Taygete Atlantis: Excavation Blogs (Antiquity)


Tom Elliott (tom.elliott@nyu.edu)

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November 23, 2014

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

Last day of lectures in San Diego

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

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

November 21, 2014

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

Safi talks went very well!

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

Ho ah!


November 17, 2014

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

New BAS video with Safi lecture included

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

Check it out (and thanks to Carl!)


November 16, 2014

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

Busy week of lectures ahead…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


IMPORTANT: Ackerman Fellows – submission of materials

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

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


Congratulations to Amanda Rose for her PhD!

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

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

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

Way to go Amanda!


November 13, 2014

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

Louise Hitchcock lectures Safi for the AIA in Washington DC

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

The lecture was entitled:

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

Well done Louise!

November 12, 2014

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

Congrats to Chris Mckinny – his MA thesis officially accepted!

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

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

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

Way to go Chris!

Kudos to Merav Levmore-Raziel for her MA!

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

The title of her MA thesis was:

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

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

Way to go Merav!


November 10, 2014

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

Preview clip of a what looks like a great book on archaeology

Here’s a previous clip on what looks like a great book which explains what archaeology is and why archaeologists do it.

I think the author gets the points that I always tell people: I do archaeology ’cause it’s the most enjoyable thing in the world – even if at times it is quite hard and demanding!

November 09, 2014

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

Cynthia Shafer-Elliot and a couple of students from William Jessup University are interviewed on TV!

Cynthia and a couple of students from William Jessup University appear on a very nice TV interview on a local Fox News station – check it out!

Although Cynthia has jumped ship and is currently excavating at Tel Halif (we forgive her…), if you look closely at the pictures in the interview, some of them were taken when she was excavation at Safi! :-)

Way to go Cynthia!

Here’s a picture of Cynthia and the William Jessup group at Safi in 2012 – as you can see – they are truly happy…. :-)

Cynthia and William Jessup group 2012

November 08, 2014

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

Kudos to Jeremy Beller on his MA!

Congratulations to Jeremy Beller, Univ. of Manitoba team member, who has completed his MA thesis at the University of Manitoba, under the supervision of Prof. Haskel Greenfield, on the basalt ground stone tools from the EB levels at Tell es-Safi/Gath. In his thesis, Jeremy studies the typology, technology and provenience of these objects.

The thesis is entitled: “The life-history of the basalt ground stone artefacts from an early urban domestic neighbourhood in the southern Levant: the remains from Early Bronze III Tell es-Safi/Gath, Israel”.

Here is an abstract of the main points of his research:

The research presented in this thesis is a reconstruction of the life-history of basalt ground stone artefacts from the recently excavated urban settlement of Tell es-Safi/Gath. In a broader scope, the life-history encompasses the production, distribution, and consumption of these artefacts. The investigation into these economic components sought to provide information on the domestic life and activities at Tell es-Safi/Gath and in the southern Levant, the socio-economic standing of Tell es-Safi/Gath in the Shephelah, and the nature and impact of economic systems in early complex societies of the southern Levant. This was examined through archaeological excavation, a provenance analysis using XRF, a typological analysis, and macroscopic observations.

Results reveal that the basalt sources in the north-eastern sub-regions of the southern Levant were locally exploited for the small-scale production of basalt artefacts by non-specialised artisans. These imported commodities were likely transported by
middlemen to Tel Yarmuth or directly to Tell es-Safi/Gath in the Shephelah where they were further redistributed to the settlement residents by a centralised authority. The socio-economic role of Tell es-Safi/Gath is considered to be one of top-tier dominance within the Shephelah given its large size and role in intra-regional exchange networks. Within the neighbourhood of Tell es-Safi/Gath, the residents utilised the basalt artefacts for traditionally domestic tasks, further indicating the non-elite status of the neighbourhood. As such, economic systems are stressed as an important contributing factor to the development and maintenance of early complex societies within the EB II-III southern Levant.

Well done Jeremy!


And here’s Jeremy acting cool:

Jeremy Beller looking serious

November 07, 2014

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

A Parting Shot

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

Mosaic floor in Grid 32

Mosaic floor in Grid 32

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

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

Linda Meiberg reports on her work on Decorated Philistine pottery

Linda Meiberg, long-time Safi team member, has submitted a report on her research on decorated Philistine pottery, which she conducted last year while she was a fellow at the Albright Institute in Jerusalem. Among other things, she discusses the decorated “Philistine 2″ (Bichrome) pottery from Tell es-Safi/Gath and suggests that there was a special workshop for this pottery on the site, as the Philistine 2 pottery from Safi is decorated differently from Philistine 2 pottery found at other sites.

While the idea that there are site and regional styles in the Philistine pottery is not new, Linda’s detailed analyses of the decorative styles adds important data – and a fine-tuned analysis of this issue.

Well done Linda!

Here’s a picture of Linda, from a few years ago, holding a piece of bichrome watermelon which was found during the excavation at Safi … :-)



Great day at the tell!

Yesterday, J Rosenberg (team architect) and I drove out for a few hours of work on the tell. For an article that is about to be submitted on the EB fortifications at Tell es-Safi/Gath, we needed to measure and photograph some features on the tell.

We had a great day!

First of all – we were overly successful in measuring and photographing – and in fact even found (based on a very astute observation by Haskel!) what appears to be an additional section of the EB wall – based on what seems to be another inset/offset section – similar to those seen in other well-dated sections of the EB fortifications!

In addition – it was quite beautiful. The weather was great (sunny but not too hot) and since it had rained quite a lot just a few days before, the tell was all green – and clean from dust!

Here are some pictures from the day:

inset offset in terrace below E j measuring to east J standing on the wall j striking a pose on the wall Jay setting up total station view of the sheep pens to the east of tell inset offset in terrace below E looking north


November 06, 2014

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

Tell es-Safi/Gath I volumes on sale!

Prof. Wolfgang Zwickel, who is now the co-editor (along with Safi team member Stefan Wimmer) of the series Aegypten und Altes Testament (which is now published by Ugarit-verlag – formerly published by Harrassowitz), has kindly informed me that the double volume report “Tell es-Safi/Gath, Vol. I” is now on sale for the astounding price of 30 euro plus postage!!! (compare the $249 price here!!!)

At this price, everybody should get at least one extra copy of the report. You can have one at home, one at work, one for the car – and even get your local library to purchase one!

If you are interested, please contact Stefan Wimmer at Stefan.wimmer@uni-muenchen.de.


November 05, 2014

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

Jon Ross, from the U of Manitoba team, makes it to the big time press!

Jon Ross, who has been on the Safi for a few years now, and is doing his PhD at the Univ. of Manitoba under the supervision of Haskel Greenfield, is now a mega star! Jon is highlighted in the “Gradzette” – the University of Manitoba’s Graduate Student Magazine!

Jon’s press agents are already lining him up for an in-depth interview with “Meet the Press”.. :-)

Seriously now, Jon very nicely discusses what his research is about – on the technology and social function of the EB pottery from Tell es-Safi/Gath.

Way to go Jon!!!

2nd day of Vienna Sea Peoples meeting

The 2nd day of the meeting in Vienna was very interesting as well, and quite a few of the papers presented very interesting new finds, analyses and discussions on a wide range of issues. Particularly important were talks (such as by K. Kristiansen, R. Jung and others) who discussed wide ranging aspects relating to the Sea Peoples phenomenon, as seen in regions usually dealt with by those thinking of the Levantine manifestations of the Sea Peoples.

The papers that were presented will be published in a proceedings volume – and this should be very interesting!

Once again – thanks to Peter Fischer for organizing this meeting!


November 04, 2014

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

The End

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

The probe in Grid 32

The probe in Grid 32

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

Who's ready to get in the dirt?

Grid 32

Grid 32

That's a wrap, everyone.


November 03, 2014

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

First day of the Sea Peoples meeting in Vienna

Today was the first day of the 2 day workshop on the Sea Peoples in Vienna. We heard some very nice papers and a wide range of issues, which generated some very interesting discussions. Without a doubt, there is a lot of interesting work going on nowadays on issues relating to the Sea Peoples and Philistines! It was also nice to see friends – and meet new ones as well!


The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

Long Day

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

The team sent along pictures of several interesting finds:





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

Shimi, Uri and Jacob

Shimi, Uri and Jacob

November 01, 2014

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon


The Pottery Compound

The Pottery Compound

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

"Office" in a container

"Office" in a container

Meghan found a dry corner...

A cramped but serviceable "office"

A cramped but serviceable "office"

...and so did Ben.

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

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

October 31, 2014

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

Rainy Day

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

Puddles in Grid 32

Puddles in Grid 32

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

"Clean" dirt

"Clean" dirt

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

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

October 30, 2014

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

The Next to the Last Day

Better system = more dirt moved.

Better system = more dirt moved.

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

A second installation, a probable tabun, has appeared.

New tabun appearing next to robber trench

New tabun appearing next to robber trench

Want to know more about the building Ben is sweeping?

Grid 32

Grid 32

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

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

First Registration for 2015 season!

Today, the first online registration for the 2015 season was completed! Yeah!


And now, all of you boys and girls out there who want to join our team this coming summer – hurry up and sign up as well.

And don’t forget – students should apply for the Ackerman Fellows!


October 29, 2014

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

Work continues































Another day, a lot more dirt moved.

The crew at work.

The crew at work.

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

Amphora inside installation

Amphora inside installation

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

Surface bedding running up to wall

Surface bedding running up to wall

Two more days of digging to go.  

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

Abstracts of Papers at Next Week’s “Sea Peoples Workshop” in Vienna

As mentioned previously, next week I will be going to Vienna to participate in a workshop on the Sea Peoples and Philistines, organized by Prof. Peter Fischer under the auspices of the European Science Foundation and the Austrian Academy of Sciences.

Peter has been kind enough to send out the abstracts of the talks that will be presented at this meeting – and clearly – this will be a truly fascinating workshop. Hopefully, a publication will result from this as well – and I believe this will be a major contribution to the study of the Late Bronze/Iron Age transition in general, and the study of the Philistines and Sea Peoples specifically!

Here are the abstracts: Vienna Sea Peoples meeting Nov 2014 Abstracts

I am definitely looking forward to the meeting!


October 28, 2014

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

Destruction Layer

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

Taking down wall segments

Taking down wall segments

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

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

Cleaning some painted plaster

Cleaning some painted plaster

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

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

October 27, 2014

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

Walls, Walls and More Walls

Daniel Master surveys the walls in Grid 32

Daniel Master surveys the walls in Grid 32

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

Ben standing in a robber trench

Ben standing in a robber trench

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

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

Ashkelon staff enjoy a special dinner during their October field season

Ashkelon staff enjoy a special dinner during their October field season

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

Unveiling the new project symbol at the name changing ceremony

And here are two more pictures (courtesy of Vera) of Vera Muravitz, myself, Dr. Merav Galili, Prof. Miri Faust, and Dr. Amit Dagan unveiling the new symbol of the excavations!

P1190468 P1190467

October 26, 2014

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

Grid 32

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

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

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

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

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

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

Progress in Grid 32

Progress in Grid 32

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

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

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

October 24, 2014

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

Small Finds

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

Pottery laid out to dry

Pottery laid out to dry

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

Glass base

Glass base

Jar fragment

Jar fragment

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

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

October 23, 2014

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

Excavation Continues

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

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

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

Painted plaster on wall fragment

Painted plaster on wall fragment

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

October 22, 2014

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

Great meeting on the Arameans!

As noted previously, Esti Eshel, Yigal Levin and myself went to Leipzig to participate in a great workshop on the Arameans (“Wandering Arameans: Arameans outside Syria – Textual and Archaeological Perspective”) which was held at the University of Leipzig, organized by Prof. Angelika Berlejung and Prof. Andreas Schuele.

The meeting was very interesting and we heard a series of papers, yesterday and today, on a wide range of issues relating to the Armaeans and their culture, from the early Iron Age until the Roman Period, and from Mesopotamia in the east to Egypt in the west.

The meeting was both very informative and interesting – and also we had a great time with all the participants.

We do hope that this connection, between Bar-Ilan University and the University of Leipzig will continue.

This afternoon, I gave a paper in which I discussed whether evidence for Arameans can be identified at various sites in the Southern Levant Iron Age. In addition to discussing the Aramean siege at Gath, I discussed find from sites as Rehov, Dan, Hazor, Kinrot and Deir Alla. Bottom line – much harder to actually be sure if one can ID Arameans and Aramean remains than is often assumed…

As an additional plus to the meeting – Shira Gur Arie, former Safi staff member, who is doing her Post-Doc at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, came to the meeting and then joined us for supper!

Definitely – a very nice few days!

October 20, 2014

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

Party for the dig renaming!

Today in the lab we had a very nice party to celebrate and mark the naming of the dig as the “Ackerman Family Bar-Ilan University Expedition to Gath”.

Avery nice group of the Safi team – both regular “labbers” and others (including Jeff Chadwick who came for a visit!), along with Prof. Miri Faust, the BIU Rector, Dr. Meirav Galili, the director of BIU Global Resource Development, and Ms. Vera Muravitz, Chairman of the International Friends of BIU, and Prof. Boaz Zissu, dept. chair, all came to celebrate and raise in a toast in honor of the event, and talk about the important contribution that the Ackerman Family’s donation will provide – enabling close to two dozen students from all over the world to participate in the uncovering of the past of the Land of Israel – and to foster cutting edge archaeological research.

It was particularly nice to be able to get together with such nice people – friends and colleagues!

Here are some nice pictures that Maria took:

IMG_0018 IMG_0032 IMG_0037 IMG_0047 IMG_0054 IMG_0060 IMG_0062 IMG_0064 IMG_0065 IMG_0084 IMG_0093 IMG_0098

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

We Are Back in the Trenches!

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

Cleaning up Grid 32

Cleaning up Grid 32

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

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

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

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

Ben in Grid 51

Ben in Grid 51

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

Co-director Daniel Master waiting out the rain

Co-director Daniel Master waiting out the rain

October 19, 2014

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

Fame and Fortune! Ackerman Fellowships in the Jewish Voice

Elana Oberlander of the BIU press office has kindly informed me of a notice in the Jewish Voice on the Ackerman Fellowships.

Check it out!

October 16, 2014

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

More info on the Aramaean Workshop in Leipzig, next week

As I already mentioned, next week I will participate in an interesting workshop on the Aramaeans, which will be held at the University of Leipzig.

Here is the updated poster and schedule of the meeting:



Looks like this will be a VERY interesting meeting! Hope it’s not too cold in Leipzig…


October 13, 2014

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

BIU Newsplug about the Ackerman Fellows

BIU has put up a news flash on the Ackerman Fellows for this coming summer at Tell es-Safi/Gath – check it out!

The Tel Burna Excavation Project

Area B Featured in LiveScience!

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

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

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

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

October 10, 2014

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

Safi at the Annual Bible and Archaeology Fest, San Diego, Nov. 2014

The schedule for the 17th Annual Bible and Archaeology Fest of the Biblical Archaeology Society, held each year in parallel to the ASOR and SBL meetings (which this year are in San Diego), is now online (see here).

I’ll be there as well – and will be giving a talk entitled: “From the Iron Age to the Iron Dome: News from the 2014 Season at Tell es-Safi/Gath”, on Sunday morning, the 24th of November.

Hope to see you all in San Diego!


October 06, 2014

The Tel Burna Excavation Project

Congrats to the Tavger Family!

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

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

October 03, 2014

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

Online registration for the 2015 season is up and running!

Great news! The online registration for the 2015 season at Tell es-Safi/Gath is up and running! Thanks to Chris McKinny for setting it up.

And now – all of you start signing up for the 2015 season – which should be the best season yet!


October 02, 2014

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

New Expedition Sign on the lab door!

Now that the Safi project has changed its name (Ackerman Family Bar-Ilan University Expedition to Gath), we’ve changed the sign on the entrance to the lab.

Here it is:


September 30, 2014

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

Sea Peoples Workshop in Vienna

On Monday-Tuesday, Nov. 3-4, 2014, a very interesting workshop will be held in Vienna, under the auspices of the European Research Council, entitled: The Sea Peoples Up-To-Date. New Research on the Migration of Peoples in the 12th Century BCE.

There will be two days of what looks like absolutely fascinating lectures (including one by yours truly), by scholars from various countries, all working on various cutting-edge aspects of this thought-provoking, and always-interesting topic.

Definitely looking forward to participating in this meeting.

Here is the planned program: EW13-107_Programme

Even nicer, the workshop proceedings will eventually be published as a volume – so that these lectures, and the papers that will be derived from them, can be shared by all.



The Tel Burna Excavation Project

Registration Open for 2015 Season!

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

2014 Season Min with a complete Iron IIB bowl

September 28, 2014

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

Ackerman Fellows for the 2015 excavations at Tell es-Safi/Gath


The Ackerman Family Excavation Fellows at Tell es-Safi/Gath (2015)


Thanks to the generous funding of the Ackerman family of South Africa, we hereby are happy to announce an exciting new fellowship for students from all over the world, to assist in participation in the excavations at Tell es-Safi/Gath, Israel.

The grant (approximately 20 will be awarded), will cover the R&B costs for the entire season at the excavations at Tell es-Safi/Gath. Fellows will have to cover their travel expenses to and from Israel, and all expenses in Israel incurred not during the excavation itself (including costs of weekends during the dig).

Fellows, if accepted, will commit to participate in all the activities for the duration of the entire season of excavations (June 28-July 24, 2015). In addition, fellows will commit to preparing a written report on their experience during the excavation, and participate in filmed interviews about their experiences.

To apply, please download the fellowship application form (see “Ackerman Fellows” tab above), fill it out, and send back a digital version (if scanned, it must be legible) to ackermandigfellows@gmail.com. All materials, including letter of recommendation, must arrive by Dec. 31st, 2014.

Notification of the awards will be sent out by Jan. 31st, 2015.


Prof. Aren M. Maeir

Director, Ackerman Family Bar-Ilan University Expedition at Gath

Big News!! Safi project changes name to: Ackerman Family Bar-Ilan University Expedition to Gath

Great news for the Safi project!

I can now officially announce that the Ackerman Family of South Africa has provided very generous support for the project. In appreciation of this, for the duration of the Ackerman Family’s support, the project is officially renamed:

The Ackerman Family Bar-Ilan University Expedition to Gath.

(abbreviated as: AF-BIU-EG)

Keep your heads up! Soon to follow, some exciting news about fellowship opportunities for the 2015 season.

Here is the new logo of the project:

image description












September 27, 2014

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

Safi and giant bones!

Periodically, people pass on to me links of pictures of excavations in which giant skeletons appear, thinking that perhaps these are evidence of Goliath and his family. Well, while all these pictures are fakes, we can post something real – with very large bones!

Carson and Julie Hastings, who were on the Safi team in the 2003 season, are avid dinosaur excavators. Julie was kind enough to pass on to me (thru Eric Welch) some great pictures of her lying right next to a bunch of VERY large dinosaur bones – and wearing a Safi t-shirt!

So, even though we have not found extra-large bones at Gath – we at least have a picture of some next to one of the Safiites!

Safi shirt next to dino bones 2 Safi shirt next to dino bones 1











Shana tova,


September 24, 2014

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

Toast in the lab for the New Year

Yesterday, Tuesday morning, a group of Safi team members and friends got together in the lab to raise a toast in honor of the Jewish New Year (which is celebrated on Thursday and Friday). We used the opportunity to be thankful for all the nice things that happened this year, and to hope that the coming year will be even better – and most of all, to express appreciation for the close friendship and camaraderie that our community has created.

And just in time for the new year, I hope that next week I will be able to post about some ASTOUNDING NEWS for the Safi project. Right now I have to keep quiet about it – but when I can – it will be a very nice way to start the new year!!! :-)

Here’s the apple and honey and honey cake (traditional foods eaten on the New Year so that one has a sweet year) for the event, and here Oren and I are trying to open bottles without a corkscrew…

photo 3 photo 2 photo 1











Shana Tova U-metuka (Happy and Sweet New Year)!


September 22, 2014

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

The “Other” Gath wins it bigtime!

Our distant neighbor, the city of Qiryat Gat (which was mistakenly named Gat/Gath when in the early 1950s the common opinion that Gath of the Philistine was located at Tel Erani), has just had some great news.

Intel (yes, that Intel…) will be investing $6 billion (!!!) in upgrading the current computer chip plant in this town. This will be largest foreign investment in Israeli Hi Tech to date!

Cool! Now all we have to hope is perhaps some of that money will seep northwards towards Tell es-Safi/Gath….


Shana Tova!


September 21, 2014

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

Amazing find! A green balloon inside of an Iron IIA jug! :-)

See there this amazing photo of a green balloon that Elisheva, our new pottery restorer, found inside an Iron IIA Late Philistine Decorated War jug from Safi!

I think this can be a great title for a children’s book: “Elisheva and the Green Balloon”…

elisheva and the green balloon












Now seriously folks – this is a method to restore a pottery vessel which is very fragmented – the balloon serves as a basis for the slowly reconstructed sherds….




September 19, 2014

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

Pictures from the Safi Corner at the Scientists’ Night

As mentioned previously, last night there was a very nice representation of the Safi team at the annual Scientists’ Night at BIU.

Here are some great pictures from the Safi corner!

photo 3 (1) photo 2 (1) photo 1 (1) photo 5 photo 4 photo 3 photo 2

September 18, 2014

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

Safi Archaeology at the 2014 “Night of the Scientists” at BIU

This evening (Sept. 18, 2014) is the annual “Night of the Scientists” at various academic research institutions throughout Israel, aimed at exposing the public, from kids to seniors, to the fascinating worlds of science.

Needless to say, BIU will take part in this fascinating – and very important – event, and more importantly for us, a team from the Tell es-Safi/Gath lab, including Maria, Dina, and Natalie, led by the new Dr. Amit Dagan (who is still waiting for patients to contact him… :-)), will present various finds from the Safi excavations and run a workshop on ancient writing.

Below is a clip of last year’s events at BIU and if you look closely – you can see the 2-3 seconds in which they show the archaeological finds from Safi.


September 17, 2014

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

Congratulations to Shira Kisos and Emuna Levy!

Warm congratulations are due to both Shira Kisos and Emuna Levy, both members of the Tell es-Safi/Gath core staff, for being awarded the BIU President’s Doctoral Fellowship of Excellence Grant!

Way to go Shira! Way to go Emuna!


Grand Valley State University Group at Safi 2015!

Prof. Liz Arnold, from Grand Valley State University (GVSU), who has been on the Safi team for the last two years, will, as of the 2015 season, be officially leading a group from GVSU that will participate in the excavations.

We are all looking forward to welcoming the GVSU team!

See below the flyer for application to the program at GVSU.

GVSU Safi 2015 flyer


September 16, 2014

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

The forthcoming Jewish Study Bible from Oxford (2nd edition)

As a contributor to the forthcoming 2nd edition of the Jewish Study Bible from Oxford University Press edited by A. Berlin and M. Brettler (I wrote one of the background chapters, on the archaeology of the Land of Israel in the Biblical Period), I’ve been asked to give some PR for this VERY interesting – and quite comprehensive, soon-to-appear volume.

Here’s a link to a PDF with details, and the TOC, of the volume.

Check it out – and note the special sale price that they are offering

JSB2e Promotional Flyer


P.S. I don’t get percentages on the sales… :-)


September 14, 2014

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

Geoarchaeology and Environmental Archaeology at the Annual Meeting of the Israel Society of Ecology and Environmental Sciences – BIU, 16-18 sept., 2014

The annual meeting of The Israel Society of Ecology and Environmental Sciences will be held this year at BIU (see here for the complete program in Hebrew).

As part of the meeting, on Tuesday afternoon, a session on various aspects of geoarchaeology and environmental archaeology will be held. In this session, at which I will serve as the chair, there will be several talks, including:

1) Oren Ackermann, Safi geoarchaeologist, will give a paper on the long-term environmental effects of the destruction of Gath by Hazael

2) Udi Weiss and Sue Frumin, Safi archaeobotanists, will give a paper on the changes in plant species and plant-use seen in Philistia during the Late Bronze/Iron Age transition.

3) Yoav Avni (GSI) will talk about the collapse of agricultural systems and their environmental effect using the late Byzantine Negev as a case study.

4) Eli Ashkenazi will give a paper on abandoned agricultural fruit tree gardens in the Negev, planted by Bedouins decades ago, which still have viable fruit harvest till today.

Should be very interesting. Also, this is an important step to open up “communication” between ecologists, who almost always only study the last few decades, to the insights that archaeological studies of ancient ecological systems have – and how their effects can often be seen until today!



New Fellowship in Jewish Studies

The following notification was passed on by Prof. I. Gafni – do suggest that all interested check it out!


The Yad Hanadiv and the Beracha Foundation Visiting Fellowship in Jewish Studies Announce a Programme in Jerusalem for Visiting Fellowships in Jewish Studies – 2015/2016 Academic Year


In an effort to enhance the quality of courses, instruction, and research in Jewish Studies at universities throughout the world, a Visiting Fellowship programme has been established by Yad Hanadiv and the Beracha Foundation.  Fellowships are awarded each year to scholars in Jewish Studies, who hold non-tenured university positions at the time of their application.  Fellows will spend a year in Israel, pursuing their research projects, while meeting regularly with a senior scholar in their field who will serve as an academic advisor. The Fellows will be required to confirm that upon completion of the 2015/2016 academic year they will resume teaching Jewish Studies at a University outside Israel. 


Candidates wishing to apply for a Fellowship for the academic year 2015/2016 must meet the following criteria:

  1. Dissertation must be submitted 1 April 2015 and the PhD degree must be awarded before the beginning of the fellowship period.
  2. PhD was obtained on or after September 2009.
  3. Competency in Hebrew.
  4. Permanent, non-Israeli residence.
  5. Involvement specifically in the teaching of courses in Jewish Studies.

Amount of Fellowship:

The Fellowship for 2015/2016 will be in the amount of NIS 100,000 plus a family allowance (NIS 10,500 for spouse and NIS 10,500 per child), where applicable. A Fellow will be entitled to a modest travel grant, depending on the place of origin and the size of the family. Expenses for housing and medical care are the sole responsibility of the Fellow.

Deadline for receipt of applications: 26 December 2014.

Applicants will be advised as to the decision of the Steering Committee on or before 31 January 2015.  Further information and application forms may be obtained from:

Prof. Isaiah Gafni or Ms. Natania Isaak-Weschler

Yad Hanadiv/Beracha Foundation Fellowships

4 George Washington Street, 9418794 Jerusalem, ISRAEL

e-mail: isaiah.gafni@gmail.co  or  natania@yadhanadiv.org.il

Tel.: 972-2-566 5107, ext. 310



Faience technology at EB Safi: Poster at Upcoming conference in Cyprus

Adi Eliyahu Behar will be presenting a poster (in the name of a bunch of Safiites – Shira Kisos, Itzick Shai, Aren Maeir and Haskel Greenfield) on a technological study of faience beads that were found in the EB levels in Area E at Tell es-Safi/Gath.

The poster will be presented at the INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE INTERDISCIPLINARY STUDIES OF ANCIENT MATERIALS FROM THE MEDITERRANEAN, which will be held in Nicosia, 17-19 September 2014, at the University of Cyprus (see here for the conference schedule and abstracts [thanks to Barnea Selevan for the HT]).

Besides the Safi poster, there will be all kinds of very interesting presentations at this meeting.

Here is a pdf of the poster which will be presented at the conference:

Beads-Poster-Cyprus 2014-Final


September 12, 2014

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

“Wandering Arameans”: Workshop on the Arameans Outside of Syria – Leipzig, 21-23 of October, 2014

As the part of what hopefully will turn into a long-term collaboration between the University of Leipzig and Bar-Ilan University (led by Prof. Angelika Berlejung and yours truly) on the study of the relations between the Aram and Israel in ancient times, a workshop which will deal with various aspects on the Arameans outside (and in some cases, inside) Syria will be held on October 21-13, 2014 at the University of Leipzig.

Here is the official meeting announcement and schedule:

We are pleased to invite you to the Symposium “Wandering Arameans:
Arameans outside Syria: textual and archaeological perspectives” to be
held on 21-23 October 2014. The venue will be the lecture room of the
Bibliotheca Albertina, University of Leipzig (Beethovenstraße 6,
Leipzig, Germany, D-04107). The symposium is organized by Institut für
Altes Testament der Universität Leipzig, Germany, in cooperation with
Bar Ilan University, Ramat Gan, Israel.

For further information, please contact Prof. Dr Angelika Berlejung,
Institut für Altes Testament der Universität Leipzig


21.10.2014 Vortragsraum der Bibliotheca Albertina
14.30 Welcome

15.00-15.45: Yigal Levin – Bar Ilan University:
“My Father was a Wandering Aramean”: Biblical Views of the Ancestral
Relationship Between Israel and Aram

15.45-16.30: Angelika Berlejung – Leipzig University:
In Search of parallels and interconnections between the
Israelite/Judahite and Aramean cultures. The case of Hamath

16.30-17.00 coffee/tea break

17.00-17.45: Takayoshi Oshima – Leipzig University
How “Mesopotamian” was Ahiqar?

17.45-18.30: Michael Streck – Leipzig University:
Aramaic epigraphs on Cuneiform Tablets as Source for the Late
Babylonian Language

22.10.2014 Vortragsraum der Bibliotheca Albertina

10.00-10.45: Johannes Hackl – Leipzig/Wien University:
Arameans in Late Period Babylonia

10.45-11.30: Andreas Schüle – Leipzig University:
A Peripheral Aramean: Tell Deir Alla Revisited

11:30-12.45: Esther Eshel – Bar-Ilan University:
New Aramaic Divination Ostraca from Hellenistic Maresha

12:45-15.00 break

15.00-15.45: Günter Vittmann – Würzburg University:
Arameans in Ancient Egypt

15:45-16.30: Marco Frenschkowski – Leipzig University:
Traces of Aramaic Religion in Eastern Syriac Sources from Late Antiquity

16.30-17.00 coffee-tea break

17.00-17.45: Aren M. Maeir – Bar-Ilan University:
Can material evidence of the Aramean influence in Iron Age Judah and
Israel be found?

23.10.2014 (not open to public) Universität Leipzig Augustusplatz S 204
10.15-12.00 Final discussion and project outline


This should be VERY interesting – and hopefully the opening of some very fruitful research and collaboration!


September 10, 2014

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

Mazal tov to Dr. Amit Dagan!

Today we got the great news that we now have to call Amit Dagan – Dr. Dagan!


Amit gets a big head

Amit, long time core team member of the Tell es-Safi/Gath project, field director of Area D and director of the project lab, wrote his thesis on:

“Between Judah and Philistia in the 8th century BCE: The material culture of Tell es-Safi/Gath as a test case for political and cultural change”

Mabruk! Kol Hakavod! Lechaim!



September 08, 2014

The Tel Burna Excavation Project

New Lab Sign – Tel Burna Conservation and Excavation Project

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

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

September 05, 2014

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

Fall Update

Backyard BBQ

Backyard BBQ

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

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

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

September 02, 2014

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

Meeting at TAU on “Biblical Tells”, and Heritage Conservation

The official notice on a very interesting meeting which will take place at TAU Dec. 11, 2014 has just been sent out.

The meeting, which will be conducted in Hebrew is entitled: “The Biblical Tell: Between Research and Tourism”. The various lectures will deal with continuum that runs between the modern excavations of Bronze and Iron Age multi-period sites and up until they are part of the cultural heritage and tourism landscape.

Here is the meeting schedule:


Among others, there will be lectures by Steve Weiner, Israel Finkelstein, Ami Mazar, yours truly, Tzika Tzuk, Yadin Roman and Raanan Kislev. Should be very interesting!

Kudos to Oded Lifschitz for organizing this interesting meeting!



September 01, 2014

The Tel Burna Excavation Project

Lecture on Burna at the Bible Lands Museum

Itizck will be lecturing at the Bible Lands Museum in Jerusalem on Wednesday, October 22 @ 7:30 pm as part of their Fall Lecture series

The lecture is called “Border Towns of Judah: A View from Tel Burna” – If you are in the area don’t miss it! 

A View of Tel BurnaA View of Tel Burna



August 28, 2014

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

Feathered wings on Ikaria?

Finishing up a splendid 2 week vacation on the Greek island of Ikaria (2nd time here), which is simply an enchanted – but very unusual – place.

Tradition has it that Icarus, the son of Daedalus (who created the Labyrinth for Minos), when the two escaped from Crete using wings that Daedalus created, Icarus flew too close to the sun, and he plummeted into the sea near this island – and was buried here. I despite looking all over, I did not see any evidence of his wings…

On the other hand, although there are surprisingly few birds on the island (wonder if this is due to hunting?), I did get to see a very nice Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo – sometimes known as the “Great Cormorant”) sitting on a rock right near the house we were staying in – so I imagined that perhaps those were how Daedalus’ wings looked like…

Cormorant on Ikaria


August 27, 2014

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

Great book: “Complex Communities” by B. Porter

Just finished reading a great book – Complex Communities: The Archaeology of Early Iron Age West-Central Jordan, B. J. Porter (Univ. of Arizona, 2013). The book describes his research on early Iron Age sites in central Jordan, and provides a very sophisticated and well-thought out view on communities existing in a marginal zone. Short, dense – but highly readable, and with many important insights for the study of the early Iron Age Levant in general, and marginal (and non-marginal) societies in general. I particularly liked how he stresses the need to look at a much higher resolution at the various groups which are defined in most scholarship about the Iron Age Levant (Israelites, Philistines, Moabites, etc.), and how community level archaeological research can provide important and even revolutionary insights on these (and other) cultures and periods.

Very relevant for studying non-marginal early Iron Age cultures as well – such as the Philistines, Canaanites, and Israelites/Judahites.



August 25, 2014

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

Palestinians and Philistines

As I’ve clarified many times before, there is no cultural (and genetic) connection between the ancient Philistines and the contemporary Palestinians – save for that the Palestinians are people who live in the area which from Graeco-Roman times was known as Philistia – in itself a toponym which remembers the presence of the Philistine culture in the southern Coastal Plain during the Iron Age.

But now, I think we have a good connection!

I’ve been informed that due to the missiles that the Palestinians in Gaza are firing towards Ashdod, the Museum of Philistine Culture in Ashdod is still closed! Is nothing sacred? :-)

And if on this topic – do you think that the tunnel diggers in Gaza have collected the archaeological finds that were found during their excavations? One can only wonder what they have found during this escapades….

Nice piece by Jo Verducci

Jo Verducci has notified me of a very nice essay that she has just published in Bible History Daily on Philistine adornment, referring, inter alia, to some of the finds from Safi.

Check it out!


August 19, 2014

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

A Little Staff News

Ashkelon in South Dakota

Ashkelon in South Dakota

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

Congratulations Josh and Sarah!


August 15, 2014

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

Some things never change…

Just to show that some things never change, here is a picture (on the right) of a one of the PEF surveyors in the 19th cent CE, measuring with a Theodolite under an umbrella, while working on the Survey of Western Palestine (and which serves as the symbol of the PEF) – and next to it (on the left), Jill Katz (YU), director of Area P at Tell es-Safi/Gath, measuring with a Total Station, working as well under an umbrella.

As I said, some things, such as the hot sun in the Levant, never change…

 IMG_2388PEF symbol


Rocket men (and women)…

For all those of you who bravely participated in archaeological excavations in Israel this summer during and despite the hostilities in Gaza, and continued excavating despite the falling rockets – and in particular those of you who were in the regions near Gaza – here’s a song for you.

You are all officially Rocket Men (or women) – OK – Rocket people



August 14, 2014

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

Seal impression (no noise or clapping though…) from 2009

As the picture of the seal from Area A (2014 season) made some people jealous, here’s an impression of a Late Bronze cylinder seal that we found in Area F in the 2009 season. As you can notice from this and the last seal, it seems that the people at ancient Gath liked to dance…

Cylinder seal F 2009_impression_dancing men

August 13, 2014

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

A neat seal from this season!

We are about to bring in a bunch of finds from this year’s season for conservation in the HU conservation lab, and before they are sent it, I thought a nice, preliminary picture of a beautiful conical seal which was found by Louise’s team (in Jo’s square) in the early Iron Age levels in Area A – would be very nice to show. This is a type that is known from other early Iron Age Philistine contexts, and has decoration, and some hieroglyphs, and the various sides. Once it’s cleaned and documented, we’ll eventually publish more details about it. Meanwhile – enjoy it! :-)

So – here it is:

conical seal 2014 temp picture small

Talk on Science and Archaeology at Tell es-Safi/Gath

Check out the youtube video of a talk that I gave to a group of YU students who spent the a month in Israel on a BIU program in science. The talk dealt with combination of archaeology and science as implemented at the Tell es-Safi/Gath excavations


August 05, 2014

Lapis Gabinus: official blog of the Gabii Project

Android Tablets at Gabii

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

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

Gabii Project 2014 Team
Gabii Project 2014 Team

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

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

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

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


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

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

A UFO at Tell es-Safi/Gath?

Just joking…

But see this great clip of the unmanned helicopter that we used for taking the final aerial photos at the end of the 2014 season – as it lands next to Area F. This service was provided through Skyview and Griffin.


August 04, 2014

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

Archaeology summer camp at the Safi lab!

Shira and Mor took part as counselors in a summer camp for kids interested in science which is held each year at BIU (נוער שוחר מדע). As part of the various activities relating to science which they kids were involved in, each day a group of kids came to the Safi lab and had a hands-on learning experience about archaeology. Shira and Mor taught them about various things going on in the lab – and helped them create various replicas of archaeological finds. See below Shira and Mor in action – and two coins and a beautiful mosaic that Mor, Shira and the kids made.

coin from summer camp 2014 coins from summer camp 2014 Mor and Shira summer camp 2014 shira and mor summer camp 2014IMG-20140804-WA0007

August 02, 2014

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

New article with Esti Eshel on 4 short inscriptions from Tell es-Safi/Gath

On Friday I received the PDF of a just-published article, by Esti Eshel and yours truly on 4 short (in fact – super short…) inscriptions from the Iron IIA “Hazael” destruction level at Tell es-Safi/Gath.

The article is entitled:

Maeir, A. M., and Eshel, E. 2014. Four short alphabetic inscriptions from Iron Age IIA Tell es-Safi/Gath and their contribution for understanding the process of the development of literacy in Iron Age Philistia. Pp. 70–88 in “See, I Will Bring a Scroll Recounting What Befell Me” (Ps 40:8): Epigraphy and Daily Life – From the Bible to the Talmud Dedicated to the Memory of Professor Hanan Eshel, eds. E. Eshel and Y. Levin. Journal of Ancient Judaism, Supplements, Band 12. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht.

Thanks to Esti and Yigal Levin for organizing the conference and editing the volume. I’m glad that this was an additional venue to remember our good and sorely missed friend – Hanan Eshel z'”l.


July 31, 2014

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

Tell Jemmeh Publication! Way to go David Ben-Shlomo!

Kudos to David Ben-Shlomo for his fantastic work in working on and bringing to press the excavations at Tell Jemmeh!

Here is the notification on this extremely important, forthcoming publication (HT Jack Sasson):

The Smithsonian Institution Excavation at Tell Jemmeh, Israel, 1970–1990
David Ben-Shlomo, Gus W. Van Beek (Volume editor)
DOI: 10.5479/si.19436661.50
Publication date: 2014-07-22
Series: Smithsonian Contributions to Anthropology

This monograph describes the results of the archaeological excavation
at the site of Tell Jemmeh, Israel, undertaken by the Smithsonian
Institution and directed by Gus W. Van Beek during the years
1970–1990. All the artifacts from the excavations were shipped from
Israel to Washington, D.C., and have been restored, studied, and
analyzed in the National Museum of Natural History for the past four
decades. The site is a strategic and large mound located near Gaza and
the Mediterranean coast. It was inhabited continuously for at least
1,400 years during the Middle and Late Bronze Age, the Iron Age, and
the Persian period. The highlights of this excavation are the findings
of a large and affluent courtyard house from the Late Bronze Age, a
sophisticated well-preserved pottery kiln from the early Iron Age, a
complex of Assyrian-related administrative buildings during the late
Iron Age, and a complete granary of the Persian period. This is a
detailed and final report on all of the excavation results, including
the architectural remains, stratigraphy, pottery, and other finds. In
addition, several more detailed and focused studies of certain aspects
of the site’s material include (among others) chapters on imported,
decorated, Philistine, Assyrian-style and Greek pottery and chapters
on figurines, sealings, jewelry, amulets, scarabs, cylinder seals,
flint, coins, ostraca, and fauna. The volume is richly illustrated
with nearly 1,000 figures showing field photographs, plans, sections,
and drawings and photographs of artifacts. The significance of the
results is summarized and discussed in the final chapter

July 30, 2014

The Tel Burna Excavation Project

Scanning the Wavy Line Pithoi for Analysis with Avshalom Karasik

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

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

July 29, 2014

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

The 2014 Season Motto: “From the Iron Age to the Iron Dome”

Just to make sure that someone else does not “steal” this, here is the motto for the 2014 season at Tell es-Safi/Gath:

“From the Iron Age to the Iron Dome”

And boy what an age – and what a dome…

And yes, some biblical miracles are definitely needed over here…




July 28, 2014

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

Conference on Khirbet Qeiyafa at Bern

If already mentioning an interesting meeting that will be held in Heidelberg (previous post), another fascinating meeting will be held at the University of Bern, Switzerland, on September 6th – “Khirbet Qeiyafa in the Shephelah” – in which a very nice group of scholars (including yours truly) will get together to discuss and debate the importance, significance and meaning of the finds from Khirbet Qeiyafa. See here the program of the meeting, which looks very interesting – and I’m definitely looking forward to participating in it!


The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

Everyone's Home

A view of the neighborhood

A view of the neighborhood

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

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

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

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

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

Staff member Mark Lester at the site of Gamla

Staff member Mark Lester at the site of Gamla

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

Interesting meeting in Heidelberg

A very interesting meeting will be held in Heidelberg from Sept. 1 to Sept. 4, 2014. The meeting, entitled “Heidelberg Colloquium on the Subject of Aram and Israel: Cultural Interaction, Political Borders and Construction of Identity during the Early Iron Age (12th–8th centuries bce)” will be held at the University of Heidelberg. A series of very interesting lectures (including one by yours truly) will be presented.  I will be talking about issues relating to identifying Aramaean presence in the Iron Age southern Levant, touching upon both the finds from Tell es-Safi/Gath, as well as other sites and finds in the region.

Here is the poster and the schedule of the lectures:

Ara.Isr-Program.Final      poster-final

Should be very interesting – I’m definitely looking forward to this!


July 25, 2014

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

Group aerial photo for 2014

Here’s a copy of the group aerial photo by the 2014 team at Tell es-Safi/Gath. :-)

aerial picture of israeli flag 2014

Thanks to all for the 2014 season!

As the last of the 2014 team at Tell es-Safi/Gath will be leaving Kibbutz Revadim this morning, I once again wanted to thank all the team members – and others who contributed and helped with its success – for all the hard work which enabled us to have such a successful season. Despite all the ups and downs and tensions around, we had some excellent results during the season – both important discoveries on their own as well as insights that indicate high potential for additional discoveries in future seasons!

In particular, I’d like to thank the team members who stayed on for the final week of the dig – which is the hardest and most demanding time in the excavation season. There’s a lot of hard and back breaking work, at a rather crazy schedule – but without the work done this week – we could not finish the dig – and be prepared to have another excavation season next year!

Last night we had a great final party. Our friend Yehuda came with a portable pizza oven and we made – and ate – a ton of very tasty homemade pizzas. Great way to end a great season!

I will post a general summary of the 2014 season in the near future, along with some additional photos – including the very nice photo of the team taken yesterday during the aerial photography!

See you all next year!


July 24, 2014

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

Nasty comments will not be accepted…

Just deleted a rather nasty comment (in fact two from the same person).

Comments that display poor taste and lack of respect will not be answered – and will be deleted immediately.

For any one out there who is stupid enough to write a vicious comment on this blog – do keep in mind that this is not an open forum and inappropriate garbage will be dumped…

July 23, 2014

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

The 2014 season about to end – and we did not let terror win!

We are about to finish the 2014 season at Tell es-Safi/Gath and thankfully, we have managed to continue the season despite the missiles being shot daily at us from the Gaza Strip. Although I fully understand those that were afraid to stay and decided to leave – you can’t tell someone not to be afraid – I’m grateful that most of the team did stay for most of the season and we accomplished a lot – including some very interesting new finds!

At the end of the day – along with the brave soldiers of IDF who are out there fighting the Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorists – the best thing that we civilians can do – is continue our daily life – and not let the cowardly murderers who shoot missiles at us stop us from living our lives!


The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

One More Day

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

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

July 22, 2014

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

Mystery Object

Work in Grid 32

Work in Grid 32

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

Column base from Grid 32

Column base from Grid 32

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

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

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

Clean, clean, brush, brush…

Today was a cleaning day in all the areas – in preparation for final photographs – this evening, tomorrow and on Thursday….

July 21, 2014

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

Albright Dinner

Daniel Master and Matt Adams in the Albright courtyard

Daniel Master and Matt Adams in the Albright courtyard

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

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

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

Bona Fide metallurgy location in Area D!

Today we seem to have uncovered in Area D what looks like a bona fide metallurgical location! This includes quantities of slag, “hammer scale”, “tuyeres” and a crucible, with apparent evidence of both iron and copper related work! As the full scale of this was discovered only today (last day of excavation…), we will have some interesting stuff to look forward next year!

In other areas we were finishing up last minutes things, such as the possible donkey burial in E and some really nice Iron I levels (including Philistine I/very early Iron Age) in F.

Last day of digging – and tomorrow we brush away.

In the afternoon, we went for a field trip to Azekah, and while Yuval Gadot was guiding us on site – the air raid siren went off! So now we know that the Hamas does not have something personal only about the Safi excavation – they also are trying to stop the Azekah excavation as well! :-)



July 20, 2014

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

Update for Friday, July 18, 2014

Friday the 18th of July was the final day of the 3rd week of the 2014 season. We had some great finds from various areas on the site, as well as visits from several groups.

In Area A, Louise and her team worked on the Iron I – especially the section around where the ivory bowl was found last year. Yotam from the WIS came to take various samples from this area.

In Area D, they continued working in the area of the metallurgy, on some of the 9th cent. destruction level and in various places in the pre-9th cent. BCE level. Of particular interest were fragments of a “notched scapula” which was found in this early level. Several such notched scapulae have been previously published from the 9th cent. destruction in Area A (as well as from other Philistine sites).

In Area E, they continue working on EB and LB materials. The possible donkey burial was worked on – although it is still not clear whether or not it is in fact another such burial.

In Area F they have some great finds. The earlier EB fortifications are becoming more and more impressive. They have also exposed some interesting levels dating to the Iron I – including several almost complete vessels! The LB is also coming along – and it looks that by next year we should have some substantial LB remains from F!

Area P was popping as well. with interesting finds from the LB levels, as well as from the early EB fortification stage.

All told, a great day to close the 3rd week – in preparation for the final week of the season!

Here are some photos from the day.


photo 2 (15) photo 1 (18) photo 3 (14) photo 2 (14) photo 1 (17)

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

Albright Courtyard

Early Morning in the Albright Courtyard

Early Morning in the Albright Courtyard

Not a bad place to work, not at all.

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

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

July 19, 2014

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

The escapades of the “Scrubber Ducky” at Tell es-Safi/Gath 2014

Check out this great clip, prepared by the YU team of the fantastic escapades of the fearless “Scrubber Ducky” during the 2014 season at Tell es-Safi/Gath. We were all very fortunate to have Scrubber Ducky with us this year!


The Tel Burna Excavation Project

New 3D Model of the Tell

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

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

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

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

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

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

Ashkelon-Megiddo Dinner

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

Dinner in Tel Aviv

Dinner in Tel Aviv

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

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

July 18, 2014

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

Final Summer School Posts

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

So, first up Stela:


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


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

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

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

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

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


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

Megiddo Ashkelon Group

Megiddo Ashkelon Group

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

July 17, 2014

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

Very interesting day! Thursday, July 17, 2014

We had a great today on the tell! First of all – no air raid sirens! And also – some great archaeology!

Area A: The are working in Iron I, LB and a bit EB, mainly doing various stratigraphic checks to make sure we understand various previously excavated contexts.

Area D: Some really cool stuff! We have what appears to be a clear metallurgical context, most probably dating to the post-9th cent. BCE “squatter’s phase”. This includes a large amount of metal slag, a fragment of a tuyerre, and other interesting remains. As we already have a 10th BCE metallurgical areas in Area A from several years back, this should give a very nice long range perspective on the metallurgy at Gath in the Iron Age. Most importantly, Prof. Amotz Agnon (yes, the grandson of…) came with colleagues to Area D today, to work on taking various samples for paleomagnetic analyses – both from the metallurgical area as well as from various installations. We also had some other nice finds in D, from the 10th and 9th cent.

Area E: Work continued in the EB levels, with today’s highlight being the possible discovery of another donkey burial – in addition to the one found and published a few years ago.

Area F: As usual working various periods, including Iron IIB, Iron IIA, Iron I, LB and EB. The very impressive architecture under the EB fortification wall is becoming more and more impressive – and we clearly have a lot more to understand about it!

Area P: Also in P we have more evidence of the pre-EB fortification phase. In the LB levels near the EB wall several nice beads were found.

Amir Golani, Ianir Milevski and Alon De Groot of the IAA visited today, and we had very interesting and important discussions at the different parts of the excavations.

All told – great day – here are some pictures:


photo (16)

photo 3 (13) photo 2 (13) photo 1 (16) photo 3 (12) photo 2 (12) photo 1 (15)

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

Picture for our Guest Post

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

Emily at Megiddo

Emily at Megiddo

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

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



July 16, 2014

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

July 16th, 2014 on the tell

Very nice day on the tell today. We only had one air raid siren and managed to get a lot of work done in various areas.

Area A: They worked in the Iron I levels and in addition to various Iron I pottery, also had two possible ivory fragments.

Area D: The evidence for metallurgical activities is becoming more clear, and today they found a fragment of a tuyerre, as well as pieces of slag and “hammerscale”. Also, some nice walls from the pre-9th, 9th and post destruction layers are coming up.

Area E: The E team is working in various EB levels, as well as a very nice LB context with tons of pottery. And somewhat surprisingly, a very nice piece of Philistine pottery with a nice bird came out in a recently re-opened square.

Area F: As usual working in various periods, including two places with nice 9th cent. remains, some nice Iron I floors, an LB terrace, and all the way at the bottom of F, some really cool evidence of an earlier EB stratum – below the EB city wall! We have even added a new stratum to F!

Area P: The really cool new is that we are seeing more of the EB architecture under the EB wall (as in F!), and a very nice flint blade was found in relation to this architecture. It’s not yet clear if it is an earlier fortification or other architectural features that were covered by the later EB wall. They also are digging in some LB contexts – and still looking for the continuation of the EB wall to the west.

Here are some nice pictures of today’s work:


photo 2 (10) photo 1 (13) photo 4 (6) photo 5 (1) photo 3 (11) photo 2 (11) photo 1 (14) photo 4 (5) photo 3 (10) photo 2 (9) photo 1 (12)

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

Guest Post from Megiddo

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


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

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

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


July 15, 2014

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

Some photos from Area A

Louise passed on two nice photos from the work in Area A today:

Brent and Phil working on an Iron Age surface, and Uri with a very nice Philistine 2 krater fragment:

photo (15)photo (14)

Lapis Gabinus: official blog of the Gabii Project

The Gabii Project: Archaeology in The Information Age

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Update for Tuesday July 15th

Today we had a really nice day in the field – despite the fact that the @#$% is still shooting rockets…

In Area A, Louise and her team are working in Iron I levels

In Area D, there are several nice things: In the post-9th cent destruction level we have some metal slag, remains of some interesting walls and other finds. In the 10th cent. BCE level we have a very nice restorable cooking jug and some interesting architecture.

In Area E they are working on both EB and LB contexts. This included some rich LB contexts with a lot of pottery, and several EB contexts with a lot of samples for 14C.

In Area F, they are working on a wide range of periods, from Iron IIB until EB. Among other things they have nice evidence of the 9th cent. BCE destruction in a couple of places, Iron I floors with finds, and some very interesting EB finds – including what looks like an earlier phase of the EB fortifications!

In Area P there are LB and EB remains. This includes a very nice LB floor with finds on surface, as well as evidence, similar to what was found in F, of an earlier phase of the EB fortifications.

We also had a couple of visitors on site – and only one siren sounding!




The Tel Burna Excavation Project

Aerial Video of Khirbet ‘Atr with Burna in the Distance

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

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

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

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


The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

The Legacy Hotel

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


July 14, 2014

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

Monday, July 14th at the dig

The first day in the field of the 3rd went by very nicely today. All the areas were up and running – and it was nice to see that despite the security situation we could move ahead – more or less planned – and despite some the two days that we missed out last week – and some of the team that decided to leave.

We had a few visitors today, including a nice group of geologists from the Israel Geological Society, who came for a very comprehensive visit, in which both the finds on the site and in the surrounding region, as well as the various analytic methods that we are implementing were explained. It was an excellent visit as we learned a lot from them – and I believe they did from us – and hopefully, some interesting collaborations on various issues will come out of the visit.

In the afternoon, we visited Itzik Shai’s excavation at Tel Burna and saw the very impressive LB and Iron II remains.

And finally, this evening, I went over to Kibbutz Galon to give a lecture to the Azekah team – our neighbors from just up the Elah Valley.

Great Day!


The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

Work at the Albright

Setting up shop in the Albright basement

Setting up shop in the Albright basement

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

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


July 13, 2014

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

We will be excavating tomorrow!

Since there was some lack of clarity regarding this issue, I would like to clarify that the team will be out in the field tomorrow morning!




The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

Megiddo Group Goes Touring

Touring Acco

Touring Acco

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

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


July 12, 2014

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

3rd week of the 2014 season starts tomorrow!

Tomorrow, we commence the 3rd week of the 2014 season. So far, things are going as planned, even if some of the non-local team members have decided to leave due to the current security situation in Israel. It must be stressed that the excavation continues based on the clear instructions that were received from the Israel Home Front Command, whose experts did not see any reason to cancel the excavation and saw no danger in continuing to work.

Needless to say, we will continue keeping our ears and eyes perked for any changed – and will do exactly what the relevant authorities tell us is the safest thing to do.

We await two more weeks of fascinating discoveries – and plan to keep you updated with developments.

And finally, we h0pe and pray for quiet, peace and sanity…

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

The Albright

Hummus and pita anyone?

Hummus and pita anyone?

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

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


July 11, 2014

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

Friday, July 11th on the tell

Today, we had a nice day of excavation on the tell.

In Area A, Louise and her team worked on a very nice Iron I living surface, with a lot of finds (including a very nice bead and tons of pottery and bones). Looks like this surface – and probably others below it – will provide some nice finds in the coming week or so. In addition, the Iron IIB and Iron IIA squares were cleaned – and we will stop on them – ready to open them up next season.

In Area D, Amit’s team worked on a balk in which there was plenty of Iron IIA finds, and clarified various architectural features throughout the site.

In Area E, Haskel and Shira’s team were working on various EB features which were uncovered – including a very nice corner of an Stratum E5c building.

In Area F, Jeff ‘s team were working on quite a few periods (Iron IIB, Iron IIA, Iron I, LB, MB and EB). As they always joke, this is the area where you go if you want to learn stratigraphy – and boy are they right!

In Area P, Jill and her team worked on the LB levels just inside the EB wall, and are still looking for the continuation of the EB wall, and/or features built up against it, in the squares to the west of the main area.

Around 8 am, we all (in all the areas) heard the air raid siren from the nearby power station, and as ordered by the Home Front Command, we all got into the excavation trenches and ducked. Nothing landed anywhere near us, but we could see up in the air, far to the north, some Iron Dome interceptions!

We finished the 2nd week – with a little more excitement than we expected during the week – but we are eagerly looking forward to the next two weeks and all the finds.

Shabbat Shalom – and pray for peace unto Israel!



The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

End of Week Five

Arbel Cliffs

Arbel Cliffs

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

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

Mosaic in Beit Alfa (Alpha)

Mosaic in Beit Alfa (Alpha)

Volunteers taking photos at Beit Alfa (Alpha)

Volunteers taking photos at Beit Alfa (Alpha)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tired staff members after a three day tour...

Tired staff members after a three day tour...

July 10, 2014

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

Some of the action in Area D

Amit sent me some pictures of the action in Area D:

First of all, Amit’s ferocious dog – Casper (the neurotic poodle)

Second, some patriots waving the flag

And finally, Emunah and Mor with old mortar shell found on Monday (before all the “fun” began)….

20140710_062211 20140710_053858 20140707_143408

Beautiful early Philistine 2 (Bichrome) bowl

Over in Jeff’s area (Area F), Zach found a simply beautiful early Philistine 2 (Bichrome) bowl – and although found in sherds, we have the whole profile and much of the decoration. Hopefully, in the future, we will get the entire vessel.

Here is Jeff and then yours truly, holding the bowl. In the 2nd photo I’m giving the pirate AAARGH!

photo (13) photo 2 (8) photo 1 (11)

The Boys (and girls) are back in the field!

Today, we got back into the field, after we received the formal OK from the Israel Home Command – and as expected, we had a great day out there.

In Area A, we had some great finds. They are right on top of the 9th cent. destruction layer in one square, and are cleaning an 8th cent. square in another. In the Iron I, we have several fragmentary vessels, including portions of a “beer jug” as well as several rather complete shells and other cool finds.

In area D, they excavated a whole mess of finds from the 9th cent. destruction level, including about 10 whole or restorable vessels, an iron blade and other objects.

In Area F, as usual they are working in a whole bunch for periods, including Iron IIA, Iron I, LB and MB. Particularly interesting was the nice MB contexts they worked on near the MB city wall.

In Area P, we excavated out two beautiful “lamp and bowl” deposits,  and seem to have found some nice architecture on the western side of the area, perhaps parts of the city wall.

Here are some pictures from today:

photo 4 (4) photo 1 (9)
photo 1 (8)
photo 3 (9) photo 2 (7)photo (12)


July 09, 2014

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

Up North

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

More to come soon.

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

Working at the kibbutz – and hopefully tomorrow we will be back in the field!

Today, we still worked in the kibbutz (see pictures below), but if all goes well, we have received instructions from the Home Front Command that we are allowed to go out and dig tomorrow. So, hopefully, tomorrow morning, we are back in action!

IMG_8723 IMG_8751 IMG_8715

Our tools have decided to work on their own…

As already noted, due to the security situation, we did not work on the tell yesterday or today. We just found out that our tools on the tell do not accept this situation and have apparently decided to take thing into their own “hands” – and start working on without us! Thanks to Dianne for this revealing picture! :-)

Wheelbarrow working on its own

July 08, 2014

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

A day in the camp

Since today we did not go out to excavate – due to the current security situation, we spent the day in the camp in Revadim (breakfast was at 7:30 so everyone got up with a rested look on their faces…).

In the morning, we all did various tasks relating to the dig, such as pottery registration, bone washing, “picking” (looking for microfinds in sediments), and other tasks. In the afternoon and evening, we had and will have several lectures on workshops, including I gave a lecture on my trip to Papua New Guinea, Louise will be lecturing on Santorini, and various lectures and workshops on various topics, such as field registration techniques, archaeobotany, microarchaeology, and other archaeological topics, as well as several general ones, such as on Israeli dancing, yoga and everyday Hebrew.

Right now it looks like we won’t be excavating tomorrow as well – so we will continue camp related activities once again.


The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

Study Tour

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

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

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


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

Update for the end of week one and the beginning of week 2, 2014 season

Since I have not had a chance to update since about what’s been happening on the dig since Thursday evening, here’s an update for what’s been going on since then, updated for Tuesday morning.

To start with, for those who are following us from abroad in the tense period, we are all OK – and while the team is a little nervous about the current security situation, as of now things are fine. Although we did not go out to excavate this morning – until there are more clarifications on the security situation, we do hope that “normality” will return as soon as possible. I will update regularly on developments – but most importantly I would like to stress that the safety and well-being of the entire team is the utmost priority!

Earlier on Monday, as an demonstration that security issues existed in this region for a long time, we had an “interesting” find. In Area D, in the lower city, a portion of a very old mortar shell was found (probably from the 1948 war). Since we were not sure that it was, we called the police bomb squad to check it out – just to be safe – and it turned out that it was the tail of an already exploded mortar shell from about 60 years ago. But clearly, this was not exactly the type of find we were looking for… (see pictures below)

And now to some archaeology:

On Monday we had a couple of visits. In the morning, Itzik Shai came to visit and especially to talk about the finds in Area E. Then, later on, Matt Adams, the new director of the Albright Institute came for a visit of the site.

Area A: Louise’s team has been working in Iron I and Iron IIB levels. In the Iron I levels we have had some really nice finds, including two spool-shaped loomweights, a absolutely beautiful cone-shaped seal with a mix of figurative, geometric and hieroglyph decorations (see pictures of it in the field), various vessels and other objects. In the Iron IIB level they are exposing portions of a late 8th cent. house – part of the Judahite levels we have excavated previously – both in Area A  and F.

Area D: In addition to the old mortar shell mentioned above, the D team is working on the 10th cent. levels (below the 9th cent destruction), the 9th cent destruction level and the post-destruction squatters level. In all these levels we seem to be “on the verge” of some very cool finds.

Area E: The EB and LB finds continue to emerge. One of the very nice things that we now can see is that we have a very clear sequence of atleast for EB II-III levels with well-dated 14C samples. This means that we will be able to expand our contribution to the new 14C chronology of the EB. Already, the dates from the final EB III level at Safi have shown that the new high chronology (end of EB III around 2500 BCE) is well-based. Also, a very cute EB votive juglet was found (see picture below).

Area F: Things are really cracking in F – especially with the arrival of a new group of team members at the beginning of the week. The F ream is excavation a whole slew of periods, including: Iron IIB, Iron IIA, Iron I, LB, MB and EB, in various parts of the site. This includes portions of a very nice 8th cent. BCE structure, some very nice in situ Iron I Philistine pottery (see picture below), portions of the EB and MB fortifications, etc.

Area P: The P team has had some great finds as well (see pictures of the P team below). In the LB levels, they have exposed several things, including what appears to be two “lamp and bowl” deposits. In the western part of P they are still looking for the continuation of the EB wall – but in any case are for the most part below surface materials and seem to be getting into stratified early materials.

Here are some photos from the last few days – notice the seal from Area A and the mortar shell from Area D (marked as a “special find”)

photo 4 (3) photo 3 (7) photo (4) photo (5) photo (6) photo (7) photo (11) photo (10) photo (9) photo (8) photo 1 (7) photo 4 (2) photo 3 (6) photo 2 (6) photo 1 (6) photo 2 (4) photo 1 (4)



The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

In the Hotel

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

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

July 07, 2014

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

A Helping Hand

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

Sami provides some assistance

Sami provides some assistance

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

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

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

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

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

July 06, 2014

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

Finds Display

A couple of pictures from the Finds Display today.

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

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

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

The Finds Display

The Finds Display

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

July 05, 2014

The Tel Burna Excavation Project

2014 3D Models of Tell and Excavation Areas

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

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

Area A2

Area B

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

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

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

Special Guest Post

We have another special guest post today.  Enjoy!


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

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

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

Early Days in Grid 20

Early Days in Grid 20

July 04, 2014

The Tel Burna Excavation Project

Aerial Photos – End of Season 2014

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

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

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

Heli Heli 2 heli 3 heli 4

Area B from the monitorArea B from the monitor


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


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

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

It's Friday

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

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

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

July 03, 2014

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

Brent Davis’ new book arrives!

Brent Davis, long-time team member and Louise’s chief assistant in Area A, had a great thing happen today!

His just published book, “Minoan Stone Vessels with Linear A Inscriptions” (Aegeaum 36; Liege) arrived by FedEx to the dig today!

Way to go Brent!

We put the book in the pottery trays while we were reading pottery from Brent’s squares – and eventually he even saw the book in the tray! :-)

Here’s Brent as he gets the book and opens the package, along with proud Louise – who was his doctoral adviser!

photo 3 (5) photo 2 (5) photo 1 (5)

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

The Day of the Party

Fun in the Pottery Compound

Fun in the Pottery Compound

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

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

Rubble fills in Grid 20

Rubble fills in Grid 20

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

Almost there...

Almost there...

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

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

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

Thursday, July 3rd on the dig

Another great day on the dig!

All the areas are finding great stuff and as we near the end of the first week things are looking great!

In Area A, we have a variety of finds: Jo’s team is working in Iron I and they have a couple of nice walls, a “reel” shaped loomweight, and a pit.

Sharon’s team is uncovering what appears to be part of an 8th cent BCE house – so far with not bad preservation!

Here are some views of A, including the loomweight, excavating the pit, and the 8th cent. pit:

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In Area E, they are excavating both in EB and LB levels. Among other things there is a very interesting area with a ashy like sediments with an enormous amount of charred botanical material – what appears to be many different species of plants.

Here’s some views of Area E, with the LB levels (with Hannah and Lindsay), and Jon and Adi excavating the sediments with botanical finds:

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In Area P, it seems that they may have the top of the EB wall in the western square, while in the center of the Area, in the LB levels next to the wall, a large chunk of what looks like bitumen was found.


In Area F they are working in Iron IIB, Iron IIA and LB, and today they found a large part of an LB jar.


In Area D they are working both in the post-9th cent destruction “squatters level” with many finds, as well as expanding the pre-9th cent level.

Here’s a view of Esther holding a chameleon that was found next to Area D:

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And just an example of complex things can get in the excavation, here is a picture of a 9th cent. BCE handle in the “squatter’s level” which is just below surface in Area D, and lodged in the “hole” of the handle – a modern 9 mm shell casing!

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Nice day!


The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

Wednesday Already?

Who doesn't like mudbrick?

Who doesn't like mudbrick?

Lots of internet trouble yesterday.  Our apologies.  

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

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

July 02, 2014

The Tel Burna Excavation Project

Office Work…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

Update for July 2nd

Quick update for July 2nd:

First thing in the morning, we had a visit from Prof. Bill Dever, who spent with us several hours going around to the various areas in the excavation. It was very nice talking to him – and of course hearing his stories – and having an opportunity for some of the students to see in person someone whom they had heard of previously.

Here’s a picture Prof. Dever with Jo Verducci and Eric Welch, both past recipients of the annual Sean Dever memorial prize for the best lecture at the ASOR session!

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Later on, Louise (who as you may remember just published with me an article about the Philistines as pirates, happened to meet a pirate walking around the tell and took a picture with him…

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Later on, we found out where the pirate came from – and here’s a picture of his ship:

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And now for some archaeology:

In area A, they are working in Iron I and Iron II levels, and have come up with some cool finds, including a couple of pits and a loomweight

Here’s Sophie with the loomweight that she found:









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In Area E, they are working on various EB and LB levels. One of today’s finds was a fragment of a decorated LB faience bowl

In Area P, the are busy looking for the continuation of the EB wall, and for the LB surfaces right next to it.

In Area F, they have started excavating in levels from various areas – and we await some great finds – and already today at the end of the day they found a very nice faience inlay (or bead).

In Area D, in addition to opening two new squares in which already, right below surface they have the post-9th cent. BCE destruction squatter’s level (which we discovered already last year), a very important discovery today was a new area in which the pre-9th cent. BCE levels in this area are appearing.

Great day – and an indication of all that should be popping out real soon!



July 01, 2014

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

The “Elder Statepersons” of Area D in a group shot

Here is a group picture of the “elder statesmen and women” of Area D:

From left to right: Leslie, Carl, Julio, Tikva and Ahuva.

Julio is way in front of all by far – he is 94 years old!

Elder statespersons of Area D

2nd day of excavating!

Today, the 2nd full day in the field, all the areas were digging full steam away, and we already had some nice finds and important insights.

To start with, as I was walking between the Area P and Area F, on the southern side of the tell summit, I found a torso of small female figurine, just lying on the ground asking to be found!

In the various areas, things started popping out.

In Area A – among other finds, a nice decorated bone spindle whorl was found, as a well as a yet unidentified piece of bronze

Here’s Derio with the spindle whorl

Derio with spindle whorl











Here’s Cass with the piece of Bronze:

Cass with Bronze from Area A











In Area E, we have cleared and are ready to excavate several features and floors, from the E5 (EB III) and E6 levels (EB II-III).

In Area D, the already have some nice remains from the 9th cent. destruction level, including a complete lower grinding stone and a nice restorable krater

Here’s the balk in which the grinding stone and krater was found:

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In Area P – they have started digging in search of the continuation of the EB wall to the west (based on where the GPR noted its location) and also preparing for work in a square with LB materials.

In Area F, they are working on cleaning the various to be excavated, but we can already see all kinds of very interesting features which are about to be exposed.

And here is Eric peaking out from under the tarps in Area F:

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And finally, a couple of nice shots of the tell that I took from the east:

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Great day – with much more to come!

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

What in the World?

Fallen wall segments in Grid 32

Fallen wall segments in Grid 32

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

Grid 16

Grid 16

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

June 30, 2014

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

Week 4 in Full Swing

It's all Persian to me

It's all Persian to me

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

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

Working in the pit

Working in the pit

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

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

First day out in the field of the 2014 season!

Today we had our first day out in the field for the entire team. We started the day with various things that had to be done before excavation begins, such as finishing to put up shades, cleaning areas, “schlepping up” tools, etc., and by the end of the day, almost all areas were up and running and excavating away! By tomorrow morning – all field will be in full steam!

It’s a great team – a combination of a large group of experienced returnees, along with a excellent group of first time members. It looks like we are going to have a great season!!!

Here’s a picture of the Area A team picking up the shade as sun rises in a very romantic manner.

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And here’s the Area E team getting the introductory talk before the beginning of work.

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And here is Phil, from the Aussie team, holding an almost complete bowl (or lamp) – which he found today in Area A – an auspicious sign of  all the great things that we will be finding this season! Hoowah!!!!



June 29, 2014

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

New Digs

View from a balcony in the Leonardo Hotel

View from a balcony in the Leonardo Hotel

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

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

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