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A very interesting article (by Amanda Borschel-Dan) has appeared in the Times of Israel, on the finds, methods and controversies about the excavations in the City of David. Towards the end of the article, I give my two cents relating to the excavation methodology.
Check it out!
After many months of work, a very nice paper on the Area D metallurgical activity area was submitted today to a well-known journal. The paper, spearheaded by Vanessa Workman, along with Adi Eliyahu Behar, Elisabeta Boaretto, Johanna Regev, Amit Dagan and yours truly, will hopefully appear in the not to distant future.
The page proofs of the Safi II volume are here (all 540 pages…)! Time for one more reading, looking for corrections (found one already, on the title page…), and then, hopefully, we’ll be able to have it out by the end of the year!!
Last night – project director Itzick Shai delivered a lecture at the Bible Lands Museum entitled – “Canaanite Cult with a Cypriot Scent: the Latest on the Tel Burna Excavation Project.” This lecture dealt with the numerous cultic and imported Cypriot items found in Area B1 over the last several years.
The online registration for the 2020 season at Tell es-Safi/Gath is now up and running! So all of you who want to join the team for the coming season, this is the time to start the process.
If you want to work at a site which is at the center of attention of archaeological research in the near east (and appears on Jeopardy…), now’s the time!
After last week’s appearance on the “Drudge Report” (see here), I woke up this morning with a million messages from all over that last night, the last question on the famous US TV game show, “Jeopardy,” in which contestants are tested on their general knowledge, was about Tell es-Safi/Gath!!!
Next: Brad Pitt plays a dashing archaeologist excavating the remains of Goliath’s town…:-)
Here’s a screen shot of the question – courtesy of Nour Ashour:
Recently, we’ve started to do 3D modelling based on drone photography and LIDAR. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages. Noam Bar-David, has now very nicely combined the two, so that in the same model you can combine the advantages of both in one model.
Here are some low resolution examples of models or Area D East and Area M. Cool!
Today, I had the pleasure to visit the Azekah and Qiryat Yearim excavations.
At Azekah, Oded Lipschits gave me and Itzik Shai (Ariel Univ. and Burna excavations), a great two hour tour of the site! We walked over the entire site and got to see, in detail, all the various excavation areas. Very interesting finds and great work. We were then invited to join them for breakfast – which clearly wins out as the best breakfast in Israeli excavations! I think they deserve a “Macalister Star” (which is the archaeological equivalent of a “Michelin Star”…:-). The highlight of the tour was when I ate breakfast, with a view of Tell es-Safi/Gath…
I then continued to the Qiryat Yearim excavations, and I was joined by Profs. Aharon Demsky (BIU) and Ronny Reich (Haifa). We then received a very in-depth and interesting tour of the site (two hours as well) by Prof. Israel Finkelstein (TAU).
Both sites have very interesting finds, with important ramifications for understanding the Iron Ages and other periods in the region. Needless to say, the results at Azekah are very important in relation to our finds at Tell es-Safi/Gath, and how these two sites interact (and in some periods, don’t interact).
Thanks for the excavators for these great tours to these sites!
The BIU liason to non-Hebrew Press (Elana) brought this article to my attention.
What can I say, this is a lot of hogwash. It doesn’t matter what you say, someone will read into it what they want to understand, and use if for their agendas.
There was nothing of the sort in what was reported in the press, in the three cases that I was interviewed directly (Haaretz, Times of Israel and Jerusalem Post). Other places where I was quoted, are not that accurate. But in any case, none of the political claims and statements that are presented in this horrible article represent what I told the press.
What is funny, that from reading various secondary and tertiary media reports on the finds from this season, there were three different types of reactions:
1) Proof of the Bible. Haleluja!
2) I’m a Bible basher.
3) I’m using the Bible for political reasons.
That being the case, and wide range of interpretations, I guess I’m doing fine…
See below an updated plan of the site, following the 2019 season, with all the various excavation areas. Included are the new areas, and expansions of old ones, including the new IAA excavation (mentioned here), which has been called “Area Z”.
Lots of work done, and plenty more to do in the last two seasons of the project!
I’m reviewing now a very nice volume, which has a collection of overviews on the history and archaeology of Iron Age (ca. 1200-600 BCE) Mediterranean cultures. Highly recommended! While experts on specific topics will have comments on this or that aspect of each article, overall, the volume provides great summaries of the main issues at hand. Highly relevant for anyone interested in interconnections in the Mediterranean world during (and before and after…) the Iron Age.
The title is:
Wittke, A. -M. 2018. The Early Mediterranean World, 1200–600 BCE. Brill’s New Pauly, Supplement 9. Leiden: Brill. (it’s an English translation of the version from 2015).
Look what arrived in the mail today! As already noted (see here), this very interesting volume, with a collection of great articles on the LB and early Iron Age in Canaan, has just appeared. The volume is an outgrowth of a workshop conducted under the auspices of the Tell es-Safi/Gath Archaeological Project, back in 2015 (“The Ackerman Family Workshop in Biblical Archaeology”).
Today, I received my copy, as editor of the series…
Even though the 2019 is over, Tell es-Safi/Gath is still active! On Sunday, I was at the tell in the evening for an interview by a documentary film crew, yesterday, I gave a talk to the Azekah team about the 2019 season, and today, they will be onsite (along with some other people) to get a tour of the finds from this season.
It looks like next week I’ll be on site again – hopefully to continue with archaeomagnetic sampling of various contexts on the site.
A very well-written article on the results of the 2019 season at Tell es-Safi/Gath has just appeared in the Times of Israel. Amanda Borschel-Dan, based on a telephone interview that we had today, wrote up a very nice piece about the major finds of the season and some of the possible ramifications. In particular, how perhaps the large size of the early Iron Age city of Gath might have been the basis for biblical traditions and memories of giants having originated at Gath.
As I’ve already announced (see here), the article also notes that the Tell es-Safi/Gath Archaeological Project will field its last major season in the summer of 2021 (two more seasons).
So, if you want to join our “giant” project – you have two more years to do this!
Following the very nice article in Haaretz yesterday (see here), the news item was picked up by a few papers. And with that, already, the inaccuracies are running rife, both in the archaeological (and biblical…) details (here) – and even in putting in a picture of Yossi Garfinkel and at Khirbet er-Rai and a short clip about Tel Eton (here), and implying it was me at Tell es-Safi/Gath…
A very nice article (by Ariel David) on the just finished season at Tell es-Safi/Gath has appeared online in the English version of Haaretz. In it, the significance of the newly discovered early Iron Age remains are discussed, and the possible connection to biblical traditions on giants at Gath.
Check it out!
Since the article is a behind a paywall, for those without access, here is a PDF (but without the pictures):
Yesterday (July 23, 2019), Jeff and I took a field trip to a few sites in northwestern Israel. We visited several sites, all of which were very interesting. It was nice to have a chance to see other teams in action, and view it as a visitor – and not an excavator
We visited the following sites:
The IAA excavation at Ein Asawir at the entrance to Wadi Ara, directed by Itzik Paz and colleagues. This is an enormous excavation of a mega site (some 700 dumans in size) which is for the most part a fascinating EB IB settlement, with truly spectacular results – much of it quite “game changing”. As the results are so interesting, I’ll let the excavators and the IAA announce the finds when they deem appropriate.
The excavations, directed by David Schloen (Chicago) and Gunnar Lehmann (BGU) at Tel Keisan in the western Galilee. They have returned to the site following a long hiatus after the French excavations, and have some very interesting Iron Age finds.
The excavations at Tel Shimron in the northern Jezreel Valley, co-directed by Daniel Master (Wheaton) and Mario Martin (TAU). At this very large tell site, they are exposing really interesting finds from many periods, from the MB through modern periods, using many innovative field methods.
Here are some pictures from the trip (courtesy of Jeff and myself):
Here’s an early head’s up for the dates of the 2020 season at Tell es-Safi/Gath: Sunday, June 28th to Friday, July 24th, 2020.
So write this in your calendar and start figuring out how you will work it out to be on the team.
For those of you who have always dreamed of joining the team, note that the 2020 and 2021 seasons will be the final seasons of the Tell es-Safi/Gath Archaeological Project! This will mark 25 years of the project – a timely occasion to wrap up field work, and concentrate on publishing the results!
So, if you are interested in participating in one of the greatest excavations around, and having the experience of a lifetime, you have only two more seasons to join us! So don’t miss out on this fun, enriching and enlightening experience!
The online registration will open in a few weeks, so do sign up ASAP!
In the middle of the last week of excavation – we received word that our (Aren Maier, Itzhaq Shai, and myself/Chris McKinny) edited book “The Late Bronze and Early Iron Ages of Southern Canaan” had been published by de Gruyter in the Archaeology of Biblical Worlds series! This volume is the published version of a series of lectures that were delivered at Bar Ilan University under the title “Ackerman Family Workshop in Biblical Archaeology” a few years ago. Here are the full bibliographic details for the edited volume.
Today was the final day in the field for the 2019 season. We started bright and early on site with the final round of drone fotos, and then, we covered over all the excavation areas for the year, with geotechnic cloths, and in some cases (for brick walls), with a special plastic netting.The fantastic team of the last week was super, and we finished all areas quicker than planned.We then went for a trip to BIU, to deliver finds and equipment to the Safi lab.Tonight, we’ll have the final party, at the Kfar Menahem pool, with pizza and ice cream!Great way to end a very successful season.Keep your eyes open for a nice article on the excavations, which should appear in the Haaretz English edition at the beginning of next week!Here are some pictures from today:
We are very excited to announce that the Tel Burna Archaeological Project and its esteemed director (Itzick) have been awarded an ISF (Israel Science Fund) grant!
This is great news – we will now be able to continue the project for (at least) the next four years and carry out different types of analyses of the different layers of the site! Here is a shot of the newly uncovered gate in Area G that will certainly benefit from the ISF – way to go Itzick!!!
Today, while working back at the camp, a few cool finds popped up!
In pottery reading in Area M, a very nice bone arrow head was found. A few years ago we found a bone workshop in Area F (see here), which we suggested produced bone arrowheads, but we did not find an actual finished arrowhead. So today we did! See the picture below.
While going over various finds from the flotation, picking, and bone analysis, we found a head of a figurine, portions of two possible clay sealings, a small metal ring, and some other cool things…
We started the day with photos in Areas K and B, and then finished up removing equipment and cleaning in all the areas. All was finished by 11am.Later on today we’ll do some more photos (in Area Y), and the first set of overall drone photos.Here are some pictures from today:
So today was the final full day of digging for the 2019 season. As of tomorrow we start cleaning, photography and fold up. We had some nice finds today, particularly in Area M. This included a nice collection of loomweights, and a complete juglet (a large “black juglet”).
In Area D, we fully exposed one of the Iron IIA rooms. Quite cool to stand in a room from around 900 bce, with 2 m high plaster walls…
In Area Y, the brick and stone walls get bigger and bigger…
We also had quite a few visitors today. This included people from the IAA, the Nature and Parks Authority. We also had a group of IDF soldiers who helped out in Area M.
Dr. Ron Sha’ar (HU) and Yoav Vaknin (TAU) came again to the site to sample for archaeomagnetic studies, and found quite a few nice contexts for sampling.Overall – a great day!Here’s a few pictures:
Nice and hot today (…), but we did have a great day! As I’ve already noted, perhaps the most interesting news is the ongoing discoveries related to the massive Iron I fortifications often lower city. More and more masonry and various finds relating to these enormous features are coming out in Areas B, K and Y. It looks like we will need another season or two to start getting a better understanding of what is going on! In any case, this clearly demonstrates that already in the late Iron I, and perhaps earlier as well, the Kingdom of Gath was very large, with a massively fortified capital city of ca. 500 dunam. So, all those who believed that Gath ascended to its central role only in the Iron IIA, may have to revise their views…:-)
Today was the last day for the CCU team, and they will be leaving early Friday morning. As always, they were a pivotal part of our team!
We had a few visitors today, including Prof. Yigal Erel (HU).
Fragments of a really nice Philistine 2 (Bichrome) Beer Jug (strainer spouted jug) with a very nice painted bird, just to the side of the spout, was read today in the pottery reading of Area D (Jeff’s team). The fragments came from the fills of the brick walled rooms near the gate. Very nice!
Today – we finished cleaning Area B2 for the final aerials later this evening. Also, we moved all of the material from the kibbutz to the Ariel lab where the team enjoyed looking over the finds from previous seasons.
Another great day (even if a little hot…) on the tell!
The very cool news (not in the sense of temperature…) are the fascinating and very impressive remains coming out in all the areas.
In Areas K, B and Y, more and more extremely impressive architecture is appearing, of truly monumental size, at impressive depths. As of now, it appears that most of this dates to the Iron I, and we seem to have the making of some extraordinarily impressive features coming out in the eastern part of the lower tell. So much so, we are all making suggestions regarding possible functions (fortifications? gate? temple? public architecture? who knows…).
In Area D, additional aspects relating to the gate have appeared. On the one hand, we seem to understand this gate a bit more; on the other, things just get more complicated.
In Area M, more and more finds from the Hazael destruction are appearing. We took samples from sediments in the new round installation (possible olive press) – which hopefully will give us some idea of what this was used for!
We also had a few visitors today, including Baruch Brandl and Zvika Greenhut of the IAA, Ronen Hazan and Michael Klutstein (HU), and a news team from the Italian RAI channel.
As today was Argentina’s Independence Day, we flew an Argentinean flag for Flor!
Another fun filled and find filled day at the tell! :-)
The areas in the eastern lower city (Y, K, B) are producing more and more impressive architecture – most (if not all) dating to the Iron I! This is starting to look really cool – more evidence of the massive nature of the lower city in the Iron I. It starting to look like we may be on the way to finding a truly monumental fortification in this area. Is this a gate? Is this a corner of the fortification? Are there other monumental features and structures here? Only time will tell – and it looks like we won’t have answers this season…there is a lot more to dig…
In Area M we have more of the Hazael destruction, including many more vessels, several loomweights, a jar stopper and other interesting things. Fun as always.
In Area D, more and more details of the gate are coming out. In addition, it appears that the window that we identified in one of the brick walls, near the gate, may in fact be turning into a door! Cool!
We also had quite a few visitors on site today, including Prof Ami Mazar (HU), Mr Shlomo Zohar (Chairman of the Board of Directors of BIU), and a group from the Ashkelon College, led by Dr. Ayelet Levi, herself formerly a Safi team member!
Today – we swept, swept, and swept some more. We also removed the shades from A1 and B2 and took all of the tools to the container. Jerry did a fantastic job reorganizing the container and now everything fits nicely inside!
Tomorrow – about half of the group will go to the tel to sweep and the other half will prepare the dig camp/office for closing off the season.
It has been a really great season and we are so thankful for all of our hardworking team and staff.
Personally, in my area – Area G – we had a fantastic group (Natasha, Shawn, Lauren, Jacob, Hyun, John, Kay, Wally, Nadine, Jeff, Christian, and anyone else that I may have forgotten and assistants (thanks Ian and Benjamin!)
Today – we started the final week of the excavation and already we have begun to prepare for closing down the excavation.
A1 – Jane joined forces with the B3 crew (who closed down their area last week) and they made some nice progress exposing a wall with plaster in the Late Iron IIA destruction.
A2 – Debi and co. closed down the area for the season today and did a lot of sweeping!
B2 – Aharon got some new recruits this week from Ariel and A2 and they will continue to excavate tomorrow in a few places. It is now really clear that the outer fortification wall is floating and was probably not in place during the early Iron IIA destruction. Clay and others also continue to excavate inside of the fortification where we now have a nice stretch of the original casemate fortification.
G – We finished several small projects today exposing different parts of the area for the final aerial. Significantly! it seems that Shawn discovered one of the gate sockets! At this point, it is not clear if this relates to the 8th-7th century gate or an earlier gate. We will try and find out next year… stay tuned – now that we have one gate – why not one more
We were also visited by several people including Benjamin Foreman (The Master’s University), David Ben Shlomo and Michael Freikman (Ariel University) and John More (Bible Passages).
Benjamin Yang was interviewed by Good TV – a leading Christian news agency in Taiwan and China.
This afternoon – Itzick and I led a group from Tell es-Safi/Gath around the tel – as always it was great to catch up with our doktorvater (Aren Maeir), old friends and colleagues.
Here is the 2019 group aerial shot, which we took at the end of the 2nd week (and we had close to 100 team members to make the image!).
We decided to make an image of a Philistine beer jug with a “basket handle” – viewed frontally towards to strainer spout. We also added “Gath” in Hebrew, and on the bottom, for clarity added its content (beer).
So the 2nd week ended really nicely with nice finds in all areas. Last night, we had our end of week pizza party, a la 4th of July. We also said goodbye to quite a few team members that left at the end of the week. Today, in the field we had a bunch of nice finds.In Area D, Jeff and his team seem to have found an additional section of the city wall near the gate.In Area M, it looks like we have the road to the east of the main building, as well as quite a few vessels from the destruction within the building.In Area Y, Jill and her team are finding more and more architectural evidence, but still, we don’t fully understand what is going on.In Area B, Brent’s team are digging away. In one square they have a lot of architectural remains while in the other they are going deep, hoping to find the line of the Iron I wall that was found in Area K.In Area K, the main find today was an impressive continuation of the wall found in the deep square in the NE. This wall is quite a “monster”, and seems to be evidence of the impressive fortifications of the Iron I lower city.All told, a lot of really nice finds!We had a few visitors as well, including Aaron Burke and his team.Nice to finish the 1st half of the season, and rest on the weekend preparing for the 2nd half, with many more finds to go!Shabbat shalom to all!Here are some photos:
We ended week 3 with a nice flourish of finds and a cleaner picture of the stratigraphy in the different areas.
A1 – Jane, Andrew, and Keegan beautifully excavated a nice burnt building with an associated plaster wall. They also were able to collect several seeds below the outer fortification wall which might help provide a date for the fortification.
A2 – Debi and co. began to prepare the area for the end of the season. At this point, it is clear that they are through the 9th century layer – but the date of the next layer is unclear as they are finding a lot of Late Bronze and Early Iron IIA pottery. Next season – they will have to work through this to try and understand the complex stratigraphy of the earlier levels.
B2 – Aharon’s crew had a number of families visit and work in his area. They also made some nice breakthroughs. It seems likely that the outer fortification cuts through the Early Iron IIA destruction – which would mean that the fortification wall is later.
B3 – Marcella, Jerry, et al. closed down Area B3 – the area looks great and they have a lot of potential for next season.
G – We made some nice progress exposing the fortification and even have a small section of what seems to be a Persian surface. We also exposed several new walls that we are still trying to understand.
The weekend crew is in Jerusalem this weekend – starting off at Herodium.
We had a find filled day today, with some very nice things uncovered in various areas. In addition, we had a few visitors, including representatives of the Yoav Regional Council (led by the mayor, Dr. Mati Harkabi), and some archaeological colleagues including Stefan Munger, Eran Arie, and Alegre Savariego.
In Area K, we had quite a nice discovery – a massive wall, built of large stone, in a deep sounding on the northern side of the area. This most logically appears to be part of the fortification. The depth of this feature is quite surprising, more than a meter below the Iron IIA levels. Based on its orientation and sherds found near it, it probably dates to the Iron I! It appears then that the Iron I in the lower city of Tell es-Safi/Gath, is much more extensive – and impressive – than previously thought.
Similarly, in Area Y, several additional large walls were discovered, seemingly built up against the brick installations from this and last year. And, when we look at the overall plan that is beginning to appear, it looks like we have quite a large, and rather impressive, Iron I building this area! Once again, evidence of the impressive nature of the Iron I activity in the easternmost part of the lower city.
What can I say – this site never ceases to surprise!
In Area M, a second round stone installation, most probably another olive press was fully delineated. While we say this last year, we now have its full dimensions. In addition, additional wall, features and vessels were uncovered in the area.
In Area B, the team is digging deep down, trying to find the earlier phases of the city wall. We hope this will appear in the coming days.
In Area D, additional parts of the city wall, gate and 2 m high standing brick walls (and our window…) are being exposed. Things are looking great!
We did some aerial photography today, and we also made the annual group aerial photograph. I hope to post this in the coming days – I think it came out really nice!
See below some photos from today, with various views, team members and finds!
Wow! It was a fantastic day at the tel with a number of significant finds! Which was fitting since the good ‘ol USA celebrated its 243rd birthday!
We also had several visitors including Eran Arie, Stefan Munger, Alegre Savariego, and others.
A1 – Jane, Keegan, and Andrew uncovered a couple segments of a charred beam that seems to be related to the 9th century destruction.
A2 – Debi, Rebekah, Terry, etc. continue to work down into the Early Iron IIA destruction and several mudbrick features seem to have emerged. Oren and others took a chunk of the phytholiths for special analysis.
B2 – Debi (who did her PhD on textile production) leaped for joy when Teresa uncovered a very nice collection of loom weights in a burnt layer. It’s too soon to say if this should be related to the 9th or 8th century BCE. In this same area – Hannah found an almost complete black juglet (one of the first examples of this type at Burna). Things are becoming much more clear (but also more complicated as it usually goes) for Aharon, Sam, and Matt.
B3 – Marcella et al. finished removing the balk and now they have a very nice picture of the LB rooms with the associated finds.
G – We – along with the help of Jerry and Terry – removed what has to be the Burna record for the largest and heaviest stone! We also exposed more of the outer fortification wall and tower/buttress which is coming in very nicely. Ornali, John, and Shawn continued to work in the presumed drainage channel area. All told – most of the areas are in a good situation to end the season well.
This afternoon – Ladislav Smedja will be lecturing on the use of GIS in archaeology.
Here are some screenshots of the 3D photogrammetric models that we take/model every day of the excavation.
Things have been quite busy, so I’ll have to update for the last two days.
All areas are working well and finds are coming out. Yesterday, a large group of students from the annual BIU/YU science program joined us, and contributed very nicely in two of the areas. Here’s a quick review of the main finds:
Area B (formerly Area K2): Brent and his team are working away in the new area. In the southern square, some nice Iron Age architecture and contexts are coming out, although what exactly they are is not clear. In other, more northerly squares, they are digging up against the terrace that we assume is a reuse of the city wall, and so far, we don’t have clear cut answers. Hopefully, this will come out in the coming days.
In Area D, Jeff and his team are working away at the Water Gate area, with some really cool results. In addition to the 2 m high brick walls, one of which is plastered and has a window (!!!!), additional floors, elements and architectural features are popping out. Every day, we understand this complex area a little better. What we know for sure is that this gate looks like nothing we have ever seen before…
In Area K, Eric and his team are digging away, and are reaching clean Iron Age contexts and some architecture in just about all the squares. It’s starting to look like we may have the post-Hazael destruction “squatter phase” – which do far has only been identified in Area D!
In Area M, Maria and her team are deep into the Hazael destruction, and are expanding the area excavated last year. We may have found the road situated to the east of the building, as well as various other rooms and elements. Several more installations that seem to be related to olive oil production have appeared, as well as many, many vessels.
In Area Y, Jill and her team are working hard to try and understand the burnt brick installations and features, the crushed chalk concentrations, and various walls, some made of very large stones, that are found in this area. As in last year’s work, the finds fit in very nicely with the remote sensing results from 2017. That said, we still seem to be quite far away from truly understanding this area. That said, as opposed to last year, this year the Area Y team is finding much larger amount of pottery, once again clearly dating these features to the Iron I.
We also had a few visitors, including Oded Lipschits and David Vanderhooft.
All told great results in all areas. Notice all the various flags flying – representing various groups and nationalities on the dig!
Today – a large group of kids from a Kefar Saba summer camp joined us in the field along with our friend and colleague Sylvie Yogev. They had a great time digging, sifting, and learning about archaeology. Community archaeology remains one of our long-term goals and methods for the project. As far as finds go – we had some nice progress in all of the different areas.
A1 – Jane and Andrew keep plugging along outside of the fortification finding more and more Iron IIA features.
A2 – Debi (and Hanoch who joined us today!), Terry, Rebekah, etc. are almost entirely in the Early Iron IIA. They uncovered a very nice complete storage jar that will undergo residue analysis (by Tsiona who joined us to excavate this).
B2 – Aharon and co. now have almost 3 meters(!) of the outer fortification wall exposed which is very impressive (and they still have not found the bottom).
B3 – Marcella et al. found several complete vessels and another lamp-bowl floor deposit along with a fragment of a plaque figurine – very nice finds!
G – Shawn, John, and Hyun reached the surface of the 9th century layer – they did a great job moving something like 50 cm in three days! Hyun also found one of our only examples of a Cypriot Black-on-Res juglet. Natasha, Benjamin, Ian, Jacob, and Yael continued to work on the outer fortifications which are still not completely clear yet. However, it now seems that we have a massive tower projecting from the outer fortification wall. Lauren worked very hard to expose the inner part of the outer fortification. Ornali, Shawn, and John continued work on the very nice drainage channel that runs below the gate.
Yesterday afternoon – Debi gave a great talk and workshop on textiles and weaving (with lots of items to play around with This afternoon – I will be giving a lecture on the Judean Shephelah during the Iron Age.
It was another nice day in the field – the visibility was really exceptional. We could see four of the five Philistine cities from the summit and much of the Shephelah and hills around Hebron.
A1 – Jane, Andrew, and Keegan continue to work through more and more layers of the Iron IIA.
A2 – Debi, Rebekah, Terry, Micheala, Sophia, etc. confined to excavate in an Iron IIA layer below the silos. The phytholith layer is also quite extensive. Micheala also found a Philistine Monochrome (aka Mycenaean IIIC/Philistine 1) sherd – a rarity at Burna thus far.
B2 – Aharon and co. with the help of the wall/large rock removal squad (Jerry & Terry Inc. removed the remaining 7th cent. wall and exposed the earlier wall that seems to relate to the inner part of the casemate. They also continued to work in the destruction outside of the fortification.
B3 – Marcella, Reilly, Micheala, and Jerry have already a nice segment of a bedrock surface in the new square and also what appears to be a “lamp-bowl” deposit. The above-mentioned squad also removed three enormous boulders from the other square – now we can really see the wall.
G – In my area, Shawn, Hyun, and John continue to get deeper into the Late Iron IIA layer and it is looking more and more like this layer was destroyed by fire. Hopefully tomorrow we will reach the surface. Ornali (long-time dig team member!), Guy, and Reina worked in a square we opened last season and it seems that we may have a very nice water channel that runs beneath the gate of the fortress. Natasha, Ian, Yael, Lauren, and Jacob worked hard at exposing a large collapse near the outer fortification and we might finally have an idea about its orientation. Benjamin has exposed a very high segment of the massive city wall that will be very impressive to see in the final photos.
This evening – Debi will be giving a lecture on textile production in the Iron Age.
The weekenders had a great time in Tiberias visiting a number of sites along the coast, Galilee, and the Golan Heights.
Yesterday afternoon – the whole team enjoyed a tour of the interesting nearby site of Khirbet al-Rai (also known as Arai) led by directors Yossi Garfinkel, Kyle Keimer, and Saar Ganor.
Today – we began the third week of excavations – which means that we are in the final 6 or 7 field days of work. We had some very nice progress in all of the areas.
A1 – Jane’s team is now consisting of Keegan and Andrew. Happy Canada day! to these two and their other fellow Canadiens (and since we continue to have a running debate on the tel – we all know who really won the War of 1812 :). They have excavated through what appears to be several striations of Iron IIA surfaces mostly related to the Late Iron IIA but they are beginning to get more and more sherds from the Early Iron IIA. They also seem to have reached below the outer fortification wall on the outside – which is a nice accomplishment as we had yet to do this in the ten years since we began the project. Now we need to get to the bottom of the wall from the inside (which will date its initial construction.
A2 – Alas! The two silos – anthropomorphized as “baby silo” and “mama silo” are no more. The A2 team took them out today and have a lot of ash and mudbrick debris – it will be interesting to see if this destruction(?) relates to the same 10th century destruction in B2. Terry’s side of A2 also came down on a series of phytholith layers that will hopefully be examined by specialists in the next few days.
B2 – Aharon’s team continues to expose the outside of the fortification digging through Late Bronze metallurgical fill and what seems to be the top of an Early Iron IIA destruction.
B3 – Marcella and co. opened a new square a couple of days ago – they have already reached bedrock (a few cm below surface) and some nice architecture from the LB.
G – We are focusing our attention on a section just inside the casemate fortifications and on two squares directly on a massive lower fortification. In the upper part, it now seems that we have dug lower than the inner casemate, which apparently in this section was only in use during the Iron IIB(?) and IIC – as we now have a lower level (dug by Shawn, John, and Hyun) that seems to date to the Late Iron IIA (but we will have to look closely at the pottery…) In the lower part – Ian, Natasha, Yael, Jacob, and Benjamin are digging through what appears to be a large collapse of a wall but the collapse is making it difficult to excavate. Tomorrow – we plan to dismantle the collapse and hopefully make more sense of the massive fortification in this area.
This evening – Michal Hejman presented on soil analysis using Handheld XRF at many different sites.
Today (Monday, July 1st) was the first day of excavations of the 2nd week of the 2019 season. It appears that are first week sufficiently scared the remains in all the areas, since today, all areas had great new finds! If last week we had some finds, here and there, as of today, all the areas are popping! Finally, everyone has substantial archaeological contexts and architectural remains, including in the completely new squares that were just opened last week. Way to go.
Area D had the most fantastic results today. The most astonishing thing was a two meter high brick wall, with a plaster coating, and in it, the beginning of exposure of a window, door or niche! This is one of the fully standing brick walls dating to ca. 900 BCE! These walls were rooms that were filled in just before the Hazael destruction (to bolster the fortifications in this area) and these fills protected the walls made out of sun dried mudbricks. I’ve rarely seen such well preserved mudbricks in ancient Levantine sites. Very cool!
The Area M team is beginning to get the Hazael destruction in the 3 new squares to the east, and hints to a road (that appeared in the remote sensing) seem to be appearing as well.
In Area K, the new squares to the north are beginning to produce a lot of very nice architecture of clear stratified contexts – and it looks like we are on clean contexts. This, hopefully will reach up to the city wall just to the north – and provide some dating of the wall.
In Area B (formally K2, just renamed, as it’s Brent’s area…), a really nice wall and associated features fully appeared today, and it looks like there is good preservation in this area as well. Here too, we hope that we will be able to connect this to the city wall that is just to the north.
In Area Y, all square are producing really nice architecture, features and contexts. There is another burnt brick installation, similar to the one we found last year, and whole series of impressive wall and other features appearing. Hopefully, this will help us make more sense of the many enigmatic aspects that we uncovered in this area last year.
All told – a great beginning for the 2nd week – and a sign for all the great finds that will appear in the coming days and weeks!
Here’s some pictures from today. Note that plastered brick wall with the window/door/niche with Will Krieger right next to it; the Canadian flag flying in honor Canada Day; and all various team members in the various areas!
We have officially reached the halfway point of the season. Thus far, we have already met a number of our goals and hope to end the season strong!
Since about half of the team went with me to Galilee (see pics), Areas G and B3 dug in B2 and A2 where they made a nice push to move “some dirt”
We had a great second week and we are sorry to see Andy, Stahlie, and Daniel go – hope to see you next year
Here are some photos of today’s excavation and the Galilee field tour (Caesarea, Mount Carmel, and Megiddo). Note – the new visitor’s center at Caesarea is fantastic! Tomorrow we had to the Hulah Valley and Golan Heights.
The dig is running like a well-oiled machine all five areas are making progress, answering major (and minor) stratigraphic questions, and – most importantly – having a lot of fun.
A1 – Jane, Scott, Andrew, and Keegan are excavating outside of the outer casemate fortification in two interesting contexts. In the lower square – they continue to reveal a very nice assemblage that is well-dated to the 9th century BCE. Interestingly, in the upper square it seems that we have finally reached the bottom of the outer fortification wall (and it only took ten years We will find out more soon…
A2 – Debi and co. exposed the floor of a “baby silo” which is close to a much larger silo – both of which seem to date to the Iron IIB.
B2 – Sam and Stahlie moved a lot of dirt next to the outer fortification wall and several students from Ariel University did the same in another square. It seems that we are on top of the early Iron IIA destruction in these squares. This morning the team all helped remove a wall in B2 and now it seems that there may be a couple of Iron IIC/7th cent. BCE phases there.
B3 – Marcella, Jerry, Micheala, and Reilly are uncovering more and more LB pottery including a number of nice Cypriot imports. Today – they opened a new square – and as usual in the lower plateau – they immediately reached the LB. This new square looks very promising as the architecture seems to be very well built (unlike in other parts of the plateau).
G – my area made some nice progress today. We seem to have reached an 8th century BCE layer inside of the casemate wall that is contemporary with the layer exposed in A2 in previous seasons. We also now have a very large and well built (outer?) fortification wall that is very interesting.
This afternoon – Andrea and Tina are lecturing on Archaeobotany and Zooarchaeology respectively.
Beginning tomorrow – I will be leading about half of the team on a field tour of various places Galilee for three days.
We’re about to finish the 1st week of excavations (one more day) and things are looking really nice!
The IAA excavation came to an end today, with some really nice results. In association with the thick walls of what appears to be a public building, there was a great assemblage of pottery, including several bowls (some stacked on in the other), cooking jugs (one fallen over from a nearby ring stand), juglets and other vessels. Clearly, this is just part of the finds from this very interesting building. At the end of the day (and the short dig), the square was covered over. Hopefully, we’ll return to this, and expand it, in a coming season! Thanks to Svetlana from the IAA who supervised the excavation!
Here are some pictures from the IAA dig:
In our areas, we had some nice results as well!
In Area M, the finds are popping out, including more vessels and a collection of loomweights. In the new squares we are reaching the destruction as well!
In Area K2 – more and more architecture is beginning to appear, and it looks like there is good preservation!
In Area K – a very large wall with a stone foundation has appeared, and possible brick walls are to be seen as well.
In Area Y – all the squares are beginning to show finds, fitting in very nicely with the picture from the remote sensing. In addition, we had a visit from Ron Shaar and Yoav Vaknin (HU), Ruthy Shahack-Gross (Haifa) and Oren Ackerman (Ariel), to discuss and suggest analyses to understand the burnt brick features and chalk deposits that we started to uncover last year, and continue this. Hopefully, this will develop further in the future.
In Area D, in addition to uncovering more parts of the fortifications, they had a very nice alabaster bead.
After spending some time in Area Y, Yoav Vaknin went on to take samples for archaeomagnetic analyses, from a tabun in the IAA excavations (see picture) and from the burnt features in Area M.
We continued to make a lot of progress in all of the areas.
A1 – Jane, Keegan, Andrew, and Scott are nearly finished removing the ten-year old balk and continue to find restorable 9th century BCE remains.
A2 – Debi’s team has exposed more and more of the layers below the 9th-8th century BCE building and are beginning to find a layer characterized by the early Iron IIA (10th cent. BCE). The pottery and probably the layer is contemporary with the destruction that we found down in B2. We will have to wait and see if we have the same destruction in A2 as well.
B2 – More ball removal and lots of restorable pottery from the 10th century destruction. Andy and Matt also continued to expose the late Iron II building close to the fortification.
G – Great progress today. We now very clearly have another section of the massive fortification wall thanks to Benjamin and Jacob’s meticulous work. Hailey, Gai and Gabriel, Ian, and others worked on removing the top soil for a new square that we think has a lot of potential for answering some of or major architectural questions. Natasha and Hyun removed a balk to help us better understand the architecture. Shawn and Lauren continued to expose the inside of the casemate wall – we now hope to go as far down as possible this season to get the earliest date of the inner fortification wall. Christian dismantled a rebuild between two very massive boulders. Interestingly, the fill seems to date to the Persian period – which might mean that we have now found “a” gate or at least an entrance to the city during the Iron IIC and perhaps earlier. It is to soon to tell, but if it is the gatehouse it would be similar to the simple one found at Tel Arad.
This evening – Marcella will be lecturing on different features of the Late Bronze Shephelah.
Also – see the pic below that shows Debi getting her PhD diploma! Way to go!
Great day in the field today, with lots of new and interesting finds! It was a scorcher today (around 35 degrees C), but it looks like we all made it!
Jeff and his team in Area D East are working on revealing a long section of the city wall next to the gate, and various rooms that are adjacent to it. It’s looking very impressive!
In the IAA excavation on the other side of the parking lot from Area D East, they also have some great finds, including some very impressive architecture (I would say it looks like a public building), two phases of Iron IIA (not common on the tell) and a nice amount of nice restorable pottery. We took one of the jugs for analyis – and perhaps will get an idea about its contents in the future.
In Area M, Maria and her team are, as usual, starting to find a lot of finds, both in the old squares and in the new ones. This includes several vessels (including a complete chalice), loomweights, beads, and a lot of very nice architecture.
In Area Y, Jill and her team are working away! They’ve fully opened the 3 new squares and another of the “hotspots” that appeared in the magnetometry is beginning to appear. Hopefully, this, along with a fresh analysis of the ones from last year, will enable us to understand what exactly was the function of these features.
In Area K2, Brent and the Aussies are working in the squares near the city wall, and appear to come on to some very impressive architecture, with associated pottery. This is important, as it indicates that the preservation in this area is good!
In Area K, Eric and his team had a couple of cool finds today. The first was a very well-preserved scarab (dating to the Ramesside period by Prof. S. Muenger), and small piece of a bimetallic knife, very typical of the Philistine culture. They both were found very close to surface, in a concentrations of stones, perhaps part of some architectural feature.
In addition, we tried out for the first time on site the new handheld LIDAR scanner that we recently purchased. Noam scanned Area M and part of Area Y, and we’ll if can get nice results from this! You can see a shot of Noam working with the scanner in the clip below.
The weather was slightly warmer today than it has been – but we pressed on!
A1 – Jane, Keegan and Scott are continuing to expose more and more of the outer Iron Age fortification wall and coming down on some new architecture and also what appears to be some complete vessels.
A2 – Debi’s team continue to progress through the silo, pit, and other surrounding complicated architecture.
B2 – Aharon, Stahlie, Matt, Sam, Clay, Andy, Sarah, and Hannah worked in what seems to be an Iron IIC building (now pretty well dated) next to the wall and also removing the balk above the very nice Early Iron IIA destruction excavated the last to seasons.
B3 – Marcella’s team continues to find more and more pottery and some very odd and not very straight Late Bronze architecture.
G – Lauren, Hailey, and Shawn came down on a very nice layer that seems to be a pavement connected with the inner casemate wall. This layer either dates to the Iron IIB or IIC – but we don’t know yet. Lauren found a very nice upper millstone on the floor. Since we are clearly on the fortifications we took the opportunity to reenact Abimelech’s fateful siege of Thebez in which he was struck in the head by an upper millstone thrown by a lady defending her city. Lauren played the part of the heroic defender. Christian played Abimelech and Jacob acted as the unnamed armor bearer who put Abimelech out of his misery (Judg 9:50-57). This was fun
This morning – myself, Terry, Matt, Ladislav, Michael and Daniel went to nearby Khirbet ‘Atr (biblical Ether) as we noticed that the site was recently burned and the architecture was very visible on the surface. Terry took a number of drone photos that we hope to develop into a photogrammetric 3D model of the site.
This afternoon – the team went over to nearby Tell es-Safi/Gath where Prof. Aren Maeir gave us a fascinating tour of the lower city and what they have been uncovering there the last decade or so.
Today, the 2nd day in the field, all the teams were fully excavating and finds began to pop up!
In Area D, Jeff and his team started working in various squares in the vicinity of the gate. As will be detailed as we go along, they are trying to understand the dating, phasing and function of the fortification, walls and rooms built up against this area. Things are looking good!
Area K: Eric and his team opened up a series of squares to the north of the squares that had been excavated in previous seasons, hoping to eventually connect to the very impressive wall line, most probably originally a fortification wall, that is just to the north. As we move along the season, we hope to be able to begin to understand this wall, its dating and phases, and its relationship to the adjacent features in Area K.
Area K2: Brent and his team opened up 3 new squares adjacent to an additional section of this same wall (from Area K), once again with the aim of understanding the wall, its dating and phasing and relationship to other features. One of the interesting questions in Area K2 is whether there will be Iron I features on surface (as in nearby Area Y – see below), or Iron IIA features as in nearby Area K. Time will tell!
Area Y: Just to the south of Area K2, Jill and her team opened up three new squares to the north and north west of last year’s squares, in an attempt to find more parts of the very interesting burnt features that were found last year (and had appeared in the magnetometry as well). Lots of questions that we don’t have answered about these features, so this should be very interesting!
Area M: Maria and her team continued working in some of the squares from last year, as well as opened a few new ones, to better understand the architecture and various features that were discovered last year, and to try and get to additional features, such as a road, seen in the magnetometry. And lo and behold, the team found some very nice looking walls, and what seems to be a restorable vessel. So we should have lots more of great finds from here!
In addition, the IAA team continued excavating near the parking lot, and a couple of more vessels came out. It seems that not only is there an Iron IIA level, they are exposing an earlier level, most probably from the early Iron IIA or late Iron I.
The 2019 season is off to a great start. Yesterday, the team gathered at Kfar Menahem, and it looks like we have a great team (just under 100 for week 1 and 2).
So today (Monday, June 23, 2019) was the first day in the field of the 2019 season. And yes, it was hot and the team spent most of the day cleaning, fixing up shades and areas, and all kinds of not-that-fun activities, but – by the end of the day, all five areas were ready. And tomorrow, early in the morning, we will have five fully function areas starting to dig! What a team!!
In addition, we have some guests on site for the first week. A team from the Israel Antiquities Authority is excavating a square just to the south of Area D (near the main parking lot of the site) and already after two days, have found some very impressive architecture, and some very nice finds (including an almost complete strainer bowl), all from the Iron IIA (Hazael) destruction. So, we now have another point on the map of the impressive character of the Iron Age lower city. In fact, their finds looks so nice, I’m considering extending this area next year, and opening some more squares around it!
And in addition to it all, yesterday we had a field trip to visit the upper tell at Tell es-Safi/Gath, and today, some of the team went for a visit to nearby Tel Azekah.
Myself and the weekend tourers had a great time in the Dead Sea and Negev regions touring a number of sites. The best part was the weather was pretty mild for this time of year. Here are some photos from our travels.
Today – we embarked on week 2 – which along with week 3 – are the main periods of progress for a four-week excavation season.
In A1 – Jane, Andrew, Scott, and Keegan made excellent progress today along the outer fortification wall. They had lots of restorable pottery from the late Iron IIA and it also seems that they have at least one either complete or (at least) restorable large jar.
In A2 – Debi, Terry, Rebekah, and co. are continuing to work in and around an 8th century BCE silo and a Persian pit. They have also continued to remove the floor of the Iron IIA/B (we are still trying to date it…) building. Very interestingly, it seems that we are getting down to an Iron IIA layer (whether or 10th or 9th we are not sure yet). Even more interesting, much of the pottery coming out of this layer has lots of Late Bronze sherds which might indicate that there is a strong presence of the LB on the main tell itself directly beneath the Iron IIA layers – a situation that would parallel nearby Lachish.
B2 – lots of different layers are being excavated. Clay and Sarah are exposing a room of a building that was likely used in the Iron IIC. Stahlie and Sam were taking down the “Balk of Death” above the fantastic early Iron IIA destruction. They have also reached this same destruction directly outside the fortification wall. It now seems really clear that the west side of the site (Area B2) does not have an extramural Late Iron IIA phase as we saw in Area A1.
B3 – Marcella, Jerry, Michaela, and Reilly continue to find loads of LB pottery – today in the reading we had several very nice fragments from Cyprus including Base Ring and White Slip. In addition, there was also a large fragment of an LB krater with a very nice scene of a palm tree and what appears to be either a fish or a bird in the typical LB Canaanite decorative style.
G – The search for the gate continues… Shawn, Lauren, and Ian plowed through 20 cm today and reached what appears to be either an Iron IIB or Iron IIC surface inside of the casemate wall. Christian, Hyun Hwak Kim, and Natasha exposes a later surface (Persian?) along what seems to be part of the fortifications. Jacob and Benjamin are articulating the top of what appears to be a truly massive solid wall which might be a major clue for locating the gate…
It was a great first week with lots of progress in all of the areas. We still have a good sized group next week. We had to say goodbye to new friends from North Carolina (and others). Thanks for all your hard work! As usual – Friday was also family day and several family groups joined us for part of the excavation day
A1 – It is very clear that Jane’s team is on the same level that was excavated previously and a number of Iron IIA sherds are popping up. They also found a very nice pyxis fragment.
A2 – Debi, Terry, Rebekah, etc. continued to remove the iron II(B? or perhaps late IIA) floor to define the earlier layers. The last two days they have begun to notice a large deposit of burnt mudbrick or roof debris that has quite a lot of ash. We hope that this will turn out to be a destruction layer from an earlier Iron Age phase but we will have to wait and see.
B2 – Aharon, Matt, Sam, Clay, etc. began removing a massive balk above the destruction layer from the Early Iron IIA and they also continued to expose the late Iron II building east of the fortifications. Just outside of the fortifications – it seems that they are beginning to teach a destruction layer – but since they are the slope – we do not yet know if this relates to the 10th century destruction or later.
B3 – Marcella, Jerry, Michaela, Reilly, etc. had some very nice finds today including a Late Bronze chalice and a few other restorable vessels.
G – Despite the short day – we had some nice progress in Area G. We uncovered more courses to the walls that we discovered earlier this week. Benjamin and Jacob began uncovering what appears to be a huge section of the fortification wall, which might give us some hints as to where the gate might be located.
This weekend – several members of the team will be heading to Jerusalem. I am leading a groups to the Dead Sea and Negev where we will visit a number of sites over the weekend including Khirbet Qumran, Ein Gedi, Masada, Arad, and Tel Sheva.
Finally – on a somewhat related regional issue – I received word that my paper dealing with the locations of Lehi, Ramath-Lehi, etc. in the Samson narrative was published in the Journal of Archaeology and Text – see here.
And here are a bunch of pics taken by various members of the team!
Yesterday afternoon I led some of the team on a tour of Azekah. Also, Matt gave a very interesting lecture on Iron Age tombs discussing various issues related to the archaeology, ancient inscriptions, and the biblical text.
A1 – Jane’s team has done a very nice job cleaning the old excavation squares and it seems that they are beginning to excavate the Late Iron IIA phase found in previous seasons.
A2 – there are a number of interesting features coming up all over the area as Debi, Rebekah, Terry, etc. continue to remove the floor of the Iron II building. In the pottery reading today we had several very nice examples of late Iron IIA bowls.
B2 – Aharon – who receives his diploma tonight for his PhD (way to go Aharon!!!) – continued to excavate in the new square which seems to be related to the Iron IIC building that was built on top of the earlier Iron II fortifications. Clay and Sam also began dismantling a very large and (now) very fragmentary balk above the destruction layer. Hopefully, next week they will begin excavating the Early Iron IIA destruction.
B3 – Marcella has some very large architecture that is built in the typical (crummy and not very straight) Canaanite, Late Bronze tradition. They also uncovered a lot of pottery including a few pieces of Cypriot ware.
G – We have exposed several new walls including what seems to be the casemate fortification seen in other areas. However, the orientation and the size of the walls around these walls are different and seem to be quite massive. It also appears – as of now – that we have several phases of activity in this area from at least the Iron IIB through the Persian period. We had a very worn two-winged LMLK seal impression (the part where the city could be [e.g., Socoh] is broken) come up in pottery reading today.
Tomorrow – we have a slightly shorter day as the team goes to different parts of the country on the weekends.
Today, a group of team members were on the tell, preparing the various areas for the excavation. We had a tractor with us, which did a fantastic job removing thorns and cacti from around the various areas, fixing up soil dumps, and in general, making the excavation areas and surroundings into a much more easier to manage environment.
The areas are looking good – and it looks like we are going to have a really great season.
And we even had a nice find today – a very large olive oil press stone, found in a terrace near Area K.
Things are looking good.
Tomorrow, a bunch of the team will be at BIU and Kfar Menahem, setting up equipment for the dig.
And the rest of the team arrives on Sunday! Dig fever is definitely here!!
It was another good day in the field with several nice finds.
A1 – Jane’s team dug through a massive balk collapse and is seeing the first signs of the Iron IIA destruction that we excavated previously.
A2 – Debi and team have made a lot of progress removing the floor of the Iron II building and excavating a Persian pit and Iron II silo. In the silo, Erika found a very, very nice head of a Judean Pillared Figurine. We have found several of these in previous seasons – but this one is very ornate and has several different colors decorating the face, hair, and neck. We can’t wait to see what it looks like after it is cleaned.
B2 – Work is progressing with the new square – coming down on the beginning of the Iron Age levels. Also, Aharon’s crew is excavating in a couple places just outside the fortification wall (outer fortification), which is preserved to a very impressive height.
B3 – Marcella’s team continued to expose the architecture that I mentioned yesterday.
G – Christian, Natasha, and Hyun exposed a nice segment of what appears to be part of the fortification wall – we also have this already in the other new square. This morning, our team worked on clearing a wide area to see the architecture on the surface of the tell. It seems that we have some very large walls sloping down the tell that we hope to expose later this week or the beginning of next week. While we don’t have the gate yet – for sure – it still looks promising…
All areas were up and running today… with shade! We certainly cannot complain about the weather which has been cooler than it can be… Work progressed in all five areas.
A1 – Area A1 is on the east side of the tell running down the eastern Iron II fortifications. Jane and co. opened up an old square that has not been excavated since 2010. In fact, the last time it was excavated my wife (Mindy) and myself (and others) excavated what seemed to be a nice, possible 9th century BCE destruction layer. The destruction was certainly a long time ago, but our excavations also seem like a distant memory The main goal for A1 is to locate this Iron IIA layer, excavate it, and perhaps dig below it to an earlier layer. By doing this, we hope to determine the chronological relationship between this possible destruction layer in A1 and the certain Early Iron IIA (10th century BCE) destruction layer found in Area B2 in previous seasons.
A2 – Area A2 is located in the northern part of the summit of the tell and is a familiar sight for those who have visited the tell or followed the blog. Debi’s team plans to continue to excavate below the very large Iron IIB building to reveal earlier layers (9th and 10th centuries?). However, they must also contend with a couple pits that were cut into the middle of the squares by those pesky Persians…
B2 – Area B2 is a 10-meter wide section running east to west on the western slopes of the tell. Aharon has been excavating in this area over the last few seasons and several very important features have begun to emerge. First, the casemate fortification wall which was in use from at least the 9th through the late 8th century BCE. Inside this fortification is a nice building (Four room house?) that seems to be incorporated into the casemate wall. We have excavated much of this building in previous seasons – and we will continue to expand in a new square while also excavating below the structure into the earlier Iron Age levels. In so doing, we hope to finally establish the initial construction date of the fortification wall. Besides that, we also plan to continue excavating the massive Early Iron IIA destruction layer that we have been uncovering the last two seasons. While looking at the section today, Aharon commented on how the winter rains revealed in the balk clear evidence of two stories (of a building) filled with destruction debris. Sam, Matt, Clay, Stahlie, Hannah, and others will be back in this destruction layer very soon….
B3 – Area B3 is a new/old area. Marcella opened this area just south of Area B1 – the large cultic Late Bronze enclosure that I excavated in previous seasons. In our past work, we noted a concentration of large stones (now known as Area B3) could be a new building to the south of the large enclosure or the elusive southern wall of the enclosure. So far, and after only one day, it seems that Marcella along with Mikayla, Reilly, Jerry, and others have some very nice architecture and Late Bronze pottery.
G – Area G was opened last season in hopes of finding the gate of the Iron Age fortifications. Last season, my crew exposed a lot of massive architecture but without very much pottery. This season, we opened two new squares to the west and also plan to open a couple more and continue excavating in a few of the squares that we opened last season. Today, we exposed a nice stretch of the fortification which may be casemate (two parallel walls) in form or perhaps a massive solid wall – we will find out more tomorrow. Significantly, Shawn found a large fragment of a horse and rider figurine – which is a common cultic item from the Iron IIB-C. This is a very nice find – and a great way to begin the excavations in G – now we only need to find the place where the actual horses with their riders came in and out of the site For a similar complete example of this type – see here.
We had a great first day with groups from North Carolina, the University of Saskatchewan, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Texas A&M University Corpus Christi, the local junior high studentsfrom Kiryat Gat (as part of our long-time community archaeology project) and others.
As it was the first day – we made manytripsto the container and worked on removing the weeds (which are enormous this year thanks to theabundant rain this winter). In any case, we managed to get most of the shades up over all five areas (A1, A2, B2, B3, and G) and also began excavating in most of the areas. We still have a lot of winter wash and “weeding” to do, but we were happy to break ground on a few news squares as well as return to some old ones.
This afternoon we had our first field tour – myself and Matt led a tourof Beth Shemesh and its past excavations. Then, Aharon took us across the (very busy) street to thenew salvage excavations that have revealed a number of interestingfeaturesincluding a very large, well-preserved (and previously unknown) 7th century BCE city, some very nice Hellenistic and Early Roman remains (e.g., a very large public mikveh), as well as other structures from later periods.
So it’s just one week before the beginning of the 2010 season, and it’s a great opportunity to present some of the objectives (not all…) for this season.
As in the previous season, we will be excavating in several areas in the lower city, that is the relatively flat part of the site, to the north of the tell and up to the Elah Valley Riverbed. There will be several areas:
Area D East (directed by Jeff Chadwick): we will continue excavating in the gate area, attempting to better define the gate and its various phases, and understand the various features, rooms and other aspects in its vicinity.
Area K (directed by Eric Welch): after a one year break, Eric will be back in Area K, and will be expanding the area to the north, to try and connect the previously excavated features with the large wall just above the riverbed. We hope to try and understand that this is, how it relates to the features in Area K, and perhaps, get a good date for the activity in this area.
Area K2 (directed by Brent Davis): This area is also renewing work after a one year break. In the 2017 season, we excavated a portion of the monumental, multi-phased wall situated on the slope going down towards the river bed, just to the west of Area K. Previously, we excavated Iron IIA levels within this wall. This year, we will try and reach the top of this wall from inside the city, and try and see if there are elements that are built up against it.
Area Y (directed by Jill Katz): Continuing last year’s work, where some very interesting Iron I (not Iron IIA!) features were found, including what appears to be a brick kiln and an installation for the production of a plaster like chalk material. We intend to expand the area, particularly to the north and east, hoping to further understand these features, their function and date – and how they relate to other finds in the lower city.
Arean M (directed by Maria Eniukhina): last year we excavated 4 squares chock-full of finds from the 9th cent BCE destruction level (wrought by Hazael). This year, we continue and expand in this area, in an attempt to further understand the phasing and architecture, and perhaps to uncover more rooms and possible alleyway, which was discerned in the remote sensing (by Andy Creekmore).
These are some of the objectives in the various areas, along with some others that we are thinking of – and those that will undoubtedly pop up as we start excavating.
And, as always, we are hoping from some truly astounding finds! (I wouldn’t mind an inscription, by Hazael, telling us about his conquest of Gath…:-).
We are happy to announce that Marcella Barbosa received a 2019 ASOR Eric & Carol Meyers Fellowship to dig (again!) at Tel Burna.
Tomorrow – the team will descend to Kibbutz Netiv HaLamed Heh and then begin setup for Week 1 by moving equipment from the container to the tell. We are very excited to see what is in store for us this season!
The 2019 season at Tell es-Safi/Gath starts in just 10 days – on Sunday, June 23rd. The team members will be converging on the site in the next week or so, and meanwhile preparations are in full swing!
We have quite a nice sized team this year, with about 100 team members in weeks 1-2, about 80 in week 3, and just under 50 in week 4.
The team will be comprised of archaeologists, students and volunteers from various institutions (including: BIU, HU, BYU, YU, Ariel, Kentucky, Melbourne, CCU, URI, GVSU) and countries (including: Israel, USA, Canada, UK, Germany, Switzerland, Korea, China, Australia). Quite a diverse group of people!
On Tuesday, a small group of the core staff (Maria, Vanessa, Yaniv and Aren) were on site to mark off new squares in Areas M, K, K2 and Y. While the areas themselves are not covered to badly in thorns, a lot of the spaces in between have “mega thorns”! In fact, it may very well be that for the first few days, we will all experience a “game of thorns”!
See here a short video that will give you an idea.
Next week, on Wednesday, we’ll be out in the field with a tractor, for further preparations. This will include fixing up some of the dumps, trampling some of the thorns, and getting rid of some nasty “sabra” (prickly pear) cacti near Area K.
Then, on Thursday, some of the staff will be at BIU and Kfar Menahem, to pack and send various equipment for the season.
This are already moving along for what’s going to be a great season.
Looking forward to the people, the finds and the fun!
A new article, by Louise, Aren and Maddi has just appeared (see here). In this article we discuss possible manifestations of memory in post-Palatial cultures in the Iron Age Mediterranean, and how mnemohistory and nostalgia, contributed to symbolic behaviours in the transition between the Late Bronze and Iron Ages, in the Aegean and the Levant.
The full title is:
Hitchcock, L. A., Maeir, A. M., and Harris-Schober, M. 2019. Tomorrow Never Dies: Post-Palatial Memories of the Aegean Late Bronze Age in the Mediterranean. Pp. 543–49 in MNHMH/MNEME: Past and Memory in the Aegean Bronze Age. Proceedings of the 17th International Aegean Conference, University of Udine, Department of Humanities and Cultural Heritage, Ca’ Foscari University of Venice, Department of Humanities, 17–21 April 2018, eds. E. Borgna, I. Caloi, F. Carinci and R. Laffineur. AEGAEUM 43. Leuven: Peeters.
Prof. Christina Warinner, of the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History (Jena) will be giving a lecture on Wednesday, June 12th, 2019, at the Dental School of the Hebrew University (Ein Karem Campus).
She will be talking on: “The evolution and changing ecology of the human microbiome”
As previously mentioned, today we had a press conference on the yeast study. As you can see in the pictures below, quite a large group of journalists, from Israel and from the world, came to the conference, which was held in a very nice bar (Beeratenu) in downtown Jerusalem.
The journalists were very interested, took many pictures, conducted many interviews and asked a lot of questions, and rushed the bar when samples of the beer and mead that we made from the ancient yeasts was given out!
Stay tuned for the press about it. Should be cool!
Later today, our study on finding ancient yeast in archaeological vessels (see here) is about to hit the Israeli and international press. We’re having a press conference about this in a couple of hours! So check the media this evening!
A new “Safi paper” has just appeared, spearheaded by Kent Fowler, on identifying the age and sex of potters based on fingerprints.
The full title of the article is:
Fowler, K. D., Walker, E., Greenfield, H. J., Ross, J., and Maeir, A. M. 2019. The Identity of Potters in Early States: Determining the Age and Sex of Fingerprints on Early Bronze Age Pottery from Tell eṣ-Ṣâfi/Gath, Israel. Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory.
Here’s the abstract:
The organization of craft production has long been a marker for broader social, economic, and political changes that accompanied urbanism. The identity of producers who comprised production groups, communities, or workshops is out of reach using conventional archaeological data. There has been some success using epidermal prints on artifacts to identify the age and sex of producers. However, while age estimates are well developed, determining the sex of ancient potters is complicated by similarities between the prints of adult women and adolescents of either sex. Forensic research indicates that a combination of ridge breadth and density would best identify the age and sex of individuals. To this end, we propose an identification framework to classify fingerprints grounded in experimental and forensic research. In this study, we classify 38 fingerprints on Early Bronze Age (EB) III pottery from the early urban neighborhood at Tell eṣ-Ṣâfi/Gath, Israel. Mean ridge breadth (MRB) and mean ridge density (MRD) are used to distinguish the age and sex of prints after accounting for the shrinkage of calcareous fabrics used to make four type of vessels. We apply a modified version of the Kamp et al. (1999) regression equation to the MRB for each individual print. The MRD data are correlated to comparable data from populations with appropriate ancestry to infer sex. When the results are combined, our analyses indicate that two thirds of the fingerprints were likely made by adult men and teenage boys and the remainder by adult women and adolescent girls. This result suggests that men or women were not exclusively making pottery at early urban centers in the Levant. This pattern contrasts a fingerprint study of post-state urban pottery production during the EB in northern Mesopotamia, which suggested women no longer made pottery after cities and states were established in the region.
I think this can be the theme song for the 2019 season at Tell es-Safi/Gath:
Alice Merton – No Roots
And here are the lyrics:
I like digging holes and hiding things inside them When I’ll grow old, I hope I won’t forget to find them ‘Cause I’ve got memories and travel like gypsies in the night
I build a home and wait for someone to tear it down Then pack it up in boxes, head for the next town running ‘Cause I’ve got memories and travel like gypsies in the night
And a thousand times I’ve seen this road A thousand times
I’ve got no roots, but my home was never on the ground I’ve got no roots, but my home was never on the ground I’ve got no roots uh uh uh uh I’ve got no roots uh uh uh uh
I’ve got no roots, but my home was never on the ground I’ve got no roots, but my home was never on the ground I’ve got no roots uh uh uh uh I’ve got no roots uh uh uh uh
I like standing still, but that’s just a wishful plan Ask me where I come from, I’ll say a different land But I’ve got memories and travel like gypsies in the night
I count gates and numbers, then play the guessing game It’s just the place that changes, the rest is still the same But I’ve got memories and travel like gypsies in the night
And a thousand times I’ve seen this road A thousand times
I’ve got no roots, but my home was never on the ground I’ve got no roots, but my home was never on the ground I’ve got no roots uh uh uh uh I’ve got no roots uh uh uh uh
I’ve got no roots, but my home was never on the ground I’ve got no roots, but my home was never on the ground I’ve got no roots uh uh uh uh I’ve got no roots uh uh uh uh
I like digging holes Hiding things inside them When I’ll grow old I won’t forget to find them I like digging holes Hiding things inside them When I’ll grow old I won’t forget to find them I’ve got no roots No roots
I’ve got no roots, but my home was never on the ground I’ve got no roots, but my home was never on the ground I’ve got no roots uh uh uh uh I’ve got no roots uh uh uh uh
I’ve got no roots, but my home was never on the ground I’ve got no roots, but my home was never on the ground I’ve got no roots uh uh uh uh I’ve got no roots uh uh uh uh
Michel Freikman (a post-doc at Ariel University) and Kristina Reed (doctoral student at BIU) are organizing a conference entitled: “Monumentality in the Landscape”, which will be held at Bar-Ilan University and Ariel University on October 30-31, 2019. The RIAB Minerva Center will be a co-sponsor of the conference.
The conference plans to deal with issues related to the understanding of monumental
architecture in the context of the surrounding landscape. Topics related to the issue
include: degree of visibility of monuments in the ancient landscape and what the ways
are for a modern researcher to understand it, propaganda, ideology, and mythology
reflected through the prism of the monument, how a monument changes the landscape
around it, the phenomenon of nature as a focal point for ritual activity, and other topics
related to this field of study. This conference invites papers on a wide range of periods
from Prehistory to Ottoman.
The new publication series of the RIAB Minerva Center – “Research on Israel and Aram in Biblical Times” (RIAB), is published by Mohr Siebeck (Tübingen), as a sub-series of the “Oriental Religions in Antiquity” (ORA) series.
The new series aims to publish volumes (monographs, collections, proceedings, etc.) dealing with topics that are directly and indirectly connected to the RIAB Center’s activities, covering the entire spectrum of topics that relate to the RIAB Center’s fields of interest.
The editors of the series, Prof. Angelika Berlejung and Prof. Aren Maeir, would be very happy to receive proposals for volumes to be published in the series – both by scholars affiliated with the center, as well as those who are not.
The first volume in the series has gone to press and will be out in August, 2019.
Here is the title of the first volume:
Berlejung, A., and Maeir, A. M., eds. 2019. Research on Israel and Aram: Autonomy, Interdependence and Related Issues. Proceedings of the First Annual RIAB Center Conference, Leipzig, June 2016. Research on Israel and Aram in Biblical Times (RIAB), Vol. 1. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck.
See here a flyer of the new series and details on the first volume that will appear in August 2019.
On Thursday, May 23rd, 2019, the RIAB Minerva Center is conducting a workshop for students on zooarchaeology in general and the Iron Age Levant in particular. The workshop will be given by Dr. Liora Horwitz of the Hebrew University.
Please note that the workshop is only open to those who pre-registered for it.
On Thursday, May 16th, I participated in the workshop on the LB/Iron Age transition at the sites of Tel Miqne-Ekron, Qubur al-Walayda and Megiddo East, that was held at the Albright Institute in Jerusalem.
Ann and Gunnar each presented a detailed survey of the stratigraphy and finds relating to the time frame covering the late LB and early Iron I at Miqne (Ann) and Qubur (Gunnar), followed by a short presentation by Aaron on the LB/Iron I finds from Megiddo East.
A lively discussion developed during and right after each lecture, with various members of the archaeological community in Israel participating.
After the lectures, the workshop participants then moved to look at a great selection of pottery from the relevant levels at this sites, which was set up in the Albright basement. A very interesting and lively discussion of these finds developed as well.
This was a fascinating workshop, with many insights. For me, in addition to seeing some really nice pottery from these sites that I had not seen previously, I came away with the impression that the finds from these sites only emphasize, the complex nature of the LB/Iron Age transition, and how many of the “standard,” and rather linear, explanations on this transition are in need of refinement, a more complex understanding – and even revision!
On Wednesday, I had the honor to participate in the dedication ceremony for the new entrance to the Tel Zafit National Park (Tell es-Safi/Gath). The funding for this entrance (and the bike path leading to it) was donated by “Dalia Power Energies“, the company that runs one of the two electric power stations near the tell, in memory of Mr. Eyal Shapira, z”l, who was a member of their board of directors. Thanks so much their donation – and for the Nature and Parks Authority who facilitated the donation and making these plans happen!
The work including fixing up the road leading up to the site, the main entrance road to the tell itself, and the area of the parking at the base of the site. This included a great parking area, some very nice shaded picnic areas, and some very nice signs, both on the way to the tell, and in and around the site itself.
This is a very substantial and important addition to the site, as it makes the site much more accessible to the public. In addition, the Nature and Parks Authority fixed up (and even changed) some of the paths on the site, making them much more easier for use.
This will be important for the team as well in the coming season. The road to the site is much better, and the buses and other vehicles will be able to drive in a much easier manner to the site. In addition, the breakfast area is now really nice – which will make our breakfast and fruit breaks much more enjoyable!
Below are some pictures of the ceremony and the new entrance.
Those of you who are familiar with the site from previous years will be quite surprised with the changes!
See as well the views of the tell. While it’s not as green as it was even a week or two ago, it’s still quite overgrown due to the massive rainfall this winter.
One form of Aztec jewelry were decorative objects worn through a piercing in a person’s lower lip, known as bezotes in Spanish and lip plugs or labrets in English. They can be made out of different materials – bone, clay, obsidian, or other stones – and come in various shapes. While there are a few very fancy examples in museums, with gold and turquoise inlays, most examples are much simpler. In Central Mexico, “T-shaped” lip plugs are traditionally associated with the Otomi ethnic group, based on historic documents. In her excavations at Xaltocan, Lisa Overholtzer (2015) showed that T-shaped lip plugs were used during the Middle Postclassic, and and wider, flatter "Button-shaped" ones were used during the Late Postclassic. However, people seem to have switched forms before the Aztec conquest of the site, suggesting that they may have actively manipulated their ethnic identity in anticipation of shifts in regional power.
The rock crystal and obsidian lip plugs from Calixtlahuaca (plus a copper earspool on the left)
At Calixtlahuaca, we recovered two T-shaped lip plugs (one made out of obsidian and one of rock crystal), and two button-shaped ones (both made out of clay). Both T-shaped pieces come from Ninupi phase contexts. One of the button-shaped ones comes from a Ninupi phase context and the other from a Yata phase context. The fact that we recovered so few examples of lip plugs is interesting, since the Otomi were one of the ethnic groups who lived in the Toluca Valley. The phasing of the few lip plugs we did find parallels the findings from Xaltocan; T-shaped lip plugs are earlier and from prior to the Aztec conquest of the site, and button-shaped ones are more likely to be later, from the period under Aztec rule, but there’s some fuzziness. However, because Calixtlahuaca was conquered by the Aztecs later than Xaltocan was, the transition in forms occurs later in calendar time; instead of a change between the Middle and Late Postclassic, the switch in forms occurs between the two halves of the Late Postclassic.
The ceramic lip plugs from Calixtlahuaca
Because lip plugs are low frequency objects (even at sites where they are more common than at Calixtlahuaca!), it can be hard for any one project to find enough to identify meaningful patterns. As a result, it is important for projects to publish good descriptions of their rare finds and their proveniences, so that a larger regional sample can eventually be put together. We are currently writing the informe chapter on miscellaneous ceramic objects at Calixtlahuaca – which includes, but certainly isn’t limited to, lip plugs.
Overholtzer, Lisa M.
2015Agency, practice, and chronological context: A Bayesian approach to household chronologies. Journal of Anthropological Archaeology 37:37-47.
Hopefully, the volume will be out in a couple of months!
And if already – there are two more edited volumes that are about to appear: Tell es-Safi/Gath II (eds. A. M. Maeir and J. Uziel) and the Proceedings of the 1st annual meeting of the RIAB Minerva Center (eds. A. Berlejung and A. M. Maeir)! More to come on these two volumes in the near future!
As usual, we will have a nice slate of field tours and lectures this upcoming excavation season (see below). We also still have a few spots left! If you are on the fence about coming this summer – get off the fence and come help us find the gate
TEL BURNA 2019 LECTURES (Tentative):
Each week there will be various lectures and tours. Monday is touring sites in the region with an emphasis on sites recently or currently being excavated. There will be three lectures each week. Lectures focus on 1) principles and methods of excavation, 2) history and archaeology of the southern Levant, and 3) various approaches to analysis of the material record.
S Tel Burna-A Decade of Research (Prof. Itzick Shai)
M Site Tour: Northern Shephelah: Beth Shemesh, Gezer
T Bib Arch in 21st C (Prof. Itzick Shai) or Arch Meth & Theory (Prof. Steven Ortiz)
W Tombs Remembered – Tombs Forgotten: Studying the Iron Age Tombs and Tomb Inscriptions from Jerusalem (Prof. Matthew Suriano)
Th Principles of Field Documentation- PlanGrid (Dr. Chris McKinny); Photogrammetry (Dr. Jane Gaastra)
Fri-Sat: Weekend Study Tours: The Judean Wilderness and the Negev (Dr. Chris McKinny)
M Archaeological Site Survey: Method and Practice (Dr. Aharon Tavger)
T Site Tour: Gath of the Philistines: Tel es-Safi (Prof. Aren Maeir)
W Late Bronze Age (PhD student Marcella Barbosa)
Th Zooarchaeology and Archaeo-Botany (Prof. Tina Greenfield and Dr. Andrea Orendi)
Fri-Sun 3-Day weekend for Study Tour: The Northern Regions (coast, Galilee, Golan Heights) (Dr. Chris McKinny)
S Site Tour: E-Rai (Prof. Yossi Garfinkel) and Lachish (Dig Staff)
T Textile Workshop (Dr. Debi Cassuto)
W Iron Age (Dr. Aharon Tavger)
Th GIS and Archaeology (Prof. Ladislav Smedja) + Soil Analysis – (Prof. Michael Hejman)
Fri-Sun Weekend Study Tour: Jerusalem and its environs (Dr. Chris McKinny)
M Site Tour: TBD
W Final Photos
Th (at Ariel University) Ceramic Restoration Process + Shiloh (Drs. Chris McKinny and Aharon Tavger)
Today (May 7, 2019) a gave a tour of Tell es-Safi/Gath for a group of fellows from the Albright Institute in Jerusalem. We walk around the upper and lower tells for three hours, and it was really nice.
What’s very noticeable are the thorns! Are they enormous! Some of them are about 3 m high!!
See below a short, and very nice (!) clip, produced by the American Friends of Bar-Ilan University, highlighting archaeology at BIU, the excavations at Tell es-Safi/Gath – and me… :-)
For those of you who are already familiar with the team, you’ll notice a few familiar faces (and hands…) from the team in the clip. And they couldn’t help themselves, they had to have a picture of me putting on my hat…
For those still interested in joining us this seasons at Tell es-Safi/Gath (June 23-July 19), and you have not yet registered signed up, the registration deadline has been extended until May 15th, 2019.
We are happy to announce that our paper on the two Cypriot Pithoi found in Area B1 has been published!
Here is the abstract:
Bronze Age trade in the Eastern Mediterranean is well attested in south Levantine archaeological research, with imported vessels generally playing a significant role in the ceramic assemblage. While the majority of these vessels are found repeatedly at many different sites, there are cases where a rare find sheds new light on the way in which trade patterns are perceived. Such is the case with two fully restored pithoi found in a Late Bronze IIB building at Tel Burna. This paper presents the context in which the pithoi were uncovered, followed by a study of the vessels themselves, including their typology, provenance, volume and contents, as well as the nature of Late Bronze Age trade in the Eastern Mediterranean.
The full bibliographic details:
2019: Shai, I.; McKinny, C.; Spigelman, Ben-Shlomo, D., Karasik, A., Namdar, D., and Uziel, J. Late Bronze Age Trade as Seen through the Eyes of Two Cypriot Pithoi on a Shephelah Hilltop. Tel Aviv 46: 63–80.
I’m at a conference on ancient food at the Weltenberg Abby in Germany, and my colleagues and I are about to present a new fantastic study that we’ve been working on, on the isolation of ancient yeast cells from archaeological contexts!
The article is entitled:
Aouizerat T, Gutman I, Paz Y, Maeir AM, Gadot Y, Gelman D, Szitenberg A, Drori E, Pinkus A, Schoemann M, Kaplan R, Ben-Gedalya T, Coppenhagen-Glazer S, Reich E, Saragovi A, Lipschits O, Klutstein M, Hazan R. 2019.
Isolation and characterization of live yeast cells from ancient vessels as a tool in bioarchaeology. (https://mbio.asm.org/content/10/2/e00388-19)
This is a truly ground-breaking study – which took three years to bring to press!
See below the abstract:
ABSTRACT Ancient fermented food has been studied based on recipes, residue
analysis, and ancient-DNA techniques and reconstructed using modern domesticated yeast. Here, we present a novel approach based on our hypothesis that enriched yeast populations in fermented beverages could have become the dominant species in storage vessels and their descendants could be isolated and studied today. We developed a pipeline of yeast isolation from clay vessels and screened for yeast cells in beverage-related and non-beverage-related ancient vessels and sediments from several archaeological sites. We found that yeast cells could be successfully isolated specifically from clay containers of fermented beverages. The findings that genotypically the isolated yeasts are similar to those found in traditional African beverages and phenotypically they grow similar to modern beer-producing yeast strongly suggest that they are descendants of the original fermenting yeast. These results demonstrate that modern microorganisms can serve as a new tool in bio-archaeology research.
IMPORTANCE So far, most of the study of ancient organisms has been based mainly
on the analysis of ancient DNA. Here we show that it is possible to isolate and study
microorganisms—yeast in this case—from ancient pottery vessels used for fermentation. We demonstrate that it is highly likely that these cells are descendants of the original yeast strains that participated in the fermentation process and were absorbed into the clay matrix of the pottery vessels. Moreover, we characterized the isolated yeast strains, their genomes, and the beer they produced. These results open new and exciting avenues in the study of domesticated microorganisms and contribute significantly to the fields of bio- and experimental archaeology that aim to reconstruct ancient artifacts and products
Today, we were honored to host his Excellency, Mr. Zhan Yognxin, Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China to Israel, at the Tell es-Safi/Gath lab at BIU.
The ambassador and his entourage, along with Prof. Yaron Harel (Dean of the Faculty of Jewish Studies at BIU) and Dr. Danielle Gurevitch (Chair, the Sir Naim Dangoor Centre for Universal Monotheism, BIU), stopped by at the lab as part of a visit to BIU.
In the lab, I explained to them about our work, some of the finds, and various exciting things relating to the project.
They also had a chance to meet my new PhD student from China, Jiang.
I do hope further connections with China and Chinese institutions will develop from this. It would be great to have a Chinese contingent on dig!
A new article on the fortifications of Tell es-Safi/Gath has just appeared. The study,
based on a talk given at a meeting in Haifa a few years ago, was spearheaded by Eric Welch, along with several of the Safi team.
In this study, the fortifications of the site are discussed, and in particular, in comparison to finds and interpretations of Bliss and Macalisters’ excavations at the site in 1899, as opposed to what we now know based on our work for the last 23 years or so.
Welch, E. L., Chadwick, J. R., Shai, I., Katz, J., Greenfield, H., Dagan, A., and Maeir, A. M.
2019. “The Limits of the Ancient City”: The Fortifications of Tell es-Safi/Gath 115 Years After Bliss and Macalister. Pp. 151–66 in Exploring the Holy Land: 150 Years of the Palestine Exploration Fund, eds. D. Gurevich and A. Kidron. London: Equinox.
The article, written by 16 of researchers who are connected to the Safi project, examines what we know and can learn about technologies (in a broad sense of the term) in use in the Iron Age Philistine culture, using the finds from Philistine Tell es-Safi/Gath as a case study, and how this can shed light on a broad range of issues relating to the Philistines and the Iron Age Levant. Special attention is placed on the importance of the study of technology for elucidating broad aspects of ancient culture.
The full title is:
Maeir, A. M., Ben-Shlomo, D., Cassuto, D., Chadwick, J. R., Davis, B., Eliyahu Behar, A., Frumin, S., Gur-Arieh, S., Hitchcock, L. A., Horwitz, L. K., Manclossi, F., Rosen, S., Verduci, J., Welch, E. L., Weiss, E., and Workman, V. 2019. Technological Insights on Philistine Culture: Perspectives from Tell es-Safi/Gath. Journal of Eastern Mediterranean Archaeology and Heritage Studies 7(1): 76–118.
I will be in NY in the beginning of April, 2019, and I will be giving a few lectures. Here is one that is open to the public:
New York Aegean Bronze Age Colloquium: Monday, 1 April 2019, 6:00 pm (Hemmerdinger Screening Room (Library, Room E706), Hunter College): New Insights on the Philistines and the Sea Peoples in Light of Two Decades of Excavations at Tell es-Safi—Gath of the Philistines
“There are three instances of toponyms based on לבנ in the Bible. These include Libnah/Laban of the wilderness Sinai wanderings (Num 33:20; Deut 1:1), Lebonah of Ephraim (Judg 21:19), and Libnah of the Judean Shephelah (e.g., Josh 10:29-31). Notably, the latter two are possibly preserved in Arabic toponyms from 19th century Palestine. These toponyms were recorded with varying spellings in such cartographic projects as the Van de Velde’s Map of the Holy Land (1854, 1858, 1865), Warren’s unpublished Reconnaissance of the Plain of Philistia (1867), and Conder and Kitchener’s Survey of Western Palestine (1882, 1883, 1880), the latter two which were conducted under the auspices of the Palestine Exploration Fund. Using these and other cartographic sources as the basis for our discussion, we will analyze the etymology and site identifications of Lebonah of Ephraim and Libnah of the Shephelah in connection with their occurrences in the various post-biblical sources with the purpose of understanding the linguistic development of the לבנ toponyms from the biblical period to pre-modern times. Our analysis shows that the toponymic history of these sites corroborates the current identifications of Lebonah with el-Lubban and Libnah with Tell Bornat.”
Yesterday (March 10, 2019), Maria, Shira and I made a quick visit to Tell es-Safi/Gath, to see how it looks after the rains.
As you can see in the photos below – it looks quite cool. Totally green, with some very tall thorns in some areas (but for the most part, not in the excavation areas). Even though I’ve seen this often before, the view of the tell and its surroundings when it is totally green and overgrown is simply stunning.
Another nice thing is that the road leading to the tell is being paved all the way to the tell – which will make access much easier and quicker.
To our surprise and consternation, the project to develop the parking area started without being coordinated with us, and when we arrived at the site, were rather shocked to see a small “bobcat” tractor excavating a foundation trench for one of the walls of the new entrance area, right near Area D. Needless to say, we stopped them immediately and called the regional inspector of the Israel Antiquities Authority. Turns out, there was a lot of “lack of communication” (…) between the various involved parties, who for reason did not think it was urgent to have the archaeologist in charge of excavating the site involved…
So it was lucky that I had a sudden urge to look at the site, and hopefully, now, things will be better planned and coordinated (sheesh…)
And if already – don’t forget to sign up for the 2019 season!
Be there – or be square!!
Here are some pictures of the tell and the various areas:
I will be lecturing on “Tel Burna – After a Decade of Investigation (2009-2018)” tomorrow at the SWCRS (Southwest Commission on Religious Studies) conference in Fort Worth. We have certainly made a dent in the tell
Last year, Boaz Zissu, Rafi Kent and yours truly received an equipment grant from the ISF to purchase some really cool equipment. This included a airborne LIDAR scanner (carried on a drone) and a hand held LIDAR scanner (GeoSLAM Zeb-Revo).
We are now in the process of starting to use this equipment and several students at BIU are being trained in the use of the equipment.
A couple of weeks ago, Itamar Berko, who is an MA student in our department, did a LIDAR scan of a rather complex cave at Maresha. He walked around the cave for about 40 minutes, holding the scanner. Then, based on the collected data, he produced a really cool 3D model of the cave.
See this link to check out the 3D model. Try it out and move around in the cave – it is quite astounding!
And this is the result of a very short scan! Imagine the detail that could be produced from a much more extended scan!
Definitely very cool. We hope to start using these tools in various manners in the near future.
The workshop, entitled “A ‘GLOBAL TURN’ FOR THE ARCHAEOLOGY AND HISTORY OF THE SOUTHERN LEVANT”, will be given by Oystein LaBianca (Andrews University) and Terje Stordalen (University of Oslo), and respondents will be Ann Killebrew (Penn State Univ) and yours truly (Aren M. Maeir, BIU).
See here for an overview of what will be discussed.
Should be interesting! If you are in this neck of the woods, hope to see you there!
As promised, a short report on new architecture in the West Settlement: we do have more “walls” (still generally only one brick high, but clearly outlining built structures laid out along a NE-SW grid) in the West Settlement. These line up with walls uncovered in earlier seasons, and also connect with ones excavated by Barry Kemp in the 1970s. The wadi has washed out anything that might have remained to the east (What Lies Beneath), but the settlement does continue to the west and perhaps also to the north, and promises to yield more information in future seasons.
But today’s blog is about our “midden.” We have uncovered a large (about 2 and a half meters in diameter) deposit that spans the border between two of our squares, an area we are calling Feature 201. On the surface, this looked like the usual sort of sherd scatter, but as we began to clean and clear, we discovered that it continued for a several levels, and was thick with large and small sherds and lots of faunal remains. These include bones of various sizes, bits of hide, and even several parts of hooves.
A preliminary look at the pottery (with which we have filled 26 of our yellow bags so far) suggests a higher percentage of the elite “Palace” ware than we’ve found in most of the rest of the site, although we will need to analyze it properly before coming to any conclusions.
This is larger than other such deposits we have found in previous seasons. It is also not clear how it relates to our architecture – other deposits have tended to be along walls or in corners, or even used as leveling fill under walls (Broken Dishes); this looks like it might go over a wall, although we will need to do more excavation here to find out for sure.
This is an intriguing deposit, and one that is sure to yield interesting and useful information once it has been completely cleared and the material recovered has been studied by our experts.
We have had a number of volunteers sign-up over the last couple of weeks – but we still have some spots left! If you are interested in joining the project for this summer’s season – please click here. We have extended the deadline until April 15. You can also check out our freshly updated site in the “Academic” section to see how you can get academic credit for the excavation and also take part in the weekend tours.
Dr. Brent Davis (Univ. Melbourne; long-time core staff team member of the Safi project) is a master at various ancient languages. Now, he has harnessed virtual reality technology (VR) to teach ancient Egyptian Hieroglyphics.
Check out the cool video below, where students are reading the hieroglyphs from a VR model of Nefertari’s tomb!
First of all, spoiler alert. We are finding more
architecture in the West Settlement, but more on that later. In the meantime,
Mahmoud, Ja’allan, and Sa’ad, with assistance from our sharp-eyed junior
workmen, continue to find bits and pieces of this and that among the sherds and
bones — a bead here, part of a ring shank there, and of course pottery
everywhere. It’s especially interesting to see what lies in the sterile levels
just above what we consider the desert surface – the other day we found bits of
a very dead and dried out scorpion, a small egg of some sort, and some pieces
of very modern-looking bread.
Today, Mahmoud was working in a promising looking deposit of
sherds near the surface, and found this very interesting object.
It seems to be made out of some sort of metal, and looked at first like perhaps it was a handle from a small vessel. But that didn’t really make sense, so I took it to my colleagues over in the Industrial Site for a consultation. We looked at it together, and Diana noticed the red color indicating rust. So we were able to rule out immediately that it was ancient, since iron would not have been used for any sort of vessel – the only iron available to the Egyptians at that time was meteoric.
Ivor happened to be there as well, having left his “photo studio” (otherwise known as the guard hut) to take some photographs for Diana. He took one look and suggested that it might be a nail that had gotten bent. We all thought that was a great idea, and Hassan confirmed that it was most likely an old-fashioned nail, no longer used but found in antique furniture and older buildings.
It’s always interesting to see what wanders into an
Every season the work at the Industrial Site has produced a wonderful example of a tool. In 2015, almost immediately after opening the first square, we found a perfect flint awl. In 2016 and 2017, we were intrigued by what appeared to be discarded copper alloy drill bits. This year we have a spectacular micro-chisel.
All of us are familiar with chisels. Very practical tools, they can be fashioned with different types of edges that allow a craftsman to accomplish the splitting or cutting of stone, wood, and metal. If the task requires splitting stone or wood, a big chisel is positioned and then hit with a hammer, or in the case of ancient Egypt, probably a wood mallet. When chisels are needed for finer work, the tool is pushed into the material by hand in order to remove what isn’t wanted. The size of the chisel and the style of the edge changes depending on what the work is; smaller chisels are needed for detailed work in wood and other soft materials.
This tiny copper alloy chisel, only 2.5 cm long, is perfectly formed and remarkably preserved. The slightly reduced and rounded proximal end may have been designed as such to be hafted in a small wood handle that would have made it easier to manipulate the tool. The distal end was fashioned into a sharp beveled edge that is somewhat splayed, allowing a craftsman to cut the material cleanly, or to trim or neaten tiny grooves or spaces in the object under manufacture.
We get to pursue our fieldwork in Egypt because of the generosity of the
Ministry of Antiquities. Part of the contract that I sign with them is that a
representative from the Supreme Council of Antiquities will work with us during
the time we are digging. This year we are lucky to have Mr. Mahmoud Kamal Abu
elWafa. Mr. Mahmoud Kamal comes from
Luxor, specifically Karnak village, so he grew up surrounded by the amazing
antiquities the east bank has to offer. He is a 2009 graduate of Qena
University with a degree in Egyptology. His specialty is New Kingdom history
and he especially likes the large temples of Karnak and Luxor and everything
about the Valley of the Kings.
He joined the SCA in 2012 and has been busy every year. In 2014, he took
part in a field school under Mr. Yasser Mahmoud at Deir el Shelwit, the
Ptolemaic temple in the southern part of Malqata. He worked with the Polish mission at Deir el
Bahri in 2015 and then in 2016 and 2017 worked with the American Research
Center in Egypt, first at TT110, a decorated tomb of a royal butler named
Djehuty, and then in painted New Kingdom tombs in Dra Abu Naga.
We are delighted Mr. Mahmoud decided he wanted to join the Malqata team
this year and we look forward to working with him for the next ten days.
Archaeology requires the systematic collection of objects that were either made, modified, or used by people. By studying these material remains in relation to the environment in which they were produced, archaeologists attempt to understand the lives of those who used them. The process of collecting artifacts may appear somewhat tedious, but it is anything but that. Processing is a crucial part of an archaeological excavation.
This season as the archaeological assistant for the Industrial Site, I am working alongside Diana and Jan to help process all of the objects that are uncovered. As we continue to look for the production center of the glass and faience industry, we are finding manufacturing byproducts including molds, crucible fragments, and vitreous material, which are fragments of glass and faience. Our team follows a very specific method for processing these discoveries.
As our workmen excavate methodically by layer or level depending on the context, they set aside all of the finds onto a tray. These artifacts are then sorted by type. At the Industrial Site, all of the material can be divided into two major categories, manufacturing debris and objects. All of the material that has been worked or used by ancient craftsmen gets bagged. However, the process for the two types of finds varies slightly.
Left: An unsorted tray of finds from the Industrial Site. Right: The same tray from the left, after being sorted by object type.
The manufacturing debris, or the excess raw material and product from production, is further divided by type. Remains of the same kind are put together in one bag with its contextual data written on the exterior. Every bag lists the site name; the year; the square number; the level, feature or locus number; the object type, and finally the date found. This process is duplicated for the objects, like beads, molds, and tools. These objects are also assigned a unique number. This number is very similar to the accession numbering system that is used at a museum like The Metropolitan Museum of Art. These artifacts are tracked separately from the manufacturing debris because they are recorded differently as they often tell us a lot more information.
Left: An example of a bag for diagnostic pottery along with its matching tag. Right: Fragment of a mold found during the 2019 season with its bag and tag.
Afterwards, a tag is created with the same data found the bags. These cards are then placed inside with the sorted material. Creating a tag may seem like an unnecessary and repetitive step, however, it is crucial. The material remains that are found during the excavation are only one aspect of the archaeological record. In order to properly interpret our finds, we need to evaluate them within the context in which they were found. It is therefore extremely important that we keep the findspot information with objects, as well as in our notes. Writing the information on the tag provides insurance that the provenance information will stay with the material in perpetuity. This is essential not only for the JEM’s research, but also for any future scholars who may work at Malqata.
Once the objects are bagged and tagged, they are sent to Diana and Jan for processing. At this stage, they write initial descriptions about each find, as well as their thoughts about any correlation to glass and faience production. In addition, they record the weight of carnelian debris and take record photographs of the manufacturing waste. Subsequently, all of the objects are sent to Ivor for photography.
Right: Diana and Jan writing descriptions of the objects from the Industrial Site. Left: Ivor photographing objects.
Processing archaeological finds
does not stop there. At the end of the season, we will continue to analyze and
record information about each piece. In the secondary phase, Diana, Jan and I
will draw objects in preparation for the final report and for future
publications. Furthermore, all of the data collected will be transferred into a
FileMaker database that was designed by Janice specifically for the work at
JEM. Having a digital record of this data preserves an additional copy of our
work for the season. It will also allow Diana and Jan to continue working on
the material for publication outside of Egypt.
Last year was my first at the West Settlement site of Malqata. I focused on developing record forms for the registration of each group of sherds found and another form to record the diagnostic sherds (rims, bases, handles, etc.). The purpose of both forms is to enable Janice to upload the pottery data collected into her database where it can be combined with other information from each square.
Having completed the initial sorting and recording of the pottery bags from 2016 last year, this year we began with the analysis of the diagnostic sherds. This is what ceramicists often call “typing” –that is comparing each rim or base to an established reference type; in our case we are comparing them to the pottery illustrated in The Eighteenth Dynasty Pottery Corpus from Amarna by Pamela Rose. This pottery is very close in date and purpose to that found at Malqata.
Each diagnostic sherd is then recorded on our new form, which includes additional information such as size and surface treatment. Sometimes they require a bit of sticking together and then being left to dry in our makeshift sandbox. Complete or nearly complete examples are set aside for drawing and photography so that we will be able to illustrate from our own material the kinds of pottery found in the West Settlement.
Who doesn’t love blue painted pottery? I certainly do, so it’s hard to discard non-diagnostic sherds to the spoil heap. When I found a large sherd with a pattern that I didn’t recognise I kept it with the diagnostics to check with Diana. Although produced from the mid-18th Dynasty through to the 20th Dynasty it’s difficult not to think of these vessels as ‘Amarna blue’ pottery. We all know the traditional repetitive lily petal motif because that pattern, with the decorative banded lines above and below, is the most common decorative scheme. Occasionally, you get the wonderful reliefs of Hathor or Bes on a vessel, or a freehand naturalistic scene of great artistry, but the lily petal motif is almost like a production line of limited variation. So when I saw the row of flattened oval circles it caught my attention. Diana agreed that it was a rare motif so I searched for comparisons both online and in the literature.
Decorating cream slipped ware followed a
step-by-step process: first the ‘Amarna blue’ thick bands are applied, these
can be haphazard but our sherd is reasonably good. The four blue ‘leaves’ arranged
in a loose oval shape which form our basic design were probably done at the
same time while the blue paint was on the brush. Then black and red stripes were
applied. The four ovoids were probably outlined in black at the same time as
the blue bands were. It’s the black outline to each oval leaf that gives it its
definition and the four ovoids then make a distinctive flattened circle. The
red dots were probably added last (Rose 2007). The number of bands of
decoration depend on the size of the vessel. Only one band survives fully on
our sherd but there is an indication of another, different, decorative element
above the top stripes. Of course, we can’t tell for certain what shape the
vessel was but it seems possible that it was the traditional straight necked,
full bodied jar so familiar in these designs.
Even on our small sherd with only one
complete decorative motif, and a partial motif on either side with the stripes
above and below, it is possible to see how carelessly the preliminary blue
stripe and leaf pattern was applied before the black and red stripes and
outline were added to give coherence to the design.
This design does not appear in the Amarna corpus (Rose 2007) and the only similar motif I found after extensive searching was on Plate 8 of Colin Hope’s ‘Malkata’ corpus in his Pottery of the New Kingdom, so perhaps this is a design specific to the heb-sed festival site of Amenhotep III.
Hope has suggested (1989) that the manufacture of blue-painted pottery may well have been a specialised activity and the work of only a few potters, indicated by the standardisation of the designs and motifs which were applied to particular shapes. The use of the blue pigment (cobalt aluminate spinel, probably sourced in the Dakhla oasis) in the colour scheme may further support the idea of a restricted manufacture, as the raw ingredients would not have been widely available.
of blue-painted ware is found in large quantities only at Thebes and Amarna,
and later at Memphis with some found at Gurob and Saqqara. However, it must be
remembered that these vessels are containers for desired contents that are
shipped from one centre to another, so the find location does not necessary
indicate the place of manufacture.
However illustrious the context of our
sherd it still seems to agree with the rule that blue painted vessels were mass
produced and decorated by rote on a wheel or turntable. This may come as a
shock to lovers of ‘Amarna blue’ pottery.
Hope, C. A. 1989. Potteryof the Egyptian New Kingdom – ThreeStudies. Burwood.
Rose, P. J. 2007. The Eighteenth Dynasty Pottery Corpus from Amarna. Egypt Exploration Society Excavation Memoir, 83. London.
In the West Settlement, my first task at the beginning of the season is to decide where to excavate next. We talk about it at the end of the previous season, and make some tentative plans, but I continue to think about it as I finish processing my notes and photographs. And then I always try to arrive back at Malqata with fresh eyes.
Some of my priorities for this season are to continue to clarify the footprint of the site, and to see how it relates to other areas. On the east (local north), we are interested in seeing how the West Settlement connects to the Industrial Site where Diana is working. In order to explore the latter question, I am moving in that direction, but in 2.5 meter trenches rather than full 5 meter squares, since it is possible (in fact, likely) that we will be going through the wadi that has washed out any traces of the settlement to the north (see What Lies Beneath). We can’t go too far to the east or we will hit the old Met spoil heaps, but we will go as far as we can.
To the west, we are interested in seeing if we can connect the current excavations to a series of partial foundations uncovered in “Trench P” by Barry Kemp a number of years ago. Dr. Kemp has been so kind as to share information from his forthcoming publication of this work, so we know that his walls line up with ours, and that that one of them continues the thicker wall (laid in headers rather than stretchers) that seems to serve as the boundary of the settlement.
Our surveyor, Piet Collet, has helped to lay out new squares to both the east and the west. We are stringing them up and getting to work, so stay tuned!
Today (Wed., Feb. 6, 2019) the 8th and final lesson of the MOOC on biblical archaeology went online. You can still register, and study, this round of the course until Feb. 20th. Those who sign up before that date will have access (full access for those who register for certification, and partial access [only to video clips] for those who register for auditing only).
All told, close to 2400 students registered from the course, from all over the world!
The MOOC will run again in the first semester of the next academic year at BIU (which starts in Oct. 2019). At that time, I hope we will have captions for the videos in English, Hebrew, Spanish, Portuguese, German, Russian and French – and perhaps a few additional languages as well.
So – if you missed registering and doing the MOOC this time – you’ll have another opportunity in a few months!
I had a lot of fun preparing this MOOC, had some great help from my assistants and the technical team of “Online Academe” – and from the responses of many of the participants – they had a great and enriching experience as well!
When you work in Egypt, part of the process of getting into
the field is signing the contract that allows you to work at your site. This step is carried out in the office of the
Head of Foreign Missions of the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA) in Cairo. For me, signing the contract is very serious
business because when my signature as expedition director is added to the paper I accept the responsibility of an important site, Malqata, for the period of time I am working there.
After receiving the contract, I take this agreement to be approved at the local level, which for Malqata requires signatures from the Luxor and West Bank inspectorates of the SCA. This season I was the last mission to have its contract approved in Luxor by the former General Director of Upper Egypt, Dr. Mohamed Abdelaziz, who retired last Monday. I have known Dr. Abdelaziz for many years because he served as the General Director of the West Bank inspectorate for three of the seasons (2012-2014) we have worked at Malqata. In this position, Dr. Abdelaziz was in charge of what could take place at Malqata during the excavation, so we were in regularly contact each year. I always found him welcoming and helpful in supporting the work at our site. By 2015, he had been promoted and we no longer saw him on the West Bank, but instead greeted him in the East Bank office, although we saw him much less often.
Now that he has retired, the team working at Malqata will miss a good friend, but we wish him all the very best in the coming years and hope he will come to visit us.
A video clip on Tell es-Safi/Gath, which appeared on i24News has been posted on Youtube. In it, the tour guide Arieh O’Sullivan gives a tour of the site, from biblical to modern periods.
The best part of the video is of course in the very beginning, when Tell es-Safi/Gath is called (0:10) – “the greatest biblical site in the Holy Land“!! I’ll buy that! :-)
While there are things, here and there, that I would have presented differently (;-), you do get a very nice view of different parts of the site (and when the site is very green), and discussions on different parts of the site’s history.
We were greatly saddened today to hear of the sudden passing
of our wonderful inspector during our 2017 season, Walla Abd el Moged Hussein.
We remember her very fondly, and wish to express our heartfelt condolences to
her family and colleagues. Walla was extremely kind and helpful, and especially
loved to work with Diana to sort and identify the material coming from the
excavations at the Industrial Site.
We thank Walla for all of her assistance and friendship. We
will never forget her, and she will be greatly missed.