Taygete Atlantis: Excavation Blogs (Antiquity)


Tom Elliott (tom.elliott@nyu.edu)

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May 19, 2019

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

Workshop on Zooarchaeology, 23 May, 2019

On Thursday, May 23rd, 2019, the RIAB Minerva Center is conducting a workshop for students on zooarchaeology in general and the Iron Age Levant in particular. The workshop will be given by Dr. Liora Horwitz of the Hebrew University.

Please note that the workshop is only open  to those who pre-registered for it.

May 18, 2019

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

Workshop on LB/Iron Age transition at Miqne-Ekron, Qubur Walayda and Megiddo East

On Thursday, May 16th, I participated in the workshop on the LB/Iron Age transition at the sites of Tel Miqne-Ekron, Qubur al-Walayda and Megiddo East, that was held at the Albright Institute in Jerusalem.

The workshop was organized by Ann Killebrew (Penn State), and in it, Ann, Gunnar Lehmann (BGU) and Aaron Greener (Albright), presented about these three sites.

Ann and Gunnar each presented a detailed survey of the stratigraphy and finds relating to the time frame covering the late LB and early Iron I at Miqne (Ann) and Qubur (Gunnar), followed by a short presentation by Aaron on the LB/Iron I finds from Megiddo East.

A lively discussion developed during and right after each lecture, with various members of the archaeological community in Israel participating.

After the lectures, the workshop participants then moved to look at a great selection of pottery from the relevant levels at this sites, which was set up in the Albright basement. A very interesting and lively discussion of these finds developed as well.

This was a fascinating workshop, with many insights. For me, in addition to seeing some really nice pottery from these sites that I had not seen previously, I came away with the impression that the finds from these sites only emphasize, the complex nature of the LB/Iron Age transition, and how many of the “standard,” and rather linear, explanations on this transition are in need of refinement, a more complex understanding – and even revision!


May 17, 2019

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

Spanking new entrance to Tell es-Safi/Gath

On Wednesday, I had the honor to participate in the dedication ceremony for the new entrance to the Tel Zafit National Park (Tell es-Safi/Gath). The funding for this entrance (and the bike path leading to it) was donated by “Dalia Power Energies“, the company that runs one of the two electric power stations near the tell, in memory of Mr. Eyal Shapira, z”l, who was a member of their board of directors. Thanks so much their donation – and for the Nature and Parks Authority who facilitated the donation and making these plans happen!

The work including fixing up the road leading up to the site, the main entrance road to the tell itself, and the area of the parking at the base of the site. This included a great parking area, some very nice shaded picnic areas, and some very nice signs, both on the way to the tell, and in and around the site itself.

This is a very substantial and important addition to the site, as it makes the site much more accessible to the public. In addition, the Nature and Parks Authority fixed up (and even changed) some of the paths on the site, making them much more easier for use.

This will be important for the team as well in the coming season. The road to the site is much better, and the buses and other vehicles will be able to drive in a much easier manner to the site. In addition, the breakfast area is now really nice – which will make our breakfast and fruit breaks much more enjoyable!

Below are some pictures of the ceremony and the new entrance.

Those of you who are familiar with the site from previous years will be quite surprised with the changes!

See as well the views of the tell. While it’s not as green as it was even a week or two ago, it’s still quite overgrown due to the massive rainfall this winter.


May 15, 2019

Calixtlahuaca Archaeological Project

Bezotes (Lip Plugs or Labrets)

By Angela Huster
One form of Aztec jewelry were decorative objects worn through a piercing in a person’s lower lip, known as bezotes in Spanish and lip plugs or labrets in English. They can be made out of different materials – bone, clay, obsidian, or other stones – and come in various shapes. While there are a few very fancy examples in museums, with gold and turquoise inlays, most examples are much simpler. In Central Mexico, “T-shaped” lip plugs are traditionally associated with the Otomi ethnic group, based on historic documents. In her excavations at Xaltocan, Lisa Overholtzer (2015) showed that T-shaped lip plugs were used during the Middle Postclassic, and and wider, flatter "Button-shaped" ones were used during the Late Postclassic. However, people seem to have switched forms before the Aztec conquest of the site, suggesting that they may have actively manipulated their ethnic identity in anticipation of shifts in regional power. 

The rock crystal and obsidian lip plugs from Calixtlahuaca (plus a copper earspool on the left)

At Calixtlahuaca, we recovered two T-shaped lip plugs (one made out of obsidian and one of rock crystal), and two button-shaped ones (both made out of clay). Both T-shaped pieces come from Ninupi phase contexts. One of the button-shaped ones comes from a Ninupi phase context and the other from a Yata phase context. The fact that we recovered so few examples of lip plugs is interesting, since the Otomi were one of the ethnic groups who lived in the Toluca Valley. The phasing of the few lip plugs we did find parallels the findings from Xaltocan; T-shaped lip plugs are earlier and from prior to the Aztec conquest of the site, and button-shaped ones are more likely to be later, from the period under Aztec rule, but there’s some fuzziness. However, because Calixtlahuaca was conquered by the Aztecs later than Xaltocan was, the transition in forms occurs later in calendar time; instead of a change between the Middle and Late Postclassic, the switch in forms occurs between the two halves of the Late Postclassic.
The ceramic lip plugs from Calixtlahuaca

Because lip plugs are low frequency objects (even at sites where they are more common than at Calixtlahuaca!), it can be hard for any one project to find enough to identify meaningful patterns. As a result, it is important for projects to publish good descriptions of their rare finds and their proveniences, so that a larger regional sample can eventually be put together. We are currently writing the informe chapter on miscellaneous ceramic objects at Calixtlahuaca – which includes, but certainly isn’t limited to, lip plugs.

Works Cited:

Overholtzer, Lisa M.
                2015       Agency, practice, and chronological context: A Bayesian approach to household chronologies. Journal of Anthropological Archaeology 37:37-47.

May 09, 2019

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

LB conference proceedings went to press!

The Ackerman Family Conference on Biblical Archaeology, which was held in 2014, and included an assortment of excellent papers on the Late Bronze Age and early Iron Age in Canaan, is about to be published as a proceedings volume.

The volume, “The Late Bronze and Early Iron Ages of Southern Canaan“, edited by A. M. Maeir, I. Shai and C. McKinny, has just gone to press, and will be published by de Gruyter as part of new series (Archaeology of the Biblical Worlds) that is associated with the “Encyclopedia of the Bible and its Reception” (series editors: A. M. Maeir and H. Goldfuss).

Hopefully, the volume will be out in a couple of months!

And if already – there are two more edited volumes that are about to appear: Tell es-Safi/Gath II (eds. A. M. Maeir and J. Uziel) and the Proceedings of the 1st annual meeting of the RIAB Minerva Center (eds. A. Berlejung and A. M. Maeir)! More to come on these two volumes in the near future!

May 08, 2019

The Tel Burna Excavation Project

Lecture and Field Tour Schedule for Excavation

As usual, we will have a nice slate of field tours and lectures this upcoming excavation season (see below). We also still have a few spots left! If you are on the fence about coming this summer – get off the fence and come help us find the gate 🙂

TEL BURNA 2019 LECTURES (Tentative):

Each week there will be various lectures and tours. Monday is touring sites in the region with an emphasis on sites recently or currently being excavated. There will be three lectures each week. Lectures focus on 1) principles and methods of excavation, 2) history and archaeology of the southern Levant, and 3) various approaches to analysis of the material record.

Week 1

  • S        Tel Burna-A Decade of Research (Prof. Itzick Shai)
  • M       Site Tour: Northern Shephelah: Beth Shemesh, Gezer
  • T       Bib Arch in 21st C (Prof. Itzick Shai) or Arch Meth & Theory (Prof. Steven Ortiz)
  • W       Tombs Remembered – Tombs Forgotten: Studying the Iron Age Tombs and Tomb Inscriptions from Jerusalem (Prof. Matthew Suriano)
  • Th      Principles of Field Documentation- PlanGrid (Dr. Chris McKinny); Photogrammetry (Dr. Jane Gaastra)
  • Fri-Sat: Weekend Study Tours: The Judean Wilderness and the Negev (Dr. Chris McKinny)

Week 2

  • M       Archaeological Site Survey: Method and Practice (Dr. Aharon Tavger)
  • T       Site Tour: Gath of the Philistines: Tel es-Safi (Prof. Aren Maeir)
  • W      Late Bronze Age (PhD student Marcella Barbosa)
  • Th     Zooarchaeology and Archaeo-Botany (Prof. Tina Greenfield and Dr. Andrea Orendi)
  • Fri-Sun 3-Day weekend for Study Tour: The Northern Regions (coast, Galilee, Golan Heights) (Dr. Chris McKinny)

Week 3

  • S       Site Tour: E-Rai (Prof. Yossi Garfinkel) and Lachish (Dig Staff)
  • T       Textile Workshop (Dr. Debi Cassuto)
  • W      Iron Age (Dr. Aharon Tavger)
  • Th     GIS and Archaeology (Prof. Ladislav Smedja) + Soil Analysis – (Prof. Michael Hejman)
  • Fri-Sun Weekend Study Tour: Jerusalem and its environs (Dr. Chris McKinny)

Week 4

  • M       Site Tour: TBD
  • T       TBD
  • W      Final Photos
  • Th      (at Ariel University) Ceramic Restoration Process + Shiloh (Drs. Chris McKinny and Aharon Tavger)

May 07, 2019

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

Tour of Tell es-Safi/Gath for a group from the Albright Institute

Today (May 7, 2019) a gave a tour of Tell es-Safi/Gath for a group of fellows from the Albright Institute in Jerusalem. We walk around the upper and lower tells for three hours, and it was really nice.

What’s very noticeable are the thorns! Are they enormous! Some of them are about 3 m high!!


May 05, 2019

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

New Issue of the Israel Exploration Journal

A new issue (69/1 [2019]) of the Israel Exploration Journal has appeared (edited by S. Ahituv, A. Maeir and Z. Weiss).

See here the table of contents and abstracts of the articles in the new issue.

May 03, 2019

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

Great clip about archaeology at BIU, the excavations at Tell es-Safi/Gath, and yours truly…

See below a short, and very nice (!) clip, produced by the American Friends of Bar-Ilan University, highlighting archaeology at BIU, the excavations at Tell es-Safi/Gath – and me… :-)

For those of you who are already familiar with the team, you’ll notice a few familiar faces (and hands…) from the team in the clip. And they couldn’t help themselves, they had to have a picture of me putting on my hat…

For those still interested in joining us this seasons at Tell es-Safi/Gath (June 23-July 19), and you have not yet registered signed up, the registration deadline has been extended until May 15th, 2019.

If you want to register, go to the online registration now! Be there – or be square!

April 30, 2019

The Tel Burna Excavation Project

New Paper on the Pithoi from Area B1

We are happy to announce that our paper on the two Cypriot Pithoi found in Area B1 has been published!

One of the large pithoi mentioned in the article

Here is the abstract:

Bronze Age trade in the Eastern Mediterranean is well attested in south Levantine archaeological research, with imported vessels generally playing a significant role in the ceramic assemblage. While the majority of these vessels are found repeatedly at many different sites, there are cases where a rare find sheds new light on the way in which trade patterns are perceived. Such is the case with two fully restored pithoi found in a Late Bronze IIB building at Tel Burna. This paper presents the context in which the pithoi were uncovered, followed by a study of the vessels themselves, including their typology, provenance, volume and contents, as well as the nature of Late Bronze Age trade in the Eastern Mediterranean.

The full bibliographic details:

2019: Shai, I.; McKinny, C.; Spigelman, Ben-Shlomo, D., Karasik, A., Namdar, D., and Uziel, J. Late Bronze Age Trade as Seen through the Eyes of Two Cypriot Pithoi on a Shephelah Hilltop. Tel Aviv 46: 63–80.

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

It’s out! Isolation and characterization of ancient yeast!

I’m at a conference on ancient food at the Weltenberg Abby in Germany, and my colleagues and I are about to present a new fantastic study that we’ve been working on, on the isolation of ancient yeast cells from archaeological contexts!

The article is entitled:

Aouizerat T, Gutman I, Paz Y, Maeir AM, Gadot Y, Gelman D, Szitenberg A, Drori E, Pinkus A, Schoemann M, Kaplan R, Ben-Gedalya T, Coppenhagen-Glazer S, Reich E, Saragovi A, Lipschits O, Klutstein M, Hazan R. 2019.
Isolation and characterization of live yeast cells from ancient vessels as a tool in bioarchaeology. (https://mbio.asm.org/content/10/2/e00388-19)

This is a truly ground-breaking study – which took three years to bring to press!

See below the abstract:

ABSTRACT Ancient fermented food has been studied based on recipes, residue
analysis, and ancient-DNA techniques and reconstructed using modern domesticated yeast. Here, we present a novel approach based on our hypothesis that enriched yeast populations in fermented beverages could have become the dominant species in storage vessels and their descendants could be isolated and studied today. We developed a pipeline of yeast isolation from clay vessels and screened for yeast cells in beverage-related and non-beverage-related ancient vessels and sediments from several archaeological sites. We found that yeast cells could be successfully isolated specifically from clay containers of fermented beverages. The findings that genotypically the isolated yeasts are similar to those found in traditional African beverages and phenotypically they grow similar to modern beer-producing yeast strongly suggest that they are descendants of the original fermenting yeast. These results demonstrate that modern microorganisms can serve as a new tool in bio-archaeology research.
IMPORTANCE So far, most of the study of ancient organisms has been based mainly
on the analysis of ancient DNA. Here we show that it is possible to isolate and study
microorganisms—yeast in this case—from ancient pottery vessels used for fermentation. We demonstrate that it is highly likely that these cells are descendants of the original yeast strains that participated in the fermentation process and were absorbed into the clay matrix of the pottery vessels. Moreover, we characterized the isolated yeast strains, their genomes, and the beer they produced. These results open new and exciting avenues in the study of domesticated microorganisms and contribute significantly to the fields of bio- and experimental archaeology that aim to reconstruct ancient artifacts and products

April 21, 2019

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

Some great aerials of Safi!

Pascal Partouche, who used to take the end of season aerial photos using a balloon, and is now a drone aficionado, kindly posted some great drone photos and a really nice video clip of the upper tell.

The photos are of areas J, E, A and F, while the video, flies over the upper tell, from east to west.

Check it out!

Thanks Pascal!

April 15, 2019

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

Don’t forget to register for the 2019 season!

The 2019 season at Tell es-Safi/Gath is just around the corner. We will be in the field from June 23rd until July 19th, 2019.

Now is the time to register online for the season. The deadline for registration is May 1st, 2019 – so now’s the time to go ahead and sign up!

I promise you that you will have the experience of a lifetime!

Be there – or be square!

(note – if you join us – you be IN a square…)


March 31, 2019

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

Visit of Chinese Ambassador

Today, we were honored to host his Excellency, Mr. Zhan Yognxin, Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China to Israel, at the Tell es-Safi/Gath lab at BIU.

The ambassador and his entourage, along with Prof. Yaron Harel (Dean of the Faculty of Jewish Studies at BIU) and Dr. Danielle Gurevitch (Chair, the Sir Naim Dangoor Centre for Universal Monotheism, BIU), stopped by at the lab as part of a visit to BIU.

In the lab, I explained to them about our work, some of the finds, and various exciting things relating to the project.

They also had a chance to meet my new PhD student from China, Jiang.

I do hope further connections with China and Chinese institutions will develop from this. It would be great to have a Chinese contingent on dig!

Here are some pictures from the visit:


March 25, 2019

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

New article on the fortifications of Tell es-Safi/Gath

A new article on the fortifications of Tell es-Safi/Gath has just appeared. The study,

based on a talk given at a meeting in Haifa a few years ago, was spearheaded by Eric Welch, along with several of the Safi team.
In this study, the fortifications of the site are discussed, and in particular, in comparison to finds and interpretations of Bliss and Macalisters’ excavations at the site in 1899, as opposed to what we now know based on our work for the last 23 years or so. 
The article can be found at this link.
The full title is:
Welch, E. L., Chadwick, J. R., Shai, I., Katz, J., Greenfield, H., Dagan, A., and Maeir, A. M.
2019. “The Limits of the Ancient City”: The Fortifications of Tell es-Safi/Gath 115 Years After Bliss and Macalister. Pp. 151–66 in Exploring the Holy Land: 150 Years of the Palestine Exploration Fund, eds. D. Gurevich and A. Kidron. London: Equinox.

New article on Philistine technology

A new article on ancient technologies in the Iron Age Philistine culture, has just appeared. The article was published in a special issue of the Journal of Eastern Mediterranean Archaeology and Heritage Studies, with several studies focusing on ancient technology, in honor of Dr. Nava Panitz-Cohen.

The article, written by 16 of researchers who are connected to the Safi project, examines what we know and can learn about technologies (in a broad sense of the term) in use in the Iron Age Philistine culture, using the finds from Philistine Tell es-Safi/Gath as a case study, and how this can shed light on a broad range of issues relating to the Philistines and the Iron Age Levant. Special attention is placed on the importance of the study of technology for elucidating broad aspects of ancient culture.
The full title is:
Maeir, A. M., Ben-Shlomo, D., Cassuto, D., Chadwick, J. R., Davis, B., Eliyahu Behar, A., Frumin, S., Gur-Arieh, S., Hitchcock, L. A., Horwitz, L. K., Manclossi, F., Rosen, S., Verduci, J., Welch, E. L., Weiss, E., and Workman, V.  2019.  Technological Insights on Philistine Culture: Perspectives from Tell es-Safi/Gath. Journal of Eastern Mediterranean Archaeology and Heritage Studies 7(1): 76–118.

March 21, 2019

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

Lectures in NY in the beginning of April 2019

I will be in NY in the beginning of April, 2019, and I will be giving a few lectures. Here is one that is open to the public:

New York Aegean Bronze Age Colloquium: Monday, 1 April 2019, 6:00 pm (Hemmerdinger Screening Room (Library, Room E706), Hunter College): New Insights on the Philistines and the Sea Peoples in Light of Two Decades of Excavations at Tell es-Safi—Gath of the Philistines

Be there – or be square!



March 19, 2019

The Tel Burna Excavation Project

New Paper on Tel Burna – relating to its possible identification of Libnah

Aharon and myself have just received the proofs of our article entitled “From Lebonah to Libnah” which discusses the sites of Lebonah (near Shiloh, see Judges 21:19) and Libnah.

See here for the announcement. Below is the full bibliographic details with abstract of the paper.

2019: McKinny, Chris; Tavger, Aharon. 6. “From Lebonah to Libnah: Historical Geographical Details from the PEF and other Early Secondary Sources on the Toponymy of Two Homonymous Sites.” Pp. 107-122. Exploring the Holy Land – 150 Years of the Palestine Exploration Fund , edited by D. Guervich and A. Kidron. Equinox eBooks Publishing, United Kingdom.

Charles Warren’s Map of Philistia – showing Tel Burna as “Tell Bulnard”


“There are three instances of toponyms based on לבנ in the Bible. These include Libnah/Laban of the wilderness Sinai wanderings (Num 33:20; Deut 1:1), Lebonah of Ephraim (Judg 21:19), and Libnah of the Judean Shephelah (e.g., Josh 10:29-31). Notably, the latter two are possibly preserved in Arabic toponyms from 19th century Palestine. These toponyms were recorded with varying spellings in such cartographic projects as the Van de Velde’s Map of the Holy Land (1854, 1858, 1865), Warren’s unpublished Reconnaissance of the Plain of Philistia (1867), and Conder and Kitchener’s Survey of Western Palestine (1882, 1883, 1880), the latter two which were conducted under the auspices of the Palestine Exploration Fund. Using these and other cartographic sources as the basis for our discussion, we will analyze the etymology and site identifications of Lebonah of Ephraim and Libnah of the Shephelah in connection with their occurrences in the various post-biblical sources with the purpose of understanding the linguistic development of the לבנ toponyms from the biblical period to pre-modern times. Our analysis shows that the toponymic history of these sites corroborates the current identifications of Lebonah with el-Lubban and Libnah with Tell Bornat.”

March 11, 2019

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

Kudos to Dr. Brent Davis – laureate of the 2019 “Michael Ventris Award for Mycenaean Studies”!

Wow, wow, wow!

Dr. Brent Davis (Melbourne) Safi core staff member, who is also a world leader in ancient Aegean languages and scripts, has been awarded the Michael Ventris Award for Mycenaean Studies for 2019!

At Safi – we already knew that Brent was great! This is yet another international recognition of this!

Here’s a picture of Brent (in the middle) with the Area K2 team in 2017.


Way to go Brent!


Winter visit to Tell es-Safi/Gath

Yesterday (March 10, 2019), Maria, Shira and I made a quick visit to Tell es-Safi/Gath, to see how it looks after the rains.

As you can see in the photos below – it looks quite cool. Totally green, with some very tall thorns in some areas (but for the most part, not in the excavation areas). Even though I’ve seen this often before, the view of the tell and its surroundings when it is totally green and overgrown is simply stunning.

Another nice thing is that the road leading to the tell is being paved all the way to the tell – which will make access much easier and quicker.

To our surprise and consternation, the project to develop the parking area started without being coordinated with us, and when we arrived at the site, were rather shocked to see a small “bobcat” tractor excavating a foundation trench for one of the walls of the new entrance area, right near Area D. Needless to say, we stopped them immediately and called the regional inspector of the Israel Antiquities Authority. Turns out, there was a lot of “lack of communication” (…) between the various involved parties, who for reason did not think it was urgent to have the archaeologist in charge of excavating the site involved…

So it was lucky that I had a sudden urge to look at the site, and hopefully, now, things will be better planned and coordinated (sheesh…)

And if already – don’t forget to sign up for the 2019 season!

Be there – or be square!!

Here are some pictures of the tell and the various areas:

March 08, 2019

The Tel Burna Excavation Project

Presentation Tomorrow at SWCRS

I will be lecturing on “Tel Burna – After a Decade of Investigation (2009-2018)” tomorrow at the SWCRS (Southwest Commission on Religious Studies) conference in Fort Worth. We have certainly made a dent in the tell 🙂

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

Louise writes on women in history

In honor of International Women’s Day, Louise Hitchcock, long time Safi core staff member (Univ. Melbourne) has written a nice article “Uncovering the Invisible Women of History“.

Check it out!


March 06, 2019

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

Handheld LIDAR scanning of cave at Maresha

Last year, Boaz Zissu, Rafi Kent and yours truly received an equipment grant from the ISF to purchase some really cool equipment. This included a airborne LIDAR scanner (carried on a drone) and a hand held LIDAR scanner (GeoSLAM Zeb-Revo).

We are now in the process of starting to use this equipment and several students at BIU are being trained in the use of the equipment.

A couple of weeks ago, Itamar Berko, who is an MA student in our department, did a LIDAR scan of a rather complex cave at Maresha. He walked around the cave for about 40 minutes, holding the scanner. Then, based on the collected data, he produced a really cool 3D model of the cave.

See this link to check out the 3D model. Try it out and move around in the cave – it is quite astounding!

And this is the result of a very short scan! Imagine the detail that could be produced from a much more extended scan!

Definitely very cool. We hope to start using these tools in various manners in the near future.



On Thursday, March 7th, and 16:00, a very interesting workshop will be conducted at the Albright Institute in Jerusalem.

The workshop, entitled “A ‘GLOBAL TURN’ FOR THE ARCHAEOLOGY AND HISTORY OF THE SOUTHERN LEVANT”, will be given by Oystein LaBianca (Andrews University) and Terje Stordalen (University of Oslo), and respondents will be Ann Killebrew (Penn State Univ) and yours truly (Aren M. Maeir, BIU).

See here for an overview of what will be discussed.

Should be interesting! If you are in this neck of the woods, hope to see you there!


March 01, 2019


One Person’s Trash . . .

One Person’s Trash . . .

Janice Kamrin

As promised, a short report on new architecture in the West Settlement: we do have more “walls” (still generally only one brick high, but clearly outlining built structures laid out along a NE-SW grid) in the West Settlement. These line up with walls uncovered in earlier seasons, and also connect with ones excavated by Barry Kemp in the 1970s. The wadi has washed out anything that might have remained to the east (What Lies Beneath), but the settlement does continue to the west and perhaps also to the north, and promises to yield more information in future seasons.

N140 line: looking southwest over squares excavated in 2019

But today’s blog is about our “midden.” We have uncovered a large (about 2 and a half meters in diameter) deposit that spans the border between two of our squares, an area we are calling Feature 201. On the surface, this looked like the usual sort of sherd scatter, but as we began to clean and clear, we discovered that it continued for a several levels, and was thick with large and small sherds and lots of faunal remains. These include bones of various sizes, bits of hide, and even several parts of hooves.

N140/E115: looking south over Feature 201

A preliminary look at the pottery (with which we have filled 26 of our yellow bags so far) suggests a higher percentage of the elite “Palace” ware than we’ve found in most of the rest of the site, although we will need to analyze it properly before coming to any conclusions.

JEMWS.2019.B40: Keratin of the hoof of a ruminant (identification courtesy of Salima Ikram)

This is larger than other such deposits we have found in previous seasons. It is also not clear how it relates to our architecture – other deposits have tended to be along walls or in corners, or even used as leveling fill under walls (Broken Dishes); this looks like it might go over a wall, although we will need to do more excavation here to find out for sure.

This is an intriguing deposit, and one that is sure to yield interesting and useful information once it has been completely cleared and the material recovered has been studied by our experts.

February 27, 2019

The Tel Burna Excavation Project

Deadline Extended until April 15

We have had a number of volunteers sign-up over the last couple of weeks – but we still have some spots left! If you are interested in joining the project for this summer’s season – please click here. We have extended the deadline until April 15. You can also check out our freshly updated site in the “Academic” section to see how you can get academic credit for the excavation and also take part in the weekend tours.

Jane excavating a 10th Century BCE destruction layer in the 2018 season

February 25, 2019

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

Brent Davis teaches hieroglyphics using VR!

Dr. Brent Davis (Univ. Melbourne; long-time core staff team member of the Safi project) is a master at various ancient languages. Now, he has harnessed virtual reality technology (VR) to teach ancient Egyptian Hieroglyphics.

Check out the cool video below, where students are reading the hieroglyphs from a VR model of Nefertari’s tomb!

Very Cool! Way to go Brent!

<p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/300627980″>Learning Hieroglyphics in the Tomb of Nefertari in Virtual Reality</a> from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/artsunimelb”>Arts Unimelb</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>


I’d Rather Have a Handle Than a Nail

I’d Rather Have a Handle Than a Nail

Janice Kamrin

First of all, spoiler alert. We are finding more architecture in the West Settlement, but more on that later. In the meantime, Mahmoud, Ja’allan, and Sa’ad, with assistance from our sharp-eyed junior workmen, continue to find bits and pieces of this and that among the sherds and bones — a bead here, part of a ring shank there, and of course pottery everywhere. It’s especially interesting to see what lies in the sterile levels just above what we consider the desert surface – the other day we found bits of a very dead and dried out scorpion, a small egg of some sort, and some pieces of very modern-looking bread.

Today, Mahmoud was working in a promising looking deposit of sherds near the surface, and found this very interesting object.

Our “handle,” JEMWS.2019.16

It seems to be made out of some sort of metal, and looked at first like perhaps it was a handle from a small vessel. But that didn’t really make sense, so I took it to my colleagues over in the Industrial Site for a consultation. We looked at it together, and Diana noticed the red color indicating rust. So we were able to rule out immediately that it was ancient, since iron would not have been used for any sort of vessel – the only iron available to the Egyptians at that time was meteoric.

Another view

Ivor happened to be there as well, having left his “photo studio” (otherwise known as the guard hut) to take some photographs for Diana. He took one look and suggested that it might be a nail that had gotten bent. We all thought that was a great idea, and Hassan confirmed that it was most likely an old-fashioned nail, no longer used but found in antique furniture and older buildings.

Antique nails from the Barkhamsted Archaeological site

It’s always interesting to see what wanders into an archaeological deposit!

February 23, 2019


What’s the Point

What’s the Point

Diana Craig Patch

Every season the work at the Industrial Site has produced a wonderful example of a tool. In 2015, almost immediately after opening the first square, we found a perfect flint awl. In 2016 and 2017, we were intrigued by what appeared to be discarded copper alloy drill bits. This year we have a spectacular micro-chisel.

All of us are familiar with chisels. Very practical tools, they can be fashioned with different types of edges that allow a craftsman to accomplish the splitting or cutting of stone, wood, and metal. If the task requires splitting stone or wood, a big chisel is positioned and then hit with a hammer, or in the case of ancient Egypt, probably a wood mallet. When chisels are needed for finer work, the tool is pushed into the material by hand in order to remove what isn’t wanted. The size of the chisel and the style of the edge changes depending on what the work is; smaller chisels are needed for detailed work in wood and other soft materials.

Carpenters at work. Facsimile from the Tomb of Rekhmire, Thebes.
Rogers Fund, 1935 (35.101.1)

This tiny copper alloy chisel, only 2.5 cm long, is perfectly formed and remarkably preserved. The slightly reduced and rounded proximal end may have been designed as such to be hafted in a small wood handle that would have made it easier to manipulate the tool. The distal end was fashioned into a sharp beveled edge that is somewhat splayed, allowing a craftsman to cut the material cleanly, or to trim or neaten tiny grooves or spaces in the object under manufacture.

View of the chisel (JEMIS.2019.69)
Second view of the chisel (JEMWS.2019.69)

February 20, 2019


Our Inspector, Mr. Mahmoud Kamal

Our Inspector, Mr. Mahmoud Kamal

Diana Craig Patch

Our Inspector, Mr. Mahmoud Kamal

We get to pursue our fieldwork in Egypt because of the generosity of the Ministry of Antiquities. Part of the contract that I sign with them is that a representative from the Supreme Council of Antiquities will work with us during the time we are digging. This year we are lucky to have Mr. Mahmoud Kamal Abu elWafa.  Mr. Mahmoud Kamal comes from Luxor, specifically Karnak village, so he grew up surrounded by the amazing antiquities the east bank has to offer. He is a 2009 graduate of Qena University with a degree in Egyptology. His specialty is New Kingdom history and he especially likes the large temples of Karnak and Luxor and everything about the Valley of the Kings.

He joined the SCA in 2012 and has been busy every year. In 2014, he took part in a field school under Mr. Yasser Mahmoud at Deir el Shelwit, the Ptolemaic temple in the southern part of Malqata.  He worked with the Polish mission at Deir el Bahri in 2015 and then in 2016 and 2017 worked with the American Research Center in Egypt, first at TT110, a decorated tomb of a royal butler named Djehuty, and then in painted New Kingdom tombs in Dra Abu Naga. 

We are delighted Mr. Mahmoud decided he wanted to join the Malqata team this year and we look forward to working with him for the next ten days.

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

Jane Waldbaum Scholarship for US undergrad students

Looking for funding that will help you join the Safi team this summer?

Check out the Jane C. Waldbaum Archaeological Field School Scholarship of the American Institute of Archaeology.

It’s for undergraduate students at institutions in the USA


Safi lab in a BIU PR clip

Here’s a very nice PR clip put out by the American Friends of BIU.

The Safi lab (and me and Maria) also appear (from 1:08).

Check it out!

February 18, 2019


Bag It and Tag It

Bag It and Tag It

Danielle Zwang

Archaeology requires the systematic collection of objects that were either made, modified, or used by people. By studying these material remains in relation to the environment in which they were produced, archaeologists attempt to understand the lives of those who used them. The process of collecting artifacts may appear somewhat tedious, but it is anything but that. Processing is a crucial part of an archaeological excavation.

This season as the archaeological assistant for the Industrial Site, I am working alongside Diana and Jan to help process all of the objects that are uncovered. As we continue to look for the production center of the glass and faience industry, we are finding manufacturing byproducts including molds, crucible fragments, and vitreous material, which are fragments of glass and faience. Our team follows a very specific method for processing these discoveries.

Senior excavator, Azib, working in the Industrial Site

As our workmen excavate methodically by layer or level depending on the context, they set aside all of the finds onto a tray. These artifacts are then sorted by type. At the Industrial Site, all of the material can be divided into two major categories, manufacturing debris and objects. All of the material that has been worked or used by ancient craftsmen gets bagged. However, the process for the two types of finds varies slightly.

Left: An unsorted tray of finds from the Industrial Site.
Right: The same tray from the left, after being sorted by object type.

The manufacturing debris, or the excess raw material and product from production, is further divided by type. Remains of the same kind are put together in one bag with its contextual data written on the exterior. Every bag lists the site name; the year; the square number; the level, feature or locus number; the object type, and finally the date found. This process is duplicated for the objects, like beads, molds, and tools. These objects are also assigned a unique number. This number is very similar to the accession numbering system that is used at a museum like The Metropolitan Museum of Art. These artifacts are tracked separately from the manufacturing debris because they are recorded differently as they often tell us a lot more information.

Left: An example of a bag for diagnostic pottery along with its matching tag.
Right: Fragment of a mold found during the 2019 season with its bag and tag.

Afterwards, a tag is created with the same data found the bags. These cards are then placed inside with the sorted material. Creating a tag may seem like an unnecessary and repetitive step, however, it is crucial. The material remains that are found during the excavation are only one aspect of the archaeological record. In order to properly interpret our finds, we need to evaluate them within the context in which they were found. It is therefore extremely important that we keep the findspot information with objects, as well as in our notes. Writing the information on the tag provides insurance that the provenance information will stay with the material in perpetuity. This is essential not only for the JEM’s research, but also for any future scholars who may work at Malqata.

Once the objects are bagged and tagged, they are sent to Diana and Jan for processing. At this stage, they write initial descriptions about each find, as well as their thoughts about any correlation to glass and faience production. In addition, they record the weight of carnelian debris and take record photographs of the manufacturing waste. Subsequently, all of the objects are sent to Ivor for photography.

Right: Diana and Jan writing descriptions of the objects from the Industrial Site.
Left: Ivor photographing objects.

Processing archaeological finds does not stop there. At the end of the season, we will continue to analyze and record information about each piece. In the secondary phase, Diana, Jan and I will draw objects in preparation for the final report and for future publications. Furthermore, all of the data collected will be transferred into a FileMaker database that was designed by Janice specifically for the work at JEM. Having a digital record of this data preserves an additional copy of our work for the season. It will also allow Diana and Jan to continue working on the material for publication outside of Egypt.

Diana and Danielle processing finds at the Industrial Site

February 16, 2019


What Kind of Bowl Is This?

What Kind of Bowl Is This?

Susan Allen

Last year was my first at the West Settlement site of Malqata.  I focused on developing record forms for the registration of each group of sherds found and another form to record the diagnostic sherds (rims, bases, handles, etc.).  The purpose of both forms is to enable Janice to upload the pottery data collected into her database where it can be combined with other information from each square. 

Our pottery notebook, with some of the tools of the trade

Having completed the initial sorting and recording of the pottery bags from 2016 last year, this year we began with the analysis of the diagnostic sherds. This is what ceramicists often call “typing” –that is comparing each rim or base to an established reference type; in our case we are comparing them to the pottery illustrated in The Eighteenth Dynasty Pottery Corpus from Amarna by Pamela Rose. This pottery is very close in date and purpose to that found at Malqata.

Gluing sherds in preparation for drawing their profiles

Each diagnostic sherd is then recorded on our new form, which includes additional information such as size and surface treatment. Sometimes they require a bit of sticking together and then being left to dry in our makeshift sandbox. Complete or nearly complete examples are set aside for drawing and photography so that we will be able to illustrate from our own material the kinds of pottery found in the West Settlement.  

Aisha and I fill out ceramic forms

February 15, 2019


Red Sky At Night . . .

Red Sky At Night . . .

Here is the beautiful red sunset that we saw from our hotel on Wednesday night:

But this did not herald “excavators’ delight. On Thursday morning, we arrived at the site to find gale-force winds blowing!

We ran around and made sure everything was battened down, and then we came home.

February 14, 2019

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

Lecture on Tell es-Safi/Gath at the Bible Lands Museum, Jerusalem, Feb. 20th, 2019

On Wednesday evening, Feb. 20th, 2019, I will be giving a lecture, in Hebrew, at the Bible Lands Museum in Jerusalem, on the results of the recent seasons of excavations at Tell es-Safi/Gath. In the lecture, I will focus, in particular, on the finds from the lower city.

So, if you’re in the region – you are invited!


February 11, 2019


Tracking Pot Designs

Tracking Pot Designs

Jan Picton

Who doesn’t love blue painted pottery? I certainly do, so it’s hard to discard non-diagnostic sherds to the spoil heap. When I found a large sherd with a pattern that I didn’t recognise I kept it with the diagnostics to check with Diana. Although produced from the mid-18th Dynasty through to the 20th Dynasty it’s difficult not to think of these vessels as ‘Amarna blue’ pottery. We all know the traditional repetitive lily petal motif because that pattern, with the decorative banded lines above and below, is the most common decorative scheme. Occasionally, you get the wonderful reliefs of Hathor or Bes on a vessel, or a freehand naturalistic scene of great artistry, but the lily petal motif is almost like a production line of limited variation. So when I saw the row of flattened oval circles it caught my attention. Diana agreed that it was a rare motif so I searched for comparisons both online and in the literature.

Blue painted sherd (JEMIS.2019.64)

Decorating cream slipped ware followed a step-by-step process: first the ‘Amarna blue’ thick bands are applied, these can be haphazard but our sherd is reasonably good. The four blue ‘leaves’ arranged in a loose oval shape which form our basic design were probably done at the same time while the blue paint was on the brush. Then black and red stripes were applied. The four ovoids were probably outlined in black at the same time as the blue bands were. It’s the black outline to each oval leaf that gives it its definition and the four ovoids then make a distinctive flattened circle. The red dots were probably added last (Rose 2007). The number of bands of decoration depend on the size of the vessel. Only one band survives fully on our sherd but there is an indication of another, different, decorative element above the top stripes. Of course, we can’t tell for certain what shape the vessel was but it seems possible that it was the traditional straight necked, full bodied jar so familiar in these designs.

Even on our small sherd with only one complete decorative motif, and a partial motif on either side with the stripes above and below, it is possible to see how carelessly the preliminary blue stripe and leaf pattern was applied before the black and red stripes and outline were added to give coherence to the design.

This design does not appear in the Amarna corpus (Rose 2007) and the only similar motif I found after extensive searching was on Plate 8 of Colin Hope’s ‘Malkata’ corpus in his Pottery of the New Kingdom, so perhaps this is a design specific to the heb-sed festival site of Amenhotep III.

Blue painted amphora from Malqata, back view (The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Rogers Fund, 1911, 11.215.460)

Hope has suggested (1989) that the manufacture of blue-painted pottery may well have been a specialised activity and the work of only a few potters, indicated by the standardisation of the designs and motifs which were applied to particular shapes. The use of the blue pigment (cobalt aluminate spinel, probably sourced in the Dakhla oasis) in the colour scheme may further support the idea of a restricted manufacture, as the raw ingredients would not have been widely available.

Close-up of the decoration on a blue-painted jar from Malqata (The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Rogers Fund, 1912, 12.180.39)

The distribution of blue-painted ware is found in large quantities only at Thebes and Amarna, and later at Memphis with some found at Gurob and Saqqara. However, it must be remembered that these vessels are containers for desired contents that are shipped from one centre to another, so the find location does not necessary indicate the place of manufacture.

However illustrious the context of our sherd it still seems to agree with the rule that blue painted vessels were mass produced and decorated by rote on a wheel or turntable. This may come as a shock to lovers of ‘Amarna blue’ pottery.

Hope, C. A. 1989. Pottery of the Egyptian New KingdomThree Studies. Burwood.

Rose, P. J. 2007. The Eighteenth Dynasty Pottery Corpus from Amarna. Egypt Exploration Society Excavation Memoir, 83. London.

February 10, 2019

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

Great book on early 2nd Millennium BCE Mesopotamia (in Hebrew)

If you read Hebrew, an excellent book on the history of Mesopotamia in the early 2nd Millennium BCE has appeared:

Wasserman, N., and Block, Y. 2019. The Amorites: Mesopotamia in the Early Second Millennium BCE (In Hebrew). Jerusalem: Carmel.

Hopefully, an English version will appear in the future.

Check it out!

February 09, 2019


Where Do We Go From here?

Where Do We Go From Here?

Janice Kamrin

In the West Settlement, my first task at the beginning of the season is to decide where to excavate next. We talk about it at the end of the previous season, and make some tentative plans, but I continue to think about it as I finish processing my notes and photographs. And then I always try to arrive back at Malqata with fresh eyes.

Consulting with Diana (left) and Jan (right)

Some of my priorities for this season are to continue to clarify the footprint of the site, and to see how it relates to other areas. On the east (local north), we are interested in seeing how the West Settlement connects to the Industrial Site where Diana is working. In order to explore the latter question, I am moving in that direction, but in 2.5 meter trenches rather than full 5 meter squares, since it is possible (in fact, likely) that we will be going through the wadi that has washed out any traces of the settlement to the north (see What Lies Beneath). We can’t go too far to the east or we will hit the old Met spoil heaps, but we will go as far as we can.

Looking southeast down Trench P (backfilled) toward the current West Settlement excavations

To the west, we are interested in seeing if we can connect the current excavations to a series of partial foundations uncovered in “Trench P” by Barry Kemp a number of years ago. Dr. Kemp has been so kind as to share information from his forthcoming publication of this work, so we know that his walls line up with ours, and that that one of them continues the thicker wall (laid in headers rather than stretchers) that seems to serve as the boundary of the settlement.

Piet shoots in some new points on our North-South grid

Our surveyor, Piet Collet, has helped to lay out new squares to both the east and the west. We are stringing them up and getting to work, so stay tuned!

The West Settlement Team: (L to R) Ali Mohamed Ja’allan; Hassan Horagi Mohamed; Mohamed Abu-ez Mohamed; Sa’ad Tagi Ahmed (senior excavator); Ossama Mishra’i Megala; Ja’allan Mohamed Said (senior excavator); Khaled Hassan Khodari; Janice Kamrin; Mahmoud Mohamed Hassan (senior excavator)

February 07, 2019

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

Workshop on producing ancient coins – BIU, Feb. 21, 2019

On Thursday, February 21, 2019 (11:00-13:00), a very interesting workshop will be held at Bar-Ilan University – on the production of ancient coins – replicating ancient production technologies.

The workshop will be led by Yeshu Drei – who is an expert on recreating ancient technologies.

The workshop is open to all!

See more details in the following PDF:

Coin production workshop_BIU Feb 21_2019

February 06, 2019

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

Final Lesson of the MOOC is online!

Today (Wed., Feb. 6, 2019) the 8th and final lesson of the MOOC on biblical archaeology went online. You can still register, and study, this round of the course until Feb. 20th. Those who sign up before that date will have access (full access for those who register for certification, and partial access [only to video clips] for those who register for auditing only).

All told, close to 2400 students registered from the course, from all over the world!

The MOOC will run again in the first semester of the next academic year at BIU (which starts in Oct. 2019). At that time, I hope we will have captions for the videos in English, Hebrew, Spanish, Portuguese, German, Russian and French – and perhaps a few additional languages as well.

So – if you missed registering and doing the MOOC this time – you’ll have another opportunity in a few months!

I had a lot of fun preparing this MOOC, had some great help from my assistants and the technical team of “Online Academe” – and from the responses of many of the participants – they had a great and enriching experience as well!



Our Colleague, Dr. Mohamed Abdelaziz

Our Colleague, Dr. Mohamed Abdelaziz

Diana Craig Patch

When you work in Egypt, part of the process of getting into the field is signing the contract that allows you to work at your site.  This step is carried out in the office of the Head of Foreign Missions of the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA) in Cairo.  For me, signing the contract is very serious business because when my signature as expedition director is added to the paper I accept the responsibility of an important site, Malqata, for the period of time I am working there. 

After receiving the contract, I take this agreement to be approved at the local level, which for Malqata requires signatures from the Luxor and West Bank inspectorates of the SCA.  This season I was the last mission to have its contract approved in Luxor by the former General Director of Upper Egypt, Dr. Mohamed Abdelaziz, who retired last Monday.  I have known Dr. Abdelaziz for many years because he served as the General Director of the West Bank inspectorate for three of the seasons (2012-2014) we have worked at Malqata. In this position, Dr. Abdelaziz was in charge of what could take place at Malqata during the excavation, so we were in regularly contact each year.  I always found him welcoming and helpful in supporting the work at our site.  By 2015, he had been promoted and we no longer saw him on the West Bank, but instead greeted him in the East Bank office, although we saw him much less often. 

Diana Craig Patch and Mohamed Abdel Aziz in the East Bank office.

Now that he has retired, the team working at Malqata will miss a good friend, but we wish him all the very best in the coming years and hope he will come to visit us.

February 05, 2019

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

Video clip about Tell es-Safi/Gath

A video clip on Tell es-Safi/Gath, which appeared on i24News has been posted on Youtube. In it, the tour guide Arieh O’Sullivan gives a tour of the site, from biblical to modern periods.

The best part of the video is of course in the very beginning, when Tell es-Safi/Gath is called (0:10) – “the greatest biblical site in the Holy Land“!! I’ll buy that! :-)

While there are things, here and there, that I would have presented differently (;-), you do get a very nice view of different parts of the site (and when the site is very green), and discussions on different parts of the site’s history.

Check it out!


February 04, 2019


In Memoriam

In Memoriam

We were greatly saddened today to hear of the sudden passing of our wonderful inspector during our 2017 season, Walla Abd el Moged Hussein. We remember her very fondly, and wish to express our heartfelt condolences to her family and colleagues. Walla was extremely kind and helpful, and especially loved to work with Diana to sort and identify the material coming from the excavations at the Industrial Site.

We thank Walla for all of her assistance and friendship. We will never forget her, and she will be greatly missed.

February 02, 2019

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

New Issue of the Israel Exploration Journal

A new issue (68/2 [2018]) of the Israel Exploration Journal, which I co-edit with Shmuel Ahituv and Zeev Weiss, has appeared.

Check out the new issue’s table of content and abstracts:

IEJ 68-2 TOC with abstracts

New paper on the provenance of EB ground stone objects from Tell es-Safi/Gath

A new paper on the provenance of the EB ground stone tools from Tell es-Safi/Gath has appeared. The paper, which was spearheaded by Jeremy Beller is entitled:

Beller, J. A., Greenfield, H. J., Fayek, M., Shai, I., and Maeir, A. M.
2019 Raw Material Variety and Acquisition of the EB III Ground Stone Assemblage of Tell es-Safi/Gath (Israel). Pp. 121–50 in Stone Tools in the Ancient
Near East and Egypt: Ground Stone Tools, Rock-Cut Installations and Stone Vessels from the Prehistory to Late Antiquity, eds. A. Squitieri and D. Eitam. Oxford: Archaeopress.

See a link to a PDF here.

Check it out!



Life’s Little Rituals

Life’s Little Rituals

Jan Picton

I suppose that it is unsurprising that archaeologists have rituals since we study so many. One of my favourites is the first return to the site, retracing the well-beaten paths of previous years to sites which greet you like an old friend. Here I am! I’m the first wall that you drew; I’m the tiny patch of shade that gave you refuge; I’m the marker peg you fell over! I’m back in my palace. Well, it’s Amenhotep III’s palace really, and I hope that he’d be pleased with what we’ve done with it. We’ll be missing our lovely brick conservator, Tony Crosby, this season so there won’t be the same pressure to complete wall drawings so that his team can cap the walls, and we just may build up enough of a reservoir of drawings to put us ahead of the game next season.

View of the king’s suite of rooms in the palace

With two new team members, Ivor and Danielle, we did a broader familiarisation tour of the site. It always gives me a kick to see the extent of the infrastructure necessary just for the king to celebrate his heb-sed festival, and how poor the accommodation was for his servants. There is a definite sense of the temporary nature of the structures not quite so apparent in the king’s apartments!

Our walk continued to the ‘industrial area’, all the evidence is there except the area itself which may either have been lost during the clearances of the royal viewing pavilion by the 1907 Met team, or may still to be found… Of course, the kilns could be under the spoil-heaps – that’s an archaeological truism – there’s always something good under the spoil heap. One of this season’s objectives is to excavate part of the spoil heaps to understand more about the industrial processes and the relationship between the different crafts. Just in a few square metres we find evidence for faience and glass manufacture, and carnelian working in huge quantities, pieces of worked pink granite – perhaps fragments of statuary. If we excavate a new square towards the West Settlement area where Janice is working we may discover if there is any relationship between the two areas, and perhaps that elusive industrial base.

The viewing pavilion, ramped on three sides, is still impressive with its niche and buttress façade, faced by a huge open court on its fourth ‘flat’ side. I wonder how many people stood in the courtyard staring in awe at the king sitting in splendour? Hundreds, or thousands?  The heb-sed was the ritual that celebrated the renewal of kingship on which hung the prosperity of the land and its people, and the king’s relationship with the gods. Not an event to be taken lightly!

pavilionThe royal viewing pavilion

We then walked to the Amun Temple with its huge sun courts that anticipate the better known courts at Amarna. The temple is in a sad state of decayed splendour. Although it would repay re-excavation the early excavators had to deal with a relatively unknown phenomenon – a mud-brick temple – and in trying to understand the structure in some places they cleared the casemate support walls down to their foundations and made understanding the structures that stood on the casemates a difficult prospect. The conservation and reconstruction work necessary here would be a huge burden to whoever took on the project. However, it would be immensely rewarding to reinterpret this Amun temple in the light of what we now know about the Amarna sun cult.

Amun templeThe Amun Temple

We worked our way back to our main site tracing the line of the raised royal road, now washed out by a wadi and vanishing under the monastery. I had no chance to explore in that direction last year and I don’t suppose there will be time this year, either. Arriving back at the West Settlement and industrial area we set up our first squares so that we can start work first thing on Saturday.

stringing the squareJan and Danielle stringing out the square ready for a clean start on Saturday

Welcome in Egypt! Welcome in Malqata! It’s so good to be back.

small findsSurface finds as we set the square

January 30, 2019


Friends Reunited

Friends Reunited

Diana Craig Patch, Janice Kamrin, Jan Picton, Ivor Pridden

We are very happy to announce our arrival back “home” on the West Bank. Our respective planes landed at the Luxor airport late on Monday night, and we spent most of Tuesday visiting the East Bank Taftish and our friend Ray Johnson at Chicago House, and organizing supplies back at our hotel. In the late afternoon, we decided to take a walk to reintroduce this season’s photographer, Ivor (also known as Jan’s husband) to the local landscape, which has changed a lot in the fifteen years since he was last here. We walked up past the Colossi of Memnon at Kom el-Hettan, then down the Qurna road to the Ramesseum. To start out our blog for the 2019 season, we thought we’d share some of the photos we took along the way.

Our Mudira Diana poses in front of the Colossi of Memnon, just down the road from our home away from home at the New Memnon
img_8435 We are always amazed to see how much our good friend Hourig Sourouzian has accomplished at Kom el-Hettan, the memorial temple of Amenhotep III.*
img_8441Jan, Ivor, and Diana playing tourist in front of the back of the Ramesseum
img_8447 Our pathetic attempt at a selfie
img_8436 You only get skies like this in Egypt!
img_8453 The Theban necropolis at dusk
img_8464 Looking over the remains of Tawosret’s temple to colossi at the northern entrance of Kom el-Hettan
img_8468 The remains of the Merneptah temple, with the magazine in the distance
img_8500 Almost home, as we pass the colossal stelae at Kom el-Hettan

*We want to express our sorrow at the loss of Hourig’s beloved husband and our great colleague, Rainer Stadelmann.

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

Travel grants for students from the Anglo-Israel Archaeological Society

Interested in digging this summer at Tell es-Safi/Gath and need some financial assistance?

Perhaps look into the travel grants from the Anglo-Israel Archaeological Society!

The Anglo-Israel Archaeological Society


The following grants are offered to UK students of archaeology and
related subjects, for excavation or relevant research in Israel:

The Nicholas Slope Memorial Award, and a small number of further
grants, each normally up to £500

Application forms can be downloaded from: www.aias.org.uk, where you
will also find more information.

Or else, write to: Administrator, Anglo-Israel Archaeological Society,
2nd Floor, Supreme House, 300 Regents Park Road, London N3 2JX

Queries: email secretary@aias.org.uk

Applications and references must be received by Wednesday 20th March 2019.

The AIAS is non-political and embraces all religions and ethnic groups.
Please visit us on Facebook   www.facebook.com/IsraelArchaeologyLondon


HT: Jack Sasson

Brent Davis on the language(s) of the “Phaistos Disc” and “Linear A”

Dr. Brent Davis (Melbourne) is a long time core-team member of the Safi project. In addition to his interest in the Philistines, Brent is one of the leading experts in the world on Bronze Age Aegean scripts and languages.

Among his various works, he has published a book on stone vessels with inscriptions in Linear A (see here, and previously noted here), has questioned whether Cypro-Minoan script was used in Iron Age Philistia (see here), and has several joint articles on Philistine writing and language (here and here).

Now, he has put out what I believe is a brilliant article in which, based on a close statistical analysis, shows that the while both the Phaistos Disc and Linear A are undeciphered writing systems, he can demonstrate that the both are, with a high degree of certainty, encode the same language!

The 2017 team at Tell es-Safi/Gath had an opportunity to hear about his research in a lecture he gave during the 2017 season. In addition, he presented this paper at the AIA annual meeting in San Diego earlier this month (January 2019), and also for PASP = Program in Aegean Scripts and Prehistory at the University of Texas at Austin (in mid-Jan. 2019), where it was received very favourably.

For us “Philistines,” such studies are of interest and importance, as they shed light on issues that may help us understand aspects of language, literacy and related topics in Iron Age Philistia.

The full title of the article is:

Davis, B. 2018. The Phaistos Disk: A New Way of Viewing the Language Behind the Script. Oxford Journal of Archaeology 37(4): 373–410.

Check it out! Way to go Brent!


January 29, 2019

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

New paper on the Philistines in the Iron I

A new paper on the Philistines in the Iron I has just appeared.

The full details are:

Maeir, A. M. 2018. Iron Age I Philistines: Entangled Identities in a Transformative Period. Pp. 310–23 in The Social Archaeology of the Levant: From Prehistory to the Present, eds. A. Yasur-Landau, E. H. Cline and E. Rowan. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Go here for a PDF.




January 26, 2019

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

Don’t hesitate! Join the 2019 team!

Now is the time to sign up for the 2019 season at Tell es-Safi/Gath! The online registration is up and running, and the finds in the 2019 season are going to be great. We will be working in various areas in the lower city (both already open and new areas) with lots of interesting finds – mainly from the Iron Age (Philistine Gath).

And for all those planning to join us – don’t forget to sign up for the MOOC on biblical archaeology – which serves as an excellent introduction to what we are doing at the site!

Registration continues until May 1st, 2019

Be there – or be square!

And to get a feeling of what you will find (or, what you will miss…), here are pictures from the 2018 season!

January 22, 2019

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

Fascinating interview with Ian Hodder on interface of religion and material culture

Check out this fascinating interview with Prof. Ian Hodder (Standford) on the interface between religion and material culture (see his book “Studies in the Human-Thing Entanglement“), part of the HAS (Homo Ars Project): Material Culture and Religion, created in collaboration with the OLLE/Mediterraneo Antico Foundation, directed by Dr. Nicola Laneri.

Well worth listening to this interview (and doing some follow up reading) for those interested in the archaeological and anthropological aspects of religion!


HT Nicola Laneri

January 21, 2019

The Tel Burna Excavation Project

BAS Scholarships

For those interested in funding for excavating this summer see the just announced BAS scholarships.

January 18, 2019

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

Hebrew, Portuguese and soon Spanish video captions for the Biblical Archaeology MOOC!

As mentioned previously, the online course (MOOC) on Biblical Archaeology is going very well, and as of yesterday, 2100 participants have registered for the course!

Now we have some nice news about this. The entire course is in English, but to enable those interested in the course who don’t know enough English to follow it, there are now captions for the videos in the Hebrew, Portuguese (so far from the videos in Lesson 1, but more to follow), and I hope very soon in Spanish as well!

So, if any friends, family, colleagues or students are interested, and this will make it possible for them to follow the course – do them to register!

And if anyone (preferably with a background in biblical archaeology so as to know the relevant terms) is interested in volunteering to try and translate the video captions into other languages, do get in touch with me!

And BTW – just to get you and others more interested, in the lesson that will go online this coming Wednesday (January 23, 2019), in addition to some very interesting aspects of Israelite and Judahite culture and daily life, we will have a video on making biblical period food (and accompanying recipes to that participants can try them out on their own!). This was a lot of fun!



P.S. And thanks to Jorge Fabbro for the Portuguese translation!

January 17, 2019

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

Talk on Philistine cult and burial with emphasis on Safi

Today, I participated in the 15th Annual Joint Conference of the IAA Southern District and the Dept. of Bible, Archaeology and Ancient Near East of BGU, which dealt with various issues relating to cult and burial.

I have a paper on cult and burial at Philistine Gath, discussing various finds at Tell es-Safi/Gath and what they say about the Philistine culture in general.

Most of the papers presented in the conference were published in the proceedings that were available at the meeting, which, in addition to my paper (which was published in Hebrew, as the paper that was presented), also included an important paper by Gunnar Lehmann and colleagues (this was in English), on the Iron I/IIA “200 Cemetery” at Tell el-Farah (South), which is also an important cemetery in Iron Age Philistia, with, among other finds, several cremation burials.

The titles of these two papers are:

Maeir, A. M. 2019 Burial and Worship in Tel Tzafit/Gath in the Early Iron Age: Evidence for the Diverse Sources of the Philistine Culture (In Hebrew). Pp. 99–112 in Worship and Burial in the Shfela and Negev Regions Throughout the Ages. Proceedings of the 15th Annual Southern Conference, eds. D. Varga, Y. Abadi-Reiss, G. Lehmann and D. Vainstub. Beersheba: Israel Antiquities Authority and Ben-Gurion University. (see here for PDF)

Lehmann, G., Golding-Meir, R., Sparks, R. T., and Neumeier-Potashnik, B.
2019 Tell el-Far’ah (South) Cemetery 200 Revisited. Pp. 4*-18* in Worship and Burial in the Shfela and Negev Regions Throughout the Ages. Proceedings of the 15th Annual Southern Conference, eds. D. Varga, Y. Abadi-Reiss, G. Lehmann and D. Vainstub. Beersheba: Israel Antiquities Authority and Ben-Gurion University.

3D model of the Safi lab!

Now here is something cool! Itamar Berko, who is an MA student in the Martin (Szusz) Department of Land of Israel Studies and Archaeology at BIU, will be utilizing the handheld LIDAR scanner (Geoslam Zeb-Revo) that we recently purchased (joint ISF equipment grant to Boaz Zissu, Rafi Kent and Aren Maeir) for field research in caves.

For practice, he did a quick, walk-around scan of the Safi lab.

Go to this very cool 3D model that he produced. Don’t be scared of the blog of dots! Check it out and “go inside” – and you’ll be able to see actual details of the rooms and even furniture in the lab. And take into account that this was done very quickly, with a relatively look resolution. Cool!

Imagine how effective this would be to walk into a dark cave, and be able to collected data in a short time that would enable to produce an accurate 3D model of the cave. Much simpler than standard measuring methods!


Calixtlahuaca Archaeological Project

Grinding Stones

Angela Huster

Stone tools for grinding corn – manos and metates – are a fundamental hallmark of Mesoamerican culture. Prior to the introduction of modern electric mills, Mexican women would spend several hours every day grinding corn with a mano and metate. A mano and metate were traditional wedding gifts, because they were so fundamental to setting up your own household. At Calixtlahuaca, they are one more line of evidence for how the site is subtly different from many contemporaneous Aztec sites. 

A woman instructing her daughter how to grind corn in Codex Mendoza

In Central Mexico, grinding stones go through two major changes. First, early in Mesoamerican prehistory, there is a change from mostly basin metates (with walls around the edges) and smaller handstones, to mostly flat metates with longer handstones. Archaeologists generally assume that this change is related to a shift toward grinding pre-soaked corn (a soft food that doesn’t bounce around when it’s being ground), rather than small, hard seeds or dry corn. In the US Southwest, the introduction of corn produces the opposite pattern in metate forms, because people there grind their corn dry (Adams 1999). There is a second change in grinding stone tools in the Postclassic, when metates with legs and thin manos with handles on the ends become more common. These changes would have made fine-grinding corn more efficient, perhaps as a way to reduce the fuel needed for cooking or to make it easier to digest (Biskowski 2000)

Mano fragments from Calixtlahuaca

At Calixtlahuaca, this second change didn’t really happen. We get some metates with legs, but they aren’t the only type in use. More noticeably, the shift from “Classic style” relatively thick manos without distinct handle grips on the ends, to thinner “Aztec style” manos with handle grips is missing. When I classified the ground stone from the site, I planned on using the same coding categories from Mike’s previous projects in Morelos. This classification basically has five categories for manos, ranging from one for a thick mano without differentiated handles, to five for a thin mano with pronounced handles. At sites in Morelos, most manos are 4s or 5s on this scale. At Calixtlahuaca, there were only a couple of cases that even scored as 3s; most were 1s or 2s.

Ways of classifying the shapes of manos
This “conservatism” in grinding technology fits into two larger patterns at Calixtlahuaca. First, it is likely related to differences in how maize was eaten in the Toluca Valley, relative to many other parts of Central Mexico (see previous posts on maize cooking HERE). If people at Calixtlahuaca didn’t eat as many tortillas (which require finer-than-average grinding), they may not have needed the increased efficiency provided by handled manos. Second, the continued use of an older style of grinding stones is part of a broader set of traits that people in the Toluca Valley maintained long after their neighbors in the Basin of Mexico, including the use of red-on-natural pottery, particular styles of censers, and lots of obsidian from the Ucareo source.

Works Cited:
Adams, Jenny L.
                1999       Refocusing the Role of Food-Grinding Tools as Correlates for Subsistence Strategies in the U.S. Southwest. American Antiquity 64(3):475-498.

Biskowski, Martin
                2000       Maize Preparation and the Aztec Subsistence Economy. Ancient Mesoamerica 11:293-306.

January 13, 2019

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

New paper on the warlike character of the Philistines

A new paper has just appeared, in which I discuss and question the age-old image of the Philistines as a warlike and fearsome culture and people. Based on the relatively small amount of weapons found in Iron Age Philistia, I suggest that perhaps a big part of this image is due to ancient, and modern, ideological perspectives.

The title of article is:

Maeir, A. M. 2018. The Philistines Be Upon Thee, Samson (Jud. 16:20): Reassessing the Martial Nature of the Philistines – Archaeological Evidence Vs. Ideological Image? Pp. 158–68 in Change, Continuity and Connectivity: North-Eastern Mediterranean at the Turn of the Bronze Age and in the Early Iron Age, eds. L. Niesiołowski-Spanò and M. Węcowski. Philippika 118. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz.

For a link to a PDF – go here.




December 26, 2018

The Tel Burna Excavation Project

Video of Itzick in the Burna Lab

Check out the news story and video of Itzick explaining the pottery restoration process in the Tel Burna lab at Ariel University (in Hebrew).

December 24, 2018

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

Kiwis at Safi 2019!

John Stringer, who was a team member in 2018, is organizing a group of Kiwis (that is New Zealanders…) that will come as a group to the 2019 season at Tell es-Safi/Gath.

John has already made a very nice patch for the team (see below)!

If you want to join Team Kiwi 2019 – be in touch with John at: ijohnstringer@icloud.com

Kia Ora (that’s “be well” in Maori…)!


December 23, 2018

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

Debate on the early Philistines – TAU 12/12/18

Two weeks ago, I participated in a very interesting seminar at Tel Aviv University, where Prof. Shlomo Bunimovitz and myself debated the understanding and origins of the early Philistines. Shlomo claimed that the early Philistine originated from a distinct region in the Aegean (most probably the eastern Aegean), and only after the initial phase, did the Philistine culture begin the show mixed cultural influences.

On the other hand, I argued, as I’ve written often, that the Philistines did not originate from one region, but rather, the originate from various regions to the west of the Levant, and from the very early phase of the Philistine culture, it was mixed, entangled culture.

The debate was in Hebrew, and for those interested, a recording can be found here.


December 20, 2018

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

Month long program in Israel – including excavation at Tell es-Safi/Gath!

Are you (or anyone you know) interested in a month-long, fully accredited, academic program in Israel, this coming summer (June/July 2019), which is partially subsidized, in which you will study about the history of Israel from early to modern times, and as part of the course there are two weeks of excavation at Tell es-Safi/Gath?

If so – check out the program “ISRAEL: FROM THE PAST TO THE PRESENT” – through BIU and Onward Israel!

Apply now – there are limited places!

Don’t miss this opportunity!


And of course – don’t forget to sign up for the MOOC on Biblical Archaeology!

December 18, 2018

The Tel Burna Excavation Project

ASOR Fellowships

ASOR has just announced its scholarships and fellowships for the 2019 excavation year. These are great sources for funding if you are looking to excavate this summer.

And don’t forget – you can easily register for this summer’s excavation season at Tel Burna here.

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

Paper on the Philistines at the Conference “Genealogy and the Sciences” at Weizmann Institute

I’m about to give a paper at a very interesting conference at the Weizmann Institute of Science – Genealogy and the Sciences, held yesterday and today (17-18/12/18)

In my paper “Genealogy Through Material Culture? Some Thoughts Based on the Archaeological Evidence from Iron Age Philistia”, I will use the archaeological evidence on the Philistine culture as a case study to see whether archaeological evidence can be used for genealogical research.


Workshop on votives in ancient Israel and Aram – BIU, Dec. 19th, 2018

Just a reminder that tomorrow, Wednesday, Dec. 19th, 2018, a workshop on votive objects from Iron Age Israel and and Aram will be held, as part of ongoing activities of the Minerva Center for the Relations between Israel and Aram in Biblical Times (RIAB).

The workshop will be held at the laboratory of the Tell es-Safi/Gath Archaeological Project, in the building of the Faculty of Jewish Studies, at Bar-Ilan University.

See here for further details. Do join us if you can!

Sad news: Rona Ramon has passed away…

Very sad news that Rona Ramon has passed away. Rona was the wife of the Israeli astronaut, Ilan Ramon z”l, who was killed in the Columbia Shuttle disaster. Rona was a fantastic and utterly inspiring person, and I feel so honored that I had an opportunity to meet her a few years ago.

May her memory be blessed…

December 14, 2018

Lapis Gabinus: official blog of the Gabii Project

Why excavations are a great summer experience, even for non-majors

Why go on an archaeological excavation if you’re not an Archaeology major?
Over the course of ten season we have had a variety of undergraduate majors join our archaeological excavation. Many come after taking an archaeology course with one of our staff members or friends of the project, having experienced archaeology in the classroom or having seen Indiana Jones perhaps a few too many times. Some of these students have already declared a major or minor in Archaeology, Classics, Art History, or some variation of these fields that clearly relate to the excavation of the Ancient World. Excavation is an obvious choice for these students, but we have also had pre-med students, business majors, engineers, and studio artists. Other than the experience, which we think is well worth it, what skills can non-majors gain from working at Gabii?
Area G/H works together to fill out one of their first context sheets.
An archaeological excavation is no small undertaking. Students are assigned to one of our excavation areas and work in groups of five to fifteen other students, supervised by professors and graduate students. For some this is not their first time excavating, some not even their first time at Gabii, they know some of what to expect and can handle the demanding environment. For others the changes of living in a new place and performing physical work in hot conditions takes some adjustment. As these new experiences are occurring you develop a strong sense of community and comradery with your trench mates. While we could assign each person their own small area to excavate, the process moves much faster when working together. In large deposits students team up: one pickaxes, one shovels, and another sorts through the finds in a wheelbarrow. Although people quickly develop preferences for what they enjoy most and what they excel in, a huge part of teamwork is equitable division of labor and we want to make sure that everyone can truly experience each of these elements of fieldwork.
Similarly, the physical excavation is only a part of what occurs on an archaeological site. Throughout the season students are rotated through our finds, topography, botany, and zoology teams. In these specialized units they can see the post processing work that provides crucial information like dates, information on the ancient diet, and how we record everything that we have done. We strive to build understanding and foster respect for all the different tasks that occur in the field. As a part of this rotation, students learn how to effectively and succinctly communicate. All of the recording that is done in the field, primarily by students with their supervisor’s assistance, is available through our open source database. Students learn how to describe archaeological features, different soil textures, and the fine distinction between salmon and terracotta to name a few examples. 
Part of the environmental rotation includes finding and
identifying different types of ancient seeds.
Throughout the course of the summer students are taught to pay attention to detail and to think critically about large scale processes that happened over the past three thousand year at the site of Gabii. From the very start volunteers take an active role in completing paperwork, beginning with learning how to describe what they see in archaeological terms, and ending in producing interpretations of the archaeology that become a part of Gabii record in our database and, eventually, our publications. In order to understand how ancient Gabines lived, we have to understand how different layers were deposited and what those different actions indicate. 
Every new corner of Rome holds
unexpected, beautiful surprises.
Gabii is fortunately positioned to appeal to student’s sense of adventure. While excavating at Gabii, our students live in the eternal city itself, Rome. They call Trastevere, a vibrant neighborhood of Rome that is full of restaurants and shops, home for the five weeks of excavation. Trastevere is not the well-kept secret of Rome that it once was, but that does not detract from the area’s charm and has only improved public transit, making it easier for our students to get out and explore Rome and Italy on the weekends. For those who want to travel further afield, there is easy access to Rome’s train stations. Every year we have students who go to classics like Naples/Pompeii and Florence. Other great weekend getaways include Bologna, Ravenna, any Italian beach, and the hill towns of Tuscany (like Cortona, San Gimigiano, and Siena). Students interested in food, art, culture, history all find something to enjoy in Italy.
Our alumni have gone on to work in a number of different fields (not just academia): for example, law, marketing, journalism, museum work, engineering, medicine, and social media. The critical thinking, communication, and teamwork skills developed while on excavation translate into any field or career path and the friendships built at Gabii carry on even after the summer ends. If you are considering what to do for this upcoming summer, consider joining the field team at Gabii, we look forward to meeting you. 
In case you were wondering what the view in San Marino is like.
 I have a feeling this may be a stop on more lists for the 2019 summer.

To learn more about the Gabii Project and to apply to join our 2019 field season, click here.

December 13, 2018

The Tel Burna Excavation Project

Sad News – Jay’s Father

We are very sad to hear of the passing of Jay Rosenberg’s father. May his memory be a blessing.

Jay Rosenberg has been with the project since the beginning and most of the staff have known him for many years from our time together at Tell es-Safi. 

December 12, 2018

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

Rebecca Zami – Safi team member – on the cover of BAR!

The BAR “Dig Issue” is out and Rebecca Zami, Safi team member in the 2017 and 2018 seasons, and a student of Jill Katz from YU, is the star!

Rebecca appears on the cover of the issue! In addition, as one of those who received a scholarship from the BAS, she wrote a very nice essay about her experiences at Safi (go here and scroll down to her essay).

Check it out!

Way to go Rebecca!

December 11, 2018

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

Great press coverage on the MOOC on Biblical Archaeology

We got some great press coverage on the MOOC on Biblical Archaeology, in a very nice article in the Times of Israel. See here.

And to sign up for the course (be there, or be square…) – go here.

Don’t waste time or think twice! Sign up!

December 05, 2018

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

Microarchaeology in Area F

This afternoon, just after the MOOC went online, I drove to Tell es-Safi/Gath, to meet Prof. Elisabetta Boaretto (WIS) and Dr. Michael Toffolo (Université Bordeaux-Montaigne), to do some microarchaeological sampling, from a very interesting context in Area F. This is in a square, right inside the EB and MB fortifications, which had been excavated previously under the supervision of Prof. Jeff Chadwick (BYU).

We had already done some sampling in this area before (see here), but due to the very interesting results – and many more questions – we decided to return for another round of sampling (and maybe more will be required).

While I can’t tell a lot of what we found, as the research is still ongoing, there are some very interesting concentrations of phytoliths, ash, burned materials and brick detritus, located in the sediment layers of the latest EB and early MB contexts in this area.

See here some pictures that I took of the work. And since it is already after the first rains – everything around the tell was very, very green!


MOOC is up and running!

So, the MOOC is up and running, with great registration (as of this morning, just under 700 students), from countries from all over the world, including a few that don’t have diplomatic relations with Israel…:-)

A nice article on the course was just published on YNET, in Hebrew – check it out!

And for those who have not signed up – now is the time – and do it here!


The Tel Burna Excavation Project

Matt Suriano wins Frank Moore Cross Award at ASOR!

Way to go Matt!!! See here for the list of the award winners. Get his award-winning book here.

The Frank Moore Cross Award. This award is presented to the editor/author of the most substantial volume(s) related to one of the following categories: a) the history and/or religion of ancient Israel; b) ancient Near Eastern and eastern Mediterranean epigraphy; c) textual studies on the Hebrew Bible; or d) comparative studies of the Hebrew Bible and ancient Near Eastern literature. This work must be the result of original research published during the past two years. (One award is given annually.) Awarded to Matthew J. Suriano , Associate Professor of Jewish Studies, University of Maryland, College Park, for A History of Death in the Hebrew Bible.

December 03, 2018

The Tel Burna Excavation Project

3D Model of the Site Following 2018 Season

Check out this 3D model of the excavation areas at Tel Burna following the 2018 season. Thanks to Bruno Soltic for the photographing the site with the Tandy drone. 

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

In two more days, the MOOC on Biblical Archaeology starts!

The MOOC on Biblical Archaeology opens in two more days, on Wednesday, December 5th, 2018!
For those who already registered (as of yesterday, some 500 people are already registered), last night the first “brainteaser” was sent out!
If you want to join in on the fun – and learning – sign up for the course!

November 29, 2018

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

The 2019 season at Safi in the annual list in BAR

The annual list of excavations has been published by BAR, and as usual, for the last quarter century or so, the upcoming season at Tell es-Safi/Gath appears!

See here the notice in BAR and here to sign up online for the 2019 season!

Be there or be square!

And, if already, here’s a reminder about the MOOC on Biblical Archaeology that opens next week, on Wednesday, December 5th, 2018.

Join the hundreds who have already registered for the course! To register, go here.


November 28, 2018

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

Archaeological Science in the MOOC on Biblical Archaeology

The Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) in biblical archaeology, that I’ve mentioned previously (registration is open – go here), is about to start! The first lesson will go online next week, on Wednesday, December 5th, 2018. Following that, each week (save for a two week break at the end of December for the holidays), a new lesson will go online – a total of 8 lessons.

Yesterday, as part of the final work on the various lessons, we filmed at the Weizmann Institute in Rehovot (WIS). There, we interviewed Prof. Stephen (Steve) Weiner and Prof. Elisabetta (Lisa) Boaretto, leading figures in the application of the exact sciences in archaeology.

As part of the course is not only to teach about Biblical Archaeology, but to give a general background on archaeology in general, and how it is practices – from field to lab – an important aspect is the inter- and multi-disciplinary research that is conducted in archaeology.

So, no better place than to do this at WIS, and to discussion with Steve and Lisa about various scientific applications in archaeology. More so, the stressed the integration of the two into what they call “Microarchaeology“.

As you can see in the pictures below, and as will appear on the MOOC, I interviewed Steve and Lisa in their labs, on such issues as the use of the Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy (FTIR) in archaeology, and how, with a step-by-step demonstration (and I even participated in this, not that proficiently, as you can see in the photos), Carbon 14 dating is conducted in the WIS facilities.

So don’t wait – sign up for the MOOC – it’s going to be very interesting!

See here some great pictures from this day:

November 27, 2018

The Tel Burna Excavation Project

Tel Burna in BAR’s “Find a Dig”

See the write-up here

“The site of Tel Burna is located in the Shephelah region, which served as a border between the kingdoms of Judah and Philistia in the Iron Age. A fertile area that supported agricultural production, the region became known as the breadbasket of the south and is believed by some scholars to be a candidate for Biblical Libnah, a Canaanite town that was conquered by Joshua who allotted it to the tribe of Judah.”

November 23, 2018

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

New article on the chronology of the LB/Iron Age transition

A new article (see here), a joint effort of several colleagues, which deals with the 14C chronology of the transition between the LB and Iron Age at Tell es-Safi/Gath, Qubur el-Walaydah and Megiddo, has just been published.
In this study, we argue that the the transition between the LB and Iron Age age commenced earlier than usually assumed (already in the 13th cent. BCE). In addition, we suggest that: a) it was a protracted process; b) it probably commenced earlier in southern than in northern Canaan; c) a methodological framework for comparing chronologies between sites over a relatively large region.
The article is a response to Israel Finkelstein’s response on an earlier article of ours – who has recently even published a second response…:-)
The full title is:
Boaretto, E., Asscher, Y., Hitchcock, L. A., Lehmann, G., Maeir, A. M., and Weiner, S. 2018. The Chronology of the Late Bronze (LB)-Iron Age (IA) Transition in the Southern Levant: A Response to Israel Finkelstein’s Paper. Radiocarbon. DOI:10.1017/RDC.2018.57
I do hope you will find this of interest – and that it will generate continuing discussion and debate! And I’m sure – not all will agree with our views! :-)

November 21, 2018

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

Safi related stuff at the Annual ASOR meeting, Denver, Nov. 2018

The annual meeting of the American Schools of Oriental Research (ASOR) was held in Denver on Nov. 14-17, 2018.

As in previous years, there was quite a lot of Safi related things going on at the meeting, including various presentations, posters, and special session in honor of the Festschrift for Aren’s 60th birthday, and an event in which, among other things, the P. E. MacAllister Field Archaeology Award, for outstanding contributions to ancient Near Eastern and Eastern Mediterranean archaeology, was given to Aren. Some of Safi crew got together for a very nice supper, and in addition, Jeff, Aren and Amanda popped over to visit the Colorado Christian University campus, and were hosted by Dr. David Kotter, Dr. Seth Rodriquez, Dr. and Mrs. Usrey, Melissa Johnson and Josephine Geisler

The following Safi related presentations were given:

Aren presented an update on the 2018 season of excavations at Safi – “The 2018 Excavations at Tell es-Safi/Gath: Overview of the Results.”

Debi Cassuto presented two papers – one on the connection between cult and weaving at Safi (“Tying Up Loose Ends: Weaving and Cult in the Southern Levant”), and one, jointly with Margaret Cohen, on the connection between cult and weaving at Safi and Megiddo.

Andy Creekmore gave a paper on the magnetometric remote sensing at Tell es-Safi/Gath, and how it helped identify sub-surface features – some of them then excavated in the 2018 season – “A Magnetometry Study of the Philistine City of Gath”.

Liz Arnold et al. gave a great paper on isotopic analyses of additional sacrificial donkeys from the EB levels at Safi – showing that 4 donkeys were imported from Egypt – “Isotopic Analyses of Donkey Burials under the EB III House Floors in the Early Bronze Age City of Tell es-Safi”.

Haskel Greenfield et al. gave a talk on household archaeology in the EB levels at Tell es-Safi/Gath – “Houses and Households in the Early Bronze Age of the Southern Levant: Recent Research at Tell es-Safi/Gath”.

Eric Welch gave an interesting talk about the ideology behind Bliss and Macalister’s reporting at Tell es-Safi/Gath – “Ignorance is Bliss or Was Bliss Ignorant? Contextualizing the Culturally Biased Conclusions of the 1899 Palestine Exploration Fund Expedition to Tell es-Safi.”

Will Krieger gave a talk: “The Evolution of Theory and Methods in Philistine Archaeology,” comparing the work at Miqne-Ekron and Tell es-Safi/Gath.

Maddi Harris-Schober gave a talk on cultic architecture in the Levant, with a focus on finds from Safi – “They Practice Divination Like the Philistines! A Re-Analysis of Cultic and Ritual Architecture of the Southern Levant.”

The following posters were presented:

Jeremy Beller et al. presented “Stones in Homes: The Spatial Distribution and Use of Ground Stone Objects at EB III Tell es-Safi/Gath, Israel”

Annie Brown et al. presented “Spatial Representation of Heavy Fraction Collection and Analysis from Tell esSafi/Gath, Israel”

Tiffany Okaluk et al. presented “Urban vs. Rural Butchery Practices in the Early Bronze Age: A Comparison of Butchering Technology between Tell es-Safi/Gath, Israel, and Göltepe, Turkey”

Sarah Richardson et al. presented “Who? What? Where? Understanding the Population, Their Household Organization, and Activities through Bone Tool Use at Tell es-Safi/Gath, Israel”

Here are some pictures of the various events, lectures and activities! It was really great seeing all the Safi team! And if I may add, it was nice to see former Safiites who moved on to conduct research at other sites as well!


November 19, 2018

The Tel Burna Excavation Project

Worldwide Premiere of Bruno’s “Tel Burna – Day on a Dig”

Check out Bruno’s excellent video (with narration by Eric Cline) that he filmed, produced, wrote, etc. related to the 2018 season at Tel Burna for this year’s ASOR conference. Well done Bruno! You can also subscribe to his channel here. As we are hoping that Bruno will continue to add more to his growing “assemblage” of films – we have a new tab for videos related to the site. 

November 16, 2018

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

MOOC on Biblical Archaeology – registration is open!

As previously noted, a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) by Aren entitled: “Biblical Archaeology: The Archaeology of Ancient Israel and Judah” is about to go online thru the EdX platform. The course is planned to start on December 5th, 2018.

As of this week, the registration for the course has opened! So those interested in taking this course (for free if one audits it), you can register for the course right now! Here is the link.

Try it out!


November 08, 2018

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

It’s out!

Thanks to the editors – who worked very hard on this, and to all the contributors, for putting together this beautiful volume – the festschrift in honor of my 60th birthday!

Check out the TOC – very impressive!!! WOW :-)


Workshop on Palace-Clan relations in the ancient near east – 12-13 December 2018

The Minerva Center for the Relations between Israel and Aram in Biblical Times will conduct a research colloquium on “Palace-Clan Relations in their Ancient Near Eastern Context” will be held on the 12–13 November 2018, at the Universität Leipzig, Campus Augustusplatz in the Neues Seminargebäude, Room S 203

Here is the schedule:

Monday, November 12th

14.00 Gathering, Coffee and Refreshments

14.30 Greetings and Introduction, Angelika Berlejung, Aren Maeir, Omer Sergi.

15.00 First Session: Palace-Clan Relations in Second and First Millennium BCE Mesopotamia

Brit Kärger, Universität Göttingen, Threats, Manslaughter and Gifts: Some Aspects of Political Control in the Kingdom of Mari in 2nd Millennium B.C.

Jacob Jan de-Ridder, Universität Leipzig, Family Companies and the Palace in Kültepe

16.30 Coffee Break

17.00 First Session – Continuation

Aaron Schmitt, Universität Mainz, Kinship and Palace-Clan Relations in Assyria during the Middle and Neo-Assyrian Periods: The Stela Site at Assur as a Case Study

19.00 Dinner

Tuesday, November 13th

08.45 Gathering

09.00 Second Session: Palace-Clan Relations in Judah and in Israel

Aren Maeir, Bar-Ilan University, Palace-Clan Relations in Iron Age Judah: What do we know? What can we assume?

Hannes Bezzel, Universität Jena, Beth Saul–Beth David–Beth Judah–Beth Israel: A Bipolar, Triangular or Quadrangular Relationship?

10.30 Coffee Break

11.00 Second Session – Continuation

Henrik Pfeifer, Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg, The Story of Ehud and the ‘Book of Saviors’

Assaf Kleiman, Tel Aviv University, Storage Jars, Inscriptions and Stamp Impressions: An Archaeological Perspective on Palace-Clan Relations in the Kingdom of Israel.

12.30 Lunch Break

14.00 Third Session: Archaeological and Historical Test Case in the Jezreel Valley, Israel

Karen Covallo-Paran, Israel Antiquities Authority, Ḥorvat Tevet in the Jezreel Valley as a Test Case for Palace-Clan Relations in Omride Israel.

Omer Sergi, Tel Aviv University, Palace Clan Relations in the Kingdom of Israel and the Case of the Tribe of Issachar.

15.30 Coffee Break

16.00 Concluding Discussion

Workshop on votive offering in the Bronze and Iron Ages – Dec. 19, 2018

On December 19, 2018, the Minerva Center for the Relations between Israel and Aram in Biblical Times will conduct a workshop on votive objects in the the Late Bronze and Iron Age Levant.

Here are the details of the workshop:

“Votive offerings in Ancient Israel, Aram and Surrounding Cultures”

The workshop will be held on Wednesday, December 19, 2018, at the Laboratory of the Tell es-Safi/Gath Archaeological Project and the RIAB Minerva Center, located in the basement of the Judaic Studies Faculty Building (#410), Bar-Ilan University, Ramat-Gan.


8:00-8:30           Gathering and refreshments

8:30-9:15           Angelika Berlejung (Leipzig) – “Gifts for life”: Votive offerings in Ancient Israel

9:15-10:00         Itzik Shai (Ariel) – Canaanite Votive Gifts and their Importance within their context at Tel Burna

10:00-10:30       Refreshments

10:30-11:15       Shua Kisilevitz (IAA and TAU) – What’s the Cache? Cultic Vessels and Figurines from the Temple at Moẓa

11:15-12:00       Maria Eniukhina (BIU) – Votive objects from the Iron Age I/IIA Temple in Area D, in the lower city of Tell es-Safi/Gath.

12:00-13:00       Lunch for presenters

November 07, 2018

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

Behind the Scenes of the OT volume

Two days ago, I received a nice surprise in the mail – my copy of:

Greer, J. S., Hilber, J. W., and Walton, J. H., eds. 2018. Behind the Scenes of the Old Testament: Cultural, Social and Historical Contexts. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic.

The volume has a large collection of chapters on a broad range of issues relating to the study of the Old Testament/Hebrew Bible, by a very long and impressive list of scholars.

It will take quite a while to read through the contributions, but it looks like a very nice volume! Thanks to the editors for putting this together!

My contribution was on the archaeology of the Iron I:

Maeir, A. M. 2018. The Archaeology of the Iron Age I. Pp. 54–61 in Behind the Scenes of the Old Testament: Cultural, Social and Historical Contexts, eds. J. S. Greer, J. W. Hilber and J. H. Walton. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic.

Here’s a picture of the cover:

November 04, 2018

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

The beginning of the end of an era – covering over areas on Tell es-Safi/Gath!

I guess you can look at this as the beginning of the end of an era – close to a quarter of a century of the Bar-Ilan University excavations at Tell es-Safi/Gath!

While (have no fear!) we do have a few more years to go on the project (both in the field and working on research and publications) – today, a serious step towards wrapping up the project officially began!

In coordination with the Israel Nature and Parks Authority and the Israel Antiquities Authority, several of the excavation areas on the tell, areas that we have finished excavating and will not be conserved and developed for visitors – are going to be covered over.

This includes, as of now: the western part of Area D West in the lower city; Area J with a section of the EB fortifications on the eastern slope of the upper tell; Area E with the EB neighborhood on the eastern side of the upper tell; and Area P with EB and LB finds.

In the future, additional areas will be covered over as well. The main reason for this is to protect the remains – and protect the site from excessive erosion. The method of covering over is rather simple: Excavation areas are covered with “geotech” tarpaulins; then, you spread a few plastic bottles in each square – something that we more or less stay for ever; and then you fill in the squares, up to surface, using a tractor, with sediments – taken from the excavation dumps that we made during the excavations.

This way, if someone will ever decide to re-excavate these areas, it will be easy to identify the squares already excavated – and the levels at which the excavations has stopped.

Here’s a couple of pictures from the first day of work in Area D West:






November 03, 2018

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

New article by Itzik and Aren on the Administrative structure of the Judahite Kingdom

A new article, by Itzik Shai and me, has just been published.

This in fact is an updated and slightly expanded version, in Hebrew (but with an English abstract), of a previously published study, which appeared in the Festschrift in honor of Yossi Garfinkel (see: Maeir, A. M., and Shai, I. 2016. Reassessing the Character of the Judahite Kingdom: Archaeological Evidence for Non-Centralized, Kinship-Based Components. Pp. 323–40 in From Sha‘Ar Hagolan to Shaaraim: Essays in Honor of Prof. Yosef Garfinkel, eds. S. Ganor, I. Kreimerman, K. Streit and M. Mumcouglu. Jerusalem: Israel Exploration Society – a PDF of this can be found here).

The full title of the new article is:

Shai, I., and Maeir. A. 2018 Reassessing the Character of the Judahite Centralized Kingdom: An Updated Archaeological View (In Hebrew with English abstract). In the Highlands Depth 8: 29–45, 45* (once again, the link to this just-published article can be found here).


November 01, 2018

The Tel Burna Excavation Project

Lecture by Itzick at South Florida Bible College on Nov. 13th

Come check out Itzick’s lecture at South Florida Bible College on Nov. 13th.

Reliving Bible Times: A View from Tel Burna Where Past and Present Meet

We are happy also to announce that registration for the 2019 season is officially open!

The registration form can be accessed here. The online application can be accessed here.

October 26, 2018

The Tel Burna Excavation Project

Promotion for Prof. Ladislav Šmejda

Kudos to Ladislav for his promotion to Professor! Well-deserved!


October 25, 2018

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

Preparing 3D models of objects from the IMJ – for the biblical archaeology MOOC

As part of the preparations for the MOOC on Biblical Archaeology, yesterday, Maria, Vanessa and Aren went to the Israel Museum in Jerusalem to take photos of objects in the museum. These photos will be used to create 3D models of these objects.

These and other 3D models of archaeological objects will be used in the MOOC course. Since many students of this online course can’t physically touch the actual objects, these 3D models will enable them to virtually touch the objects, and get a feeling of what they look like from all sides!

Should be really nice!

Here are some pictures of the work at the Museum. Thanks to Maria and Vanessa for the photography and creating the models, and the museum staff for being so helpful!

Here are some pictures that I took yesterday of the work in progress:


October 21, 2018

Lapis Gabinus: official blog of the Gabii Project

A Season Well Excavated

This past summer the Gabii Project was happy to welcome 77 team members, representing 20 schools and 7 countries. After ten years of excavation we are still gaining new insights to ancient Gabii and are dedicated to sharing the results of our season with the academic community through our publications and the general public through more informal posts, like our blog.

Photo model of an auxiliary room in Area I
Area I continued to excavate the same building from 2017, attempting to finish work in the eastern section of the structure and extending the trench further west to investigate new walls. The building was standing by the early Imperial period, with some evidence for earlier walls and floors. Mosaic pavements were found in multiple rooms, but the best preserved examples come from two room in the north east of the complex which remain almost entirely intact. Both rooms were paved at the same time and feature black and white geometric designs with circular and rhomboid patterns. This floor decoration was also present, albeit more fragmentarily, in the large central courtyard of the building. Sparse patches of mosaic are present in multiple corners of the room, indicating that it was all paved at one point. At the center of this courtyard there is a chalky, waterproof feature, possibly an impluvium. To the north of the courtyard is another large room with evidence of revetment and a few fragments of decorative marble attached to the socle. The wide entrance into this room, the evidence for decoration, and position of importance relative to the rest of the building indicates that this may have served as an entertainment space.
After the third century BC there is evidence of reorganization. Spaces within the building are blocked off, doorways are closed, and new walls were built to further separate spaces. Most of the rooms contained heavy deposits of post abandonment fill. One long hallway, at the northernmost point of the structure, held fragments of figural wall plaster, pieces of marble, and a small lead and bronze figurine head. It is unclear if these waste materials were taken from the Area I structure and deposited in this out of the way space, or if they belonged to some other building nearby.

Audrey Pierce (U Michigan) reveals beautiful basalt pavers.
In Areas G and H the Gabii team further investigated the road networks of Gabii. Area G focused on a side road extending north from the Via Gabina. Over the course of the season, multiple levels of paving were uncovered: a late Republican basalt paving, an Imperial basalt road, and at least five gravel roads all dating to after the mid to late fifth century C.E. The longevity of this road shows that this route remained an important connector for Gabii even as the functions for different sectors of the town changed. The earliest roads were probably related to accessing the quarries located to the north of the Via Gabina. Later iterations of the road connected southern parts of Gabii with the imperial cemetery in Area B. While none of the Imperial Via Gabina was removed, a large cut feature just to the south of the road allowed us to see a cross-section of the road’s construction including an earlier paving of the road – perhaps form the Republican period –  that may be further examined in future seasons.

Field Assistant Emily Sharp excavating
one of the many post holes in Area C
The excavation’s third trench, Area C, contain the oldest material excavated this summer by the Gabii Project. More of the Latial hut complex was uncovered, including a feature built of stone, wattle and daub that possibly served as a boundary wall around the elite hut complex. Towards the end of the season, two infant burials were discovered within the limits of the compound. Both tombs included remains of an individual under two years in age and an assortment of ceramic and metal grave goods. These graves are suggest that the inhabitants associated with them were of elite status; previous graves from Area C were much less elaborate and modest. Area C hopes to expand their excavation area next year in order to continue delimiting the boundary of this early Gabine hut complex.

Outside of the field, our finds team processed a lot of material (stay tuned for numbers). Storage continues to be a perennial issue, as with all sites that practice comprehensive collection, and the finds team consolidated and more closely examined previous excavation material to free up space. The environmental team continued their blanket sampling of Area C material and also got exciting radiocarbon dates for some of the Area D features. Our topography team dutifully responded to numerous calls to shoot in stratigraphic units, created photo models, and made sure that all of our equipment functioned smoothly, even in the difficult conditions they were exposed to in the field. Paperless recording continues to be a success, allowing for all members of the excavation team to have access to updated data both in the field and back in Rome for after-site work.

Over the weekends our Project members got to adventure throughout the Italian peninsula, visiting major cities, many archaeological sites, and even making it to San Marino (sadly no passports were stamped on that visit). Pompeii offered a major photo op for our students, although we question just how tired they were when the decided to spell out Gabii, at another, slightly more famous, archaeological site. Within the city of Rome, staff
Weekend visit to the Villa Giulia
members Andrew Johnston, Laura Banducci, and Troy Samuels offered special guided tours of the Roman Forum and Villa Giulia Museum. One of the final summer highlights was the Capitoline Museum’s special exhibit “The Rome of King’s” featuring material excavated by one of the University of Michigan’s other projects from Sant’Omobono. Students also had a good time getting to live in Rome and explore their summer neighborhood of Trastevere. Evening musical performances in Piazza Trulissa, the quest for the best spritz, and frequent visits to the newly opened gelataria down the block from the apartments (Giuffre) were some of the highlights of daily life in Rome. While we were sad to close the books on another season in the field, there is still much work to be done back in the states by the excavation team in preparation for 2019.

October 19, 2018

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

Great one day mini-season in Area M!

Yesterday (Oct. 18, 2018) we were out for a one day mini-season in Area M – and it was great! Part of the Safi lab staff and a bunch of BIU students went out for a day of excavations in Area M, in the lower city (Maria’s area), to take down a balk filled with pottery, that was left standing after the season. We were afraid that if it was left open until the summer, people might poke at it and destroy it.

It was a great day! Not only did we have great weather, the team was excellent, and there were some really nice finds! This includes a whole bunch of restorable vessels, and always fun – 3 whole juglets (including one Black-on-Red, “Cypro-Phoenician” juglet)!

In addition, I walked around a looked at the other areas in the lower city – and they look happy!

Here are some pictures from the day, both of the work in Area M, views of the other areas, a view of the tell from the north, and of course, a group photo of the team at the end of the day!


October 17, 2018

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

New article by Daniel Pioske on Philistine Gath in the Book of Samuel

Daniel Pioske (Georgia Southern University), has been kind enough to pass on to me a very interesting article that he just published on the Gath of the Philistines in the Book of Samuel. Well worth reading!

The details of the article are:

Pioske, D. 2018. Material Culture and Making Visible: On the Portrayal of Philistine Gath in the Book of Samuel. Journal for the Study of the Old Testament 43(1): 3–27.

Check it out!

New paper on all the donkey burials in the EB in Area E at Tell es-Safi/Gath

A new – and very interesting – paper has just appeared that deals with the very impressive collection of donkey burials/sacrifices that were found below domestic floors in the EB levels in Area E at Tell es-Safi/Gath.

Here are the full details of the paper:

Greenfield, H. J., Greenfield, T. L., Shai, I., Albaz, S., and Maeir, A. M. 2018. Household Rituals and Sacrificial Donkeys: Why Are There So Many Domestic Donkeys Buried in an Early Bronze Age Neighborhood at Tell eṣ-Ṣâfi/Gath? Near Eastern Archaeology 81(3): 202–11.

Check it out here!


October 12, 2018

Calixtlahuaca Archaeological Project

House Abandonment and Destruction

We’ve previously talked about the amount of burned daub we found at Calixtlahuaca, and how it was probably related to the intentional destruction of houses there. Based on experimental work, it’s unlikely to get that much of a house burning at a high enough temperature to fire the clay of the walls without an intentional effort (Karabowicz 2009). However, that still leaves several different options for why the houses at Calixtlahuaca burned, and who did the burning.

Our first thought was that the houses had been burned during the Aztec conquest of the site. The standard Mesoamerican glyph for the conquest of a town is a drawing of a burning temple. Later, when we realized that some of the burned structures were from excavations that also included Colonial period figurines, I thought that they might have been burned when the residents of Calixtlahuaca were moved into Toluca as part of the process of congregación. People were sometimes required to burn their houses behind them when they were moved, to prevent them from going back to their old village. Another option is that people regularly burned their own houses, either through accidental kitchen fires, or intentionally, as a way to control insects and rodents. 

The depiction of the Aztec conquest of Toluca in the Codex Mendoza, showing the burning-temple glyph

A couple of ways of separating these hypotheses are to look at the timing of the burning, and the degree of primary refuse left behind (Cameron and Tomka 1993; Inomata and Webb 2003). First, do all of the burned structures date to a single phase? If they do, this would suggest that they were burned as part of an event affecting the whole site, such as the Aztec conquest or the Spanish congregación policy. In fact, the three most severely burned structures at the site (in Units 315, 316, and 317) each dates to a different phase, which means that house burning was an ongoing activity throughout the site’s history. Second, how cleaned out were the houses before they burned? If burning is a planned, scheduled activity (such as for pest control, or congregación), people have time to remove all of their things from the house beforehand and there won’t be many artifacts left on the floor. In contrast, if the burning is unexpected (such as for conquest, or an accidental fire), the contents of the house are likely to burn with it and many of them may not be salvageable after the fire. One of the things we noticed during excavation at Calixtlahuaca was how few artifacts were found on floors, or in other primary contexts. Compared to many other projects, we found few whole or reconstructable pots (only 32), and only one of those, Vessel 2, was found on a floor, rather than in a burial or broken in a trash pit. Taken together, these two lines of evidence would suggest intentional, regular, planning burning, likely by the occupants of the houses themselves.

Vessel 2, a locally-produced version of Aztec Orangeware, found on the floor of the house in Unit 309


Cameron, Catherine M. and Steve A. Tomka (editors)
                1993       Abandonment of Settlement and Regions: Ethnoarchaeological and Archaeological Approaches. Cambridge University Press, New York.

Inomata, Takeshi and Ronald W. Webb
                2003       Archaeological Studies of Abandonment in Middle America. . In The Archaeology of Settlement Abandonment in Middle America, edited by T. Inomata and R. W. Webb, pp. 1-12. Foundations in Archaeological Inquiry, J. M. Skibo, general editor. The University of Utah Press, Salt Lake City.

Karabowicz, Amy
                2009       Wattle and Daub Architecture at Calixtlahuaca, Mexico: Experimental Analyses and a Comparative Study with Europe. Senior Honors Thesis, Barrett Honor's College, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ.

October 11, 2018

The Tel Burna Excavation Project

Newly Restored Vessels – from early 10th century BCE

Check out these newly restored vessels (by Leah – way to go) – a storage jar and a one-handled jug from the destruction layer in Area B2 (supervisor – Aharon Tavger). We had lots of these come out this summer – it is great to see the fruit of so many labors 🙂 And this is only the beginning – much more to come in the B2 assemblage.

October 09, 2018

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

Long-range trade with the Levant – another perspective

I’m just finishing a fascinating trip to Singapore, where I gave several lectures on archaeology (including to the Singapore Bible College and the Southeast Asian Ceramic Society). During my stay, I managed to tour around many of the beautiful sites in this small state – which is highly recommended for a very interesting visit.

Among other places, I visited the superb Asian Civilizations Museum (highly recommended!). One of the star exhibits at the museum are the finds from a shipwreck, dating to the 9th century CE – known as the Tang Shipwreck. This is the wreck of a ship that first set sail from the Persian Gulf, during the time of Abbasid Caliphate in Baghdad, en route to Tang Period China, and then, on the way back, after loading up a cargo of mainly Chinese ceramics, made its way back towards the Persian Gulf. But when it was passing thru the Java Sea, east of Sumatra, it sank.

Excavations of the wreck produced an extraordinary collection of well-preserved finds, the vast majority being Chinese ceramics of various kinds, including 60,000 (!!!) identical bowls that were tightly packed in larger ceramic jars  (see pictures below).

Among the various finds there was also evidence of the multi-ethnic character of the crew, which included sailors from the Levant as well as from Eastern and South-Eastern Asia.

I purchased a copy of the very nice catalogue (see a picture of the cover below), beautifully illustrated with many very interesting chapters of a broad range of topics relating to the ship, the related cultures and the period.

While dealing with periods and cultures that are not often discussed on this blog, the uniqueness of the finds, the very nice evidence of long-term trade, and very attractive exhibit, warrant their mention!

And while in early periods there is no evidence of such extensive finds from the east in the Levant, the possible evidence of the trade in Cinnamon, found in Iron Age contexts, indicates that long-range trade of such distances, did already exist in earlier periods as well.



October 08, 2018

The Tel Burna Excavation Project

Jane C. Waldbaum Archaeological Field School Scholarship

Here is the announcement for the Jane C. Waldbaum Archaeological Field School Scholarship for undergraduates. The deadline is March 1 – never too early to start thinking of excavating an Iron Age Gate, a 10th-century destruction layer, and an 8th-century house from the Kingdom of Judah… 🙂


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

Online registration for the 2019 season is open!

Great news. All of you who are waiting, breathlessly, to register for the 2019 season at Tell es-Safi/Gath (June 23-July 19, 2019) – the online registration is open!

Go here to sign up – first comes, first served. Places are limited, so do try and sign up as soon as possible.

Looking forward to seeing this summer at Tell es-Safi/Gath – for an exciting, fulfilling and enriching season of excavations!


October 03, 2018

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

Safi staff dinner at the end of the 2018 season

Jeff Chadwick was kind enough to pass on to me a great picture of the very nice dinner that the staff (or at least most of them…) of the 2018 season at Tell es-Safi/Gath had, towards the end of the season, at the sushi restaurant near the “Kastina Junction” right next to the town of Kiryat Malakhi.

The food was good – the company even better! :-)

September 20, 2018

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

Chris Jones writes about his experiences at Safi

Christopher (Chris) Jones has written a great piece (for an ASOR Fellowship report) on his experiences at Safi, first in 2015-2016 as a student volunteer (in Area A), and then in 2017 as a square supervisor (in Area K).

Very nice – check it out!

Way to go Chris!

Here’s a picture of Chris holding a bulla that was found in the 2016 season:

The Tel Burna Excavation Project

Funding Opportunity

Recently, a couple of funding opportunities were announced that may be of interest.

Lewis and Clark Fund

Franklin Research Grants

September 16, 2018

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

Updated trailer for Biblical Archaeology MOOC

A slightly updated version of the trailer for the Biblical Archaeology MOOC (massive open online course) has been put online. Check it out.

Do note – registration for the course will commence in a few weeks, once the course website is online on the EdX platform. The course itself will commence in early December 2018.

September 14, 2018

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

Trailer for MOOC on the archaeology of Iron Age Israel and Judah

Check out the absolutely fantastic trailer for my MOOC (massive open online course) “Biblical Archaeology: The archaeology of Ancient Israel and Judah,” which will be online from early December 2018 on the EdX platform.

Check it out – and pass the word on to friends, colleagues and students – to sign up for the course as soon as registration is open!

September 07, 2018

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

Safi excavations on program about Rosh Hashana

This summer, we had the pleasure of hosting a visit to the dig of a film crew, led by Shaanan Street (see here) in which they interviewed me about archaeology, and in particular, as the show’s theme was the new year (for Rosh Hashana), about what archaeology means today for us, and how we see ourselves being created through the meaning of what we find in archaeology.

So the show is now online (in Hebrew…) and it came out very nice. The section on Safi starts at minute 5:00.

September 06, 2018

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

Upcoming meeting on ancient Jerusalem

The 12th annual conference “New Studies in the Archaeology of Jerusalem and its Vicinity” will be held on Wednesday-Thursday, October 10-11, 2018, at the Israel Museum and the Hebrew University.

See below the program in English (in JPG and PDF form) although note that most lectures will be in Hebrew.

I’ll be serving as a chair and respondent of one of the sessions on Thursday.


New Studies Jerusalem 2018 program English

September 03, 2018

The Tel Burna Excavation Project

FREE SEMINAR ON FRIDAY, SEPT. 14 “Recent Evidence for Israel’s United Kingdom” LANIER THEOLOGICAL LIBRARY

Next week, I will be participating in a conference dealing with the United Monarchy (Dr. Steve Ortiz is also a presenter) at the Lanier Theological Library in Houston Texas.

You can read more about the conference and register here (it’s free).

August 30, 2018

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

First Summary – 2018 season

The 2018 Season of Excavations at Tell es-Safi/Gath: A First Summary

Aren M. Maeir

Bar-Ilan University



This year’s season of excavations at Tell es-Safi/Gath was conducted from June 26 to July 20, 2018. It was the 22nd season of the project and the 21st season of excavation. The team was comprised of archaeologists, students and volunteers from all over the world, including groups from Bar-Ilan University, Brigham Young University, Colorado Christian University, University of Melbourne, University of Northern Colorado and Yeshiva University. The excavation staff included: Aren Maeir (director), Jeff Chadwick (field director, Area D East), Jill Katz (field director, Area Y), Maria Enukhina (field director, Area M; photographer), Vanessa Workman (field director, Area D West), Bracha Soibelman (registrar and team coordinator), Rotem Liran (logistics), Ron Lev and Liora Horwitz (archaeozoology), Sue Frumin (archaeobotany), Andrew Creekmore (Remote Sensing), Adi Eliyahu (materials science) and (in alphabetical order) Michael Aeschlimann, Brent Davis, David Kotter, Gemma Lee, Alice McInnes, Eitan Meir, Seth Rodriquez, Shemtov Sasson, Nohar Shahar, Nati Orbach (area supervisors and assistant supervisors). The team stayed at the Zafit Regional School at Kibbutz Kfar Menahem.

In contrast to previous seasons of excavation in which we had always excavated in various areas in the “upper city” (and areas in the “lower city”), this season was the first season in which we only excavated in the lower city. As the project is now nearing its 25th anniversary, and is close to completion of field work, for the next few years, we will concentrate most of our efforts on the study of the lower city. While clearly, there is still much potential for the study of the archaeological remains in the upper city, we believe that what we have revealed over the last 2 decades provides a nice cross section of the cultural history of the upper city throughout its major phases of occupation. In depth, further study of the upper city will have to await new projects on the site, sometime in the future.

The reason that we have chosen to focus on the lower city is the fact that over the last decade, in the extensive excavations in Area D, and more recently in Areas K and K2, well-preserved remains of the Iron Age were discovered, immediately below surface, in various parts of the lower city. In addition to this, based on aerial and terrestrial photos from the first half of the 20th cent CE, as well as from the archaeological evidence from the survey and excavations, it appears that the lower city was hardly settled in modern times, and apparently, for the most part, was never substantially settled after the Iron Age IIA destruction of the city by Hazael, King of Aram Damascus, ca. 830 BCE.

This picture was further strengthened through remote sensing conducted in the lower city during the 2017 season. Following an extensive magnetometry survey conducted by Andrew Creekmore and his team, it was quite clear that there were many potential areas for further excavation (most likely of Iron Age dating based on their orientation) in various parts of the lower city.

All this indicated the very high potential, that a combination of excavations and remote sensing of various kinds, might enable us to understand the urban plan of and extensive portion of the lower city of Gath during the Iron Age, something that is rarely available in other large Iron Age cities in the Southern Levant.

With this backdrop, the objectives of the 2018 season were set as follows:

  • Define two new areas of excavation in the eastern portions of the lower city, based on several promising “anomalies” that could be seen in the magnetometry survey, to “ground truth” a sampling of the remote sensing survey.
  • Continue excavation in Area D East, to further define and understand the fortifications and apparent gate found in previous seasons in this area. Particular focus would be placed on confirming that in fact there was a gate, understand how it functioned, and more clearly define the architectural and stratigraphic sequence in this area.
  • Conduct small scale stratigraphic probes in Area D West, in the portion of this area where a metallurgical production zone was located in previous seasons. The aim was to define the borders of the metallurgical activity, and better define the stratigraphic and contextual sequence below it.

Results of the 2018 Season:

Area D West (supervisor V. Workman): Excavations in this area were limited to several small stratigraphic probes that were conducted in and around the metallurgical production zone that had been discovered in previous seasons. In addition to defining the phasing of several of the architectural features in this area, the stratigraphic phasing in this location was rechecked. A very interesting result relates to the dating of the metallurgical activities. Up until now, all evidence of these activities came from Stratum D3, the stratum destroyed in the “Hazael destruction” of ca. 830 BCE. And in fact, for the most part, this was the stratigraphic picture this season as well. But in one of the probes, portions of a crucible was found in stratigraphic layer below Stratum D3, most probably Stratum D4. This may very well indicate that the metallurgical activities commenced earlier. This in fact makes sense as it seems likely that the Stratum D3 metallurgical activities are connected to the cultic activities and temple situation to the west. As these cultic activities are seen in the earlier Strata D4 and D5, earlier metallurgical activities would fit in very well with this.

Area D East (supervisor J. Chadwick):

Excavations in Area D-East in 2016 and 2017 suggested that a gateway existed in the gully running from the tell to the stream bed. In 2018, the gate area was defined and identified. Additionally, the stone foundation of the Iron Age city wall was identified, as well as several rooms inside the wall line. Dramatic evidence of defensive actions taken by the inhabitants of Gath during the Aramean siege of the 9th century BCE was also discovered.


The segment of the Iron Age city wall excavated was some 14 meters long, and evidently continues eastward into unexcavated squares. Ceramics recovered from surviving portions of the brick superstructure of the wall suggest that it was built during the 10th century BCE, during early Iron Age IIA. At the west end of the excavated city wall length, a protruding gate pier foundation was identified. This northern gate pier was oriented on a slightly inward angle from the line of the city wall, and was built atop the foundation of an earlier north-south fortification wall which has not yet been securely dated. Access into the city through this gateway apparently involved walking up from the streambed, up the gully southward, along the earlier fortification line, and then turning sharply left (south-eastward) to enter the gateway opening. A small court or plaza seems to have existed inside the gateway, flanked by domestic structures which abutted the city wall’s inner face line. This gateway does not seem to have been the main gateway into the lower city, and probably served as the “water gate.”


A fortification tower with two interior rooms was built against the outside of the Iron Age city wall, just east of the north gate pier, sometime after the city wall itself had been initially erected. That this two-room tower was a later addition to the fortifications seems clear since its stone foundation extended higher than the outside line of the city wall foundation, and its stonework was not integrated into the stonework of the city wall foundation itself. The tower’s construction is dated to later Iron Age IIA, in the 9th century BCE. The tower seems to have been built to enhance the protection of the city wall and gateway at this vulnerable location where the gateway gully met the streambed. An earlier north-south stretch of fortifications, built of very large stones, over which the northern gate pier was erected, is provisionally dated to Iron Age I. The Iron Age I/II (or early Iron Age IIA) city wall system seems to have been built to enhance and strengthen the earlier fortification system in this area along the stream bed. It may be that the gateway in this area was previously in use as an entry in the earlier fortification scheme.


During later Iron Age IIA, presumably during the late 9th century BCE Aramean siege of Gath, the gateway was closed in from the inside. Rooms south and east of the gateway, along the inside of the city wall line, were also filled with grey, ashy soil containing great amounts of LB and Iron I pottery sherds. These deep fills, which may have utilized soil from old LB/Iron I garbage dumps in the lower city, appear to have been a desperate effort to buffer and fortify the inside of the city wall line against siege breach efforts of the Aramean attackers.


Area M (supervisor M. Enuikhina):

The excavations in this area, situated in the eastern side of the lower city, were commenced this season, based on a series of linear anomalies, oriented east-west, north-south, seemingly looking like structures and roads, which were seen in the magnetometry conducted in the 2017 season. The excavations were aimed to “ground truth” the remote sensing.

Four squares were opened in this area with fantastic results. Mere centimeters below surface, rich remains of the “Hazael Destruction layer” were discovered. In all four squares, architectural remains of rooms filled with more than a half meter thick deposit of this destruction level, with scores of ceramic vessels (mostly smashed, but quite a few still whole). These vessels included a broad range of types, including small and large storage vessels, cooking and serving vessels, cultic related vessels (chalices), as well as vessels relating to various other functions.

Of particular interest were the two rounded stone basins discovered in two of the squares, very similar to stone basins previously found in Areas A and K. Most likely, these installations are olive presses, and perhaps serve as evidence of the importance of olive oil production in Iron IIA Gath. This is of importance as previously, some have suggested that olive oil production only commenced in Philistia in the 8th and 7th century BCE, centered at Philistine Ekron, and connected to the Neo-Assyrian Empire. If we are correct in the identification of these installations, it appears that olive oil production in Philistia was already important, at least as early as the Iron IIA (and perhaps earlier as well). It may very well be that the production and trade in olive oil was one of the economic strengths of Iron IIA Gath. And just as it has been suggested that Gath had a major role in the copper trade during this period, perhaps olive oil should be figured in as well.

Among the special finds from this season in Area M, several can be noted: a large jar that most of its body was covered in drilled holes – similar to several other jars found in Areas D and K in previous seasons; a chalice bowl with an application of an animal on its rim; and a complete, unbroken jar that was found in the last hour of the last day of excavation.

Further work in Area M will aim, inter alia, to expand excavations to understand the architectural contexts of these rooms, and to understand the function of the stone basins. In addition, we hope to be able to see whether additional features can be detected in the remote sensing, to enable to define more of these stone basins and related features, whether through excavation or only through remote sensing.

Area Y (supervisor J. Katz):

The excavations in this area, situated in the eastern side of the lower city, were likewise commenced this season, based on a series of five square shaped anomalies seen in the magnetometry, oriented NE-SW, seemingly looking like rooms or installations that had been exposed to high temperatures. As in Area M, the excavations here were aimed to “ground truth” the remote sensing.

To a large extent, the results in Area Y were quite surprising. As opposed to all other areas that so far have been excavated in the lower city (Areas D West, D East, K, K2 and M) where the Iron IIA remains were immediately below surface, in Area Y, Iron Age I remains were discovered immediately below the mixed upper sediments containing finds from modern through the Iron Age.

In fact, a large structure, built of thick brick walls were discovered in all the five squares that were excavated. In addition to this, three of anomalies seen in the remote sensing were excavated as well, and they were concentrations of burnt bricks. One these concentrations, on the NE excavated square was of particular interest. Here, a built installation with a seemingly gabled roof made of burnt bricks was discovered. This installation’s function is not clear. While reminiscent of pottery kilns, the finds associated with this structure have so far not provided a clear indication of its function. Whatever its function was, large concentrations of burnt bricks were found in its vicinity as well, including in a pit dug on its SE side. Extensive samples were taken from this feature and its surroundings, and hopefully, the results of their analyses (by A. Behar) will help clarify this installation’s functions.

On the southern side of Area Y, another interesting feature was discovered. Here, an extensive area (major portions of two squares) with layers of chalky material was discovered, seemingly laid out in purposeful manner. These chalk layers, apparently deriving from the nearby chalk cliffs of the upper tell, might have been part of a production process of building materials. In other areas of the excavation, and in many periods, building materials made from this chalk material have been discovered, including used as a plaster like material, within roofing and mudbricks and other features. Perhaps, these or similar construction-related materials were produced at this location.

An important characteristic of Area Y was the very poor preservation of artifacts in general. While there was sufficient pottery to date the features, in general, there was very little pottery, bones and other materials.

Perhaps the most unique aspect of Area Y is the Iron I dating of the features that were discovered very close to surface. This is quite different from all other excavation areas in the lower city, including Areas K and M which are only a few score meters away (to the east and south). In addition, the orientation of the architecture in Area Y is completely different from the Iron II architecture in other parts of the lower city. The finds in Area Y indicate that already during the Iron I, the lower city of Gath was quite extensive. Previously found to the west in Areas D West and D East, we now know for sure that eastern parts of the lower city were settled as well during the early Iron Age.

An additional point is that of the relevance of the finds from Area Y, from a methodological point of view, as an example of the possible pit falls of insufficient sampling strategies in the study of a large scale site. If the study of the lower city of Gath would have been limited to only a small sample of excavation areas, very different results might have arisen. Based on a limited sampling from few excavation areas, one might have assumed that the lower city was only settled in the Iron I (as seen in Area Y), or, based on other areas, mainly in Iron IIA, with some earlier evidence below this. Clearly then, this stresses the need for large scale sampling, using survey, excavation and remote sensing, to be able to truly understand the character and history of a large site, such as Tell es-Safi/Gath.

Remote Sensing (A. Creekmore):

The original plan for this year was to continue and expand the remote sensing in the lower city, and to supplement the magnetometric analyses conducted last year with a Ground Penetrating Radar survey of the lower city. It was hoped that this would provide additional, supplementary information to the already very exciting results of last year’s remote sensing. Unfortunately, Andrew Creekmore’s GPR equipment was not released by the Israeli customs during his entire stay in Israel, so this equipment could not be used. Despite this, thanks for Prof. Amotz Agnon of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, we did manage to survey a limited portion of the lower city, with a GPR instrument that was provided by Prof. Agnon. Hopefully, this will serve as the first stage for an extensive GPR survey at a later date.




August 15, 2018

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

Middle Bronze Age “Red, White and Blue Ware” from Tell es-Safi/Gath

The Middle Bronze Age (MB; ca. 1950-1550) is a very interesting period in general, one that at an earlier stage of my career I had dealt with extensively (see here).

At Tell es-Safi/Gath, there is evidence of the MB, but only in the upper city. Apparently, during this period (and in particular the MB IIB), the upper part of the tell was fortified (resuing the EB fortifications in this part of the tell).

While this period is not mentioned often in the blog, we do have some great finds from this period. In fact, Maria just took a great picture of a very special type of pottery from the MB – the so-called “Red, White and Blue Ware” (RWB ware). This pottery is typical mainly of southern Canaan, but here and there does appear in the north as well. It is particularly common in the mid/late MB, and usually is earlier than another iconic pottery group of the late MB and early LB – the “Chocolate on White Ware” (for a discussion of this group, see here).

Here is the very nice picture that Maria took of several beautiful RWB ware sherds that were found in Area F (excavated under the supervision of Jeff Chadwick):

August 14, 2018

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

Kudos to Brent Davis!

Congratulations are in order to Dr. Brent Davis, long term staff member of the Safi team, who was just promoted to a “Level B lecturer” (equivalent to an Ass. Prof. in the USA) at the Department of Historical and Philosophical Studies of the University of Melbourne.

Way to go Brent!

August 09, 2018

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

re: New paper on pirates in the Mediterranean in the LB/Iron Age

A new paper, by Louise Hitchcock and Aren Maeir, on pirates and piracy in the Bronze and Iron Age Mediterranean, the most recent in a series of papers on this topic.

The full title is:
Hitchcock, L. A., and Maeir, A. M. 2018. Pirates of the Crete-Aegean: Migration, Mobility, and Post-Palatial Realities at the End of the Bronze Age. In Proceedings of the 12th International Conference of Cretan Studies, Heraklion, 21–25 September 2016. Heraklion: Cretan Historical Society.

Here’s the link

Aargh! Enjoy!

August 05, 2018

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

Dates for the 2019 season: June 23-July 19

For all past, present and future Safiites: We now have the dates for the 2019 season – June 23rd to July 19th.

We will, once again, be staying the Zafit Regional School in Kfar Menahem.

I hope that the online registration for next year will be up and running sometime in September.

See you next summer!


August 01, 2018

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

Shalva, Aryeh and Chava from YU blog about the dig!

Shalva Eisenberg, Aryeh Laufer and Chava Baum, who were part of the YU team led by Jill Katz, have contributed to a very nice blog about the experiences during the 2018 season.

Check it out!


July 31, 2018

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

New book on sacred trees by Caroline Tully

Caroline Tully, who for several years was part of the University of Melbourne team at Safi, led by Louise Hitchcock, has just published a very interesting new book:

The Cultic Life of Trees in the Prehistoric Aegean, Levant, Egypt and Cyprus (Aegaeum 72; Peeters: Leuven; 2018).

Way to go Caroline!


July 20, 2018

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

Great clip of drone video views of Tell es-Safi/Gath by John Delancey

John Delancey, who was on the Safi team this year (and worked in Area F), put together a a very nice video comprised of clips that he took while he was on site.

Check it out!


Thanks John!

July 19, 2018

The Tel Burna Excavation Project

Week 4 – Day 4

Today was the last day of the season – we took all of the finds to the lab in Ariel. While there – the staff gave a brief presentation of the ongoing pottery restoration and past finds from the excavation.

After a very nice hummus lunch – we drove over to Mount Gerizim above modern Nablus/ancient Shechem – the geographical background to a sizable section of the biblical narrative.

On the way back to the kibbutz – we also stopped off at Izbet Sartah – commonly identified with Ebenezer (1 Samuel 4) – to examine Finkelstein’s excavations of the site back in the 1970s.

All told – this was a fantastic season with very important and interesting discoveries. Each area – accomplished well beyond what we set out to accomplish at the beginning of the season – and on account of this we would like to thank our amazing team for all of their hard work and great attitudes.

In a few days or so – I will put together a season summary which will include some nice visuals of the tell/different areas of excavation.

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

Intact jar on the last hour of the last day – and Murphy’s Law in archaeology

As in the books, regarding Murphy’s Law in archaeology (see details below), today, as we finished final photographs and were about to cover over the areas, an intact jar was found in Area M. Due to the fact that it stuck out quite clearly from the balk, we had to quickly excavate it and remove it – along with a large amount of broken pottery from other vessels from its vicinity.

See below some pictures of the “baby” – some of us got a little emotional about this…

And in general, today we finished all the final photos, removed some finds (…), covered over the excavations areas, and packed up and brought back things to BIU.

It was a great season!

As to Murphy’s Law in archaeology, here are some examples:

  1. A wall that goes into a balk from one side, won’t come out from the other side.
  2. Major finds will be discovered in the last hour of the last day of the excavation.
  3. Just when you are sure that you fully understand a long-standing problem, a new find will completely contradict this viewpoint.

July 18, 2018

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

Aren and Maria on the cherry picker for photos!

Jeff was kind enough to take a few pictures and videos of me and Maria taking photos from the cherry picker. While a bit dicey if you have a fear of heights – it was quite a lot of fun – and we got some GREAT pictures of the areas.

Here they are:


July 17, 2018

The Tel Burna Excavation Project

Week 4 – Day 2

Today was our last day digging at the site. Despite soaring temperatures, we managed to remove almost all of the equipment, the shades, etc. and pack it all up for next year.

Despite closing down all areas – we had a couple nice developments.

In Area B2 – the vessels continue – two complete vessels – a jug and a juglet were uncovered by Elizabeth (and her square B7 counterpart – Jane) – who must have set the Tel Burna record for most complete vessels excavated in a single season! They also have a great context with a very nice accumulation of seeds and other organic material. We look forward to excavating this destruction layer more in the future as well as a studying the abundant remains uncovered in the last two seasons.

In G – we finally found the other face of a very large wall that may be a Persian or Iron IIC structure built in connection with the fortifications. We will know more about this next season.

This afternoon – we have been packing up, finishing pottery washing/reading/registering and tying up loose ends – which will continue for the next couple of days. A couple of us went on a brief excursion to nearby Lachish – to look at the very large and impressive site to which Tel Burna has lots of parallels albeit in a much smaller package. The majority of the group also heard an interesting lecture by Prof. Michal Hejcman dealing with ancient environments, agricultural developments, etc. across many different landscapes.

Tomorrow – we will head to the tell even earlier in the morning to give a final sweep of the areas before the final drone photos.

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

Supporting the Safi project

Now that the 2018 season is almost over, with the great finds that we have had (I will post a short summary of the season in the coming days), the Safi team will go back to their regular activities throughout the year. Volunteers, students and staff from abroad return home, BIU students go on vacation (and have tests) and the Israeli Safi staff prepare to work on the finds throughout the year.

Needless to say, the project has many expenses, and even though we just received a grant to work on some aspects of the project, there are many other research related costs to cover.

For those of you who have participated in the project, in the past or present, as well as those who follow our activities on a regular basis, we would be most grateful for support to continue doing the great work that we have been doing for more than two decades.

If you would like to support the project, donations would be greatly appreciated and very helpful. If you are interested in contributing to the project please get in touch with me (arenmaeir@gmail.com) for details how this can be done, including tax deductible options.



And here’s a nice picture of the Safi team, taken last week by the drone


Last day of digging and the shades are off (Tuesday, July 17, 2018)

Today was the last day of digging in Areas M and Y, and then, towards the end of the day, the shades came off.

In Area Y, Jill and her team did a little more digging and mainly cleaned. Adi Eliyahu came and did some sampling for microarchaeological analyses of the enigmatic mud brick structure/feature.

In Area M, Maria and her team worked on finishing the last things to dig – including a whole slew of complete and/or restorable vessels.

In Area D East, we did the final aerials.

As always, on the day the shades come off – its unbearably hot – but that’s life…

Quite a few people stayed back in the office to finish up processing of the finds – and we are doing well with all our “finishing up” tasks.

Here’s the daily clip and a nice aerial view of Areas D east and D west, looking eastward above the western side of the lower city, taken today:

Tuesday July 17 2018

July 16, 2018

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

Update for Monday, July 16, 2018

First day of excavation of the last week, with some nice results and quite a few visits!

Area D East finished cleaning up and is ready for aerial photos tomorrow morning – looking good!

Area Y was working on cleaning, section drawing and trying to understand the large baked brick feature – and associated pit with tons of burnt brick fragments. Quite hard to understand what is going on there – making it all that more interesting and challenging. Tomorrow, Adi will be on site to try and help us make headway with some in-depth microarchaeological analyses.

Area M continues to produce oodles and oodles of finds. This included today several many broken vessels of all kinds, but also several intact vessels such as cooking pots, jugs, juglets and platters of various types. Very cool!

Andy Creekmore and his team have joined in the fun, both excavation and discussing the results of the remote sensing from last year and how they match our finds so well!

We had quite a few visitors today, including: Ami Mazar (HU), Baruch Brandl and Sam Wolff (IAA), Ido Koch and Lidar Sapri-Hen (TAU), and a large group from Brazil led by Prof. Ademar Kaefer (Methodist University of Sao Paulo).

And here is the daily clip with some great shots:


Monday July 16 2018

The Tel Burna Excavation Project

Week 4 – Day 1

This weekend – much of the team toured in either Galilee or Jerusalem. My small tour group visited Herodium, Mount of Olives, the Israel Museum, the Temple Mount, and the City of David. In the City of David – Yiftah Shalev (co-director with Yuval Gadot) gave us a very interesting tour of the Givati Parking excavations in the Central Valley, and we also received a very nice tour of the amazing stepped street built during he rule of Pontius Pilate (built exactly between 26-33 CE!). Very interesting to see these discoveries in the context of an excavation before they will be visited by tourists.

Yesterday afternoon – I gave a general lecture on the archaeological and geographical background of the Shephelah.

Today – we were excavating in all areas and working towards shutting down each area for the season.

In A2 – a very nice LMLK Hebron deal impression was uncovered by Kevin and Sheila (who visited us for the day – it was great to see them!) Matt was particularly excited about this find as he scrutinizes every similar handle looking for impressions 🙂 Also – Debi and co. began closing down the area – as they removed the shades.

In B2 – much of the area has also been closed down except for the destruction layer which continues to be fantastic and quite labor intensive for both those digging it (Jane, Elizabeth and Elijah) and those trying to register the myriad of finds (Aharon, Sam and Matt).

In G – we are also working towards closing out the area for the end of the season. However, we have come down on the face of a very large wall which is pretty clearly the outer fortification wall – Ira and Gil (as well as Yarden and Shira) have now have exposed a substantial face of this massive wall which will hopefully allow us to better understand this area in the future and maybe provide clues to exposing the gatehouse. Bruno, Christian L, Marcella, and Ian also were working hard exposing both sides of what might be another piece of the fortification wall – although that remains to be seen.

We also had a number of visitors today including Ami Mazar, Baruch Brandl, Sam Wolff, Laura Mazow, Ido Koch, and Lidar Sapir-Hen.

This afternoon – Prof. Steve Ortiz led the team on a tour of Gezer – where they have worked the last decade.

July 15, 2018

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

Israel Science Foundation Grant to the Safi Project!

Today I was notified that the Israel Science Foundation (ISF) awarded a very nice 4 year grant to the Safi Project for the study of the Iron Age remains in the lower city.

Thanks to all past and present team members, scientific collaborators and staff, for ongoing contributions to the project, which laid the groundwork and foundations for this research grant. I am convinced that future work on this and related topics will produce more excellent research!


Group photo of the Area Y team

Here’s a great photo of the Area Y team for 2018, led by Jill Katz:

John Stringer continues to blog about the dig!

John Stringer, our kiwi representative this year, continues to blog about this experiences. See here and here.

Hopefully, John will attract a larger group of kiwis to join us next year!


Update for Friday, July 13, 2018

Quite a few nice finds on the last day of the 3rd week! And we are about to start the 4th and final week.

Area M was overflowing with finds from the Hazael destruction, including a complete Late Philistine Decorated Ware small jar/large amphoriskos and a totally beautiful bowl with an applique of an animal (lizard?) situated as if it’s climbing into the vessel, over the rim.

In Area Y, for the time being, the architectural features can be defined as questions, wrapped in enigmas, covered in uncertainties… Clearly, something fascinating was going on here, but so far, we can only guess what. On Tuesday, Adi Eliyahu (microarchaeologist from Ariel University) will be on site to sample for analyses – and hopefully this will eventually provide some answers.

In Area D, the team was cleaning for final photos and drawing sections.

We had a few visitors as well: Elisabetta Boaretto and Xin Yan (WIS), who had some good suggestions on various analytic issues (and to plan a possible mini-season in the coming spring), and Oren Ackermann (Ariel) and Yaakov Schreibman (TUA) who came to sample from bricks from various periods on the tell.

Here’s a picture of some finds, a nice shot of the 3rd week team –

and the daily clip.

Friday July 13 2018

July 13, 2018

The Tel Burna Excavation Project

Week 3 – Day 5

Today – we had a lot of families (many familiar and friendly faces 🙂 join us for an abbreviated excavation day at the tell. We remain very much committed to the ideal of “community archaeology” and exposing people of all ages to the joys of archaeological discovery.

We also said goodbye (until next season) – to a few team members – here is a pic of Benjamin Yang beside Benjamin Gruber – Benjamin square 🙂 It was also the last day for Dr. Tina Greenfield and Dr. Andrea Orendi – see you next time!

We had good progress in all of the areas.

In A2 – the Persian pit continues and continues – it will be very interesting to reach the end – maybe we will find ourselves in a much earlier period at the bottom.

In B2 – Matt, Sam, Elijah, and Aharon have been furiously trying to keep up the recording/registration of the dozens of pottery baskets, complete vessels, crucibles, grinding stones, flotation samples, etc., etc. while Jane, Ben, Elizabeth and others continue to expose the Qeiyafa horizon destruction with immaculate precision.

In G – massive architecture continues to appear – Bruno, Seth, Christian L, and Marcella removed two balks and it seems very clear that we have a large well built building with a couple of phases. Ira, Gil, and Nimrod and Ochad Shai worked on exposing the outer face of yet another massive wall that seems to be connected with the fortifications. Gal Avraham and his family (and a few friends) also helped dig through the collapse of the fortification wall. We are all set for a great final week and we are excited to share some 3D models of the areas!

This afternoon – around 10 people from the team went up to Herodium near Bethlehem. Myself and Terry gave a tour of the fantastic palace-fortress of Herod the Great. Tomorrow – our weekend group will be hitting a few Jerusalem sites in he morning and then heading over to the Israel Museum.

July 12, 2018

The Tel Burna Excavation Project

Week 3 – Day 4

Today was a great day at the tell – it was relatively cool and the finds keep on piling up.

We had several visitors to the site – including Dr. Hillel Geva (Israel Exploration Society) and Dr. Tsvika Tsuk (Israel National Parks) – and Itzick was interviewed by a Czech tv crew about Tel Burna.

In Area A2 – Jerry’s pit is getting deeper and deeper and there is no end in site. The pavement is continuing to appear and the architecture is slowly beginning to be more clear.

In B2 – what can we say – there is an enormous amount of vessels in this destruction – over four full weeks of excavation Aharon’s crew has excavated over 80 cm (c 3 ft) deep of destruction debris filled with burnt mudbrick and dozens of vessels! There is no end in sight – it seems that the destruction is two stories high as Jane and Elizabeth have been finding roofing/floor debris between the vessels. Needless to say – this will continue to be a main area of interest/research for this season and seasons to come – particularly in light of its possible parallels with Khirbet Qeiyafa and Khirbet el Arai (both excavated by Prof Yossi Garfinkel).

In G – we removed a couple of balks and – as usual – the architecture has become much more clear. We have something very massive on top of something even more massive. The problem is that we have very little ceramic finds in a good context (sometimes in situ) – which means that it is difficult to date. Our working hypothesis is that the latest phase was during the Persian period when the massive tower(?) was constructed. Tomorrow we will continue to expose some more of the large walls – that appear to be related to the city’s fortifications.

Yesterday evening – Dr. Tina Greenfield lectured on various aspects of Mesopotamian cities with a particular emphasis on her work there. Today – Dr. Oren Ackerman presented on paleo-anthropocene – which deals with geological changes in the environment related to human activity.

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

Update for Thursday, July 12, 2018

Yup, another great day! As we near the end of the 3rd week, we have quite a few nice results.

As it is the last day with a full sized team (the CCU team is leaving early tomorrow morning) first thing this morning we did aerial and ground group photos of the team – which came out very nice!

Then, we divided into teams and went to work in the various areas.

In Area D, they took off the tarps and cleaned, since the main part of the Area D team is leaving (CCU and others). All told, this was a great season in Area D East and we think that we are finally moving towards a very good understanding of the gate, its stages and some of the features associated with it. Still what to do and what to explain – but we are quite happy with the results!

In Area Y, Jill and her team are cutting into the burnt brick structure. We still don’t understand it – but it is getting very interesting. Similarly, the squares with the chalk layers are puzzling us!

Maria and her team in Area M continue to recover tons of finds. In one of the stone tubs (we believe mainly used for olive crushing) several vessels and a collection of loomweights were found. The large jar with holes was finally removed – and this jar served as the motif of the group picture!

We also had quite a few visitors, including Ron Shaar from HU, Rafi Greenberg (TAU), Chani Greenberg (BGU), Gideon Suleimani, and Zvika Zuk (RATAG).

Tomorrow is the last day of the week – and next week we scale down towards the end of the season.

Here are some pictures and the daily clip:


Thursday July 12 2018

July 11, 2018

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

Update for Wednesday, July 11, 2018

We had a great day on site today, with great finds, and some nice visits.

In Area D East, Jeff and his team are finishing up defining the gate area, as tomorrow is the last day of the CCU team, and next week, the area will be working with skeleton crew. It looks like we have a really nice understanding of at least some of the stages of the gate area – even if we have more work to do in future years.

In Area Y, Jill and her team continue to expose the various brick and stone walls, and the very interesting chalk covered features. The architecture in this area appears, more and more, to be of an Iron I date, based on the identifiable pottery coming from the various contexts. This, and the fact that the orientation of the architecture is very different from the Iron IIA architecture in Areas K and M, seems to indicate that there is some extensive activity in the eastern part of the lower city, already in the Iron I.

In Area M, Maria and her team continue pulling out great stuff, with many vessels of various types and other nice finds. In one of the stone vats, most probably used for olive oil production, a collection of vessels and loomweights were found. Perhaps, during the final days of Gath, they had been stored in this location.

We had quite a few visits today, including Dr. Iossi Bordowic from the Nature and Parks Authority, Prof. David Ben-Shlomo from Ariel University, Vladimir, from the IAA, and Amanda Borschel-Dan (and her son, Yair), the archaeology correspondent of the Times of Israel, who spent more or less the entire day on site.

Here are some nice fotos and the daily clip – in fact both from yesterday and today.

Wednesday July 11 2018

The Tel Burna Excavation Project

Week 3 – Day 3

We are coming into the home stretch… we have our final plans/goals in place to end the season and it seems that we are on target so far.

We had quite a few visitors today including a group from the Israel Antiquities Authority (Pablo Beser and Vladik), Dr. Iosi Bordowicz (Parks and Nature Authority), Prof. David Ben Shlomo (Ariel University), and Prof. Erez Ben Yosef (Tel Aviv University), as well as Omri and Yoav Vaknik (who is working on a very interesting project/dissertation related to the use of paleo magnetism as a dating tool in the Iron Age).

In A2 – Jerry is digging a very deep pit through the presumably Late Iron IIA pavement. Terry continues to define a surface from the Iron IIB and Christian Prater, Sarah, Nichole, etc. are continuing to work across the Iron II layers.

In B2 – the vessels are endless in the Iron I/II destruction as Elizabeth and Jane have been digging through around a half meter of complete vessels – which probably indicates that we have two stories of collapse. In the adjacent square – Elijah found a very nice mortar and a collection of burnt olive pits – which are great specimens for 14C analysis. In the squares near the fortification – Benjamin squared 🙂 (Yang and Gruber) are exposing the lower surface of the Iron II building that is built into the fortifications. Michal, Martin and Mike are also working throughout B2 – taking XRF samples – but also exposing the top of the outer fortification wall.

In G – Ian and Ira removed a couple of balks today – which seemed to have clarified a few matters. It seems that we have a very large tower that was constructed in either the Iron IIC or Persian period. However, beneath this tower we still have a lot of architecture that is very massive and as of yet we do not understand. Marcella and Christian exposed a surface layer – and it now seems that we have a nice room or building beneath he collapse of the fortification wall. Seth and Bruno began exposing the inside of this wall – but as of yet we have yet to locate it. Gil, besides filling lots of different roles in the area, got a shot to work through our registration system and play with the PlanGrid app (see pictured).

Most everyday we are treated to some type of aerial acrobatics from the Israeli military – usually this is helicopter training (yesterday one buzzed Area G! Came within about 80 meters). Today, it was fun to watch a few planes practice fire control tactics with retardant and water – interestingly enough the hill that they were practicing on was Tel Goded – which some identify with Moresheth Gath (home of Micah the prophet) or (in my opinion) possibly Ashan of Joshua 15:42. In any event, check out the picture of the plane in action 🙂

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

John Stringer blogs about his time at the dig

John Stringer, from New Zealand, who participated in the first two weeks of this season, is already back home and has started blogging about his experiences.

Check out his first installment here.


July 10, 2018

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

Update for Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Today was a totally busy day, running from one thing to the other. The film crew that is working with me on a MOOC on biblical archaeology was on site all day, so in between everything, I was filming all day.

We also had a few visits, including a large group of YU students who came to dig for half a day, and Ronen Hazan and Zemah Ouzirat from HU.

In Area M, Maria and her team found tons of stuff. This included a complete juglet, loomweights, a bronze arrowhead, and TONS of pottery.

Jill and her team are working on understanding the fascinating brick and chalk features – and finally are starting to get some pottery!

Jeff and his team are really making great headway in understanding the gate and related features – and the stratigraphy related to it. Cool stuff.

And Vanessa and her team found some additional levels below the Iron IIA metallurgy – including possible evidence of earlier bronze related metal production in the Iron I/II!

Unfortunately, no clip for today, but here’s a couple of great aerial shots of the site from the east – one of the upper city and one of the lower, taken by the drone this morning:



The Tel Burna Excavation Project

Week 3 – Day 2

We had a number of visitors today including groups from Ariel University and South Florida Bible College.

We also made some good progress in the excavation areas.

In Area A2 – things are getting interesting as Debi, Terry, Nichole, etc are exposing a large pavement that might date to the 9th century BCE. Pottery reading of the later phases in this area was also promising as it looks like we will have several complete vessels related to the end of the Iron IIB.

In B2 – progress continues on the destruction debris (11th/10th centuries BCE) and it now seems that we have some architecture on the balk which might be related to to the destruction layer.

In C – Ian and Benjamin closed up the excavation there and it is now clear that this area was used from the Early Bronze through at least the Persian period.

In G – things are slowly becoming more clear as we continue to “slog through” a very large collapse. Marcella and Christian found a surface today beneath the collapse – but with no pottery in situ – hopefully the context will be clear enough to assign it a date. Ira also found around 15 casings and live rounds of ammunition leftover from the 1948 war in a foxhole right above the presumed gate.

Bruno Soltic has also been using the drone to record various features of the tel.

This afternoon we will hear a lecture by Dr. Tina Greenfield on the zooarchaeology of Mesopotamia.

July 09, 2018

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

Great day!

Today was really a great day on the dig!

We had a ton of cool finds and several interesting visits.

In Area M, Maria and her team are funding tons of stuff!!! :-) Oodles of pottery vessels of various kinds and other finds, including a complete juglet, two hematite beads, some faience objects, and other stuff – all part of the impressive Iron IIA destruction.

In Area Y, Jill and her team have more and more impressive architecture and it’s looking more and more that the concentration of chalk maybe connected to some production aspect.

In Area D East, Jeff and his team are exposing more and more very impressive aspects of the city gate area, and it seems that we are beginning to understand that is going on here. So far, it looks like that this is a bent axis gate, with only one built side (!!!), and a winding stepped path going into the city. Quite cool – and very unusual! As far as finds, the team found a nice copper pin – and a couple of modern bullets – perhaps evidence of what happened on site exactly 70 years ago, on July 9th, 1948, when the Arab village of Tell es-Safi was captured by the Israeli army!

In Area D West, Vanessa and her team were working mainly on defining various stratigraphic aspects, but also found a very nice complete juglet in an Iron I level.

We also had some visits today, including Mati, the head of the local regional council, some representatives of one of the nearby power plants who will be funding a bike path leading to the tell, Dr. Oren Ackermann, our geomorphologist, and Prof. Michael Hasel, co-director of the 4th Lachish Expedition.

In previous posts I put up some pictures, and here is the daily clip:

Monday July 9 2018

The Tel Burna Excavation Project

Week 3 – Day 1

As we noted – several of us were in the Galilee this weekend and we were able to catch a few of the other many archaeological projects in action. We visited the very interesting second temple (and later) site of el-Araj – which they suggest (and I am inclined to agree) is a much better candidate for the New Testament site of Bethsaida. Dr. Steven Notley gave us a very interesting talk on the various things that they have uncovered there including a Byzantine church and an Early Roman bathhouse. They also have a lot interesting evidence related to the level of the Sea of Galilee at various points.

After visiting el-Araj, we went to Megiddo just in time to catch a tour led by Dr. Matt Adams (one of the directors of the project) that covered various topics including the so-called Iron II stables, the unbelievable Early Bronze I temple, and many other topics – this was also a fascinating lecture that engaged a number of other historical periods in the Jezreel Valley. It was also very cool to see the Megiddo expedition renew the excavation of the very controversial (so-called) Solomonic six-chambered gate – needless to say there will be much discussion on this in the coming months and years.

Today – at the tel we were joined by a number of new participants and work continued in all areas.

In A2 – there is more and more evidence of at least two Iron IIB/8th century BCE phases and Debi is beginning to get down to the 9th century level where there is a very large pavement. They also had a very nice mini juglet come up as a complete vessel.

In B2 – the work continues in the 11th/early 10th century destruction – more vessels, lots of charcoal, and a very nice chalice. At the top of the section – Aharon is beginning to move down through the floor of the casemate wall/room to get down to earlier layers that should run up next to the inside of the fortification wall – this will hopefully allow us to provide a date of construction for the fortification wall – which up until now we can say was clearly used in the 9th and 8th centuries BCE. Here is a look at the area from this afternoon’s tour of the site by the Tell es-Safi/Gath team led by Profs. Aren Maeir, Jeff Chadwick and Brent Davis.

In C – Ian and Benjamin are almost finished with a square near the agricultural installations – interestingly in this area the pottery indicates that it was used during e Early Bronze and Middle Bronze – as well as in the Late Bronze and Iron II (the two dominant periods at the site).

In G – we are progressing through a very large collapse of stones – hopefully we will be able to get through it and have some clarity with regards to the Iron II casemate wall which seems to have joined the presumed gate in this area – we are removing a balk or two tomorrow – so we might find out more.

We also were visited today by Prof. Michael Hasel of Southern Adventists University and co-director of the Lachish Excavation (finished last season).

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

Kudos to Liora on article in Science on ancient goat genomes

Kudos to Liora Horwitz, project zooarchaeologist, for the just appeared article in Science on the genomic background of the domestication of goats in the near east. Among the many sites that provided materials for this study, we are very proud that Tell es-Safi/Gath was included!

The title of the study is:

Daly et al., 2018. Ancient goat genomes reveal mosaic domestication in the Fertile Crescent. Science 361: 85–88.

Way to go Liora!

July 07, 2018

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

Group picture of the Safi team for week 2, 2018

Here’s a great picture (taken by Maria) of the excellent team of week 2 of the 2018 season at Tell es-Safi/Gath. Way to go team!

Update for Friday, July 6, 2018

Here is a quick update for the last day of excavations in the 2nd week, which all told, was a great week.

In Area D West, Vanessa and her team continued the stratigraphic probes in and around the metallurgy area. Of particular note are the earlier Iron Age contexts that they found below the Iron IIA metallurgy area – all of which show that the metallurgical activities commenced only in the late Iron IIA – in the phase destroyed by Hazael.

In Area D East, Jeff and his team continue to work in the gate area. This complex is getting more and more interesting – and more and more unusual. Currently, our understanding is that there is a bent axis approach in the gate. That said, if our interpretation is correct – we don’t have any good parallels for this.

In Area Y, Jill and her team continue to work on the very interesting architectural elements in the area. This includes several large concentrations of bricks, some rather large wall, and a context covered in pulverized chalk. Interestingly, there is relatively very small amounts of pottery and other small finds, perhaps indicating a special type of activity in this area.

In Area M, Maria and her team are digging in the midst of very impressive remains of the Hazael destruction level, with an enormous collection of vessels of various types. In some of the squares it is hard to work – due to the fact that all the square is covered in finds!

We now have down pat the procedures of taking aerial photographs with the drone first thing in the morning – which provide excellent documentation in the midst of the season for our progress.

We also had quite a lot of visitors this Friday, including Prof. Moshe Bar, head of the Gonda Interdisciplinary Brain Research Center at BIU, Prof. Lilach Rosenberg, chair of my department at BIU, and group of potential students in the department, as well as various family and friends of team members. In addition to this, we celebrated two birthdays of team members in the field. It was quite an exciting day!

We are all looking forward to the 3rd week – which will be the last full week of the excavation season. I’m sure we will have some great finds this coming week!

Here’s couple of pictures and the daily clip:

Here’s an aerial view of the lower city (with Areas K, Y, M and D) looking west








And here’s a nice aerial view of the upper tell – looking west








And here is our daily clip:




The Tel Burna Excavation Project

Week 2 – Day 5

Friday was the last day for a number of team members – we thank them for their hard work and really hope to see them again! See below for group photo.

Thursday evening we heard an excellent lecture by Ian and their (along with Sam and Jane) implementation of photogrammetry and 3D modeling for daily top plans, architectural plans, etc – the discussion was lively.

Myself and a few others did not dig this Friday and went up to the north where among touring other sites – we had a very interesting tour of Abel Beth-Maacah by Bob Mullins (see pictured). We also toured around the Sea of Galilee today at Mount Arbel, the Horns of Hattin (very impressive remains on top!), Magdala, Nof Ginosar, and Capernaum.

Back at the tel where work was actually being done 🙂 – work continued in all areas.

In A2 – several more vessels and a surface/pavement are beginning to appear – although we will have to see if this relates to an earlier Iron IIB phase or the Iron IIA.

In B2 – we are really in he destruction now! We should have lots of very nice finds next week.

In G – we are short on finds – but lots of very large architecture that we will hopefully understand by the end of the season.

Finally – we were visited by a group of kibbutz members from nearby Beit Nir – who came in honor of our mutual friend and fellow laborer – Ido Ginton – who unfortunately passed away a couple of years ago. We really miss him, his hard work, his jokes, his coffee, and his personality!

July 06, 2018

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

Just something for the weekend…

Here’s a little something for the weekend…: -)

A July 4th picture

Since July 4th was celebrated this week (as we mentioned on our Tuesday blog entry), here’s another related picture, taken by Shem Tov. Happy US independence day!