Taygete Atlantis: Excavation Blogs (Antiquity)

http://planet.atlantides.org/taygete

Tom Elliott (tom.elliott@nyu.edu)

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

August 02, 2015

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

2015 Offseason Week 2

The team is going through old pictures, dredging up long forgotten stories, and more as we get ready to look back at the long history of the Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon. With luck, each week during the offseason we'll post a new picture, revisit some of the highlights of each of the seasons, or share whatever comes to mind. Case in point today. Going through some old pictures, I found the one below: 

Leonardo Hotel under construction (grey expanse on right)

Leonardo Hotel under construction (grey expanse on right)

Unfortunately, the picture isn't dated but it shows a great view of a changing Ashkelon. To the left, condominiums overlooking the marina under construction. To the right, the building housing the Leonardo Hotel, our current home. In the center of the picture towards the back? The Holiday Inn. Today, the entire area is built up with shops and cafes. It is also home to one of the excavation's new favorite places; a top-notch gelato shop.

View north from Leonardo Hotel

View north from Leonardo Hotel

Construction has moved well beyond the Leonardo hotel. The beach north of the marina is an Ashkelon hotspot. Another hotel is going up next to the Holiday Inn, and all along the right side of the picture, homes stretching as far as the eye can see.

Things certainly have changed since 1985 when the expedition stayed in a campground in the national park.

Abandoned campground in park

Abandoned campground in park

What about the Shulamit, and then Dan, Gardens Hotel where the expedition was housed from 1986 - 2014 (midseason)? Well, it stands empty, its fate not yet determined.

Did you guess the name of the staff member featured in last week's post? It's Dr. Kate Birney in the bottom left corner. 

Do you have a picture or story you would like to share? We'd love to hear it! You can post a comment or email us via the website. Check back soon for more information on how you will be able to help us remember and relive more than 30 years of excavation at Ashkelon.


July 29, 2015

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

Dates for 2016 season: June 26th – July 22nd, 2016

Write this down in your schedule – the dates of the 2016 season at Tell es-Safi/Gath:

June 26th – July 22nd, 2016

Might as well start making plans…


July 28, 2015

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

Aerial of fortifications and other things in lower city!

Here’s an aerial of a portion of the lower city, with the section of the fortifications and possible city gate. Among other things, you can see the more than 30 meters of the city wall which has been traced on surface, and various other structures, features, etc. Notice, in addition, all kinds of interesting features that can be seen in the photo just below surface not far from the fortifications, within the city.

general view of D fortifications

So much for claims that the lower city was not fortified; and so much for the claims that Gath in the Iron IIA was not a central city state in the central Shephelah…

The fun has just begun!! :-)

P.S. Sometimes, the best way to express one’s feelings is through a good haka:


Bichrome Stirrup jug after restoration

Here’s a nice picture of Philistine Bichrome Stirrup Jug, which I found “hanging out” of the cliff below Area F (where all kinds of cool “goodies” have appeared in the past – including a LMLK handle…) after Natalie finished restoring it.

Bichrome stirrup jug from clif after restoration small version

Really nice! Thanks to Natalie (pictured) for the restoration, and Amit for the picture.

Aren


July 27, 2015

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

2015 Offseason Week 1

With the end of the 2015 field season behind us, it's official; only one season of excavation remains for the Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon. One season to investigate the ancient city, to eat out at the marina, and to walk past the still standing but shuttered Dan Gardens hotel, our home away from home for more than 25 years. 

There is a great deal to remember and a great deal to look forward to, all of which will be the subject of weekly posts throughout the offseason. More than a thousand volunteers have helped uncover the history and archaeology of Ashkelon. It's likely every one of them has a story to tell. Do you have a story or picture(s) to share? Send them along. The more, the better.

Help us celebrate Ashkelon as we gear up for our final season.

See any familiar faces? One of four pictured above is currently on staff.

See any familiar faces? One of four pictured above is currently on staff.

Check back next week for more about the first season of excavation in 1985.

July 24, 2015

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

Clip of the drone taking off for aerial photos

Here’s a nice clip (taken by Amit) of the drone taking off, and flying east, into the sunrise, for the aerial photos of the end of the season:


July 23, 2015

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

Aerial group photo – the Gate of Gath!

Early this morning, we did the aerial photos, using the very sophisticated UAV operated by Griffin co.

Here’s the annual aerial group team photo (click on it to enlarge) – with a reconstruction of what the gate of Gath may have looked like – and perhaps in the future will be reconstructed accordingly. Notice the “X”s on both sides of the gateway (see I Sam 21:13…). I’m standing in the gate…

NOTE: notice the two Philistines soldiers guarding the gate – behind the stone fence above the gate!

:-)

Gate at Gath


Congratulation to Udi Weiss and collaborators on new study on origins of domestication!

Udi Weiss (who leads the archaeobotanical team at Safi) and collaborators have published a new exciting article in PLOS One on the earliest evidence of wheat domestication at the site of Ohalo II on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. Way to go!

Heads up: Udi, along with Sue Frumin, Liora Horwitz and yours truly will soon announce another very interesting study to appear in the near future (hopefully in a week of so) in another important journal…

Aren


July 22, 2015

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

Another cool thing for the end of the season – size of the MB glacis!

Just another cool thing which popped up for the end of the season  – and this time from Area F.

Jeff and Eric, after finishing up the final photos this morning in Area F, went down to the bottom of the western slope below F, to look around at a large terrace wall which had collapsed during the winter. And guess what they found?

Apparently, the MB glacis (revetment) which we found in Area F, supporting the MB rebuilding of the EB fortification wall, which is built of a very easy to identify crushed yellow sand (and managed to survive years of erosion), can be seen about 20 meters lower down on the slope! That means that during the MB (when only the uppermost part of the tell seems to have been fortified), there was an enormous yellow glacis surrounding the fortifications!

Makes one wonder what the site was called then – maybe the “Yellow Fort” – as opposed to “Blanche Garde” in later times…

:-)

Yet another very interesting addition for the end of the season!

Aren


The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

2015 Postseason Day 5

Our final guest post comes from Ruby-Anne.

Ruby-Anne and field trip locations

Ruby-Anne and field trip locations

To write about an experience to an audience that does not know you is a daunting task. To try and convey an incredible experience while still trying to capture a bit of “youness” is even more so. Despite this, I still feel privileged to share some of this incredible experience with you.

My name is Ruby-Anne Birin. I am born, raised and educated in South Africa and am currently an undergraduate student at the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg. I came across the excavation while on a ‘Google binge’ while procrastinating on some assignment or chore. After some more research on the program I took the leap and applied. Thankfully I was accepted.

The past six weeks have not only immersed me in groundbreaking fieldwork, it has also given me the opportunity to learn from some true specialists of their craft. Archaeology is not a one dimensional science, it takes a toll on you physically, mentally and emotionally. While challenging, the moment you find something or grasp a concept that may better help contribute to our knowledge of the past it makes up for every blister and exhausted collapse into bed. 

Field trips become a way to see the world outside the insular community that forms in Ashkelon. They show you the interconnectedness of the site and draws Ashkelon’s long history into context of the region. From the heat at Masada, ancient water systems in Jerusalem to exploring caves in Beit Guvrin, each site adds excitement and knowledge to this incredible experience.

I am grateful to the staff and volunteers who have made this experience what it is, thank you! 

Ruby-Anne in the Leonardo Hotel

Ruby-Anne in the Leonardo Hotel

July 21, 2015

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

Some pictures from yesterday – visitors and finds

Here are some pictures from yesterday and today, with all the visitors we had, and partial view of the city wall, and the great finds. Enjoy!

visitors looking at city wall Visitors looking at gate Yoav excavating bunch of bowls Krater coming out View of city wall

Aren


Cleaning day – and a little surprise in Area D!

Today was a cleaning day in all the areas. All the tarps were taken down, tools were collected, and the areas were cleaned for final photography. The entire team worked fantastically – and this on a very hot day without shades!

And as usual, on the final day, a little surprise popped up! In Area D, Dr. Ron Shaar from the HU came to sample from a tabun (clay oven) from the post-Hazael destruction level “squatters’ phase” and when he was digging in the tabun a surprise came out – complete cooking jug – in the tabun (!!), filled with charred materials (including a lot of charred seeds!). In addition, when the team started excavating to remove it (since it could not be left between the seasons), it turned out that the tabun is based on grinding stone fragments – a very unusual thing.

In addition to this, in the pottery reading this afternoon, a couple of cool finds appeared in a pottery basket from the LB levels (which was dug by Chiara): in addition to the various local and imported LB pottery, we found a fragment of a ostrich egg shell, a very nice obsidian blade, and part of a handmade vessel – which from a first glance looks like it might be connected to the so-called “Handmade Burnish Ware” (or sometimes called “Barbarian Ware”) of the late Late Bronze Age and early Iron Age.

Nice little way to cap the season!

Here are some pictures of the finds in Area D:

excavating tabun on final day 1 excavating tabun on final day


The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

2015 Postseason Day 4

We hear from Tori today.

Tori excavating Grid 51

Tori excavating Grid 51

Hi! My name is Tori Campbell. I am a rising senior at Yale University (only Yalie on the dig!), an English major who came here largely out of a sense of adventure. I’ve always wanted to work on a dig, and when the opportunity came up for me to spend a summer working at Ashkelon, I jumped at the chance!

I work on Grid 51, which has focused on excavating the 604 B.C. destruction of Philistine Ashkelon at the hands of Nebuchadnezzar.  Grid 51’s extensive size and clear temporal context make it a perfect place for a completely new archaeology student to gain her footing. I’ve learned to use a wide breadth of tools to help my team reach and excavate the contemporary surfaces, or “floors”, of the 604 destruction era.

My favorite tool is the large pick. I use it to remove layers of “floor”, to break up dirt from between the floors, and—my favorite—to take down walls made of stone or mudbrick so we can dig further, find more, and answer more questions.

Talking with a local Israeli student

Talking with a local Israeli student


July 20, 2015

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

Queens of the Desert (מלכות המדבר) join the dig for a day

Today, we had a group of “Queens of the Desert” members (מלכות המדבר), which are women who participated in a jeep journey in various parts of the world and then come back to Israel and participate in various “social action” activities.

Here is a group photo of them on site

Queen of the desert group


Last of day of digging – great finds and a lot of visitors!

Today was the last day of digging for this season, and we now enter the final days of cleaning (and cleaning and cleaning), and then final ground and aerial photos. Even in this last day we had some great finds, to wrap up the season.

In Area D, more and more sections of the fortification and gate are being uncovered, and it’s getting more impressive as we go along. The more we look at the area and its environs – the larger these features appear to be! In addition, in Area D, we had some other cool finds. Apparently, the metallugical area is not only in the 9th cent. destruction level – but may start earlier as well! And today, we may have found nice evidence of bronze working which until now was relatively minimal – most of the evidence until now related to Iron smelting. Several complete vessels were found in various parts of D – just a nice way to finish up the area…

In Area E, the team cleaned along the possible fortification wall to the east and on the slope below the area itself and a very nice section of this wall can be seen. I hope that in the future we will be able to excavate and date this feature – and perhaps prove that it dates to the EB. In addition, the GPR survey of the area to the east of Area E was completed.

In Area A, they finished working in the 9th cent. destruction and finds came out until the very end.

In P the team has nicely defined several sections of the EB wall, as well as the LB layers on the inside of the wall.

The F team has now very nicely demonstrated the impressive pre-EB fortification stages in two places. Also, we now have 3 clear LB levels coming up – both relating to the fortification wall. I hope that next year we will have great contexts of the earlier stages of the LB.

We also has quite a few visitors today. This included: Ami Mazar, Nava Panitz Cohen, Amotz Agnon and Ron Shaar of HU; Ayelet Gilboa and Paula Weimann-Barak of U of Haifa; Bob Mullins of Asuza Pacific University; Baruch Brandl of the IAA; Pierre de Miroschedji, Simone and Christian of the CNRS/Yarmuth team; Shelley Wachsmann of Texas A&M; Iosi Bordowicz of the RATAG; Hananya Hizmi and a group from the Archaeological Staff Officer offices; Shawn Zelig Aster of BIU; Alisa Maeir (my sister) and her friend from Jerusalem, etc.

What was very nice about these visits is that all of these people were very impressed with the excavations, and in particular, with the fortifications and possible gate in Area D. This means that it’s just not our private fantasy but is quite convincing!

We then went on a team tour of Azeka, and Yuval Gadot showed us the very interesting new finds from the site.

Great day!

Aren


The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

2015 Postseason Day 3

Today's post comes from Jing.

Digging a pit

Digging a pit

Hello, I am a rising sophomore from Harvard University. Participating in the Leon Levy Expedition at Ashkelon is one of the best experiences I've had. The amazing staff and volunteers have created a welcoming community, and I was able to learn many archaeological skills in the past few weeks. Archaeology is a comprehensive academic discipline, and the program exposed me to various aspects of archaeological fieldwork. From struggling to carry a guffa to freely wielding a pick, and from seeing no difference in soil to identifying stratigraphical changes, I have grown both intellectually and physically. Now I can say I truly love archaeology, and if I have a chance, I will definitely come back to Ashkelon!

Standing in a sewer

Standing in a sewer

July 19, 2015

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

2015 Postseason

Our guest post today comes from Sarani.

Sarani excavates a posthole

Sarani excavates a posthole

Hello! My name is Sarani Jayawardena, and I am a junior at Harvard College. Many people have asked what brought me (I study Government) to an archaeology expedition in Israel – and many will ask why I enjoyed it so much:

I aspired to understand history from a perspective other than that of books – and I found this new appreciation, deep amongst the pot sherds, bone fragments, and flint blades that surrounded me.

I wanted to learn but not be stuck in a classroom– so my school was a trench near the ocean, and my lessons ranged from archaeological technique, to the history of the Southern Levant, to the art of pushing my mind and body beyond unthinkable limits.

I hoped to have an adventure, see a new part of the world, and meet interesting people – and in the past six weeks, I have had my adventures both in the grid and while travelling this intriguing region, with the fascinating and inspiring friends I have made.

Good bye, Ashkelon, and thank you for the memories!

Sarani fills a guffah with dirt

Sarani fills a guffah with dirt


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

Final week about to begin!

The final week of the 2015 season is beginning, and with it we will wrap up what has been a fantastic season on all accounts. We have a day or so of excavating left, then clean up, photos and final summaries – and we’ll already start to think about next season!

So hang on for the final updates of the season in the next few days.

Aren


July 18, 2015

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

2015 Postseason Day 1

Today's guest post comes from Taylor.

Collecting a flotation sample

Collecting a flotation sample

As a student at Troy University, I enrolled in the Harvard Field School and 
Education Program for Ashkelon Excavations due to my interest in Near 
Eastern Archaeology. My experience has been beyond comparison 
as I've fully participated in all site activities alongside fellow volunteers and 
professional archaeological staff. In Grid 25, our overarching goal pertained to 
determining the occupational sequence in the area. Correspondingly, we 
endeavored to establish a correlation between the occupational sequence 
and the Roman Cardo. Our excavation of Grid 25 was abandoned prematurely 
when we exposed bedrock beneath early Islamic architecture (9th-10th 
century Abassid) Our team then relocated 20 meters south of the Odeon to 
Grid 47. Our objective in Grid 47 was to establish the orientation of the Roman 
urban core of the city. Investigation of the expansion of the city during the 
Roman Period suggests that the exposed architecture in Grid 47 is closely 
aligned to the Persian-Hellenistic Period as can be seen on the South Tell. 
This contrasts the shift in orientation demonstrated in the Odeon. I look 
forward to preparing for advanced studies in archaeology, knowing that I've 
had the most extensive field experience and access to qualified professors 
and archaeologists who've guided me as we've attended to our research 
goals.

Cleaning in preparation for excavation in Grid 47

Cleaning in preparation for excavation in Grid 47

July 17, 2015

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

2015 Field Season Day 41

It's the last day! The first shuttle taking volunteers to the airport leaves in 10 minutes. What a remarkable season. You've heard a lot about it from the expedition. Over the next few days, you'll learn more about the season from the perspectives of the Harvard Summer School students. We'll be posting their "special edition" blog posts in the coming week.

As promised, today was a day of sweeping ahead of final photos (end of season record shots), conservation (preparing the excavation areas to make it through the winter), and work in the compound. Lots and lots of work in the pottery compound. Unsurprisingly, pottery processing featured prominently.

Pottery waiting to be sorted, read and inventoried.

Pottery waiting to be sorted, read and inventoried.

Before we had to make it through the last day, however, the expedition enjoyed a night of "all you can eat" ice cream at a local ice cream shop. A big thank you to Adam Aja for the idea because, as it turns out, everyone loves ice cream.

Dan, Emily and Deirdre in line waiting to select their desserts

Dan, Emily and Deirdre in line waiting to select their desserts

Who wouldn't love a waffle with ice cream on top?

Who wouldn't love a waffle with ice cream on top?

The Aja family enjoys ice cream AND a waffle

The Aja family enjoys ice cream AND a waffle

On behalf of the entire staff of the Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon I would like to thank all our volunteers for a wonderful, exciting and productive season. It is hard to imagine a season topping this one. 

 

The Tel Burna Excavation Project

2016 Excavation Dates – June 19-July 15

We are happy to announce that next summer’s excavation dates will be from June 19-July 15, 2016. This means that next summer’s season will be two weeks later in the year than this year’s season.

If you have not been following us on Bible History Daily – check out the most recent post that includes impressions from this season by Ira, Kay, Sandy and Teresa.

Ira with the jaws of a cow from A2

July 16, 2015

Lapis Gabinus: official blog of the Gabii Project

The Gabii Project is back!

If you are a friend of the Gabii Project, you will have seen from our facebook posts that a lot has been going on on site for the past four weeks! After a stint of preparatory work with staff only, a team of 40 students joined us on Monday June 29th for our seventh straight season of excavation at Gabii.



Despite the recent heat wave, activities in the three excavation sectors are progressing with the same enthusiasm ever since. The Area D group is completing the investigation of a cluster of Early Iron Age huts, whose stratified sequence is providing tantalizing new evidence on the earliest phases of city formation at Gabii. The Environmental Lab team is processing dozens of samples from these deposits, which will help us reconstruct the function of the structures, economic patterns, and ancient diet. In neighboring Area C, we reopened a trench first excavated in 2009-2012, which revealed a large atrium house. We are now exploring the Early Republican levels of the city-block, and we hope to reach into the same Archaic deposits attested in Area D. In Area F, three rooms of the monumental public building brought to light in the past two seasons remain to be documented. Once this will have been accomplished, we will have a complete picture of this exceptionally important building. Meanwhile, the Topo team is producing scores of photomodels (we are over 1000 now...). It is a busy time in the Finds Lab too, with washing pottery in the morning and sorting, drawing and studying the finds in the afternoon.

Several visitors and friends came to see the progress of the excavation, including Kim Bowes and Richard Hodges, Lisa Fentress, and David Potter, who gave a lecture on Epigraphy to our students. We were particularly pleased to welcome a group of children participating in the Summer Camp of the Children's Hospital of Padova.

Ciao for now!


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

Update for July 16th, 2015

While it was quite a scorcher today, it was a very successful day over all. Quite a few visitors came to the site, including deputy Australian ambassador, and several colleagues from various institutions. Needless to say, they were impressed with the fortifications and gate…

As to finds – we had quite a nice day.

In Area A, the 9th cent. destruction provided a bunch of nice finds, including several loomweights, a jar stopper, and a bunch of vessels. And later on, during pottery washing, the bottom part of a really nice faience figurine/amulet was found, depicting a Egyptian deity – with a fragmentary hieroglyphic inscription on its back!

In Area E a nice bunch of walls were taken down – and next year, we will have a big area of the earlier EB neighborhood ready for excavation!

In Area P they started filling in the deep pit outside of the EB wall, and continued looking for other sections of the EB – and finding LB materials inside the wall.

The Area F team was particularly happy about some really nice LB floors which they exposed, including what looks like a very nice bronze object!

Down in the lower city, the Area D team continued working on the fortifications and we now have at least 30 meters of the wall, along with many other well built features. While we are quite far from fully understanding this architectural complex, it is getting more and more impressive. To this we can add that all visitors seem to agree with us that whatever it is – it is very impressive…

In the other parts of D the metallurgical area gets more and more interesting – but not fully understood, and we have additional remains relating to this activity. We still are fully sure where the actual production was taking place. To this we can add that the new Iron I level in this area is getting bigger – and hopefully, in the future, we will understand it more!

Nice day!

Here’s a picture with the deputy ambassador with Louise and myself.

Deputy Australian ambassador visits Safi

Aren


Half a million hits!

Today marks a nice little mile stone in the Safi blog – we have passed the half a million (that’s 500,000) hits since it was opened several years ago. While this does not match up to the really popular blogs and sites, but nevertheless, that’s not too bad for a blog which deals with an excavation!

So thanks to all of you, out there, that have been following the blog over the years!

Aren


The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

2015 Field Season Day 40

Final, final party tonight. It will be an evening of skits, music and fun followed by "all you can eat" at a local ice cream shop. All together now, "Best final party ever!"

We were all in the pottery compound today. As a result, we made a lot of progress on inventory and a host of end-of-season projects.

Pottery compound 

Pottery compound 

Short post today as we turn our thoughts to preparing a skit for the evening. Tomorrow is final photos and then, hard to believe, the volunteers leave while the staff sticks around another week.

July 15, 2015

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

Area A team performing

Well, it looks like the Area A team has finally lost it – or perhaps – found it…


IMG_3830

And yes, another great day…

So the finds keep on popping up…

In Area F, there are two beautiful LB floors rich with finds, and we now have clear stratigraphic evidence of several LB stages. The EB in F is also quite impressive, and the pre-fortification levels are slowly expanding.

In P, the EB wall continues to grow and we are beginning to wonder whether we have the location of a turn in the wall. The LB levels are also of interest – with a possible plaster installation built inside the wall.

In A, they are digging in the 8th and 9th cent levels, and some nice finds (wall, vessels, etc.) were discovered.

In E, we have several nice floors and walls, including a nicely preserved phytolith and ash level which will provide some good samples for dating. It appears that we now have good datable samples from at least 5 phases in the EB!

In D, the fun continues as well. We now have close to 30 meters (!!!) of the wall leading towards the gate, as well as all kinds of additional built features. We still are very far from understanding them. Very nicely, we seem to be getting very close the actual production location in the 9th cent metallurgical area in D, and we may have begun to uncover a floor level with evidence of intense heating. This should be VERY interesting. From the metallurgical area we also exposed a rather complete jaw of a cow. Needless to say, the 9th cent. destruction level continues to produce all kinds of rich finds…

Here is a picture of the cow jaw, and a view of another section of the city wall, which Michael Asband and Oren Ackermann found in the Elah River valley bed, about 100 m to the east of the gate!

Cow jaw in situ section of wall in wadi 1

Aren


The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

2015 Field Season Day 39

We are done digging. Tomorrow grids will be cleaning and then Friday, final photos will be taken. Volunteers are off Friday and Saturday. Next week it will be just the staff. We will continue working on a variety of projects in the compound. Sorting, cleaning, storing and describing are the activities of the day along with other types of fun.

Carrying the flot machine through the compound

Carrying the flot machine through the compound

July 14, 2015

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

2015 Field Season Day 38

It was a busy day across the site.

In Grid 51, they still have two rooms filled with destruction debris from 604 they are excavating. What makes that rather complicated is that 51 is a big grid and it needs to get cleaned for final photos on Friday. So, while they are still excavating, they have started cleaning as well.

Volunteers begin cleaning Grid 51

Volunteers begin cleaning Grid 51

We backfilled Grid 47 today. There are several reasons why we backfill excavation areas when work is complete. The number one reason? Safety. We want both visitors to the park and the antiquities themselves to be safe and well protected. Of course, we want to let people know when we've excavated an area. We map everything and keep detailed records. When we close an area, we also put down a few modern objects. That way, if someone were to dig in the same area again, they would know it was already excavated once before.

Backfilling Grid 47

Backfilling Grid 47

We managed to find time to dig a probe right in the middle of the basilica today. This was a cooperative venture with the Parks Authority and the Antiquities Authority. The goal was to locate and identify a wall previously excavated and identified as part of the basilica associated with the bouletuarion. Just about three and a half meters down, we found it. Not only that, we found something very familiar -- backfill from John Garstang's 1920s excavation of the building.

Rubble backfill from John Garstang's 1920s excavation of the Ashkelon basilica

Rubble backfill from John Garstang's 1920s excavation of the Ashkelon basilica

It's been a few days, maybe longer even, since we had a picture of Grid 16. They are still in the field cleaning so check back for a picture or two soon. We have two more days in the field and then everyone is in the compound on Friday as we work to shut down the 2015 field season.

 

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

Update for July 14th, 2015

Another great day on the tell, with a lot of very interesting finds, and here are a few of them:

In Area D, in addition to continuing to discover more and more aspects of the fortifications and gate, and more and more finds from the 9th cent. BCE destruction, we have to very interesting finds: 1) we now have clear stratigraphic, architectural and ceramic evidence for a substantial Iron I phase in Area D, below the Stratum D4 (10th cent. BCE). This is the first clear cut evidence that there is a significant stratum from the Iron I (with Iron I Philistine 1 and 2 decorated pottery!). This means that the lower city of Gath was settled not only in the 10th and 9th cent. BCE – but already during the Iron I! 2) It appears that the area with metallurgical activity dates to the 9th cent destruction level – and not to the post-destruction squatter’s phase.

Some other interesting points:

In Area F, we have nice LB and Iron I levels, and really nice evidence of an earlier phase of the EB, before the fortification. This fits in well with the picture in Area P!

Great day! Great finds! Great team!

Aren


Update for July 13th

The start of the third week of the excavation went very well and the finds from all the areas were very exciting!

In Area D, new finds of all kinds were appearing. The new fortifications and gate are becoming more and more impressive, with many lines of massive, megalithic stones now seen, both in the fortifications near the original excavations in Area D, as well as in the vicinity of the gate. Among other things, we have what appears to be a stone built glacis of megalithic stones, and several walls which already have three courses of stones! The various features related to the excavation are getting larger and larger! In addition, the other part of G, interesting remains dating to the 9th cent BCE destruction and the earlier 10th cent layer were discovered – and it appears that there is evidence of 3 pre-destruction architectural phases in this area, making the use of the lower city even more impressive!

In Area A, Louise and her team came up with some nice finds from the LB levels, including a bottom of a vessel in which a dried fig was found (!), and a very interesting fragment of a non-local shell.

In Area P, the EB fortification and the pre-fortification EB remains are being further exposed. In the LB levels, a plastered installation, utilizing the inside of the EB wall was found and will be further investigated. A nice little find from the LB level was a Egyptian style glass pendant of grapes!

In Area F, a new phase of the pre-fortification EB levels was defined – meaning that there are at least 2 architectural stages dating to the EB which precede the construction of the EB wall!

And finally, in Area E, major work was done on taking apart walls to go down to the earlier EB phases, as well as defining some EB floors and walls. In addition, some interesting LB and Iron Age contexts were excavated.

An interesting aspect which went on at site today was a seismic analysis conducted by Prof. Amotz Agnon (HU) and his student Yatir. The laid out geomicrophones at various points on the site, to check how different parts of the site, and off site locations react to seismic energy.

We also has a visit of the head of the Israel Nature and Parks Authority, Mr. Shaul Goldstein, who was very impressed by the gate remains – and hopefully will assist in developing and excavating these remains.

Here are some pictures

geophone analysis Shaul Goldstein on site July 2015 Vessel in Area D working on the gate Amit and Caspar Carl and some complete vessels


July 13, 2015

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

2015 Field Season Day 37

I'd like to take a moment to highlight the work of someone who contributes to the blog regularly -- Melissa, the dig photographer. Her job is a crazy busy one, especially at this point in the season. Not only does Melissa take shots in the field but also she photographs objects out of the field. Her photographs will appear in the Islamic and Hellenistic volumes, currently under way, as well as many more.

Melissa also takes a lot of our "people shots," and it's thanks to her that we have some great photos from Grid 51 today.

Excavating in Grid 51

Excavating in Grid 51

Weight plate being excavated in Grid 51

Weight plate being excavated in Grid 51

July 12, 2015

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

2015 Field Season Day 36

As the end of the season approaches, everyone's schedule gets busier and busier. We will try to have pictures of Grid 51 and Grid 16 tomorrow. If not then, certainly within the next couple of days.

We finished excavation in Grid 47 today. We will clean tomorrow and then photograph and backfill on Tuesday. With this excavation, we gained a lot of useful information on the occupational sequence of the city in this area.  

We also hosted some guides for the National Parks Authority in Grid 47. They spent an hour digging with us, learning about what we do, and how excavation contributes to the history of  Ashkelon. After digging, they went on a walking tour of the site.

Grid 47 volunteers working with Park Guides

Grid 47 volunteers working with Park Guides

 

 

 

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

View of the gate area from the 1940s!

Here is a really nice picture of the area of the new fortifications and gate, taken by the late photographer David Perlmutter (one of the founding members of Kibbutz Kfar Menahem and a well-known photographer), sometime in the 1940s.

The picture, which is so good that it’s as if it was taken with excavation in mind (perfect angle and details), shows the area of the gate and fortification, and as, most importantly, the almost total lack of modern construction in this area. The building with the arches on the left is the modern water wheel (“antiliya”), whose remains can be seen until today. You can also see the path, leading up to the tell and village, which we believe may retain the path of the Iron Age gate entrance!

1940s view of lower city

Aren


July 11, 2015

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

All rested and revved-up for the 3rd week!

I assume that all the Safi team had a restful and relaxing weekend, and are all revved-up and waiting for the beginning of the 3rd week. I have no doubt that some very interesting finds are in store for us!

And just for fun, here is what the biblical text has to say about the city gate of Gath (I Sam 21:11/10-15/14):

יא וַיָּקָם דָּוִד, וַיִּבְרַח בַּיּוֹם-הַהוּא מִפְּנֵי שָׁאוּל; וַיָּבֹא, אֶל-אָכִישׁ מֶלֶךְ גַּת. יב וַיֹּאמְרוּ עַבְדֵי אָכִישׁ, אֵלָיו, הֲלוֹא-זֶה דָוִד, מֶלֶךְ הָאָרֶץ; הֲלוֹא לָזֶה, יַעֲנוּ בַמְּחֹלוֹת לֵאמֹר, הִכָּה שָׁאוּל בַּאֲלָפָו, וְדָוִד בְּרִבְבֹתָו. יג וַיָּשֶׂם דָּוִד אֶת-הַדְּבָרִים הָאֵלֶּה, בִּלְבָבוֹ; וַיִּרָא מְאֹד, מִפְּנֵי אָכִישׁ מֶלֶךְ-גַּת. יד וַיְשַׁנּוֹ אֶת-טַעְמוֹ בְּעֵינֵיהֶם, וַיִּתְהֹלֵל בְּיָדָם; וַיְתָו עַל-דַּלְתוֹת הַשַּׁעַר, וַיּוֹרֶד רִירוֹ אֶל-זְקָנוֹ. טו וַיֹּאמֶר אָכִישׁ, אֶל-עֲבָדָיו: הִנֵּה תִרְאוּ אִישׁ מִשְׁתַּגֵּעַ, לָמָּה תָּבִיאוּ אֹתוֹ אֵלָי. טז חֲסַר מְשֻׁגָּעִים, אָנִי, כִּי-הֲבֵאתֶם אֶת-זֶה, לְהִשְׁתַּגֵּעַ עָלָי; הֲזֶה, יָבוֹא אֶל-בֵּיתִי.

10 David rose and fled that day from Saul; he went to King Achish of Gath.11 The servants of Achish said to him, “Is this not David the king of the land? Did they not sing to one another of him in dances, ‘Saul has killed his thousands, and David his ten thousands’?” 12 David took these words to heart and was very much afraid of King Achish of Gath. 13 So he changed his behavior before them; he pretended to be mad when in their presence. He scratched marks on the doors of the gate, and let his spittle run down his beard. 14 Achish said to his servants, “Look, you see the man is mad; why then have you brought him to me? 15 Do I lack madmen, that you have brought this fellow to play the madman in my presence? Shall this fellow come into my house?”

Aren


The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

2015 Field Season Day 35

A short post today as we enjoy a lazy Saturday. Lots of broken pots in the Grid 47 sewer. The example below is one of many.

Coptic Glazed Ware bowl

Coptic Glazed Ware bowl

July 10, 2015

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

2015 Field Season Day 34

Today was our last compound day of the season. Volunteers finished processing unclaimed pottery from Grid 50 and then it was on to washing and marking.

It's also the final weekend before the volunteers head home and many are off traveling. With one week to go, staff members are hard at work making sure field books are up to date, reports are getting started and that everything is in order. We have a few more days of digging and then it will be time to sweep ahead of final photos for each grid.

Wow, this season has flown by!

It's definitely Week 5

It's definitely Week 5


July 09, 2015

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

Update for July 9th, 2015

Great day on site – in all the areas!

In Area F, the pre-fortification phases are being exposed in two areas – and things are looking very interesting. Two LB rooms are being excavated – and both have some really nice finds! And later during the day, Lisa, Yotam and Chris, from the Kimmel WIS center, came by to work on taking 14C samples from the LB/Iron I transition in Area F.

In Area P, two additional sections of the EB wall were exposed. In addition, Andrew, in his deep pit, has excavated thru a wall that runs below the EB fortification – possibly dating to the EB II. And in the LB rooms near the wall, additional LB finds came out.

Louise and her team in Area A continued working on the 9th cent. destruction, and found two loomweights. In addition, they are working in 8th cent and LB levels. Quite interestingly, its seems that we have found some pig bones from the LB levels.

In Area E, Haskel and his team are working mainly on EB, but also LB materials. It appears that the carbonized branch we thought we had is in fact pieces of wood in what might be a pit – so much for that. But we did have various other nice things, such a cute little animal figurine from the LB levels.

In Area D, the fun continues! We have finds from the 9th cent. destruction and from the metallurgical area, but the main and exciting finds relate to the fortification and apparent gate. The D team worked real hard to clear the surface over a very large area, so that we could start seeing the various features relating to this much clear. And in fact, many lines of megalithic stone are appearing, with nice corners, features and even mudbricks. It is clear that this will be a monumental task to excavate this – which may take quite a few seasons! In any case, we are all totally hyped up about this – and looking forward to what will be found.

We also had some visits today, including Prof. David Schloen and his family, and Prof. Oded Lifschitz, who were all very impressed by the gate.

Way to go!

Erin in D metallurgical area EB wall in P Darra with earlier F EB layer clearying the gate complex walls Christinas team in F IMG_7221 LB figurine from E view of gate in D Andrew in P


The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

2015 Field Season Day 33

Earlier today we tweeted a picture of Rebekah holding a small object. What is it?

Bone doll found in Grid 47

Bone doll found in Grid 47

It's a wonderful example of worked bone, in this case a doll, collected from a deep sewer shaft discovered in Grid 47. How much fun are sewers? Fun enough that Ben Felker hopped in to do a little digging (as did a number of other visitors to the grid).

Ben in the new sewer in Grid 47

Ben in the new sewer in Grid 47

Sewers are interesting because broken things get tossed in and other things get lost in them. You never know what you might find when you excavate one.

Piece of yellow and green glass from 47 sewer

Piece of yellow and green glass from 47 sewer

July 08, 2015

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

Breaking news: The Gigantic Gate of Gath?

Breaking news:

The absolutely unbelievable, fantastic, astounding, and in general, quite special news coming from the dig today is that just to the east of the new fortification wall which I noted yesterday (in Area D), it appears that we may have located a monumental city gate of the lower city of Gath! We still have to do a lot of cleaning, defining, digging and measuring to do (to really make sure about this), but it appears that there are really good chances we have truly landed on quite an astounding find!

Woohoo!


The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

2015 Field Season Day 32

It's almost the end of Week 5 which is really hard to believe. We're still working, however, and we're still having fun.

Jamaal does some stretching while excavating

Jamaal does some stretching while excavating

Shimi does a little stretching while dumping guffahs

Shimi does a little stretching while dumping guffahs

We are still finding objects, too.

Miranda and the oil lamp she found while excavating a sewer

Miranda and the oil lamp she found while excavating a sewer

July 07, 2015

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

General update for July 7th, 2015

Once again, a great day!

In addition to the really nice wall from Area D, which I posted a picture just before, we had really nice results in all areas.

In Area F, the EB levels below the EB fortification are starting to appear really nicely in two different parts of the area, including some really nice vessels in what appears to be a domestic context. In addition, the LB and Iron I levels are being exposed in the rooms above the fortification and we should have some really nice finds within real soon. Getting down to the EB fortifications has exposed additional sections of the MB glacis – and a very collection of “Red, White and Blue” pottery is coming out.

Area P was popping today, especially with the large group of Bar Ilan University – Yeshiva University summer research students, who joined us for the day and really helped out in the area. Most impressively we have the EB fortification in another square, and have gone down nicely in the LB within the wall

In Area A, Louise and her team excavated out a very nice context of the 9th cent destruction, with collapsed mudbrick and several vessels. They also went down further into the LB in the lower squares.

In Area E they commenced taking down some “floating” walls – to make room to expand the exposure of the earlier phases in this area. Also, they continued to expose the rather large piece of carbonized olive wood which was discovered last week.

In Area D, in addition to the great city wall, Amit and his team had a bunch of nice finds, including a pit with carbonized seeds and the jaws and feet of a goat – perhaps a cultic deposition as we have seen previously both in Area A and D. In addition, portions of decorated chalice were exposed.

Here are some pictures from the day:

excavating chalice Sue Adi and Liora excavating pit in Area D Area D - three generations9th cent dest in Area ALouises angels


The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

2015 Field Season Day 31

Yesterday's party was wonderful. The Leonardo Hotel provided a great space and prepared a wonderful meal for us. Dig registrars Meghan and Katie put together a fantastic Finds Display. The highlight of the evening, as always, was celebrating the season and spending time with some special guests. Our patron Shelby White, her daughter Tracy (a young volunteer in 1985), and her granddaughter Suniva, attended the festivities.

Heather, registrar from 1985 - 2000, and Paula, zooarchaeologist 1985 - present

Heather, registrar from 1985 - 2000, and Paula, zooarchaeologist 1985 - present

Heather, dig registrar from 1985 - 2000 surprised us with a visit. She and Paula told stories about life on the dig in 1985 and beyond. Carmella Shimoni, whose husband Musa worked with the excavation during the 1980s and 1990s, also stopped by for a visit. There was lots to see and do not the least of which was seeing everyone "cleaned up."

Grid 25/47

Grid 25/47

Coins found in Grid 25

Coins found in Grid 25

Greek pottery found during excavation

Greek pottery found during excavation

Melissa, Ellie, and Adam enjoy the Finds Display

Melissa, Ellie, and Adam enjoy the Finds Display


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

First picture of the lower city city wall!

And here is a first look at the newly discovered city wall of the lower city in Area D.

As you can see, Barbie (on the left) and Amit (in the center) are standing on the two sides of the ca. 6 m. wide wall. That is one big wall!. The rest of the team members that you can see in the picture on the right are standing in a square in which we are excavating down to a room/house that is built right up against the wall. From the initial pottery reading, it seems to date to the 9th cent. BCE. Thus, most likely, this will provide a nice dating for the fortification – to the city of Gath which was destroyed by Hazael ca. 830 BCE!

Very cool!!!

View of wall in Area D


July 06, 2015

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

Update for July 6th, 2015

Today we had a great day! As I noted earlier, fortifications were key issues today, but other interesting finds came up as well.

In Area D, we had a very large team today. A group of over 20 students from the Ashkelon College, led by Dr. Ayelet Levi, joined the team and helped give the area a big push. The highlight of the day in Area D was the apparent confirming that we have found the Iron Age city wall of the lower city of Gath! Despite claims by some of my colleagues (who will not be named at this stage…) that the lower city was not fortified in the Iron IIA, we seem to have found a wall, at least 6 m wide, running right at the end of the lower city, immediately above the Elah Valley river bed. Woohoo! We suggested this long ago – and now we have what seems to be clear evidence of this. I hope we will conclusively “nail this baby down” by the end of the season.

Area P also dealt with fortifications today and we are reaching two additional sections of the EB fortifications in this area. Also, we have very nice evidence of pre-wall EB activities under the wall. On a side note, the Area P team (in particular Sam Raab, on his first day on the dig), found a really nice decorated ivory handle, perhaps of a mirror, spoon or other implement.

The Area F team is working on several various phases from the EB through the Iron I which relate to the city wall, and we can clearly see that in Area F, the EB city wall is reused over a long period.

Area A is working in the 9th cent. BCE destruction and the LB levels.

Area P are finding great stuff in the EB levels – including what appears to be a rather large piece of carbonized olive wood, which we will attempt to take out in as large a piece as possible. In addition, the E team, along with Jessie Pincus, continued working on the GPR of the Area to the east of the excavated area. Hopefully, this will provide us with a nice idea on whether or not the EB neighborhood continues further down the slope – towards the possible line of fortification in the terrace below Area E.

What a day! And this is only the beginning of the 2nd week! :-)

Aren


The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

2015 Field Season Day 30

This afternoon everyone is relaxing ahead of our annual Finds Display and Party. The festivities start with a summation of the season by Co-director Daniel Master. The Finds Display, where some of the best objects from this season and last will be on display, follows. Finally, it's time for dinner. It's one of the best nights of the season and there will be pictures tomorrow.

Today, some images from around the excavation.

Meghan and Katie prepare objects for the Finds Display

Meghan and Katie prepare objects for the Finds Display

Kevin holds a piece of folded lead found in Grid 51

Kevin holds a piece of folded lead found in Grid 51

Ethan excavates a plaster subfloor in Grid 47

Ethan excavates a plaster subfloor in Grid 47

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

Fortification city…

Today can be summarized as “Fortification City”…

More to come… :-)


July 05, 2015

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

2015 Field Season Day 29

What does it feel like to remove a cemented stone wall five meters long, a meter tall, and a meter wide? Like this:

Emily and Josh after a day of wall removal

Emily and Josh after a day of wall removal

Work was a little more straight forward in Grid 47 today where volunteers worked on digging a pit and tracing a plaster subfloor. After photographing the subfloor, we'll dig a probe and try to date it. Have we found the Roman period? We should know more soon.

Sweeping a plaster subfloor in Grid 47

Sweeping a plaster subfloor in Grid 47

Tomorrow is our annual Finds Display and Party. We'll post pictures of the festivities soon.

July 04, 2015

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

A little votive juglet from Area D

On Friday, Ahuva, who has been with the team from the first season, found a really nice little votive juglet from the 10th cent. BCE level in Area D – not far from the concentration of votive vessels and a conch found a few years ago.

Here it is:

Juglet from Area D

Aren


The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

2015 Field Season Day 28

Happy 4th of July. As we enjoy the holiday weekend here in Ashkelon, here are some faces on the excavation.

July 03, 2015

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

2015 Field Season Day 27

Archaeology really is a group endeavor. The photographer needs some shade for a photograph? Well then, we provide some shade.

Providing shade in Grid 51

Providing shade in Grid 51

The volunteers are off to Masada and the Dead Sea. In house, much of the staff will be working on their various research projects, pottery, or writing reports. It promises to be a busy and, hopefully, relaxing weekend.

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

Team group photo for week 1, 2015

Last night, we had our traditional end of week party (pizza…), and we took a group photo of the great team for this week

week 1 Safi 2015


July 02, 2015

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

July 2nd on site

Today we had another very nice day on the dig.

In Area F they are working in EB (nice surface seems to be coming up with smashed vessels about to be exposed), as well as what appears to be LB and Iron I surfaces – seemingly relating to the fortification wall in this area. In addition, a group of bronze objects were found bunched together – we still have to see what they are and what the exact context is.

The Area P team is working on several things. At the bottom of the deep pit outside the EB wall, a very interesting structure/installation which appears to go under the wall is being partially exposed. Also LB levels inside the wall are being uncovered, and in the new squares, hopefully in the next few days they will be through the topsoil and late remains.

Area A is working right in the 9th cent. BCE destruction and are beginning to see vessels for restoration, In the lower squares, LB and some EB materials are being excavated.

The large team in Area E have a lot of nice finds, mostly from the EB neighborhood. This includes what appears to be some large pieces of carbonized wood – and tomorrow Lior Regev, from WIS, who is now focusing on tree-ring chronology, is coming to check it out.

In Area D they are working on various Iron Age stages, from the 10th cent, 9th cent destruction, post Iron Age destruction with metallurgical area, and what we hope is the fortifications on the northern side.

Here are some nice pictures from today:

Louise and Linda totalling Weight from P Adi and Annie analyzing Amit explaining level Area E team at work


And now a little nature from the site – a beautiful Swallowtail butterfly on the tell

Today, walking from Area F on the summit of the site towards Area P on the eastern side, an astoundingly beautiful butterfly flew by and landed on a thorn and I managed to get a nice picture of it.

This beautiful creature is known as the Swallowtail (Papilio machaon) – and is truly astounding! In Hebrew, it is known as the זנב סנונית נאה

See the picture below of the Swallowtail in it’s imago stage, sitting on one of the fierce thorns covering the tell:

Yellowtail butterfly on Safi 2_7_15


The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

2015 Field Season Day 26

Images of 604 from Grid 51.

In Grid 16, the expansion earlier this week is paying off as more of their mudbrick wall is exposed. Now the task becomes establishing the date of the wall.

The move to Grid 47 also paid dividends. Today, staff worked to expose several walls and the plaster subfloors of at least two rooms. Full scale excavation begins on Sunday.

Tomorrow the volunteers are off to Masada and the Dead Sea ahead of Saturday's 4th of July holiday. Everyone is looking forward to a fun, relaxing two day weekend.

July 01, 2015

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

July 1st, 2015 on the dig

Today we had the first full day of digging in all the areas and things are looking great!

In Area E, Haskel and his team are working mainly on EB materials, but with some LB intrusive pits as well. Some of the nice finds include a boar tusk which is partially polished from the EB levels, and some decorated LB sherds as well. In addition, they are clarifying a lot of architectural features relating to the EB neighborhood, and are ready to expand the excavations in various areas.

Area A with Louise’s team are working on the top of the 9th cent. destruction in one square, and in the lowest LB levels in two others. Some of the their finds include imported cypriote LB sherds

Jill and the Area P team are up and running. To start with, the took out the old “Goliath sherd” sign – which sat right in the middle of a square which is being excavated, in which the continuation of the EB wall will be found. In addition, other parts of the EB wall are being excavated as well as LB levels

In Area F, Eric and his team (Jeff will be back from a short trip tomorrow) are working in several interesting points, including what may be an early Iron I room, materials from the LB/Iron I transition, and some very interesting EB architectural contexts which go below and to the west of the EB fortification wall.

Amit and his team are also finding great stuff. Additional parts of the metallurgical area are being uncovered; more sections of the 9th cent. BCE destruction; hints to the Iron I activity in the lower city; and a few new squares searching for the fortifications in this area.

We also had a flyover a helicopter of the Electric Company who cleaned off the electric lines with a water hose – see the picture below

Great day – great team – great finds!

And here are a bunch of pictures:

Area D 2 Area A 2 Area A 1 area p1 Area P 3 Area P 2 Area E3 Area E 4 area e 2 area e 1 area d1 IMG_7142 IMG_7132 IMG_7122


The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

2015 Field Season Day 25

We are back in Grid 47!

White cement from a wall appearing in the dirt

White cement from a wall appearing in the dirt

We spent the day preparing a test trench for excavation tomorrow as we continue our search for more information about the urban core of Roman Ashkelon. The new trench is approximately 20 meters south of the odeon, located in the center of the park, and presents us with another opportunity to investigate the expansion of the city during the Roman period.

It may not look like much now but in a day or two, we expect to see walls.

Staff examine a possible grinding stone found while preparing Grid 47

Staff examine a possible grinding stone found while preparing Grid 47

It's very hot and very sunny in Grid 47 and hopes are high we will find something interesting. Stay tuned for more.

June 30, 2015

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

Philistine sherd with depiction of fish

Today, the Area E team (which are excavating EB almost exclusively!) found a really nice sherd with a depiction of a bird. While the original suggestion was that it is Philistines, I think we have to entertain the possibility that it is Late Bronze…but this will be debated further.

In addition, after one day of cleaning in Area D – complete vessels are ready to pop out!

Great way to start the season!

See some pictures:

2015 Philistine fish sherd

Vessels in situ in area D 2015


The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

2015 Field Season Day 24

While the upper portion of Grid 16 was being expanded yesterday, Josh and his crew worked in the lower half of the grid.

Cleaning off stones in Grid 16

Cleaning off stones in Grid 16

In Grid 51, they continued to uncover more destruction.

Exposing more destruction in 604

Exposing more destruction in 604

Excavating destroyed vessels

Excavating destroyed vessels

Today we also dug a test trench in an area south of the odeon in Grid 47. Tomorrow we will be digging a second tench as we search for the Roman period urban core.

June 29, 2015

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

2015 Field Season Day 23

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

Backfilling Grid 25

Backfilling Grid 25

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

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

First day of work for the 2015 season

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

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

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

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

Looking forward to a great season!

Aren


June 28, 2015

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

2015 Field Season Day 22

Dark clouds over Ashkelon

Dark clouds over Ashkelon

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

Chris works to expose some animal bones in Grid 51

Chris works to expose some animal bones in Grid 51

A "pot splat" in Grid 51

A "pot splat" in Grid 51

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

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

The Safi team is converging on Revadim!

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

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

Aren


June 27, 2015

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

2015 Field Season 21

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

A few fun pictures as we enjoy a day off. 

A quiet moment in Grid 51

A quiet moment in Grid 51

Pottery laid out for cataloging

Pottery laid out for cataloging

Daniel Master surveys Grid 51

Daniel Master surveys Grid 51

June 26, 2015

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

2015 Field Season Day 20

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

The first hour of work

The first hour of work

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

A volunteer consults with Becky about Greek pottery

A volunteer consults with Becky about Greek pottery

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

Volunteers sort bags of pottery

Volunteers sort bags of pottery

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

Preparation day at Tell and Revadim

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

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

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

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

Thanks for all for all the hard work.

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

RWB sherd from surface near F 2015

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

Aren

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


June 25, 2015

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

2015 Field Season Day 19

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

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

Digging pits cut into the Grid 16 mudbrick wall.

Digging pits cut into the Grid 16 mudbrick wall.

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

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

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

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

Next week promises to be very exciting in Grid 16.

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

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

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

 

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

2015 T shirt design

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

2015 shirt


June 24, 2015

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

2015 Field Season Day 18

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

A volunteer discusses some pottery with an Israeli student

A volunteer discusses some pottery with an Israeli student

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

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

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

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

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

A volunteer explains the dirt

A volunteer explains the dirt

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

Team Orientation in Lab

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

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

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

It’s going to be a great season!

Aren


June 23, 2015

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

Toast in the lab for Dr. Shira Gur Arieh!

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

Congratulations to Shira!

Aren


The Tel Burna Excavation Project

Daily History Post on Tel Burna – Volunteers

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

Read the rest here.


The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

2015 Field Season Day 17

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

Digging brick mining pits in Grid 16 

Digging brick mining pits in Grid 16 

Picking down to mudbrick or bedrock, whichever comes first.

Picking down to mudbrick or bedrock, whichever comes first.

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

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

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

June 22, 2015

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

2015 Field Season Day 16

Some great pictures from Grid 51 today.

Gordy excavates a beam

Gordy excavates a beam

Chris holds a lamp

Chris holds a lamp

Laura examines a possible artifact

Laura examines a possible artifact

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

Dan and Kerrie discuss the summer's goals

Dan and Kerrie discuss the summer's goals

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

June 21, 2015

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

2015 Field Season Day 15

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

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

Coins found in Grid 25

Coins found in Grid 25

After breakfast, it was time to clean. 

Sweeping for final photos

Sweeping for final photos

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

Work continues in Grid 16 and 51, however.

Grid 16 moves some big dirt

Grid 16 moves some big dirt

Excavating a possible pit line in Grid 51

Excavating a possible pit line in Grid 51

Check back for more updates as our season continues.

The Tel Burna Excavation Project

Week 2 Summary

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

Team from Week 2

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

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

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

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


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

Complete smashed pithos from B1
LB arrowhead from Area B1

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

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


June 20, 2015

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

2015 Field Season Day 14

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

Some pictures of various excavation areas to enjoy today:

Digging a large constructional fill in Grid 25

Digging a large constructional fill in Grid 25

Sweeping off a stone wall in Grid 16

Sweeping off a stone wall in Grid 16

Discussing an artifact in Grid 51

Discussing an artifact in Grid 51

June 19, 2015

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

2015 Field Season Day 13

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

Co-director Daniel Master identifies a sherd

Co-director Daniel Master identifies a sherd

Robyn identifies a bag of pottery

Robyn identifies a bag of pottery

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

June 18, 2015

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

10 days to go to the 2015 season!

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

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

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

Aren


The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

2015 Field Season Day 12

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

Examining Roman pottery

Examining Roman pottery

Pottery laid out for research

Pottery laid out for research

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

Smiles after dumping some dirt

Smiles after dumping some dirt

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

Which to use? Patiche or trowel?

Which to use? Patiche or trowel?

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

Excavating sand constructional fill under Islamic period walls

Excavating sand constructional fill under Islamic period walls


June 17, 2015

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

2015 Field Season Day 11

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

Excavating a fallen capital

Excavating a fallen capital

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

Sifting an ashy layer of collapse or destruction debris

Sifting an ashy layer of collapse or destruction debris

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

Swinging the big pick

Swinging the big pick

What has all the hard work uncovered?

Doorway with destruction or collapse debris in front

Doorway with destruction or collapse debris in front

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

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

Marking squares on the tell before the excavation

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

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

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

unnamed unnamed (1) unnamed (2) unnamed (3) unnamed (4) unnamed (5) unnamed (6) unnamed (7) unnamed (8)

Aren


June 16, 2015

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

2015 Field Season Day 10

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

Excavating the courtyard floor found in Grid 16

Excavating the courtyard floor found in Grid 16

View of the courtyard floor in Grid 16

View of the courtyard floor in Grid 16

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

Inspecting the dirt

Inspecting the dirt

It was a great day of excavation in Grid 16.

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

Congratulations to Oren Ackermann

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

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

Way to go Oren!!!

IMG-20150615-WA0001


June 15, 2015

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

2015 Field Season Day 9

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

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

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

Excavating a donkey scapula

Excavating a donkey scapula

Identifying an object

Identifying an object

Just keep digging...

Just keep digging...

June 14, 2015

The Tel Burna Excavation Project

New Article on Tel Burna during the Iron II

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

Here is the full reference.

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


The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

2015 Field Season Day 8

Look who dug a big  hole.

Emily standing on top of newly exposed rampart

Emily standing on top of newly exposed rampart

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

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

 

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

Mazal tov to Dr. Shira Gur-Arieh!

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

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

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

:-)

Way to go Shira!

Aren


June 13, 2015

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

2015 Field Season Day 7

Studying Hellenistic Pottery

Studying Hellenistic Pottery

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

GIS team

GIS team

mobile office, or 

Data entry in the field

Data entry in the field

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

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

The Tel Burna Excavation Project

Week 1 Summary

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

Week 1 Participants

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


June 12, 2015

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

2015 Field Season Day 6

Swinging a pick in Grid 16

Swinging a pick in Grid 16

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

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

Emily making dirt

Emily making dirt

Even GIS needs a little help

Even GIS needs a little help

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

June 11, 2015

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

2015 Field Season Day 5

Rainbow over Ashkelon

Rainbow over Ashkelon

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

Volunteers in Grid 25

Volunteers in Grid 25

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

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

Genetic origins of European peoples – very interesting!

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

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

:-(

Aren

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


June 10, 2015

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

2015 Field Season Day 4

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

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

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

Students learn about GIS

Students learn about GIS

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

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

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

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

Team manual for 2015 season!

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

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

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

English_Volunteers_guidelines_2015

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

drooling in front of bowl

Aren


June 09, 2015

The Tel Burna Excavation Project

And We are Off! 2015 Season Begins

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

2015 Field Season Day 3

Pottery marking

Pottery marking

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

Sorting pottery

Sorting pottery

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

Josh with a crate of Persian Period pottery

Josh with a crate of Persian Period pottery

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

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

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

 

June 08, 2015

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

2015 Field Season Day 2

Grid 16, view to the north

Grid 16, view to the north

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

Emily stands in the hole she dug. Today

Emily stands in the hole she dug. Today

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

Wheelbarrow standing alone

Wheelbarrow standing alone

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


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

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

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

Here’s the new symbol of the center:

Minverva new symbol smallest

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

Check it out!

Aren


June 07, 2015

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

2015 Field Season Day 1

Drain Channel in Grid 25

Drain Channel in Grid 25

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

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

Hanging the shade cloth in Grid 25

Hanging the shade cloth in Grid 25

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

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

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

June 06, 2015

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

Arrival Day

Supply Container

Supply Container

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

June 05, 2015

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

Preseason Day 13

Dan and Josh 

Dan and Josh 

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

Annual Tool Draft

Annual Tool Draft

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

Trent checking drawings

Trent checking drawings

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

June 04, 2015

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

Preseason Day 12

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

Dan Gardens Hotel in Ashkelon

Dan Gardens Hotel in Ashkelon

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

Old Ashkelon Lab.

Old Ashkelon Lab.

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

June 03, 2015

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

Preseason Day 11

Processing pottery

Processing pottery

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

Breakfast area

Breakfast area

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

Statuary and architectural fragments from the odeon

Statuary and architectural fragments from the odeon

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

 

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

Lecture by Raymond Ackerman on how to run a compassionate business

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


June 02, 2015

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

Preseason Day 10

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

Matching drawings with sherds

Matching drawings with sherds

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

"Typing" pottery

"Typing" pottery

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

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

June 01, 2015

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

Preseason Day 9

Stacks of Hellenistic bowls

Stacks of Hellenistic bowls

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

Discussing Hellenistic casseroles

Discussing Hellenistic casseroles

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

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

May 31, 2015

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

Preseason Day 8

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

Tables filled with drawn and/or restored pottery

Tables filled with drawn and/or restored pottery

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

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

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

 

May 30, 2015

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

Preseason ay 7

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

IMG_1591.JPG
IMG_1592.JPG
IMG_1581.JPG

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

May 29, 2015

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

Preseason Day 6

How quickly does the park reclaim shuttered excavation areas? 

Grid 23

Grid 23

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

Grid 47

Grid 47

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

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

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

Interesting take on the Philistine Favissa at Yavneh

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

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

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

Aren

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


May 28, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

Way to go Eric!!

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

DSCF5686


The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

Preseason Day 5

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

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

FullSizeRender.jpg
FullSizeRender2.jpg

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

May 27, 2015

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

Preseason Day 4

Ben preparing to survey in Grid 16

Ben preparing to survey in Grid 16

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

 

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

Update on work in feature south of Area A

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

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

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

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

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

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


May 26, 2015

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

Preseason Day 3

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

IMG_1569.JPG
IMG_1571.JPG
IMG_1570.JPG
IMG_1572.JPG

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

Updates on today’s work at the tell

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

We will wait and see.

Here some pictures from today’s work:

IMG_3673 IMG_3674 IMG_3677 IMG_3679 IMG_3680


May 25, 2015

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

Water system at Tell es-Safi/Gath?

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

Well – all that will change as of tomorrow!

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

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

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

Updates will follow!

Aren


The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

Preseason Day 2

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

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

IMG_1560.JPG
IMG_1563.JPG
IMG_1561.JPG

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

May 24, 2015

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

Preseason Day 1

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

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

We also took in our two new mobile offices.

Mobile office which replaced Container 9A

Mobile office which replaced Container 9A

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

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

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

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

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


May 21, 2015

The Tel Burna Excavation Project

Restored Pottery Vessels

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

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA


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

The David and Goliath Story and Biblical Redaction

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

Check it out.

Aren

HT – Jack Sasson


May 17, 2015

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

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

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

The clip can be found here

Aren


May 14, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

See details below:

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

SPEAKER: Adi Eliyahu Behar

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

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

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


May 13, 2015

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

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

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

Check this out here.

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

Aren


May 11, 2015

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

Archaeology and Text Dialogue conference – was great!

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

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

Aren


May 07, 2015

The Tel Burna Excavation Project

Archaeology and Text Conference at Ariel University

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

See schedule here.

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


May 05, 2015

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

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

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

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

Aren


May 04, 2015

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

Grid 51

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

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

Grid 51 at work

Grid 51 at work

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

April 30, 2015

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

Extension of deadline to sign up for 2015 season

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

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

:-)

Aren


April 27, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

Aren


The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

The 2015 Field Season

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

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

Grid 32 and the cardo:

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

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

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

 Destroyed walls in Grid 32

 Destroyed walls in Grid 32



The Tel Burna Excavation Project

Deadline Extended to May 15th

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

The Cerw Part 1The Crew Part 1

April 26, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

Aren


April 24, 2015

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

Microarchaeology and the Philistine Household

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

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

The article is:

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

Check it out!

Aren


April 22, 2015

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

Pictures from the Ackerman Family Workshop in Biblical Archaeology

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

It was a great workshop!

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


April 21, 2015

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

What’s in my bag? Check it out!

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

Aren


April 20, 2015

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

Mini-season on the tell today

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

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

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

Aren

IMG_3541 IMG_3534 IMG_3532 IMG_3529


April 19, 2015

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

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

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

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

Aren


April 17, 2015

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

Ackerman Family Annual Workshop in Biblical Archaeology

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

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

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

I hope to post pictures next week.

Aren


April 16, 2015

The Tel Burna Excavation Project

Recent Articles and Presentations

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

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

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

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

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA


April 15, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

Should be very interesting!

Aren

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


Philistine names lecture online

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

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

Aren


April 14, 2015

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

TV interview about ISIS destroying Nimrud on Israel TV Channel 10

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

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

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

Aren