Taygete Atlantis: Excavation Blogs (Antiquity)


Tom Elliott (tom.elliott@nyu.edu)

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

January 14, 2018

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

A new and important resource on the transition between archaeological periods and cultures!

Seems that this is an important resource for those studying the processes and interactions during transitions between periods, cultures and technological traditions.

Check it out!


January 10, 2018

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

Party for Dr. Sue Frumin!

Today, the Safi lab team joined in the celebrations in honor of Sue Frumin finishing her PhD!

Dr. Sue (not Dr. Seuss…) wrote an excellent PhD on the archaeobotanical remains of the Philistines, with a focus on the finds from Tell es-Safi/Gath. Parts of the PhD have already been published in articles (see for example here and here), and more will follow in the future.

Sue’s PhD is:

Frumin, S. 2017. Invasion Biology Analysis in Archaeobotany – Philistines Culture at Tell es-Safi/ Gath as a Case Study. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Bar-Ilan University, Ramat-Gan.

Here are some pictures from the party, which was held in Udi Weiss’ archaeobotany lab at BIU.

Great food, great friends and a lot of fun!

January 07, 2018

Calixtlahuaca Archaeological Project

The Joy of Data Management, or Where’s the fourth miscellaneous censer sherd from lot 307-2-2

By Angela Huster

One of my least favorite parts of the lab work at Calixtlahuaca was doing ceramic type changes. Not because I disliked redoing my own work – there’s actually something satisfying in knowing that it’s right now – but because every single change had to be recorded in at least two, and usually four places (the label on the sherd, the type collection datafile, the paper form for the lot, and the computer datafile for the lot). It just seemed like an awful bother for a single change. I regularly tried to pawn off making the changes on anyone else I could sucker into it. We even had a form to keep track of where a change had been entered!

However, as I move on to working on other projects, I have come appreciate exactly how comprehensively the Calixtlahuaca Project tracked their artifact data. As an example of this, a couple years ago, after we were finished with the ceramic classification, we decided that we needed to subdivide a type. (From Misc censers, to Misc censers and Cut-out censers, for anyone who cares.) At that point, a fair number of sherds had been removed from their original lots, either as examples for the type reference collection, or as samples for particular technical analyses. However, because of our data tracking, I could pull not only a list of lots with the type, but also lists of cases where the sherds in question were stored someone else, which made relocating the pieces for reanalysis far easier. For one of the legacy datasets that I’m currently working with from another project, this simply isn’t possible – we know pieces were removed from lots for various analyses, but what was pulled and when it was taken are unknown. (Kintigh 1981 is an interesting look at the same issue in museum collections, with a focus on the possible bias introduced by archaeologists disproportionately pulling high-interest decorated types out of a collection.)

Miscellaneous censer sherds in the the type collection, prior to splitting the type. Knowing that these particular pieces were in the type collection spared me having to fruitlessly look for them in their lot bags.
While I doubt I’m ever going to love double or triple-redundant data tracking systems, I can see the value, and on my current project, nothing comes out of a lot bag unless it’s recorded that it’s now stored somewhere else. I suppose I shall now proceed to torture another generation of students by making them record type changes in multiple places…

Worked Cited:
Kintigh, Keith W.
                1981       An Outline for a Chronology of Zuni Runs, Revisited: Sixty-five Years of Repeated Analysis and Collection. Annals of the New York Academy of Science 376:467-489.

January 03, 2018

The Tel Burna Excavation Project

Scholarship Opportunities

It is that time of year again – time to plan for the 2018 Tel Burna Season! You can register online here.

Here are some scholarship opportunities that were recently announced.

ASOR Fellowships

Archaeological Institute of America


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

Soon to be flying over Tell es-Safi/Gath and other sites…

Here’s a sneak peak at the type of drone (VAPOR 55) that should be flying over Tell es-Safi/Gath and some other sites in the not-too-distant future. The order has gone out for this cool piece of equipment, along with a LiDAR sensor!

This was purchased jointly, courtesy of an ISF equipment grant, by three of us at BIU – Rafi Kent, Boaz Zissu and Aren Maeir.

In addition to this, sometime in the near future, another, smaller drone is in the process of being purchased for use in the project!

The bronze bowl from Area J is back from the conservation lab!

The bronze bowl that Jill and her team found in Area J last summer (see here) has returned from the conservation lab – and it looks really nice. We still have a lot of study to conduct on this (both a bowl and an interesting bronze disk found next to it), but to get a rough idea (not too detailed…) on what it looks like, see the picture below.

Very cool!!

December 31, 2017

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

Sad news: the passing of Prof. Larry Stager

The sad news of the passing of Prof. Larry Stager has arrived. Larry was one of the more important archaeologists dealing with the Levant in recent decades. In particular, his excavations at Ashkelon, a sister city of Philistine Gath are of note.

May he rest in peace and may his memory be blessed.


December 30, 2017

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

Hebrew article on the importance of the donkey in the EB in light of the finds at Safi

A new paper of the Safi team just appeared in the Hebrew journal Qadmoniot, discussing the importance of the donkey in the Early Bronze Age in light of the finds from the Tell es-Safi/Gath Excavations. See a PDF here.

The full title is:

Shai, I., Greenfield, H. G., Greenfield, T., Arnold, E., Albaz, S., and Maeir, A.
2017 The Importance of the Donkey in the Early Bronze Age in Light of the Excavations at Tel Zafit (In Hebrew). Qadmoniot 154: 88–91.

And in Hebrew:

י. שי, ה. גרינפילד, ט. גרינפילד, א. ארנולד, ש. אלבז וא. מאיר. 2017. חשיבותו של החמור בתקופת הברונזה הקדומה לאור ממצאי החפירה בתל צפית. קדמוניות 154: 191-188.

December 28, 2017

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

Houston – we have bedrock!

Woohoo! We managed to dig down to bedrock by the end of the 2nd day of our short mini-season! The small, but fantastic, team managed to go down about a meter, and reach bedrock at the bottom of the test pit! So now, we have a stratigraphic “window” of the EB levels in Area E, from top – to bottom. All told, the pit was about 4 meters deep, and very interestingly, there are several levels below the EB levels that we knew of in Area E. This includes a very substantial amount of architecture (we saw three walls) that are based on a thick white, plaster-like level.

Just shows what some hard work by a determined little team can do (thanks to: Shira, Nati, Chris, Ortal, Noga, Yaniv and Elad!!)

In addition to this, Shira and I managed to see quite a few details in the architecture of the area that we could not see in the summer, due to the dampness of the various mudbricks and sediments. Quite interesting!

Here are some pictures from this great day:

December 27, 2017

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

First day of the December 2017 Mini-Season

Today, a small team went out for the first day of the short, two day mini-season in Area E – to try and reach the bottom of the test pit that was opened in the summer. We hope to try and reach bedrock – to get a window on the complete EB stratigraphy in Area E.

The weather was perfect – not too hot, not too cold, the visibility was fantastic, and despite the fact that it is an extremely dry winter, it rained at the beginning of the week so there was a very nice green fuzz all over.

Today, we got up to Area E, after schlepping a lot of equipment. After breathing, we then set up protective fences on the sides of the pit, since it is over 3 m deep and we didn’t want the sides to collapse during work.

Then, work started and by the end of the day, the bottom was not reached, buy progress was made.

Tomorrow we’ll be out again – and hopefully we’ll get to the bottom. If not, we’ll have to do this again in the spring or summer.

Here are some picture:

December 23, 2017

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

Mini-season – this Wednesday-Thursday

If all goes well (no rain, and enough working hands), we will be going out to a very short, mini-season this coming Wednesday and Thursday. A small Safi crew will hopefully conduct a small excavation in Area E, to see if we can finish up the deep sounding that was conducted in the summer (see picture below), but in which, unfortunately, bedrock was not reached by the end of the 2017 season.

Basically, we want to get to the bottom of the pit marked off by the plastic tape in the picture here!

NOTE: Able-bodied volunteers who are interested in participating – please contact me at arenmaeir@gmail.com!

So, hopefully, by Thursday afternoon, bedrock it will be!

I’ll keep you posted.


December 20, 2017

The Tel Burna Excavation Project

New Paper out on Burna’s Adaption of PlanGrid

Check out the newly published paper by myself and Itzick, which discusses our experience using the construction app PlanGrid as a digital recording tool. It was published in what appears to be a very interesting volume on digital/cyber-archaeology by Tom Levy and Ian Jones.

The full entry is the following:

Figure 8 – Backing up PlanGrid with daily “issue packet”

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

New paper on integrating Micro- and Macro-archaeology at Tell es-Safi/Gath

A new paper has appeared in which several examples of the “Safi method” of integrating micro-archaeological anג macro-archaeological perspectives, methods and techniques in the excavations at Tell es-Safi/Gath are discussed.

The full title is:

Maeir, A. M. 2017. Integrating Micro- and Macro-Archaeology at a Multi-Period Site: Insights and Outcomes from Tell es-Safi/Gath. Pp. 35–50 in Cyber-Archaeology and Grand Narratives: Digital Technology and Deep-Time Perspectives on Culture Change in the Middle East, eds. T. E. Levy and I. W. N. Jones. One World Archaeology. Cham: Springer.

Check out the PDF here.



December 19, 2017

The Tel Burna Excavation Project

Happy Holidays!

With Channukah already here and Christmas approaching – we would like to wish everyone a Happy Holiday and a Great New Year!

If you would like to make a new year’s resolution to excavate a Canaanite and Judahite town in 2018 – we know just the place 🙂

You can sign up here if you want to come join the fun!

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

Jessie Blackwell and Jonathan Bluck are rockstars in BAR!

Jessie Blackwell, a student at the University of Kentucky, and Jonathan Bluck, a student at Grand Valley State University, who were team members in the 2017 season at Tell es-Safi/Gath, were the recipients of scholarships from the Biblical Archaeology Society.

See here their essays in Biblical Archaeology Review (BAR) in which they describe their experiences and insights from participating in the Safi excavations in 2017 – along with great pictures of them in the field!

Way to go!

And for those of you who are planning to join us in 2018 – do apply for scholarship from the BAS.

December 18, 2017

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

International Migrants Day – Dec. 18th, 2017

Just found out that today, Monday, December 18th, 2017 is International Migrants Day.

So, in honor of this, let’s hear it for the Philistines – many of whom migrated to Canaan/Land of Israel/Palestine during the transition between the Late Bronze and Iron Ages!

Here’s a bunch of Safi pictures (some Philistine finds – and Amit posing with a replica of the cover of an anthropoid coffin) to make this important day!

December 17, 2017

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

Hebrew TV news report on King David: Safi is a star!

This weekend, Channel 2 news in Israel had a 15 minute item on the evening news about the historicity of King David, which Philistine Gath starred, and yours truly, Israel Finkelstein, Eilat Mazar and the well-known Israeli author Meir Shalev were interviewed.

Lots of fun!


December 13, 2017

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

Hanukkah party at the lab!

Today, we had a Hanukkah party in the Safi lab, with some wine for a toast and sufaniyot (jelly doughnuts) to munch on.

So happy Hanukkah to all – may only light shine upon you! And on the same occasion, merry Christmas, happy New Year, and happy holidays to those all those celebrating in the next couple of weeks!

December 12, 2017

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

Trailer on the Samson movie!

George Grena has been kind enough to point out the trailer of the soon-to-appear “Samson” movie.

Watch it – and you’ll see Hollywood’s take on Philistine warriors (seems not bad, save for the face armor…).

Looks like this will be a totally idiotic, but highly enjoyable, movie.

Here’s the trailer:

And here is how one really makes a movie about a Philistine attack, led by a Philistine Seren (:-)

And here is the seren in an action photo :-)

December 11, 2017

The Tel Burna Excavation Project

Debi is Officially A Savta!

We would like to congratulate Debi on becoming a savta (i.e., grandmother)!

December 05, 2017

The Tel Burna Excavation Project

Restoration of Iron IIA Storage Jar

Check out this video illustrating the recently restored Iron IIA storage jar, which was uncovered in the destruction debris in Area B2 this last summer. The restoration was done by Leah Tramer and the video by “Studio Jackie.” Enjoy.

Here is the jar as it was being excavated by Sam and Jane last summer.


And here is the process of its restoration.

December 04, 2017

The Tel Burna Excavation Project

Foothills of Judah Conference – In Retrospect

While we mentioned the various papers presented at the The Foothills of Judah Conference, we would like to also share a few photos from the conference and express our appreciation to all those involved in planning the conference especially Dr. Steve Ortiz and Marcella Barbosa. We are also excited to announce that the Tandy Institute for Archaeology of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary will now be partnering with our team in excavating Tel Burna!

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

Upcoming Conference at TAU: Administrative and Cultic Aspects of Centralization in Ancient Israel: Archaeological and Biblical Perspectives, Dec. 18–19, 2017

A very interesting conference will be held at TAU, on Dec. 18-19, 2017.

The conference – “Administrative and Cultic Aspects of Centralization in Ancient Israel: Archaeological and Biblical Perspectives”, will deal with various issues relating to cult centralization in Israel and surrounding cultures during the Iron Age and Persian Period.

I will be giving a paper on perspectives from Philistia on these issues.

See here for the full program:

Conference Program Administrative and Cultic Aspects of Centralization in Ancient Israel

Hope to see you there!


Happy birthday to Maria

This last Thursday was Maria’s birthday – so we celebrated it in the lab with a cake! Mazal tov!

December 03, 2017

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

Congratulations to Prof. Louise Hitchcock!

As it is now official, I would like to extend my wishes of congratulations to Louise Hitchcock, long time senior staff member of the Safi project, who has been appointed Full Professor of (Aegean) Archaeology in the Classics and Archaeology Program at the University of Melbourne!

Way to go Louise! Well-deserved! We are proud, and fortunate, to have you on the Safi team!!

Here’s a picture of Louise in her natural surroundings :-)


December 02, 2017

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

New article on the “Pig Debate”

A new article, presenting some new thoughts and directions on the question of the consumption, or lack thereof, of pigs in Iron Age Philistia, Israel and beyond, and what is the cultural and ecological significance of this, has just been published by Liora Horwitz, Armelle Gardeisen, Louise Hitchcock and Aren Maeir has just appeared. See here a link to a PDF.

The full title is:

Horwitz, L. K., Gardeisen, A., Maeir, A. M., and Hitchcock, L. A. 2017. A Brief Contribution to the Iron Age Philistine Pig Debate. Pp. 93–116 in The Wide Lens in Archaeology: Honoring Brian Hesse’s Contributions to Anthropological Archaeology, eds. J. Lev-Tov, P. Wapnish and A. Gilbert. Archaeobiology 2. Atlanta: Lockwood Press.


November 28, 2017

The Tel Burna Excavation Project

New Article in Quarternary International

A new article by Ladislav, Michael, Jan (Horak), and Itzick has just been published in Quarternary International. The article is entitled:

“Multi-element mapping of anthropogenically modified soils and sediments at the Bronze to Iron Ages site of Tel Burna in the southern Levant”
Way to go! You can read the whole thing here. All of that X-ray Fluorescence “shooting” is definitely hitting the target 🙂
XRF - Michael at Burna

November 25, 2017

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

Safi and related posters at the ASOR meeting (2)

Here is the 2nd batch of Safi (and Safi-related) posters (see here for the 1st batch) from the ASOR meeting in Boston last week (Nov. 2017):

  1. “If the Stones could Speak: 1500 Years in a Single Square at Tell es-Safi/Gath, Israel”, by Flor Fustiano et al.
  2. “I’m Not Your Type: A 9th century link in the typology of Iron Age olive oil production from Tell es-Safi/Gath, Israel”, by Chloe Clouse, et al.
  3. “Examples of Egyptian Iconography in Late Bronze Age Canaan”, by Amanda Buessecker (not Safi research, but by a Safi team member).

Here are the posters:

Flor Safi ASOR 2017 poster

Welch et al 2017 ASOR Poster

Amanda Poster ASOR 2017


November 23, 2017

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

And here’s even a nicer picture of the site with the rainbow!

Here’s another one of Iossi’s photos of Safi and the rainbow, looking to the tell from the northwest as well.

In fact, if you look closely, there are TWO rainbows!

Totally stunning!


Who says there isn’t a pot of gold at the of the rainbow?

Just to prove that there is a treasure at the end of the rainbow, here is a picture that Dr. Iossi Bordowicz (former Safi core team staff member; currently director of heritage at the INPA) took today – in which you see Tell es-Safi/Gath at the end of rainbow! Definitely – a worthwhile and proven treasure!

For those interested, the view is taken from the NW, and you can see the white chalk cliffs of the tell on the lower left, Area F and the summit of tell slightly to the left of the center of the picture.

Check it out!

And thanks to Iossi!

November 21, 2017

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

Safi (and related) posters at the ASOR meeting (1)

Here are three of the Safi related posters that were displayed at the ASOR conference in Boston last week.

  1. “3D Geometric Morphometrics and Sheep/Goat Breeds in
    the Early Bronze Age of Tell es‐Safi/Gath” by Tina Greenfield et al.
  2. “‘Cult’ of the Philistines?” by Maddi Harris
  3. “Raw material characterization and lithic procurement in the Azraq Basin, Jordan, during the Lower-Middle Paleolithic: A pilot study from Shishan Marsh 1”, by Jeremy Beller (this is not Safi research, but by a Safi team member)

Here are the three posters:

Greenfield et al poster ASOR 2017

Harris_ASOR Poster 2017

ASOR2017 poster – jbeller

November 17, 2017

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

Safi team supper at the ASOR meeting

Some of the Safi team members who were at the ASOR meeting got together for supper tonight.

Here’s a picture of the “gang” :

November 16, 2017

The Tel Burna Excavation Project

ASOR and SBL 2017

After a very fruitful conference at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth Texas (thanks to Dr. Ortiz and Marcella especially for their efforts in arranging the conference – more on that later), much of our team has arrived in Boston to present on Tel Burna and other projects.

November 16: 2:05 Itzhaq Shai (Ariel University), Debi Cassuto (Bar-Ilan University), and Chris McKinny (Texas A&M University Corpus Christi), “Tel Burna Archaeological Project: The Results of the 2016–2017 Seasons” (15 min.)

November 16:5:10 Aharon Tavger (Ariel University), “The Northern Boundary of the Province of Yehud: An Updated Archaeological View from the North” (20 min.)

November 16: Chris McKinny (Texas A&M University Corpus Christi), “Pressing On: Identifying the ‘Other’ Gath and Its Implications for Understanding the Border between the Kingdoms of Israel and Judah” (20 min.)

November 13, 2017

Calixtlahuaca Archaeological Project

Tamale Pots

By Angela Huster

In a few of our earlier posts, we've mentioned that there don't seem to be that many comales (tortilla griddles) at Calixtlahuaca. This suggests that the ancient inhabitants of the site were eating their corn in some way other than tortillas, such as hominy, atole (gruel), or tamales. Tamales are the most likely alternative to tortillas, and there is a great quote in the Florentine Codex about the diet of the the Quaquata (one of the groups in the Toluca Valley):

“Nothing grew in the land of these Quaquata; only maize, beans, amaranth; no chili, no salt. The principal foods of these were tamales, beans; also their principal drink was fruit atole. Popcorn was produced right there in their land” (Sahagún 1950-82:Book 10: The People. Pp 182-183).

Unfortunately, it's harder to identify pots for tamale steaming, since a large pot can be used for any number of other tasks. One possible candidate for tamale pots are the type that we call interior-incised ollas. This type of large olla has sloppy, deeply scored incision on the interior of the body below the neck. The incisions can't be seen unless the pot is broken, which means that they weren't there for decoration. The incisions are also problematic for most forms of food preparation, since any liquid food would get stuck in them and burn, but we don't see any evidence for scorched reside in the incisions. However, the incisions would have been helpful for keeping the lattice of sticks used to keep tamales out of the steaming liquid from sliding around, and the tamales themselves from sticking to the walls of the pot. This type is not found in Morelos or the Basin of Mexico, where there are much higher frequencies of comales.

Interior-incised olla sherds

The distribution of these pots among the different households at the site also supports the idea that they were used for steaming tamales. Once comales start to used in noticeable frequencies at the site (during the Yata phase), the frequency of interior-incised ollas varies inversely with the frequency of comales; households were picking one or the other!

Comal vs interior incised olla frequencies by household (Huster 2016: Chapter 8)

Works Cited:

Huster, Angela C.
    2016    The Effects of Aztec Conquest on Provincial Commoner Households at Calixtlahuaca, Mexico. Doctoral Dissertation, School of Human Evolution and Social Change, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ.

Sahagún, Bernardino de
1950-82 Florentine Codex, General History of the Things of New Spain. 12 books. Translated and Edited by Arthur J.O. Anderson and Charles E. Dibble. School of American Research, Santa Fe NM, and the University of Utah Press, Salt Lake City, UT.

Regional Clay Sampling

Angela Huster

This summer, I spent a week taking twenty-eight clay samples from across the Toluca Valley and immediately adjacent areas for INAA analysis. Don Cato, one of our local crew members from the excavation, helped by driving in incredibly convoluted loops around the area, and patiently explaining to  bystanders about what I was doing.

I kept crossing the construction route of another major water line to supply Mexico City. Occasionally, it was useful, such as here, where I needed a sample from below substantial modern fill.
These samples should help us identify where our previously sourced archaeological ceramics were made. Because there are only three other sites in the region with sourced ceramics, we have several chemical clusters in our archaeological ceramics that probably represent particular subregions, but we don't know where on the physical landscape those subregions are. More specifically, the new clay samples should help with three specific questions:

What chemical elements are the most geographically variable across the Toluca Valley and therefore the most useful for identifying source areas within the region?

Are the areas immediately to the south and west of the Toluca Valley likely sources for several of our "probably non-local" groups?

Are clays from the west (Toluca Valley) side of the mountain range between the Basin of Mexico and the Toluca Valley similar enough to Basin clays that they could explain some of our groups of Aztec-style ceramics that don't quite match local the very large existing reference data set for the Basin of Mexico?

Soil color and texture recording

November 11, 2017

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

New article on the Philistines in the Finkelstein Fs

A new article, by me and Louise, on new perspectives on the Philistines, has just appeared in the Festschrift in honor of Israel Finkelstein.

The full title of the article is:

Maeir, A. M., and Hitchcock, L. A. 2017. Rethinking the Philistines: A 2017 Perspective. Pp. 249–67 in Rethinking Israel: Studies in the History and Archaeology of Ancient Israel in Honor of Israel Finkelstein, eds. O. Lipschits, Y. Gadot and M. J. Adams. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns.

Here is a PDF of the article: Maeir-Hitchcock_Rethinking the Philistines_Finkelstein Fs_2017

[Permission from the Publisher for posting the PDF: Published in Rethinking Israel: Studies in the History and Archaeology of Ancient Israel in Honor of Israel Finkelstein, eds. O. Lipschits, Y. Gadot and M. J. Adams. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, copyright © 2017 by Eisenbrauns; placed here by permission of the publisher. T book may be purchased at: https://www.eisenbrauns.org/books/titles/978-1-57506-787-2.html%5D



A blast from the past: Group pictures of the 1997 season at Tell es-Safi/Gath

Just came upon these photos – and they are a real blast from the past!

Two pictures of the team (mostly BIU students) from the 1997 season of excavations at Tell es-Safi/Gath. The images are taken in Area A, after the first season that was just two weeks long. A lot has happened since then!

We’ve come a long way baby…

November 09, 2017

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

Tell es-Safi/Gath related talks at the ASOR and SBL meetings in Boston, 2017

Next week (Wed., Nov. 15th to Tuesday, Nov. 21st, 2017), the annual meetings of ASOR and SBL will be held, back-to-back, in Boston.

There will be a bunch of talks (and posters) given at the two meetings which are directly related to the Tell es-Safi/Gath Archaeological Project.

See the list below – and if you can be there – it would be great to see you!



Thursday, Nov. 16th:

Session 2C Archaeology of Israel I, Harbor 3:

10:40 Aren Maeir (Bar-Ilan University), “The 2017 Season of Excavations at Tell es-Safi/Gath” (20 min.)

Session 2J Houses and Households in the Near East: Archaeology and History I, Hancock:

11:25 Haskel Greenfield (University of Manitoba), Tina Greenfield (University of Saskatchewan), Elizabeth Arnold (Grand Valley State University), Aren Maeir (Bar-Ilan University), “A Bunch of Asses: Recent Asinine Discoveries from Early Bronze Tell es-Safi/Gath” (15 min.)

Session 2F Archaeology of the Ancient Near East: Bronze and Iron Ages II, Lewis:

11:45 Jeffrey Chadwick (Brigham Young University Jerusalem Center), “How to Build a Glacis: Construction Dynamics of the MB II Fortifications at Tell es-Safi/Gath” (15 min.)

Session 3B Archaeology and Biblical Studies I, Harbor 2:

3:25 Amit Dagan (Bar-Ilan University) and Aren Maeir (BarIlan University), “‘And the Gods of the Philistines’ (Judges 10:6): Understanding Philistine Cultic Practices in Light of Archaeological and Textual Evidence” (15 min.)

Friday, Nov. 16th

Session 8I Archaeology of the Southern Levant II, Webster:

4:45 Vanessa Workman (Bar-Ilan University) and Adi Eliyahu Behar (Bar-Ilan University), “Early Iron Workshops at Tel Megiddo and Tell es-Safi/Gath: Comparative Analysis of Working Debris and Paraphernalia” (20 min.)

5:10 Eric Welch (University of Kansas), “The Gats of Gath: Ninth Century Olive Oil Production in Area K at Tell es-Safi/Gath” (20 min.)

Posters (Galleria Exhibit Hall):

  • “Morphometrics and Sheep Goat Breeds in the Early Bronze Age of Tell es-Safi/Gath” Tina Greenfield (University of Saskatchewan), Jane Sanford (University College London), Haskel Greenfield (University of Manitoba), Shira Albaz (Bar-Ilan University), and Aren Maeir (Bar-Ilan University)
  • “Cult of the Philistines: Ethnographic Artistic Reconstruction of Ritual Space” Madaline Harris-Schober (University of Melbourne)
  • “The Missing Link? Olive Oil Production in the Ninth Century B.C.E. at Tell es-Safi/Gath” Chloe Clouse (University of Kansas), Christina Olson (University of Kansas), and Eric Welch (University of Kansas)
  • “If Stones Could Speak: The 2000 Year Old Square at Tell es-Safi/Gath” Florencia Fustinoni (University of British Columbia)


Sunday, Nov. 19th:
Session S19-227: Israelite Religion in Its West Asian Environment, Room: Back Bay C (Second Level) – Sheraton Boston Hotel (SB) (1:00 PM to 3:30 PM)

Aren Maeir, Bar-Ilan University, Panelist (30 min)
Francesca Stavrakopoulou, University of Exeter, Panelist (30 min)
Jeffrey Stackert, University of Chicago, Panelist (30 min)
Steven Weitzman, University of Pennsylvania, Respondent (15 min)
Discussion (45 min)

Session S19-301: Animal Studies and the Bible, Tufts (Third Level) – Boston Marriott Copley Place

4:00: Haskel J. Greenfield, University of Manitoba, Jane Gaastra, University College London, Tina Greenfield, University of Saskatchewan and Aren F. Maeir, Bar-Ilan University: Early Bronze Age (‘Canaanite’) Urban Provisioning–A Zooarchaeological Perspective on Animal Exploitation Strategies (30 min)

November 07, 2017

The Tel Burna Excavation Project

Excavation Application Online and Foothills of Judah Conference

We are excited to announce that registration for the 2018 season at Tel Burna is officially open! You can access it here or click above at the “Excavation Application” button. See here for the registration packet for those who would like to fill out the paper packet.

Also – we are less than a week away from the “Foothills of Judah” Conference which will feature presentations by Aharon, Debi, myself, and Itzick along with several other talks by the Gezer team. You can see the schedule here.

November 01, 2017

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

Last day of Oct/Nov ’17 mini season

Today, Amit, Adi, Vanessa and I were at the tell again for the last day of the mini-season that we started a couple of weeks ago, to try and finish up some of the work done in Area D. While we did not manage to complete as much as we hoped, and there is more to do during the 2018 summer season, some very interesting remains connected to the metal production workshop were uncovered. These remains (various remains of the iron and copper production) should provide important additional materials for the laboratory analyses that Adi and Vanessa are conducting.

See below some pictures taken today:

October 29, 2017

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

And then there was this…

An unusual creature was found this season! We were not sure whether it was a “lasergator” or a “crocolaser”.

It has been sent for inter- and multi-disciplinary analyses… :-)


Clip of a cool cloud rolling off the tell – from the 2017 season

Check out this cool clip of a very unusual cloud rolling over the tell, early in the morning, during the 2017 season. Follow the dramatic narration (by your’s truly) and the amused crowd at the end (E. Welch)…

2017-07-04 06.26.09

October 25, 2017

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

Newspaper piece about the Safi excavation in the “Catholic Register”

A piece on the excavations at Safi appeared in the “Catholic Register” – Canada’s oldest Catholic English publication. The piece focuses on the participation of the Canadian team led by Haskel Greenfield, and students from St. Paul’s college at the Univ. of Manitoba. Haskel and some of the Manitoba team are interviewed.

Nice piece – save that we have not found several shards with the name of Goliath on them…:-)


HT: Eric Welch

October 24, 2017

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

Nice article in Haaretz on some of the controversies regarding the historicity of the Bible

A very nice article in in the English edition of Haaretz just appeared (translation of the Hebrew article that appeared last week) in which Nir Hasson discusses the ongoing scholarly controversies on the historicity of the Bible – 18 years after the famous article on this topic, by Z. Herzog, that also appeared in the Haaretz.

You’ll see that I appear in the article a couple of times (and Gath get’s a nice mention) – even if they misspelled my name in the English version…

Check it out – very nicely done!


HT: Carl Schwanke

October 23, 2017

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

Sad news: Uri Reiss passed away

I was so sorry to hear that our friend, Uri Reiss, who was a core team member of the Safi project for over a decade, and served for many years as the project “Major Domo”, passed away this last Friday.

Uri was truly a great person, kind and friendly, caring and motivated, and with endless energy – and always with a smile on his face. He will be sorely missed by his family and friends. The “Safi family” has lost an important member.

May his memory be blessed – יהי זכרו ברוך!

Here is a picture of Uri working in the field – as many of the Safi old-timers most probably remember him.


October 21, 2017

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

Two new publications (not directly related to Safi…)

Two new publications have just appeared, and although they are not directly connected to the Safi excavations, they might be of interest. Check them out!

Maeir, A. M. 2017. Assessing Jerusalem in the Middle Bronze Age: A 2017 Perspective. Pp. 64*-74* in New Studies in the Archaeology of Jerusalem and Its Region: Collected Papers, Volume XI, eds. Y. Gadot, Y. Zelinger, K. Cytryn-Silverman and J. Uziel. (see here a link to the paper)

Maeir, A. M. 2017. “There Is Nothing So Whole as a Broken Heart”: Reflections on “The Practice of Repairing Vessels in Ancient Egypt” (NEA 79.4 [2016]) by Julia Hsieh. Near Eastern Archaeology 80(3): 202–03. (see here a link to a corrected proof of the paper)


October 18, 2017

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

2nd day of mini-season

Today we had the 2nd (and last) day of the mini-season. Work continued in the metallurgy area in Area D, and Dr. Michael Toffolo (from the Univ. of Bordeaux) came to the site to sample a very interesting context that was found in Area F this season, apparently related to the production of a plaster.

It was a great day again! See here some pictures:

October 17, 2017

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

Mini-season at the tell!

Today (Oct. 17) we conducted a small mini-season at the tell. A small group of the team, came down to the site to do some work in Area D, in the metallurgy area and in the gate area. Tomorrow, we’ll be back to finish up.

Excavating with a small group, and in the fall, is quite different from what we usually do in the summer. The weather was great, the finds were nice, and we had a great time.

I also checked on Areas K and K2 – and they are doing just fine! :-)

Here are some pictures:

October 16, 2017

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

Joe Uziel is a star!

Dr. Joe Uziel, an old-time Safi team member, and currently a senior archaeologist at the IAA, was a total media star today, with the press blitz about the fantastic finds near the Western Wall (see, e.g., here and here and here and here).

Way to go Joe!!!


Registration for the 2018 season is open!

Online registration for the 2018 season at Tell es-Safi/Gath is now open!

The 2018 season will be from June 24th to July 20th.

So sign up now – and bring a friend – it’s going to be a great season!

Looking forward to seeing you in the summer!


October 09, 2017

The Tel Burna Excavation Project

Foothills of Judah Conference in Fort Worth in November

We are very excited to announce that several members of our team will be participating in a conference entitled “Foothills of Judah: Recent Archaeological Investigations” – Nov. 13-14, 2017 at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary – Fort Worth, Texas.


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

New article – Climate changes in the Byzantine and Early Islamic periods in the Levant

A new article, authored by D. Fuks et al., dealing with climate change during the late Byzantine and early Islamic periods has just appeared. The study was in the making for quite a few years, and was initially kick started on the basis of insights that Oren Ackermann and I had from research on the environment around Tell es-Safi/Gath.

Here is the full quote:

Fuks, D., Ackermann, O., Ayalon, A., Bar-Matthews, M., Bar-Oz, G., Levi, Y., Maeir, A. M., Weiss, E., Zilberman, T., and Safrai, Z.Fuks, D., Ackermann, O., Ayalon, A., Bar-Matthews, M., Bar-Oz, G., Levi, Y., Maeir, A. M., Weiss, E., Zilberman, T., and Safrai, Z. 2017. Dust Clouds, Climate Change and Coins: Consiliences of Paleoclimate and Economic History in the Late Antique Southern Levant. Levant 49(2). DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/00758914.2017.1379181.



October 05, 2017

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

Shout out for “The Old Testament in archaeology and history”, Ebeling et al. (eds).

Just received notification that the volume The Old Testament in archaeology and history, edited by Jennie Ebeling, J. Edward Wright, Mark Elliott, and Paul V.M. Flesher (Baylor University Press: Waco, TX, 2017) has appeared!

This looks like a really nice introductory volume to the history and archaeology of Old Testament/Hebrew Bible times and culture. I highly recommend checking it out as a possible text book for college level courses on related topics.

I have a chapter on Judah in the Iron II in the volume (full reference: Maeir, A. M. 2017. Chapter 15. The Southern Kingdom of Judah: Surrounded by Enemies. Pp. 391–412 in The Bible in Archaeology and History, eds. J. Ebeling, J. E. Wright, M. Elliott and P. V. M. Flesher. Waco, TX: Baylor University Press), and the other chapters look really nice as well.

I’m definitely looking forward to receiving my copy of the volume!

Here’s a pdf of the front matter of the book: OT in Archaeology and History volume _Front matter

Check it out!


October 03, 2017

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

NEA issue on Safi in the making!

This past Friday, on the eve of Yom Kippur, I submitted the materials for a full (in fact double) issue of Near Eastern Archaeology that will be devoted to the excavations at Tell es-Safi/Gath! Thanks to the hard work and cooperation of all those who contributed to materials for this issue (almost 50 contributors in total!), I am sure that this will be a truly special publication. The editor of NEA (Thomas Schneider) says that it will come out in the December 2017 issue – so that’s is just a few months! We still have a lot of work in the editing process – but I’m really looking forward to seeing the printed version of this!


September 28, 2017

The Tel Burna Excavation Project

New Publications

We are pleased to announce the publication of the following two papers:

Adapting PlanGrid to Archaeology by Chris and Itzick in Popular Archaeology Magazine

“Flames from the Bramble” – The Geography of the Abimelech Episode in Judges 9 and the Identification of Beth-millo – by Chris and Aharon in In Highland’s Depth (co-edited by Aharon)


September 16, 2017

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

New Tel Hebron report!

Congratulations to David Ben-Shlomo (who is the Safi petrographer) and Emanuel Eisenberg, on the publication of the new report on their excavations at Hebron, and the initiation of the new monograph series of the Institute of Archaeology of Ariel University!

The full title is:

Eisenberg, E., and Ben-Shlomo, D. 2017. The Tel Ḥevron 2014 Excavations. Final Report. Ariel University Institute of Archaeology Monograph Series, Number 1. Ariel: Ariel University Press.

Here’s a picture of the new volume:

September 15, 2017

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

Adam and Merindah tie the knot!

Congratulations to Adam and Merindah on their wedding!

Yet another Safi couple!

Mazal tov!

September 14, 2017

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

New Studies in the Archaeology of Jerusalem and Its Region – Conference – 18-20 Oct., 2017

The schedule of the 11th annual conference “New Studies in the Archaeology of Jerusalem and Its Region” will be held at the Hebrew University on October 18th-20th, 2017.

There will be a lot of very interesting papers (and the 3rd day will be field trips) and I highly recommend it (the first day will be in English, the 2nd in Hebrew).

And, I’m also giving a paper (on the MB of Jerusalem)…

Check out the schedule below.


September 13, 2017

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

Abel Beth Maacha Workshop – April 26th, 2018 (at Hebrew University)

Please mark your calendars:

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

A Workshop:

Five Seasons of Excavation at Tel Abel Beth Maacah: An Interim Assessment

The Institute of Archaeology, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Thursday, April 26, 2018



This workshop will present a summary of the stratigraphic and architectural contexts, as well as major material culture finds, uncovered during the course of five seasons of excavation. Focus will be on the Iron Age I and II, with highlights from the Middle and Late Bronze Age, as well as the Persian-early Hellenistic period, in order to better understand the occupation sequence.

Following this presentation, a discussion will take place on issues generated by the finds and the research questions that guide the project, particularly, how the archaeological data from Abel Beth Maacah illuminate cultural and historical developments in the Hula Valley, from the Late Bronze Age city state of Hazor to the Iron Age IIA territorial kingdoms of Israel and Aram-Damascus. A presentation of pottery and other finds from these periods will take place and serve as the basis for a chronological, contextual and cultural discussion.



15:00: Convening and refreshments

15:15-17:00: Presentation of the archaeological field and artefactual data

17:00-17:30: Break

17:30-19:00: Presentation of pottery and other finds and discussion


If you are interested in participating, please contact: panitz@mail.huji.ac.il


September 04, 2017

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

Joe Uziel and finds from the City of David!

Dr. Joe Uziel, long-time member of the Safi team, and currently directing the IAA excavations in the City of David, has gotten some really nice press coverage (see for example here and here) for some great finds of Iron Age bullae from the Iron Age II that were recently found in Jerusalem. Ortal Chalaf, who is co-directing the excavations, is also a former student at BIU – and participated as well in the Safi excavations.

Way to go Joe!

September 03, 2017

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

Shem Tov Sasson blogs about the dig!

Shem Tov Sasson, who is a promising undergraduate student in my department at BIU, and participated this year in the excavations at Safi (he served as an assistant area supervisor in Area J), has written two great blog posts about his impressions and experiences during the 2017 season at Tell es-Safi/Gath.

Check them out here and here (and in general, he has all kinds of interesting blog entries, on his studies at BIU, nature in Israel, etc.).

Way to go Shem Tov!

And here is a picture of Shem Tov holding the bronze bowl that he found this season!

September 01, 2017

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

Leah makes another restoration clip!

Following the success of the last clips (see the last one here) on her restoration work, Leah, our pottery restorer, has made another clip of the restoration of yet another vessel, this time an Iron IIA krater from Area F.

Check it out! Way to go Leah!

August 22, 2017

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

Leah Tramer, our pottery restorer makes another restoration video!

Leah, our pottery restorer, had made another great clip on the process of restoration of a vessel (see an earlier one here). This time, Leah restored an almost complete Iron IIA red-slipped and burnished jar from Area D.

Check it out!

August 18, 2017

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

Tell es-Safi/Gath Related Publications: 2014 to August 2017

I was asked for a list of the Safi-related publications that updates the list posted in 2013. So since I already prepared it, here it is below.

I hope I did not miss anything – if yes – feel free to point out anything that is missing or in need of correction!

Safi bibliography 2014 to Aug 2017


New Article on the EB board games from Safi!

A new, popular article on evidence of Early Bronze Age game boards from Tell es-Safi/Gath has appeared in the just-published issue of Biblical Archaeology Review.

The article, by Shira, Itzik, Haskel and yours truly, deals with the evidence of EB game boards and game pieces found at Safi, and places them within a broader context. This is a brief and popular summary of a more in-depth study on this topic that will hopefully soon be published.

The full title is:

Albaz, S., Shai, I., Greenfield, H. J., and Maeir, A. M. 2017. Board Games in Biblical Gath. Biblical Archaeology Review 43(5): 22, 68. (see here a pdf).

And on the same occasion, please note several additional new publications of mine:

Maeir, A. M. 2017. Kingdoms of Israel and Judah: I. History and Archaeology. Pp. 286–91 in The Encyclopedia of the Bible and Its Reception, Volume 15. Berlin: de Gruyter. (see here a pdf).

Maeir, A. M. 2017. Koldewey, Robert Johann. P. 449 in The Encyclopedia of the Bible and Its Reception, Volume 15. Berlin: de Gruyter. (see here a pdf).

Maeir, A. M. 2017. Lapp, Paul Wilbert. Pp. 826–27 in The Encyclopedia of the Bible and Its Reception, Volume 15. Berlin: de Gruyter. (see here a pdf).



August 17, 2017

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

Tell es-Safi/Gath in USA TODAY

An article on the “Hobby Lobby scandal” and about the antiquities market in general, appeared yesterday in USA Today. In the article, not only am I quoted about my deep negative opinion about the antiquities market.

Among other things I said (whether quoted, misquoted, or not), I like the following quote:

““In the first half of the 20th century many rich people had the heads of animals mounted on the walls of their studies. Today that’s considered despicable. That’s how people should feel about the archaeological grave robbers who are robbing nations of their national heritage.””

But no less important, note that the photo at the beginning of the article was taken last year (2016) by the author of the article (Michele Chabin), shows the excavations at Tell es-Safi/Gath in Area D, and one sees Amit Dagan and Ahuva Ho excavating away!

Check it out!

Visit to Qiryat Yearim Excavations

Today, I had the pleasure of visiting the new excavations at Qiryat Yearim. I was hosted by the directors, Profs. Israel Finkelstein, Thomas Romer and Christophe Nicolle, who gave me a very detailed 2 hour tour of the site and the various excavation areas. What can I say – the site – and the excavations, are very impressive!

Although they are only at the end of the 2nd week of the first season, there are already some VERY interesting finds. It is clear that in the next few seasons, this site will become one of the most important excavations in Israel, and will undoubtedly provide crucial information for the study of the Judahite Kingdom during the Iron Age – as well as many other important aspects.


August 10, 2017

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

Australian Ambassador visits the lab!

Yesterday, August 9, 2017, we had the honor of hosting the new Australian Ambassador to Israel, Mr. Chris Cannan, at the Safi lab, as part of his visit to BIU.

The Safi project has a long-going connection with the Australian ambassadors to Israel, and past ambassadors have visited the lab and come to the excavations (as mentioned, for example, here, here and here).

I hope that Mr. Cannan, and his family, will join us in the excavations in July 2018!

Here’s a picture of the ambassador and me during the visit.

August 09, 2017

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

Lecture on Tell es-Safi/Gath at the World Congress of Jewish Studies – today (9/8/17) at the HU

As part of the 2017 17th World Congress of Jewish Studies currently being held at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, there will be a session today on archaeology, which will include a lecture on Tell es-Safi/Gath.

See here details of the lecture and session:

118 Iron Age Archaeology
Wednesday, 09 August, 2017 11:30-13:30, Room: 2603
Chairperson: Aren Maeir
Aren Maeir: The Excavations at Tell es-Safi/Gath and their Implications for the Understanding of the Early Judahite Kingdom
Carl S. Ehrlich: Does the Tanakh Preserve an Accurate Echo of the Philistine Cult?
Mitka R. Golub: Judean Personal Names in the Book of Jeremiah in the Light of the Archaeological Evidence
James S. Adcock: After Eight Seasons at Tel Burna, Have We Found Biblical Libnah?

You are invited to join us at this interesting session!

August 04, 2017

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

A selection of the 2017 aerial photos

The aerial photos at the end of the 2017 season were great (taken by Griffin Aerial Imaging).

So, in addition to the group photo that was already posted, here are some of the views of the various areas. And may I make a suggestion to those out there who want to be creative and suggest reconstructing lines of walls, features, houses, etc.: what you see in the aerials does not enable you to understand the complex architectural stratigraphy on the ground…

But in any case – enjoy!

July 29, 2017

The Tel Burna Excavation Project

Week 4/End of Season Overview

The last week of excavations is usually uneventful – as we are typically trying to close down the excavation areas and make everything look “nice” for the final photos. However, this season we unexpectedly uncovered a destruction layer in B2 at the end of week 3 – which meant that we needed to expose this layer across the entire square or risk losing the context and finds of this important discovery over the winter (rain, visitors, or our neighbors – the bulls and the nice “ritual deposits” they often leave us :). On account of this – week four was much busier than usual!

Besides the regular end of seasons tasks (e.g., finishing pottery washing/reading/registration, endless trips to the container, ), we also heard a lecture on the archaeology and climate of Iceland by Michal and the Cypriot Pithoi from Area B1 by Itzick. During the early part of the week, we had several visitors including Prof. Eliezer Oren. On Wednesday, as a reward for completing the rigors of final sweeping, we visited the excavations at Lachish where Igor Kreimerman (dig staff at Lachish) gave us a tour of the “fourth expeditions” findings from their final season. In light of what they showed us – it will be very interesting to attend the lectures at the various November meetings later this year.

In Area B1: we finished our final week in Area B1 on what appeared to be a bit of whimper – that is until pottery washing! Since we made such excellent process in accomplishing our season’s goals during the preceding two weeks – we decided to take one last shot at finding the southern wall of the large cultic enclosure that defines Area B1 and opened another excavation square on the far southwest side of the excavation area. After reaching what appeared to be bedrock in much of the square (although we might have to dig a bit more to be sure) – we were resigned to simply make the square look “pretty” and take a few photos. But then – Seth and Oleg began uncovering an enormous amount of pottery in the northwestern area of the square – when we washed and read the pottery – we found ……… an inscription!!! The inscription is written with ink on a single sherd (i.e., an ostraca) and consists of only a few letters – while it is too soon to be certain, and we (Matt in particular) are already working feverishly on this – the inscription appears to be in the Proto-Canaanite script. Amazingly, this inscription was found in the second to last basket, in the last square of B1, on the last day of excavation. And what a way to go out! After seven seasons of excavation in Area B1 – it appears that we are officially closing Area B1…


2017 Tel Burna Plans for Presentations B2 and B1Area B1 – 2011-2017 with layered aerials


While in the grand scheme of things seven years is a short time, a lot has transpired since 2011! As the Area supervisor of B1, I would like to personally thank all the people that helped make the excavations in Area B1 such a success. Here are a few names that come to mind  that I would like to personally thank – Benjamin Yang, Casey Sharp, Andrew Bell, Ian Herriot, Ian McKibbin (and Scott and Barb), Sam Joffe, Jane Gaastra, Yirmi Szanton, Ido Ginaton (z”l), Gary and Sunny McKinny, Kay Fountain, Ofer and Victor, Ron Lev, Seth Adcock, Matt Spigelman, and IBEX/Master’s University spring season students. Here a few photos of work in Area B1 over the years.


In Area B2: Aharon and his remaining team (Juliana, Olivia, and Judah) with an assist from some fresh recruits (Jonah, Blythe, Ludmila, and Eva) and B1 veterans (Benjamin, Jane, Ian, and Sam) pressed on to meet the daunting and exciting task of excavating a destruction layer in the middle of the east-west section. They also continued to work in other parts of the east-west section.

2017 Tel Burna B2 top planArea B2 – East-West Section after the 2017 Season

Starting at the top/east side of the section – Juliana and her team successfully removed the balk and exposed the connection between the fortifications and the interior building that we had excavated earlier this season. While the surface remains were poor and not well preserved, it appears that this building was initially built during the Iron IIC, and was re-used during the Persian period (like in A2). The building is east-west oriented and rectangular with a row of pillars dividing the western side from the eastern side. The western end of the building was built in connection with the casemate fortifications – although there are clearly several architectural phases that require more study. We also can trace adjacent walls in the area north of this building – which probably indicates that these buildings were built (or rebuilt) together with the casemate wall perhaps in the “four-room” style – e.g., Tel Sheva Iron II town plan, but we will have to open more squares to be sure. We plan on continuing to expose this building to the north and east next season. Despite our uncertainty regarding the exact phasing within the building, we can likely confirm that the exterior town wall was in use during the Iron IIC (i.e., the 7th century BCE) as the wall was widened during this period as revealed by Juliana’s balk removal. Going back to the initial season of the project (2010), we had wondered whether the outer fortifications were in use during the last days of the kingdom of Judah (e.g., King Josiah) because we found that the interior casemate wall had been destroyed by grain silos during this period. Unlike on the eastern side of the tell (A1), the fortifications on the west (B2) seem to have been strengthened during the 7th century BCE (as noted also by the existence of the perpendicular wall of the casemate), although we will have to trace this further to confirm this hypothesis.

Outside of the wall to the west, Michal and Ladislav continued to trace new courses of both the city wall and the poorly-made wall (known lovingly by the team as the “crappy wall”) that seems to divide two layers of fill that strengthen the Iron II outer wall. Amazingly, on the north of the “crappy wall we now have c. 2 meters of fill from the Late Bronze Age that includes a high quantity of metallugical remains (tuyeres, crucibles, slag, traces of bronze, etc.), but also sherds from the Iron II. This indicates that this fill was taken from a single place, probably near the fortification wall, and deposited along the wall’s outer face in order to strengthen the wall. In the section south of the “crappy wall,” we also have fill that is mixed with pottery from different periods (predominantly Iron II) that does not include metallurgical activity. In the last few days of the excavation, it appears that Ladislav reached the top of a collapse in this southern section that includes mudbrick material and ash. Given the destruction layer that we found lower down the slope (see next paragraph), it is possible that we now have the beginning of the destruction next to the outer fortification. If so, then it would mean that the fortification wall was standing at least as early as the destruction (Iron I? Early Iron IIA?), but we will obviously have to look at this very carefully when we continue to trace the depths of the fortification wall next season. Stay tuned!

Below the wall to the west, Aharon’s team (Jane, Sam, Benjamin, Jonah, and co.) excavated a very well preserved destruction layer that already includes around a dozen complete vessels of various types (storage jars, cooking pots, bowls, etc.). The destruction layer was found under a silo (Iron IIC) and a very large collapse of stones (perhaps from the outer fortification wall) that included remains from the Late Bronze-Iron II. While it is too early to be certain, the pottery seems to date before the late Iron IIA phase that we traced on the eastern side of the tell in A1 back in 2010 (perhaps a destruction layer related to the same period as the Gath Hazael destruction c. 830 BCE), and it is certainly later than the 13th century layer that we have exposed in B1. At first glance, the layer seems to be related to the late Iron I and/or the early Iron IIA (late 11th and 10th centuries BCE – including several Philistine sherds – bichrome and debased), although we will have to closely examine the pottery, as well as hope to get some good 14C/radiocarbon dates from the large amount of charcoal that we collected. Given the ongoing (and often heated) discussion about the beginning of the Iron II and its relationship to the United Kingdom/Early Israelite and/or Judahite polities, we are very excited to continue to expose more of this destruction layer, study the evidence, and see where it takes us. Obviously – there will be more to come on this front in future seasons as we attempt to trace this very important stratum at the site.

Further down the slope to the west, and despite Sam and Ian’s heroic efforts in excavating in top soil and rock collapse for two straight weeks, we still do not yet know what is going on in the bottom ten meters of the section. It seems that there was a large wall that was fortified with an upper layer of earthen fill (filled with pottery from the Late Bronze-Iron IIB) on top of a stone core laid above bedrock (also filled with pottery from the Late Bronze-Iron IIB) that was built on top of the Late Bronze plateau stratum that we have uncovered in Area B1. This last piece of evidence, which was confirmed by the hard work of Benjamin in his probe that reached bedrock, is very interesting as it indicates that the Late Bronze city continued towards the east beneath the Iron IIB (?) stone/earthen glacis (?). Hopefully, we will be able to better understand this massive architectural feature next season when we remove the collapse.

Here are a few photos from the last several days of excavation.

In conclusion and a look ahead: This season we better exposed the earliest excavated stratum at Tel Burna in Area B1 (13th century BCE) by tracing the eastern wall of the large cultic enclosure while also searching, but ultimately failing to find the elusive southern wall. We also traced large walls that seem to have surrounded (and likely formed) the western lower platform that was only populated during the Late Bronze Age. In what will be Area B3 – we hope to understand these walls (fortification? large public building? retaining wall?) and its relationship to the large public cultic enclosure that we excavated in Area B1.

Inside of the western fortifications in Area B2, we found an Iron II building that seems to have a constructed during the Iron IIC/7th century BCE and re-used during the Persian period. We can also add an additional stratum with the discovery of the late Iron I/early Iron IIA (?) destruction layer in the middle of the east-west section.

Next season we hope to open up the following two new areas:

Area B3 to expose the aforementioned large architecture on the southern end of the lower Late Bronze platform.

Tel Burna overview from east after 2017 seasonTel Burna overview of areas from west after 2017 season
Tel Burna overview from southeast after 2017 seasonTel Burna overview of areas from southwest after 2017 season

Area G(?) to expose where we believe the Iron Age gate is located on the southern side of the fortifications (see photo).


Areas after 2017 seasonTel Burna after 2017 season with new potential excavation areas


Updated Periods (with the location of evidence): 

Early Bronze Age – survey and excavated sherds

Middle Bronze Age – survey and excavated sherds

Late Bronze Age – Area B1; fills in Area B2; survey

Late Iron I/Early Iron IIA (?) – Area B2 destruction layer; survey

Late Iron IIA – Area A1 destruction layer (?); survey

Iron IIB – Area A1; Area A2; Area B2; survey

Iron IIC – Area A1; Area A2; Area B2; survey

Persian – Area A1; Area A2; Area B2; survey

Byzantine – Area B1 and survey



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

Pictorial Evidence of the Appearance, Transformation and Disappearance of the Sea Peoples – :-)

News flash – new pictorial evidence of the appearance, transformation and disappearance of the Sea Peoples!

See the evidence below in this newly revealed set of pictures! In the end – they just fade away…























July 28, 2017

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

The 2017 Safi team group aerial photo!

Keeping up with our tradition of making great aerial group photos at the end of the season, at the start of the final aerial photos, this year, we went for a Medinet Habu Sea Peoples warrior theme.

And just like the season itself – the group this year came out REALLY super!

Check it out – and as usual – the challenge to other teams in on…


July 27, 2017

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

Surprise Birthday Celebration for Jeff Chadwick

Yesterday, it was Jeff’s (aka Achish Melekh Gath) birthday, so we set up a surprise celebration – and caught Jeff completely unaware.

In the immotal words of Hannibal of the “A Team”: “I love it when a plan comes together”…:-)

See the evidence here:


July 26, 2017

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

Updates and finds from the final days – a Massebah!

The 4th week of the project involves some digging and a lot of end of season work, including preparing the areas for photography, packing up finds and equipment, trips to the storage containers and BIU – but also a few finds!

Among the most interesting finds is the cultic standing stone (“Massebah”) found in Area D, just next to the metallurgy area. The Massebah was found knocked over, and right next to it we had found a few days ago both a figurine and a collection of astragali bones. The strengthens the suggestion that there are more cultic contexts yet to be excavated in this area. Cool!


July 23, 2017

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

New Journal – Archaeology and Text, vol. 1 (2017)

Congratulations to Itzik Shai (Ariel University) and David Small (Lehigh University), editors of the journal Archaeology and Text, for the appearance of the first issue of this new, very interesting – and open access – journal.

Check out the new issue here.

Way to go Itzik and David!

July 22, 2017

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

End of the 3rd week of the 2017 season

Yesterday, Friday, July 21st, 2017, was the last day of the 3rd week of the season. While we are still in the field next week, main activities will be a bit of excavation, and a lot of cleaning and photography – and not to mention packing up and sending materials and equipment to BIU and for storage.

Thus, what we have uncovered by now is more or less what we will have for this season – and all in all it has been a great season!

Here are some of the main points in the various areas:

Area A: In the two squares that were excavated by Louise and her team, in the eastern square then went through the early Iron I levels in what seems to be a courtyard, and had some nice Iron I finds. And on the very last day, the got through to the EB levels below this, including a restorable complete EB platter bowl. Area A, which had been excavated from the very first excavation season (1997) will be closed after this season.

Area D: Amit and his team had quite a season! In the western side, excavations in the metallurgical area revealed more and more evidence of the metal working area, including a large fragment of a bronze crucible, many tuyerres, slag, hammer-scale, and quite a nice amount of bronze and iron objects. Just next to the metal working area an additional section of the Iron IIA destruction was revealed, including an additional collection of astragali bones. And on Friday, right next to the astragali, a very unique figurine was uncovered (see pictures below). In the eastern side of the area, the area of the fortifications and possible gate continued to be excavated. These features are turning out to be so large and so complex (with at least three phases) and with many finds, that it is clear that it will take some time before we fully understand what is going on here. This is real monumental stuff! The excavations in Area D demonstrate clearly that the lower city of Gath was settled from the late 12th/early 11th cent. BCE and onwards, to be destroyed ca. 830 BCE by Hazael. And one of course should mention the very interesting inscription that was found in this area.

Area E: Shira and Haskel and their team had a very successful season. In addition to the complete donkey skeleton (the 5th or 6th that we have found) that was deposited below one of the floors of the houses in this neighborhood, we dug a deep sounding in the area. Surprisingly, even though we reached a depth of over 2.5 meters, we did not yet reach bedrock – and in fact we still were in the EB III levels! In addition to this, numerous floors, walls, contexts and installations relating to the various levels in this area were uncovered, as well as some very interesting finds (such as two bulla and a sheep figurine). Area E will also be closed after this season – although a small team may return sometime in the next few months to complete the sounding.

Area F: Jeff and his team attained all the objectives this season – and more! Levels dating to the Iron IIB, Iron IIA, Iron IB, Iron IA, LB, MB and EB were excavated. In particular, the MB and EB levels were important, as they clarified the relationship between the inside of the city and the city wall. This includes, in the last few days, clear evidence of any EB structure within and abutting the EB wall. Area F will also be closed at the end of this season.

Area J: Jill’s team opened this area this season, with the aim of defining the possible line of fortification that was seen on surface. And in fact, this is just what they did! The excavated the width of the wall in two squares, and while they did not reach floors of structures within the wall, the plan of the wall, and the clean EB pottery, enables to ascertain that this is the wall of the EB city – all the way at the bottom of the eastern side of the upper tell! And in addition, Jill’s team found a beautiful Iron Age bronze bowl near surface. Area J will also be closed at the end of the season.

Area K: Eric’s team expanded the area that was opened last year, and discovered additional walls, features, and finds relating to the final phase (Iron IIA) of the lower city. The extent of the finds makes it clear that the Iron IIA city extended far to the eastern side of the lower city. It is not clear yet whether there are earlier levels (as in Area D) below this, but time will tell. There were quite a few interesting finds from this area, including a scarab found in the last week. Needless to say, we will continue working in Area K in future seasons.

Area K2: Brent and his team worked on what looks more and more like the monumental fortifications of the eastern side of the lower city. It is comprised of three lines of almost cyclopean like stones. Interestingly, between the lower and middle lines, Brent and his team excavated strata of collapsed mudbricks and other deposits, dating to the Iron IIA destruction, possible evidence of a structure (a casemate?) between these walls. This is only the very beginning of the work in this area and we will continue working on this in future seasons.

Remote Sensing: Andy and his team did some great work this season, using magnetometry to help us understand the plan of the lower city, as well as other features in and around the site. Several very interesting features were seen the lower city, between Areas D and K, indicating the high potential future excavations in other portions of the lower city! We hope to continue conducting various remote season in and around the site and in particular in the lower city.

All in all – some great results of the season (and perhaps some more by the end of the coming week) with much promise for future seasons.

If all goes as planned, this will be the last season of excavations in the upper tell, and as of next year, we will focus on work in various areas in the lower city.

Needless to say – all the excellent work and results was possible only due to the excellent and dedicated work of the team!

Here is a field photo of the figurine:


July 21, 2017

The Tel Burna Excavation Project

Week 3 Overview

As in previous seasons, week three proved to be fruitful due to the continued exposure of both new squares (in B1) and deeper layers (in B2) and the hard work of our fantastic team. Besides our weekly teletour (Azekah at sunset!), we heard several interesting lectures this week on a wide range of topics including Landscape Archaeology (Oren Ackermann), Archaeological Survey (Aharon Tavger), Conserving Archaeological Sites in The National Parks of Israel (Iosi Bordowicz), and Examples of the Importance of Chemical Testing on Ancient Remains (Stephen Buckley). We also had a number visitors at the site including Aren Maeir, Jeff Chadwick, Eric Welch, Daniel Frese, David Kotter (and many from the Tell es-Safi/Gath team), Amir Golani, Itzhaq Paz, Amihai Mazar, Aaron Burke, Sabine Kleiman, Assaf Kleiman, Laura Mazow, and Debi!

In Area B1: We finished yet another excavation square on the lower platform that had restorable Late Bronze pottery and includes traces of a wall that likely marks the eastern edge of the large enclosure that we excavated in previous seasons. Benjamin, Andrew, Jane, and Kay exposed more of this wall by removing the balk – in so doing – they revealed a number of walls that seem to be rooms on the western and eastern sides of the main public enclosure. Interestingly, it appears that the Late Bronze Age city continued beneath the rise of the the tell as some of the walls run directly into a large c. 2.5 m high x c. 5 m wide x 80 m long hump (glacis? retaining wall?) that seems to have been laid there in the late 8th century BCE (i.e., the time of Hezekiah, Sennacherib, Isaiah, etc.). On this hump, Ian and Sam diligently removed a large amount of loose fill at a steady rate of some 20 cm/day. Over the last couple of days, they also exposed a huge collapse of stones that may be related to the fortification wall (or a lower wall) that fell down the slope – presumably during the late 8th century BCE – although we will have to wait until next season to be sure. In the section above this huge collapse, Sheila, Andrea, Seth, and Yair have exposed an interesting feature that seems to be related to the Iron II fill/glacis(?) that we are still trying to figure out. Finally, Sam, Samuel, Ian, Andrew, and Benjamin also opened up another square in B1 in a last-ditch effort to find the southern wall of the large enclosure that dominates Area B1 – we hope to finish up this square by Tuesday (our last full excavation day).

In Area B2: Things are getting very interesting for Aharon, Matt, and Kathleen’s team! Juliana and co. (Ariel, Olivia, etc.) nicely defined a large rectangular room that is perpendicular to the casemate fortifications. This building seems to date the 8th century BCE with re-use also in the 7th century and Persian period. They also removed the balk that had separated the outer casemate wall from the inner casemate wall and the aforementioned building – after doing this it seems clear that the outer fortification wall was not being used in the 7th century BCE as there appears to have been occupational remains directly on top of it. Just below the fortification wall – Michal and Ladislav continue to expose the outer face of the wall – now at a depth of c. 2 meters – and they are still not have not reached the bottom. Amazingly, Michal seems to have a huge accumulation of metallurgical activity that includes evidence of crucibles, tuyeres, copper, slag, and iron with typical Late Bronze pottery. However – it is still not yet clear if this material is simply fill that was deposited against the wall during a period following the construction of the fortifications and was laid there in order to strengthen the wall (perhaps during the Iron II?); or if this layer postdates the wall’s construction, which would mean that the fortification wall would have to date to or, more likely, before the Late Bronze period. We might have a better answer to this very important question next week – stay tuned!

Further down the section – Aaron, Ryan, and Jane may have finally broken through the “balagan” (i.e., “mess”) that is square B7 which has produced three seasons of collapse and frustration – but now may be giving us a destruction layer that at first glance appears to be related to the early Iron Age (no pottery reading yet on this – but the in situ vessels appear to be Iron I…) This is of crucial importance to understanding the occupational history of the site – and will be one of our main focuses for our final week in the field. Again – stay tuned! 🙂



July 20, 2017

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

Update for Thursday, July 20, 2017

We had a very successful day at the dig today, with some very interesting finds. In addition, we had quite a few visitors, including Ami Mazar, David Ussishkin, Lily Singer-Avitz, and Assaf and Sabine Kleiman.

This evening we will be having the end of the 3rd week party – and a lot of the team will be leaving (we will “only” be 75 next week…). So we will have an opportunity to thank all of those that are leaving for all their hard and dedicated work!

Area A: Louise’s team is deep in the Iron I in both squares, and a lot of Philistine pottery is coming out.

Area D: Various elements in the gate area are being exposed and are more and more impressive. A lot of Iron I vessels are coming up, including from very nice Philistine 1 and 2 vessel types.

Area E: A very nice zoormorphic figurine (a sheep according to Haskel) was found in today, right next to where the bullae were found yesterday! In addition, an impressive floor with a large amount of phytoliths was excavated. And, when taking down a balk, a circular installation, possibly a silo, was discovered.

Area F: Jeff’s team is excavating in a lot of periods, but perhaps what is most exciting is the possible wall from the EB, built up against the inside of the EB city wall.

Area J: The city wall is more than 3 meters thick! Looks like we can say that we have found the EB wall in this area!

Area K: Various finds, floors and installations, but the nicest find for the day, without a doubt was a nice scarab (see picture below).

Area K2: Final straightening and cleaning in the area, as Brent is leaving tomorrow…

And here are some pictures:

July 19, 2017

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

Update for Wednesday, July 19th, 2017

We had a very busy day today – lots of finds – and lots of visitors…

Area A: Louise and her team took down an Iron IIA wall and revealed the Iron I wall beneath it, and are now pushing for the final probe into the early Iron I levels.

Area D: Amit and his team had quite a day. In the metallurgy area they found a large piece of a crucible, and in the gate area, various very interesting Iron I objects, including several very special cultic objects.

Area E: Several very interesting floors, features and installations were found – and in addition, two clay bulla, one with an imprinted design, were found!

Area F: The are reaching to the EB levels inside the wall, and some nice MB pottery (including Tell el-Yahudiyeh ware) was found in association with the MB glacis. In addition, Iron IIA, LB and MB are being excavated.

Area J: The EB wall is getting bigger and bigger…

Area K: Iron IIA destruction galore – and all kinds of very cool finds!

Area K2: It seems that the two levels of restorable pottery between two of the walls both date to the Iron IIA!

Here are some pictures:

July 18, 2017

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

2nd day of digging of third week

Very nice day today (and a lot less hot…), and all the areas made a lot of progress!

Area A: Louise and her team are digging in Iron I in both squares and have found some very nice decorated Philistine pottery

Area D: The metallurgy area is producing a lot of evidence of metal working and next to it, the Iron IIA destruction level is full of finds! In the fortifications on the west side of Area D, a very nice Iron I Philistines bird head was found. On the eastern side of Area D, the fortifications are expanding and becoming more and more impressive!

Area E: The sounding is so deep that we have to temporarily stop until we get a bigger ladder – and we it seems that we are still not yet close to bedrock! In addition, all kinds of new walls, floors and contexts are coming up!

Area F: It seems that under the evidence of the MB construction (including a possible lime kiln and kurkar used for the glacis), the F team may have reached EB contexts inside of and right up against the EB city wall. If so, this is the first time we will have this on the tell! In addition, the F team is digging in Iron IIA, Iron I, LB and MB contexts!

Area J: The EB wall is getting bigger and bigger. Jill’s team was joined by a large group of YU students for the day, and they made a lot of progress in the area.

Area K: The Iron IIA destruction is popping up in just about all the squares – as well as walls, installations and other interesting contexts.

Area K2: Several restorable vessels were excavated today from two levels, one Iron IIA and one late Iron I, that are located between two of the very large walls if the fortification in this area.

In addition, we have various visitors – including Zvi Greenhut and Baruch Brandl from the IAA, Drs. Hong and Choi from the Korean team at Lachish, and most importantly, my three sons (who are old-time participants on the dig from years back…) and my grandson Hillel!

Here are some pictures:

July 17, 2017

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

Update – first day of 3rd week

The third week started with a boom – as we found a nice little inscription yesterday (as mentioned previously). Today, the 3rd week of digging started and things went very well. It was unbearably hot – but the team was determined and we weathered it out!

Here are some of the new finds:

Area A: Louise and her team are deep into the Iron I in both squares, with some new architecture and pits.

Area D: In the western side, Amit and his team had quite a few very nice finds. A whole bunch of metallurgy related finds came up, including slag, tuyerres, hammer scale, iron and bronze objects and more.

In addition, some more of the Iron II destruction was found, including a bunch of vessels, a cluster of loomweights, and a nice collection of astragali.

In the eastern part of D the gate area is getting more and more impressive!

Area E: The deep sounding is almost reached the Pacific Ocean (:-) – and we are  still getting architecture and clear layers! A very nice EB votive juglet was found, as well as a couple of floors, walls, etc. Haskel and Shira’s team are at full speed ahead!

Area F: Jeff and his team are deep in the Iron II, Iron I, LB, and MB, and today worked on the area which appears to have a plaster kiln.

Area J: More and more parts of the wall are appearing in Jill’s area and things look more and more complicated…

Area K: It’s Iron IIA destruction galore – with finds in just about every square. Vessels, loomweights, installations, walls – you name it! Eric’s team is going great!

Area K2: Brent and his team now seem to have two Iron I levels, including complete vessels from between two of the walls in the area, providing more and more evidence that this is a fortification that was in use (and perhaps founded) in the Iron I.

Add to that – we had quite a few visitors today (including Sam and Ruth Marshal)- so by the end of the day – everybody was quite tired… (including a field trip to Tel Burna!).

Here are some pictures:

July 16, 2017

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


What a way to start the week!!!!

An inscription was found (by Hannah) during pottery washing, earlier today.

So far, all I will say is that it is quite similar, in its general characteristics, to the “ALWT/WLT” inscription that we published about a decade ago.

Any more information, at this stage, is compartmentalized…

I know, I am a terrible tease… :-}


July 15, 2017

The Tel Burna Excavation Project

Week 2 Overview

We have just finished the second week of our four week season – and we had a very successful week in terms of finds and clarifying some important stratigraphic questions. While we are a small team this season (between 15-25 people each week) – the staff agrees that this year’s team has been particularly excellent – as each person has been very hard working, flexible, and selfless.

In addition to our field work, we continued with our academic program. Jane gave an interesting lecture on the basics/significance of zooarchaeology with specific reference to the finds at Tel Burna, and Matt led a mini-workshop on writing in paleo-Hebrew in which the team created some ostraca (writing “Tel Burna 2017”) for our yearly Kiriath-Gat school kids.

In Area B1: Our team finished work in a square (PP9) that we opened last week – as we reached bedrock in sections the square and beneath the disturbed surface everywhere else. This surface also included our first “bowl-lamp deposit” as noted previously. To our delight (because we like finds) and chagrin (because of the immense amount of pottery washing) – we found an enormous amount of restorable Late Bronze Age pottery in this square including local forms and some very nice sherds from Cyprus (e.g., white slip milk bowl fragments, and an earlier form of Base Ring – which is common in the 14th century BCE). We also have evidence of more imported storage vessels (presumably) from Cyprus as we found in previous seasons in Area B1 – see here. On Thursday, we opened up a new square in B1 – right at the base of the tell – in order to clarify the architectural plan of the large, cultic public building that characterizes Area B1. After only two days of excavation by Jane, Scott and Barb, Benjamin, and Andrew, we think that have the continuation of the architecture found in previous seasons – which might indicate that we finally have the eastern wall of the building. We also had a very nice votive bowl that seems to be a miniature version of the popular LB “S”-Shaped Bowl.

Just above this new square – Ian and Sam have been methodically removing very loose fill from the five-meter-wide step that runs the length of the tell on the western side. This step is filled with sherds from the Late Bronze, Iron IIA, and Iron IIB and seems to be sitting on a huge stone wall/feature that we still do not understand. Related to this – Benjamin (who came over from Taiwan this week) finished the monumental task of probing a 2×2 meter probe through the rock core of this feature until he reached the level of the plateau of Area B1.

In Area B2: Aharon, Matt, Kathleen and team (Judah, Aaron, Ryan, and Juliana) have continued to expose a building that is adjacent to the casemate fortifications. Like in Area A1 and A2 – it seems that the Iron Age II structures were used and re-used from at least the 8th century BCE until the Persian period with possible periods of abandonment in between. Juliana exposed the handiwork of our Persian (late 6th-4th century BCE) friends who left their typical mark of pits that dug down into the Iron II architecture in some places within the building – as made evident both by the locally-made pottery and imported Attic ware. Of special note – this week we can confirm the connection between the outer and inner walls of the casemate fortifications in Area B2 – which were presumably in use up until the end of the 8th century BCE (Sennacherib?).

Looking to next week: With work finishing up in Area B1 – we will probably shift our focus to some of last year’s squares in the section that connections the summit of the tell to the western platform.

July 14, 2017

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

Great group picture of the team at the end of the 2nd week of the 2017 season

See below a great picture of the superb Safi team (actually, a few are missing…) at the end of the 2nd week of the 2017 season. What a great team! Highly motivated, excellent field work, high spirits – and true camaraderie!

As the project director I would like to stress – I could not ask for a better group!

Thanks so much to all of you!!!!

(and thanks to Katja Soennecken for taking the picture!)

2017 2nd week_group picture Safi


July 13, 2017

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

4th day of 2nd week – July 13th, 2017

We made nice progress in all the areas today – and we had a few visitors – including the vice rector of BIU (Prof. Amnon Albeck) and Mr. Reuven Pinsky, head of the Israeli government national heritage project fund.

Area A: Digging in both squares in the Iron I – with lots of Philistine I pottery.

Area D: Iron IIA destruction in the western side, along with two tabuns that might be connected to the metal production, as well as a head of a very nice bull figurine. Near the gate the architecture is getting bigger and bigger and more impressive.

Area E: The donkey was removed; the probe goes deeper and deeper; and all kinds of architecture, phases and cool installations.

Area F: Adi and some BIU chemistry students worked in the area which seems to be related to plaster production; a very nice late MB bronze pin was found; and lots of LB, Iron I and Iron II pottery from different contexts.

Area J: The wall is getting bigger and bigger and more and more complicated…

Area K: More and more Iron IIA destruction…

Area K2: The monumental city was is so nice…

Remote sensing – more work in the lower city.

Great day!

Here are some pictures:

July 12, 2017

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

3rd day of 2nd week – July 12th, 2017

We had a great day on the tell, once again. In addition to our large team, a group of students from the Ashkelon College joins us for the day, so we really got a lot going in all fields.

Area A: Louise and her team and now in the Iron I in both squares. In the early Iron I square there is a series of pits/disturbances, and some nice finds came out, including a body sherd with a very unique Philistine bird decoration.

Area D: In the west they have more of the 9th cent destruction, two more tabuns (near the metallurgy area) and a nice section of the city wall. Over in the east side, additional sections of the fortifications near the city gate were exposed, as well as a very nice context with restorable Iron I Philistine bichrome vessels.

Area E: The donkey is completely exposed and is an excellent state of preservation – and they are now working on taking it out as complete as possible. In addition, the deep sounding is going down, and new floors, walls and contexts are coming up all over.

Area F: The production location (which we thought might be metal related) seems to be connected to another production process – perhaps for plaster. As it dates to either the latest EB or earliest MB phases in the area, this is VERY interesting. Tomorrow, Adi and a team of BIU chemistry students will be on site – to conduct some analyses of this context. In addition, nice contexts of the MB, LB and Iron I and II are being exposed. And as you can see in the photos, we have more pieces from the very nice Philistine Bichrome krater!

Area J: Jill and her team are working away on the wall and its surroundings and more and more parts are popping up. Interestingly, in the pottery reading, we even found a Persian period Attic sherd from this area!

Area K: Things are really beginning to pop over here! In just about every square, complete and/or restorable vessels of the 9th cent destruction are coming up, as well as loom weights, installations, walls, etc. This area is going to have a lot of fun in the next week or so!

Area K2: Additional sections of the impressive fortifications are being exposed. We now have at least 3 and possible 4 distinct lines, and some clear contexts and stratigraphic layers connected to the walls.

The remote sensing continued work in the lower city – and soon will have a picture of most of this part of the city!

Here are some pictures!

July 11, 2017

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

2nd day of 2nd week (July 11th, 2017)

Whew! Was it hot today…hopefully it will be a bit cooler tomorrow

But, despite the heat (and the fact that me and many of the team were fasting, as it was the 17th of Tammuz), we had a great day!

Area A: In the Iron I square they have defined what looks like 3 different pits, while in the Iron IIA square it looks that they are below the 9th cent destruction.

Area D: The gate area has many nice finds, including what looks like a collapse associated with the Philistine Bichrome phase, with all kinds of very nice complete vessels!

Area E: The donkey is almost completely uncovered and is very well preserved. The deep sounding is – very deep; and some interesting floors and walls are coming up.

Area F: A very interesting production location was found, most probably associated with metal working and it seems to be dated to the EB! If this is correct – this is quite cool. In addition, in the Iron I we have more of that beautiful bichrome krater (see pictures) and a very interesting wall made of kurkar blocks!

Area J: The J team took a day off due to the fast.

Area K: The 9th cent. destruction level is coming up all over and most of the squares have broken (or complete) vessels, installation and walls relating to this phase.

Area K2: We now have a really nice 10 m section of the monumental wall exposed – and it looks like it is Iron I/II.

In addition to that, the remote sensing team has almost finished the work in the lower city and will move to the south side of the tell.

Here are some pictures:

The Tel Burna Excavation Project

Mid-Week 2 Brief Update

We will provide a more thorough update later this week –  but first – a brief update about some nice finds over the last couple of days.

In Area B1 – we have an enormous amount of Late Bronze Age pottery including different types of Cypriot ware, the typical (sort of crummy 🙂 LB Canaanite stuff, and our first Lamp-Bowl deposit (see photo!) For more info on these interesting deposits see Joe’s informative post from a while back on the Gath Blog.

In Area B2 – things are slowly becoming clearer regarding the large house/structure next to to the Iron Age fortifications and Aharon, Matt, and team have also begun excavating further down the stepped trench – with finds from many different periods.

Besides the field work – the team has heard lectures from myself (on the Iron I) and Casey (on the LB) and we visited Beth-shemesh and discussed the very important excavations that are ongoing there.

Here are some photos – notice especially the bowl-lamp deposit and a special (feline) visitor to the site 🙂

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

Update for first day of 2nd week

The second week of the dig has started and things are going very nicely! This week our team is at its largest (over 140 members) and as always, it’s during the 2nd and 3rd week that the best finds pop up!

Here’s a review of some of the finds from the various areas:

Area A: Louise and her team are working in both early Iron I and Iron IIA. In the early Iron I, it looks like they are about to reach the levels of the building in the adjacent square and hopefully we will have real nice contexts soon. In the Iron IIA, they are still working on or at the very bottom of the Hazael destruction level

Area D: Amit and his team have come up with some nice finds. In the west, they have revealed additional portions of the city wall, and found some more finds from the destruction level. In the east, additional phases of the monumental architecture in the gate area have been revealed, as well as parts of the 3 stage phasing of this area.

Area E: Haskel and Shira’s team are rocking as well! More of the donkey is being excavated and it looks very well preserved. The deep probe is going very well, as well as various stratigraphic and architectural queries throughout the area.

Area F: Jeff and his team are working on late MB, LB and early Iron I and have some nice finds, including a nice Bronze Age baking tray, and large fragments of a very nice Philistine bichrome krater – among the nicest examples found since the beginning of our excavations.

Area J: Jill and her team are revealing more of the architecture in the area – which is becoming more and more complex as they go!

Area K: Eric and his team are excavating the Iron IIA destruction in several squares and it looks like they will have a lot of very nice finds in the coming days!

Area K2: Brent and his team are exposing more and more of the massive fortifications in this area – which are becoming larger and larger as time goes by. And from the pottery coming up, it seems quite clear that it dates to somewhere in the late Iron I to Iron IIA.

Andy’s remote sensing team continued their work on the lower city today – once again at a fantastic pace!

We also had a documentary film team from the Discovery Channel on site (and the’ll be back today as well) – and they were filming the team working in different areas.

In addition to it all, there was a field trip to the very interesting site of Khirbet Qeiyafah.

Here are some pictures:

July 08, 2017

The Tel Burna Excavation Project

Week 1 Overview

We made some significant progress in the first week – and we are excited to build on this momentum next week. Besides the excavation results, we also heard lectures by the dig staff – Matt Suriano (on “What is a Tell?”) and myself (Archaeological Recording and PlanGrid).

In Area B1: We have bedrock! (not really a surprise at this point 🙂 Ian, Andrew, Seth, Ofer, and Victor worked hard in exposing an occupational layer related to the 13th century BCE that is filled with restorable pottery. Sadly, we think that this square is going to be the last square excavated in Area B1 ;(. On the other hand, we are very excited to open a new area on the western platform next season – B3. This area will be located south of the excavated area of Area B1. Due to the fact that the region received roughly half of the average rainfall and our Kibbutz Beit Nir Bull friends (who left us lots of “phytholith” evidence from their behinds :), the vegetation across the tell is far less high and thick than we have observed in past seasons. On account of this, we were able to trace and clean a very large architectural feature on the southwestern side of the platform that seems to be related to 13th century BCE (per our survey results and the excavation evidence from B1). Is it a large temple, a massive fortification wall, or gate? We will have to wait until next season :). We will point this feature out on the final aerials.

In Area B2: Aharon and Matt’s team have cleared off an enormous amount of rubble on the eastern edge of the tell’s summit. Beneath this rubble – Aaron, Ryan, Juliana, Sam, and Judah have exposed three walls of what appears to be a large Iron Age building that seems to have been built next to, but not in conjunction with, the western fortifications of the tell. This continues to add more complexity to the stratigraphic picture of the western fortifications. Based on our excavations in Area A1 (all the way back in 2011-2012), we assumed that we would simply find an Iron II casemate wall (9th-8th century BCE) with later silos (7th century BCE), but it is turning out to be considerably more complex and interesting.

In this next week, we plan to continue excavating a deep probe along a 5-meter wide platform that runs the entire north-south length of the tell on the western side (if you remember – Benjamin started this last year). This feature is very interesting as it appears to have been constructed at some point during the Iron Age II (8th century BCE?) completely changing the topographical layout of the tell. We will also be opening an adjacent square to get a wider understanding of this feature.

In addition, a number of new volunteers and staff will be joining us this week. It should be a great week.

July 07, 2017

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

Last day of first week – quick summary

So the first week – which is always the hardest one – is over, and it was a smashing success. Here’s a quick summary of today’s finds:

Area A: Louise and her team found some very nice finds today, including some shell beads from the Iron IIA level, and a nice lamp from the Iron I

Area D: On the western side, we found the continuation of the city wall on the northern part of the area, and in the metallurgy area we have some interesting installations. Near the gate more and more monumental architecture is being exposed.

Area E: The new donkey is looking quite well-preserved – and hopefully we will get some great results from it. In general, the area is going well and the deep probe is moving along at a great pace!

Area F: Jeff and his team had some nice finds today, including an Iron I surface with fragments of looks like an almost complete Philistine bichrome krater!

Area J: In addition to working on the wall, Jill and her team had a bit of surprise today – they seem to have uncovered at least one very nice Iron Age bronze bowl!

Area K: Eric and his team had some nice finds today – including a round stone installation – which might be part of another olive press!

Area K2: Brent and his team are working on the massive walls in this area, which are getting more and more impressive with every day!

Remote sensing: Andy and his team completed several more areas in the lower city. They have covered in one week more than I thought they would cover in two!

And now, we break for a long-needed weekend – and prepare the next week of finds!

Here’s some pictures:

July 06, 2017

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

Update for Thursday, July 6th, 2017

We had a great day today on site, with a lot of nice finds and important progress.

Area A: Louise and her team are coming up with nice Iron I materials, including a large fragment of a very nice Iron I female figurine.

Area D: Amit and his team have some more materials from the metallurgy area and are exposing more and more architectural elements in the gate area.

Area E: Haskel and Shira’s team have discovered another donkey burial! That now is the fifth from this area!!

Area F: Jeff and his team found some interesting stone objects, possibly weights, from the MB levels, portions of an LB floor with some nice pottery, and what looks like a nice section of an Iron Age terrace.

Area J: Jill and her team have revealed a nice section of the architecture above the line of the outer line of the wall that was seen on surface – and things are getting bigger and more complicated!

Area K: Eric and his team are coming down on pottery and other finds in various squares – looks like the find will be seriously popping out in the next few days!

Area K2: Brent and his team not only have revealed very impressive masonry of the walls that they are excavating, but have come down on what looks like a floor with smashed, complete pottery. So far, it looks like a late Iron I/early Iron IIA context.

And Andy’s remote sensing team is plugging away – covering more and more parts of the lower city – and coming up with all kinds of promising “anamolies” that may turn into structures and contexts for further excavation.

Due to some changes in our logistics, we had the end of the week party in the field today, with pizza and popsicles – and then went on a tour of the fantastic stalactite cave near Beth Shemesh.

Altogether – a great day!

Here are some pictures:

July 05, 2017

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

Day 3 – second week – full speed ahead!

Great day on the site! First of all, it cooled down – and the temperatures were back to “normal”. We survived the heat wave!

Secondly, all the teams made great progress – and we are starting to see things all over!

Here’s a summary:

Area A: Deep into Iron I and a lot of nice Philistine (bichrome) pottery is coming out

Area D: In the metallurgy area in the west, additional portions of the metal production area, including some more tuyeres and slag. Ahuva, who has been part of the team since the first season (!) joined us – and on the first day she dug up two complete vessels (Iron IIA)!

In the gate area to the east, additional portions of the fortification have been uncovered and some very interesting surfaces with phytoliths and plastered features.

Area E: Working in various EB features, floors and architecture. This includes several places were they are clearly going into the earlier phases of the EB.

Area F: The team is working in the LB and MB. Of particular interest is a room next to the fortification wall in which a nice collection of stone tools and various bones, along with a large amount of pottery, was found, dating to the MB. And in the LB, portions of a nice surface with pottery and bones.

Area J: Jill’s team is already exposing a substantial portion of what we believe is a fortification wall – and picking up a lot of EB pottery!

Area K: Three news squares were opened – and Iron II pottery is beginning to pop up. Looks promising!

Area K2: Brent’s team is working away at exposing the massive architecture above the river bed to the north of K – and more and more lines of massive worked stones are appearing – along with a nice amount of burnt and collapsed mudbrick!

Magnetometry team: Andy and his team are working away in the areas between K and D and moving faster than we imagined. And so far, several interesting “anomalies” have appeared – definitely showing promise to excavations in the future!

Great day! Here are some pictures:

July 04, 2017

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

Kudos to Vanessa Workman and her colleagues for a great article on dyed fabrics from Timna

Vanessa, who is a core team staff member in the Safi project (and is doing her PhD on the metal workshop from Area D), has just published, along with her colleagues, a really nice article on dyed textiles from Iron Age Timna. The article was published in the journal PLOS One – check it out here.

And in addition to the article itself, the study got some really impressive press coverage from media all over the world!

Way to go Vanessa!


Review of book on Goliath by S. Rodan

A review of mine on a volume by S. Rodan that deals with Goliath was just published in JEMAHS 5 (2017).

Here’s a link to the PDF


2nd day of 1st week – update

The 2nd day of the excavation was a great day in all areas, as everyone had started to excavate! While the heat wave continued – it was one or two degrees (C) cooler than yesterday…

Here’s a quick summary of what’s doing:

Area A: Louise’s team is deep into the Iron I in her square, with some nice early Iron I pottery coming out. Our objective in this area is to explose the earliest phases of the Iron Age in Area A.

Area D: Amit’s team opened up a few new squares in the gate area. One of our aims this season is to try and prove, beyond reasonable doubt – that it is a gate!

Area E: Haskel and Shira’s team are working away at various parts of Area E, trying to clarify various architectural and stratigraphic issues. Most importantly, they started what hopefully will be a deep probe below the E6 level, to try and see the earliest phases in Area E.

Area F: Jeff and his team are working on various issues in this area, covering Iron I, LB, MB and EB contexts.

Area J: Jill’s new area is located down the slope to the east of Area E, and aims to expose a section of a wall – possibly the EB city wall – what was discovered on surface a few seasons ago. So far – it’s looking good!

Area K: Eric’s team is working in the eastern part of the lower city, expanding and deepening the squares already opened last year. We hope to have a better understanding of the history of the eastern part of the lower city this year.

Area K2: Brent and his team are working just to the north of Area K – exposing a very impressive mass of large worked stones, possibly part of the northern fortifications of the lower city. Already, more and more parts of this are being exposed.

And Andy and his remote sensing team are working away at a great pace in the lower city (between D and K) and have already have some great results from the magnetometric survey.

All in all – things are going great – and it looks like it’s going to be a great season!

And to top it all off – happy US Independence Day those celebrating!

And here are some pictures from the day:

The Tel Burna Excavation Project

2017 Season Underway!

We have officially begun the 2017 season! The tents have been set up, the weeds have been cleared, the new squares in Area B1 and B2 have been marked, and we have actually started excavating. It was very hot the last two days – but everyone is in good spirits and excited to see what we will find this season. Yesterday, we managed to visit Tel Socoh, which is only about 1 km/half a mile from our accommodations in Netiv Halamed Heh.

This year, Matt Suriano has brought a group of students from the University of Maryland. We also have a number of returning familiar faces from past seasons.


This afternoon – Dr. Kathleen Nicholl will be lecturing on some aspects related to the importance of using geoarchaeological science at ancient sites.

In Area B1 – we already have some new architectural features related to the LB large cultic structure. Over the next week – we are hoping to find more evidence for cultic activity in this large building.

In Area B2 – Aharon and Matt have opened two new squares inside of the fortifications in order to trace the inner part of the fortifications and their connections to layers inside of the city.

July 03, 2017

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

And we’re off! The 2017 season starts!

Today was the first day in the field of the 2017 season! We have an enormous – and fantastic if I may add – team! We are this week altogether about 140 team members – just the staff is the size  of (or larger) than many teams at other sites (about 35 staff members), so we hopefully will get a lot done!

By the end of the day, all the areas (A – Louise, D – Amit, E – Haskel and Shira, F – Jeff, J – Jill, K – Eric, and K2 – Brent) were up and running, and the magnetometry team led by Andy Creekmore was making great progress in the lower city!

More details in tge following days – here are some pictures of the various teams:

June 28, 2017

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

My copy of “Sea Peoples Up-to-date” arrives – important volume

As previously mentioned, the new volume “Sea Peoples Up-to-Date” has appeared, and today I received my copy in the mail. In addition to the article by Louise and me, there are a whole bunch of very important and interesting articles.

I have no doubt that this volume will serve as a main resource – and jumping board – for much of the research on the Sea Peoples, Philistines and Late Bronze/Iron Age transition in general, for many years.

What is particularly impressive are the major changes that can be seen between contemporary research on these topics – and what was considered normative research just a few years ago!


June 25, 2017

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

“Open Day” for BIU dept candidates in the lab

Last week, there was an “Open Day” for candidates who are interested in studying in the department of Land of Israel Studies and Archaeology at BIU. As part of the various things that they did that day, in which they got a “taste” of the various topics covered in the department, they had an hour long visit in the Safi lab.

See below some nice pictures that Prof. Boaz Zissu, our dept. chair, took during the visit.

June 23, 2017

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

Thanks to all our partner and supporting institutions, organizations and agencies

Just before we start the 2017 season, it’s a good time to acknowledge and thank all the various institutions, organizations and agencies who have taken an active part, collaborated with and/or supported the project, both now and in the past. Each and everyone has contributed to the project over the years, and deserve credit and thanks for this.

Here is a collection of their logos (and if I overlooked someone – do tell me!):

Safi project participating and supporting institutions

June 19, 2017

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

Joe, Nahshon, Elisabetta and Johanna get full coverage!

Joe Uziel, Nahshon Szanton, Elisabetta Boaretto and Johanna Regev, who have all played (and still play) major roles in the Safi project, have recently received a lot of press (see for example here and here) on their new article in Radiocarbon on there lower dating for the fortifications of the Gihon Spring in Jerusalem.

In their study, they claim that 14C analyses show that either the fortification was built in the Iron Age, or that it was originally made in the MB (as the original excavators suggested), but was substantially rebuilt in the Iron Age.

And needless to say, this has sparked a lot of interest – and debate!

June 16, 2017

The Tel Burna Excavation Project

2017 Dig Shirt Design

Check out this summer’s shirt – it comes from a very interesting late bronze krater from area B1 (area with the 13th cent cultic building). It shows two ibex eating from a (sacred) tree  (i.e. The tree of life – perhaps related to the Canaanite goddess Asherah and/or Astarte).

Tel Burna shirt

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

“The Corn is as High as an Elephant’s Eye” at Safi

Today, I visited Safi with the field trip of the very nice conference on “Archaeology, Life Science and Environment, organized by Itzik Shai and Oren Ackermann of Ariel University (see details here). After visiting the Soreq cave and hearing an excellent explanation about the geological research there by Avner Ayalon and Mira Bar-Matthews, we eventually got to Safi with the group and Oren and I presented the archaeological and environmental studies on the site.

And just next to the site, an enormous corn field has appeared – popping up just in the last few weeks.

So in the spirit of “Oklahoma” – “The Corn is as High as an Elephant’s Eye”!

And for those that don’t know what I’m talking about, see the original:



June 12, 2017

The Tel Burna Excavation Project

Ariel Workshop – Archaeology Life Science and Environment – June 14-15

Itzick and Oren Ackermann have arranged an important workshop at Ariel University on the archaeology of life science and the environment. There are a number of papers/presentations dealing with materials from Tel Burna. The booklet is at the following link abstracts booklet – June 14-15.

Here is an excerpt:

The science of archeology does not stand on its own, but is a part of the triangle of Archaeology, Life Sciences and Environment. Advancements in the methodology and technology of the natural sciences, and their integration into the study of archaeology, enable us to glean rich information from the earth that is not obvious to the naked eye. Such information is preserved in various remains such as materials within ceramic shards, charred remains, bone remains and sediments in the layers of archaeological sites. Analysis of these remains allows for sophisticated insights into issues such as the diet of ancient humans and animals, the utilization of raw materials, soil fertilization material, and more.

In addition, archaeological research appreciates that the ancient site is not an isolated island; rather, it is an integral part of the landscape system around it. Research, therefore, has expanded into the environs around the sites, areas where ancient human activities took place on a daily basis, as well as areas where significant events in human cultural history occurred.

All of this has left its mark on environmental landscape history, as expressed in the development of anthropogenic landscapes. In fact, human activities over the past thousands of years have become an integral part of the landscape system today.

Social and landscape systems have undergone cycles of prosperity and decay for generations. Understanding and

analyzing these processes in the deep time perspective enables the development of insights for models of sustainability in future human environmental systems. Hence, the combination of archaeology, life science and environment in the study of the past is of great importance for planning the future.

A broad range of topics dealing with archaeological finds, human activity, life science methods and environment will be explored during this two-day workshop. The first day will be comprised of five sessions held at Ariel University. The second day will be a field tour of the Shephelah and Judean Mountain regions, during which will present and explore some of the methods and research questions which are the focus of this workshop.

We would like to thank all of the participants and speakers at this workshop, for their contribution and sharing of their knowledge and ideas. We also want to thank Ariel University and the Ministry of Science, Technology and Space of the State of Israel for the generous funding they provided which enabled this exciting workshop to be held.

Wishing you an enjoyable, insightful and engaging workshop!

Dr. Itzhaq Shai
Dr. Oren Ackermann Ariel University June, 2017

Here are some related papers about Burna or by Burnaites (or Libnites 🙂


Tel tail comparisons: settlement size, location and consumption patterns through the metal ages – Jane Gaastra (UCL), Tina Jongsma-Greenfield (University of Manitoba)

Anthropogenic soils as cultural heritage and nutrient hotspots: a dialogue between Archaeology and Ecology – Ladislav Šmejda (Czech University of Life Sciences)

Development of flax cultivation and linen textile production in Bronze and Iron Age Palestine – Andrea Orendi (Tübingen University)

Reconstructing landscape and hydroclimatic constraints on agriculture at Tel Burna and environs – Kathleen Nicoll (University of Utah)

Pottery Restoration Video by Leah

Check out this video of Leah restoring different vessels from Tel Burna – this short clip gives some examples of how pottery restorers put “humpty-dumpty back together again” 🙂

Nice work Leah (and Studio Jackie)!

June 10, 2017

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

Lecture and Field Trip Schedule for the 2017 Season

Last week, I sent out the lecture and field trip schedule to the 2017 season team members. Just in case they want to check this online, or you want to see what you are missing because you did not join us this year, check out the schedule below.

And if you are really impressed – sign up for next year’s season (2018)! We will have a great schedule next year as well!



June 09, 2017

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

Broadening Horizons 5 conference – Udine

Just came back from a really nice conference at the University of Udine, in Udine Italy. This conference, the 5th in an ongoing series, is focused on enabling early career researchers present at a meeting in which most of the presenters are early career colleagues, along with a small amount of senior presenters (who presented keynote lectures).

This was, without a doubt, a smashing success. The papers given by the early career researchers were excellent; the organization was meticulous; the hosting was impressive; and we were wined and dined (with a particular focus on the wined…) quite impressively!

It was also very special to reconnect with some old friends, turn some long-time email friends into face-to-face friends, and also meet a lot of new friends and colleagues.

I presented one of the keynote lectures on new perspectives on the LB/Iron Age transition, with focus on new aspects, finds and understandings regarding the Philistines – with of course a lot of discussion of finds from Safi.

Add to that, I came back with a very impressive “catch” of books (see below).

This format was so successful that I would highly recommend participation in this series in the future – and also to make other similar venues!


June 01, 2017

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

“Sea Peoples Up-To-Date” volume is out

Today  we received notice that the volume The Sea Peoples Up-To-Date: New Research on the Migration of Peoples in the 12th Century BCE. Denkschriften der Gesamtakademie 81, Contributions to the Chronology of Eastern Mediterranean 35. Vienna: Austrian Academy of Sciences, 2017, has appeared.

The volume, edited by Peter Fischer and Teresa Bürge, is the proceedings of a very interesting conference held in Vienna in 2014.

The volume includes a series of very interesting papers dealing with various aspects relating to the Sea Peoples, as well as other related issues of the same time frame (LB/Iron Age transition).

Louise and I have an article in this volume as well, which as soon as I get the PDF, I’ll post it as well.

The article’s title is:

Maeir, A. M., and Hitchcock, L. A. 2017. The Appearance, Formation and Transformation of Philistine Culture: New Perspectives and New Finds. In The Sea Peoples Up-To-Date: New Research on the Migration of Peoples in the 12th Century BCE, eds. P. Fischer and T. Bürge. Denkschriften der Gesamtakademie 81, Contributions to the Chronology of Eastern Mediterranean 35. Vienna: Austrian Academy of Sciences.

Looking forward to receiving a copy of the volume!


Chris Hale gets an Albright Fellowship (and also a job!)

Chris Hale, who was on the Safi team last year and will be working on the LB/Iron I pottery from Area A at Tell es-Safi/Gath, has received a very fellowship for this research from the W.F. Albright Institute of Archaeological Research (AIAR).

Chris has been awarded the Glassman Holland Research Fellowship (research topic: “The Late Bronze Age to Iron I Pottery from Tell es-Safi/Gath, Area A”).

In addition, Chris recently passed around the news that he just received a position as an Assistant Professor in the Jindal School of Liberal Arts and Humanities at O.P. Jindal Global University just outside of New Delhi.

Way to go Chris!!


May 29, 2017

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

Restoration of a Myc IIIC/Philistine 1 bowl

Leah Tramer, our pottery restorer, has put together a very nice clip on the restoration of a Myc IIIC/Philistine 1 bowl from Area A.

Check it out!

May 25, 2017

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

Nahshon Szanton in a clip about the excavations in the City of David

Nahshon Szanton, who was on the Safi team and wrote his MA thesis on the Iron IIA pottery from Area A (mentioned previously here), now works for the Israel Antiquities Authority and is directing excavations (along with Joe Uziel – another Safi team member) in the City of David excavations in Jerusalem.

See below a dramatic clip about some of the finds (in Hebrew with English subtitles):


Way to go Nahshon!


May 23, 2017

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

Pictures at an Exhibition…

I know the title is a bit corny, but nevertheless, here are some pictures from the opening of the exhibition of Safi finds (and examples how they can help understand biblical texts and terminology) in the main BIU library:

Astragalus bone at the bottom of a krater…

Sue Frumin, who is working on the archaeobotanical remains from Area D, just wrote to me that yesterday, she dry sifted some sediments from a krater that was discovered in Area D last year. And while there were no botanical remains, she did find a single astragalus bone at the very bottom of the vessel!

The Astragalus bone, sometimes popularly called a “knucklebone”, is a small bone from within the “tarsal joint” of hooved animals such as sheep, goats and cows. In antiquity, these bones are used for various functions, including as game pieces and dice, and in cult and divination. Over the years we have found quite a few astragali bones at Tell es-Safi/Gath, including several substantial concentrations in the Temple in Area D, right next to the unique two-horned altar.

So now we have an extra “friend” to join those already found! Cool!

Below the vessel with the astragalus inside it, and two pictures of the excavations of the bowl – “in situ”.

May 22, 2017

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

Exhibit Preview

Here’s a “sneak preview” of the exhibit that opens tomorrow at the BIU library. Thanks to Amit, Shira and the Safi lab team for putting this together!

May 21, 2017

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

Preparations for exhibition at the BIU library

As previously mentioned, a small exhibition on some of the finds from Tell es-Safi/Gath and their relevance for understanding various aspects of daily life reflected in the biblical text, will open this Tuesday at the Bar-Ilan University central library.

Here are some pictures of the preparations for the exhibit, taken by Amit – with Shira as the star:

Last call: PhD stipends through the Minerva Center

Last call: PhD Stipends from the Minerva Center for Relations between Israel and Aram in Biblical Times (RIAB)

The Minerva Center for Relations between Israel and Aram in Biblical Times (RIAB; aramisrael.org) is offering several stipends for PhD candidates in fields related to the center’s topics. The stipends are meant for students with an excellent academic record who are interested in conducting PhD studies at Bar-Ilan University, under the supervision of one of the center’s members who are on the BIU faculty (aramisrael.org/center-members).

The stipends are based on the BIU “President’s Stipends” (graduate-school.biu.ac.il/files/gradschool/shared/b-ilan_mlga_167x254.pdf), which include: ca. $1000 per month for 4 years, travel to one international conference to present a paper related to the student’s PhD research, and full exemption from tuition.

PhD candidates associated with the center receive additions to the standard stipend, such as travel to academic conferences organized by the center (in Israel and Germany), and in some cases, additional monthly funding from a specific research project (such as the Tell es-Safi/Gath Archaeological Project; gath.wordpress.com).

Deadline for final submissions is May 30th, 2017.

If you are interested in submitting through the RIAB Center, please contact Prof. Aren M. Maeir (arenmaeir@gmail.com) in the next few days.

May 17, 2017

The Tel Burna Excavation Project

Excavation Grid 2017

There is still time left to sign up for this summer’s excavation at Tel Burna. The deadline is June 1! Don’t miss your chance to discover remains from the time of the Canaanites and Judahites!

We are excited to be working in several areas this season – Area A2 (going for 9th century and hopefully earlier centuries this year!), Area B1 (Late Bronze Temple), Area B2 (fortifications and metallurgical area), Area C (agricultural installations), and a new area – Area T (the mystery area 🙂

Take a look at the grid plan (below)

Hope you can join us!

burna grid large


May 16, 2017

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

Archaeology and Bible exhibit at the BIU central library

A small exhibit on how archaeological finds can help in the understanding of biblical texts will open next week in entrance foyer of the BIU Central Library.

The opening ceremony will be next Tuesday, May 23rd, 2017 at 13:00, and the exhibit will continue until July 4th, 2017.

If you have a chance – do visit the exibit.

Here is the poster for the exhibit:

Safi and the Philistines in Science

This Friday (May 19, 2017), the prestigious journal Science will have an issue that will deal with various scientific angles on migration. As part of the issue, a very nice background article on archaeological and historical perspectives on migration (by Ann Gibbons) is included, and this article is already online.

In this article, the excavations at Tell es-Safi/Gath, the Philistines – and yours truly – all get some really nice PR! :-)

Check it out!


May 13, 2017

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

Lecture on Iron I Philistines and other issues in Udine, Italy, at upcoming conference

On June 5-8, 2017, a very interesting conference will be held in Udine, Italy. The conference, Broadening Horizons 5, is aimed primarily as a forum for young scholars, but also has several keynote lectures by senior scholars. I am very honored that I was invited by the organizers to present one of the keynote lectures – “Group identities and interactions during the Bronze to Iron Age transformation: Complexity, entanglement and underlying mechanisms as seen in the Southern Levant.”

See below the preliminary schedule of the conference – that is comprised of 4 very intensive days of lectures that I’m sure will be very interesting! The detailed schedule will be published in the near future.

So, if you have to be in Udine at the time – pop by to hear my lecture! :-)


See below the preliminary program:

May 11, 2017

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

New article on the viewing Khirbet Qeiyafa from the perspective of Gath!

A new paper of the Safi project has just appeared. While the paper is based on a conference presentation from close to three years ago (in September 2014), and is not completely updated with recent finds and discussions, it does present my views on how I believe one should understand the finds from the fascinating site of Khirbet Qeiyafa (and aspects of wider perspective as well) – and in particular in light of the interpretations suggested by the site’s excavators (Yossi Gafinkel et al.).

The full title of the article is:

Maeir, A. M. 2017. Khirbet Qeiyafa in Its Regional Context: A View from Philistine Gath. Pp. 61–71 in Khirbet Qeiyafa in the Shephelah. Papers Presented at a Colloquium of the Swiss Society for Ancient Near Eastern Studies Held at the University of Bern, September 6, 2014, eds. S. Schroer and S. Münger. Orbis Biblicus et Orientalis 282. Fribourg: Academic Press.

A link to a PDF can be found here.


May 10, 2017

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

Kudos to Bracha Soibelman

Congratulations go to Bracha Soibelman, who has excavated with us at Safi – and is a team member of the Safi lab – for being awarded the BIU Rector’s Prize for student excellence!

Way to go Bracha! We are all proud of you!


Safi display at BYU

Jeff Chadwick, Field Supervisor of Area F and core staff member of the project, put together a very nice display on the excavations at Tell es-Safi/Gath, which can be seen at the BYU campus in Provo, Utah (at the JSB [Religion Building]).

See below a picture, courtesy of Jeff. So if you are on the campus – go take a look:

May 09, 2017

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

Kudos to Eric Welch

Congratulations are in order for long time Safi staff member, Eric Welch. Eric informed me that he was the runner-up for SBL’s “David Noel Freedman Award for Excellence and Creativity in Hebrew Bible Scholarship” for his paper “Who is the Šôbēb? Reconstructing the Identity of Judah’s Traitor in Micah 2:4.” I’ve read the paper and think Eric has done a very nice job of working between history and archaeology to tackle a difficult puzzle in the biblical text. I look forward to seeing it published!
The Society of Biblical Literature presents the Freedman Award annually to the author of the best essay on the Hebrew Bible based on the following criteria: a persuasive thesis that engages the Hebrew Bible and demonstrates quality of scholarship and significance to the field; clarity of expression and thought; and originality and creativity. Information about the Freedman Award and a list of previous winners can be found here.
Mazal tov, Eric! Well done!

May 07, 2017

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

PhD Stipends at BIU

Bar-Ilan University is offering 4 year PhD stipends (“President’s Grants”) to students who excelled in their undergraduate and graduate studies. Several of these grants are available through the Minerva Center for the Relations between Israel and Aram in Biblical Times (RIAB).

If you are interested in looking into the possibility of doing your PhD at Bar-Ilan University, you are an excellent student – and you have a topic that relates to the RIAB Center (which includes archaeological aspects relating to the Tell es-Safi/Gath Project) please get in touch with me (arenmaeir@gmail.com) as soon as possible. The deadline for submission is just around the corner (May 29th, 2017)!

For general information on the grants, see here.

For registration forms, see here (but if you are interested in doing this through the RIAB Minerva Center, first contact me).


Online registration for 2017 season will close on Tuesday, May 9th, 2017

Please note that the online registration for the 2017 season at Tell es-Safi/Gath will go offline on Tuesday, May 9th, 2017. So, if you are planning to join the team this summer – now is the time!

And just to be sure – we will surely have better finds than the one below :-)

May 04, 2017

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

Guest Blog: Louise and Fred (by Louise)

See below a guest blog by Louise Hitchcock, about the unusual story of how she adopted Fred the dog, who she met at the dig, and then ended up getting him all the way to Australia! (must say – Fred’s lucky that he was not sent to the Manus Island Detention Center as some other newcomers to Australia…:-).

Here’s Louise’s post and some pictures of Fred in action, from the dig until his arrival in Melbourne:

A Canaanite in Carlton: or it takes a kibbutz….

 There is a long tradition in Mediterranean archaeology of adopting cats and dogs in Greece and in Israel, from Knossos, Pylos, Athens, and Jerusalem among other places. I never saw myself as part of that tradition for a number of reasons. For one thing, being slightly OCD, if I became involved with one homeless animal, I’d feel compelled to help them all – this would have disastrous affects on my personal life. In addition, I already have pets that I chose for myself. My childhood was a never ending parade of stray dogs and cats that my dad brought home. I liked some of them, but others I didn’t like. My dad tried to make all of my life choices for me and it made for a difficult relationship. When I had the chance to make my own choices, I chose Wire Haired Fox Terriers for pets, and never saw myself adopting a stray let alone a big one from Israel.

When two “Canaanite” dogs first appeared on the site last July on Friday at the end of week 1, I assumed they belonged to someone and ignored them. The next week they kept reappearing – usually with Area F at breakfast time. I found it disturbing that two abandoned dogs were being fed and given names (Fred and Fi). They were being turned into pets. Inwardly I felt bad that they had been given a taste of a future life, but when the dig ended they were going to be discarded. I decided that they needed to be found homes and also rendered safe to be around so as not to endanger all of their new friends among the volunteers. Many people helped in this enterprise, especially my friend Linda Meiberg. She found Eran Lavy, a professor of Veterinary Science at Hebrew University (http://ksvm.agri.huji.ac.il/staff/eran_lavy.htm ) who lived on our kibbutz. Eran, Linda and I are now Facebook friends and we have been following his sabbatical in California. It turns out he is Adam Singer’s cousin (Adam was our major domo a couple of years ago). After we got Fred and Fi down to the kibbutz for one night, Eran came to our cabin to give them shots, flea and tick meds, and microchips. He recommended a trainer who advised us on training them to walk on leashes. Lior Regev helped us find a home for them on his moshav through the What’s up app.

We visited Fred and Fi in their new homes, and things seemed to be getting better for them. Despite the visits, I remained aloof to them because I could feel myself getting attached, especially to Fred. I really liked how proudly he carried himself. When the dig ended, I left for Jerusalem and Japan to continue my sabbatical, and Fred and Fi got fixed. In September, I heard things weren’t going well for Fred. He got along with his new family, but had a habit of pinning down strangers. After neutering, it takes about three months for the hormones to dissipate. But, his new family ran out of patience and we started looking for another solution. The only place that seemed interested in adopting him was a prison where Fred could have a career as a guard dog. At that point, in early September, I made the decision to bring Fred to Australia and talked it over with my husband. I knew Fred was an amazing dog, but we both had a lot of reservations: would Fred eat Asta and kitty? Would he destroy the house? Would he survive the plane flight? Would he pin down the mailman?

Linda again came to the rescue and worked with Fi’s family to get Fred into a dog pension. From late September to mid April, Fred lived at Dogland Israel in Modi’in to do his quarantine, and an Israeli company called Terminal 4 Pets (http://www.terminal4pets.com/?gclid=CKDz94GI1dMCFct_vQodc5EGpA) handled the entire process. This worked out well for many reasons. Keeping Fred there for a month was less than boarding Asta for a weekend in Melbourne. He spent his time in a large pen with another dog and he had supervised daily playtime. Fred was becoming socialized and learning how to be a pet. I also paid a little extra for him to get some training. I was able to follow his progress through Dogland’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/dogland.ltd/?hc_ref=SEARCH

Meanwhile, Fi settled in very well with her family. She seems to like being top dog and she is no longer afraid to ride in cars. They had seemed so devoted that I worried about separating them, but they don’t seem to miss each other.

Just a couple of things remained. We learned that Fred would be arriving in Melbourne on April 18 and go into 10 days of quarantine here, but we would not yet be able to visit him. Although it was a little worrying that he was flying United, I was able to track his flight and found out the day he arrived that he was safe and in good spirits. Our next step was to get a lot of temporary gates to block his access to certain rooms and to our racing bikes. We didn’t know if he would be a chewer (he isn’t), so we didn’t want him hurting himself or our stuff. We also wanted to keep him separated from Asta at the start. We also got him, beds, toys, and accessories. Fred was delivered to our house 4 days ago by Dogtainers, the company that brought Asta to us from Brisbane. He is getting along splendidly, enjoying sleeping indoors on a soft bed for the first time in his life, making new friends in the dog park, and getting treats at the local café. He interacts well with almost everyone he meets, loves tummy rubs, and hardly barks. He is becoming a real gentlemen and attracts even more attention from passers-by than Asta did. My colleagues at the University are all looking forward to meeting him and the Uni want to write a story about him. I’ve decided big dogs are mellower than small ones. In a couple of weeks, he will be getting a teeth cleaning and we are going to do a DNA test to find out exactly what he is.


May 03, 2017

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

ASOR introduction to the Philistines – check it out!!

ASOR has just put out a small digital booklet:


In this collections several articles on aspects relating to the Philistines are gathered together. See here a PDF – ASOR Philistine_Introduction_3.13.17

While I would hardly see this as a comprehensive introduction to the Philistines, it does provide a brief introduction on some key issues relating to the Philistines. And in fact, I would even venture to say that I agree with a lot of what is written…

Most importantly, of the 6 articles – 3 are by Safi team members (Brent, Linda and Louise)! Not bad! :-)


May 01, 2017

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

Visit to Neve Shalom

Today, Amit and I paid a visit to Neve Shalom, to the hotel where the Safi team will be staying this year. All told, things are looking really nice, and in general, the physical conditions are a substantial improvement over previous years. Nevertheless, for the “old timers”, I have a feeling that some of the changes will be a bit surprising.

But all in all, I believe the team members are going to enjoy our stay at the Neve Shalom.

Only two months to go! See you all very soon.

And BTW – looks like we are going to have a gigantic team this year! In fact, it may be one of the biggest teams we have ever had on the dig!


April 28, 2017

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

Copies of Shephelah book arrive!

As mentioned previously, the volume that I edited with Oded Lipschits, with a bunch of really nice articles on recent archaeological work in the Judean Foothills (Shephelah) has appeared.

And today – I received my author’s copies! I love new books – especially ones that I put together…


April 24, 2017

The Tel Burna Excavation Project

Registration Deadline Extended to June 1

We have extended the registration deadline for signing up to participate in this summer’s season at Tel Burna to June 1. This season promises to have very interesting discoveries – as we will be continuing to excavate a Canaanite temple, a metallurgical complex, the enigmatic fortifications (that may be earlier than we previously thought), and earlier Iron Age levels from the 9th and maybe 10th centuries BC on the summit of the tell.

If you have been waiting to sign-up – here’s your chance! The excavation application can be found here.

2014 Season Min with a complete Iron IIB bowl

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

Deadline for Registration for the coming season (May 1st, 2017) is approaching!

To all of you interested in joining the team for the 2017 season at Tell es-Safi/Gath (July 2nd to 28th), please note that the official deadline for registration is just around the corner.

This summer is going to be a great season, with excavations in several areas (including some new ones), and for sure – some great finds!

We already have a really nice-sized team, from a wide range of institutions and countries around the world. So, if you want to join the team, make sure to go to the online application – and complete your registration by May 1st, 2017!

And if you have any questions at all, about the registration or about the season in general, don’t hesitate to drop me an email.

Hope to see you all in July!


Pigs, Pirates and Philistines at the 2017 AAPA!

This year, at the annual meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists in New Orleans, a poster was presented on a very interesting joint research project that included Safi materials.

The poster was entitled:

Kretzinger, J. A., Anders, D. F., Artzy, M., Finkelstein, I., Kolska Horwitz, L., Smith, P., Faerman, M., Meiri, M., Maeir, A., Stidsing, R., Grupe, G., Maran, J., Stockhammer, P., and Vohberger, M. A. 2017. Of Pirates, Pigs and Philistines: A Novel Perspective on the Late Bronze/Iron Age Transition in the Southern Levant. 86th Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists. New Orleans, 19th to 22nd of April, 2017.

Here’s a PDF of the poster.

In this study, isotope analyses of human and pig teeth from Tell es-Safi/Gath, Megiddo and Tel Nami are used to understand human mobility and intercultural dynamics in the Late Bronze and Iron Ages. A full paper on this will hopefully be submitted in the near future.

Here is a picture of the “two Marinas” (Faerman [R] and Vohberger [L]) at the meeting, right in front of the poster:

April 10, 2017

The Tel Burna Excavation Project

Another New Article on Tel Burna

A new article by  Šmejda, L.; Hickman, M.; Horák, A.; and Shai, I. dealing with the analysis of the “accumulation of nutrients in archaeological soils” at Tel Burna has just appeared in Catena. You can access the paper here. Way to go!

Here is the abstract:

“Human settlement activities are connected with the accumulation of nutrients in archaeological soils. We address the question of whether the large-scale mapping of the elemental composition of the topsoil in contemporary rangeland can be used for the detection of ancient settlement activities.

Using portable X-ray fluorescence (pXRF), we mapped the elemental composition of contemporary soils over an area of 67 ha in and around the Bronze and Iron Age settlement of Tel Burna (identified as probably corresponding with biblical Libnah).

Ancient settlement activities substantially increased concentrations of nutrients (P, K, S, Zn and Cu) in the contemporary topsoil owing to the deposition of biomass ashes and organic wastes. Increased concentrations of elements were detected 2500 years after the site was abandoned and we can therefore suppose that changes in the elemental composition of the soil caused by ancient settlement activities are irreversible on a timescale in which human societies operate. Ancient settlement activities increased concentrations of nutrients in contemporary soil to the same level as recent intensive fertiliser application on an adjacent arable field used for vegetable production. Concentrations of nutrients higher than those on the tell summit were recorded only in recent cattle resting areas with intensive deposition of cattle faeces. Changes in the elemental composition of the soil caused by ancient settlement activities consequently result in differential nutrient availability for contemporary vegetation, affecting ecosystem functions for thousands of years. Using pXRF, large-scale mapping of the elemental composition of the topsoil layer at archaeological sites can help to identify the extent and provide basic information on the character of past human activities in the affected landscape units.”

XRF - Michael at Burna

The Full Reference:

 Šmejda, L.; Hickman, M.; Horák, A.; and Shai, I. 2017. “Ancient settlement activities as important sources of nutrients (P, K, S, Zn and Cu) in Eastern Mediterranean ecosystems – the case of biblical Tel Burna, Israel.” Catena (156) 62-73.

April 07, 2017

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

Safi team lectures at the archaeological congress in Israel

As mentioned previously, yesterday, Thursday, April 6th, 2017, the 43rd annual archaeological congress in Israel was held at the Hebrew University.

There were three lectures by Safi team members: Amit about insights on Philistine cult based on the finds from our excavations; I gave a talk about various new finds and research at the site, with a focus on EB and Iron Age materials; and Adi gave a talk about Iron production in the early Iron Age in the southern Levant in general.

All three talks went very well. In general, the conference was a conference, with some good talks – and some less…

What was particularly interesting, from a point of view of the sociology of knowledge, was the very different research narratives about the Iron Age that were particularly dominant in the lectures given at this meeting, as compared to what was presented just two weeks ago at the annual Aharoni day meeting held at TAU. “Oh, East is East and West is West, and never the twain shall meet…” :-)

I guess I was an exception – as I spoke at both meetings…

Here are some pictures of the Safi team lectures:


April 06, 2017

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

Jeff Chadwick in the Times of Israel!

Our own Jeff Chadwick (aka Achish Melekh Gath) is the star of an article in the Times of Israel, which deals with the model Passover Seders that he runs at Brigham Young. In addition to being extensively interviewed, the Safi excavations get a nice “plug” – including a great photo!

Way to go Jeff – munch on a matza with some chocolate spread out in the west!



April 05, 2017

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

An early Afikoman!

Looks like that this year, after many years of being too old to get one, I received the afikoman – and even before Pessach!

We just received two new total stations and two new differential GPSs, graciously funded by the Minerva Stiftung!

Woohoo! I love gizmos…:-)

Here are some pictures of our new toys – with Vanessa, Amit and Ibrahim (from the Etkes company who sold us the equipment)!!!

April 02, 2017

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

Delegation of Chinese Religious Studies Scholars Visits the Lab

This past Wednesday (March 29th, 2017) we were honored with a visit by a group of some 30 leading scholars of religion from various prestigious universities and research institutes in China. They were at Bar-Ilan University for a conference on Academic Exchange on Religion and Culture, which was held last week at Bar-Ilan. The highlight of the conference was the performance of the musical “Shimmer” – that tells the story of how the Jews were saved in Shanghai during WW II.

The delegation were invited by the Sir Naim Dangoor Program for Universal Monotheism (comparative religions) team,  headed and initiated by Dr. Danielle Gurevitch

In any case, the group came to the lab, and received an explanation of some of the research that we do on the Safi project. As many of the visitors expressed a lot of interest, I do hope that we may see in the future at the Safi excavations some Chinese students, and perhaps even organized groups from Chinese academic institutions!

Here’s a picture of my explaining about the Safi finds to the group:


David’s Sling

I’m sure you are all convinced that for the last two decades, we have been looking for David’s sling, or at least his sling shots, at Gath. Just be clear – we have not found them – and not even a skull with a hole in its head.

That said, today, the modern day “David’s Sling“, Israel’s latest anti-missile system has become operational.

Why does this concern the Safi project?

If, sometime in the future, the “bad guys” should shoot missiles at us and surrounding areas (as they did in the summer 2014…), we now have an additional layer of protection, in addition to the already existing (and fantastic) “Iron Dome” that protected us then (and provided great fireworks’ displays along the way – see below picture, courtesy of Jeff Chadwick).


April 01, 2017

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

Comic Book Depiction of David at Gath

Nathan P. Daniel is an artist who is preparing a series of comic books depicting the life of Biblical David.

Nathan has kindly sent me a few pages from his very impressive work (which he  hopes to publish in the near future), in which the biblical story of David arriving at the Gate of Gath and meeting King Achish (I Sam 21:10 ff.) is depicted.

Nathan informed me that he regularly visits the Safi blog to get information about the Philistines in general at Gath specifically. So, look at the first image and you can see how he depicts the fortifications of Gath. Notice that the region of the gate is quite similar to the area of the Gate that we found in recent seasons (see, for example, here), and the chalk cliffs of the tell. You’ll notice as well that the Philistines are selling pig (regarding Philistine pigs, see for example here), and their soldiers look like the “Sea Peoples” warriors in the Medinet Habu reliefs (see an example of the Sea Peoples in these reliefs here).

Notice that the Philistines are depicted using a closed oven. While in the early Iron Age the Philistine mainly used open hearths, from the early Iron II (ca. 1000 BCE), the closed “Tabun”/”Tanur” mudbrick oven becomes popular (for a picture, see here).

Check it out – VERY nice!

March 30, 2017

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

New Book for Andrea Squitieri on Iron Age Stone Vessels

Congratulations to Andrea Squitieri, Safi team member, for his newly appeared book:

Squitieri, A. 2017. Stone Vessels in the Near East during the Iron Age and the Persian Period (c. 1200–330 BCE). Archaeopress Ancient Near Eastern Archaeology 2. Oxford: Archaeopress.

Way to go Andrea!!


March 28, 2017

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

Article on 20 years of Iron Age archaeology at Tell es-Safi/Gath

As mentioned previously, a volume on the Shephelah in the Iron Age was just publilshed, edited by Oded Lipschits and myself. In the volume, there is a chapter on the excavations at Safi:

Maeir, A. M. 2017. Philistine Gath After 20 Years: Regional Perspectives on the Iron Age at Tell es-Safi/Gath. Pp. 133–54 in The Shephelah during the Iron Age: Recent Archaeological Studies, eds. O. Lipschits and A. M. Maeir. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns.

Here is a link to a PDF of the article: Maeir_Iron Age after 20 years at Safi_in Lipschits and Maeir eds. Iron Age Shephelah_Winona Lake 2017

This article is published in:

The Shephelah during the Iron Age: Recent Archaeological Studies, eds. O. Lipschits and A. M. Maeir. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 2017, copyright © 2017 by Eisenbrauns; placed here by permission of the publisher. The book may be purchased at: http://www.eisenbrauns.com/item/LIPSHEPHE


March 27, 2017

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

Shephelah volume is out!

The volume on the archaeology of the Iron Age Shephelah, edited by Oded Lipschits and Aren Maeir (previously mentioned here), has appeared! In this volume, there are 8 papers by various excavators of sites in the Shephelah (in fact, almost all current or recent projects), giving an excellent overview of major issues relating to the Iron Ages (and some issues relating to the Late Bronze Age as well). In addition, the volume includes an overview chapter by Aren and Oded, and a chapter by Ido Koch on his observations on various issues relating to the Late Bronze and early Iron Age in Southwestern Canaan. For the table of contents, see here.

Jim Eisenbrauns just informed me that the volume has arrived – and it looks great!

The full title of the volume is:

Lipschits, O., and Maeir, A. M., eds. 2017. The Shephelah during the Iron Age: Recent Archaeological Studies. “. .. as plentiful as sycamore-fig trees in the Shephelah” (1 Kings 10:27, 2 Chronicles 1:15). Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns.


March 25, 2017

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

Visit to Safi with a film crew

This Friday (March 24th, 2017) I was again at the tell, this time with a German film crew. The documentary team, from “Spiegel TV”, was filming a chapter of a very interesting program for the German public TV channel ZDF. The program, “Zeitreise“ (“Timeline“ in English) deals with the general world history, each time dealing with a different time period, with views from different places and cultures throughout the world (see here on the chapter on the year “0”).

The filming at Safi was part of a chapter that will deal with 1000 BCE. In Israel, they have chosen the topic of David and Goliath and the Philistines and the Israelites, and are filming at Safi and Jerusalem. Other parts of this chapter will be filmed in the Pacific, dealing with the Lapita culture, and in Mesoamerica dealing with the Olmec culture, as well as other places in Europe and the world.

The archaeological host of the program is Prof. Matthias Wemhoff, who is the director of the Museum fuer Vor- and Fruegeschichte in Berlin (which as you may know is an astounding museum!). So in addition to it all, it was very interesting to get to meet and discuss various issues with Prof. Wemhoff!

Here are a couple pictures of the crew filming Prof. Wemhoff talking about the 10th cent. in Area F. In addition, see the 360 degree video that I took in Area F Upper. From the pictures and the film, you can see how green the site is at this time of the year – especially for those of you who only get to see it in the summer – when everything, more or less, is dry and brown.

Here is the clip:

And here are the photos:




March 22, 2017