Amit, well-known to all of you who are involved in the Safi project, and the Handheld XRF which we will soon be receiving, are among the stars in a BIU newsletter that just came out.
Check it out! (on page 3)
Tom Elliott (firstname.lastname@example.org)
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We have updated our publication page with our recent presentations at ASOR in Balitmore – click on the bibliographic data to download the presentations:
Today, I went down to Tell es-Safi/Gath to meet two architects who deal with landscape/restoration in regards to a proposal that we are preparing on Tell es-Safi/Gath and its environment. To start with, it was very nice to visit the site – I have not been there since the summer. Second, here is a nice view from the north towards the tell. Those of you who are familiar with the site – notice that the large plowed area to the north of the site – where in most years there were various agricultural growths.
On my way down from Jerusalem to the tell, I stopped at site of Eshtaol, which has been reported extensively in the news in recent days (such as here, here and here). This is a fantastic site, with well-preserved architecture and finds from the Pre-Pottery Neolithic, Pottery Neolithic, Late Chalcolithic, and Early Bronze IB (=Erani C). Amir Golani and Benyamin Storchan, two of the directors of the excavations, were very kind to give me a thorough tour of the site, as it was about to be covered over (that very day!). As they said, I was probably the last archaeologist to ever see the site…
To all Safiites, past, present and future, and to everyone else (is there anyone else?) as well – wishing you all a happy Chanukah!
Arik Einstein, Israel’s top singer – who has been compared to an Israeli combination of Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley and Bob Marley – passed away last night. Anyone who has even the slightest idea about Israeli music over the last 40 years or so, will know that he really was in a different class than all.
And even though this has nothing directly to do with Tell es-Safi/Gath, here’s a clip of one the nicest songs he ever performed:
Check out a new Burna related article which just appeared in Palestine Exploration Quarterly. See table of contents here (also see Joe Uziel’s nice article on Tell Nagila in the same issue). In the article Amit and myself discuss the various explorations of Tel Burna from the Byzantine period until modern times – all of which provide an interesting historical backdrop for our own investigations. You can find the article here.
Our article’s bibliographic details are as follows:
2013: McKinny, C. and Dagan, A. “The Explorations of Tel Burna,” Palestine Exploration Quarterly 145.4:294-305.
The Annual Meeting of the American Schools of Oriental Research was just held in Baltimore, and although I did not participate (had too many things “on my plate” and had to act mature and responsible for a change), a paper of mine was delivered in the annual session on Philistia that Jeff Chadwick (aka Akhish Melekh Gath) and I chair. Jeff was kind enough to deliver the paper in my name.
As I gave a general overview of the finds from the 2013 season which might interest those reading the blog, here is the PP presentation, and the text of the lecture as given at the meeting.
Here is the PP presentation: ASOR 2013 Season at Tell es-Safi
And here is the text of the talk: ASOR Safi 2013 update talk
Today, Nov. 25th, 836 years ago (in 1177), the Battle of Montgisard (aka the Battle of Gezer) took place, in which the Frankish army under the command of young King Baldwin of Jerusalem, resoundingly defeated the Muslim army of Saladin.
Without a doubt, the Frankish knights and soldiers standing on the ramparts of Blanche Garde (those of the castle’s garrison who had not joined the battle itself) could see the battle – which was conducted just about 19 km to the north. Even nowadays, with all the smog of our modern industrial age, Gezer can be very clearly seen from the top of Tell es-Safi/Gath, standing on the foundations of Blanche Garde. A decade later, in 1187, the tables had turned, and Saladin completely destroyed the Frankish army at the Battle of Hattin.
Debi Cassuto, core team member of the Safi team got an honorable mention on her MA thesis in an article on women’s work in ancient Israel just published in Haaretz (English version).
Here is a link to the article on the Haaretz site, and since this is a pay site, see below a pdf version of the text, courtesy of Jack Sasson.
In between the onslaught of many very interesting lectures today at the ASOR annual conference we were able to get together with some Burna alumni. We enjoyed a nice reunion lunch in Baltimore’s harbor. Besides, Itzick and myself we were joined by Elizabeth, Caitlyn, Mette, Reed, Jeremy and Amy, Jason, Izaak, and Dwight. We had a great time rehashing summer digging, sweat and stories.
As mentioned before, there is a small exhibition currently being displayed in the entrance hall of the main library of Bar-Ilan University, entitled “The Rise and Fall of Philistine Gath” in which finds from the excavations at the site are displayed and through this, the fascinating culture of the Philistines is explained. The exhibition has been in place for a few weeks, and will be open to the public until December 10th, 2013 (we were give a few extra weeks then originally planned).
If you want to see the exhibit – now’s the time to go. But if you can’t, here is a short clip of the exhibit, filmed by Safi staff member Maria/Masha, which gives a nice idea of what it looks like.
Take a look.
BTW – we are currently looking into the possibility of sending a similar exhibition on a tour abroad to various interested institutions. If any of you are interested in hosting this exhibition in their institution – do get in touch with me – and we can see if this can be arranged.
Last week, Moshe Gilad, the travel correspondent of the Haaretz, visited with me at Bar-Ilan University, to talk about Philistia and the Philistines, see the finds from Gath in the lab and the new exhibition in the main library, and talk about what to do and where to go to learn about the Philistines.
Today, a very nice, two page article appeared in the weekend arts and culture magazine of Haaretz, in which he both discusses various issues regarding the Philistines, based to a large extent on his interview with me, and gives suggestions on what and where to go to get a new view of who the Philistines were.
See here a link to the article – which is in Hebrew, and full access is only with payment (if I get access to the full version – I’ll update the link).
UPDATE: Moshe Gilad, the author of the article has sent me a full pdf version of the printed article – here it is: Philistia travel article_Haaretz 22_11_13.
SECOND UPDATE: Moshe has just also sent me a nice picture (which appears in the full internet edition of the article which I have not seen) that he took of me holding an unusual, partially reconstructed cultic vessel (stand? model? chalice?) which was found this last season in Area D, during his visit to the lab.
Charlie Draper, who was a team member at Safi for the 2011 season, has made a brilliant appearance on a TV program, in which he very impressively plays the Theremin.
Way to go Charlie!
Just another example of how, by just participating in the Tell es-Safi/Gath Project – fantastic things can happen to you! :-)
Yesterday, a delegation of rectors from several pontifical universities in Italy came for a visit to BIU. As with just about all distinguished visitors to the campus, the Safi lab was one of the “showcase” stations on their visit.
During their visit, I explained to them about our work at Tell es-Safi/Gath and what is carried out in the lab, and after showing them a selection of finds and discussing their meaning and significance, I particularly emphasized how archaeology can be used as an excellent tool not only for the study of the past – but as a hands-on tool to excite students and the public about the past.
I also invited them to encourage students and faculty members to join our team at Tell es-Safi/Gath – and I hope some will do this!
Here is a picture of the group during the visit to the lab – that’s me in the middle with the red shirt…
Check out Itzick and Joe’s blog post on the ASOR blog entitled Archaeology for the Masses: Tearing Down the Barriers between Archaeology and the Public
Here is a snippet:
From Day 1, an open door policy was initiated at Tel Burna; anyone is welcome to join, for as long as they like. One of the main concerns is ensuring that the quality of archaeological work remains high. This has prevented other projects from taking on groups or individual volunteers who are not willing to commit to a specific amount of time, where they can gain training necessary to excavate without damaging them. In order to overcome this challenge, our excavation limits its work not according to the number of volunteers, but rather by making sure there are enough archaeological staff members that can provide proper training and oversee activity to make sure that excavation is done properly. At times, groups are steered towards less sensitive projects, such as cleaning agricultural installations carved into the rock, or surveying. However, on a whole we have found that the presence of “untrained” excavators has not posed a problem for the quality of work.
As I had mentioned previously, today we had the full day workshop on the Handheld XRF spectrometer (hXRF).
The workshop was given by Mr. Lee Drake, representative of the Bruker company, the manufacturer of the hXRF which we will receive in a few weeks.
A nice group of Safi staff members participated, along with some invitees – various archaeological colleagues – and even a couple of forensic experts from the Israel Police (who actually were quite impressed with the analytic work we are conducting in the lab!).
After giving us a very nice theoretical background on the physics of the XRF, Lee then demonstrated how to use the instrument and analyze different types of materials.
This is SO COOL! It give such fantastic results – and if you know what to do with analyzing and understanding the results (and not simply blindly relating to the “numbers”) you can get fantastic insights on many issues.
Once we start using both the hXRF and the FTIR (which we have already for awhile now), we will have, both in the field and in the lab, an astounding analytic capability at both the atomic (hXRF) and molecular (FTIR) levels. In fact, I don’t know of any excavation project in the world which has access, on a regular basis, to both instruments!
Here’s a picture of a demonstration on how to measure the chemical composition of the painted decoration on a decorated Iron IIA chalice.
This was really quite astounding!
Jason Farr (Michigan) will present the results of current research on the well-preserved quarries at Gabii in a a lecture titled "Lapis Gabinus and the Economy of Urban Construction: Recent Fieldwork at Gabii and Rome". The talk is part of the Field Archaeology Series on Thursday, and is sponsored by the Interdepartmental Program in Classical Art and Archaeology and the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology. Thursday November 21st at 6:00 pm (Kelsey Museum, Lecture Hall).
As mentioned previously (such as here), we are about to receive a hand held XRF for use in the lab and the field – and hopefully it will arrive in the next week or two. In preparation for this, a senior representative of the Bruker company, the producer of the instrument that we have bought, has come to Israel to give hands-on training in the use of this important tool.
As part of this visit, we are organizing a small, day long, workshop at BIU on the theoretical and practical background of the use of this method. The workshop will be held tomorrow at BIU (Tuesday, Nov. 19th 2013, from 9 am to 5 pm).
If any of you are interested in participating, please get in touch with me and I’ll see if there is still room (only a limited amount of participants can join this workshop).
Should be very interesting!
Just read about the planned TV series “Dig” – which will be a thriller based on the goings on at an archaeological site in Israel.
Just so that they don’t say afterwards that they did not know which was the best excavation in Israel which could offer them the best location and nicest people, I would like to officially state:
We are willing to help you with the filming of this series! We can provide great views, cutting-edge archaeological technique, a great looking team – and of course – great finds!
Our team will have a strong presence at next week’s ASOR conference. Besides the lectures (see the list below) we would like to invite all Burna team members past and present to get together for lunch on Saturday, November 23 – we will meet in the lobby of the Sheraton Hotel at 12:00 pm. Hope to see you there.
Itzhaq Shai (Ariel University), “The Tel Burna Archaeological Project: Results of the 2012–2013 Seasons” (20 min.) 11:30, Thursday November 21.
Amit Dagan (Bar-Ilan University) and Debi Cassuto (Bar- Ilan University), “Khorvat Shimon: An Iron Age IIB Industrial Site Near Tell es-Safi/Gath” (20 min.) 4:50 pm Thursday, November 21.
Matthew Suriano (University of Maryland), Itzhaq Shai (Ariel University), Amit Dagan (Bar-Ilan University), and Joe Uziel (Israel Antiquities Authority), “A Private Stamp Seal From Tel Burna and Its Parallels” (25 min.) – 5:50 pm Thursday, November 21.
Chris McKinny (Bar-Ilan University), “The Marriage of the House of Omri and the House of David: An Analysis of Mid-Ninth-Century B.C.E. Geopolitics in Israel and Judah” (20 min.) – 5:10 Saturday, November 23
If you are in the area do come listen. See the full lecture list here.
The decorations on the ivory bowl that started appearing during the conservation (see here), are only getting more exciting! Today, I visited the conservation lab at the HU Givat Ram campus, to see what Gali had worked on till now, and lo and behold, was surprised to see the inside of the bowl with a beautiful incised compass-like decoration! Notice as well the wavy decoration along the rim, the holes bored into the rim which were probably intended to secure a lid, and the small bar handle on the rim on the left side of the picture!
What can I say – simply fantastic – and I think there still might be some more cleaning – and maybe more “stuff” will pop up!!!
Here’s a peek at the inside:
This is SO COOL!
If you are in the Copenhagen area on November 22 – be sure to check out what will be an interesting lecture by our very own Debi Cassuto on “Modes of Textile Production in Cultic Contexts in the Southern Levant” (@ 11:15 am). Good luck Debi!
I was contacted by Doug Rocks-Macqueen, who has a great blog “Doug’s Archaeology“, which deals with various archaeological issues. Doug is organizing in the upcoming 2014 SAA meeting a live blogging session for archaeological blogs, and he has asked the Tell es-Safi/Gath Archaeological Project blog (which you are currently reading if you did not know), to participate in this exciting project.
To start with, he has thrown out a question to the different bloggers: “Why did you start a blog?”
So, here is my answer:I started blogging about the Tell es-Safi/Gath Archaeological Project due to the continued suggestions of a friend who said that this will expand the public’s knowledge on the excavation, the project, etc., and also get more people to volunteer every year from the excavation. Once I started, it became very clear that there were many advantages to this.1) Every day, throughout the year, whether I have added new materials or not, at least 100 people or so read the blog, and on days with very interesting blogs this can reach over a thousand hits. This includes people who are part of the project, have dug with us in the past, are interested in digging in the future with us, or simply people interested in archaeology2) The regular updates, during the season and in between them, gives people a nice idea of what goes on in an archaeological project, from a professional and personal point of view. It turns out that many people are interested in this.3) The blog is an excellent way to announce interesting news, finds and work related to the excavation, whether new publications, new work on finds, etc.4) I think the fact that it is not only a serious report on what we do but that I add in a lot of humor, adds to the attractiveness of the blog.This should be a lot of fun – and interesting. Do follow what Doug collects on his blog.Aren
Contenders included the pictures from: Safi, Burna, Ashdod Yam, Dor, Huqoq, Hazor, Khirbet Kur, Tel Erani and Kabri.
I’m happy to say that we have been informed that the Safi chalice won the competition!
Looks like that next year we will have to be VERY creative!!!
NEWSFLASH: See here BAR’s notice on the competition and our win!
P.S. I deny the reports that a bag with unmarked dollars was passed on to the judges!
In the immortal words of Fozzie Bear: “Wokka, Wokka, Wokka”!
Today, Gali Beiner, the conservator working on the ivory bowl from the 2013 season, was in the midst of cleaning the base of the bowl and noticed that there is a very nice geometric decoration on the base! This was quite a surprise, since even from a very close view before the cleaning – this could not be seen.
Here is a sneak view of the decoration:
Way to go Gali!
As I had hinted to a few weeks ago, a very interesting article, which the Safi team was involved in, has just appeared. In this study, based on aDNA analysis of pig bones from Bronze and Iron Age sites in the Land of Israel, we demonstrate that apparently, the non-local components of the Sea Peoples/Philistines brought with them European pigs when they arrived in the Levant.
Meaning – when these guys (and gals) arrived by boat – they brought with them live animals which then spread out in the Levant during the Iron Age. This is very nice evidence for some of the nitty gritty aspects of the actual migration of the non-local components of the Philistine culture!The article details are:M. Meiri, D. Huchon, G. Bar-Oz, E. Boaretto, L.K. Horwitz, A. M. Maeir, L. Sapir-Hen, G. Larson, S. Weiner & I. Finkelstein. 2013. Ancient DNA and Population Turnover in Southern Levantine Pigs- Signature of the Sea Peoples Migration? Scientific Reports 3: 3035 (DOI: 10.1038/srep03035).Cool!Aren
Today, I received the official notification (which I’ve known about unofficially for a few weeks now), that I’ve been chosen to serve as a co-editor of the Israel Exploration Journal, the flagship journal of the Israel Exploration Society, and arguably the most important journal that deals with the archaeology of the Land of Israel and related issues.
This should be very interesting – and a lot of work – but I’m very honored to step into the shoes of some impressive predecessors…
Shira Kisos, who is a core team member of the project, is writing her MA dissertation on the pot marks on EB pottery from the tell. As part of her dissertation, she will be examining these marks under an SEM. In preparation for that, here you can see her preparing silicon molds of some of the pot marks.
Shira will be traveling to N. America next month, both to participate in the ASOR meeting in Baltimore, but she also will be travelling to Manitoba, as part of the SSHRC grant for the study of the EB at Tell es-Safi/Gath. In Manitoba, in Haskel Greenfield’s lab in the University of Manitoba, she will jointly study the pot marks using an SEM.
If you may recall, we have used this silicon “gook” before in the field (see here).
Here are some pictures:
Since Jeff complained that he was not in the aerial photograph in which we drew a chalice (mentioned as well in the last post), Pascal, from Skyview, has made a new version of the picture with Jeff (aka Achish Melekh Gath) in it. As you can see – one can barely notice the difference between this and the original picture…
(thanks Pascal for humoring us…)
Skyview, the nice people that take our aerial photos at the end of the season, have put up the photos that will participate in this year’s competition for the best “arranged” photo of an excavation. As you may remember, we put together a decorated chalice – made out of the team members.
So in order for the Safi photo to be voted as the best, go the facebook page with our photo and “like” us!
Go Safi team! :-)
Give me a G – G; give me an A – A; give me a T – T; give me an H – H. What do you got – GATH!
This summer we will be staying at nearby Kibbutz Gal-on – go check out the facilities here. Now you can sleep 15 more minutes each morning, as it is only a mile from the tel, and more importantly take advantage of the nice, cool swimming pool right outside your door at Gal-on!
We're excited to be leading a joint workshop, together with Ilaria Meliconi and Bernard Frischer of the Digital Applications in Archaeology and Cultural Heritage (DAACH) journal, on 3D models, Peer Review and Publication at the Digital Heritage 2013 Conference in Marseille. Our workshop will be Monday, October 28 from 2:00pm - 6:00pm. During this workshop we will be presenting our work so far within the Gabii Goes Digital project. Participants will have the opportunity to participate in a 'mock peer review' through which they will critique the digital content we've created in terms of interface, information content,and integration with the narrative and argument.This exercise will act as a springboard for open discussion, in which participants will define key issues in developing a process for the peer reviewed publication of the kinds of digital 3D models and complex, interactive data archaeological projects like the Gabii Project are now producing. You can read more at: http://sched.co/19fV9w7. If you're attending the conference in Marseille, we hope you can join us at the workshop!
Work in Progress: Integrating model content and basic stratigraphic narrative.
Prof. Hanan Eshel, z”l, my good friend and colleague, sadly passed away a few years ago. Hanan’s widow, Prof. Esti Eshel, who is also a good friend and colleague, has donated a collection of Hanan’s books to the lab, to add to the steadily growing of books that we have in the lab library.
First of all – thanks to Esti!
Second – may this serve as yet another fond and cherished memory of Hanan – a very special, and very sorely missed person! תצרור נשמתו בצרור החיים!
Thanks to Amit who collected the books in Jerusalem and set them up in the lab.
Here is a picture of the book collection in Hanan’s memory in the lab:
Applications are now being accepted from students and volunteers who wish to participate in the 2014 season.The field program will run from June 22 to July 26, 2014.
Detailed information on the application process can be found on the project website. The call has also been published on the AFOB listing of the Archaeological Institute of America.
As I noted earlier, today we had a visit to the Safi lab of a large delegation from the archdiocese of Paris, led by His Eminence, Cardinal André Armand Vingt-Trois Cardinal-Archbishop of Paris. They were visiting BIU as part of a big delegation and toured around various parts of the campus, and participated in an interesting interfaith dialogue on religious leaders in democracies (see here the meeting schedule: Interfaith dialogue meeting
In addition, they visited various showcase points of the university, including the Nanotechnology building, the Brain Science Center, and needless to say, the laboratory of the Tell es-Safi/Gath Project. During their visit in the lab, I showed them different finds from the project, representing different periods, topics and issues. In particular, I stressed how archaeological finds can be used as an educational tool.
It seems that they very much enjoyed the visit! Who knows – perhaps we will have in the coming seasons some volunteers/students who are affiliated with the Catholic Church in France!
And if I may add, this is definitely the first time that we had cardinals, and for that matter, archbishops as well, visit the lab!
Here are some pictures of the visit:
Today we had a busy day. It started with a visit to the Safi lab of a large delegation from the archdiocese of Paris, led by His Eminence, Cardinal André Armand Vingt-Trois Cardinal-Archbishop of Paris. I’ll post on this separately once I have the pictures from the visit.
Then, the opening of the exhibition, “The Rise and Fall of Philistine Gath” was held in the foyer of the main library at BIU. In addition to the exhibition itself and very nice crowd came to the opening, and following the required speeches (BIU president, library director, exhibition committee chair, and yours truly), and a small buffet, the crowd got to see the very nice finds. The exhibit will be in place for 3 weeks, so if you have not yet bought your tickets to fly in from abroad to see the exhibit – you still have a chance! ;-)
Below are some pictures from the opening – I hope to post some more and even a short clip in a later post:
Today, I went again (see about previous visit here) to the conservation lab in the zoology department at the HU to see Gali working on the ivory object – which we now know is a bowl.
Here is a picture of the “excavated” bowl – as it is slowly being “removed” from the surrounding sediment matrix.
While the rim is partially broken (though we have almost all the pieces), the bottom is complete. Unfortunately, asides from a guillouche pattern on the rim, some holes on the rim (apparently to attach a lid) and a small bar handle below the rim, so far, there does not seem to be any other decoration ( :-(…
Liora, our zooarchaeologist, believes that it is of elephant ivory.
As mentioned previously, on this Tuesday (Oct. 22, 2013), a small exhibit of finds from Tell es-Safi/Gath will open in the foyer of the central library at BIU.
Today, they were in the midst of preparations, and here are some pictures – a nice preview of what’s to come:
Do come and visit the exhibit – it should be very nice!
Galit, curator of the exhibition, sent me copies of the new, and very nice exhibition catalogue from the exhibition “The World of the Philistines” in the recently renovated and reopened “Corinne Mamane Museum of Philistine Culture” in Ashdod. The catalogue has great pictures and some great introductory texts about different topics relating to the Philistines.
As the scientific advisor to the catalogue, and one of the contributors, I know you will think I am not very objective about this – but in any case – I think it came out really nice!
And now, I have to get some time to go down to Ashdod and visit the museum… :-)
Omer Sergi just published a very nice article in Tel Aviv on the expansion of the Kingdom of Judah in the 9th cent. BCE. As he particularly stresses the role of Gath in stopping this expansion until Gath is destroyed by Hazael – and the importance of the Kingdom of Gath until this point, I’m particularly fond of the article!
Here are the details:
Sergi, O. 2013 Judah’s Expansion in Historical Context. Tel Aviv 40: 226–46.
Eisenbrauns has just announced the publication of a new book by E. Stern:
Stern, E. 2013. The Material Culture of the Northern Sea Peoples in Israel. Studies in the Archaeology and History of the Levant 5. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns.
This book (which Ephraim asked me to read and comment on an earlier manuscript of it a few years ago) deals with his understanding of the material evidence for “Northern Sea Peoples”, based on finds from Tel Dor and other sites in the northern coast of Israel (not, at least based on what I had seen, on the “Northern Sea Peoples” of the Amuq valley). Prof. Stern gathers together assorted evidence which he believes points to the material evidence of the presence of these groups, especially the “Sikils” which he believed settled at Dor and the surrounding areas.
As you may know, this is currently not the understanding of the early Iron Age levels at Dor by the present excavators (Ayelet Gilboa and Ilan Sharon), but I’m sure the book will contribute to the very interesting debate on the archaeological and historical definition (and very existence) of groups of the so-called “Sea Peoples” – asides from the Philistines.
Check out the new slideshow of pictures from the 2013 season that Chris just put on the “pictures” tab of the blog.
Brings back memories for some – and what to expect for others…
As you may recall, during the 2013 season, we found a very interesting ivory object (bowl? Lid?) in Area A. The object was taken out in the field in a complete block to be “excavated”, conserved and restored by Gali Beiner, in the conservation lab of the zooarchaeological department at HU.
Today, at long last, I brought the box with the ivory object (which had been stored in the interim by the IAA in a controlled environment) to the conservation lab, to begin the process of “excavation” in the lab.
This should take a week or so, and hopefully, I’ll have some more pictures as this moves along, but in the meantime, here are two pictures of the object, just after it was unwrapped and the very beginning of the “excavation”.
Needless to say, when we have a better idea what this thing is – I’ll update on that as well.
Prof. Israel Finkelstein of Tel Aviv University, who does not require an introduction, has just put out a very interesting book:
Finkelstein, I. 2013 The Forgotten Kingdom: The Archaeology and History of Northern Israel. Ancient Near East Monographs 5. Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature.
I assume that this is a translation of a similar book that came out a short while ago in French.
SBL is now offering the book on line in PDF form. I would highly recommend that anyone who is even vaguely interested in any of the topics covered in the volume (archaeology, history, bible, etc.) should download the volume immediately – before whoever put this online changes their mind…
Don’t ask questions – just do it. While it could be that not everyone will agree with everything that is written in the volume – it is TOO important to miss out on this opportunity.
A short, but quite nice article (with a bunch of nice fotos) on the use of technology in archaeological excavations with our fields methods at Tell es-Safi/Gath as example, has appeared on the National Geographic Society Education website.
The article is based on a telephone interview that was conducted with me about a month ago, and with pictures that I sent to them.
Check it out!
As promised yesterday, the online registration for the 2014 season is up and running and all those who want to join our team for the upcoming summer season can now start the process of registering!
Looking forward to seeing you all in the summer for another fascinating season of excitement, fun, discovery and learning!
P.S. Thanks to Chris for setting it up.
Chris has kindly set up the updated countdown clock for the 2014 season at Tell es-Safi/Gath (June 29 – July 25, 2014).
As of today, there are only 265 days to go. The good thing is that every day that goes by is one less to wait for the season!
And here is a picture from the 2013 season – just for fun:
This is a view of a bunch of us in Area A (including Prof. Ami Mazar [in the blue T-shirt, in between me and Louise] who just happened to be visiting that day) looking at the ivory bowl/lid (we still have not seen what it is) as it’s being excavated. Cool!
For all those of you out there who have been waiting to register for the 2014 season of excavations at Tell es-Safi/Gath, the online registration forms will be up and running real soon.
You can already go to the almost completed registration page and download the forms that have to be filled out as part of the registration – so that you can save yourself time with you actually begin filling out the forms.
Remember – June 29th to July 25th, 2014 – those are the dates of the upcoming season!
Be there – or no squares…
By Mike Smith, with comments from the peanut gallery by Angela HusterAfter a rather involved set of phone conversations and emails among various project members trying to establish the frequency of green obsidian at the site during each phase, we realized that half our problem was the we were working with different samples. We had defined the Domestic Context Sample of lots strongly associated with dated houses several years ago, but any analyses that wanted to work with a larger sample were a free-for-all.Based on Mike's previous projects in Morelos, we defined five samples based on their value for the analysis of domestic artifacts and conditions. These run from the Domestic Context Sample, (now called Domestic Sample 1, or DS-1), which consists only of well-dated midden deposits, to DS-5, which is the entire sample of all excavated contexts at the site. In addition there are other samples of lots that make sense for particular analyses or materials. Most of these samples are nested; e.g., all other samples include DS-1, and DS-5 includes all other samples. Samples DS-3 and DS-4 intersect in a non-nesting fashion, however.DS-1 (the Domestic Context Sample). 178 lots.This sample consists of well-dated midden deposits associated with houses. It can be subdivided into domestic components; that is, deposits from a single phase in a single unit. It was designed to provide a robust sample of materials from contexts with abundant artifacts for optimal quantification. This sample is used for:Household comparisons of ceramic type frequencies.· Ceramic type frequencies for the Aguas Celestiales chapterIt is also the source of sub-samples for particular technical analyses, including:Ceramic attribute recording
· Obsidian source samples· Ceramic petrographic samples· Angela’s NAA samplesDS-2 (the Extended Domestic Context Sample). 340 lots.This sample extends the domestic context sample to include other lots dating to the same phases at individual units. Units without representation in the domestic context sample are not included in DS-2. The advantage of a larger sample is offset by the inclusion of contexts such as fill and colluvial overburden whose association with the occupation of a house is less secure. This is used for:· Interhousehold comparisons of rarer items in Angela’s dissertation analyses – ground stone, copper, jewelry, whorls, and moldsDS-3 (the all-Phased sample) 1,146 lots.This sample consists of all lots phased to a particular period. It includes the transitional or uncertain phases (3, 5, and 44*) and phase 1 (pre-Postclassic). This is a much larger sample than DS-1 or DS-2, and its value lies in the fact that it includes the maximal number of lots that can be phased. Many of the lots have not had their ceramics classified; they are phased through stratigraphic position or associations with lots dated from their classified ceramics and/or radiocarbon dates. Its disdvantage is the inclusion of many lots whose direct association with the house occupation of each unit is more tenuous (fill, overburden, etc.). Its primary use is for comparing frequencies of rare artifacts. It is used for:· Rare artifact types by phase for the general projectDS-4 (the Classified Sample) 664 lots.This is the sample of lots whose ceramics have been classified. It has two related disadvantages compared to sample DS-2: many of the lots have not been phased; and many of the lots have only a few sherds. It is not used in any analyses.DS-5 (all Excavated Lots). 1,668 lots.This is the total number of lots that were excavated. It includes many tiny lots from Alex’s soil sampling, lots from architectural excavations, and other small lots whose value for artifact analysis is minimal. It’s primary use is to generate inventories of all excavated artifacts of a given type, irrespective of phasing or quality of context. This is useful for descriptive purposes (i.e., we want to describe all of the figurines, not just the ones that fall into a more restricted sample), but not for making comparisons among units or parts of the site.The following diagram shows the relationship among these samples.If anyone needs to know which samples their data fall into, please contact Angela.
Yael Mahler-Slasky has been kind enough to bring to my attention that in the chapter on the archaeobotanical research at Tell es-Safi/Gath which she (and M. Kislev) contributed to the Safi I volume (Mahler-Slasky, Y., and Kislev, M. 2012 Chapter 27: Preliminary Archaeobotanical Research at Tell es-Safi/Gath: The 1997–2002 Seasons. Pp. 579–88 in Tell es-Safi/Gath I: Report on the 1996–2005 Seasons, ed. A. Maeir. Ägypten und Alten Testament 69. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz) the table summarizing the archaeobotanical finds was accidentally left out.
First of all – mea culpa!
Second of all – here is the relevant table.
Here is something interesting of mine that was just published – take a look!
in the last two days, the 3rd and final meeting of the joint Tiryns/Safi team research grant was held, this time at the site of Tiryns, Greece. This meeting the last of 3 such meetings (see here and here), part of the joint research grant that Prof. Joseph Maran and I received from the GIF. Unfortunately, I could not attend this last meeting, but a very nice representation from the Safi team did participate, including (in alphabetical order): Debbi Cassuto, Brent Davis, Shira Gur Arieh, Louise Hitchcock, Liora Horwitz, Pat Smith and Jo Verducci.
In addition to two days of papers that were given by the members of both teams, Joseph Maran gave a tour of Tiryns on the first day, and of Midea on the second.
See here Louise’s short summary of the meeting:
This week was the third workshop between the Tell es-Safi/Gath and Tiryns teams sponsored by a grant from the German-Israeli Foundation for Scientific Development, held at the site of Tiryns and hosted by Prof. Joseph Maran of the University Heidelberg. The Australian Research Council also made participation by Australian members of the Tell es-Safi team possible. It was an exciting and productive two days where workshop participants heard presentations on a wide array of topics including animal exploitation and consumption, cooking technologies, Iron Age burial practices, new fresco finds at Tiryns, weaving implements and workshops, common uses of ritual items in the Aegean and Levant, and inscribed Aegean jewelry. The highlight of the two-day meeting, however, were tours of the Mycenaean citadels at Midea and Tiryns led by Joseph Maran, which emphasized the experience of space within the citadel and palace, and the engineering and building ingenuity of the Mycenaeans.
Too bad I missed it – but over all it sounds like it was a success – a great way to end the last of the 3 joint meetings of the grant! We have already published several papers resulting from this grant, and we are currently working on a long and very interesting paper which deals with the LB/Iron Age transition with perspectives from the Aegean and Philistia – with some very interesting insights! (more about this when this is fully baked…).
In the past, the suggestion has been raised to compare the Philistine phenomenon to the Vikings. While I would hardly think that they match that closely (if in fact, they are probably quite different), perhaps some overlapping aspects can be seen between the two processes (but this requires a long and drawn out post – perhaps some other time).
But, with this in mind, did the Philistines disappear from Philistia as the Vikings did from Greenland?
Nah – hard to believe…
Since in the last post I mentioned a new study on the etymology of Goliath, see this just appeared paper which discusses of the battle of David and Goliath – and especially the last paragraph, where the two are paralleled to Luke Skywalker defeating the “Death Star“…
Who said biblical studies is a boring topic :-)
Brent Davis (Melbourne) has kindly given a heads up (thanks Brent!) about a recently appeared, and very interesting, article, in which a new etymology of the biblical name Goliath is suggested. Needless to say, as on old Gittite – I was delighted to read it!
The article is entitled:
M. V. Pons. 2012. The Etymology of Goliath in the Light of Carian PN WLJAT/WLIAT: A new proposal. Kadmos 51: 143-164.
The author suggests that the origin of the name Goliath is not to be found in the commonly suggested Lydian Alyattes (as we already argued in our 2008 article on the ALWT/WLT inscription from Safi), but rather should be seen as being related to a Carian personal name (PN). While I don’t agree fully with some of what is written in the study, it is very interesting and important, since it once again stresses the possible Anatolian connections of facets of the non-local components of the Philistine culture.
My good friend and colleague, Adrian Boas (Univ. of Haifa) has informed me of the new website that was recently put up for his project, the “Montfort Castle Project“. Do check it out – very nice – with lots of interesting photos, info, etc.
BTW – Adrian was a co-director of the Tell es-Safi/Gath project in the first few seasons, when we still had hopes that we would be able to excavate substantial parts of the Crusader Period “Blanche Garde” fortress. Even though in recent years we have managed to excavate a small corner of it – we had originally hoped to excavate substantial parts of it.
Chag Sameach (happy sukkot)
Check out ASOR’s announcement for the annual Sean William Dever Fellowship.
If you are in the area go listen to Matt’s lecture “Death, Burial, and the Ancestral Narratives of the Book of Kings” on Monday, September 23 at 7:00 pm . Follow the link to see some other archaeological lectures at Wheaton College.
In the last decade or so, the role of feasting in ancient societies has been extensively studied by many archaeologists covering various regions, periods and cultures. Without a doubt, in ancient societies (and in Modern ones as well…) feasting plays an important role in social cohesion, social hierarchy, food distribution, and various other aspects. Much has been written about this and in fact in recent years, more attention has been placed on this topic in the study of the ancient Levant, including several studies which have dealt with this topic on Iron Age finds (such as yours truly and Louise Hitchcock relating to the Philistines [for example, see here]; possible evidence of this at Ramat Rachel; suggested hints to this in the Samaria ostraca; etc.).
While I have been aware of the central importance of feasting in the archaeological record (having read and written about this topic in the past), seeing an actual example of feasting in a society that is much more traditional than the ones that you are usually exposed to, really stressed the major roles that such activities played in ancient societies.
Just such an opportunity arose when I had the honor to visit the village of Teptep, in the Finisterre Mt. Range in NW Papua New Guinea. During our visit, we had the honor of being invited by the local community who hosted us, for the inauguration a new church/synagogue (this is a Christian group which strongly identifies with Judaism…), and among other things, to mark this event, they had a feast, to which the entire village of Teptep was invited, as well as dignitaries and visitors from villages from the surrounding region.
Here is a picture of Pastor Shlomo and myself with a bunch of kids (and a couple of adults) from the village of Teptep, who are wearing traditional attire as part of the “Singsing” (traditional dance conducted on special occasions) to welcome us to the village.
For the feast itself, there were elaborate preparations. This included digging a pit (a “mumu” pit) which would serve as the pit in which the foods were cooked; making a big fire in which a large pile of stones were heated and then placed in the “mumu” and which actually cooked the food; collecting a large amount of food to be cooked in the “mumu” – including taro, potatoes, pumpkin, sweet potatoes, beans, cabbage, and cauliflower, as well as chicken and lamb (and other foods, such as rice and vegetables which were cooked separately – for people like me…).
The day before, a large rectangular pit was dug, and wood and large stones were collected. In the middle of the night prior to the day of the feast, a large fire was started and into which a large pile of stones was placed. This fire burnt for 3-4 hours, and then, at first light, once the stones had become red hot, they began to place them in the “mumu” pit, which had first been swathed with banana leaves. After the bottom of the pit was covered in hot stones, an additional layer of leaves was put in to cover the stones, and then they commenced placing the various layers of the different types of foods, with additional layers of stones and leaves in between. The last layer of food was the chicken and sheep (this community, as opposed to most people in PNG, does not eat pork, due to their religious beliefs).
The pit was then covered over with various layers of leaves, wood and finally earth, and was then left untouched for several hours.
After the inauguration ceremony, the pit was opened to reveal the cooked food. Following a blessing that Pastor Shlomo performed over the cooked food in the pit, the contents were taken out.
The food was served at two locations:
* The “inner circle” – consisting of the immediate family and congregation leaders, along with dignitaries from villages in the region.
* The “outer circle” – food for the entire village
The first people to get food were the guests (us and then leaders of the various leaders from nearby villages), followed by the leaders of the community and their families, and then friends, etc. At the same time, the rest of the village was given food at another location.
As you can see in the pictures, the quantities of food were quite substantial! This gathering not only provided a very nice and nourishing meal to all the many participants, it was an important social gathering, both for the village, the community and neighboring groups and leaders – and served to strengthen connections in the community, and between the community and other groups.
Very enlightening, interesting – and very honored to have been invited to participate in this special occasion.
Here is a PowerPoint presentation with some pictures from the event – check it out:
P.S. Just to stress how important feasting is in contemporary society, I can mention the old Jewish joke: “Question: How does one define what is behind the Jewish Holidays? Answer: They tried to kill us, we won, let’s eat”… :-)
It seems that the finds from Tell es-Safi/Gath are getting around!
In addition to finds that are exhibited in the renewed galleries of the Israel Museum (mentioned previously here), the recently re-opened Corrine Maman Museum of Philistia and the Philistines in Ashdod (part of the Ashdod Museum of Art), includes a large selection of finds from Tell es-Safi/Gath (as well as other sites in Philistia). Although, unfortunately (due to being abroad), I was not at the official opening and have not yet seen the Ashdod exhibit, I’ve been told that it is VERY nice. As soon as I get a chance to visit the museum – I’ll post something about it.
And now, an additional exhibit is about to be opened – this time in the entrance floor of the Central Library at Bar-Ilan University. As you can see in the flyer below (in Hebrew), the exhibition, entitled “The Rise and Fall of Philistine Gath (Tel Zafit), will officially open on Oct. 22, 2013, and in addition to introductory talks by the President and Rector of BIU (and the chairman of BIU exhibitions), I’ll give a short talk about the exhibit. The exhibit will focus on various aspects of the Philistine culture as seen at Tell es-Safi/Gath, and the downfall of the Philistine site (by Hazael of Aram) and the subsequent brief, Judahite stage. A nice selection of finds from the excavations will be included in the exhibit. While I don’t yet know the length of time that the exhibit will be in place, they usually are around for a few months. So – you are all invited to join us at the opening – and/or visit the exhibit (after Oct. 22).
Be there or be square!
Come check out Itzick’s lecture at Ariel University on Sept. 11, 2013. The lecture is entitled – program for the international conference (click on links for details). The paper is co-authored by team members Amit, Joe and Debi – the lecture is in English.
Wishing you all a happy and healthy Jewish New Year – and following the traditional Jewish New Year blessing – may we be a head and not a tail!And see the relevant illustrations below – both pictures taken in the village of Teptep, in the Finisterre Mountain Range, on the border between the Madang and Morobe provinces, PNG.:-)Aren
As previously mentioned, during my visit to Melbourne, I had the honor to give the Marian Adams Memorial Lecture at the University of Melbourne.
See here the Youtube clip of the lecture – which includes both a video of the talk and the relevant PowerPoint slides:
P.S. It is over an hour long…
Just returned last night from a three week trip: first to Australia (as noted in previous posts) for a few days, and then on for 2 1/2 weeks in Papua New Guinea. The latter is a simply fascinating country, with some of the nicest nature, culture – and people – that I have ever seen.
I saw a lot of cultural facets that are quite relevant for archaeological research, including for the Iron Age and the Philistines, and hope to post about some of this in the future.
Yesterday, it was announced that a 2,700 year-old Hebrew Inscription was found in the City of David – these excavations just so happen to be under the watchful eye of our very own Joe Uziel. Way to go Joe!
See the story here.
Gabii Goes DigitalA new project working to make 3D models a core part of our publication record and to promote their acceptance as basic data within the archaeological community.
We are pleased to announce that the Universities of Arkansas and Michigan have been awarded an NEH ODH Start-Up grant in support of the Gabii Goes Digital: 21st c. Data, 21st. c. Publications project. This project is directed by Fred Limp and Rachel Opitz of the University of Arkansas and Nicola Terrenato of the University of Michigan, and is closely linked to the Gabii Project.
Methodological innovation has always been important at Gabii. Our recording strategy makes extensive use of digital data and 3D technologies. Since 2009, over 500 GB of data have been collected in the form of 3D models of stratigraphic layers and features such as walls, pavements and burials, photographs, surveyed measurements, written descriptions and sketches. Having created this rich digital dataset, we face the challenge of developing effective and innovative ways of publishing it. The Gabii Goes Digital project seeks to address two key challenges our project and others like it are facing: how to develop a process for the peer reviewed publication of these kinds of data, and how to build a community of peer reviewers with the skills and background to confidently evaluate these publications.
You can read more about the new project on the Gabii Goes Digital website.
Another great day in Melbourne! Started with an intense 6 hours with Louise and Brent working on a joint article (on the social and symbolic significance of Philistine writing system(s) and language(s). We had some great breakthroughs during the day! All told, in the last three days Louise and I have moved ahead significantly in 3 different articles that we are jointly publishing – quite a gold standard!
In the evening, I gave a public lecture (the Marian Adams Memorial Lecture) at the University of Melbourne to a large crowd, in which I gave an overview of the excavations at Tell es-Safi/Gath – and from the “feel” of the crowd and their reactions – I think it went very, very well!
We then had a very nice supper at the university club (quite nice).
Since we managed to accomplish so much in the last 3 days, Louise is being generous, and tomorrow she is unchaining me from her office desk and taking me to zoo! :-)
(that is – we are visiting – I’m not being placed in a cage…)
And then, I’m off to PNG!
Here are two pictures, courtesy of Louise and Sarah Klavins, of the lecture – both apparently taken simultaneously from different directions!
Today, my 2nd day in Melbourne was quite nice as well. Not only was the weather great (sunny all day – I brought sunshine from Israel in my suitcase…), I had another very productive day working with Louise. In the last two days, we have moved substantially ahead on 3 different article! Not bad!!!
This afternoon, I gave two lectures. The was a talk on new insights on the Philistines in light of the excavations at Tell es-Safi/Gath, which was presented to a departmental seminar of the Classics and Archaeology dept. Following that, I have a “capstone” lecture to the students of Classics and Archaeology on how one goes about organizing an archaeological expedition – with a lot of personal experiences of mine. Both lectures went very well.
We then went out for a very nice supper with Louise and some friends and colleagues.
All told - a great day!
Here’s a picture of me giving the lecture on the Philistines:
And here I am in the “capstone” lecture:
I arrived in Melbourne this morning (Monday morning) and spent the day working with Louise on several joint articles that we are writing. This evening, we had a really nice get together of about 25 of the Melbourne Safi team (from various seasons) – it was really nice to have this opportunity to get together! Tomorrow, I start giving some lectures – and I’m sure I will see other Safiites as well!
Just wanted to bring everyone's attention to an interesting article about the site of Tel Hazor which some of you may have visited this summer while in Israel. You can find the article on CNN here.
Do you have a favorite picture from this summer, or even past summers, that you would like to share with the entire excavation? Something we haven't already seen? Send one in and we'll post it on the blog. We'll bring a little of the sun and fun of Ashkelon stateside as everyone heads back to school.
The 2013 TeamThe final week of work at Gabii could not be more rewarding! Impressive results were achieved in all departments of the dig, making this a very successful season.
Hut floors emerging in Area F (with students presenting!)Excavation and recording continued with full steam in both areas D and F. Bedrock was finally reached in the north part of Area D, revealing a series of rock-cut features, such as post-holes and sunken floors, belonging to the earliest phase of occupation beneath the Archaic compound. This horizon has been exposed also in the south sector, where the excavators identified more linear cuts and concentrations of ashy layers that sit on top of a natural level. This sequence will be the object of excavation next year.
Cleaning new features in Area FIn Area F, more built structures of the monumental complex emerged below the dumps that covered the back of the lower terrace. These features include a very well-preserved drain made of slabs of tufo, and part of the original pavement of this open space. The continuation of the staircase connecting the upper and lower terraces was also uncovered, totaling 21 steps! On axis with this, another room of the complex has been found, which features in its northeast corner a whole dolium sunken into a cut in the bedrock.
Stepping on a column baseA sondage was excavated in the front part of the building, providing evidence of modifications dating to the Early Imperial period, and exposing tantalizing architecture (including a column base) predating the construction of the building. The west half of the complex will be investigated in 2014.One of the highlights of the week were certainly the presentations given by the students on their work on site. It was incredibly gratifying to see how much they grew as archaeologists in 5 weeks: they described the sequence they excavated as professional diggers. As every year, the end of dig was celebrated with a big lunch offered on site.Looking forward to welcoming new participants and returning students next year.Until then, arrivederci Gabii!
Nic Terrenato leads the final trench tour in Area F
An article appeared today in the Jerusalem Post on the new handheld XRF spectrometer that the project will be receiving, courtesy of the president of Bar-Ilan University, Prof. Moshe Kaveh. Although the article gets a few things mixed up, such as – It’s XRF not XRS, and it’s a “Handheld XRF” and not a “handheld infrared spectrometer” – overall, the article does give a nice feeling of the new in-the-field analytic capabilities that we will have as of next season (the XRF is in the process of being ordered and we should have it within a month or so). Not only will we have the FTIR spectrometer and optical microscopy which we have been using for the last 7-8 years, but now a XRF as well, which provides the ability to identify the composition of many materials at the atomic level.
In addition, these instruments will be set up and used in the project lab at BIU, so we will be able to benefit from these analytic capabilities year round.
UPDATE: See now the nice “plug” on this that appears on the BAS website.
Today, Lawson Younger mentioned in a lecture that he gave the recently published new curse that appears in the Esarhaddon treaty text from Tel Tayinat (recently discussed by J. Lauinger in the Journal of Cuneiform Studies 64 , 87-123):
“May the Queen of Ekron make a worm fall out of your insides“!
Not only a great execration – but very Philistine in character!
P.S. If it would have referred to the Queen of Gath (whoever that is…) – I’m sure it would have mentioned a lizard falling out of your insides – that’s much scarier…
I have received the very nice news that the first volume of the final reports on the excavations at Tell es-Safi/Gath has been selected for the 2013 Biblical Archaeology Society Publication award in the category “Best Scholarly Book on Archaeology”.
This is a very nice recognition of all the hard work and excellent contributions from all the contributors to the volume – all together came out as a first rate publication!
Sincere thanks goes to all project team members who have worked on the project from 1996 (staff, students, volunteers and supporters) whose motivation, hard work and good spirits – enabled this volume to appear!
The award will be shared with the Ashkelon 3 volume – another excellent site report.
23 hours later most of the staff is back home. It was a fun staff week, lots of projects keeping everyone busy as we shut down the compound, cleaned up the lab, prioritized off-season projects and generally unwound from a really great season. And everyone I spoke with was in agreement, it was a great summer! Thanks to all of you who made the season wonderful, productive and exciting!
One last treat left to share. I have a guest post from Harvard Summer School student Emily. Enjoy! And don't forget to check the blog periodically. I'll keep posting news and sundries though with less regularity.
Hey, everyone! I’m Emily from the University of Oregon here in Ashkelon for my second season as a volunteer with the Leon Levy Expedition. Last season I came to the field to see if archaeology was a career that I wanted to pursue, and I immediately knew that I had to come back for more. It has been an interesting mix between new and familiar this season compared to last. I am involved in field archaeology with new people in a different grid, creating a whole new and unique experience. This season I’ve been in Grid 51 with Dr. Birney excavating a mid-late Persian neighborhood which has yielded some impressive finds. There always seems to be some degree of grid competition when it comes to who has moved the most dirt by the end of the season, and this year I think Grid 51 has won by a long shot.
I’ve had the privilege of staying for staff week after the season is over and the rest of the volunteers have left. It has been a dramatic shift from the digging side to the publishing side of field archaeology. Gone are the days of waking up at 4:30 in the morning and putting on partially clean clothes to go play in the dirt. No more wheelbarrow naps during fruit break and scrubbing pottery until your hands have turned into prunes. During staff week, everyone finishes up their bookwork from the season (things like logging artifacts into the computer program, drawing sections, entering data, taking inventory, etc.), sleeps in until 5:30, and eats breakfast at the hotel where we are served scrambled eggs and pastries every day. Loose ends have to be tied up before everyone can leave, and things have to be prepared for next season.
This year has been yet another great experience that I’m sad to see end. I’ve made some great new friends, learned more about myself and what being an archaeologist is all about, all while helping write the history of Ashkelon and the Middle East.
As I mentioned earlier, today we did aerial photos of the excavation areas, using the services of Skyview Inc.
As we were coming up the eastern side of the tell with the balloon, Pascal, who controlled the camera hanging from the balloon, took a great picture of the dramatic sunrise to the east of the site.
We are wrapping up the 2013 season – one of the most productive, interesting and overall great seasons we have had since the project began (in 1996…).
I’ll write up a summary of the main points of this season at a later date – but believe me – it was truly a fantastic season!
Today, we more or less finished all that had to be finished. After the early morning aerial photos, all the various areas were covered over in geotech clothes – to protect the architecture, balks and other features from the winter ravages – and to clearly mark off the end of this season’s excavations. The areas now look like they are ready to hibernate for the winter.
At the same time, all the materials and equipment were packed up – and were either stored in our containers at Revadim, or sent back to Bar-Ilan University. This took several trips back and forth to the university – but it also have some of the team members who had not been in our lab an opportunity to visit our very nice facilities.
I drove up to Jerusalem to deliver the ivory “bowl” (or lid, or whatever) which we had excavated in a “block” last week, to the Israel Antiquities Authority offices in Jerusalem, were it will be kept in a controlled environment until Gali, the conservator can “excavate” it from the block (hopefully in about a month).
Soon, we are going to have the final party – and tonight and tomorrow morning we will be saying our goodbyes – until next year.
I want to thank all the great staff and team members for a superb season. I am blessed and fortunate to be able to work with such a nice and dedicated group of people – and I hope that all of you have enjoyed the season as much as I did.
And as some of the team have already told me – we can start already the countdown for next year – see you all in 2014 – from June 28th to July 25th!
Here’s a picture of Area A – all dressed up for the winter…
This morning we took the aerial photos at the site, using the excellent services of Pascal and Doron from Skyview Inc.
As usual, we set up for a nice group photo before we starting taking aerials of the excavation areas, and this year, we decided to go for a chalice – just like the ones that we have this and in previous seasons.
Here it is:
And here is what a “real” one looks like:
On Sunday, Itzick will be giving a lecture at the 16th annual World Congress of Jewish Studies, being held in Jerusalem. the lecture, “The Late Bronze and Iron Age Remains at Tel Burna”, will be given in a session focusing on the Judean Shephelah. Here is a link and the abstract!
“The late Bronze and Iron Age Remains at Tel Burna – The excavations at Tel Burna revealed a sequence of Iron Age levels, including portions of domestic structures and the summit’s fortifications. In addition a Late Bronze Age IIB building, where several cultic finds have been found. This lecture will focus on the finds from the excavations, and what they teach us about the site’s history. Further considerations on the importance of the site on a regional level and as a border town will be reflected on, in association with the excavation results”
Good luck Itzick!
This week, in 2013, we decided to check this out! Along with the cooperation of the Azekah team, we decided if we can take this letter seriously.
We are happy to announce that the letter is correct! We could not see the beacons of Azekah…
Nevertheless, we did have a lot of fun – and this can be seen in the clip below
P.S. If you need evidence that the Philistines’ culture, socio-political organization, and leadership, is more advanced than that of the Israelites, see the following link for the definitive proof (when compared to the clip above…)
Here is the first installment of pictures (and later videos) of what we were doing this morning:
We dressed up as Philistines (thanks to the costumes from the Ashdod Museum) and paraded to the top of the site. There we set up a fire beacon to signal Azekah, but alas, as the ostracon from Lachish already told us years ago – we could not see their beacon!
In any case, we sacrificed a young child to Patgaiah to help us with the beacon (did not help too much…), and then gave the Philistine hoorah to cheer things up!
Read the whole thing here.
For TMC students coming from California, that kind of experience is a great opportunity to see how Scripture matches in a very real way both the text and the land. By studying the archaeology, they can make the correlations. They can see how the geopolitics that exist in the Bible are reflected in the remains.
“It gives students confidence that this text is the real thing,” McKinny said. “It is a great discipline that ties so many areas together to tell you about the ancient past. Our students have seen how archaeology can affect their understanding of the biblical world.”
For those of you who read Hebrew, or are willing to look at the pictures, an article on this season’s excavations just appeared on the online version of the Israel newspaper “Maariv”. Although not everything written there is 100% accurate – we got some great PR – especially regarding the handheld XRF spectrometer that Prof. Moshe Kaveh, president of Bar-Ilan University, has promised to purchase for the excavation! As of next year, when we will have both the XRF and the Fourier Transform IR spectrometer (the latter which we have already been using for several years) on the excavation, we will have in-the-field analytic capabilities, at the atomic and molecular level, which I believe are unmatched anywhere in the world!
In Area F, the excavation progressed on different fronts simultaneously. In the north section of the lower terrace, a team continued digging the dumps that covered the large corridor at the back of the building, revealing part of a third room to the west. This was probably connected with the staircase joining the lower and upper terraces. Other important features were also uncovered, most notably the foundation trench of the monumental ashlar wall and the original surface of the upper stretch of the road delimiting the complex (this was a via glareata). Excavation of these fills will hopefully provide dating elements.
In the front part of the building, more built features were recorded. Another set of rooms at the level of the main thoroughfare was thus identified.
Activities finally resumed in Area D. The removal of the construction level of the Archaic compound exposed the outlines of preexisting huts, which however are still partially masked by the abandonment layers, including concentrations of burnt adobe. This horizon will be the focus of the excavation in this sector of the dig in the last week.
More votive offerings have been retrieved from the northwest part of the area, seemingly in connection with a U-shaped structure that had been identified in previous years near one of the rooms of the complex (perhaps an altar?).
M. Evans presents a selection of miniature votives to the students
On July 17th, the Project hosted Dr. Peter Rauxloh, MOLA's Director of Technical Solutions, who spent the day with our topo team to learn about our recording methodology, especially the use of photogrammetry.
Dr. Peter Rauxloh (MOLA) with the topo team
Here‘s a short article on the excavations at Tell es-Safi/Gath that appeared on the Christian News Network website.
It was yesterday, true, but as we all know the hotel Internet can be overwhelmed on Saturdays.
It was a quiet day with everyone working on the final reports and catching up on books. Fun stuff.
Today, we will finish closing up the compound and then head off to Jerusalem for a party hosted by the IAA. An easy day to ease us into the last week.
A few small fragments of the ivory “bowl” (we are not completely sure what this object is until it is “excavated” in the conservation lab) was found in the sifting of the sediments from around the bowl. Here you can see me gently brushing a fragment of the rim – to get a better view of the decoration. Needless to say, these fragments were added to the package with the bowl encased in a block and they will be joined to it in the future.
The final photos have been taken. The last few volunteers in the field are working to prep the grids for the winter. In the compound people are working on inventory, bones and registration.
Hard to believe the six weeks are over. Needless to say, for many of us it passed in the blink of an eye. For others, it undoubtedly felt much longer. We'll keep blogging through Wednesday so check back. And then make sure you drop in periodically during the offseason as we continue to update the blog with Ashkelon news. In the next few days we'll also try to do more of a season recap. For now, I leave you will a picture of each grid on the last day of the season. And, in the case of Grid 38, the last day of excavation as the grid, which opened in 1985, is closed for good.
In light of today’s news, I wanted to clarify: supreme efforts are being made at Gath to find evidence of the spittle that David left near the gate of Gath (1 Samuel 21:13)…
Today, we had an exciting day in Area A working on the ivory object, most probably a decorated bowl, that was found in the early Iron Age levels. This object, which was only partially exposed, seems from the initial view to be either a bowl with a decorated rim and bar handle, or perhaps a lid (but other suggestions have been raised as well). Due to its fragile state, we did not expose it completely, but rather brought in a conservator, Gali, from the zoology lab of the Hebrew University, who along with some of the team from Area A, carefully excavated the sediments around the bowl, and then removed it in a “block”, covered in bandages of “plaster or paris”, so that it could be removed in one piece to the lab and there Gali will slowly “excavate” it and conserve it. Hopefully, within the next month or two, when she finishes working on it, I’ll post a picture of it on the blog.
In the meantime, here are some pictures of the meticulous excavation and removal of this very special object:
Sarah and Yotam digging around it and sampling the sediments
Sarah admiring the bowl and Richard taking pictures
Gali and Sarah wrapping the “block” with tin foil and Plaster of Paris
Ron and Gali digging under and turning over the block
Slowly but surely – completely removed and packed away in a box!
Grid 44 is in from the field. Grid 38 is in from the field. Grid 51 is finishing its sweeping. The pottery compound is busy with washing, marking, floating, sorting and all sorts of fun activities.
Yesterday we had our final tell tour (I'm including pictures from 38 and 51) followed by a BBQ in the park. It was a late night (by which I mean a 9:30 bedtime for many of us) but a lot of fun. Tonight we'll have our final, final party with special (meaning really funny) presentations recapping the season's work.
Photos at first light tomorrow and then everything will get put away before the volunteers head home. Crazy to think another season has almost come and gone. One week to go for the staff and then we'll really be all done.
Well, what can I say, it was a great day (again…)!
First of all, we had a whole bunch of visitors. It started with a large group of tour guides who came to the site to hear about what is going on and to dig for a little. Then, the ambassador to the Republic of South Korea, Mr. Ilsoo Kim, paid us a visit, in particular due to the Korean group that is working the site, led by Dr. MiYoung Im. Following that, we had a visit to the site by Prof. Ami Mazar and Prof. Pierre de Miroschedji, who received an extended tour of the site and then came to Revadim to look at some of the finds from this season.
And what about archaeology? We also has a nice share of that!
In Area A, the highlight of the day was the discovery of complete, decorated ivory bowl, from an Iron I context! From what we can see, it is decorated on the lip with holes for attaching the lid.
Here you can see all of us (including, Louise, me, Ami and Pierre, and Sarah who is brushing around it) looking at the bowl in situ:
In Area P, they seem to have reached the bottom of the EB wall, and perhaps there is even some earlier architecture below it.
In Area F, one of the most interesting finds is what seems to be a roof beam in the late 8th cent. destruction level.
In Area A, they found some more vessels in the 9th cent. destruction level, but in addition, found some nice Iron I pottery (including Philistine Bichrome) from the pre-9th cent. BCE level.
In Area E, among other finds, a well preserved room made of mudbricks is being exposed, most probably relating to an earlier phase of the EB III.
All told – great day!
Today we have guest posts from Alex and Laura.
Shalom from Ashkelon, Israel! My name is Laura and I’m a rising sophomore at Harvard University. I haven’t decided what I’m going to major in and ventured here this summer in hope that getting some field experience would help me decide. I’ve always been fasciated by archeology and ancient civilizations and upon discovering this program, I knew I wanted to come. As with many of the other volunteers who have posted on this blog, I didn’t really have a clue what I was getting myself into. I thought small tools like dentists’ picks would be involved and we’d be finding fabulously glamorous relics and entire vessels. Little did I know I’d actually have calluses from pick axing by the end of the first week. And that I’d absolutely love it.
These past six weeks have brought me a greater appreciation of the field of archeology, the excavation process, and all the sweat that’s involved. I was placed in Grid 44, this season’s new excavation area, so I’ve been able to see the process from the very beginning. The first two weeks we pick axed our way through so much dirt, it seemed like we would never get to any architecture. But patience and optimism are a huge part of the field I’ve discovered. Our patience has paid off and this season we’ve made some incredible finds on the tell, such as a mosaic floor, some dog burials, a jasper scarab bead, and a series of drains that make up a larger water system. It’s also the small finds that, while they don’t seem as glamorous, are highly significant in shaping the greater picture of what life was like for people who inhabited the space hundreds, even thousands of years ago. A single shard of pottery can date the construction of a wall and completely change the interpretation of a building. It’s actually happened in our grid a few times.
This season has been incredible and while I haven’t definitively decided on archeology as a major, I’ve definitely enjoyed my time spent here. I’ve become so invested and attached to my grid. I’ve come to love sweeping it and defining the architecture, even feeling wiped at the end of the day only to wake up at four thirty to do it all over again the next day. So I guess this summer wasn’t exactly what I thought it would be, I didn’t see a single dentists’ pick all summer and most days I’d reach up to rub sweat from my face only to smear it with a layer of dirt. But despite these things, and maybe even because of them, it was so much better than anything I could have expected and I’ve loved every second.
Hello. My name is Alexandra. I am a second year graduate student studying under the tutelage of Dr. Heather Walsh-Haney at Florida Gulf Coast University. I am working towards obtaining a Masters in Criminal Forensic Studies with a concentration in Human Identification and Trauma Analysis. I came to Ashkelon with little archaeological experience outside of a few classes I took throughout my academic career, but I had not yet experienced something to this magnitude.
I did not know what to expect upon arrival. I came here thinking this would be a little bit more similar to the tourist Dig for a Day activity I participated in at other sites. Boy, was I wrong! By the end of day one working in Grid 51, I was completely worn out and the sweatiest I have ever been. The following day, tired and sore, I went over to Grid 44. We had to wait until they finished digging with the backhoe before we could start working in our assigned area. From there, we hit the ground running and haven't looked back! Architecture has been popping up since our first week in the grid. Five and a half weeks later, we have uncovered a mosaic floor, a vat that has possibly been used for wine production, complete oil lamps, bone dolls made from animal bones, and many drains. All of these drains in conjunction with the amount of ceramic slag and burnt pottery we have uncovered is painting a picture of our area being the location of an Islamic workshop area that was producing worked bone and ceramics. We may even have a kiln located in the area outside of our 10mx10m grid! Hopefully we will be able to expand this area next season.
Over the past five and a half weeks, not only have a made new friends and learned about archaeological methods, but I have put them into practice and gained respect for those who currently have and are pursuing archeology as a career. Field archeology is hard work! It is physically strenuous and involves extreme dedication and precision in some areas, but the hard manual labor makes the joys of uncovering artifacts even more rewarding. I have caught archeology fever! I am now looking for ways to tweek my current study to focus more on an archaeological aspect the to the forensic anthropology world. I will be back here next season! It is a wonderful feeling to experience something and realize it is about to change your entire world. I can truly see myself working in this field. Who doesn't want to have a little fun and get a little dirty for part of a career!?
Today, although it was the 9th of Ab and some of the team members did not excavate since they were fasting, those that were not fasting did work on site (I’m fasting but went up to the site for a few hours). As I mentioned yesterday, we were visited today by the Australian ambassador to Israel, Mr. Dave Sharma, who came to the site for about 3 hours to see the Australian team members (also the University of Melbourne team, but a few additional Aussies working in other areas as well).
Louise and I gave Dave (and his mother in law who joined him for the day) a tour of the site, and invited him to join us for breakfast as well.
Here’s a group picture of all the Aussies (including two blowup kangaroos) along with me on the right hand side right next to the ambassador.
Following his visit to Tell es-Safi/Gath, Dave went on to visit the Aussie team working at nearby Tel Azekah – who started excavating this week.
It's not over yet! What a fabulous day in the field.
Grid 44 finished excavating today. Tomorrow we will start cleaning in preparation for final photos on Friday. Our dump was visited by the expedition today as we looked for a good place in which to take our group photo. I'm going to include a picture of us milling around for everyone to see and enjoy. See if you can find a familiar face.
Grid 51 is dropping their baulks and the street looks fabulous. I think they are finishing off a few floors and then they'll be in the compound helping with inventory.
Great things happening in Grid 38 where they are finding lots of wonderful things: a complete ivory Pyxis, an ivory "wand" (it looks like a long needle/pin but we'll see what the specialists say) and a piece of jewelry. Everything is from the Late Bronze Age. One thing is for sure, 38 is planning on going out in style.
See the PDF file below which is a very cool 3D representation of the main section of the Area A excavations this year. This image was made by Steve and Yotam by taking several hundred photos of the area from various angles, and then “dumping” them into a cool program which “stitches” them together to create a quite astounding 3D, movable image of the area.
Open up the PDF file below and play around with it with your mouse – you can move the view of the area around in all directions! Pretty cool!
Safi Area A 010713 (1) (note – I think this only will work if you open it up in Adobe Acrobat or other “high end” programs for handling PDFs)
Today was the first digging day of the 3rd week, and we already have some really cool finds from today!
In Area F, they are excavating away in the late 8th cent. BCE destruction level – most probably associated with the conquest of Sennacherib in 701 BCE. At the same time, they are also digging in the 9th cent. BCE Hazael destruction level (as we have in Area D as well). So, if you want to get an archaeological picture of what the destruction of a city looks like (in light of the fact that today is the 9th of Ab – the fast day on which Jews commemorate the destruction of Jerusalem of the first and second temple periods) – we have compelling and at times dramatic evidence of just such a type of event! In addition, there are some very interesting remains of the early Iron Age and the Late Bronze Age in Area F.
In Area P, we continue to work on the impressive EB city wall – and today we definitely have its continuation in both the western and eastern squares in the excavation. Also, in the deep sounding on the outside of the wall – the foundations of the wall go deep down. On the other, inner side of the wall – we continue to find impressive LB remains. In fact, today, in the pottery reading, we seem to have found a fragment of a LB Late Cypriote decorated pithos – unfortunately from a poor context…
Here is Andrew deep inside the sounding that he dug, all by himself, outside of the EB wall:
In Area A they continue to work on the early Iron I levels. In some of the soundings they are finding LB below the Iron I – while in others they are finding EB! Tomorrow, the Australian ambassador will be visiting the site – to say hello to the large Aussie team led by Louise. Louise and her team are already preparing the flags and inflatable kangaroos and wallabies for the visit! And by the way – the South Korean ambassador will be visiting the site on Wednesday!
Also, the archaeological science team, both in A and in E, were busy today analyzing various finds and contexts.
Here is Yotam, Adi, Francesca and Brianna working in the field lab:
In Area E the EB is being further exposed, with some very interesting installations – including one with a very unusual plaster adhering to it.
In Area D we have additional very impressive remains of the Hazael destruction, including an additional chalice (of unusual, large dimensions) as well as further evidence of the impressive architectures of the pre-9th cent. layers.
Here is the large chalice and next to it a jar in the destruction level. Note that this chalice (so far, only the bowl) was found just underneath the two chalices that I mentioned last week.
And here is a picture of Ahuva, Sophie and Barbie, posing next to the finds:
As we do one morning every season, today at the start of the day, the entire team worked for an hour, as a public service, to improve the trails in the Tell es-Safi/Gath National Park.
So, first thing in the morning, after arrival to the site, we divided up the entire team and we fixed up the trail on different parts of the site, both to enable to trail stay in good shape – and to block off access to the summit for motorcycles. Just trying to be friendly and cooperative with the National Nature and Parks Authority…
Just like the forced labor in Roman times… :-)
Here’s a clip of part of the team working on trail, just to the southwest of the summit:
Remember that really amazing street I mentioned in Grid 51? Thanks to Melissa I have a great picture of it today. Later in the week I might even have one with the baulk taken down.
The noon shift has started in Grid 38. I'll follow up with them soon to see how it is going.
In Grid 44 we have uncovered a vat -- larger than a basin but not as big as a pool -- of unknown purpose. What we do know is that it was later put out of use by the construction of a mosaic floor. We also continue to find more sewers/drains. They are seemingly everywhere!
Summer school students are off on a field trip this afternoon. Everyone else, myself included, will be in the pottery compound working furiously to process pottery and get things ready for the end of the season. The fun continues!
We had some Internet trouble yesterday. My apologies. We have officially started the last week. It's hard to believe time has flown by so quickly. Lots of exciting things to report.
In Grid 44 work is winding down. We have removed most of the latest architecture which belongs to the Fatimid/Crusader period and are now working to more fully expose the Byzantine period building which lies underneath. We keep finding fragments of the building's mosaic floor and can now see that the building is much larger than we first thought.
Grid 51 is AMAZING with its street, sidewalk and insula wall with three doorways leading into the interior of that building. It is really a sight to see and I hope to have pictures on Wednesday after it is all cleaned up. They are finishing some floors, drawing sections and preparing for the end of the season.
Not so much in Grid 38 where they are gearing up for doubles starting tomorrow. That means the supervisors, Josh, Wylie, and Joel, will be working 5:00 am - 6:00 pm as they run two shifts of volunteers. Crazy good times! Why you ask? The earliest Philistines, Phase 20B, have arrived with a vengeance and there is quite a lot of work to finish before the end of the season.
Get easy! It's going to be a crazy week!
The pictures today are from Grids 38 and 51.
There was a slight change of strategy this week, due to the inclement weather, and the large volume of water falling from the heavens over our site.
Excavation of the beaten earth surfaces in Area D was stopped and some features were covered up, in order to protect the fragile deposits from erosion. Activities, however, were not halted in Area F, where the supervisors could avail of the idle hands from Area D, with impressive results.
Many visitors and colleagues came to the site this week. A group of architects from the Consulta dei Beni Culturali were hosted by the Project on July 9th. Clementina Panella (University of Rome "La Sapienza"), Daniele Manacorda (University of Rome III), and David S. Potter (University of Michigan) also came to learn about the new discoveries and share their views on the finds.
Anna Gallone shows the state plan of the Area F building
David Potter and Daniele Manacorda on site
Architects from the Consulta dei Beni Culturali visit Gabii
No special posts today which, I suppose, might be a disappointment. I've been very impressed with the quality of the guest posts we have been sharing this season.
It is the last full Saturday for most of the group. Yesterday the grid supervisors walked the tell with co-director Daniel Master and planned the strategy for the last full week of excavation which promises to be jam packed with work and maybe even a new project or two.
As always, the Finds Display was a great celebration out by the pool. Some of our favorite Middle Eastern foods -- pita and hummus, falafel, shwarma, and Moroccan cigars-- were served. There was a fabulous dessert spread and a pleasantly cool evening during which we could enjoy it all.
The night actually began with a fabulous lecture by Harvard professor Michael McCormick who used archaeology, history and genetics to explore a variety of subjects in different historical periods. It was a fascinating lecture full of interesting possibilities.
For the staff, it is a work day as we make sure the books are updated, phase plans are planned, reports are started and baulks are prepared for drawing. At least we get to do it in the comfort of our rooms, with background music provided by the pool or Magic Land, with a good cup of coffee close at hand.
After the last two posts, now an update on some of what happened today in the excavations:
In Area A, work in the early Iron I levels continued. In a complete Iron I room that is being excavated in the north of the area, which has already produced some very interesting finds, a very nice faience scaraboid, with the very commonly used “prenomen” of Thutmosis III (Men-Kheper-ra) was found. Also, the archaeological science has been working hard to define the layers of phytoliths in the area and it seems that there are some clear patterns in these layers – perhaps hinting to the function of Area A in the early Iron Age (perhaps an area where animals were kept).
Here you can see Liam (who found the scarab) and Brent (who first read it) showing off their find!
In Area D, in addition to the day camp that we had, we found some very interesting finds, including what seems to be portions of a fenestrated cultic stand, found right near the two chalices described yesterday and in front of what might be a standing stone (massebah).
Also, Area D, they celebrated the double birthday of Barbie and Mor!
Here’s a preliminary view of the possible fenestrated stand:
In Area E we had some great finds as well. This includes a very nice cluster of carbonized olive pits right in the alleyway – great for dating this feature. We also can now clearly say that the two eastern most squares have clear architecture, and we are now exposing more and more of the earlier EB levels.
Here is Kent photographing (with an IPad) a very interesting EB installation of unclear function:
In Area F, we also had a bunch of nice finds, including a beautiful philistine bichrome sherd with a bird decoration. Also, we have just reached what appears to be the late 8th cent. BCE destruction level – perhaps connected with the 701 BCE campaign of Sennacherib.
Here’s a view of the 8th cent BCE destruction:
And here is a view of the Southwestern Assemblies of God University team (led by Eric Welch) with the beautiful bichrome Philistine sherd with the bird decoration – Joseph – who found the “bird” is holding it on the right:
In Area P, the city wall continues to be exposed and it appears now, almost without a doubt that it is first built in the EB, and then reused in the LB. Also, thanks to Brian Stachowski’s important insight – we can probably connect this wall in Area P, and an additional section in Area F – with the city wall that was discovered by Bliss and Macalister way back in 1899!
Here’s a view of the wall from within the deep probe that Andrew is digging in the fill layers outside of the wall in Area P:
Cool Day! Half of the season is over – and as I told the team last night at the end of the week party – the results so far have been so good that if we stopped digging today, we could say that we had an astoundingly successful season!
Today, Friday, quite a few friends and colleagues came with their kids to spend a few hours at the dig. As usual, we put them all in Area D, and Amit and his team managed to find them all some work – in areas in which we had sufficient control of what was being done (and not being done…).
See here the clip of the area with all the kids. We might be able to open a day camp – and make some money on this venture…
In light of the recent heated discussions on the use of tractors and backhoes in archaeological excavations, a video clip in which there is clear evidence of the use of a tractor in the excavations in Area F has been passed on to us! Shock horror!
See for yourself the incrimination evidence!
Today we have a guest post from Harvard Summer School student Christian. Enjoy!
My name is Christian and I am part of the Harvard Summer School program in Ashkelon. I am a rising junior studying business at Boston College in the Carroll School of Management with minors in French and International Studies. It might be a little confusing to you why a student of business would travel halfway around the world to be involved in an archeology dig but I assure you there is a reason. I am about to start a minor at Boston College in International Studies with a concentration in the Middle East and North Africa. This region entices me in way that I cannot yet fully explain. I always find myself reading, watching, or talking about this region via ancient texts, news, or just everyday conversation. In order to get a basis of this region I know that I must learn the history, and wow what an amazing history this region has.
I didn’t have any experience in archeology before this expedition and I thought I had an idea of what I was getting myself into. My presumptions were wrong, but in a good way. I thought archeology was a little more laid back, slower process using small tools to articulate ancient surfaces and treasure. This is of course true at times, but this careful process of articulating fragile items that are thousands of years old is supplemented with a fast paced analysis of architecture and excavation of countless potsherds mixed in floor material. If you are wondering what this means, lets just say if you went through a full session of excavation you would fall asleep on the one minute bus ride back to the hotel. It is my fifth week here digging in Grid 51 (square 75). For those of you not familiar with this, it is a street in the middle of the city used throughout multiple time periods. Currently, we are nearing the end of phase 7 dating back to the fifth century BCE during the early Persian period, or in other words we have moved a ton of dirt. Fortunately this year, we have come up with some extraordinary finds ranging from a lion head hilt carved in ivory, dog burials, a jasper scarab, endless amounts of pottery, sheep/goat bones, a rams’ horn, and plenty of architecture. It is hard to describe the relief and joy of these finds, but once you realize what archeologist go through to bring history’s mysteries to life, you will understand.
I have grown so much respect for the field of archaeology. Although I am not sure if archeology will be the field I study for the rest of my life (not counting it out, I will let my curiosity lead me), it will definitely be a part of it. Archaeology has opened my eyes to a diverse history that affects modern times. It is my view, probably many others’ as well, that in order to understand the present, the past can tell you a story. Waking up a 4:30 am might sound crazy, and it still does to me, but this has been an experience of a lifetime. The only way we will learn more about our past is through dedication and time. This dig has allowed me to see another side of history, history that many just read in textbooks, look at pictures, or just talk about. Ancient civilizations literally come before your eyes. Most people learn history through books, archeologists put themselves in history’s shoes and live it.
What can I say – things are going well!
Today, we had some very great finds all around. This includes:
1) What seems to be more and more that the city wall in Area P was founded in the EB (and it is getting deeper and deeper), but it was reused extensively in the LB.
2) In Area F, we have nice evidence of the 8th and 10th cent in Upper F, while in Lower F there is a great stratigraphic and architectural sequence of the Iron I and LB – which might yet go down to the MB – all right inside the city wall.
3) In Area E we appear to have solid architectural remains in the two news squares on the eastern side of the area – which is great, since we were originally concerned that these areas might have eroded away with the slope.
4) In Area A, there were quite a few nice finds today, of which we can note a very beautiful faience amulet in the shape a baboon, a depiction of the Egyptian god Thot, as well as a full profile of an Iron I bowl.
5) In Area D, we excavated a group of Iron IIA vessels in the “Hazael” destruction, including a couple of chalices and other vessels. In addition, we found a very nice, well preserved tabun. Additional evidence of metal working was found and Adi worked on trying to define these activities.
We had two very nice visits. In the morning, Prof. Moshe Kaveh, present president of BIU came to the site with 3 of his grandchildren and they spent the day excavating with us. They have already been at the site several times before, and as always – they had a great time!
Later during the day we were also visited by Prof. Daniel Hershkowitz, former Minister of Science, who will be the next president of BIU – who came with his family as well – and they also had a great time!
Here are some pictures from the day
Here is Kate with the faience figurine
Here are the vessels in Area D and also MiYoung with a T-shirt with a similar vessel…
Here is Prof. Kaveh with Adi and I – as we explain about the tabun
And finally, here is Prof. Kaveh and his grandkids, and yours truly!
Today we have a special blog post from Harvard Summer School student Jeff. Enjoy!
I can still remember the second day of the dig and seeing the birth of Grid 44. I stood with Tracy and watched as the bulldozer began to screech across stone, and I could almost sense the excitement in the air. Tracy explained to me that the expedition had been trying to gain access to this sight for years and, only recently gained permission. Looking around I saw the breath taking, waterfront view and camping locations all around me. This location had a special feel to it. I closed my eyes and the sea breeze took me back through the centuries and I could feel the energy of this space. I was about to peel back the pages of time and come face to face with the cultures that called this grid home.
It would be an understatement to say that grid 44 has been a productive location in just a short five weeks. Massive architecture crowds the entire grid and the artifact finds have been numerous and quality. I’ll focus in on a few things that I have worked on during the dig to help paint a picture of just what this sought after soil has to offer, though I wish could cover it all. One of my main projects I have been working on is a large drainage pit in the north west portion of the grid. This pit lies at the low point of a huge water installation that characterizes our grid. This installation was only discovered after articulating and removing a layer of rubble fill that covered almost all of the grid after the agricultural layer of soil (lets just say the wheel barrow and pick ax became good friends of mine). From the north an open air drain flows south towards the pit. From the south a covered drain flows north towards the pit with a stone line basin at its high point, and a crusader cross carved into the stone. From the east yet another open air drain flows towards this low lying pit. With all of this attention on this point, I chose to investigate the pit and “dive in”...literally I would find out. I followed a stone lining of pit down to a depth of almost six feet. It was a lonely, dark place but exciting at the same time. After days in the pit I found myself almost understanding the language of mosquitoes as they discussed how they would attack me. At its clay bottom I discovered an extension/tunnel leading off to the north, exactly under one of the open air drains on the surface. I discovered bone and pottery ranging from the Roman period all the way to the crusader age. The pits discovery in conjunction with large amounts of slag found in the grid leads us to believe that the water installation might be used for industrial pottery production. While it was damp and dark, I must say I will never forget my pit and my mosquito brethren who got me through the long dig days.
Secondly, our digging has amazingly helped us to uncover the possibly purpose of most of grid 44. We have, as I stated before, discovered a lot of pottery slag and mis-fired pottery. There have also been many discoveries of isolated burning spots. When pieced together with the idea of a huge water installation, the finds point to pottery production. We hope to find a large kiln with future excavation. Worked bone has been the other find that has popped up across the grid. Everything from bone combs to bone dolls (looks like a pre cursor to Gumby) have been found. Worked bone was one of the local industries of Ashkelon and we think we have discovered a workshop of some sort. Both of these attributes leads us to believe we have found a work shop area in grid 44.
Looking back on the last five weeks truly amazes me. I look at the balks and the massive grid 44 mountain of dirt outside the fence and stand in awe of the what we have accomplished. From soil, to rubble fill, to actual architecture; the journey was long (especially when you start at 5 AM) but well worth it. I can only hope that the work that we did this year ensures many more years of digging in this beautiful location. There is a reason why so many campers and picnickers flock to this location. Who doesn’t love the sea view and ocean breezes, however just below the soil lies a truly amazing story waiting to be uncovered. So to next years diggers: bring your pick axes, trowels, gufas, and of course your almighty brushes and delve deeper into what Grid 44 has to offer.
Oh Baby – that’s sums it up! :-)
This morning, with all the news about the sphinx from Hazor and the inscription from Jerusalem, we were all feeling a bit unhappy…..
…. but not for long!
As often has happened in the past, Amit and the Area D team came to rescue of despondent mood, and found some cool stuff!
So what the story:
In Area D, as you all know, we have a very impressive late 9th cent. BCE destruction. We clearly see that the late Iron IIA city included a large lower city during this period, making Gath one of the largest, if not THE largest site in the Land of Israel at the time (ca. 45-50 hectare). What was not clear, save for hints here and there, whether this lower city existed in earlier stages.
Well today, we seem to have the answer, and in spades!
It started out with some very nice architectural features, clearly earlier than the late Iron IIA stratum that started to appear in the last few days, along with typical late Iron I/early Iron IIA pottery.
But today, we definitely had the clincher. Right next to the main wall of this earlier phase, we found what can only be described as astounding – and beautiful group of vessels – bowls, juglets – apparently votive, and to top it all, with a perfectly complete Triton shell! The pottery seems to date to the late Iron I (more or less comparable to Qasile, Stratum X).
The Triton is very interesting. First of all, an additional one was found in the Qasile X temple – as well as at Hazor and Qadesh Barnea. The Triton is very well-known in the Aegean world as an important cultic symbol, found in various cultic and symbolic contexts (both real ones and various imitations other materials) as well as being a common motif on the decoration of pottery and other objects. As already noted regarding the Qasile Triton shell, this may be yet another connection between the Philistine culture and the Aegean world.
Here are some great pictures of Amit’s team (Amit,
Mor, Maria, Miriam, Eliraz and MiYoung) documenting and taking out the vessels:
Needless to say, other areas had some great finds today – but I believe these are the story for the day!
Cool day and very cool finds!