Taygete Atlantis: Excavation Blogs (Antiquity)

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Tom Elliott (tom.elliott@nyu.edu)

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October 17, 2017

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

Mini-season at the tell!

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

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

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

Here are some pictures:


October 16, 2017

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

Joe Uziel is a star!

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

Way to go Joe!!!

Aren


Registration for the 2018 season is open!

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

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

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

Looking forward to seeing you in the summer!

 


October 09, 2017

The Tel Burna Excavation Project

Foothills of Judah Conference in Fort Worth in November

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

FoothilllsJudah-Flier-proof.png


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

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

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

Here is the full quote:

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

Aren

 


October 05, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Check it out!

Aren


October 03, 2017

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

NEA issue on Safi in the making!

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

Aren


September 28, 2017

The Tel Burna Excavation Project

New Publications

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

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

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

 


September 21, 2017

Calixtlahuaca Archaeological Project

Regional Clay Sampling

Angela Huster

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

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

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

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

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

Soil color and texture recording

September 16, 2017

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

New Tel Hebron report!

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

The full title is:

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

Here’s a picture of the new volume:


September 15, 2017

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

Adam and Merindah tie the knot!

Congratulations to Adam and Merindah on their wedding!

Yet another Safi couple!

Mazal tov!


September 14, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

Check out the schedule below.

Aren


September 13, 2017

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

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

Please mark your calendars:

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

A Workshop:

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

The Institute of Archaeology, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Thursday, April 26, 2018

 

Overview:

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

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

 

Schedule:

15:00: Convening and refreshments

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

17:00-17:30: Break

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

 

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

 


September 04, 2017

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

Joe Uziel and finds from the City of David!

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

Way to go Joe!


September 03, 2017

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

Shem Tov Sasson blogs about the dig!

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

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

Way to go Shem Tov!

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


September 01, 2017

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

Leah makes another restoration clip!

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

Check it out! Way to go Leah!


August 22, 2017

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

Leah Tramer, our pottery restorer makes another restoration video!

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

Check it out!


August 18, 2017

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

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

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

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

Safi bibliography 2014 to Aug 2017

 


New Article on the EB board games from Safi!

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

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

The full title is:

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

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

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

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

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

Enjoy!

Aren


August 17, 2017

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

Tell es-Safi/Gath in USA TODAY

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

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

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

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

Check it out!


Visit to Qiryat Yearim Excavations

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

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

 


August 10, 2017

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

Australian Ambassador visits the lab!

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

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

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

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


August 09, 2017

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

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

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

See here details of the lecture and session:

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

You are invited to join us at this interesting session!


August 04, 2017

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

A selection of the 2017 aerial photos

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

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

But in any case – enjoy!


July 29, 2017

The Tel Burna Excavation Project

Week 4/End of Season Overview

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

Updated Periods (with the location of evidence): 

Early Bronze Age – survey and excavated sherds

Middle Bronze Age – survey and excavated sherds

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

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

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

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

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

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

Byzantine – Area B1 and survey

 

 


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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


July 28, 2017

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

The 2017 Safi team group aerial photo!

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

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

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

:-)


July 27, 2017

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

Surprise Birthday Celebration for Jeff Chadwick

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

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

See the evidence here:


LZSS7825

July 26, 2017

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

Updates and finds from the final days – a Massebah!

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

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

Aren


July 23, 2017

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

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

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

Check out the new issue here.

Way to go Itzik and David!


July 22, 2017

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

End of the 3rd week of the 2017 season

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here is a field photo of the figurine:

 


July 21, 2017

The Tel Burna Excavation Project

Week 3 Overview

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

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

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

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

 

 


July 20, 2017

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

Update for Thursday, July 20, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And here are some pictures:


July 19, 2017

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

Update for Wednesday, July 19th, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here are some pictures:


July 18, 2017

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

2nd day of digging of third week

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here are some pictures:


July 17, 2017

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

Update – first day of 3rd week

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

Here are some of the new finds:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here are some pictures:


July 16, 2017

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

INSCRIPTION!!!

What a way to start the week!!!!

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

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

Any more information, at this stage, is compartmentalized…

I know, I am a terrible tease… :-}

 


July 15, 2017

The Tel Burna Excavation Project

Week 2 Overview

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

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

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

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

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

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


July 14, 2017

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

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

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

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

Thanks so much to all of you!!!!

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

2017 2nd week_group picture Safi

 


July 13, 2017

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

4th day of 2nd week – July 13th, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

Area K: More and more Iron IIA destruction…

Area K2: The monumental city was is so nice…

Remote sensing – more work in the lower city.

Great day!

Here are some pictures:


July 12, 2017

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

3rd day of 2nd week – July 12th, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here are some pictures!


July 11, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here are some pictures:


The Tel Burna Excavation Project

Mid-Week 2 Brief Update

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

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

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

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

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


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

Update for first day of 2nd week

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here are some pictures:


July 08, 2017

The Tel Burna Excavation Project

Week 1 Overview

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

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

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

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

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


July 07, 2017

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

Last day of first week – quick summary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s some pictures:


July 06, 2017

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

Update for Thursday, July 6th, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Altogether – a great day!

Here are some pictures:


July 05, 2017

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

Day 3 – second week – full speed ahead!

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

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

Here’s a summary:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Great day! Here are some pictures:


July 04, 2017

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

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

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

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

Way to go Vanessa!

Aren


Review of book on Goliath by S. Rodan

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

Here’s a link to the PDF

Aren


2nd day of 1st week – update

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And here are some pictures from the day:


The Tel Burna Excavation Project

2017 Season Underway!

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

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

University_of_Maryland_Logo.svg

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

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

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


July 03, 2017

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

And we’re off! The 2017 season starts!

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

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

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


June 28, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

 


June 25, 2017

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

“Open Day” for BIU dept candidates in the lab

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

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


June 23, 2017

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

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

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

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

Safi project participating and supporting institutions


June 19, 2017

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

Joe, Nahshon, Elisabetta and Johanna get full coverage!

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

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

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


June 16, 2017

The Tel Burna Excavation Project

2017 Dig Shirt Design

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

Tel Burna shirt


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

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

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

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

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

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

Aren

 


June 12, 2017

The Tel Burna Excavation Project

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

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

Here is an excerpt:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wishing you an enjoyable, insightful and engaging workshop!

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

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

 

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

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

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

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


Pottery Restoration Video by Leah

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

Nice work Leah (and Studio Jackie)!


June 10, 2017

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

Lecture and Field Trip Schedule for the 2017 Season

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

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

Aren

 


June 09, 2017

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

Broadening Horizons 5 conference – Udine

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

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

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

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

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

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

 


June 01, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

The article’s title is:

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

Looking forward to receiving a copy of the volume!

Aren


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

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

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

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

Way to go Chris!!

Aren


May 29, 2017

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

Restoration of a Myc IIIC/Philistine 1 bowl

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

Check it out!


May 25, 2017

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

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

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

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

http://www.ynet.co.il/video/0,20658,165396-4967057,00.html

Way to go Nahshon!

Aren


May 23, 2017

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

Pictures at an Exhibition…

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


Astragalus bone at the bottom of a krater…

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

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

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

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


May 22, 2017

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

Exhibit Preview

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


May 21, 2017

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

Preparations for exhibition at the BIU library

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

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


Last call: PhD stipends through the Minerva Center

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

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

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

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

Deadline for final submissions is May 30th, 2017.

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


May 17, 2017

The Tel Burna Excavation Project

Excavation Grid 2017

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

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

Take a look at the grid plan (below)

Hope you can join us!

burna grid large

 


May 16, 2017

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

Archaeology and Bible exhibit at the BIU central library

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

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

If you have a chance – do visit the exibit.

Here is the poster for the exhibit:


Safi and the Philistines in Science

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

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

Check it out!

Aren


May 13, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

Aren

See below the preliminary program:


May 11, 2017

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

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

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

The full title of the article is:

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

A link to a PDF can be found here.

Aren


May 10, 2017

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

Kudos to Bracha Soibelman

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

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

Aren


Safi display at BYU

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

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


May 09, 2017

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

Kudos to Eric Welch

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

May 07, 2017

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

PhD Stipends at BIU

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

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

For general information on the grants, see here.

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

Aren


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

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

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


May 04, 2017

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

Guest Blog: Louise and Fred (by Louise)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 


May 03, 2017

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

ASOR introduction to the Philistines – check it out!!

ASOR has just put out a small digital booklet:

Introduction to the Philistines: A COLLECTION OF ARTICLES ON THE PHILISTINES FROM THE ASOR BLOG

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

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

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

Aren


May 01, 2017

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

Visit to Neve Shalom

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

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

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

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

Aren


April 28, 2017

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

Copies of Shephelah book arrive!

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

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

:-)


April 24, 2017

The Tel Burna Excavation Project

Registration Deadline Extended to June 1

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

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

2014 Season Min with a complete Iron IIB bowl


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

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

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

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

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

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

Hope to see you all in July!

Aren


Pigs, Pirates and Philistines at the 2017 AAPA!

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

The poster was entitled:

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

Here’s a PDF of the poster.

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

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


April 10, 2017

The Tel Burna Excavation Project

Another New Article on Tel Burna

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

Here is the abstract:

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

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

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

XRF - Michael at Burna

The Full Reference:

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


April 07, 2017

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

Safi team lectures at the archaeological congress in Israel

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

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

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

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

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

Here are some pictures of the Safi team lectures:

Aren


April 06, 2017

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

Jeff Chadwick in the Times of Israel!

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

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

:-)

Aren


April 05, 2017

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

An early Afikoman!

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

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

Woohoo! I love gizmos…:-)

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


April 02, 2017

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

Delegation of Chinese Religious Studies Scholars Visits the Lab

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

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

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

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

Aren


David’s Sling

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

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

Why does this concern the Safi project?

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

Aren


April 01, 2017

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

Comic Book Depiction of David at Gath

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

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

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

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

Check it out – VERY nice!



March 30, 2017

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

New Book for Andrea Squitieri on Iron Age Stone Vessels

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

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

Way to go Andrea!!

Aren


March 28, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

This article is published in:

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

 


March 27, 2017

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

Shephelah volume is out!

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

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

The full title of the volume is:

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

 


March 25, 2017

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

Visit to Safi with a film crew

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

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

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

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

Here is the clip:

And here are the photos:

 

 

 


March 22, 2017

March 21, 2017

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

Vist to Safi for development planning

Today, I visited Safi with a very special group of representatives from the Israel Nature and Parks Authority (INPA), to do some initial planning, brainstorming and discussions about future plans to develop the cultural heritage potential at the site. This particularly important in light of two possible substantial sources that may fund this.

We discussed the possibilities for heritage development for the lower city, in relationship to the siege system to the east of the tell, and on the tell in general (especially at the summit). There is a lot of more work to do, but it was a very productive meeting.

It was nice being on site. Everything was green – and the flowers and birds were out in droves. We saw 3-4 Imperial Eagles (Aquila heliaca), the usual gaggles of Western Jackdaws (Corvus monedula), and a few Common Kestrels (Falco tinnunculus). It was especially nice to see how, every time the Eagles came near the   jackdaws and kestrels, the smaller birds went up to intercept the Eagles and chase them away. Sort of looked liked WW II movie of fighters intercepting bombers…

And on the way out, we saw a couple of Little Owls (Athene noctua), a very common Safi inhabitant (see the picture below).

As I was on site with the INPA people, I saw how they use their online biological reporting system. Very cool! The wardens have on their smartphones an application thru which they can report, online, live, a sighting of any fauna or flora, with an exact xyz coordinate, which is automatically uploaded to the INPA data base!

Here are two pictures from the visit:


March 12, 2017

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

43rd Annual Archaeological Congress in Israel: 6th of April 2017, with 3 Safi presentations!

On April 6th, 2017, the 43rd Annual Archaeological Congress in Israel will be held at the He brew University (Mt. Scopus Campus, Rabin Building).

This will be a full day of very interesting lectures, including 3 by Safi team members: 1) I’ll be talking about new finds at Safi in the last few seasons; 2) Amit, Maria and I will be presenting on cult and temples at Tell es-Safi/Gath of the Philistines; 3) And Adi will be talking about steel production in the Iron Age.

Should be very interesting!

Check out the conference’s program here.

Aren


March 11, 2017

The Tel Burna Excavation Project

Spring Visit to the Tel

Last week, Itzick and Debi visited the tel with Prof. Steve Ortiz of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and co-director of the Tel Gezer excavations (Tandy Institute). Besides discussing the remains at the site and enjoying the spring vegetation, they also discussed the possibility of future collaboration at Burna with the Tandy Institute.


March 07, 2017

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

Louise blogs on piracy and the Sea Peoples

See Louise’s very nice piece, on the ASOR Blog, about piracy in general and in relation to the Sea Peoples.

Aargh!

Aren


Poster for the University of Kentucky contingent for Safi 2017!

Daniel Frese, of the University of Kentucky, has put out a very nice poster inviting students to join his contingent going to Tell es-Safi/Gath this coming summer.

Check it out:


March 06, 2017

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

arenmaeir

As previously posted, next week, on March 15th-16th, 2017, there will be a very interesting conference at Tel Aviv University.

Here is the detailed schedule:

The Sonia and Marco Nadler Institute of Archaeology of Tel Aviv University 
is pleased to announce the Annual Aharoni Symposium

From Nomadism to Monarchy? “The Archaeology of the Settlement Period”– 30 Years Later

WednesdayThursday, March 15–16, 2017
Room 223, Gilman Building, Tel Aviv University

WEDNESDAY, MARCH 15
12:45 Gathering
13:00 Welcome and Introduction
Oded Lipschits, Omer Sergi, and Ido Koch (Tel Aviv University)

SESSION 1
Session Chair: Ido Koch (Tel Aviv University)
13:15 Philistines, Canaanites and Egyptians: The Early 12th Century BCE Revisited
Shirly Ben-Dor Evian (The Israel Museum, Jerusalem and Tel Aviv University)
13:40 Settlement Oscillations in the Southern Levant in Light of Climate Changes
Dafna Langgut (Tel Aviv University)
14:05 Notes on Scribal Practices in the Early Iron II
David Vanderhooft (Boston College)
14:30 Break

SESSION 2
Session Chair: Omer Sergi (Tel Aviv University)
15:00 The Book of Josiah or the Book of Joshua? Excavating the Literary History of the Story of the Conquest
Cynthia Edenburg (Open University of Israel)
15:25 Geographical Observations on the Old North Israelite Tales in Judges
Oded Lipschits (Tel Aviv University)
15:50 The Role of the Ark in the Conquest Accounts and in the Book of Samuel
Thomas Römer (Collège de France and University of Lausanne)
16:15 Coffee Break

SESSION 3
Session Chair: Yuval Gadot (Tel Aviv University)
16:45 Under Hazor’s Shadow: The Upper Jordan Valley in the Iron I
Assaf Kleiman (Tel Aviv University)
17:10 Sixty Years after Aharoni: A New Look at the Iron Age I Settlement in the Upper Galilee
Ido Wachtel (The Hebrew University of Jerusalem)
17:35 The Early Iron Age in the Northern Coastal Plain (Western Galilee)
Gunnar Lehmann (Ben Gurion University of the Negev)
18:00 Canaanites in a Changing World: The Jezreel Valley during the Iron I
Eran Arie (The Israel Museum, Jerusalem)
THURSDAY, MARCH 16
11:45 Gathering

SESSION 4
Session Chair: David Vanderhooft (Boston College)
12:00 An Untold Story: The Human-like Figures and the Snake on an Architectural Model from Beth-Shean’s Northern Temple
Tallay Ornan (The Hebrew University of Jerusalem)
12:25 Late Bronze/Iron Age Animal Economy – Continuity vs. Change
Lidar Sapir-Hen (Tel Aviv University)
12:50 Production Autonomy to Centralization: The Iron I-IIA Transition from a Metallurgical Perspective
Naama Yahalom-Mack (The Hebrew University of Jerusalem)
13:15 Break
 
SESSION 5
Session Chair: Dafna Langgut (Tel Aviv University)
13:45 The Iron I Settlement of Tall ZirāꜤa in Northern Jordan: Transitions between the Late Bronze Age and the Iron II
Dieter Vieweger (German Protestant Institute of Archaeology Jerusalem and Amman [DEI], University of Wuppertal [BU])
14:10 From Communities to Kingdoms across Western Jordan: Tracing Uneven Trajectories of Development
Benjamin Porter (University of California, Berkeley)
14:35 A False Contrast? On the Possibility of Nomadic Monarchy in the Iron I Arabah (Early Edom) in Light of Recent Research
Erez Ben-Yosef (Tel Aviv University)
15:00 Coffee Break

SESSION 6
Session Chair: Erez Ben-Yosef (Tel Aviv University)
15:30 Societal Transformations in Southwest Canaan during the Late Second Millennium BCE
Ido Koch (Tel Aviv University)
15:55 Like Frogs out of a Pond: Identity Formation in Early Iron Age Philistia and Beyond
Aren Maeir (Bar Ilan University)
16:20 The Many Beginnings of Israel: An Archaeological and Historical Perspective from the Central Canaanite Hill Country
Omer Sergi (Tel Aviv University)
16:45 Were There Israelites? The Demographic, Cultural and Political Change of the Iron I “Highlanders”
Yuval Gadot (Tel Aviv University)
17:10 Break

SESSION 7
Session Chair: Oded Lipschits (Tel Aviv University)
17:40 Greetings and Awarding of Scholarships
Leo Corry, Dean, The Lester and Sally Entin Faculty of Humanities, Tel Aviv University
Ran Barkai, Chair, The Jacob M. Alkow Department of Archeology and Ancient Near Eastern Cultures, Tel Aviv University
Oded Lipschits, Director, The Sonia and Marco Nadler Institute of Archaeology, Tel Aviv University
18:10 The Rise of the Israelite Monarchy in Retrospective
Nadav Na’aman (Tel Aviv University)
18:40 The Rise of Ancient Israel: The Need for Revision on Almost Every Front
Israel Finkelstein (Tel Aviv University)


March 04, 2017

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

Steve Rosen’s new book

Steve Rosen, of BGU, and an active participant in Safi research (such as in this just recently published article) has notified me that a new book of his has just been published.

The book’s title is:

Rosen, S. A. 2017. Revolutions in the Desert: The Rise of Mobile Pastoralism in the Southern Levant. London: Routledge.

Here’s the book’s blurb:
Rosen offers the first archaeological analysis of the rise of herding in the desert, from the first introduction of domestic goats and sheep into the arid zones, more than eight millennia ago, to the evolution of more recent Bedouin societies. Inviting comparisons to the agricultural revolution and the secondary spread of domestication beyond the Near East, this volume examines the archaeological record outlines these societies ecological, economic and social adaptations to the deserts of the Southern Levant. With maps and illustrations from the author’s collection, Revolutions in the Desert is a thoughtful and engaging approach to the archaeology of desert nomadic societies.

See below the link to the flyer – and the offer for a 20% discount!

2017revolutions-in-the-desert-poster

Congratulations to Steve!

 


New article for the Safi team – on Early Bronze Age cooking installations

A new article, spearheaded by Adi Eliyahu-Behar, with a large team of Safi collaborators, has just appeared online, in the journal Levant.

In this inter-disciplinary study, a new type of Early Bronze Age cooking installation is identified (a sunken, pebbled hearth-like installation), both at Safi and other EB sites. These installations are studied from a broad range of analytic perspectives.

The full title is:
Eliyahu-Behar, A., Shai, I., Gur-Arieh, S., Frumin, S., Elbaz, S., Weiss, E., Manclossi, F., Rosen, S., Greenfield, T., Greenfield, H. J., and Maeir, A. M. 2017. Early Bronze Age Pebble Installations from Tell es-Safi/Gath, Israel: Evidence for Their Function and Utility. Levant.

See here for a link to the article.


March 03, 2017

iMalqata

A Stamp of Approval

Diana Craig Patch

Sadly, this is the last day of the 2017 Joint Expedition to Malqata. The equipment is packed and ready to store and we are putting things into our suitcases for a midday flight out of Luxor tomorrow. As always, it is a bit sad to leave our site and our friends in Egypt.

I do not want to end on a gloomy note, so I offer here another interesting observation about the molds coming from the Industrial Site. With the first trowel scrape in 2015, we discovered a small pottery mold used to make a faience decoration. We have found quite a few molds since then, several of which I shared with you last season. This year was no exception and we found numerous molds for rosette, petal, and leaf shapes. The most common by far, however, are molds for openwork beads.

In the last level of N155/E180, two of the molds that were found raised an interesting question. What is used to make the impressions in the pottery that ultimately creates the mold? I had not thought about this question until I found two little rosette molds that must have been made with the same stamp. They look identical in size and style and each seems to have the same small tick on one petal.

two-rosettes

So how were the designs in molds created? There must have been master stamps made from a hard substance that could have survived repeated use, especially for the forms that are so repetitive: rosettes, leaves, petals, mandrakes, and openwork beads. Possibly a master stamp would have been carved in a soft stone, like steatite, which allows for the addition of fine details. Steatite also could be baked to make the completed design harder. Then this design could be attached to a handle. I do not see any fingerprints in the pottery surface, which you would expect to see if you used the stamp with your hand.

I have never heard of a piece, however, that has been identified as a master stamp. Perhaps we haven’t recognized it yet, but these two small rosettes suggest one did exist, at least for one pair of rosette molds at Malqata.

ADDENDUM: In a few hours, we leave for Cairo and the United States, and we just wanted to say goodbye to our dedicated followers. We had a great season, and we look forward to sharing our next one with you. Here are a few pictures from our last dinner at the New Memnon. We want to thank Sayed and his wonderful team for making our stay so much fun.


March 01, 2017

iMalqata

Sherd Yards

Janice Kamrin and Peter Lacovara

We are fortunate this season to have with us two talented trainees from the Ministry of State of Antiquities to help us work on the pottery from the site, Aisha Mohamed Montaser and Hussein Fawzi Zaki.  Aisha has trained in ceramic analysis at the American Research Center in Egypt’s Field School at Giza; Hussein is  Chief Inspector in the Valley of the Kings and is interested in the ceramics from the royal tombs of the New Kingdom.

JEMWS

Aisha and Hussein at work

Together, Aisha and Hussein have been helping us sort and record the pottery from both the King’s Palace and the West Settlement. One of their tasks has been to help develop a corpus of the ceramics found at the site to compare with that known from Tell el-Amarna. An exhaustive compendium of the pottery from that site has been published by Pamela J. Rose, and this will serve as a useful comparison to the material from Malqata.  It will not only be important to compare the Malqata ceramics with the Amarna corpus but also to analyze the similarities and differences among the various components of the site, such as the King’s Palace, the North Village, and the West Settlement, to see what they tell us about usage and function.

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The cover of Pamela Rose’s Pottery Corpus from Amarna

 

In the King’s Palace, we have laid out what is known as a ‘sherd yard,’ which is a common feature of many archaeological sites. We have gathered diagnostic fragments, usually pieces of necks and rims, that can tell us what type of vessel the sherds originally came from. We chose an empty area in the palace to lay out the sherd yard and collected sherds from one of the ancient trash pits that the original Metropolitan expedition found chock full of pottery over a century ago.

Photograph and diagram of the sherd yard at the King’s Palace

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Aisha and Hussein work with Pam Rose at the King’s Palace

We then sorted the pottery into rough categories based on shape and ware- the type of clay used to make the vessel. These broadly correspond to the classifications developed for the Amarna corpus. Aisha and Hussein began making technical drawings of the examples that show how both the interior and exterior of the vessel would have appeared.  This along with detailed descriptions of each piece will help us create a corpus for the site.

 

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Sample drawing (from Rose, Pottery Corpus from Amarna)

In the West Settlement, we had a different sort of Sherd Yard – in this case a very large rectangle full of clean sand that we used to begin the process of laying out and sorting the sherds that we have collected so far. We were very fortunate to have Pam Rose herself come to Malqata for several days to work with us. She spent time with Aisha and Hussein in the King’s Palace, organizing the corpus there and supervising some of the drawing. She then came over the West Settlement, where she gave me some very useful hands-on training in ware identification, and helped us refine our collection forms.

JEMWS

Overview of part of the West Settlement sherd yard

Aisha, Hussein, and I spent the last few days of the season, while my excavation team was backfilling the site with clean sand, sorting some of the pottery from 2016. We made a great deal of progress, and are looking forward to continuing the process of analyzing this material and building our corpus next year.


February 28, 2017

iMalqata

Under the Halfa Grass

Joel Paulson

One of the various site management activities that the Joint Expedition to Malqata (JEM) undertakes is clearing vegetation to protect the archaeological remains. Vegetation can be extremely damaging to mud brick both by retaining water in the soil and by putting roots into the brick and softer stone, causing them to break apart. This year, the JEM undertook the daunting task of removing the vegetation from the area of the North Palace. Like most of Malqata, the Metropolitan Museum excavated this palace in the early 20th century (1915-1916). But unlike most of the rest of Malqata, the North Palace is surrounded by agriculture on three sides and had become overgrown with halfa grass. During the few weeks we have been here this year, the Egyptian crew has been busy, removing a tremendous amount of halfa grass from this portion of the site, revealing the ground in this area to us for the first time since we started in 2008.

np_halfanp_no-halfahalfa_removednp_plan

But there has been another benefit to removing the vegetation. When the JEM started its survey work, we could only find a few column bases from the North Palace for aligning and plotting the architectural plans from the original excavations onto the overall map of the site. With the new clearing, though, we are able to establish the pattern of the column bases in the first court of the palace and, from this pattern and with a little scraping and sweeping of the dirt, we relocated four additional limestone column bases. In addition, we can now see another column base in the second court, though it has been heavily disturbed. With seven of the twelve original column bases that existed in the first courtyard, we can now refine our location of the original plans. The fact that we were able to find features of this palace under the former heavy vegetation cover gives us hope that much more of this little-known feature of Malqata still survives, awaiting further investigation.

jemnp_2017_column-locations


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

New Book on Ancient Aramaic

Please do note the following new book on ancient Aramaic:

Fales, F. M., and Grassi, G. F. 2016. L’aramaico antico: Storia, grammatica, testi commentate. Udine: Forum.

 


February 27, 2017

iMalqata

Go Fish!

Salima Ikram

Malqata is a particularly amazing site as it is a settlement—and not just any settlement, but one that contains palaces, temples, workshops, and dwellings for the elite as well as for workers. Such sites are rare to excavate as most places that were convenient to live in during ancient times are still considered desirable dwelling places, and therefore are inhabited continuously and unavailable to archaeologists. Luckily, Amenhotep III’s festival palace complex now lies in the desert margins, so, for the most part, no new buildings have been built on it and we can easily reach the levels of Amenhotep’s time.

JEMWS

Working with the bones from the West Settlement in the shelter of the new guard house built by The Met at Malqata

I am delighted to continue my work at Malqata. For my Ph.D. I worked on bones that had been excavated in the 1970s, and since then have been adding to that material with what the JEM has been digging up in different areas, which is expanding our knowledge not only of the site, but also of what different groups of people were eating there.

This year I worked on the animal bones coming from a series of mud brick structures in the West Settlement, excavated by Janice Kamrin. The bones were found in corners of rooms or courtyards, or along walls, often mixed in with broken pottery. These were meticulously collected by hand—even very tiny fish bones have made it into the sample.

West Settlement: N145/E135

Deposit of bones, sherds, and charcoal along one of the walls in the West Settlement

The bones from this year’s work showed that the people who lived here were eating cattle, probably quite young and tender as they were under two years of age when they were butchered. Clearly, the king’s herds were providing food for the people here. They were also eating sheep, goats, and large quantities of poultry and fish. The poultry consisted mainly of ducks and some geese, all of which are pictured on the pavements and walls of the palace, and were either brought from near the Nile or were maybe even bred along the edges of the Birket Habu, the huge ceremonial lake just east of Malqata. The fish, mainly Tilapia and Nile Perch, might also have come from the same place. But not all the fish were Nilotic—this year there was a fabulous surprise. One of the fish bones that was identified came from a Gilt Headed Seabream (Sparus aurata), which thrives in both the Mediterranean and the Red Sea. These fish also venture into brackish water, and thus might have been acquired from the Delta rather than from the sea. This would suggest that some of the fish that was being eaten at Malqata was imported from the Delta, probably coming in as salted fish.

sea_fish

Two fragments from the jaw of a Gilt Headed Seabream from the West Settlement

As there was no refrigeration in ancient Egypt, the Egyptians depended on salt to preserve meat, poultry, and fish. In fact, their salted fish was so famous that it was exported all over the Mediterranean! Once the fish had been caught, it was gutted, washed out, and then packed in salt for a week or two. After that, it would be hung out to dry a bit more, and then packed in jars, and sent wherever it needed to go. Some of the jar labels found at Malqata list Tilapia as their contents—maybe the Seabream was caught, along with the Tilapia, in the Delta, salted, packed into jars, and sent south to be eaten at the royal palace.

 


February 26, 2017

iMalqata

Our Two Inspectors

Catharine Roehrig

All foreign archaeological missions in Egypt work in co-operation with the Ministry of Antiquities and each year the local inspectorate assigns us an inspector who is responsible for making sure that we are all registered with the proper authorities, that we follow the contract that we signed with the Ministry, and to facilitate our work if we run into problems. We have been very fortunate in the inspectors we have been assigned over the past seven seasons, and this year is no exception.

megahed-diana-walla

Megahed, Diana, and Walla at the Industrial Site.

Because of new regulations, we now have two inspectors, one senior inspector with more experience, and one junior inspector. Our senior inspector is Megahed Abd El Mougod Mohamed, who received his degree in Egyptology from the University of Sohag. After working at Sharm es-Sheikh on the coast of Sinai for a number of years, he joined the inspectorate of Luxor and is currently assigned to Luxor Temple. In 2010 he participated in the ARCE Field School conducted at Luxor Temple by Mark Lehner, Mohsen Kamel and Ana Tavares, and in 2016 he was a supervisor for a Ministry of Antiquities Field School conducted at Karnak by Yaser Mahmoud Hussein. He has worked with numerous foreign missions including (but not only) the Polish Mission working in tombs on Sheikh Abd el-Qurna cemetery, with Chicago House working at Luxor Temple, with the ARCE Epigraphic Field School in TT 110. He also worked with Angus Graham, who studies harbors and waterways and who introduced Megahed to the Birket Habu, so this is not his first experience at Malqata.

diana-megahed

Our junior inspector is Walla Abd el Moged Hussein, who usually works at the Abu Jud Magazine near Karnak. She received her degree from the University of Qena and has been working with the Luxor Inspectorate for nine years. Joining our team brought Walla to Malqata for the first time, but this is not the first excavation she has worked on. Both Walla and Megahed had the good fortune to work on the excavation of the Avenue of Sphinxes that was carried out by Mansour Boraik, former Director of Antiquities in Luxor (and an old friend of Diana’s). Each of them, at different times, had the experience of uncovering a complete sphinx on the avenue, one of which had original paint.

walla-diana

As it happens, both of our inspectors come from the village of Old Karnak, just south of Karnak Temple. This is the first time they have worked together, but Megahed is a friend of Walla’s brother and remembers her when she was a child. Like many Egyptologists, including me, Megahed and Walla developed a love for the culture of ancient Egypt as children and carried it into their adult lives.

Megahed and Walla have both been very involved with our work this season, and we are delighted to have them as part of the team.

 


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

Safi 2017 poster for the University of Rhode Island team!

Prof. Will Krieger has put out a very nice poster inviting students from the University of Rhode Island to join the Safi team this summer. Go for it – you will have the greatest time of your life!

Check it out:

univ_ri-safi-poster


February 25, 2017

iMalqata

A Touch of Glass

Diana Craig Patch

A hundred years ago when The Met excavated the King’s Palace, the archaeologists found many pieces of glass, some of which conservators reconstructed into recognizable vessels. These early glass vessels remain quite rare, especially when they survive the past thirty three hundred years in one piece. The ones found at Malqata were not so lucky but still what is in The Met collection speaks to what was in use at Malqata.

A perfectly preserved spindle jar and a bag-shaped jar from the time of Akhenaten, Amenhotep III’s son.   (Purchase, Edward S. Harkness Gift, 1926 (26.7.1176); Edward C. Moore Collection, Bequest of Edward C. Moore, 1891 (91.1.1365)

 

EGDP008223

A fragment from a goblet from the early Met excavations at Malqata. Museum Accession (X.204.2)

We continue to hunt at the Industrial Site for a glass production or processing area. We still have not been successful, but the clues that it was in the area are numerous.

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Fragments of unworked glass from a level in N155/E180

 

The best clue however was a lovely fragment in pale turquoise festooned with white, yellow and dark blue glass rods or canes.

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Fragment of decorated glass from a vessel (JEMIS.2017.3)

Although this style of decoration is well known, there are many variations on the theme, perhaps as many as there were creative artists making the glass vessels. Our fragment mostly likely belonged to a wide-mouth, necked goblet, such as this reconstructed example from earlier archaeology. Although no rim is preserved, one edge is cleanly broken retaining a slight curve, this point and the lack of curve over the shard’s surface suggests it was from neck of a wide-mouthed jar, such as a goblet.

EGDP008115

A goblet from the early Met excavations at Malqata. Rogers Fund (12.180.161)

 

 

 

 


February 24, 2017

iMalqata

A V.I.P. Tour of Karnak

Diana Craig Patch and Janice Kamrin

On Wednesday afternoon, our team was treated to a spectacular tour of new work in the precinct of Amun-Re at Karnak. Our guide was Dr. Mustafa Waziri, Director General of Luxor, whose energy, enthusiasm, and ability to get things done is truly remarkable. We have known Dr. Mustafa for many years now. In 2008,when Zahi Hawass, then head of the antiquities department, agreed that building a wall to protect Malqata was an essential task, Dr. Mustafa supervised and directed the work. As we have said before, this wall saved Malqata!

Karnak

General view of Karnak, looking west

Karnak is a wonderful site, with remains dating from the Middle Kingdom through to the end of the Pharaonic period and beyond. For more than a century, various institutions and missions from Egypt and abroad have carried out excavation, reconstruction, and conservation work at different monuments within this vast enclosure, but there is still much to be done. In recent years, Dr. Mustafa and his team have made enormous progress, accomplishing an incredible amount in a short time on a shoestring budget. The Governor of Luxor has been a great help, always forthcoming with materials, and Dr. Mustafa expressed his gratitude to the American Research Center in Egypt (especially the Luxor director, John Shearman), which has also provided some of the much-needed supplies.

Karnak

Looking out over the Middle Kingdom court to the Festival Hall of Thutmose III

One important initiative, now well underway, is the replacement of old cement with new, good quality mortar in the columns and walls of the Festival Hall (Akh-menu) of Thutmose III. This project should be finished in the near future.

Karnak

A relief scene showing exotic animals and plants, with the new conservation material visible (lower right)

We then walked down a newly created and paved path – excellent as a guide for visitors, both to help them know where to go and to keep them off the more vulnerable parts of the site—to the Eastern Gate, where some of the most impressive work has been done.

Karnak

The east gate of the precinct, from the Temple of the Hearing Ear

There is a Temple of the Hearing Ear built by Ramesses II that has now been reconstructed and cleared of the halfa grass that made it inaccessible to visitors. This opens up a new vista to the west, and adds greatly to the visitor experience. This was not an easy task, and according to Dr. Mustafa’s description of the work, it seems there were many scorpions lurking among the fallen blocks that sent more than one workman to the hospital!

Karnak

From left to right: Dr. Mustafa, Diana, Janice, and Joel, flanking a newly-installed offering table (photo by Serenela Pelier)

Karnak

The Temple of the Hearing Ear, looking west. Note the head of a colossal statue of Ramesses II, which seems to peer over the walls

Dr. Mustafa then left us in the hands of his Chief Workman, Mr. Farouk, who is in charge of all the workmen on the East Bank; his brothers also hold important positions in the antiquities department. The Farouk family has done these jobs for several generations now, and are rightfully proud of their heritage. Mr. Farouk showed us his ongoing reconstruction of a colossal statue of Ramesses II that had been discovered first by his father in the area where the village east of the precinct once drew their water. Most of the statue had been buried for millennia, with the exposed parts used by the local population for a variety of purposes, including as a whetstone and as a pumice stone to soften their calloused feet.

Mr. Farouk with the colossal statue of Ramesses II

Dr. Mustafa is also supervising the reconstruction of a colossal statue of Amun at the Luxor Temple. We only have a few days left to finish our work here, but we are hoping we can find time to go and see this important initiative.


February 23, 2017

iMalqata

The Sacred Beetle

Serenela Pelier

Last Saturday one of our workers made an exciting discovery. An Egyptian dung beetle, also known as a scarab beetle, was found within a spoil heap of the Industrial Site that Diana and I are currently excavating. The beetle was already dead when discovered, but that did not reduce our excitement one bit! The presence of the scarab was a wonderful surprise, especially for Catharine and Diana, because even as veteran archaeologists in Egypt they had never come across one before. Intrigued, we asked two of our Egyptian team members, Wallah and Hassan, if they had seen a scarab beetle before. Hassan had seen many of them; however, surprisingly, this was Wallah’s first time so this was an interesting experience for her too.

jemis_2017_scarab_5-jpg

Scarab found in a spoil heap at the Industrial Site

Several species of the dung beetle, most notably the species Scarabaeus sacer, enjoyed a sacred status among the ancient Egyptians. The scarab beetle was one way the sun god Re could be represented. It was the sun god Re’s role in the daily cycle of renewal that the ancient Egyptians connected to the scarab beetle, whom they named Khepri. The god’s name is homophonous with a verb that means ‘to become’ and makes the connection to rebirth and resurrection. The link between a scarab beetle and the sun comes from the ancient Egyptians’ mistaken assumption that the young beetles hatching from dung balls were acts of self-creation. They also noticed that scarabs rolled their dung balls from east to west and understood this to be the explanation for how the sun moved across the sky: it was pushed by a giant scarab.

khepri-from-karnak-reduced-jpg

Colossal scarab of Amenhotep III, by the Sacred Lake in the temple precinct of Amun-Re at Karnak

 

Back and base of scarab inscribed with Amenhotep III’s prenomen
Rogers Fund, 1911 (11.215.6)

The scarab became so important that the ancient Egyptians fashioned amulets in its image; these were popular charms from the end of the third millennium B.C. until the Ptolemaic Period (ca. 300 B.C.). Thousands of these amulets have been found, not only in Egypt but in the Near East and other lands around the Mediterranean Sea as well. They range from naturalistic forms carved in full detail to simplified shapes reduced to a general outline. The bases can display a variety of designs, including hieroglyphic inscriptions, royal names, divine figures, geometric or floral designs, humans, and animals. The sizes of scarabs also vary and can range from small, that is, between 1 and 3 cm, to large, with some examples over 10 cm long. Scarabs have been found in variety of materials, most commonly glazed steatite, but also faience (a type of ceramic that is also glazed), hard stones, and precious metals.

Commemorative scarab inscribed with a text about a lion hunt
Purchase, Edward S. Harkness Gift, 1926 (26.7.264)

Although the majority of scarabs were amulets, during the reign of Amenhotep III, our king, and his son, Amenhotep IV−the latter more commonly known as Akhenaten− large scarabs were commissioned to glorify the king and commemorate his accomplishments. Such scarabs were made to be distributed throughout Egypt and Egyptian territories, spreading news through their inscriptions. Texts recorded on these historical scarabs concern marriages, wild bull hunts, lion hunts, jubilees, and the creation of an artificial lake.

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Scarab with the name of Amenhotep III. Rogers Fund, 1911 (11.215.4)

Surprisingly we have yet to find a scarab at Malqata. Perhaps one of these days we will get lucky!


February 22, 2017

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

Yigal Levin’s first volume of a commentary on Chronicles is out!

Kudos to Yigal Levin, my BIU colleague, and and old-time member of the Safi team, who has just published the first volume of his commentary on the Book of Chronicles.

Here are the details:

Levin, Y. 2017. The Chronicles of the Kings of Judah: 2 Chronicles 10 – 36: A New Translation and Commentary. London: Bloomsbury T&T Clark

Publisher’s blurb:
The book of Chronicles, the last book of the Hebrew Bible and a central historical book of the Christian Old Testament, has in recent decades gone from being “the Cinderella of biblical studies” to being one of the most researched books of the Bible. The anonymous author, often simply called “the Chronicler” by modern scholars, looks back at the old Israelite monarchy, before the Babylonian exile, from his vantage point in the post-exilic early Second Temple Period, and attempts to “update” the older historiographies of Samuel and Kings in order to elucidate their meaning to the people of his own time.
In The Chronicles of the Kings of Judah, Yigal Levin does the same for the modern reader. He offers a brand-new translation and commentary on 2 Chronicles chapters 10-36, tracing the “sacred history” of the monarchy from the division of Solomon’s kingdom to the final exile and return. Each chapter is translated from the original Hebrew into an English that is both faithful to the original and easy for the modern reader to follow. Extensive footnotes provide full explanations of the translator’s choices and of linguistic and literary issues, taking note of alternative versions offered by a wide array of ancient and modern versions and translations. The comprehensive commentary on each section provides historical background and explains the text both on a literary and a historical level, making full use of the most up-to-date research on the text, literature, history, geography and on the archaeological background of the biblical world.
The Chronicles of the Kings of Judah is to be followed by The Chronicles of David and Solomon on 1 Chronicles 10 – 2 Chronicles 9, and then by The Chronicles of All Israel on the genealogies of 1 Chronicles 1-9 and including comprehensive essays on the book of Chronicles, its time, purposes, methods and meanings.

HT: Jack Sasson


iMalqata

Hot Air Balloons Over Malqata

Janice Kamrin

Going up in a hot-air balloon is a great way to see (and photograph) the landscape and monuments of Luxor, although it is not for the faint of heart. Members of our team have taken balloon rides in the past, and gotten some good aerial images of Malqata and its surroundings.

balloon-mk-villas-kings-palace

The balloons go out first thing in the morning, and have usually landed by 7:00 or 7:30. We see them out of our window when we wake up, and often watch them in the distance as we head out to the excavation site.

jem_2013_1-23-balloons-landing-at-malqata-sm

However, the balloons are to some extent at the mercy of the wind, and every once in a while, a balloon will actually land at Malqata, near or even on the ancient remains. This is of course terrible for the site.

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We had two balloons pass right over Malqata today – one made it just past the King’s Palace to land outside the “French House,” but the second landed on the road between the West Villas and the West Settlement, with the balloon itself collapsing right on top of the ancient remains.

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It is a difficult balancing act for the team. On the one hand we want to support an activity that tourists enjoy and brings much-needed income to the local population, but we are committed to protecting a unique and fragile archaeological site for future generations. We want people in the years to come to be able to marvel at Malqata’s survival and learn about its importance from the archaeological remains we are preserving, and to be able to continue to see Malqata from the air.


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

New article by Cohen-Weinberger, Szanton and Uziel on LPDW from Jerusalem

Kudos to Anat Cohen-Weinberger, Nahshon Szanton and Joe Uziel for the very interesting article that they just published. This study is very relevant for the study of the interactions between Philistia, Judah and other regions in the Iron II (as well as periods before and after) and fits in very well with much of the research we are conducting at Safi.

And needless to say, a special call-out to Joe and Nahshon, who are old-time Safiites!

Cohen-Weinberger, A., Szanton, N., and Uziel, J. 2017. Ethnofabrics: Petrographic Analysis as a Tool for Illuminating Cultural Interactions and Trade Relatoins Between Judah and Philistia During the Iron II. Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research 377: 1–20.

Here is the abstract:

Recent excavations along the lower eastern slopes of Jerusalem yielded a number of sherds attributed to Late Philistine Decorated Ware. As this family of vessels is generally thought to derive from Philistia, petrographic analysis was conducted on the sherds, as well as on other vessels assumed to be locally made, which served as a control group. Late Philistine Decorated Ware sherds were found to belong to three distinct petrographic groups, two of which seem to originate in Philistia (i.e., the southern coastal plain and Judaean Shephelah), while a third group was found to be local to Jerusalem. The results also indicate that some vessels considered local to the area of Jerusalem were actually produced farther west. This article discusses the results of the petrographic analysis and the implications they have on understanding Judaeo-Philistine relations.


February 21, 2017

iMalqata

Digging the West Settlement

Janice Kamrin

For those of our readers who know nothing about excavating in Egypt, this blog’s for you.

This is our third season in the West Settlement, which, as you may recall, is the area between the West Villas and Diana’s Industrial Site, west of the North Village. We began at the south end of the site, and as we move to the north, we continue to uncover traces of walls that follow the same alignment exposed in seasons 1 and 2. Last year, we found large quantities of pottery, bones, and charcoal. The squares that we have excavated so far this season have produced the same type of material, but far less of it, and we have hardly any small finds. As we move up the slope, the site seems to be petering out, perhaps because it was higher and more exposed to the elements, or maybe because we are reaching the northern boundary. We are excavating the adjacent squares to the north and west now, so hopefully we will know more by the end of the season.

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View of the 2016 excavations, looking southwest. In the distance are the West Villas.

When I say we, I mean a whole team of people. I am the site supervisor for the West Settlement. Diana is the “mudira” (director) for the whole settlement area, while Peter is in charge of the palace. Both Diana and Peter are very experienced archaeologists, and I consult with them regularly to make sure I understand what we are uncovering and to decide where to go and what to do next.

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Consulting with Diana as we work in the West Settlement

At the West Settlement, we work in 5-meter squares, laid out by our surveyor, Joel Paulson, on a grid aligned with the cardinal points. We put stakes in at each corner, and run strings from north to south and east to west. After we got tired of tripping over the stakes, we started putting empty water bottles over them so we could see them better, but the strings can still be a hazard! We name our squares according to their southwest corners, so, for example, I just finished working in N150/E135 and am now working one square directly north, in N155/E135. We started in the 2015 season at N120/E125, and have cleared fifteen squares so far.

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Plan of the West Settlement, from the 2015-16 excavations

Within each square, we first remove the surface layer, which is generally full of large to medium pebbles in a silty matrix. There are usually sherds, but since these could come from anyplace on the site, we only keep the “diagnostic” ones (more on that later). We sometimes find interesting bits and pieces like beads, which we keep and record, but with the understanding that they may not be part of the original history of the area but may have been blown or washed in from someplace else.

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Mahmoud (left) and Gahalan (right) working in the West Settlement

Most of the actual excavation is done by two skilled “trowel men,” Gahalan Mohamed Sayed Mahmoud and Mahmoud Mohamed Hassan Mohamed. These men have been with me since the first season, and have really gotten to know and understand the terrain. The West Settlement (like the North Village) is a difficult site, as we are tracing walls of which in most cases only a part of the lowest foundation brick remains. My team has to work very carefully so that they do not inadvertently remove important material. They use, as their unofficial title suggests, trowels and also large brushes.

Gahalan and Mahmoud work a few centimeters at a time, scraping away the surface with their trowels or sweeping with their brushes, paying close attention to features and fill. If the color or consistency changes significantly, they stop so we can decide what to do. They have gotten very good at identifying the different kinds of cultural remains – the walls, of course; tumbled mud brick from decayed walls, most of which is just little jumbled bits and pieces, but some of which we find just as it fell in ancient times; depositional layers of pebbly silt; desert surface, which can be quite hard and uneven, but can also be a little softer and more level; and every once in a while a bit of a level surface associated with the walls.

The fill that Gahalan and Mahmoud clear from the square is swept into a plastic dust pan by a young man with a mattock (a larger, rectangular trowel) and dumped into a “basket” – actually a rubber bucket with short handles. Our “in-betweener,” as I like to call him, is also named Gahalan, although we also sometimes have a younger Mahmoud. I think it’s just a coincidence that the West Settlement trowel men and in-betweeners have the same names! Gahalan the Younger helps our basket carriers, Mohamed Qenawi, Mohamed Ali, and Ehab Mishrigi load the buckets onto their shoulders so they can take the debris off to the dump, which is off to the west in an area that we think has no cultural remains underneath.

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Gahalan Jr. helps Mohamed load a basket onto his shoulder

We work down, level by level, in 5 to 10 cm. strata. As we move to the north, the site slopes up, and it seems that the ancient builders terraced the walls that they built here. So we can’t work completely in consistent, level layers, but have to adjust somewhat to the natural contours of the site. As we go, we collect pottery sherds in yellow plastic bags labeled with the part of the square and the level in which we are working. Animal bones and plant remains such as charcoal go in smaller bags along with tags recording the same sort of information. We try to identify distinctive deposits and features so that we can assign feature numbers, which gives us a more exact location for the material (especially animal bones and plant remains) we find. We often leave features pedestalled so that I can map them properly onto our master plan. We also record the location within the square and level for our small finds. I takes notes about the work as we go, describing the matrices that we are digging through, recording feature numbers and descriptions, assigning object numbers to the small finds, and just generally trying to keep track of what’s going on.

As each level is completed, Gahalan and Mahmoud clean the exposed surfaces so that Catharine, our field photographer, can come and take a series of photographs. I also photograph the animal bones, and draw the small finds. Catharine has a field setup over near our lunch canopy, and, when the wind allows, she takes photos of the small finds.

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Catharine in her field studio by the lunch canopy

As Gahalan and Mahmoud excavate, I create one or more plans of the square (assisted this season by our senior inspector, Migahid), depending on how complex the stratigraphy is. In this site, I rarely do more than two plans per square, if that: since everything is so close to the surface, we don’t usually have more than 3 strata, and there are rarely interesting features on top of one another. I plan at 1:20, and sometimes map more complex areas at 1:10. To make a plan, I lay a large meter tape along one of the sides of the square, making sure that it is taut so that it starts at the south or west at 0 and ends in the north or east at 5 meters, and take points from the string that marks the edge of the square with a smaller metal tape. When I have walls, I try to draw each brick that I can see, and plan everything as accurately as I can.

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1:20 plan of Square N145/E130, excavated in 2016

Once we have exposed and planned all of the architecture, I am able to assign numbers to the walls and “locus” numbers to distinct areas bordered by walls. We don’t give these areas specific identifiers such as “room” or “courtyard” at this point because we are still working to understand their functions – locus is a nice, neutral term.

Once I get back to my office (my very comfortable room at our hotel), I transcribe my field notes into our Filemaker database. I download my photos and collect Catharine’s, add metadata, import the images into the database (where I cross-reference them so they will show up in the right places), and do various other clerical work.

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The Object Register in our Filemaker database

You may notice that I haven’t said anything more about the pottery, although I promised. This year has not been so daunting, but in the 2015 and especially the 2016 seasons, we collected huge quantities of ceramics, including quite a few complete (but badly broken) vessels. We will be writing a blog later in the season about how we are dealing with this material, so stay tuned!

JEMWS

From left to right: Gahalan Jr., Mahmoud, Janice, Gahalan Sr., Ehab


February 20, 2017

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

Quick visit to Safi and Area D – and a Chukar

Today, I popped over for a quick visit to Tell es-Safi/Gath, to take a sediment sample from Area D, for an ongoing (and very interesting) research project we are now conducting (and when I can, I’ll provide more details about the results).

As I got the site, I noticed a couple of Chukars (Alectoris chukar; חוגלת סלעים) hanging around, a caught a not-that-great picture of one of them:

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And by the way, from what I saw, the site was, so far, in relatively good condition – no significant signs of bad weathering!

Aren


The Tel Burna Excavation Project

Lecture by Andrea at Landscape of Archaeology Conference (Hebrew University)

On March 2 @ 10:00 AM – Andrea Orendi, our own archaeo-botanist and flotation specialist/enthusiast, will be presenting on the “Agricultural Landscape of Tel Burna” at the Landscape of Archaeology Conference at the Hebrew University. If you are in Jerusalem, come see Andrea and a number of other very interesting/important lectures! The details can be found at the following link conference-book-19-feb.


iMalqata

Sitting Pretty II

Peter Lacovara

In an earlier blog, from Sunday, February 3, 2013 (Sitting Pretty), we talked about the royal throne platforms and the canopies they supported, and in the blog for Saturday, March 1, 2014 (Pharaonic Dates), we reported on the wooden model dates used to decorate these structures. At the close of last season, mixed in with a large amount of painting fragments piled in a corner of one of the suites of rooms off the central columned hall, we found pieces of painted wood which came from one of these canopies. And this season in another spot we found a fragment that may also have come from this type of structure.

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Amenhotep III seated under a canopy (from the tomb of Kheruef)

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Painted wood fragments of a canopy found in the 2016 and 2017 seasons: 1. pole; 2. Block border; 3. Roof support with cut outs for crossbars.]

The fragments found last season included a striped pole about 10 centimeters in diameter and about a meter long and a flat crosspiece with vertical stripes of color.  These would have come from one of the poles that held up the canopy and from the flat cross member that attached them to one another.

A few days ago we came across another long piece with regularly squared cut-outs which could have come from the roof of a canopy made of flat boards like a modern gazebo. Unfortunately, these fragments had all been tossed aside by earlier excavators so we cannot tell where they were originally from. Since the palace was dotted with at least 13 throne platforms, that doesn’t help narrow it down!

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Reconstruction of the kiosk fragments by Piet Collet


February 19, 2017

iMalqata

Someone’s Trash is another’s Treasure

Diana Craig Patch

My goal this season at the Industrial Site is the identification of an area at Malqata where glass and faience were manufactured. As you may remember from previous blogs, I started working in 2015 in an area west of the Audience Pavilion because I noted that many sizable pieces of slag were scattered on the surface of old spoil heaps from The Met’s earlier excavations. This waste is associated with furnaces, but none of the earlier excavators noted that they had found either slag or kilns in this area.

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The spoil heaps west of the Audience Pavilion at the start of the excavations of the Industrial Site

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Slag from the Industrial Site. Similar pieces suggested that this was the place to look for kilns or furnaces.

I was not disappointed when, during the 2015 season, the first square I worked in produced not only slag but sherds from crucibles used to melt the glass ingots, tiny fragments of which were scattered among the modern radim (spoil heap). Last year I continued to clear this radim bit by bit in arbitrary levels; there is no observable stratigraphy in these heaps. At the base of last year’s square, I found some intriguing architectural remains, parts of which ran under its north baulk. Having finished the square begun in 2015 and put on hiatus after I broke my arm that season, I excavated to the desert or gebel surface with no clear indications of any burning or kiln structure. So, now I am tackling another portion of the large spoil heap started last season on my hunt for the manufacturing site.

Although excavating spoil heaps may sound a bit unconventional, I find it a challenge. For the early excavators of Malqata, everything at the site was an unknown. As a result, they focused their attention on exploring and recording the large architectural structures: the King’s Palace, the Audience Pavilion, and the Amun Temple. In excavating these large structures, they did not always collect the little broken bits, although it appears they did more of that in the King’s Palace than elsewhere at Malqata.

Our daily work is not without interest because we are finding many little but captivating objects that were overlooked a hundred years ago. These may assist us in developing a clearer picture of what was made at the Industrial Site and how it was done. Many finds are objects broken during manufacture or tools that had worn out, but occasionally the workmen find an interesting bit of raw material.

Two days ago I found a small chunk of obsidian. Its concoidal fracturing –the circular way in which this natural silica glass created during volcanic activity breaks−is quite distinctive and cannot be mistaken for another material. This find is exciting because obsidian does not occur naturally in Egypt. Most people who have studied the sources believe that the Red Sea coast is the most likely source for obsidian used in Egypt.

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Chunk of obsidian from the Industrial Site

We know that obsidian was a desirable, although rare, stone in ancient Egypt, because almost all the pieces are small. An example is obsidian’s use for the pupils in pairs of inlaid eyes of elite coffins, for example the inner coffin of Tutankhamun. However, rarely do we have any examples of larger objects in obsidian. The face from a small statue of Amenhotep III in the Egyptian Museum Cairo (CG42101) recovered from the courtyard where the Karnak Cachette was found is impressive in its use of obsidian. An ear (Museum of Fine Arts, Boston 04.1941) and fist in two other collections probably belong to the same statue according to Peter. Robert F. Tylecote, then at University College, London, analyzed the ear’s obsidian and found that it was from an Ethiopian source.

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A face of Amenhotep III made from obsidian

This last point brings me back to my little chunk of obsidian. This” exotic” material is only one of a variety of stones, including red and yellow quartzite, granodiorite, and Egyptian alabaster, that I find in the spoil heaps. All the pieces are quite small but none is locally sourced. In addition, some pieces have worked edges indicating that they once were part of a larger object. It appears that these chips, flakes and small chunks were discarded from the manufacture of larger pieces elsewhere. The glass and faience manufacture at the Industrial Site indicates the production of only small vessels, beads, and other decorative objects. Thus these scraps of “exotic” stone were probably delivered to this workshop to be reused in creating small decorative elements. Therefore the Industrial Site, like other manufacturing sites in ancient Egypt, was producing objects made from a variety of materials, not all of which required a kiln or furnace.

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Two small pieces of stone — yellow quartzite and red granite — that are not sourced locally so were brought to the Industrial Site. All the non-local stones are very small pieces.

Postscript: Yesterday I found a large ball bead, which may have split when the craftsman drilled a stringing hole. The bead’s shiny black color and fine texture immediately identified its material as obsidian. The bead had been roughly shaped and manufacturing scars are still visible as faint facets; polishing would have come after a successful hole was drilled. Discarded, the preform was rediscovered by the workmen, explaining one way in which the ancient Egyptians intended to use the chunk of obsidian we found earlier.

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A broken bead made of obsidian


February 18, 2017

iMalqata

100 Years Ago at Malqata

Catharine Roehrig

2017 is the 100th anniversary of the Museum’s excavations at Malqata’s Temple of Amun. This mud brick building is at the north end of the site, a fifteen minute walk from the King’s Palace where Peter is working, and ten minutes from the Western Settlement and the Industrial Site where Janice and Diana are excavating. We worked there during the 2010 season and learned some interesting details just by carefully cleaning some of the walls and floors.

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Stairways leading to the three sanctuaries at the back of Malqata’s Temple of Amun after excavation in 1917

For those readers who don’t already know, the festival city of Malqata was established for the first heb sed, or rejuvenation festival, of Amenhotep III, who celebrated three heb seds during the last seven years or so of his reign. Stamped mud bricks tell us that the temple was called The House of Amun in the House of Rejoicing. The second phrase (house of rejoicing) probably refers to the festival city itself. The Temple was built for the second heb sed, and we found evidence that it was refurbished for the third.

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Layers of flooring in the small hypostyle hall of the Temple of Amun

One way they spruced up the temple was by resurfacing the floors, which were paved with mud brick. We discovered this when we were cleaning the small hypostyle (pillared) hall that leads to three sanctuaries; the central one dedicated to Amun, and the others very likely to his wife Mut and their son Khonsu. At the edge of the floor near the entrance, you can see the mud brick flooring (1), the first thin coat of hard white plaster (2), the thicker layer of mud plaster above it (3), and the second thin layer of hard white plaster that joins with the plaster on the wall (4).

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North wall of the vestibule where it abuts the east wall (front) of the temple building

Something else they seem to have done for the third heb sed was to add a small vestibule at the entrance to the temple building. This is suggested by the construction of the vestibule which abuts the front wall of the temple rather than being an integral part of the structure. It was also built on top of the bricks that pave the terrace in front of the temple. The types of bricks used in the vestibule walls are also different from others used in the temple. In the photo above, you can see that the paving bricks are quite large (40 cm in length); the temple wall is made of standard size bricks (30 cm in length); and the vestibule bricks are the smallest (27 cm in length). The vestibule bricks are also greyish in color and have a finer texture.

In the next year or two, we plan to begin doing some conservation work at the temple similar to what is being done at the Palace. In this way we hope to assure that it will still be here one hundred years from now.


February 17, 2017

iMalqata

A Day Out

Janice Kamrin

Friday is our “day off,” which means that we don’t go out to the field. We usually spend part of the day catching up on notes and emails, and then perhaps go sightseeing or spend time with our friends here. Today has been an especially full day.

Right after breakfast some of us went to Medinet Habu, the huge mortuary temple of Ramesses III (r. ca. 1180-1150 B.C.), where we were treated to tours of three separate projects run by Chicago House of the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago. Along the south side of the temple, Frank Helmholz and Johannes Weninger are supervising a large team of stone masons and mud brick experts as they conserve and reconstruct the stone walkway along the temple’s southern wall and some of the mud-brick structures that lay alongside.

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The Eastern High Gate at Medinet Habu, seen from in front of the main temple of Ramesses III. To the left is a small Temple of Amun.

Farther west, nearer the great enclosure wall, master conservator Lotfi Hassan is working on the late Ramesside (ca. 1100 B.C.) house of the Necropolis Scribe Butehamun. He showed us how he and his team are carefully distinguishing between the ancient mud brick, the early 20th century reconstructions done by the site’s early excavator, Uvo Hölscher, and the new sections that they are adding now.

Finally, we went to see Jen Kimpton and Keli Alberts at the destroyed Western High Gate. This was once similar to the still-standing Eastern Gate, but was totally destroyed in antiquity. All that remains today are mudbrick structures and scattered blocks of stone. But many of these blocks still bear beautifully carved decoration and traces of their architectural contexts, and Jen and Keli are starting to put this ancient jigsaw puzzle back together on paper and reconstruct some of the original decorative program.

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The Malqata team (minus Peter) in front of Stoppelaere House. From left to right: Serenela, Catharine, Diana, Salima, Piet, and Janice

Our next event was the opening of Stoppelaere House, attended by the Minister, Khaled El-Enany, and many of our friends in the antiquities service, This house, which was built in 1951 by the great Egyptian architect Hassan Fathy, has just been restored by Factum Arte / Factum Foundation for Digital Technology in Conservation in collaboration with the University of Basel under the supervision of the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities to use as a training center for the Theban Necropolis Preservation Initiative Training Centre. This is the group that has, using advanced 3D scanning techniques, made a full-scale replica of the Tomb of Tutankhamun. They have now started their second major project – a complete scan of the Tomb of Seti I, which they will again use to make a replica of the tomb. This copy will be buried underground next to the replicated Tomb of Tutankhamun, so that the original sepulcher will be kept closed and not subjected to the damage created by even the most well-meaning of tourists.

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A view of the excavations at Kom el-Hettan, as seen from the road we travel every day.

We are off now to the East Bank, where we will enjoy some shopping at the souk, and then attend an event celebrating the work of Hourig Sourouzian and her team at Kom el-Hettan, the mortuary temple of Amenhotep III. We pass this impressive site every day on our way to Malqata, as it lies just across the road from our hotel. Greeting more friends and colleagues here in Luxor will will be a wonderful conclusion to a full day off.


February 16, 2017

iMalqata

Another Bottle of Beer on the Wall (Part II): Take It Down and Smash It Around

Niv Allon

First, an apology is due. Not for the nerves frayed by suspense from waiting for yesterday’s mystery to be resolved, but rather, if in yesterday’s blog I gave the impression that interpreting an inscription is a straightforward, linear process, I misled you. .

 

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Diana’s field photo again, to remind you . . .

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. . .and Diana’s field drawing

Instead, every step brings new questions and possibilities that requires one to revisit previous assumptions and interpretations. As I mentioned yesterday, at first glance, the first sign seemed to be a quite convincing writing of the sound “a” and the second that of an “r.” When I consulted ancient Egyptian dictionaries, however, they offered very few words starting with this combination that would fit this context. A text on shrewmice (arar) would have been greatly appreciated, but seemed unlikely here. This failed attempt at finding a suitable meaning sent me back to the fragment and to a reinterpretation of the first sign as an “s,” as discussed in Part I. Together, the two signs begin a word quite commonly found in Malqata: srmt, “ale;” one of the most common offerings sent to the celebration of Amenhotep III’s Sed-festival.

A similar assumption relates to the relationships between the signs. Seeing the three signs together on one piece of pottery, it is hard not to assume they belong together. Stranded on this small and broken sherd, they almost beg to be read together, either following each other from top to bottom or perhaps even forming one word. Hieratic, however, is mostly written in this period—with the exception of religious texts and a few other genres—in rows and not in columns. The gap dividing the first two signs from the third suggests that the first two are to be read together, while the third is part of its own word. This would mean that more than just one space separates the two signs from the third. A whole line of text ran to the left of the two signs, all of which is now lost, like the rest of the second line of text which followed the third sign.

The third sign itself appears to be partially broken. Its general shape calls to mind a number of signs. Many of these hieratic signs relate to bird hieroglyphs and elaborate on a basic shape.

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Bird signs from Möller’s Hieratische Paläographie (volume II)

Unlike the slight curve at the bottom of many of these signs, our third sign ends with a straight descending line, which continues until the break. Most writers pull their reed-pen at the end of signs, creating these small curves, but the writer of this ostracon seems to have done something quite different here. He was probably writing two signs together without raising his pen — like the ligatures, that is two joined letters — found in Möller’s book:

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Ligatures from Möller’s Hieratische Paläographie (volume II)

 

Unfortunately, none of these offers a happy match. The first, the third, and the fourth ligatures don’t have the upper curve, and the second has almost too many curves. In some examples, its upper part even forms the shape of half a circle. With the lower part of our sign broken, we are left in a difficult position.

The answer comes again from The Met’s jar labels. Looking for possible comparisons to our ligatured sign, I came across a sign in the following jar label:

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Jar label from Malqata (Rogers Fund 1917, 17.10.1516)

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Detail from MMA 17.10.1516

With its upper curve and its descending line, this sign resembles our ligature. The sign is in fact a combination of two signs “m” and “r” (m, and r) that write the ancient Egyptian title jm.j-r’ “Overseer,” and the ligature in our pottery fragmentary seems to indicate a similar combination of sounds.

A closer look at our pottery fragment and this jar label (17.10.1516) reveals more than one point of resemblance. Both open with the signs “s” and “r,” writing the word for ale, and both begin their second line with the ligatured signs of “m” and “r.” A second and even a third example from the corpus of jar labels at The Met seem to show a similar inscription:

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Jar label from Malqata (Rogers Fund 1917, 17.10.418)

With these similarities in mind, it is possible to suggest that our pottery fragment once bore a similar inscription, which would have read:

sr[m.t dbH.w]…jm.j-r’

“Ale [(for) offerings] …(by) the Overseer…”

Now, Overseer is hardly a rare title in ancient Egypt and even in Malqata it is well attested in conjunction with various names. Only one Overseer that we know of, however, sent ale to the royal celebrations: an Overseer of a Garrison by the name of Ineni, to whom the abovementioned jar labels belong. Our pottery fragment might very well be a piece of a fourth contribution by Ineni of ale to his king’s festival. This is a particularly exciting identification.

Our inscription would then read:

sr[m.t dbH.w]…jm.j-r’-[jwaa jnnj].

“Ale [(for) offerings] …the Overseer [of the Garrison, Ineni]”

Not much is known about Ineni, except for his evident appreciation of ale. The inscription might suggest, however, one final scrap of information: a date. As William C. Hayes notes in his article dedicated to the jar labels of Malqata, (see Journal of Near Eastern Studies 10, no. 2, 1951, pp. 82-112) more than eighty percent of the jars of ale are associated with Amenhotep III’s first Sed-festival, which he celebrated in the thirtieth year of his reign. None of the jars containing this beverage is associated with the second or third time he celebrated this ritual. If indeed this fragmentary ostracon is to be read as suggested above, then the ostracon recovered two days ago from ancient fill in the Industrial Site, is, in fact not an ostracon but a jar label! Written on the vessel’s exterior, this fragment of inscription indicates it once contained ale, sent by the Overseer of the Garrison, Ineni, in regnal year 30 to his king, Amenhotep III, for the celebration of his first Sed-festival at Malqata.


February 15, 2017

iMalqata

Another Bottle of Beer on the Wall (Part I)

Niv Allon

Over the weekend, Diana sent me a picture of ink marks on a small pottery fragment. Everyone was very excited since this is only the second piece of pottery with an ink inscription that we have found at Malqata.

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Diana’s field photo of the ostracon

Although this ostracon might appear too broken and faded to decode, the few fragmentary signs that can be discerned give a clue regarding the vessel to which it once belonged, the contents it once held, and the person who might have sent it. It also provides us with an opportunity to share a bit of the process by which inscriptions of this kind are deciphered.

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Diana’s field sketch of the ostracon

Like handwritten inscriptions everywhere, the writing of hieratic signs may vary from one hand to another and from one period to another, depending on styles and trends, as well as the surface on which it is written and the sign’s place in the word. Finding comparable writings from a similar timeframe is therefore essential. These can be found in a book by Georg Möller (Hieratische Paläographie: Die aegyptische Buchschrift in ihrer Entwicklung von der fünften Dynastie), who collected numerous examples of signs and organized them chronologically. Though first published in 1909, this book remains irreplaceable. It only has a limited number of examples from Amenhotep III’s time, but fortunately, the extensive collection of jar labels from Malqata in The Met’s collection provides us with a wealth of handwritten inscriptions contemporaneous with our fragment.

At first it is useful to observe the signs closely and study the manner in which they are produced. Hieratic is always written from right to left, and the first sign (on the top) begins in a curve at the left, turning into long and flat line, and ending with a bigger curve down. Only a few signs carry these characteristics, among which “a” (its hieroglyphic equivalent is ayin) seems very likely.

figure_1

Sign no. 99 in Möller’s Hieratische Paläographie (volume II)

The sign on our ostracon starts, however, quite awkwardly above the middle of the sign below it. A similar writing appears, in fact, in an inscription on one of the jar labels from our collection (17.10.395), but rather than an “a,” the sign is an s. The sign “s” (bolt) is usually written in a continuous line with two strokes added to the middle of the line:

figure_2

Sign no. 366 in Möller’s Hieratische Paläographie (volume II)

But the writer of the inscription on the jar seems to have done it differently:

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Jar Label from Malqata (Rogers Fund 1917, 17.10.395)

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Detail of 17.10.395

Instead of a continuous line, he divided it into two. It is thus, possible that the writer of our ostracon wrote the sign s (bolt) in a similar manner, but the left part of it was lost along with the rest of the inscription.

The jar label and our ostracon also share the second sign of the inscription. Some hieratic signs closely resemble their equivalent hieroglyphs, but for most part, hieratic developed along its own course, and signs that look very different in hieroglyphs can closely resemble each other in hieratic, and vice versa. The hieroglyphic counterparts of the second sign here might be a mouth (mouth) a hand (hand) or a rope (hobble), whose hieroglyphs are each drawn very differently, but closely resemble each other in hieratic.

figure_4afigure_4b

figure_4c

Signs nos. 91, 115, 528 in Möller’s Hieratische Paläographie (volume II)

Of the three, the first choice seems unlikely, but here again our collection of jar labels from Malqata is very useful in providing close comparisons and it is an “r.”

r-1

r-2

Two examples of “r” from The Met’s collection of jar labels

The final sign is …tune in tomorrow for the exciting conclusion . . .!


February 14, 2017

iMalqata

A Picture of the Palace?

Peter Lacovara

One of the most interesting places in Luxor is the “Open Air Museum” at Karnak. This is where a number of blocks and even whole temples that were reused in the fill of later structures have been put on display. A recent addition is a famous block that may be a representation of Amenhotep III’s palace at Malqata. This block was found, along with a number of others depicting structures in a desert landscape, underneath the large statue inscribed for the Priest-king Painedjem I in the first court of the Temple of Amun at Karnak. It is thought that these blocks may have come originally from Kom el-Hettan, the mortuary temple of Amenhotep III in Western Thebes.

malqata_block_1701

Block from Karnak possibly depicting Amenhotep III’s palace at Malqata

The block has recently been studied by Aude Gräzer Ohara, who has identified it as a palace at Malqata with a series of paired hills, which she has suggested represent the mounds of the Birket Habu.

malqata-block-drawing

Drawing of the block depicting a palace and the Birket Habu mounds

Shown in front of the palace are a corral with cattle, a zoo with antelope, a garden with a square pond, and a vineyard. The palace is shown with a “Window of Appearance,” where the king and queen would appear to a select audience, not unlike the balcony at Buckingham Palace. The window is shown in the upper story of the palace, with columned rooms and storerooms below. Outside stands a buttressed wall and beyond, pens with lions and possibly a food storage facility.

parenefer-reward

Modern interpretation of Akhenaten and Nefertiti at a Window of Appearance

It is a matter of debate as to whether this is the palace we are working in, an earlier structure, or one somewhere else at Malqata. In any event, it provides an interesting glimpse into how this palace looked in the eyes of contemporary Egyptians.

 


February 13, 2017

iMalqata

The 2017 Malqata Team

Diana Craig Patch

A successful field season always takes place because a group of people with expertise in excavation, mapping, planning, recording and conserving an archaeological site or the skills to support them comes together as a team. We accomplish our work at Malqata because we support each other in the best way possible to get the job done.

jem_2017-team

Today we would like to introduce the principal members of the team, shown here. Mohamed, the person on the far left, is our driver. He is a very careful driver and an extremely patient man. Ready early each morning, he gets us to work on time and then drives team members and the SCA inspectors around on the West Bank to carry out different tasks.

Moving to the right, the next person is Janice Kamrin, a colleague of mine at The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the excavator of the West Settlement. This is Janice’s third season at Malqata and she is happily excavating an extremely interesting settlement and plugging away at piles of pottery.  She is a whiz at FileMaker and produces all kinds of extremely useful databases to organize our finds.

Behind her is Peter.  He was part of the original team from 2008 when we started surveying Malqata. He has worked in Egypt for over 35 years at many important sites –Abydos, Giza, and Deir el-Ballas– and wrote his dissertation on royal cities, including Malqata. He is recording the architecture of the King’s Palace, which was never recorded in any detail, working with Tony (who unfortunately could not be here this season) on its mudbrick reconstruction, and figuring out the complicated decorative narrative of the palace from tiny pieces of painted mud brick.

I am in front of Peter and he and I are the co-directors of the Joint Expedition to Malqata. I too started with the initial team in 2008 and subsequently worked on rerecording the fragile North Village, the publication of which is underway. Currently I am clearing the Industrial Zone that appears to have been created for the production of glass and faience.

Behind me stands Piet, an architect, surveyor, and talented planner with an impressive career in Egyptian archaeology, although he has worked in many other counties too. This is Piet’s first season at Malqata and he is working with Peter on recording the mud brick architecture of the King’s Palace. He is helping to tie Peter’s line drawings of the mudbrick walls together to create a comprehensive plan.

Catharine stands to my left.  She is another colleague of mine from The Metropolitan Museum of Art, who has been part of Malqata from the first season of work.  Catharine is critical to the expedition’s success.  Experienced in the local landscape of Western Thebes where she has worked off and on since 1989, she is interested in the immense causeway at the south end of the site and how it relates to Malqata. She led the team documenting the Amun Temple in 2010, and continues to be the site photographer. She also works with our surveyor, Joel, another original member of the team.

Serenela is new to JEM this year. She is a graduate student at the University of Florida and is here to gain experience in Egyptian archaeology. Serenela is critical to my survival as she is amazing at recording, drawing, and keeping track of all the bags, tags, and objects coming out of the Industrial Zone.

Last, but definitely not least, you see Hassan on the far right. He joined us for JEM’s first season of excavation in 2010. Hassan figures out how to make everything work: hiring workers, getting supplies, making sure people get where they are going and with the right papers or equipment. Just as important to our success is Hassan’s knowledge of excavation. He consults with all the archaeologists and conservators about the work. JEM could not function without Hassan!

Postscript: Tony, our mudbrick conservator, Joel, our surveyor, and Salima, our animal bones guru unfortunately are not in the picture  because their schedules did not allow us all to be together at once.


February 12, 2017

iMalqata

The Sherd Yard

Janice Kamrin

Over the past two years, we have collected bags and bags of pottery from the West Settlement. Proper analysis of this material is essential to our understanding of the site – knowing what type of ceramics we have here, and how much, should tell us a great deal about how the area was used.

West Settlement, pottery

Some of the sherds from 2015 and 2016 laid out for preliminary analysis, with a few more bags in the background

We have done some very preliminary study of the pottery, and the most interesting comes from the floor level, mostly lying along the walls as if it had been discarded there. In many cases, the sherds are mixed with animal bones, now being analyzed by Salima Ikram (see I Wonder What the King is Eating Tonight), sometimes plant remains, and charcoal.

West Settlement: N145/E135

A deposit of pottery and bones along one of the walls in the West Settlement

We don’t have a lot of the really nice blue-painted Palace Ware, as Peter has in the King’s Palace (see Upstairs, Downstairs), and as Diana and Catharine found in the North Village (see Pots). We do have some, and I have to admit that I get excited when we find a sherd of this ware, but we don’t seem to have any complete vessels, and most of it is probably intrusive.

EGDP007893

Blue-Painted Ibex Amphora in palace ware from the King’s Palace, from MMA excavations, 1910–11; Rogers Fund, MMA 11.215.460

What we do have are lots of sherds from jars made out of clay from the Nile floodplain (“Nile silt”). These varied in quality and size, and were sometimes given a red or white slip (a type of coating). We also have pieces of many bowls, also of Nile silt and almost always covered inside and out with a red slip. We have already found several bowls that can be almost completely reconstructed, and I suspect we may have more.

JEMWS

Catharine at work sorting sherds in our new Sherd Yard. It looks big, but we will need even more space before we are done!

This year, we will begin the process of analyzing all of this material properly. Catharine and I have laid out a large “sherd yard,” and have started sorting the pottery according to the location in which it was found. We have a young Egyptian ceramicist joining us to help sort and record everything properly, and then 18th Dynasty ceramic expert Pamela Rose will join us toward the end of the season to provide another level of expertise. We are all looking forward to finding out what our pots have to say!


February 11, 2017

iMalqata

Traffic Patterns

Peter Lacovara

Working in the field at Malqata gives us a much better idea of how the community may have been planned and functioned. The published maps and plans do not convey how much the ancient Egyptians used and altered the topography of the site in constructing the Palace-City. For example, people have wondered how the massive harbor, the Birket Habu, was integrated into the site. Unlike the quays and ceremonial harbors at the temples of Medinet Habu and Karnak, the Birket is not centered on any architectural feature. The palaces are situated at the north end of the harbor and there appears to be little on line with what was the symmetrical entrance to the harbor from the Nile. Barry Kemp has suggested that the debris in Site K came from an earlier palace that may have been positioned to the west of mounds B10 and B11, which would have placed it at the median line of the Birket as it is now, but he also suggested this palace was destroyed in a later expansion of the harbor to its present form. In any case, the mounds are regularly spaced with no well-defined route of access to land.

fig-1-traffic

Fig. 1: Route from the Birket Habu to the palace complexes

While this might be surprising when one is thinking of the grand approaches to Egyptian temple and mortuary architecture, it is not if we consider it in the context of domestic architecture. A common feature of both palaces and houses is an off–axis entry, and palaces in particular had long, turning entrance corridors for security. Given this design then, one can easily see the stretch running between the mounds heading north and connecting perpendicular to the wadi between the Palace of the King and the North Palace as an entrance corridor. Even in Amenhotep III’s peaceful reign it was still considered important to restrict access to the royal residence. The two rows of mounds then would have been deliberately designed to produce this feature and were not just simply landscaping, as has been suggested.

The wadi between the palaces directly lines up with the portal known as the West Gate and intersects the ancient road running north-south. This juncture has been remarked upon by David O’Connor as the axes mundi, a term coined by Paul Wheatley in his discussion of ancient Chinese cities, which represent the the cosmos in their layout. This pattern can also be seen at Tell el-Amarna, which may have been following the pattern established by Malqata.

fig-2-malqata-axis-mundi

Fig. 2: Route from the Palace complexes to the main road

Although the wadi runs along the north end of the palace, it does not appear to formally connect with it. The main entry would have been through House West 1 (Ho.W.1) that was appended to the entrance corridor at the northwest end of the palace enclosure; there may have been additional conduits to get food and goods to the kitchens and magazines on the east end of the palace complex, but so far, they are not evident.

 


February 10, 2017

iMalqata

Better Late than Never

Diana Craig Patch

Due to an unforeseen delay — we did not get our security clearance to work at Malqata in January as expected — JEM is late getting into the field this year. When we were offered the chance to start work Thursday (yesterday), we jumped at the chance, but the result was that we had only one day in the field before Friday, the traditional day off in Egypt.

newmemnonbedspread

The special Metropolitan Museum of Art bedspreads that our host at The New Memnon, Sayed, had made for us last year. We really feel at home!

We spent the day working on notes (not too many yet), improving the databases where we record the finds, and keeping up through email with other responsibilities.  The New Memnon Hotel, our home away from home, is as welcoming as ever so we work in comfort.  Tomorrow it’s back to the trenches!

newmemnonbedspreadclose

 


February 09, 2017

iMalqata

We’re Here!

Diana Craig Patch, Catharine Roehrig, and Janice Kamrin

Today was our first day in the field. The site is in great shape, although it must have been a wet winter, as there is far more camel thorn this year than last. On the other hand, there mustn’t have been to much wind, because the clean sand that we had laid down to protect the ancient walls is largely in place in the North Village, the West Settlement, the Industrial Zone, and the King’s Palace.

jem_2013_1-23-balloons-landing-at-malqata-sm

Of course, as has happened most seasons, the first problem was that two hot air balloons landed on the site, in between the mounds of the Birket Habu. As you might remember, these balloons damage the surface of the site. Not only do the baskets get dragged along the ground, but there is also truck and van traffic that passes through the site to collect the passengers and the equipment. This is very worrisome given the fragile nature of the mud brick construction at the site. However, we had strong support from our guards and the local inspectorate, and they have promised that a report will be made.

peter_piet_sm

This year, we have an architect, Piet Collet, working with Peter to integrate the various plans of the mud brick walls in the King’s Palace, and they started that project today.

janice_sm

Over in the West Settlement, Janice laid out a sherd yard in preparation for her analysis of the pottery from last year’s excavations.

serenela_sm

Diana returned to the Industrial Zone, where protective sand was removed from the faint remains of a boundary wall, which was then drawn by Serenela Pelier, a graduate student who has joined the team this year. Diana continued work in a square that had been closed after her accident in 2015.

diana_sm

Catharine, meanwhile, did beginning of the season photography and introduced the site to this year’s inspectors.


February 08, 2017

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

Detailed schedule for Finkelstein/Na’aman Honorary Meeting – “From Nomadism to Monarchy?” – March 15-16, 2017

The detailed schedule of the very interesting meeting that will be held at TAU on March 15-16, 2017, had been posted. The meeting, which is in honor of Israel Finkelstein and Nadav Na’aman, in retrospect of the volumes “The Archaeology of the Israelite Settlement” and “From Nomadism to Monarchy”.

All told there are fantastic bunch of lectures, covering a broad range of related topics in the two day meeting (including a lecture by yours truly on group identity in Philistia and surrounding regions during the early Iron Age).

Check out the schedule – and do try to make it. It should be VERY interesting!!!

Aren

nomadism-to-monarcy-conference_3_17


February 05, 2017

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

New Miqne-Ekron report

Today I received a copy of the new report on the excavations at Tel Miqne-Ekron (Dothan, T., Garfinkel, Y., and Gitin, S. 2016. Tel Miqne-Ekron Field IV Lower: The Elite Zone, The Iron Age I and IIC, The Early and Late Philistine Cities. Studies in the Archaeology and History of the Levant. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Semitic Museum). Much thanks for Sy Gitin to sending me this very important publication!

While I will have to read through this carefully, it is clear that this is an extremely important archaeological publication, which will provide excellent basic data, and very interesting discussions, on the main area of Iron I and early Iron IIA excavations at this important site!

Definitely a very important development in the study of Philistia and the Philistines!

Aren


February 04, 2017

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

Trip to Sicily

At the end of this coming week, I will be traveling to Sicily, as a representative of Bar-Ilan University, for a visit organized by the Sicilian Jewish Community.

During the visit, I will be presenting a few lectures. This will include a lecture on the archaeology of Jerusalem (in Noto, on Monday, Feb. 13th, 2017; see notice below), and a lecture at the University of Catania on the excavations at Tell es-Safi/Gath (on Tuesday, Feb. 14th, 2017).

So, if you happen to be in the neighborhood – it would be great to see you!

Aren

sicily-jerusalem-lecture-notice_feb-2017


February 02, 2017

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

Brent Davis on the Philistine Language(s)

Brent Davis, long-time Safi core-staff member, has written a very nice short piece for ASOR blog, on what we know about the language(s) of the Philistines.

Check it out – very nice!

Aren


January 20, 2017

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

Hazael destructions workshop – Jan. 19, 2017

As mentioned previously, on Thursday, Jan. 19th, 2017, the first workshop of 2017 for of the RIAB Minerva Center, was held at BIU, and the topic was discussions of sites with possible remains of a Hazael-related destruction, and sites of similar chronological/regional sequences. This included papers on Tell es-Safi/Gath, Gezer, Tel Hamid, Aphek and Jerusalem.

In the 2nd part of the day, a workshop in which pottery from Tell es-Safi/Gath and Gezer were displayed and discussed.

One the things that clearly could be seen from the discussions is that very distinct “micro-regionality” can be seen at sites from the 9th and early 8th cent. BCE in the Shephelah, Philistia and the southern parts of the Israelite (northern) Kingdom, and it may very well be that pottery types that are often seen as indicative of this or that chronological phase, may appear at earlier or later phases at different sites. Similarly, sites which are very close to one another, have very distinct differences in more or less the same chronological horizon.

What is clear from this day was that more research and joint discussions and workshops are needed. We have to have additional ones in the future.

The lectures in the first part were filmed live, using “Facebook Live” – which turns out is an excellent method to live stream an entire series of lectures and discussions, for those who could not be at the workshop.

And here are some pictures from the pottery workshop, with discussions on the Gezer and Tell es-Safi/Gath materials.

img_6498 img_6495 img_6494 img_6493

January 19, 2017

The Tel Burna Excavation Project

ASOR Scholarships Available

Every year, ASOR (American Schools of Oriental Research) makes several scholarships available for anyone interested in joining an archaeological project (ASOR membership is required to apply). The deadline for applying for these scholarships is February 15.

 

 


January 17, 2017

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

Lunch at Safi lecture – on Facebook Live!

Check it out. My short lecture today on Genetics and Isotopes at Tell es-Safi/Gath, as part of the 2nd “Lunch at Safi” meeting, was shown on Facebook Live! For those who missed it (and understand Hebrew…), check it out!

Aren


January 15, 2017

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

Workshop on the Hazael Campaign in the “South” – BIU, Thursday, Jan. 19th, 2017

The first workshop for the 2016/2017 academic year of the Minerva Center for the Relations between Israel and Aram in Biblical Times (RIAB), will be held this Thursday (January 19th, 2017) at Bar-Ilan University.

The workshop will deal with the archaeological evidence of the Hazael campaign to the south of the Land of Israel/Canaan, both from sites with direct evidence of this, sites with possible evidence of this, and sites from the same time period.

The title of the workshop is:

”And Hazael set his face to go up to Jerusalem”: Following Hazael’s Campaign to the South – An Archaeological Perspective

The workshop will start with short lectures about the relevant levels and finds from the five sites that will be discussed (Tell es-Safi/Gath, Gezer, Aphek/Antipatris, Jerusalem and Qubur el-Walayda).

Following lunch, a hands-on workshop with pottery from these sites will be presented, in which the participants will be able to see, touch, and discuss representative pottery from the relevant assemblages.

If you are interested in participating, please contact Dr. Amit Dagan or Dr. Omer Sergi, the organizers.

Here is the full invitation and schedule: riab-hazael-workshop_biu-jan-19-2017

Should be very interesting!

Aren

 


January 12, 2017

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

Upcoming meeting: From Nomadism to Monarchy? “The Archaeology of the Settlement Period”– 30 Years Later (March 15-16, 2017)

Heads up for a very interesting meeting that will be held at Tel Aviv University on March 15-16, 2017.

To mark almost 30 years since the publication of the Hebrew edition of the landmark volume, edited by N. Na’aman and I. Finkelstein, “From Nomadism to Monarchy” (Jerusalem: IES; Hebrew edition 1990; English edition 1992), the Annual Aharoni Memorial Conference will be devoted to reassessing this volume after some 3 decades of research.

The two day conference will include lectures by a long list of leading scholars who will deal with related issues, aiming to present reassessments and new perspectives on various topics relating, directly or indirectly, to the appearance and development of the Israelite and Judahite cultures in the Iron Age.

I am very fortunate to have been invited to participate as well. I will be giving a paper: “Like Frogs out of a Pond: Identity Formation in Early Iron Age Philistia and Beyond” – in which I will discuss some issues relating to how the different groups in early Iron Age southern Canaan formed and defined their identities, and how these can, and cannot, be seen archaeologically.

Below is the complete schedule for the day (thanks to Ido Koch for this – and here is a pdf version of it – from-nomadism-to-monarchy-march-2017-program):

 

from-nomadism-to-monarchy-march-2017-program_page_1 from-nomadism-to-monarchy-march-2017-program_page_2 from-nomadism-to-monarchy-march-2017-program_page_3 from-nomadism-to-monarchy-march-2017-program_page_4

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Should be very interesting!

Aren


January 03, 2017

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

New article on the Sea Peoples, the Mediterranean, and “Pulp Fiction”

A new article (see here for the PDF), by Louise Hitchcock and yours truly has appeared in the Festschrift in honor of Robert Laffineur.

In this paper, we discuss some of the misconceptions that have become entrenched in the study of the Sea Peoples and the Philistines and their supposed relationship with the Myceneaen culture.

The full title is:

Hitchcock, L. A., and Maeir, A. M. 2016 Pulp Fiction: The Sea Peoples and the Study of ‘Mycenaean’ Archaeology in Philistia. Pp. 145–55 in RA-PI-NE-U. Studies on the Mycenaean World Offered to Robert Laffineur for His 70th Birthday, ed. J. Driessen. AEGIS (Aegean Interdisciplinary Studies) 10. Louvain: Presses Univesitaires de Louvain.


January 02, 2017

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

Visit with Dr. T. Potts to Safi

Today, I had the honor and pleasure of touring Tell es-Safi/Gath with Dr. Timothy Potts, director of the Getty Museum in Los Angeles. Tim, by training is an archaeologist, so we had some very interesting discussions during the day.

The site itself, and the surrounding landscape was astoundingly beautiful – and the weather was extraordinary – so all in all it was a great day!

And from what I saw, no major weather damage to the different areas so far…

Aren