues in the Antiquities Ministry, the New Memnon staff and friends and fellow Egyptologists in Luxor and after stops in Cairo, head home until next season.

In the meantime, we will be busy digesting all the work of this season, giving presentations, writing reports and doing further research as well as planning and fundraising for our further adventures at Malqata. We hope you’ll all stay tuned for our further adventures.


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

Event marking the publication of the new Jewish Study Bible – March 20th, 2015

Please note that on the evening of March 20th, 2015, at the Pardes Institute in Jerusalem, there will be an event to mark the publication of the 2nd edition of the Jewish Study Bible (which I noted previously).

During the evening, one of the editors (Mark Brettler), and several of the contributors (including yours truly), will present on issues relating to the volume.

See below for the full program. Do try and make it – it should be very interesting!

Aren

Jewish Study Bible event


TV interview this evening on the destruction of the Mosul Museum

This evening (Sunday, March 1st, 2015), I will be interviewed (in Hebrew) about the destruction of the antiquities in the Mosul Museum, on Avri Gilad’s program on Channel 20, which will be on at 7 pm (Israel time) this evening.

If you can – do watch it!

Aren


February 28, 2015

iMalqata

Ghost Town

Janice Kamrin

We have been working this season in a previously unexcavated part of the site that we are calling the West Settlement. Identified during a magnetometer survey in 2012, this lies northwest of the North Village and just east of “Trench P,” a long southeast-northwest trench excavated by Barry Kemp in 1974.

The team’s surveyor for the first half of the season, Christopher Gray, set up a grid of 5 m x 5 m squares over an area of 25 meters square. As we began to excavate within this grid, we uncovered the traces of walls only a few centimeters below the surface. At first, it looked like these were just ghosts, as if they would disappear if the wind blew. And in fact, in the squares we have excavated so far, only the foundation bricks remain – the walls are never more than a single brick high, and in a few places they are gone completely. Perhaps Amenhotep III’s builders dismantled this entire area at some point and reused the bricks in other structures. Even so, the basic plan is clear: the defined spaces here are large and regular, much more so than in the North Village.

The ghost walls begin to emerge.

The ghost walls begin to emerge.

As we cleared further, especially in the northeastern squares, we came across mud surfaces at several levels. The lowest of these is even and well packed, and evidently represents the main or original floor. Above this in some places is what may be a second floor surface, or might be a fill of decayed mud brick. Palace ware dominates among the sherds we found. In one room, we uncovered a large deposit (probably dumped here from somewhere else) of broken vessels, which included half of a lovely large blue-painted jar (enough so we can determine its profile) and fragments from a number of red-slipped bowls of various sizes. Mixed with and under these pots was a lot of charcoal and many bones, including the remains of several small fish!

Looking south across the site. The large deposit of sherds is in the center right.

Looking south across the site. The large deposit of sherds is in the center right.

Among the artifacts we discovered were several that may link this site to the manufacturing area where Diana and Catharine are working: an awl of copper alloy, which was found next to a carnelian bead; the bit from a discarded awl, also of copper alloy; a bit of a glass cane; and several fragments of material with traces of glaze on them that look like they might have been used in a kiln.

Bronze awl.

Copper alloy awl.

So what was the function of this area? The jury is still out. Our best theory so far is that this was a storage area connected in some way to the manufacturing site Diana and Catharine are exploring. We hope to learn more in the seasons to come.

The eastern part of the site after excavation, looking north.

The eastern part of the site after excavation, looking north.


February 27, 2015

iMalqata

Greetings from our 2015 team

It’s our last Friday, so we are back at the hotel today, packing and getting ready to go home.

Here’s a photo, taken yesterday, of this year’s team.

Our 2015 team, from left to right: our surveyor, Joel Paulson; our driver, Mohamed [] ; Catharine Roehrig; Peter Lacovara; Diana Craig Patch; our brick expert, Tony Crosby; Janice Kamrin; and our excavation manager, Hassaan [].

Our 2015 team, from left to right: our surveyor, Joel Paulson; our driver, Mohamed Mostafa ; Catharine Roehrig; Peter Lacovara; Diana Craig Patch; our brick expert, Tony Crosby; Janice Kamrin; and our excavation manager, Hassaan Mohamed Ali. (Missing: Chris Grey, surveyor)


The Tel Burna Excavation Project

Registration for Summer

The summer season is rapidly approaching – if you are thinking of registering – remember the deadline for registration is on May 1. Don’t miss your chance to find the next amazing find from Tel Burna!

Registration details can be found below.

2015 Tel Burna Excavation Information and Registration Packet


February 26, 2015

iMalqata

How do I stack thee? Let me count the ways.

Tony Crosby

In previous blogs we have briefly discussed the sizes and numbers of mud bricks used in the construction of the palace at Malqata; in this blog we are going to discuss the actual bonding patterns – how did they stack bricks to make the palace walls?

To review, there are two main sizes; bricks that are 30 cm long and those that are 40 cm long. The width of these bricks are approximately 1/2 their length and the thickness is about 1/2 the width, although the thickness will vary the least, regardless of the overall size. These proportions vary slightly, but bricks will normally be within a centimeter of these ratios. Recently, we are recording more and more bricks that fall between these two sizes, being 35 cm long and 17 cm wide. We have also found a few bricks, in only one location, that are 27 cm long.

The multiple sizes seems a bit unusual as they do not relate to the function or actual sizes of walls constructed; the same size wall may be made up of the largest or the smallest bricks. One example is the enclosure wall, which is 2.4 – 2.5 meters thick. Mud bricks 30 cm long are used for most of its length utilizing a simple bonding pattern of seven headers and one stretcher (7 x 30 cm + 15 cm + mortar joints). In one section the wall is made of 35 cm bricks with a bonding patten of six headers and two stretchers (6 x 35cm + 17  cm + mortared joints).

Enclosure wall showing the bonding pattern of 7 headers and one stretcher in a section that we added to this year.

Enclosure wall showing the bonding pattern of 7 headers and one stretcher in a section that we added to this year.

Another wall is 1.33 meters thick and made of three headers and one stretcher of 35 cm bricks and another wall of the same thickness made of four headers of 30 cm bricks. In all cases, small variations in the width of the mortar joints will made up any differences.

The most common bonding pattern is two headers and one stretcher for a wall thickness of 0.6 meters. The pattern on the vertical wall surface is always alternating rows of headers and stretchers, unless a mistake is made or there is a need to level a section of a wall – more on this later. We have recorded walls that are one brick wide, two bricks wide, three bricks wide, the most common, four bricks wide and every width up to 10 bricks wide, and then the enclosure walls which are either 14 or 15 bricks wide, depending on the size of the bricks used. The least common are walls that are only one brick wide; these are thin partitions or perhaps even walls that are not full height, as they would not be stable even if they were not supporting walls.

Sketches of several bonding patterns used in the palace.

Sketches of several bonding patterns used in the palace (drawing by Gina Salama)

Sketches of more bonding patterns used in the palace (drawing by Gina Salama)

Sketches of more bonding patterns used in the palace (drawing by Gina Salama)

An important character of all the walls is that stretchers are never used on the interior of a wall, only on the edges. A wall is never built with three stretchers as that would require a stretcher in the interior of a wall. A wall that size would always be made up of a header and a stretcher. Even the thickest walls — the enclosure walls — are made up of all stretchers except one or two on the edges of the wall.

One wall was documented that was 0.88 meters thick and the pattern was two headers of 35 cm bricks and the alternating course was two stretchers and one header. In one case there was a gap in the center of the wall of 18 cm that was filled with mortar and mud rubble; the alternate course had two 9 cm gaps also filled with mortar and rubble. In this case, stretchers used in the center of the wall would have eliminated the large spaces between and resulted in a much stronger wall.

A great deal of the variation in the bonding patterns is obvious only under close scrutiny. The most visible variation is on the wall surface when there is a deviation from the standard alternating rows of headers and stretchers. The most common is a brick that is set in the wall on its edge, rather than flat. The principle purpose is to level that and subsequent courses, which have strayed a little from level. The other purpose is is to correct a change in the bonding pattern that may have adjacent rows of headers, rather than alternating headers and stretchers.

Original mud bricks set on edge to level courses in a wall.

Original mud bricks set on edge to level courses in a wall.

On rare occasion we have documented bricks set on edge, but set parallel to the wall axis rather than perpendicular to it. This is perhaps the worst solution possible as this brick might just tilt a little on its edge and fall out of the wall. In this case, although it shouldn’t work well, the fact is that the examples we see are 3,400 years old.

Another example of bricks set on edge in the original masonry. Note the two thin courses immediately right of the bricks set on edge.

Another example of bricks set on edge in the original masonry. Note the two thin courses immediately right of the bricks set on edge.

Now, if these were problems faced by the ancient builders, you can bet that in our preservation of the palace we run into some of the same problems of unlevel courses and bonding patterns that don’t match. Well, we do it the same way as the ancients. In the example below we changed from two courses to one course; we did do a bit of sloping of the subsequent course, but in another course, we are level again.

New masonry showing the use of bricks set on edge to go from two courses to one course and the level the subsequent courses.

New masonry showing the use of bricks set on edge to go from two courses to one course and the level the subsequent courses.

So there we have it. Of course as a preservation project we not only want things to function properly, we also want the character of the original masonry to be reflected in the new protective masonry. By using the same techniques as the ancient builders in our new masonry and using the same bonding patterns, we achieve both.


February 25, 2015

iMalqata

Planning the Palace

Peter Lacovara

Before Tony caps a wall with a protective layer, it is carefully planned and recorded. In addition, Joel does a 3-D laser scan of the whole palace and we photograph the brickwork. The last step is to make carefully detailed brick-by brick drawings of the tops of each wall along with elevations and sections of special features. Although many of the earlier expeditions made plans of the palace, they did not record  this degree of detail. In examining the walls this closely, many details are revealed. I just finished drawing a long room called Mwhich appears to have been one of a series of storage rooms or magazines surrounding the central core of the palace.

Plan of M1

Plan of M1

M1 is a long, narrow corridor with low buttresses jutting out perpendicular to the walls. The buttresses, constructed of a different size brick, were added after the walls had received a finishing coat of plaster. They were placed at regular intervals of 1.85 meters and would have supported a low shelf for storing food and supplies for the palace residents.

Photo of M1

Photo of M1

In fact, the original Metropolitan Museum Expedition discovered a wall painting of a bowl of fruit, maybe pomegranates or dom-palm nuts, in a basket on a stand on one of the buttress walls.

Archival photo from the MMA excavations of 1910-11 (PA 12)

Archival photo from the MMA excavations of 1910-11 (PA 128), showing the wall painting as found

Bench End-Panel from a shelf support in the Palace of Amenhotep III-Fruit Stand (11.215.454)

Bench End-Panel from a shelf support in the Palace of Amenhotep III-Fruit Stand (11.215.454)

 

This same device of painting what would be stored on the shelf above can be seen in some of the tombs in the Valley of the Kings. The Egyptians obviously believed very strongly in a place for everything and everything in its place — for all eternity!

Shelves in the burial chamber of Seti I

Shelf for holding a bed from the tomb of Seti I


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

My lecture at the College de France

As I wrote about earlier, today I gave a lecture at the College de France, at the invitation of Prof. Thomas Romer. The lecture dealt with new perspectives on the Philistines, primarily based on the finds from Tell es-Safi/Gath.

At some time in the future the lecture will be online on the website of the College de France. I’ll update when it will be online.

The lecture went very well – and I got an official medallion (!) for giving the lecture! That’s a first for me… :-)

photo

Aren


The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

Another Look

During the 1990s, it was not uncommon for grids to dress in costume and put on small-scale theatrical productions during Tell Tours. The picture below is a fun one. Can you identify the grid and/or the grid supervisor as well as the dig photographer? (The picture caption gives you a hint.)

Roman bath

Roman bath

In the previous "blast from the past," the photograph was of Aaron Brody standing in Grid 9 Square 38, an area that was opened in 1993. It was excavated for two seasons and produced one of the largest collections of Under-Glaze Painted Ware ceramics on site.  What are UGPW ceramics, you wonder? Check back to learn more.

I am overdue on starting with our dig retrospective -- it's coming soon.

Most importantly, we are still digging and accepting volunteer applications for the 2015 field season. Planning is well under way and we anticipate another exciting season. Half and full season  programs are available. 

February 24, 2015

iMalqata

Our 2015 Representative from the Ministry of Antiquities

Diana Craig Patch

Every year the Joint Expedition to Malqata is given an inspector of antiquities from the West Bank Inspectorate to join us for the season. Their role is an important one as they make sure we are able to work as agreed to in our concession. They also oversee the registration of every member of the team, which is another requirement of our excavation permit.

This season we are joined by Mrs. Amal Moatasem Mustafa, a seasoned member of the West Bank Inspectorate. Mrs. Amal was appointed to the Supreme Council of Antiquities (now the Ministry of Antiquities and Heritage, but still referred to as the SCA locally) in 2009. She received her BA from Sohag University in 2008, specializing in Egyptology. From 2009 until just two months ago, she was assigned to the Ramesseum, the mortuary temple of Ramesses II that was first made famous in Western culture by the Percy Shelley poem “Ozymandias.”   Mrs. Amal’s current assignment is as an inspector in the Carter Magazine, the huge storage facility north of Qurna where some of Malqata’s objects have been placed for safekeeping.

 

Janice and Mrs. Amal discussing pottery finds from the West Settlement

Janice and Mrs. Amal discussing pottery finds from the West Settlement

Mrs. Amal likes to keep busy and I was impressed, while speaking with her about her career, by how many places she has worked in this area since joining the West Bank Inspectorate. She joined her colleagues to record noble’s tombs for an SCA project in Qurna. In addition, she has worked with a number of other foreign expeditions: a German-Swiss mission at Tomb 95; an Italian mission at the Amenhotep II temple; and a Spanish mission that is reconstructing the funerary temple of Tuthmosis III. After 2010, she worked with ARCE (the American Research Center in Egypt) on a USAID grant to record the old houses of Qurna after the village was closed and the inhabitants relocated.   Mrs. Amal was also selected by ARCE to join a field school project in Tomb 110 where ARCE offered training in excavation techniques, pottery drawing, and bone analysis.

When I asked her what she liked about her job, she said she loved everything about it, especially the many opportunities she has to learn. Her favorite material to study is human bone, a comment to which I could relate because my earliest training in archaeology took place in cemeteries in North America. Given the chance, she hopes to have work in the future in the Valley of the Kings and also at Karnak. Mrs. Amal has been a great colleague this season and I have truly enjoyed being given the chance to get to know her and her family.


February 23, 2015

iMalqata

Frog Blog 2

Diana Craig Patch

Finding the fragment of a faience ring surmounted by a squatting frog led me to think about why frogs appear regularly as amulets or as decoration on small objects at Malqata. Years ago, the Met’s Egyptologists brought back seven frog amulets from their excavations for our collection. We know these are amulets because they are pierced to be strung as part of a necklace or bracelet, or perhaps even as decorative elements for rooms of the palace. The collection includes two molds for the manufacture of such amulets as well.

Frog mold from Malqata (MMA 11.215.685)

Frog mold from Malqata (MMA 11.215.685)

A study of the range of variation among our frogs indicates that they were all made in different molds. Their features are presented in various colors of faience –turquoise, light blue, and even green– sometimes with eyes whose color contrasts sharply with their bodies. These last are my personal favorites.

Faience frog seal amulet from Malqata (MMA 11.215.48)

Faience frog seal amulet from Malqata (MMA 11.215.48)

This leads us to consider why frogs are an important image at this site. After all, if you look at amulets throughout ancient Egyptian history, frogs are a constant but not at all common subject for amulets, unlike wedjat-eyes, scarabs, or Bes-image amulets. Although the sample in our collection is small, frogs are a significant theme, one of the more frequent subjects outside of floral elements, which seem to be the most common.

Many people who are interested in ancient Egypt know that the frog-headed Heqet is one of the key participants in child-birthing scenes. She is the goddess seen kneeling and assisting at the critical moment. So it is not surprising that frogs were associated with the concept of fertility. Both adult and young frogs would have been present in ancient Egypt in large numbers, reinforcing this association as well as one with overall fecundity. I think, however, it’s their cycle of reproduction that results in the massive birth of young frogs at the time of inundation. This would have worked well with the theme of Amenhotep III’s rejuvenation at his sed-festival. In the New Kingdom, frogs were a significant symbol of rejuvenation and eternity.

The goddess Heqat attends the birth of Hatshepsut, from her temple at Deir el-Bahari

The goddess Heqat attends the birth of Hatshepsut, from her temple at Deir el-Bahari

In ancient times, frogs were certainly common inhabitants of marshes and the Nile, so much so that the hieroglyph representing the number 100,000 and the concept of “too many count” was that of a tadpole. Although once abundant, today frogs are less common in Egypt, although at least seven species of toads and frogs remain. Like many other countries worldwide, including the United States, frogs have lost habitat to the housing needs of a growing population and suffer poisoning from pesticides and other chemicals that enter into their watery habitat. Also in Egypt, the need to provide an already large and growing body of university students with access to scientific knowledge in the classroom has recently severely impacted their numbers. Frogs are a keystone species, meaning that the ecosystem of which they are a part is seriously damaged if their numbers become too low. Tadpoles and frogspawn are are important food for many fish, and frogs are dinner for snakes and other animals. At the other end of this chain, frogs themselves eat insects, helping to control the large mosquito and fly populations that annoy old and young alike.

Mascarene grass frog (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mascarene_grass_frog​)

Mascarene grass or ridged frog (Ptychadena mascareniensis) (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mascarene_grass_frog​)

Lemon-yellow tree frog (Hyla savignyi) ((c) © Mehregan Ebrahimi)

Lemon-yellow tree frog (Hyla savignyi) (© Mehregan Ebrahimi)


February 22, 2015

iMalqata

How many bricks would a pharaoh make if a pharaoh would make bricks?

Tony Crosby

We cannot begin to know how many mud bricks were actually used to construct Amenhotep III’s palace at Malqata, but we can develop a rough estimate. To start with, the enclosure wall is 2.5 meters thick and was probably over 600 meters long. Each 1 meter of length of a wall 1 meter high requires 540 bricks – if the wall was only 2 meters high, over half a million bricks would be necessary. But a 2.5 meter thick wall would surely be at least 3 meters high, so I’m raising our estimate of the number of bricks in the enclosure walls to slightly more than 800,000.

The walls comprising the palace rooms generally are much thinner, the majority being 0.6 meters thick, although some are only 20 cm thick and some are 1.6 meters thick. For the sake of argument, let’s say that the average thickness of the palace walls is 0.6 meters. Our estimate of the length of all walls in the palace is 1800 meters, or more than one mile. After some additional quick math we estimate that if all the walls were 2 meters high, the total number of mud bricks would be about 400,000.

A typical completed mud brick wall before plastering.

A typical completed mud brick wall before plastering.

Oh, we forgot the floor paving… For our estimates let’s say there was 7,500 square meters of paving. If we assume that the paving bricks were considerably larger than the wall bricks, as they are in the west villas, our estimate is an additional 60,000 “really big bricks.”

Stacks of new mud bricks. This is a stack of about 3,000 bricks. Can you imagine what a stack of approximately 400 times more bricks would look like?

Stacks of new mud bricks. This is a stack of about 3,000 bricks. Can you imagine what a stack of approximately 400 times more bricks would look like?

So without really trying, we are up to 1,460,000 mud bricks, or to round it off, say 1.5 million. Now we haven’t counted the North Palace,  West Villas (the administrative area), the Amun temple, the Audience Pavilion, or other mud brick features of the immediate site. Rather than trying to calculate these, for now let’s just  double the 1.5 million: that’s 3,000,000 mud bricks of various sizes. A good brick maker can make about 1,000 bricks a day of the smaller sizes, but might produce only 600 a day of the larger sizes. For the sake of estimating even further, let’s say his average production is 800 per day. Rounding off again, it would take approximately 2000 days for one man to make the estimated number of bricks for the palace, or 1 day for 2000 men. . . or something in between! Of course you have to figure in sick leave, holidays and vacation, but I’ll leave that to you.

Mud-brick perimeter wall in the Palace, under construction. Current view, but probably not too different from the view 3400 years ago!

Mud-brick perimeter wall in the Palace, under construction. The current view is probably not too different from the view 3400 years ago!

 

Okay, so we have a lot of bricks, no doubt a lot of builders, different sized bricks, quite a few different mud brick bonding patterns, and probably a pretty tight work schedule. You also have a site that slopes from south to north and west to east, some “change orders” thrown in, and craftsmen and artisans who want things done their way. All these are just normal construction factors that the king had to consider and resolve when needed, on top of planning the festival itself! And then there is the plastering prior to painting. It’s just too much. I’m going back to counting bricks…


February 21, 2015

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

Ivory bowl article online for free!

For those who don’t have access to World Archaeology, or don’t bother looking at my Academia.edu site, Louise has informed me that the article on the early Iron Age ivory bowl from Tell es-Safi/Gath, which I mentioned before, can now be downloaded for free from the official publisher’s website!

Check it out!

Aren


iMalqata

Thank you, AEF!

Peter Lacovara

We are very grateful to  have sponsorship again from the American Research Center in Egypt’s Antiquities Endowment Fund for conservation work in the King’s Palace at Malqata. This important program was founded with resources from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) as allocated by the U.S. Congress. ARCE’s Antiquities Endowment Fund (AEF) supports the conservation, preservation and documentation of Egypt’s cultural heritage and the dissemination of knowledge about that heritage.

ARCELOGO

The Antiquities Endowment Fund awards one-year grants for projects that center on the conservation, preservation and documentation needs of Egypt’s antiquities. The projects supported by the AEF involve conservation or protection of sites, buildings or objects with the participation of conservators or other appropriate specialists. Other projects include the training of conservators and students, and the production of publications and presentations to share knowledge of Egypt’s cultural heritage.

USAIDLOGO

With so many sites in Egypt needing conservation attention, the AEF is an incredibly important resource in supplying urgently needed support for archaeological sites, historic structures and artifacts that require timely intervention to ensure their preservation for future generations. To see some other projects funded by the AEF see:

http://www.arce.org/expeditions/projects


February 20, 2015

iMalqata

Rest Day

It’s Friday again, so we aren’t at the site today. Instead, we did a bit of sightseeing, visiting the open tombs at Deir el-Medina and some of the noble’s tombs at Qurna.
Two weeks ago, Diana wrote a blog on a flint awl we found in the excavation area west of the Audience Pavilion. In the meantime, we have found two more awls, and we thought you might like to see them.

Flint awls from west of the Audience Pavilion

Flint awls from west of the Audience Pavilion

Back tomorrow.


February 19, 2015

iMalqata

Frog Blog

Diana Craig Patch

One of the loveliest surprises of the season was the find of a small ring fragment in the mortar  between two layers of brick in the exterior enclosure wall along the east side of the King’s Palace. As often happens with single isolated finds at a site as big as Malqata, the object is removed from its context and brought to you unless you are standing right there when it is discovered. At the North Village and the West Settlement, we see the material as it is found. But the King’s Palace was a huge structure: the workman who found the ring  was laying new brick next to the remains of original wall, and no one happened to be standing next to him at the time of the discovery.

Hassaan, our expedition manager, brought the fragment to Peter and me while we were talking about future restoration work in the central part of the palace. It is a large ring with a flat bezel in a brilliant blue faience. Squatting on the bezel is a little frog.

Ring and mold found at Malqata this year

The ring and a ceramic mold from excavations west of the Audience Pavilion

What immediately grabbed my interest was the size and the shape of the shank and its bezel, that is, the platform of the ring. A few days earlier at the excavation area where I have been working, to the west of the Audience Pavilion, I found –actually I didn’t find it, our workman did– a pottery mold whose impressed shape looked just like this ring. At the time we found it, I didn’t quite understand what the mold was intended to create. Although the impression looked ring-like, its diameter seemed big. With the find at the King’s Palace, it is clear that we have found a place at the site where the kind of molds that make these large rings might have been used. Shanks need to be large because they support the wide bezel intended to hold a little image, here a frog.

Rear view of the frog ring found at the King's Palace

Rear view of the frog ring found at the King’s Palace

Above you can see how the frog was made as a single piece, and then applied to the bezel, which had been molded independently with the shank. There is a hairline crack that indicates their join. After this step, the ring with its fancy bezel was fired as a single piece in a kiln.

Second frog ring at the MMA (11.215.120)

Frog ring at the MMA (11.215.120)

In the collection at the Met, we have two rings with frogs as a decorative element. One (above) looks like the lovely piece we found in the palace, but the other is somewhat smaller.

Frog ring at the MMA (11.215.121)

Frog ring at the MMA (11.215.121)


February 18, 2015

iMalqata

PRESERVATION AND PRESENTATION OF THE PALACE AT MALQATA

Anthony Crosby

The 2015 season of work preserving and “presenting” the ruins of the Palace of Amenhotep III at Malqata is in its second week. The preservation of the mud brick walls consists primarily of stabilizing fragile sections and applying one or two layers of new mud brick to the tops of the walls. The layers of new bricks protect ones underneath from continued erosion. The new bricks also will help visitors understand the extent of the walls, thus presenting a clearer picture of the overall palace plan and the room sizes and relationships.

An example of mud brick walls "capped" with one or two layers of mud brick. In this case there was clear evidence of the location and dimension of the doorway.

An example of mud brick walls “capped” with one or two layers of mud brick. In this case there was clear evidence of the location and dimension of the doorway.

The bricks we use today are the same sizes those employed during the original construction of the palace – 14 cm wide x 30 cm long x 8 cm thick and a larger size, 18 cm wide x 40 cm long x 10 cm thick. Actually we have found a few odd sizes of bricks as well, that are in between the two predominant brick sizes, but these are very few in number. Our bricks can vary up to a centimeter in all dimensions, particularly the thickness, just as the original bricks do. Our bricks are identifiable, primarily because they are new and not weathered like the originals, and each brick is stamped “JEM” during the manufacturing process. We use the different sizes in the same areas where they were used originally.

We do not know the reason two different sizes were used, but it is something that we continually study. At times, a different size is used in what is obviously a later construction, such as where a later wall is butted against a previously plastered wall. In other cases, it seems both sizes are used in the same wall. The primary distinction in the use of the two sizes is between the perimeter walls and the rooms surrounding the main courtyard of the palace. The smaller size bricks are used in the perimeter walls and the larger bricks are used in the palace rooms.

A low wall protected with mud bricks. It steps down at the left end because there is not clear evidence that the wall continued.

A low wall protected with mud bricks. It steps down at the left end because there is not clear evidence that the wall continued.

In addition to the application of mud bricks to the tops of walls; corners, wall ends, and doorway openings are also stabilized by new mud bricks. Identifying the doorways clearly is extremely important in understanding room relationships. However, if it isn’t clear that an opening existed, we do not represent it in new mud bricks. In other words if we are not certain about whether or not a feature such as a doorway existed, we do not interpret it by constructing what might have been missing. We simply end the wall in a series of steps in the masonry coursing, visually indicating that physical evidence of any additional wall or feature no longer exists.

A large fragment of painted wall plaster as it was uncovered at the base of an original doorway.

A large fragment of painted wall plaster as it was uncovered at the base of an original doorway.

During the process of stabilizing the walls we often find fragments of painted plaster buried at their bases. In most cases we simply leave them in place, or rebury them near the location where they were found. In cases where a particularly large or distinctive plaster fragment is found, we move it to a magazine. One particularly interesting fragment was located yesterday in the area of a doorway. In this case we carefully cleared the loose soil from over the fragment to determine its extent. We then even more carefully began the slow process of isolating the fragment by removing the soil from beneath it. We prepared a flat rigid support and as we removed the soil from beneath the decorated mud plaster, we slid the support under it. This operation was complete when we had the plaster on its new support. The last step was to secure and support the fragment’s edges with mud mortar. After the mud mortar had set, the fragment was transferred to the on-site magazine, where the sample will be evaluated by a conservator and appropriate action taken.


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

Article on Safi ivory bowl appears online!

A study, in World Archaeology, on the ivory bowl which we found at Safi two seasons ago, has now appeared online.

The study is entitled:

Maeir, A. M., Davis, B., Horwitz, L. K., Asscher, Y., and Hitchcock, L. A. 2015 An Ivory Bowl from Early Iron Age Tell es-Safi/Gath (Israel) – Manufacture, Meaning and Memory. World Archaeology 47 (DOI 10.1080/00438243.2015.1009154)

Check it out!

Aren


Upcoming Levi-Sala Seminar at BGU – on Alalakh (April 30th, 2015)

First notices have been sent out regarding a very interesting seminar (the annual Irene Levi Sala Research Seminar), which will be held at Ben Gurion University, on April 30th 2015. Prof. Aslihan Yener will give a day long seminar on the excavations which she directs at Tell Atchana, ancient Alalakh.

See the official notice – Salla Seminar 2015_Atchana

Should be very interesting!

Aren


February 17, 2015

iMalqata

Preserving Malqata

Diana Craig Patch

The Joint Expedition to Malqata’s fieldwork strategy has included site management. The restoration and conservation in the King’s Palace, the removal of camel thorn, and the building of fences around certain areas of the site have all been important stages in our strategy to support the West Bank Inspectorate under the Ministry of Antiquities and Heritage. The antiquities department has a strong desire to preserve this unique site for the future.

IMG_8089

Removal of piled camel thorn and garbage

Each year JEM tries to do something for the site that represents our a strong commitment to this work. Over the past two years, in addition to the yearly removal of camel thorn and garbage, we built fences around the King’s Palace, and last year we also installed two large lights to assist the guards.

Stringing barbed wire for the fence (13)

Completed fence in foreground, and stringing a second fence in background

This year the Ministry’s Permanent Committee asked if we would consider assisting them by building a new guardhouse at Malqata. We agreed to this immediately,  and I am happy to say it is nearing completion. The site chosen for the structure is just west of the North Village on a natural hill composed of layers of gebel (natural rocky and pebbly desert), and clay. Our workers have dug a deep foundation and the house is being constructed out of mud brick. There will be a metal roof insulated with mud, two windows, and a door. Mastabas (mud brick benches) will be built both inside and out so that the guards have a place to rest or watch the site as their duties require.

IMG_8053

IMG_8052

From this hill, the guards can see north to the Temple of Amun, east to the Audience Pavilion, the North Village, and the King’s Palace, and south to a portion of the Birket Habu and the West Villas: a full panorama.

IMG_8070

IMG_8079


February 16, 2015

The Tel Burna Excavation Project

The Man Behind the Puzzle

In light of the last few posts that show the great work Jeremy has been doing with the pottery restoration from Areas A and B, we thought it would be nice to see the man with some of his nearly finished “puzzles.” Keep up the great work!

Jeremey (Yirmi) hard at work Jeremey (Yirmi) hard at work
Ornali assisting in the cataloging processOrnali assisting in the cataloging process

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA


iMalqata

I wonder what the king is eating tonight?

Salima Ikram

It is fabulous to be at Malqata—an ancient Egyptian settlement with areas that show social stratigraphy and organisation. Kings, nobles, and commoners all lived here and celebrated the sed festivals of King Amenhotep III. I first worked on animal bones that were excavated from Malqata in the 1970s for my Ph.D., and am thrilled that the Met is digging now in different parts of the site so that there is a fresh source of bones to examine. The animal bones that I am studying come from trash pits, and undisturbed fill that lay in the North Village. By examining these, we are learning about what people ate and how animals were butchered.

Part of the [] bone of a calf, with butchery marks.

Part of the rib of a cow that has been chopped in half..

Many of the bones I am examining come from a pit just outside the enclosure wall of a ceremonial area known as the Audience Pavilion at the northern end of the Village. The pottery in the pit appears to consist of types associated with the Palace and ceremonial areas rather than types found in the Village, so it is likely that the animals were consumed as part of the festival. Most of the bones I am identifying come from cattle that were fairly young—under about two and half years old – which are more tender and delicious than the older animals. I establish the age by studying whether or not the long bones have fused—the ends of these bones join together with the main shaft at different ages. These animals would have been reared in the royal fields and brought to the palace and kept close to the royal kitchens so that they could provide fresh veal for the king, his court, and guests. They would have been prepared in a variety of ways—grilled, cooked in a stew, or fried in a pan. Sheep were also eaten, and these were young animals too. Ribs would have been barbequed and the fat from the tails used in cooking.

Vertebrae from a [].

Vertebrae from a lamb with the edges cut off. The preservation is amazing — the cartilage that connected the bones is still intact.

I also found a few bones from water birds—roast goose seems to have been a popular food at the palace! Fish were consumed as well—bones of tilapia, a fish that is commonly eaten in Egypt, the US, and Europe today, are found at the site. The fish were so well preserved that their dried out scales are still present! These vegetarian fish grow quickly. They were common in the Nile and also could be farmed in ponds. Quite possibly these bones came from fish that populated the Birket Habu, the gigantic harbor that was part of Malqata.

Bones from a Tilapia.

Bones from at least one Tilapia and possibly another fish.

On the whole, it seems that the king and his court enjoyed veal more than any other meat. It was jointed and then cooked in a variety of ways, although grilling seems to have been the most popular. This meat was also given as offerings to the gods as it was the most expensive type of meat in ancient Egypt. Mutton was also eaten, but was less popular, and fish was consumed in small quantities, together with birds, mainly water birds. Obviously everyone was well fed at Malqata!

 


Bath Time in the Palace

Peter Lacovara

The ancient Egyptians seem to have placed great importance on personal cleanliness. For most people, bathing appears to have been done in pools, rivers and canals but shower stalls were a feature in the Royal Palaces and in the model palaces.

In these stalls, the bather would stand on a stone slab with a drain cut into it and water would be poured over them by a servant standing beside a half wall enclosing the shower. Soap was made from natron and was beneficial for the skin. It may have even been scented as were soaps made from animal fat or vegetable oil.

The Palace of the King at Malqata boasted at least ten bathrooms. Only scant traces of them remain today, but when the Palace was excavated by Robb de Peyster Tytus in 1901 to 1903, he discovered a very well preserved bath in room N11, in one of the suites of rooms bordering the central court. Like all the other baths in the palace, it was made of sandstone which had been generously coated with gypsum plaster. It had a drain into the ground and a “splash guard” along the front edge.

Bath from Room N11  as excavated by Tytus

Bath from Room N11 as excavated by Tytus

Only a few fragments of these shower stalls can be found in the Palace today. They are roughly made out of a light brown sandstone and slathered with a thick coat of gypsum plaster. The plaster was also used to glue the sections of stone together and to coat the adjoining mud brick walls to protect them from splashing water.

Fragments from a Bath remaining in the palace

Fragments from a Bath remaining in the palace

The Temple Palace of Ramesses III at Medinet Habu has two of these shower baths in their original state. A sandstone basin is set against the corner of a small room and drains off into a basin set below ground.

Shower bath in the Temple Palace of Ramesses III at Medinet Habu

Shower bath in the Temple Palace of Ramesses III at Medinet Habu

The ancient Egyptians even invented the “Turkish towel” to add to the luxuriousness of their bath.


February 15, 2015

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

GVSU Skype lecture on line!

As I mentioned previously, last month, I gave a Skype lecture, on what we know about the Philistines, primarily based on our excavations at Tell es-Safi/Gath, for Grand Valley State University. This was in lieu of my lecture, in person, which I was supposed to present this past November, but was cancelled due to a mega snow storm which closed down the university.

And now, the entire lecture, just under an hour and a half long, is available on Youtube, courtesy of GVSU! Check it out!

Aren


February 14, 2015

iMalqata

Our Second Home in Luxor

Catharine Roehrig and Janice Kamrin

The other night, we went to Chicago House for dinner (http://wp.me/pBBFl-T). The JEM expedition members lived at Chicago House during our first two seasons, before moving to the New Memnon Hotel (http://wp.me/pBBFl-k6) on the west bank, so visiting there is like going home. Dinner ended with a slightly belated celebration of Diana’s birthday with a marvelous cake topped by a large sparkler.

Diana and her birthday cake at Chicago House.

Diana and her birthday cake at Chicago House.

The dinner guests included members of several other expeditions: the Mut Temple project (http://pages.jh.edu/~egypttoday/), the Djehuty Project (http://www.excavacionegipto.com), and of course, the Chicago House team (https://oi.uchicago.edu/research/projects/epigraphic-survey#House), and we got to hear what they are all working on this season, which is always a treat. As always, we had an absolutely lovely time.


February 13, 2015

iMalqata

Our Day Off

Today is our day off, so we won’t be posting a blog. We’ll be back tomorrow!

Dancers from a relief in the memorial temple of Hatshepsut, a female king who lived about 50 years before Amenhotep III.

Dancers from a relief in the memorial temple of Hatshepsut, a female king who lived about 50 years before Amenhotep III.


The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

Then/Now

I have some great pictures to share today. These came from Erin who worked at Ashkelon in 1999.

Grid 38 in 1999

Grid 38 in 1999

Erin S.

Erin S.

We'd love to hear your story and see your pictures as we look back on almost 30 years of excavation.  

We'd also like to remind everyone, we aren't done yet! We have two more years of excavation and some important questions yet to answer. Whether you would be joining us for the first time or the second, there is still time to create more memories at Ashkelon.

Did you know?

In 1985, the expedition stayed in one of the park campgrounds. In 1986, the team moved to the Shulamit Gardens Hotel. That hotel eventually became the Dan Gardens Hotel. In 2014, the Dan Gardens Hotel closed mid-season and the expedition moved to the Leonardo Hotel.

 

February 12, 2015

The Tel Burna Excavation Project

Area A1 (and B) Restoration Part 2

A few weeks ago we showed some of the area A1 pottery restoration process – here is another update of an Iron II storejar and a nice Late Bronze storejar from area B. Check them out!

Area B Storejar (Late Bronze) held by ItzickArea A1 Storejar (Iron II ) held by Itzick
LMLK type storejar (Iron II) held by Aharon Area B storejar (LB) held by Aharon
LMLK type storejar restorationArea B LB Storejar restoration

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

Jeff gives a talk about the Safi excavations at El Quds University in Jerusalem

Jeff Chadwick, AKA Achish Melekh Gath, field supervisor extraordinaire of Area F, yesterday gave a talk about the Tell es-Safi/Gath excavations at el-Quds University in Jerusalem.

Here is what he reported (from his facebook page):

Rare opportunity yesterday to share our excavation and research results with Palestinian archaeology students. I visited Al-Quds University (as part of the Albright Institute outreach program) to give a lecture on “The Archaeology of Tell es-Safi — Gath of the Philistines” to an audience of about 25 students and their faculty, and to express Safi director Aren Maeir’s greetings and best wishes to the group. The reception was very friendly, and I had quite a nice time meeting with both students and the faculty of the archaeology, as well as a number of deans and professors from other schools on the courtesy tour of the Al-Quds campus, which has grown into a fairly large and increasingly impressive operation. Below is a photo with three faculty and a few of male students. Left of me is Dr. Hani Nur-el Din, and to the right of me are Dr. Ibraham Abu Eamar (dept chair) and Issa Sarie — all three also Albright fellows. Thanks to the Albright Institute and Al-Quds for the opportunity.

And here is a picture of Jeff and some of the el Quds staff and students that is mentioned above:

Jeff lectures at El Quds U on Safi_Feb 2015

Thanks Jeff – way to go!

Aren


Safi on a bus advertisement! Definitely a First!!!

Liz Arnold, from Grand Valley State University, who is a veteran team member, just posted a picture of an advertisement on the side of a bus – for the GVSU summer program at Tell es-Safi/Gath!

The picture, taken by Haskel Greenfield, shows some Safi team members (Shira Kissos and Monica Enehaug) excavating some great finds!

GVSU Safi ad on bus_Feb 2015

This definitely is the first time that a picture from Safi has been on the side of a bus – and I doubt there are many excavations that can make a claim to such fame!

Way to go Liz and Haskel!

Aren