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We’d also like to use this opportunity to remind you that we are rapidly approaching this summer’s excavation season! Here is the application – don’t miss your opportunity to take part in the next cool discovery
The past two years have seen the publication of several articles, book chapters, and a dissertation related to the project. If you would like a copy, please contact me or the authors. (If you've written something on the project and I missed it, please let me know!)
Huster, Angela C.
2018 Regional-Level Exchange in Postclassic Central Mexico. Journal of Anthropological Archaeology 50: 40-53.
This article summarizes Middle and Late Postclassic trade patterns in ceramics in the Basin of Mexico, Morelos, and Toluca Valley, using data from Calixtlahuaca and several other published projects. It evaluates three hypotheses for the origins of the Postclassic market system and finds both bottom-up and top-down processes played roles, but that that the market system was not a product of the Aztec Empire.
Huster, Angela C.
2016The Effects of Aztec Conquest on Provincial Commoner Households at Calixtlahuaca, Mexico. Doctoral Dissertation, School of Human Evolution and Social Change, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ.
An evaluation of Aztec rulership strategies, using Calixtlahuaca as a case study. Includes trade, craft production, household wealth, and identity based on domestic ritual and food preparation.
Manin, Aurélie, Raphaël Cornette and Christine Lefèvre
2016Sexual dimorphism among Mesoamerican turkeys: a key for understanding past husbandry. Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports 10:526-533.
This paper is an analysis of turkey bones from multiple Classic and Postclassic sites in Western Mesoamerica, including Calixtlahuaca. It shows that Mesoamerican turkey flocks were heavily skewed toward female birds, which is consistent with flocks managed for a mix of egg and meat production.
Manin, Aurélie and Christine Lefèvre
2016The use of animals in Northern Mesoamerica, between the Classic and the Conquest (200-1521 AD). An attempt at regional synthesis on central Mexico. Anthropozoologica 51(2):127-147.
This paper is an analysis of faunal material from multiple Classic and Postclassic sites in Western Mesoamerica, including Calixtlahuaca. Calixtlahuaca shows a relatively heavy reliance on dog, and somewhat less on hunted on garden-hunted species.
2016Aztec Provinces of the Central Highlands.In The Oxford Handbook of the Aztecs, edited by D. L. Nichols and E. Rodríguez-Alegría, pp. 463-472. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
An overview of the archaeological and ethnohistorical evidence for Aztec rule in Central Mexico, using Calixtlahuaca as a case study.
Smith, Michael E.
2016Aztec Urbanism: Cities and Towns. In The Oxford Handbook of the Aztecs, edited by D. L. Nichols and E. Rodríguez-Alegría, pp. 201-218. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
An overview of organization, form, population, and common features of Aztec cities, including Calixtlahuaca.
Umberger, Emily and Casandra Hernández Fahan
2017Matlatzinco Before the Aztecs: José García Payón and the Sculptural Corpus of Calixtlahuaca. Ancient Mesoamerica28(1):1-19.
This work summarizes Emily, Casandra and Maëlle’s work on the stone sculptures from the Garcia Payón excavations at Calixtlahuaca. While the best-known sculptures from the site are Aztec-style pieces, there are also a large number of pieces in a local Matlatzinca style, which are described for the first time in this article.
Dr. Leeor Gottlieb, RIAB Center member, is the organizer of a very interesting international conference “Biblical Exegesis Through the Ages”, which will be held at Bar-Ilan University, on May 9-10, 2018. The conference will be held under the auspices of the Faculty of Jewish Studies of BIU, the Israel Society for Biblical Research, the RIAB Minerva Center, and the Zalman Shamir Dept. of Bible at BIU.
Last Thursday (March 15, 2018), the annual “Young Scholars’ Conference”, of the Martin (Szusz) Department of Land of Israel Studies and Archaeology of Bar-Ilan University, took place.
In this conference, MA and PhD students from the department present lectures on their research. It was a very interesting (and well organized) day (Shira and Michal were the organizers), and three of the Safi team members gave papers:
Nati spoke about the ethnic identity of the Philistine temple at Nahal Patish
Vanessa spoke about understanding Iron Age iron workshops
Maria spoke about the use of astragali bones in the Iron Age
While the pottery of the West Settlement has been buffeted by millennia of wind and water (from the wadi that runs through the site), much has been recovered from our recent excavations. This year, we were able to build on the progress made last year by Egyptian interns Aisha Mohamed Montaser and Hussein Fawzi Zaki, with the expert assistance of Pamela Rose. Using the corpus of pottery fabrics and forms developed by Pamela at Amarna, we are now tackling the substantial number of still-to-be-analyzed pottery groups.
A collection of sherds from the West Settlement
From each context (living surfaces, trash pits and other features) all pottery is collected and bagged. The first step is to lay out each group and divide the sherds into the two basic clay types: Nile silt and Marl clay (clay mined from desert sources). These are then divided between those from open forms (such as bowls), those from closed forms (jars, amphorae), and non-containers such as stands or lids. Each group is then sorted by surface treatment. Diagnostic sherds (rims, bases, handles, etc.) are counted and set aside for further analysis, comparison to the Amarna corpus, and in some cases for drawing. The body sherds, if they cannot be associated with a diagnostic form, are recorded and disposed of at a set location on site.
At this preliminary stage, it appears that the majority of the pottery is made of Nile silt and includes bowls and dishes of all sizes and medium-sized jars. Only a small percentage are Marl clay sherds, usually from large amphorae. Some of the bowls, especially the large ones, show indications of burning and were probably used as braziers, while smaller dishes were sometimes used as lamps. Each group collected usually includes a few pieces of the beautiful blue-painted decorated pottery that is characteristic of the late 18th Dynasty and particularly of the reigns of Amenhotep III and the Amarna period.
Left: Body and rim sherds from a blue-painted vessel found in the West Settlement. Right: Blue-painted vessel from The Met’s earlier excavations at Malqata (Rogers Fund, 1911, 11.215.462)
The shapes and wares analyzed so far support the interpretation of this site as a settlement area, where non-elite inhabitants of the complex were living. The predominance of dishes, bowls and jars may show that they were used for the consumption of food prepared elsewhere at Malqata. The large Marl clay sherds mixed with a few imported types from elsewhere in the Levant come from wine and oil amphorae which would have been stored and consumed in areas like the Palace. These large sturdy sherds may then have been reused in the West Settlement as leveling and filling material.
Just received my copy (as I wrote a “back cover blurb”) of Jeff Emanuel’s excellent new book, in which he examines the LB/early Iron I context of the “Second Cretan Lie” from Homer’s Odyssey. In it he discusses the context of the raiding activities and places it within the context of the Sea Peoples’ activities during the LB/Iron I transition. I highly recommend the book!
The full title is:
Emanuel, J. P. 2017 Black Ship and Sea Raiders: The Late Bronze and Early Iron Age Context of Odysseus’ Second Cretan Lie. Lanham, MA: Lexington Books.
The just published issue of Biblical Archaeology Review (BAR) is dedicated to the honor of Hershel Shanks, the founding editor of BAR. In it, there is a series of short appreciations of Hershel, written by many, including some of the leading archaeologists in the field.
See here a PDF of the various appreciations. I’m on page 59:
Hitchcock, L. A., and Maeir, A. M. 2017. Hesperos and Phosphoros: How Research on Aegean-Eastern Interactions Can Inform Studies of the West. Pp. 253–60 in Hesperos: The Aegean Seen from the West, eds. M. Fotiadis, R. Laffineur, Y. Lolos and A. Vlachopoulos. Aegaeum 41. Leuven: Peeters.
The paper deals with: the recursive extent of influence between the Aegean interactions with neighboring regions remains an area of investigation that continues to generate enthusiastic scholarly interest and lively debate. Here, we outline the importance of current theoretical perspectives on Aegean interaction with the East (particularly Philistia and Cyprus), which may be conceptually helpful to the study of similar interactions with central and western Europe. We also draw on a couple of very interesting examples from the conference to illustrate our positions. The archaeological, historical, and anthropological approaches we touch upon include gift exchange, entanglement, transculturalism, transnationalism, and piracy as a model of limited migration.
Reports are out on a very interesting find from Jerusalem – an Iron Age IIB bulla (clay sealing) mentioning a person by the name of Isaiah, which the excavator (Dr. Eilat Mazar) is suggesting as possibly being the well-known biblical prophet of that name!
One of the priorities for this season at the King’s Palace at Malqata was to document, protect and interpret the one palace stairs that remains. Four palace staircases had been identified when the Metropolitan Museum’s excavations concluded in 1911, two of which had been recorded previously by Robb DePeyster Tytus and Percy Newberry during their 1901-1903 excavations.
The two staircases recorded by Tytus are highlighted in yellow. The one at the right is still partially preserved today. Detail of the palace plan published by Tytus in his preliminary report on the excavations in 1903. In this plan, south is at the top.
Only one of the staircases documented by the Metropolitan Museum is still visible today and that one is in an important interpretive area just north of the main central courtyard. Undoubtedly there were other stairways and ramps to connect various parts of the palace but the preserved staircase is apparently the only one that clearly provided access to the second level of the main palace area.
Model of a house with stairs leading to the roof. Gift of the Egyptian Research Account and the British School of Archaeology in Egypt, 1907 (07.231.11).
The remains of this staircase consist of what I assume is the first step of four that were documented on the early site plans along with three parallel mud brick walls that formed the stair well. Both the steps and the adjacent mud brick walls were shown by Tytus with a flight of stairs on the west ascending to the south and the parallel flight of stairs on the east ascending to the north (see arrows on the plan above). The remaining mud brick walls and step (below) support this interpretation.
Facing south: the stair well of the remaining staircase with preserved step; and a plan of the staircase (in yellow) made by the Museum’s excavators in 1911.
Okay, so we have one step made of mud bricks which are 17 cm long by 35 cm wide by 10 cm high, and the remains of three parallel existing mud brick walls 5.7 meters long that define approximately the overall width of the stairs. That’s a start, but what about the height of the riser, or step, and what about the width of the tread?
We can start by measuring the steps as recorded in the 1911 plan (above) and interpreting the width of the tread using the map’s graphic scale. This results in a tread of somewhere between 35 and 50 cm. This is quite a large range but the drawing that we are measuring was produced at a scale of 1 to 200 and, at that scale, the width of a line on the drawing could translate to several centimeters. There were three other avenues of research we pursued to more clearly define the stair details.
The first was to look at other examples of stairs that are contemporary and are also part of Malqata. I reviewed the documentation of several stairs at the site of Kom el Samak located just south of the palace site. The relevant structure was a desert shrine excavated by Waseda University in 1974. There were several monumental stepped ramps, the gradient of which was too flat to fit in the allowable space at the palace. Another stairwat appeared more functional with treads of 43 cm and a riser of 11 cm. We also looked at stairs at the Amun Temple located approximately 300 meters north of the palace with approximately the same tread and riser as the Kom el Samak stairs.
Another important consideration and one that would help establish the staircase details was to calculate the number of steps and the height of the steps that could reach a second level. Based on architectural modeling done at Amarna and other sites. I assumed that the height necessary to reach the second level would be somewhere between 3.5 and 4 meters which would include the thickness of a roof or ceiling system. If I used the step height of 11 cm and a tread width of 43 cm, the maximum height of each flight would be 1 meter and a total height of 2 meters, clearly not enough. To achieve a steeper stairway that could reach the appropriate height, we can increase the height of the step or decrease the width of the tread, or a combination of both. Increasing the height of a step to 15 cm, keeping the same tread width and assuming a 1 meter landing between flights of stairs we can gain approximately 3.6 meters or 12 feet.
Continuing our research, we communicated directly with Barry Kemp on the staircases at Amarna. Previously I had reviewed his book on Amarna but found it didn’t have enough specific detail about stairs. However, we contacted Kemp directly and he shared several important details. “Staircases at Amarna were normally built from mud bricks of standard size laid on their long edge. Thus, if the width of the bricks was around 16 cm, then the steps or treads would have been about the same height…”
Talatat blocks from a temple of Amenhotep IV (Akhenaten), discovered at Karnak Temple and included as part of a large reconstructed wall on display in the Luxor Museum.
Incorporating this important information into our design process would result in step height of 17 cm, as our remaining step consisted consists of bricks that are 17 cm wide. With an assumption that the second level would be approximately 3.6 to 4 meters higher than the first, 22 to 24 steps would be required. Assuming a landing of 1 meter, we divide the 4.7 meters by 11 or 12 steps for one flight and arrive at a tread width of 40-44 cm. Depending on the number of steps, the height reached by the stairs would be approximately 3.7 to 4.1 meters. The thickness of mortar and the variation in brick sizes could alter the actual number of steps to a minor degree. Of course we can never know the specific dimensions of the staircase, except the height of the steps, because all other information has been lost. However, this solution is logical as it incorporates the existing physical evidence, the documentation of the early Malqata excavations, and knowledge of normal construction practices of the period.
After the walls were capped, we laid out two additional steps to indicate the possible configuration of the lower stairway. The preserved step has been covered with sand.
Our next step was to construct a full size model of several stairs. We hope in the future to construct a partial staircase of four or five steps to show the general characteristics of a Malqata Palace stairway that is a considered response to the existing original conditions, to the earlier documentation at Malqata, to examples at similar sites and to traditional historic stair design.
In this paper, we propose an alternative analytical method for identifying vessel shaping techniques at the mesoscopic scale to complement current micro and macro methods in ceramic analysis. We demonstrate how this simple and low cost method permits clear and rapid identification of the signatures indicative of different pottery shaping techniques. The datasets that are generated using this method provide a new perspective on vessel structure for characterising neglected stages of the chaîne opératoire, with the analytical potential to shed further light on economic life, learning frameworks, and group identities. Material from the Early Bronze Age III of Tell eṣ-Ṣâfi/Gath, Israel are used to demonstrate the utility of the method on a site assemblage. We identify different combinations of coiling techniques used to make different vessel types and propose that potters are specialising in the production of specific parts of the repertoire.
The full title is:
Ross, J., Fowler, K., Shai, I., Greenfield, H. J., and Maeir, A. M. 2018. A Scanning Method for the Identification of Pottery Forming Techniques at the Mesoscopic Scale: A Pilot Study in the Manufacture of Early Bronze Age III Holemouth Jars and Platters from Tell es-Safi/Gath. Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports 18: 551–61.
The full schedule for the upcoming conference on “Priests and Priesthood in the Near East: Social, Intellectual and Economic Aspects” is available (HT Jack Sasson).
This very interesting meeting (at which I’m also giving a paper), will be held at Tel Aviv University on Monday-Wednesday, March 19th-21st, 2018.
Here is the schedule:
Priests and Priesthood in the Near East: Social, Intellectual and Economic Aspects
Tel Aviv University, 19 – 21 March 2018
Monday, March 19
Bnei Zion Hall, Beit Hatfutsot – The Museum of the Jewish People 09:30 – 10:00 Gathering 10:00 – 10:15 Greetings and opening remarks
Opening Address: Recent Discoveries from Ur / Tell Muqayyar (10:15 – 11:00)
Priests of Ur in the Old Babylonian Period: A Reappraisal in the Light
of the Discoveries at Ur / Tell Muqayyar in 2017
Dominique Charpin (Collège de France)
Keynote Session I: Origins of Near Eastern Priesthood (11:00 – 12:30)
Close to the Ruler and to the Gods: The Cultic Duties of the Cupbearer
and the Role of Priestesses and Priests in Early Dynastic Mesopotamia
Walther Sallaberger (LMU, Munich)
Babylonian Priesthood during the Third Millennium BCE: Between Sacred
Piotr Steinkeller (Harvard University)
12:30 – 14:00 Reception
Gilman Building, Room 282
Priestly Identity in Mesopotamian Art and Material Culture (14:00 – 15:00)
Fashioning the Priesthood’s Identities in 3rd Millennium Mesopotamia
Through Objects and Images
Christina Tsouparopoulou (Cambridge University)
Identity Through Appearance: Babylonian Priestly Clothing
Louise Quillien (EPHE, Paris)
Biblical Priests between Text and Context (15:00 – 16:00)
“The priests, the Levites, and all the tribe of Levi, shall have no
part nor inheritance with Israel” (Deut 18:1): Is There Archaeological
Evidence of Priests and Priesthood in Iron Age Israel and Judah?
Aren Maeir (Bar Ilan University)
“Is there a Priest in the House?”: Identifying Jewish Priests
(Kohanim) in the Archaeology of Roman Judaea/Palaestina
Yonatan Adler (Ariel University)
16:00 – 16:30 Coffee Break
Keynote Session II: New Perspectives on Near Eastern Priesthood (16:30 – 18:00)
Priests in the City, Priests in the Kingdom: Discourse and Social
Change in the Babylonian Chronicles
Caroline Waerzeggers (Leiden University)
Near Eastern Priests: A Graeco-Roman perspective
Julietta Steinhauer (University College London)
Tuesday, March 20
Gilman Building, Room 496
Priesthood Identity in City-State and Empire (09:30 – 12:00)
Kings, Priests, and Power in the Neo-Assyrian Period
Shana Zaia (University of Helsinki)
In the Shadow of Oannes: Priesthood, Scholarship and Politics in
Kathryn Stevens (Durham University)
10:30 – 11:00 Coffee Break
The Two Wings of a Bird: Buddhism and the State in Early Medieval Japan
Mikael Adolphson (Cambridge University)
Altered by devotion (bhakti): Kings and Brahmins, Royal Courts and
Temples in Second Millennium South India
Ilanit Loewy-Schacham (Tel Aviv University)
12:00 – 13:30 Lunch Break
Social and Cultic Geographies (13:30 – 15:00)
Priests on the Move: Migrations of Priestly Families in First
Paul-Alain Beaulieu (University of Toronto)
Lower-ranking Priests: The Reed Workers from Borsippa
Kathleen Abraham (KU Leuven)
Geographies of Expertise and Entitlement: Brahman Priestly Migrations
in India Over the Longue Duree
Polly O’Hanlon (University of Oxford)
15:00 – 15:30 Coffee Break
Ethnic and Social Markers of Priesthood (15:30 – 16:30)
The Cults of Old Babylonian Susiana within its Socio-economic and
Ran Zadok (Tel Aviv University)
Priests Associated with Hurrian Religious Beliefs and active in the
Stefano De Martino (University of Torino)
Wednesday, March 21
Gilman Building, Room 496
Choosing and Becoming a Priest (09:30 – 11:00)
Preconditions for the Priesthood in the Ancient Near East: A
Jonathan Stökl (King’s College London)
The Economic, Social, and Religious Significance of Local Priests in
Michele Cammarosano (University of Würzburg)
“As a priest I offered to the goddess for myself”: The Hittite Kings as Priests
Amir Gilan (Tel Aviv University)
11:00 – 11:30 Coffee Break
Festival and Cultic Performance (11:30 – 13:00)
Priestly Colleges in North-Central Anatolia. Some Remarks on the
Tradition and Organization of Local Cults in the Second Millennium BCE
Piotr Taracha (University of Warsaw)
The Nissan Ceremony in Ezekiel in Light of the Akītu Festival
Tova Ganzel (Bar Ilan University)
The Role of the kalû-Priests in the Ancient Mesopotamian Temple Cult
Uri Gabbay (Hebrew University)
13:00 – 14:30 Lunch Break
Economy and Administration of the Cult (14:30 – 15:30)
Priests and Prebends in Old Babylonian Nippur
Wiebke Meinhold (University of Tübingen)
How to Run Your Neo-Babylonian Temple: A šatammu’s Guide
Yuval Levavi (Bar Ilan University)
15:30 – 16:00 Coffee Break
Concluding Session (16:00 – 17:00)
The Urukean Priesthood Between City and State Religion
Michael Jursa (University of Vienna) & Shai Gordin (Ariel University /
Tel Aviv University)
In Lieu of a Conclusion: Results and Open Questions
Michael Jursa (University of Vienna)
When we started work at the Palace two weeks ago, we had the workmen clean the walls that were going to be capped in the area of the King’s bedchamber and its antechamber at the southern end of the palace. In the process, they uncovered a section of fallen ceiling next to a wall in the southern half of the antechamber. Interestingly, the pattern of this ceiling is not the same as the fallen ceiling discovered in the northern half of the same room by the Metropolitan Museum in the winter of 1910-1911.
Looking east at pieces of the cow ceiling lying on the floor at the northern end of the antechamber. The decorated wall plaster at the center left is the east jamb of the antechamber entrance.
We know the exact location of the 1911 ceiling discovery because a photograph was taken of the fragments lying on the floor where they had fallen. (And yes, odd as it may seem, large numbers of the ceiling fragments were found lying face-up.) The pattern of this ceiling has a series of cows’ heads separated by spirals enclosing rosettes. At the time, it was possible to remove two large portions of this ceiling and set them in plaster. In the division of finds at the end of the year’s work, one section went to the Egyptian Museum in Cairo and the other was sent to New York where it is now on display in gallery 119 (11.151.451).
Section of the cow ceiling that was given to the Museum in the division of finds in 1911. Rogers Fund, 1911 (11.215.451).
The pattern uncovered two weeks ago consists of alternating red and blue concave squares with rosettes in the center. The lens-shaped spaces between the concave squares are painted yellow and have green circles at the intersections. A similar ceiling pattern was found by Waseda University in a room at the north end of the Palace during their excavations here in the 1970s (http://www.egyptpro.sci.waseda.ac.jp/e-mp.html).
A ceiling fragment that was found while cleaning a wall in room J. This piece has the same pattern as the fallen ceiling, but was not found in situ.
Anyone who has visited the nobles’ tombs at Qurna has probably noticed that the ceilings often have more than one pattern, and the same seems to have been true in the King’s Palace.
My review of Brian Janeway’s very nice volume on the Aegean-style early Iron Age pottery from Tell Tayinat, in the Amuq Valley in southern Turkey, has just appeared.
While dealing with a site quite to the north of Tell es-Safi/Gath specifically and Philistia in general, the Aegean style pottery from Tayinat has generated a lot of interest due to the possible connections with the Philistine material culture and the dynamics of its appearance.
Maeir, A. M. 2018. Review of Janeway, B. 2016. Sea Peoples of the Northern Levant? Aegean-Style Pottery from Early Iron Age Tell Tayinat. Studies in the Archaeology and History of the Levant 7. Harvard Semitic Museum: Cambridge, MA. Review of Biblical Literature 2018/02.
The annual “Young Scholars’ Conference” of the Martin (Szusz) Department of Land of Israel Studies and Archaeology at Bar-Ilan University, will be held on Thursday, March 15th, 2018 (which is only 3 days before my 60th b-day…:-).
At the conference, which was organized by Shira Albaz (of Safi team fame) and Michal David (who has also been part of the Safi team), both doctoral students in the department, several of the MA and PhD students from the department will present papers relating to their research projects.
Among the various papers presented throughout the meeting, the Safi team will be represented by Nati Ohrbach, Vanessa Workman (who will both present in English) and Maria Enukhina. Go Safi!
In addition, at the end of the day, several stipends will be awarded to students in the department, in memory of several of the former teachers in the department.
Here is the schedule – do come and join us at this very interesting day!
Dr. Kyle Keimer of Macquarie University, who is currently leading an Australian team at the excavations at Khirbet er-Rai (see here), will be presenting a lecture at Bar-Ilan University on Monday, Feb. 19th, 2018, at 12:45. The lecture will take place in Room 225, on the 2nd floor of the Faculty of Jewish Studies building (410).
The title of his lecture will be:
Khirbet Qeiyafa: A bulwark against the Philistines in the Elah Valley?
All are invited to come to the lecture. Refreshments will be served before hand.
We have been excavating in the West Settlement now for a little more than a week, continuing to clarify the architecture and function of this intriguing site.
Plan of the West Settlement excavations, 2015-2018, with the magazine area to the south and living areas to the north (see Digging the West Settlement)
We began by opening up several squares along the eastern edge of the excavated area, hoping to find a connection between the buildings here and Diana’s industrial area farther to the east.
Hoping to avoid hitting any of the spoil heaps from the Met’s early 20th century excavations, we chose to continue a line of squares toward the north end of the site. The first locus looked promising – not far below the surface, we began to find a wall that fit in with the ones we had found in earlier seasons —one brick wide, laid as a stretcher, and running southeast to northwest across our grid. But as we moved to the east, it just petered out, as did any hint of cultural material, and we soon came down onto the natural desert substrate, a coarse, dark brown-grey matrix with outcroppings of lighter “tafla.”
The west half of Square N150/E140-N, looking north, with a new wall and mud tumble beginning to show.
Square N150/E140-N, looking east, with the natural desert surface exposed in the east half of the square.
As we extended our trench to the east, we continued to find nothing, just the original desert surface. When we moved to the south, we found some architecture in the western halves of our squares, but to the east, the architecture and most of the cultural remains are gone. In fact, although this is disappointing, it is not surprising: we are in a wadi, and it looks like water has washed away the eastern part of our excavation area.
View east down the line of squares at N150. Only the natural desert surface remained here, just below the current surface.
Looking southeast over the site. The small wadi indicated here likely funneled floodwaters through the east edge of the West Settlement and washed away any remains.
The good news is that we have also opened up two half-squares farther to the south, hoping to find more of what we believe to be the boundaries of the complex. The bricks in these “exterior” walls are laid as headers, rather than the usual 1-brick wide stretchers, and are therefore wider and more substantial (although again, always only one brick high). And we are happy to report that we have found this type of wall in three places, helping us to complete the plan of the eastern part of the complex.
Square N125/E135, showing one of the newly exposed sections of exterior wall
When we first arrived in Luxor, I was looking at the old photographs of the work done in the King’s Palace during the winter of 1910-1911 to see which ones might give us some information about the areas we are working on this year. At the end of the series there were a few photographs taken in 1912, during the following excavation season. Among these I found photos of ceiling fragments that were given to the Museum in that year’s division of finds. In 1912, the Malqata excavation team, which included Ambrose Lansing, Hugh Evelyn-White, and Herbert Winlock, were working in an area they called the “western extension.” This lay west of the King’s Palace, across a well-worn pathway that is now the desert road which cuts north/south through the site. The first group of rooms was later called Ho W1 and a second, farther west, was called Ho W2 (house west 1 and 2). The relationship between these “houses” is unclear because a wadi (dry river bed) has washed out the area between them, but they are now interpreted as a single structure called the Middle Palace.
Ceiling fragment depicting pigeons startled into flight. The end of a duck’s wing is visible in the upper left. Rogers Fund (12.180.257).
The ceiling fragments in question depict flying birds. One section is almost entirely composed of pigeons (12.180.257), with the edges of ducks’ wings indicating that there were other types of birds in the scene as well. The second section, smaller and more fragmentary, depicts pintail ducks. All of the birds are moving wildly as though startled into flight.
Both of these ceiling fragments are identified on their accession cards as coming from the King’s Palace, and similar ceiling paintings were found there by Robb de Peyster Tytus and Percy Newberry, who excavated there a decade before The Met’s Egyptian Expedition. However, thanks to the old photographs, it’s now possible to place them in one of the rooms in the Ho W1.
Photograph taken in 1912 showing the pigeon fragments where they fell. Note the wall in the background.
The same wall today partially covered with a century of wind- and water-borne debris
One of the photos shows the pigeon section of the ceiling where it lay on the ground. The photographic context is rather narrow, but there is a wall in the upper right of the photo. This wall, although now partially buried in wind-blown debris, is still recognizable today.
Photo taken in 1912 showing the position of the pigeon fragments. The sawhorses behind the fragments were part of a glass-topped table used to reconstruct the fragments.
In the second photograph, taken from Ho W2 looking east at Ho W1, the fragments are also visible. Behind the fragments are two sawhorses that would hold a large sheet of glass. Several of these glass tables had been used the previous season to facilitate the reconstruction of ceiling paintings. The fragments were placed face down on the glass and were then moved into position. When the reconstruction was as complete as possible, plaster of Paris was poured over the back to secure them for travel and display.
The sections of ceiling that came to New York are now displayed on the south wall of Egyptian gallery 119.
Today I had the opportunity to visit the very interesting excavations at Kh. er-Rai, just to the west of Lachish (and about 10 km south of Safi), directed by Yosi Garfinkel, Saar Ganor and Kyle Keimer.
I’ll leave the description of the site to the excavators’ publications, but suffice to say that the finds are very interesting – and very important for understanding the late Iron I and early Iron IIA of the eastern Philistia and the western Shephelah.
What’s so nice about archaeology is the more we dig – the more complicated things get! :-)
Jan Picton from University College London has joined us this season as part of the team working at the King’s Palace on the reconstruction of the rooms at the south end of the building. Shortly after getting out to the site last Saturday and looking at the impressive number of reconstructed walls nicely demarcating the various suites and the ones that needed work, she asked me if the King’s Palace brought to mind the famous Robert Frost poem “Mending Wall.” Although I knew the poem, I had not read it in years and after work, Jan shared a copy of his poem (“Mending Wall”). The images Frost created in this poem, although of course completely different in nature, are reflected throughout the palace.
Workmen mending a wall in the King’s Palace.
Even better, she shared her homage to Frost’s poem and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!
Mending Malqata’s Walls (with respect to Robert Frost)
By Jan Picton
Something there is that does not love the king’s walls,
That sends the ground-swell under it,
and spills the upper mudbricks in the sun;
And makes gaps even two can pass abreast.
The work of mud hunters is another thing:
we have come after them and made repair
where they have left not one brick on a brick.
The gaps I mean, no one has seen them made
or heard them made, but at season’s start we find them…
Greater blame to archaeologists who, in sharing history
and not backfilling and preserving, destroyed it.
So here we are to clean and record, to draw and make good again.
To relearn and share what we learn, to educate, and make a plea
to cherish this pharaonic heritage and leave a safer legacy.
One of the ongoing questions at Calixtlahuaca has been the degree of specialized production at the site. This could either take the form of particular households that focused on producing high quantities of a particular type of good, or the entire site specializing in producing something for trade on a regional scale. We know that specialization at both of these levels occurs at sites in both the Basin of Mexico and in Morelos. Among many other cases, the site of Otumba included specialized workshops to produce obsidian tools, and a neighborhood that made clay figurines and spindle whorls (Charlton, et al. 1991; Parry 1990). Cuexcomate and Capilco in Morelos has site-wide specialization in cotton production, and some households also made amate-bark paper (Fauman-Fichman 1999; Smith and Heath-Smith 1993).
Calixtlahuaca has been frustrating in this regard – most of the standard lines of evidence for craft production have come back negative (Huster 2016:Chap. 5). Neither the survey nor the excavation located areas of intensive obsidian working. The INAA and petrographic data for ceramics showed a wide range of variation within the broader local groups, a pattern consistent with many small producers. We only located a couple of molds for making figurines or other small clay objects, and there are very few duplicates among the finished molded items among our collections. There are a few spindle whorls for cotton spinning, but the frequencies are far lower than in other areas where it was too also too cold to grow cotton.
I’m currently evaluating whether maguey (agave) production might be sitewide or regional-scale specialty. I had previously discarded it a household-level specialization, because pretty much all of the households had some evidence for maguey textile production and none of them stood out as unusual when compared within the site. However, when compared on a regional scale, some lines of evidence suggest that the amount of maguey processing was similar to sites such as Cihuatecpan or Tepetitlan (Cobean and Mastache 1999; Evans 2005), which researchers have argued were sites specializing in maguey products. This would be an interesting finding, because the usual explanation is that people in Central Mexico focus on growing maguey (and other cacti) in areas where it is too dry to reliably grow corn (Parsons and Darling 2000), and the number of cornfields I flailed through while surveying Calixtlahuaca would suggest that this is not the case there. The Codex Mendoza tribute lists for the provide also include both maguey fiber textiles (a fairly uncommon item, limited to a single geographic cluster of provinces) and unusually high quantities of corn (2 bins, rather than the usual one), which would suggest that the two crops were both economically important in the region.
One of the 2006 survey crews trying to figure out how to lay out a surface collection in the middle of a modern cornfield at the site.
Charlton, Thomas H., Deborah L. Nichols and Cynthia Otis Charlton
1991Aztec craft production and specialization: archaeological evidence from the city-state of Otumba, Mexico. World Archaeology 23:p. 98-114.
Cobean, Robert H. and Alba Guadalupe Mastache
1999Tepetitlán: A Rural Household in the Toltec Heartland / Tepetitlán: Un Espacio Doméstico Rural en el Area de Tula. Serie Arqueología de México. University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh PA and Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia, Mexico City.
Evans, Susan Toby
2005Men, Women and Maguey: The Houshold Division of Labor Among Aztec Farmers. In Settlement, subsistence, and social complexity : essays honoring the legacy of Jeffrey R. Parsons, edited by R. E. Blanton. Cotsen Institute of Archaeology, University of California, Los Angeles.
1999Postclassic Craft Prodution in Morelos, Mexico: The Cotton Thread Industry in the Provinces.Doctoral Dissertation, Department of Anthropology, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh.
Huster, Angela C.
2016The Effects of Aztec Conquest on Provincial Commoner Households at Calixtlahuaca, Mexico.Doctoral Dissertation, School of Human Evolution and Social Change, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ.
Parry, William J.
1990Analysis of Chipped Stone Artifacts from Otumba and Neighboring Rural Sites in the Eastern Teotihuacan Valley of Mexico. In Preliminary Report of Recent Research in the Otumba City-State, edited by T. H. Charlton and D. L. Nichols. vol. 3. University of Iowa, Department of Anthropology, Research Report, Iowa City.
Parsons, Jeffrey R and J Andrew Darling
2000Maguey (Agave spp.) utilization in Mesoamerican civilization: a case for precolumbian" Pastoralism". Boletín de la Sociedad Botánica de México (66):81-91.
Smith, Michael E. and Cynthia Heath-Smith
1993Rural Economy in Late Postclassic Morelos: An Archaeological Study. In Economies and Polities in the Aztec Realm, edited by M. G. Hodge and M. E. Smith, pp. 349-376. Institute for Mesoamerican Studies, Albany.
As mentioned previously, the first issue of Near Eastern Archaeology devoted fully to the Tell es-Safi/Gath Archaeological Project has appeared. The issue, NEA 80/4 (2017), includes papers by a large group of Safi team members, and covers various introductory issues and the Early Bronze through Late Bronze Age periods.
The 2nd issue (NEA 81/1 ) will be out in late March, and will cover Iron Age and later periods.
Here’s the cover and TOC of this beautiful first issue – can’t wait for the 2nd one!
A new article (see here), spearheaded by Liz Arnold, has just appeared online. In this study, isotopic analyses of the Early Bronze Age fauna were conducted, which shed light on the pastoral economy and provisioning strategies at Tell es-Safi/Gath during this early urban period.
The full title is:
Arnold, E. R., Greenfield, H. J., Hartman, G., Greenfield, T. L., Shai, I., Carter-McGee, P. M., and Maeir, A. M. 2018. Provisioning the Early Bronze Age City of Tell es-Safi, Israel: Isotopic Analyses of Domestic Livestock Management Patterns. Open Quartenary 4(1).
Here’s the abstract:
It is often assumed that domestic animals in early urban Near Eastern centres either are a reflection of the local pastoral economy, or were raised at a distance by pastoral specialists. In this paper, we test these assumptions through detailed isotopic analyses (carbon, oxygen and strontium) of caprines (sheep and goat) from Tell es-Safi/Gath, an Early Bronze Age urban centre in central Israel. The isotopic analyses demonstrate that the bulk of the caprines were raised within the general vicinity of the site, suggesting that the majority of food resources were largely produced at the local level, within the territory of the city-state, and not at a distance by specialised pastoralists. It is the rare specimen that comes from a great distance and would have entered the local system through long distance trade networks.
Just a reminder to you all that the online registration for joining the team for the 2018 season at Tell es-Safi/Gath is up and running! The 2018 season will be the 23rd season in the field – and promises to be a very interesting one.
Don’t miss out the chance to have an extraordinary enriching experience of digging at one of the largest biblical period sites, with an international team of researchers, students and volunteers. Learn about cutting edge field archaeology, the material remains of the Bronze and Iron Age ancient Levant in biblical times (and in particular that of the Philistine culture), and related issues in history, archaeology and geography. In addition, have a unique field experience, meet people from diverse backgrounds – and get a chance to visit sites in Israel on the weekends and before and after the excavation.
This season, we will focus our work in several areas in the lower city, primarily working on Iron Age I and II finds (ca. 1200-800 BCE), but with possible remains from other periods as well. We will continue working in excavations areas that were opened in the past, and hopefully open a few more as well.
Based on our finds from the last seasons, we should be excavating remains of the city’s fortifications, domestic and industrial related structures, contexts relating to cult activities and many other things.
In addition to this, we will continue in our remote sensing work, using magnetometry and ground penetrating radar, and hopefully, terrestrial and aerial-borne LIDAR scanning and 3D imaging.
Do join us and have the experience of a life time (that is unless you are a returnee – than have yet another experience of a life time…).
Jan Picton begins cleaning a wall in the King’s Palace.
The 2018 season has started. The team began to assemble in Luxor on January 30 with the arrival of Janice, Catharine, and Diana. We delivered the signed papers from the Ministry of Antiquities in Cairo to the appropriate offices in Luxor and were assigned our inspector. Therefore, we were able to head into the field on February 1! As of today, everyone is here and at work.
Piet Collet brushes the surface looking for the edges of mud brick.
The site looks quite good. There is the usual growth of camel thorn and we seem to be losing ground on the clearance of halfa grass in the area of the North Palace, but otherwise the many locales that make up the site of Malqata remained stable over the past year.
We’ve already started removing camel thorn. The West Settlement is in the background.
During the 2018 season, our attention will concentrate on two areas: reconstructing several important rooms or areas in the King’s Palace and excavation at the West Settlement. In the King’s Palace, we will be protecting walls in the area of the King’s bedroom at the south end, and at the north end, we will be working on the foundations of a staircase that may have led to a window of appearances.
Work begins in the West Settlement.
Meanwhile, at the West Settlement, Janice intends to excavate further in the square where an interesting fragment, the tail from a pottery statuette of Taweret, was previously discovered. She also will move eastward towards the Industrial Site to see if a connection exists between her settlement and this production area.
Continuing the excavation in the square where we found the Taweret tail in 2015.
The title of her planned project is: “MapDung: Dung as Construction Material during the Emergence of Animal Domestication: A Multi-Proxy Approach”.
Here is an abstract of the research:
The project will focus on the use of dung for construction at the dawn of the Neolithic Period and early animal domestication. Ethnographic sources have demonstrated the importance of animal dung as a versatile resource that in some areas is extensively used for fuel, manure, and construction. While the importance of dung as fuel or manure is increasingly recognized and archaeologically identified in the last years, its use for construction is less studied and only rarely identified in archaeological sites. Therefore, it is important to understand if its absence from the archaeological record is the result of human preference or a research/preservation bias. The aim of MapDung is therefore to explore the possible early use of dung for construction as a proxy for understanding human-animal-environment relations and ecosystem. The project’s goals are: 1) To develop a new multi-proxy methodology for improved identification of dung, focused on construction materials; 2) Studying the post-depositional processes that affect archaeological dung used for construction; 3) Providing wide regional understanding of the utilization of animal secondary products during the Early Neolithic Period and the socio-cultural aspects related to its use.
A new (and quite interesting) paper has just been published on the archaeobotanical remains from Areas A2, B1, and C in the Journal of Landscape Ecology. This paper was spearheaded by Andrea, but includes contributions from a number of our staff including Ladislav, myself, Debi, Casey, and Itzick. Nice work team!
Here is the abstract:
“The Shephelah, known as the breadbasket of the southern Levant, is one of the more extensively investigated regions of the southern Levant in terms of archaeobotanical research. However, studies dealing with agriculture are scarce in comparison to the archaeobotanical data available. The analysis of the archaeobotanical assemblage in combination with the archaeological remains from Tel Burna will contribute to the investigation of the agriculture of the Shephelah. Several seasons of excavation revealed a cultic complex dating to the Late Bronze Age and an Iron Age II settlement with various agricultural installations such as silos and wine or olive presses. In this paper, we present the agricultural features in conjunction with the systematical archaeobotanical sampling, which enables us to reconstruct the types of crop plants cultivated at the site. Grass pea seeds dominate the assemblage collected from the Late Bronze Age complex, which may point to a connection to the Aegean. The Iron Age assemblage is distinguished by a significantly broad range of crop plants which were cultivated in vicinity of the tell. The archaeological Iron Age remains indicate that the processing of secondary products such as olive oil, wine, or textiles took place within the Iron Age settlement of Tel Burna. This first comprehensive overview describes the character of agricultural production in the Late Bronze Age to Iron Age environmental and geopolitical transformations.”
A new and very interesting paper, spearheaded by Oren Ackermann, has just appeared. The paper is yet another example of the very nice paleo-environmental studies that have come out of the Safi project – in this case extended to the ancient landscape of Israel in general:
Ackermann, O., Maeir, A. M., Frumin, S., Svoray, T., Weiss, E., Zhevelev, H., and Horwitz, L. K. 2017. The Paleo-Anthropocene and the Genesis of the Current Landscape of Israel. Journal of Landscape Ecology 10(3): 109–40.
Worldwide, human impact on natural landscapes has intensified since prehistoric times, and this is well documented in the global archaeological record. The period between the earliest hominids and the Industrial Revolution of the late 18-19th centuries is known as the Paleo-Anthropocene. The current study reviews key geoarchaeological, floral and faunal factors of the Paleo-Anthropocene in Israel, an area that has undergone human activities in various intensities since prehistoric times. It discusses significant human imprints on these three features in the Israeli landscape, demonstrating that its current form is almost entirely anthropogenic. Moreover, some of the past physical changes still dynamically shape Israel’s zoological, archaeological and geomorphic landscape today. It is hoped that insights from this article might aid in guiding present-day management strategies of undeveloped areas through renewal of human activity guided by traditional knowledge.
In the last few days, news have emerged about the substantial destruction, apparently by a Turkish aerial bombardment, that was wrought on the important archaeological site of Ain Dara in northern Syria. This site is well known for the fantastic Iron Age temple that was discovered and excavated at the site. This is one of the best preserved Iron Age temples in the Iron Age Levant. In addition to the very interesting finds themselves, one of the fascinating aspects relating to this temple are the parallels that have been suggested between the temple and its features and the description of the Solomonic Temple in Jerusalem as described in I Kings.
Yesterday (Jan. 30, 2018) I was interviewed on the TV program “London and Kirschenbaum” (in Hebrew) on the temple and its significance. Note that at the end of my interview, after having discussed historical, archaeological and biblical aspects relating to the temple, I stressed that while the destruction of this site in lamentable, we should not forget the real tragedy and horror that has been going on in Syria in the last few years and the ca. 1/2 million people who have been killed.
Here is the clip of the entire show – I appear at 38:00.
We are excited to announce that we will be offering guided weekend field tours during this summer’s excavation season (June 20-July 24, 2018, see here for the excavation application).
The field tours will consist of a Jerusalem introduction weekend (June 23-24), a Negev and Dead Sea weekend (June 29-July 1), a Galilee and the north extended weekend (July 6-8), a Jerusalem and its surroundings weekend (July 14-15), and concluding with a trip to Shiloh, Mount Gerizim, and the Israel Musem (July 19-20). Besides visiting over 30 sites, we will also have the opportunity to swim in the Dead Sea, Mediterranean Sea, and Sea of Galilee!
Note: these weekend tours are in addition to the weekly Shephelah tours (e.g., Lachish, Azekah, Khirbet Qeiyafa, Beth-shemesh, etc.)
These field tours will be led by yours truly. The cost for the weekend trips is $900, which includes transportation, entrance fees, hotels, and breakfast/dinner. Academic credit is also available through Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary for an additional fee.
We are saddened to relay the news that Julio Kobiler has passed away.
Julio was the great-grandfather in-law of Itzick (and great-grandfather of Ela). Among other things was the oldest member of our project – having participated at least one day in every excavation season since we started (and had a knack for finding very nice finds!). He will be sorely missed!
I just heard the very sad news that Julio Kobiler, Itzik Shai’s grandfather-in-law, has passed away. As many of the Safi team know, for many years, Julio joined the excavation for a few days every season, and was without a doubt the team’s most senior member. Julio was a very special person, something that we all saw clearly when he was on the dig.
May his memory be blessed, and condolences to Ela and her family.
Fred was one of the stray dogs around Safi, who started hanging around the dig in the 2016 season. Louise and Linda became friendly with him, and eventually, Louise adopted Fred and brought him to Australia.
This and other stories about scientists adopting animals in the field are described in this article. While this article in Nature won’t count for Louise’s promotion – it is quite cool! :-)
As mentioned before, Chris Hale gave a talk this evening at the Albright Institute on his initial work on the Iron I pottery from Area A. The talk went very well and Chris provided a nice overview of his future research.
Two complete issues of NEA (Near Eastern Archaeology) are coming out, completely devoted to the Tell es-Safi/Gath Archaeological Project. All told, close to 50 Safi-related researchers contributed papers to these issues. From what I’m told, this is a first for NEA – two complete issues dedicated to a single project.
The first issue has now appeared (NEA 80/4 )! I have not yet seen the hard copy (or final PDFs), but here is a picture of the cover (courtesy of Linda Meiberg – thanks Linda!). It looks great!!! This issue covers from the introduction and general articles, until the end of the Late Bronze Age (it includes also Middle Bronze Age, despite that the MB is missing on the cover…). Next issue deals with the Iron Age and later.
Thanks to all who contributed and worked on this issue (and the next)!
P.S. I hope that sometime in the future, we’ll be able to put out all the articles from these two issues (and some other Safi-related NEA papers) as a separate volume. That would be very nice as well.
This Thursday afternoon at 4 pm, Dr. Chris Hale will give a talk on the Philistine pottery from Tell es-Safi/Gath, Area A, at the Albright Institute, Salah ed-Din St., Jerusalem.
Here is the full description of the event:
The Late Bronze-Iron Age I Pottery from Tel es-Safi, Area A: Research Design, Quantitative Methods, and the chaîne opératoire Approach
Excavations over the last decade in Area A at Tel es-Safi/Gath have revealed stratigraphy dating to the Late Bronze Age and early Iron Age periods, providing important information concerning Philistine material cultural elements at the site and their development over the early Iron Age in relation to the “local” Canaanite material culture (Asscher et al. 2015; Hitchcock et al. 2015; Maeir et al. 2015; Gur-Arieh et al. 2014; Hitchcock and Maeir 2011; Regev et al. 2010). The ceramics from these loci remain largely unstudied as these periods were extremely fugitive at the time of the Safi I publication, owing to the limited exposure of the relevant strata, and were thus only preliminarily described (Zukerman and Maeir 2012; Zukerman 2012).
This presentation will lay out a new research framework concerning the Tel es-Safi Area A Late Bronze-early Iron Age pottery. The assemblage poses specific challenges and opportunities for a ceramic analysis and requires a methodology capable of providing the necessary data to address some of the outstanding questions concerning the early Iron Age at both Safi itself and in the broader southern Levant. This methodology will utilize Estimated Vessel Equivalents (EVEs) as a primary quantitative measure (supplemented by other tools), enabling a variety of analyses that go beyond a typological and stylistic description of the assemblage (Verdan 2011; Orton et al. 1993; Orton 1975). In addition, a chaîne opératoire approach will be emphasised throughout the study (Roux 2016), aiming to identify the various operational sequences used in producing the pottery consumed at the site. By examining different “ways of doing” and their transmission as a measure of social boundaries, the study hopes to use both synchronic and diachronic pottery production and consumption practices to explore the social groups present in the Safi Area A early Iron Age community from socio-economic, technological, and evolutionary perspectives.
Chris Hale is the 2017 Glassman Holland Research Fellow and an Assistant Professor in the School of Liberal Arts and Humanities at O.P. Jindal Global University in India where he teaches archaeology, ancient history and interdisciplinary studies. He completed his Bachelor of Ancient History at Macquarie University in Sydney, and his PhD in the Archaeology of Europe, the Mediterranean, and the Levant at the University of Melbourne under the supervision of Louise Hitchcock. He was a 2016 Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Australian Archaeological Institute at Athens, and has also worked for the British School at Athens as a Knossos Curatorial Assistant with the Stratigraphical Museum on the island of Crete.
He is currently affiliated with several archaeological projects in various capacities, including the Mitrou Archaeological Project, the Palace of Nestor Excavation Project, and the Iklaina Archaeological Project in Greece; and the Tell es-Safi/Gath Archaeological Project in Israel. His previous research was concerned primarily with a quantitative and typological analysis of central Greek Middle Helladic and Late Helladic I ceramics from the site of Mitrou, and the interregional interactions between central Greece and the islands of Aegina and Kea during the Middle Bronze Age. His research interests include pottery processing methodology, relative chronologies, pottery production and consumption practices, and interregional interactions.
Today, the Safi lab team joined in the celebrations in honor of Sue Frumin finishing her PhD!
Dr. Sue (not Dr. Seuss…) wrote an excellent PhD on the archaeobotanical remains of the Philistines, with a focus on the finds from Tell es-Safi/Gath. Parts of the PhD have already been published in articles (see for example here and here), and more will follow in the future.
Sue’s PhD is:
Frumin, S. 2017. Invasion Biology Analysis in Archaeobotany – Philistines Culture at Tell es-Safi/ Gath as a Case Study. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Bar-Ilan University, Ramat-Gan.
Here are some pictures from the party, which was held in Udi Weiss’ archaeobotany lab at BIU.
One of my least favorite parts of the lab work at Calixtlahuaca was doing ceramic type changes. Not because I disliked redoing my own work – there’s actually something satisfying in knowing that it’s right now – but because every single change had to be recorded in at least two, and usually four places (the label on the sherd, the type collection datafile, the paper form for the lot, and the computer datafile for the lot). It just seemed like an awful bother for a single change. I regularly tried to pawn off making the changes on anyone else I could sucker into it. We even had a form to keep track of where a change had been entered!
However, as I move on to working on other projects, I have come appreciate exactly how comprehensively the Calixtlahuaca Project tracked their artifact data. As an example of this, a couple years ago, after we were finished with the ceramic classification, we decided that we needed to subdivide a type. (From Misc censers, to Misc censers and Cut-out censers, for anyone who cares.) At that point, a fair number of sherds had been removed from their original lots, either as examples for the type reference collection, or as samples for particular technical analyses. However, because of our data tracking, I could pull not only a list of lots with the type, but also lists of cases where the sherds in question were stored someone else, which made relocating the pieces for reanalysis far easier. For one of the legacy datasets that I’m currently working with from another project, this simply isn’t possible – we know pieces were removed from lots for various analyses, but what was pulled and when it was taken are unknown. (Kintigh 1981 is an interesting look at the same issue in museum collections, with a focus on the possible bias introduced by archaeologists disproportionately pulling high-interest decorated types out of a collection.)
Miscellaneous censer sherds in the the type collection, prior to splitting the type. Knowing that these particular pieces were in the type collection spared me having to fruitlessly look for them in their lot bags.
While I doubt I’m ever going to love double or triple-redundant data tracking systems, I can see the value, and on my current project, nothing comes out of a lot bag unless it’s recorded that it’s now stored somewhere else. I suppose I shall now proceed to torture another generation of students by making them record type changes in multiple places…
Kintigh, Keith W.
1981An Outline for a Chronology of Zuni Runs, Revisited: Sixty-five Years of Repeated Analysis and Collection. Annals of the New York Academy of Science 376:467-489.
Here’s a sneak peak at the type of drone (VAPOR 55) that should be flying over Tell es-Safi/Gath and some other sites in the not-too-distant future. The order has gone out for this cool piece of equipment, along with a LiDAR sensor!
This was purchased jointly, courtesy of an ISF equipment grant, by three of us at BIU – Rafi Kent, Boaz Zissu and Aren Maeir.
In addition to this, sometime in the near future, another, smaller drone is in the process of being purchased for use in the project!
The bronze bowl that Jill and her team found in Area J last summer (see here) has returned from the conservation lab – and it looks really nice. We still have a lot of study to conduct on this (both a bowl and an interesting bronze disk found next to it), but to get a rough idea (not too detailed…) on what it looks like, see the picture below.
The sad news of the passing of Prof. Larry Stager has arrived. Larry was one of the more important archaeologists dealing with the Levant in recent decades. In particular, his excavations at Ashkelon, a sister city of Philistine Gath are of note.
May he rest in peace and may his memory be blessed.
A new paper of the Safi team just appeared in the Hebrew journal Qadmoniot, discussing the importance of the donkey in the Early Bronze Age in light of the finds from the Tell es-Safi/Gath Excavations. See a PDF here.
The full title is:
Shai, I., Greenfield, H. G., Greenfield, T., Arnold, E., Albaz, S., and Maeir, A.
2017 The Importance of the Donkey in the Early Bronze Age in Light of the Excavations at Tel Zafit (In Hebrew). Qadmoniot 154: 88–91.
And in Hebrew:
י. שי, ה. גרינפילד, ט. גרינפילד, א. ארנולד, ש. אלבז וא. מאיר. 2017. חשיבותו של החמור בתקופת הברונזה הקדומה לאור ממצאי החפירה בתל צפית. קדמוניות 154: 191-188.
Woohoo! We managed to dig down to bedrock by the end of the 2nd day of our short mini-season! The small, but fantastic, team managed to go down about a meter, and reach bedrock at the bottom of the test pit! So now, we have a stratigraphic “window” of the EB levels in Area E, from top – to bottom. All told, the pit was about 4 meters deep, and very interestingly, there are several levels below the EB levels that we knew of in Area E. This includes a very substantial amount of architecture (we saw three walls) that are based on a thick white, plaster-like level.
Just shows what some hard work by a determined little team can do (thanks to: Shira, Nati, Chris, Ortal, Noga, Yaniv and Elad!!)
In addition to this, Shira and I managed to see quite a few details in the architecture of the area that we could not see in the summer, due to the dampness of the various mudbricks and sediments. Quite interesting!
Today, a small team went out for the first day of the short, two day mini-season in Area E – to try and reach the bottom of the test pit that was opened in the summer. We hope to try and reach bedrock – to get a window on the complete EB stratigraphy in Area E.
The weather was perfect – not too hot, not too cold, the visibility was fantastic, and despite the fact that it is an extremely dry winter, it rained at the beginning of the week so there was a very nice green fuzz all over.
Today, we got up to Area E, after schlepping a lot of equipment. After breathing, we then set up protective fences on the sides of the pit, since it is over 3 m deep and we didn’t want the sides to collapse during work.
Then, work started and by the end of the day, the bottom was not reached, buy progress was made.
Tomorrow we’ll be out again – and hopefully we’ll get to the bottom. If not, we’ll have to do this again in the spring or summer.
If all goes well (no rain, and enough working hands), we will be going out to a very short, mini-season this coming Wednesday and Thursday. A small Safi crew will hopefully conduct a small excavation in Area E, to see if we can finish up the deep sounding that was conducted in the summer (see picture below), but in which, unfortunately, bedrock was not reached by the end of the 2017 season.
Basically, we want to get to the bottom of the pit marked off by the plastic tape in the picture here!
NOTE: Able-bodied volunteers who are interested in participating – please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org!
So, hopefully, by Thursday afternoon, bedrock it will be!
Check out the newly published paper by myself and Itzick, which discusses our experience using the construction app PlanGrid as a digital recording tool. It was published in what appears to be a very interesting volume on digital/cyber-archaeology by Tom Levy and Ian Jones.
A new paper has appeared in which several examples of the “Safi method” of integrating micro-archaeological anג macro-archaeological perspectives, methods and techniques in the excavations at Tell es-Safi/Gath are discussed.
The full title is:
Maeir, A. M. 2017. Integrating Micro- and Macro-Archaeology at a Multi-Period Site: Insights and Outcomes from Tell es-Safi/Gath. Pp. 35–50 in Cyber-Archaeology and Grand Narratives: Digital Technology and Deep-Time Perspectives on Culture Change in the Middle East, eds. T. E. Levy and I. W. N. Jones. One World Archaeology. Cham: Springer.
Jessie Blackwell, a student at the University of Kentucky, and Jonathan Bluck, a student at Grand Valley State University, who were team members in the 2017 season at Tell es-Safi/Gath, were the recipients of scholarships from the Biblical Archaeology Society.
See here their essays in Biblical Archaeology Review (BAR) in which they describe their experiences and insights from participating in the Safi excavations in 2017 – along with great pictures of them in the field!
Check out this video illustrating the recently restored Iron IIA storage jar, which was uncovered in the destruction debris in Area B2 this last summer. The restoration was done by Leah Tramer and the video by “Studio Jackie.” Enjoy.
Here is the jar as it was being excavated by Sam and Jane last summer.
A very interesting conference will be held at TAU, on Dec. 18-19, 2017.
The conference – “Administrative and Cultic Aspects of Centralization in Ancient Israel: Archaeological and Biblical Perspectives”, will deal with various issues relating to cult centralization in Israel and surrounding cultures during the Iron Age and Persian Period.
I will be giving a paper on perspectives from Philistia on these issues.
As it is now official, I would like to extend my wishes of congratulations to Louise Hitchcock, long time senior staff member of the Safi project, who has been appointed Full Professor of (Aegean) Archaeology in the Classics and Archaeology Program at the University of Melbourne!
Way to go Louise! Well-deserved! We are proud, and fortunate, to have you on the Safi team!!
Here’s a picture of Louise in her natural surroundings :-)
A new article, presenting some new thoughts and directions on the question of the consumption, or lack thereof, of pigs in Iron Age Philistia, Israel and beyond, and what is the cultural and ecological significance of this, has just been published by Liora Horwitz, Armelle Gardeisen, Louise Hitchcock and Aren Maeir has just appeared. See here a link to a PDF.
The full title is:
Horwitz, L. K., Gardeisen, A., Maeir, A. M., and Hitchcock, L. A. 2017. A Brief Contribution to the Iron Age Philistine Pig Debate. Pp. 93–116 in The Wide Lens in Archaeology: Honoring Brian Hesse’s Contributions to Anthropological Archaeology, eds. J. Lev-Tov, P. Wapnish and A. Gilbert. Archaeobiology 2. Atlanta: Lockwood Press.
Just to prove that there is a treasure at the end of the rainbow, here is a picture that Dr. Iossi Bordowicz (former Safi core team staff member; currently director of heritage at the INPA) took today – in which you see Tell es-Safi/Gath at the end of rainbow! Definitely – a worthwhile and proven treasure!
For those interested, the view is taken from the NW, and you can see the white chalk cliffs of the tell on the lower left, Area F and the summit of tell slightly to the left of the center of the picture.
Here are three of the Safi related posters that were displayed at the ASOR conference in Boston last week.
“3D Geometric Morphometrics and Sheep/Goat Breeds in
the Early Bronze Age of Tell es‐Safi/Gath” by Tina Greenfield et al.
“‘Cult’ of the Philistines?” by Maddi Harris
“Raw material characterization and lithic procurement in the Azraq Basin, Jordan, during the Lower-Middle Paleolithic: A pilot study from Shishan Marsh 1”, by Jeremy Beller (this is not Safi research, but by a Safi team member)
After a very fruitful conference at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth Texas (thanks to Dr. Ortiz and Marcella especially for their efforts in arranging the conference – more on that later), much of our team has arrived in Boston to present on Tel Burna and other projects.
November 16: 2:05 Itzhaq Shai (Ariel University), Debi Cassuto (Bar-Ilan University), and Chris McKinny (Texas A&M University Corpus Christi), “Tel Burna Archaeological Project: The Results of the 2016–2017 Seasons” (15 min.)
November 16:5:10 Aharon Tavger (Ariel University), “The Northern Boundary of the Province of Yehud: An Updated Archaeological View from the North” (20 min.)
November 16: Chris McKinny (Texas A&M University Corpus Christi), “Pressing On: Identifying the ‘Other’ Gath and Its Implications for Understanding the Border between the Kingdoms of Israel and Judah” (20 min.)
In a few of our earlier posts, we've mentioned that there don't seem to be that many comales (tortilla griddles) at Calixtlahuaca. This suggests that the ancient inhabitants of the site were eating their corn in some way other than tortillas, such as hominy, atole (gruel), or tamales. Tamales are the most likely alternative to tortillas, and there is a great quote in the Florentine Codex about the diet of the the Quaquata (one of the groups in the Toluca Valley):
“Nothing grew in the land of these Quaquata; only maize, beans, amaranth; no chili, no salt. The principal foods of these were tamales, beans; also their principal drink was fruit atole. Popcorn was produced right there in their land” (Sahagún 1950-82:Book 10: The People. Pp 182-183).
Unfortunately, it's harder to identify pots for tamale steaming, since a large pot can be used for any number of other tasks. One possible candidate for tamale pots are the type that we call interior-incised ollas. This type of large olla has sloppy, deeply scored incision on the interior of the body below the neck. The incisions can't be seen unless the pot is broken, which means that they weren't there for decoration. The incisions are also problematic for most forms of food preparation, since any liquid food would get stuck in them and burn, but we don't see any evidence for scorched reside in the incisions. However, the incisions would have been helpful for keeping the lattice of sticks used to keep tamales out of the steaming liquid from sliding around, and the tamales themselves from sticking to the walls of the pot. This type is not found in Morelos or the Basin of Mexico, where there are much higher frequencies of comales.
Interior-incised olla sherds
The distribution of these pots among the different households at the site also supports the idea that they were used for steaming tamales. Once comales start to used in noticeable frequencies at the site (during the Yata phase), the frequency of interior-incised ollas varies inversely with the frequency of comales; households were picking one or the other!
Comal vs interior incised olla frequencies by household (Huster 2016: Chapter 8)
Huster, Angela C.
2016 The Effects of Aztec Conquest on Provincial Commoner Households at Calixtlahuaca, Mexico. Doctoral Dissertation, School of Human Evolution and Social Change, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ.
Sahagún, Bernardino de
1950-82 Florentine Codex, General History of the Things of New Spain. 12 books. Translated and Edited by Arthur J.O. Anderson and Charles E. Dibble. School of American Research, Santa Fe NM, and the University of Utah Press, Salt Lake City, UT.
This summer, I spent a week taking twenty-eight clay samples from across the Toluca Valley and immediately adjacent areas for INAA analysis. Don Cato, one of our local crew members from the excavation, helped by driving in incredibly convoluted loops around the area, and patiently explaining to bystanders about what I was doing.
I kept crossing the construction route of another major water line to supply Mexico City. Occasionally, it was useful, such as here, where I needed a sample from below substantial modern fill.
These samples should help us identify where our previously sourced archaeological ceramics were made. Because there are only three other sites in the region with sourced ceramics, we have several chemical clusters in our archaeological ceramics that probably represent particular subregions, but we don't know where on the physical landscape those subregions are. More specifically, the new clay samples should help with three specific questions:
What chemical elements are the most geographically variable across the Toluca Valley and therefore the most useful for identifying source areas within the region?
Are the areas immediately to the south and west of the Toluca Valley likely sources for several of our "probably non-local" groups?
Are clays from the west (Toluca Valley) side of the mountain range between the Basin of Mexico and the Toluca Valley similar enough to Basin clays that they could explain some of our groups of Aztec-style ceramics that don't quite match local the very large existing reference data set for the Basin of Mexico?
A new article, by me and Louise, on new perspectives on the Philistines, has just appeared in the Festschrift in honor of Israel Finkelstein.
The full title of the article is:
Maeir, A. M., and Hitchcock, L. A. 2017. Rethinking the Philistines: A 2017 Perspective. Pp. 249–67 in Rethinking Israel: Studies in the History and Archaeology of Ancient Israel in Honor of Israel Finkelstein, eds. O. Lipschits, Y. Gadot and M. J. Adams. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns.
Just came upon these photos – and they are a real blast from the past!
Two pictures of the team (mostly BIU students) from the 1997 season of excavations at Tell es-Safi/Gath. The images are taken in Area A, after the first season that was just two weeks long. A lot has happened since then!
10:40 Aren Maeir (Bar-Ilan University), “The 2017 Season of Excavations at Tell es-Safi/Gath” (20 min.)
Session 2J Houses and Households in the Near East: Archaeology and History I, Hancock:
11:25 Haskel Greenfield (University of Manitoba), Tina Greenfield (University of Saskatchewan), Elizabeth Arnold (Grand Valley State University), Aren Maeir (Bar-Ilan University), “A Bunch of Asses: Recent Asinine Discoveries from Early Bronze Tell es-Safi/Gath” (15 min.)
Session 2F Archaeology of the Ancient Near East: Bronze and Iron Ages II, Lewis:
11:45 Jeffrey Chadwick (Brigham Young University Jerusalem Center), “How to Build a Glacis: Construction Dynamics of the MB II Fortifications at Tell es-Safi/Gath” (15 min.)
Session 3B Archaeology and Biblical Studies I, Harbor 2:
3:25 Amit Dagan (Bar-Ilan University) and Aren Maeir (BarIlan University), “‘And the Gods of the Philistines’ (Judges 10:6): Understanding Philistine Cultic Practices in Light of Archaeological and Textual Evidence” (15 min.)
Friday, Nov. 16th
Session 8I Archaeology of the Southern Levant II, Webster:
4:45 Vanessa Workman (Bar-Ilan University) and Adi Eliyahu Behar (Bar-Ilan University), “Early Iron Workshops at Tel Megiddo and Tell es-Safi/Gath: Comparative Analysis of Working Debris and Paraphernalia” (20 min.)
5:10 Eric Welch (University of Kansas), “The Gats of Gath: Ninth Century Olive Oil Production in Area K at Tell es-Safi/Gath” (20 min.)
Posters (Galleria Exhibit Hall):
“Morphometrics and Sheep Goat Breeds in the Early Bronze Age of Tell es-Safi/Gath” Tina Greenfield (University of Saskatchewan), Jane Sanford (University College London), Haskel Greenfield (University of Manitoba), Shira Albaz (Bar-Ilan University), and Aren Maeir (Bar-Ilan University)
“Cult of the Philistines: Ethnographic Artistic Reconstruction of Ritual Space” Madaline Harris-Schober (University of Melbourne)
“The Missing Link? Olive Oil Production in the Ninth Century B.C.E. at Tell es-Safi/Gath” Chloe Clouse (University of Kansas), Christina Olson (University of Kansas), and Eric Welch (University of Kansas)
“If Stones Could Speak: The 2000 Year Old Square at Tell es-Safi/Gath” Florencia Fustinoni (University of British Columbia)
Sunday, Nov. 19th: Session S19-227: Israelite Religion in Its West Asian Environment, Room: Back Bay C (Second Level) – Sheraton Boston Hotel (SB) (1:00 PM to 3:30 PM)
Aren Maeir, Bar-Ilan University, Panelist (30 min)
Francesca Stavrakopoulou, University of Exeter, Panelist (30 min)
Jeffrey Stackert, University of Chicago, Panelist (30 min)
Steven Weitzman, University of Pennsylvania, Respondent (15 min)
Discussion (45 min)
Session S19-301: Animal Studies and the Bible, Tufts (Third Level) – Boston Marriott Copley Place
We are excited to announce that registration for the 2018 season at Tel Burna is officially open! You can access it here or click above at the “Excavation Application” button. See here for the registration packet for those who would like to fill out the paper packet.
Also – we are less than a week away from the “Foothills of Judah” Conference which will feature presentations by Aharon, Debi, myself, and Itzick along with several other talks by the Gezer team. You can see the schedule here.
Today, Amit, Adi, Vanessa and I were at the tell again for the last day of the mini-season that we started a couple of weeks ago, to try and finish up some of the work done in Area D. While we did not manage to complete as much as we hoped, and there is more to do during the 2018 summer season, some very interesting remains connected to the metal production workshop were uncovered. These remains (various remains of the iron and copper production) should provide important additional materials for the laboratory analyses that Adi and Vanessa are conducting.
Check out this cool clip of a very unusual cloud rolling over the tell, early in the morning, during the 2017 season. Follow the dramatic narration (by your’s truly) and the amused crowd at the end (E. Welch)…
I was so sorry to hear that our friend, Uri Reiss, who was a core team member of the Safi project for over a decade, and served for many years as the project “Major Domo”, passed away this last Friday.
Uri was truly a great person, kind and friendly, caring and motivated, and with endless energy – and always with a smile on his face. He will be sorely missed by his family and friends. The “Safi family” has lost an important member.
May his memory be blessed – יהי זכרו ברוך!
Here is a picture of Uri working in the field – as many of the Safi old-timers most probably remember him.
Two new publications have just appeared, and although they are not directly connected to the Safi excavations, they might be of interest. Check them out!
Maeir, A. M. 2017. Assessing Jerusalem in the Middle Bronze Age: A 2017 Perspective. Pp. 64*-74* in New Studies in the Archaeology of Jerusalem and Its Region: Collected Papers, Volume XI, eds. Y. Gadot, Y. Zelinger, K. Cytryn-Silverman and J. Uziel. (see here a link to the paper)
Maeir, A. M. 2017. “There Is Nothing So Whole as a Broken Heart”: Reflections on “The Practice of Repairing Vessels in Ancient Egypt” (NEA 79.4 ) by Julia Hsieh. Near Eastern Archaeology 80(3): 202–03. (see here a link to a corrected proof of the paper)
Today we had the 2nd (and last) day of the mini-season. Work continued in the metallurgy area in Area D, and Dr. Michael Toffolo (from the Univ. of Bordeaux) came to the site to sample a very interesting context that was found in Area F this season, apparently related to the production of a plaster.
Today (Oct. 17) we conducted a small mini-season at the tell. A small group of the team, came down to the site to do some work in Area D, in the metallurgy area and in the gate area. Tomorrow, we’ll be back to finish up.
Excavating with a small group, and in the fall, is quite different from what we usually do in the summer. The weather was great, the finds were nice, and we had a great time.
I also checked on Areas K and K2 – and they are doing just fine! :-)
Dr. Joe Uziel, an old-time Safi team member, and currently a senior archaeologist at the IAA, was a total media star today, with the press blitz about the fantastic finds near the Western Wall (see, e.g., here and here and here and here).
We are very excited to announce that several members of our team will be participating in a conference entitled “Foothills of Judah: Recent Archaeological Investigations” – Nov. 13-14, 2017 at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary – Fort Worth, Texas.
A new article, authored by D. Fuks et al., dealing with climate change during the late Byzantine and early Islamic periods has just appeared. The study was in the making for quite a few years, and was initially kick started on the basis of insights that Oren Ackermann and I had from research on the environment around Tell es-Safi/Gath.
Here is the full quote:
Fuks, D., Ackermann, O., Ayalon, A., Bar-Matthews, M., Bar-Oz, G., Levi, Y., Maeir, A. M., Weiss, E., Zilberman, T., and Safrai, Z.Fuks, D., Ackermann, O., Ayalon, A., Bar-Matthews, M., Bar-Oz, G., Levi, Y., Maeir, A. M., Weiss, E., Zilberman, T., and Safrai, Z. 2017. Dust Clouds, Climate Change and Coins: Consiliences of Paleoclimate and Economic History in the Late Antique Southern Levant. Levant 49(2). DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/00758914.2017.1379181.
Just received notification that the volume The Old Testament in archaeology and history, edited by Jennie Ebeling, J. Edward Wright, Mark Elliott, and Paul V.M. Flesher (Baylor University Press: Waco, TX, 2017) has appeared!
This looks like a really nice introductory volume to the history and archaeology of Old Testament/Hebrew Bible times and culture. I highly recommend checking it out as a possible text book for college level courses on related topics.
I have a chapter on Judah in the Iron II in the volume (full reference: Maeir, A. M. 2017. Chapter 15. The Southern Kingdom of Judah: Surrounded by Enemies. Pp. 391–412 in The Bible in Archaeology and History, eds. J. Ebeling, J. E. Wright, M. Elliott and P. V. M. Flesher. Waco, TX: Baylor University Press), and the other chapters look really nice as well.
I’m definitely looking forward to receiving my copy of the volume!
This past Friday, on the eve of Yom Kippur, I submitted the materials for a full (in fact double) issue of Near Eastern Archaeology that will be devoted to the excavations at Tell es-Safi/Gath! Thanks to the hard work and cooperation of all those who contributed to materials for this issue (almost 50 contributors in total!), I am sure that this will be a truly special publication. The editor of NEA (Thomas Schneider) says that it will come out in the December 2017 issue – so that’s is just a few months! We still have a lot of work in the editing process – but I’m really looking forward to seeing the printed version of this!
Congratulations to David Ben-Shlomo (who is the Safi petrographer) and Emanuel Eisenberg, on the publication of the new report on their excavations at Hebron, and the initiation of the new monograph series of the Institute of Archaeology of Ariel University!
The full title is:
Eisenberg, E., and Ben-Shlomo, D. 2017. The Tel Ḥevron 2014 Excavations. Final Report. Ariel University Institute of Archaeology Monograph Series, Number 1. Ariel: Ariel University Press.
The Minerva Center for the Relations between Israel and Aram in Biblical Times (RIAB)
Five Seasons of Excavation at Tel Abel Beth Maacah: An Interim Assessment
The Institute of Archaeology, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Thursday, April 26, 2018
This workshop will present a summary of the stratigraphic and architectural contexts, as well as major material culture finds, uncovered during the course of five seasons of excavation. Focus will be on the Iron Age I and II, with highlights from the Middle and Late Bronze Age, as well as the Persian-early Hellenistic period, in order to better understand the occupation sequence.
Following this presentation, a discussion will take place on issues generated by the finds and the research questions that guide the project, particularly, how the archaeological data from Abel Beth Maacah illuminate cultural and historical developments in the Hula Valley, from the Late Bronze Age city state of Hazor to the Iron Age IIA territorial kingdoms of Israel and Aram-Damascus. A presentation of pottery and other finds from these periods will take place and serve as the basis for a chronological, contextual and cultural discussion.
15:00: Convening and refreshments
15:15-17:00: Presentation of the archaeological field and artefactual data
17:30-19:00: Presentation of pottery and other finds and discussion
If you are interested in participating, please contact: email@example.com
Dr. Joe Uziel, long-time member of the Safi team, and currently directing the IAA excavations in the City of David, has gotten some really nice press coverage (see for example here and here) for some great finds of Iron Age bullae from the Iron Age II that were recently found in Jerusalem. Ortal Chalaf, who is co-directing the excavations, is also a former student at BIU – and participated as well in the Safi excavations.
Shem Tov Sasson, who is a promising undergraduate student in my department at BIU, and participated this year in the excavations at Safi (he served as an assistant area supervisor in Area J), has written two great blog posts about his impressions and experiences during the 2017 season at Tell es-Safi/Gath.
Check them out here and here (and in general, he has all kinds of interesting blog entries, on his studies at BIU, nature in Israel, etc.).
Way to go Shem Tov!
And here is a picture of Shem Tov holding the bronze bowl that he found this season!
Following the success of the last clips (see the last one here) on her restoration work, Leah, our pottery restorer, has made another clip of the restoration of yet another vessel, this time an Iron IIA krater from Area F.
Leah, our pottery restorer, had made another great clip on the process of restoration of a vessel (see an earlier one here). This time, Leah restored an almost complete Iron IIA red-slipped and burnished jar from Area D.
The article, by Shira, Itzik, Haskel and yours truly, deals with the evidence of EB game boards and game pieces found at Safi, and places them within a broader context. This is a brief and popular summary of a more in-depth study on this topic that will hopefully soon be published.
The full title is:
Albaz, S., Shai, I., Greenfield, H. J., and Maeir, A. M. 2017. Board Games in Biblical Gath. Biblical Archaeology Review 43(5): 22, 68. (see here a pdf).
And on the same occasion, please note several additional new publications of mine:
Maeir, A. M. 2017. Kingdoms of Israel and Judah: I. History and Archaeology. Pp. 286–91 in The Encyclopedia of the Bible and Its Reception, Volume 15. Berlin: de Gruyter. (see here a pdf).
Maeir, A. M. 2017. Koldewey, Robert Johann. P. 449 in The Encyclopedia of the Bible and Its Reception, Volume 15. Berlin: de Gruyter. (see here a pdf).
Maeir, A. M. 2017. Lapp, Paul Wilbert. Pp. 826–27 in The Encyclopedia of the Bible and Its Reception, Volume 15. Berlin: de Gruyter. (see here a pdf).
An article on the “Hobby Lobby scandal” and about the antiquities market in general, appeared yesterday in USA Today. In the article, not only am I quoted about my deep negative opinion about the antiquities market.
Among other things I said (whether quoted, misquoted, or not), I like the following quote:
““In the first half of the 20th century many rich people had the heads of animals mounted on the walls of their studies. Today that’s considered despicable. That’s how people should feel about the archaeological grave robbers who are robbing nations of their national heritage.””
But no less important, note that the photo at the beginning of the article was taken last year (2016) by the author of the article (Michele Chabin), shows the excavations at Tell es-Safi/Gath in Area D, and one sees Amit Dagan and Ahuva Ho excavating away!
Today, I had the pleasure of visiting the new excavations at Qiryat Yearim. I was hosted by the directors, Profs. Israel Finkelstein, Thomas Romer and Christophe Nicolle, who gave me a very detailed 2 hour tour of the site and the various excavation areas. What can I say – the site – and the excavations, are very impressive!
Although they are only at the end of the 2nd week of the first season, there are already some VERY interesting finds. It is clear that in the next few seasons, this site will become one of the most important excavations in Israel, and will undoubtedly provide crucial information for the study of the Judahite Kingdom during the Iron Age – as well as many other important aspects.
Yesterday, August 9, 2017, we had the honor of hosting the new Australian Ambassador to Israel, Mr. Chris Cannan, at the Safi lab, as part of his visit to BIU.
The Safi project has a long-going connection with the Australian ambassadors to Israel, and past ambassadors have visited the lab and come to the excavations (as mentioned, for example, here, here and here).
I hope that Mr. Cannan, and his family, will join us in the excavations in July 2018!
Here’s a picture of the ambassador and me during the visit.
As part of the 2017 17th World Congress of Jewish Studies currently being held at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, there will be a session today on archaeology, which will include a lecture on Tell es-Safi/Gath.
See here details of the lecture and session:
118 Iron Age Archaeology Wednesday, 09 August, 2017 11:30-13:30, Room: 2603
Chairperson: Aren Maeir
Aren Maeir: The Excavations at Tell es-Safi/Gath and their Implications for the Understanding of the Early Judahite Kingdom
Carl S. Ehrlich: Does the Tanakh Preserve an Accurate Echo of the Philistine Cult?
Mitka R. Golub: Judean Personal Names in the Book of Jeremiah in the Light of the Archaeological Evidence
James S. Adcock: After Eight Seasons at Tel Burna, Have We Found Biblical Libnah?
You are invited to join us at this interesting session!
The aerial photos at the end of the 2017 season were great (taken by Griffin Aerial Imaging).
So, in addition to the group photo that was already posted, here are some of the views of the various areas. And may I make a suggestion to those out there who want to be creative and suggest reconstructing lines of walls, features, houses, etc.: what you see in the aerials does not enable you to understand the complex architectural stratigraphy on the ground…
The last week of excavations is usually uneventful – as we are typically trying to close down the excavation areas and make everything look “nice” for the final photos. However, this season we unexpectedly uncovered a destruction layer in B2 at the end of week 3 – which meant that we needed to expose this layer across the entire square or risk losing the context and finds of this important discovery over the winter (rain, visitors, or our neighbors – the bulls and the nice “ritual deposits” they often leave us :). On account of this – week four was much busier than usual!
Besides the regular end of seasons tasks (e.g., finishing pottery washing/reading/registration, endless trips to the container, ), we also heard a lecture on the archaeology and climate of Iceland by Michal and the Cypriot Pithoi from Area B1 by Itzick. During the early part of the week, we had several visitors including Prof. Eliezer Oren. On Wednesday, as a reward for completing the rigors of final sweeping, we visited the excavations at Lachish where Igor Kreimerman (dig staff at Lachish) gave us a tour of the “fourth expeditions” findings from their final season. In light of what they showed us – it will be very interesting to attend the lectures at the various November meetings later this year.
In Area B1: we finished our final week in Area B1 on what appeared to be a bit of whimper – that is until pottery washing! Since we made such excellent process in accomplishing our season’s goals during the preceding two weeks – we decided to take one last shot at finding the southern wall of the large cultic enclosure that defines Area B1 and opened another excavation square on the far southwest side of the excavation area. After reaching what appeared to be bedrock in much of the square (although we might have to dig a bit more to be sure) – we were resigned to simply make the square look “pretty” and take a few photos. But then – Seth and Oleg began uncovering an enormous amount of pottery in the northwestern area of the square – when we washed and read the pottery – we found ……… an inscription!!! The inscription is written with ink on a single sherd (i.e., an ostraca) and consists of only a few letters – while it is too soon to be certain, and we (Matt in particular) are already working feverishly on this – the inscription appears to be in the Proto-Canaanite script. Amazingly, this inscription was found in the second to last basket, in the last square of B1, on the last day of excavation. And what a way to go out! After seven seasons of excavation in Area B1 – it appears that we are officially closing Area B1…
While in the grand scheme of things seven years is a short time, a lot has transpired since 2011! As the Area supervisor of B1, I would like to personally thank all the people that helped make the excavations in Area B1 such a success. Here are a few names that come to mind that I would like to personally thank – Benjamin Yang, Casey Sharp, Andrew Bell, Ian Herriot, Ian McKibbin (and Scott and Barb), Sam Joffe, Jane Gaastra, Yirmi Szanton, Ido Ginaton (z”l), Gary and Sunny McKinny, Kay Fountain, Ofer and Victor, Ron Lev, Seth Adcock, Matt Spigelman, and IBEX/Master’s University spring season students. Here a few photos of work in Area B1 over the years.
In Area B2: Aharon and his remaining team (Juliana, Olivia, and Judah) with an assist from some fresh recruits (Jonah, Blythe, Ludmila, and Eva) and B1 veterans (Benjamin, Jane, Ian, and Sam) pressed on to meet the daunting and exciting task of excavating a destruction layer in the middle of the east-west section. They also continued to work in other parts of the east-west section.
Starting at the top/east side of the section – Juliana and her team successfully removed the balk and exposed the connection between the fortifications and the interior building that we had excavated earlier this season. While the surface remains were poor and not well preserved, it appears that this building was initially built during the Iron IIC, and was re-used during the Persian period (like in A2). The building is east-west oriented and rectangular with a row of pillars dividing the western side from the eastern side. The western end of the building was built in connection with the casemate fortifications – although there are clearly several architectural phases that require more study. We also can trace adjacent walls in the area north of this building – which probably indicates that these buildings were built (or rebuilt) together with the casemate wall perhaps in the “four-room” style – e.g., Tel Sheva Iron II town plan, but we will have to open more squares to be sure. We plan on continuing to expose this building to the north and east next season. Despite our uncertainty regarding the exact phasing within the building, we can likely confirm that the exterior town wall was in use during the Iron IIC (i.e., the 7th century BCE) as the wall was widened during this period as revealed by Juliana’s balk removal. Going back to the initial season of the project (2010), we had wondered whether the outer fortifications were in use during the last days of the kingdom of Judah (e.g., King Josiah) because we found that the interior casemate wall had been destroyed by grain silos during this period. Unlike on the eastern side of the tell (A1), the fortifications on the west (B2) seem to have been strengthened during the 7th century BCE (as noted also by the existence of the perpendicular wall of the casemate), although we will have to trace this further to confirm this hypothesis.
Outside of the wall to the west, Michal and Ladislav continued to trace new courses of both the city wall and the poorly-made wall (known lovingly by the team as the “crappy wall”) that seems to divide two layers of fill that strengthen the Iron II outer wall. Amazingly, on the north of the “crappy wall we now have c. 2 meters of fill from the Late Bronze Age that includes a high quantity of metallugical remains (tuyeres, crucibles, slag, traces of bronze, etc.), but also sherds from the Iron II. This indicates that this fill was taken from a single place, probably near the fortification wall, and deposited along the wall’s outer face in order to strengthen the wall. In the section south of the “crappy wall,” we also have fill that is mixed with pottery from different periods (predominantly Iron II) that does not include metallurgical activity. In the last few days of the excavation, it appears that Ladislav reached the top of a collapse in this southern section that includes mudbrick material and ash. Given the destruction layer that we found lower down the slope (see next paragraph), it is possible that we now have the beginning of the destruction next to the outer fortification. If so, then it would mean that the fortification wall was standing at least as early as the destruction (Iron I? Early Iron IIA?), but we will obviously have to look at this very carefully when we continue to trace the depths of the fortification wall next season. Stay tuned!
Below the wall to the west, Aharon’s team (Jane, Sam, Benjamin, Jonah, and co.) excavated a very well preserved destruction layer that already includes around a dozen complete vessels of various types (storage jars, cooking pots, bowls, etc.). The destruction layer was found under a silo (Iron IIC) and a very large collapse of stones (perhaps from the outer fortification wall) that included remains from the Late Bronze-Iron II. While it is too early to be certain, the pottery seems to date before the late Iron IIA phase that we traced on the eastern side of the tell in A1 back in 2010 (perhaps a destruction layer related to the same period as the Gath Hazael destruction c. 830 BCE), and it is certainly later than the 13th century layer that we have exposed in B1. At first glance, the layer seems to be related to the late Iron I and/or the early Iron IIA (late 11th and 10th centuries BCE – including several Philistine sherds – bichrome and debased), although we will have to closely examine the pottery, as well as hope to get some good 14C/radiocarbon dates from the large amount of charcoal that we collected. Given the ongoing (and often heated) discussion about the beginning of the Iron II and its relationship to the United Kingdom/Early Israelite and/or Judahite polities, we are very excited to continue to expose more of this destruction layer, study the evidence, and see where it takes us. Obviously – there will be more to come on this front in future seasons as we attempt to trace this very important stratum at the site.
Further down the slope to the west, and despite Sam and Ian’s heroic efforts in excavating in top soil and rock collapse for two straight weeks, we still do not yet know what is going on in the bottom ten meters of the section. It seems that there was a large wall that was fortified with an upper layer of earthen fill (filled with pottery from the Late Bronze-Iron IIB) on top of a stone core laid above bedrock (also filled with pottery from the Late Bronze-Iron IIB) that was built on top of the Late Bronze plateau stratum that we have uncovered in Area B1. This last piece of evidence, which was confirmed by the hard work of Benjamin in his probe that reached bedrock, is very interesting as it indicates that the Late Bronze city continued towards the east beneath the Iron IIB (?) stone/earthen glacis (?). Hopefully, we will be able to better understand this massive architectural feature next season when we remove the collapse.
Here are a few photos from the last several days of excavation.
In conclusion and a look ahead: This season we better exposed the earliest excavated stratum at Tel Burna in Area B1 (13th century BCE) by tracing the eastern wall of the large cultic enclosure while also searching, but ultimately failing to find the elusive southern wall. We also traced large walls that seem to have surrounded (and likely formed) the western lower platform that was only populated during the Late Bronze Age. In what will be Area B3 – we hope to understand these walls (fortification? large public building? retaining wall?) and its relationship to the large public cultic enclosure that we excavated in Area B1.
Inside of the western fortifications in Area B2, we found an Iron II building that seems to have a constructed during the Iron IIC/7th century BCE and re-used during the Persian period. We can also add an additional stratum with the discovery of the late Iron I/early Iron IIA (?) destruction layer in the middle of the east-west section.
Next season we hope to open up the following two new areas:
Area B3 to expose the aforementioned large architecture on the southern end of the lower Late Bronze platform.
Area G(?) to expose where we believe the Iron Age gate is located on the southern side of the fortifications (see photo).
Updated Periods (with the location of evidence):
Early Bronze Age – survey and excavated sherds
Middle Bronze Age – survey and excavated sherds
Late Bronze Age – Area B1; fills in Area B2; survey
Late Iron I/Early Iron IIA (?) – Area B2 destruction layer; survey
Late Iron IIA – Area A1 destruction layer (?); survey
The 4th week of the project involves some digging and a lot of end of season work, including preparing the areas for photography, packing up finds and equipment, trips to the storage containers and BIU – but also a few finds!
Among the most interesting finds is the cultic standing stone (“Massebah”) found in Area D, just next to the metallurgy area. The Massebah was found knocked over, and right next to it we had found a few days ago both a figurine and a collection of astragali bones. The strengthens the suggestion that there are more cultic contexts yet to be excavated in this area. Cool!
Congratulations to Itzik Shai (Ariel University) and David Small (Lehigh University), editors of the journal Archaeology and Text, for the appearance of the first issue of this new, very interesting – and open access – journal.
Yesterday, Friday, July 21st, 2017, was the last day of the 3rd week of the season. While we are still in the field next week, main activities will be a bit of excavation, and a lot of cleaning and photography – and not to mention packing up and sending materials and equipment to BIU and for storage.
Thus, what we have uncovered by now is more or less what we will have for this season – and all in all it has been a great season!
Here are some of the main points in the various areas:
Area A: In the two squares that were excavated by Louise and her team, in the eastern square then went through the early Iron I levels in what seems to be a courtyard, and had some nice Iron I finds. And on the very last day, the got through to the EB levels below this, including a restorable complete EB platter bowl. Area A, which had been excavated from the very first excavation season (1997) will be closed after this season.
Area D: Amit and his team had quite a season! In the western side, excavations in the metallurgical area revealed more and more evidence of the metal working area, including a large fragment of a bronze crucible, many tuyerres, slag, hammer-scale, and quite a nice amount of bronze and iron objects. Just next to the metal working area an additional section of the Iron IIA destruction was revealed, including an additional collection of astragali bones. And on Friday, right next to the astragali, a very unique figurine was uncovered (see pictures below). In the eastern side of the area, the area of the fortifications and possible gate continued to be excavated. These features are turning out to be so large and so complex (with at least three phases) and with many finds, that it is clear that it will take some time before we fully understand what is going on here. This is real monumental stuff! The excavations in Area D demonstrate clearly that the lower city of Gath was settled from the late 12th/early 11th cent. BCE and onwards, to be destroyed ca. 830 BCE by Hazael. And one of course should mention the very interesting inscription that was found in this area.
Area E: Shira and Haskel and their team had a very successful season. In addition to the complete donkey skeleton (the 5th or 6th that we have found) that was deposited below one of the floors of the houses in this neighborhood, we dug a deep sounding in the area. Surprisingly, even though we reached a depth of over 2.5 meters, we did not yet reach bedrock – and in fact we still were in the EB III levels! In addition to this, numerous floors, walls, contexts and installations relating to the various levels in this area were uncovered, as well as some very interesting finds (such as two bulla and a sheep figurine). Area E will also be closed after this season – although a small team may return sometime in the next few months to complete the sounding.
Area F: Jeff and his team attained all the objectives this season – and more! Levels dating to the Iron IIB, Iron IIA, Iron IB, Iron IA, LB, MB and EB were excavated. In particular, the MB and EB levels were important, as they clarified the relationship between the inside of the city and the city wall. This includes, in the last few days, clear evidence of any EB structure within and abutting the EB wall. Area F will also be closed at the end of this season.
Area J: Jill’s team opened this area this season, with the aim of defining the possible line of fortification that was seen on surface. And in fact, this is just what they did! The excavated the width of the wall in two squares, and while they did not reach floors of structures within the wall, the plan of the wall, and the clean EB pottery, enables to ascertain that this is the wall of the EB city – all the way at the bottom of the eastern side of the upper tell! And in addition, Jill’s team found a beautiful Iron Age bronze bowl near surface. Area J will also be closed at the end of the season.
Area K: Eric’s team expanded the area that was opened last year, and discovered additional walls, features, and finds relating to the final phase (Iron IIA) of the lower city. The extent of the finds makes it clear that the Iron IIA city extended far to the eastern side of the lower city. It is not clear yet whether there are earlier levels (as in Area D) below this, but time will tell. There were quite a few interesting finds from this area, including a scarab found in the last week. Needless to say, we will continue working in Area K in future seasons.
Area K2: Brent and his team worked on what looks more and more like the monumental fortifications of the eastern side of the lower city. It is comprised of three lines of almost cyclopean like stones. Interestingly, between the lower and middle lines, Brent and his team excavated strata of collapsed mudbricks and other deposits, dating to the Iron IIA destruction, possible evidence of a structure (a casemate?) between these walls. This is only the very beginning of the work in this area and we will continue working on this in future seasons.
Remote Sensing: Andy and his team did some great work this season, using magnetometry to help us understand the plan of the lower city, as well as other features in and around the site. Several very interesting features were seen the lower city, between Areas D and K, indicating the high potential future excavations in other portions of the lower city! We hope to continue conducting various remote season in and around the site and in particular in the lower city.
All in all – some great results of the season (and perhaps some more by the end of the coming week) with much promise for future seasons.
If all goes as planned, this will be the last season of excavations in the upper tell, and as of next year, we will focus on work in various areas in the lower city.
Needless to say – all the excellent work and results was possible only due to the excellent and dedicated work of the team!
As in previous seasons, week three proved to be fruitful due to the continued exposure of both new squares (in B1) and deeper layers (in B2) and the hard work of our fantastic team. Besides our weekly teletour (Azekah at sunset!), we heard several interesting lectures this week on a wide range of topics including Landscape Archaeology (Oren Ackermann), Archaeological Survey (Aharon Tavger), Conserving Archaeological Sites in The National Parks of Israel (Iosi Bordowicz), and Examples of the Importance of Chemical Testing on Ancient Remains (Stephen Buckley). We also had a number visitors at the site including Aren Maeir, Jeff Chadwick, Eric Welch, Daniel Frese, David Kotter (and many from the Tell es-Safi/Gath team), Amir Golani, Itzhaq Paz, Amihai Mazar, Aaron Burke, Sabine Kleiman, Assaf Kleiman, Laura Mazow, and Debi!
In Area B1: We finished yet another excavation square on the lower platform that had restorable Late Bronze pottery and includes traces of a wall that likely marks the eastern edge of the large enclosure that we excavated in previous seasons. Benjamin, Andrew, Jane, and Kay exposed more of this wall by removing the balk – in so doing – they revealed a number of walls that seem to be rooms on the western and eastern sides of the main public enclosure. Interestingly, it appears that the Late Bronze Age city continued beneath the rise of the the tell as some of the walls run directly into a large c. 2.5 m high x c. 5 m wide x 80 m long hump (glacis? retaining wall?) that seems to have been laid there in the late 8th century BCE (i.e., the time of Hezekiah, Sennacherib, Isaiah, etc.). On this hump, Ian and Sam diligently removed a large amount of loose fill at a steady rate of some 20 cm/day. Over the last couple of days, they also exposed a huge collapse of stones that may be related to the fortification wall (or a lower wall) that fell down the slope – presumably during the late 8th century BCE – although we will have to wait until next season to be sure. In the section above this huge collapse, Sheila, Andrea, Seth, and Yair have exposed an interesting feature that seems to be related to the Iron II fill/glacis(?) that we are still trying to figure out. Finally, Sam, Samuel, Ian, Andrew, and Benjamin also opened up another square in B1 in a last-ditch effort to find the southern wall of the large enclosure that dominates Area B1 – we hope to finish up this square by Tuesday (our last full excavation day).
In Area B2: Things are getting very interesting for Aharon, Matt, and Kathleen’s team! Juliana and co. (Ariel, Olivia, etc.) nicely defined a large rectangular room that is perpendicular to the casemate fortifications. This building seems to date the 8th century BCE with re-use also in the 7th century and Persian period. They also removed the balk that had separated the outer casemate wall from the inner casemate wall and the aforementioned building – after doing this it seems clear that the outer fortification wall was not being used in the 7th century BCE as there appears to have been occupational remains directly on top of it. Just below the fortification wall – Michal and Ladislav continue to expose the outer face of the wall – now at a depth of c. 2 meters – and they are still not have not reached the bottom. Amazingly, Michal seems to have a huge accumulation of metallurgical activity that includes evidence of crucibles, tuyeres, copper, slag, and iron with typical Late Bronze pottery. However – it is still not yet clear if this material is simply fill that was deposited against the wall during a period following the construction of the fortifications and was laid there in order to strengthen the wall (perhaps during the Iron II?); or if this layer postdates the wall’s construction, which would mean that the fortification wall would have to date to or, more likely, before the Late Bronze period. We might have a better answer to this very important question next week – stay tuned!
Further down the section – Aaron, Ryan, and Jane may have finally broken through the “balagan” (i.e., “mess”) that is square B7 which has produced three seasons of collapse and frustration – but now may be giving us a destruction layer that at first glance appears to be related to the early Iron Age (no pottery reading yet on this – but the in situ vessels appear to be Iron I…) This is of crucial importance to understanding the occupational history of the site – and will be one of our main focuses for our final week in the field. Again – stay tuned!
We had a very successful day at the dig today, with some very interesting finds. In addition, we had quite a few visitors, including Ami Mazar, David Ussishkin, Lily Singer-Avitz, and Assaf and Sabine Kleiman.
This evening we will be having the end of the 3rd week party – and a lot of the team will be leaving (we will “only” be 75 next week…). So we will have an opportunity to thank all of those that are leaving for all their hard and dedicated work!
Area A: Louise’s team is deep in the Iron I in both squares, and a lot of Philistine pottery is coming out.
Area D: Various elements in the gate area are being exposed and are more and more impressive. A lot of Iron I vessels are coming up, including from very nice Philistine 1 and 2 vessel types.
Area E: A very nice zoormorphic figurine (a sheep according to Haskel) was found in today, right next to where the bullae were found yesterday! In addition, an impressive floor with a large amount of phytoliths was excavated. And, when taking down a balk, a circular installation, possibly a silo, was discovered.
Area F: Jeff’s team is excavating in a lot of periods, but perhaps what is most exciting is the possible wall from the EB, built up against the inside of the EB city wall.
Area J: The city wall is more than 3 meters thick! Looks like we can say that we have found the EB wall in this area!
Area K: Various finds, floors and installations, but the nicest find for the day, without a doubt was a nice scarab (see picture below).
Area K2: Final straightening and cleaning in the area, as Brent is leaving tomorrow…
We had a very busy day today – lots of finds – and lots of visitors…
Area A: Louise and her team took down an Iron IIA wall and revealed the Iron I wall beneath it, and are now pushing for the final probe into the early Iron I levels.
Area D: Amit and his team had quite a day. In the metallurgy area they found a large piece of a crucible, and in the gate area, various very interesting Iron I objects, including several very special cultic objects.
Area E: Several very interesting floors, features and installations were found – and in addition, two clay bulla, one with an imprinted design, were found!
Area F: The are reaching to the EB levels inside the wall, and some nice MB pottery (including Tell el-Yahudiyeh ware) was found in association with the MB glacis. In addition, Iron IIA, LB and MB are being excavated.
Area J: The EB wall is getting bigger and bigger…
Area K: Iron IIA destruction galore – and all kinds of very cool finds!
Area K2: It seems that the two levels of restorable pottery between two of the walls both date to the Iron IIA!
Very nice day today (and a lot less hot…), and all the areas made a lot of progress!
Area A: Louise and her team are digging in Iron I in both squares and have found some very nice decorated Philistine pottery
Area D: The metallurgy area is producing a lot of evidence of metal working and next to it, the Iron IIA destruction level is full of finds! In the fortifications on the west side of Area D, a very nice Iron I Philistines bird head was found. On the eastern side of Area D, the fortifications are expanding and becoming more and more impressive!
Area E: The sounding is so deep that we have to temporarily stop until we get a bigger ladder – and we it seems that we are still not yet close to bedrock! In addition, all kinds of new walls, floors and contexts are coming up!
Area F: It seems that under the evidence of the MB construction (including a possible lime kiln and kurkar used for the glacis), the F team may have reached EB contexts inside of and right up against the EB city wall. If so, this is the first time we will have this on the tell! In addition, the F team is digging in Iron IIA, Iron I, LB and MB contexts!
Area J: The EB wall is getting bigger and bigger. Jill’s team was joined by a large group of YU students for the day, and they made a lot of progress in the area.
Area K: The Iron IIA destruction is popping up in just about all the squares – as well as walls, installations and other interesting contexts.
Area K2: Several restorable vessels were excavated today from two levels, one Iron IIA and one late Iron I, that are located between two of the very large walls if the fortification in this area.
In addition, we have various visitors – including Zvi Greenhut and Baruch Brandl from the IAA, Drs. Hong and Choi from the Korean team at Lachish, and most importantly, my three sons (who are old-time participants on the dig from years back…) and my grandson Hillel!
The third week started with a boom – as we found a nice little inscription yesterday (as mentioned previously). Today, the 3rd week of digging started and things went very well. It was unbearably hot – but the team was determined and we weathered it out!
Here are some of the new finds:
Area A: Louise and her team are deep into the Iron I in both squares, with some new architecture and pits.
Area D: In the western side, Amit and his team had quite a few very nice finds. A whole bunch of metallurgy related finds came up, including slag, tuyerres, hammer scale, iron and bronze objects and more.
In addition, some more of the Iron II destruction was found, including a bunch of vessels, a cluster of loomweights, and a nice collection of astragali.
In the eastern part of D the gate area is getting more and more impressive!
Area E: The deep sounding is almost reached the Pacific Ocean (:-) – and we are still getting architecture and clear layers! A very nice EB votive juglet was found, as well as a couple of floors, walls, etc. Haskel and Shira’s team are at full speed ahead!
Area F: Jeff and his team are deep in the Iron II, Iron I, LB, and MB, and today worked on the area which appears to have a plaster kiln.
Area J: More and more parts of the wall are appearing in Jill’s area and things look more and more complicated…
Area K: It’s Iron IIA destruction galore – with finds in just about every square. Vessels, loomweights, installations, walls – you name it! Eric’s team is going great!
Area K2: Brent and his team now seem to have two Iron I levels, including complete vessels from between two of the walls in the area, providing more and more evidence that this is a fortification that was in use (and perhaps founded) in the Iron I.
Add to that – we had quite a few visitors today (including Sam and Ruth Marshal)- so by the end of the day – everybody was quite tired… (including a field trip to Tel Burna!).
We have just finished the second week of our four week season – and we had a very successful week in terms of finds and clarifying some important stratigraphic questions. While we are a small team this season (between 15-25 people each week) – the staff agrees that this year’s team has been particularly excellent – as each person has been very hard working, flexible, and selfless.
In addition to our field work, we continued with our academic program. Jane gave an interesting lecture on the basics/significance of zooarchaeology with specific reference to the finds at Tel Burna, and Matt led a mini-workshop on writing in paleo-Hebrew in which the team created some ostraca (writing “Tel Burna 2017”) for our yearly Kiriath-Gat school kids.
In Area B1: Our team finished work in a square (PP9) that we opened last week – as we reached bedrock in sections the square and beneath the disturbed surface everywhere else. This surface also included our first “bowl-lamp deposit” as noted previously. To our delight (because we like finds) and chagrin (because of the immense amount of pottery washing) – we found an enormous amount of restorable Late Bronze Age pottery in this square including local forms and some very nice sherds from Cyprus (e.g., white slip milk bowl fragments, and an earlier form of Base Ring – which is common in the 14th century BCE). We also have evidence of more imported storage vessels (presumably) from Cyprus as we found in previous seasons in Area B1 – see here. On Thursday, we opened up a new square in B1 – right at the base of the tell – in order to clarify the architectural plan of the large, cultic public building that characterizes Area B1. After only two days of excavation by Jane, Scott and Barb, Benjamin, and Andrew, we think that have the continuation of the architecture found in previous seasons – which might indicate that we finally have the eastern wall of the building. We also had a very nice votive bowl that seems to be a miniature version of the popular LB “S”-Shaped Bowl.
Just above this new square – Ian and Sam have been methodically removing very loose fill from the five-meter-wide step that runs the length of the tell on the western side. This step is filled with sherds from the Late Bronze, Iron IIA, and Iron IIB and seems to be sitting on a huge stone wall/feature that we still do not understand. Related to this – Benjamin (who came over from Taiwan this week) finished the monumental task of probing a 2×2 meter probe through the rock core of this feature until he reached the level of the plateau of Area B1.
In Area B2: Aharon, Matt, Kathleen and team (Judah, Aaron, Ryan, and Juliana) have continued to expose a building that is adjacent to the casemate fortifications. Like in Area A1 and A2 – it seems that the Iron Age II structures were used and re-used from at least the 8th century BCE until the Persian period with possible periods of abandonment in between. Juliana exposed the handiwork of our Persian (late 6th-4th century BCE) friends who left their typical mark of pits that dug down into the Iron II architecture in some places within the building – as made evident both by the locally-made pottery and imported Attic ware. Of special note – this week we can confirm the connection between the outer and inner walls of the casemate fortifications in Area B2 – which were presumably in use up until the end of the 8th century BCE (Sennacherib?).
Looking to next week: With work finishing up in Area B1 – we will probably shift our focus to some of last year’s squares in the section that connections the summit of the tell to the western platform.
See below a great picture of the superb Safi team (actually, a few are missing…) at the end of the 2nd week of the 2017 season. What a great team! Highly motivated, excellent field work, high spirits – and true camaraderie!
As the project director I would like to stress – I could not ask for a better group!
Thanks so much to all of you!!!!
(and thanks to Katja Soennecken for taking the picture!)
We made nice progress in all the areas today – and we had a few visitors – including the vice rector of BIU (Prof. Amnon Albeck) and Mr. Reuven Pinsky, head of the Israeli government national heritage project fund.
Area A: Digging in both squares in the Iron I – with lots of Philistine I pottery.
Area D: Iron IIA destruction in the western side, along with two tabuns that might be connected to the metal production, as well as a head of a very nice bull figurine. Near the gate the architecture is getting bigger and bigger and more impressive.
Area E: The donkey was removed; the probe goes deeper and deeper; and all kinds of architecture, phases and cool installations.
Area F: Adi and some BIU chemistry students worked in the area which seems to be related to plaster production; a very nice late MB bronze pin was found; and lots of LB, Iron I and Iron II pottery from different contexts.
Area J: The wall is getting bigger and bigger and more and more complicated…
We had a great day on the tell, once again. In addition to our large team, a group of students from the Ashkelon College joins us for the day, so we really got a lot going in all fields.
Area A: Louise and her team and now in the Iron I in both squares. In the early Iron I square there is a series of pits/disturbances, and some nice finds came out, including a body sherd with a very unique Philistine bird decoration.
Area D: In the west they have more of the 9th cent destruction, two more tabuns (near the metallurgy area) and a nice section of the city wall. Over in the east side, additional sections of the fortifications near the city gate were exposed, as well as a very nice context with restorable Iron I Philistine bichrome vessels.
Area E: The donkey is completely exposed and is an excellent state of preservation – and they are now working on taking it out as complete as possible. In addition, the deep sounding is going down, and new floors, walls and contexts are coming up all over.
Area F: The production location (which we thought might be metal related) seems to be connected to another production process – perhaps for plaster. As it dates to either the latest EB or earliest MB phases in the area, this is VERY interesting. Tomorrow, Adi and a team of BIU chemistry students will be on site – to conduct some analyses of this context. In addition, nice contexts of the MB, LB and Iron I and II are being exposed. And as you can see in the photos, we have more pieces from the very nice Philistine Bichrome krater!
Area J: Jill and her team are working away on the wall and its surroundings and more and more parts are popping up. Interestingly, in the pottery reading, we even found a Persian period Attic sherd from this area!
Area K: Things are really beginning to pop over here! In just about every square, complete and/or restorable vessels of the 9th cent destruction are coming up, as well as loom weights, installations, walls, etc. This area is going to have a lot of fun in the next week or so!
Area K2: Additional sections of the impressive fortifications are being exposed. We now have at least 3 and possible 4 distinct lines, and some clear contexts and stratigraphic layers connected to the walls.
The remote sensing continued work in the lower city – and soon will have a picture of most of this part of the city!
Whew! Was it hot today…hopefully it will be a bit cooler tomorrow
But, despite the heat (and the fact that me and many of the team were fasting, as it was the 17th of Tammuz), we had a great day!
Area A: In the Iron I square they have defined what looks like 3 different pits, while in the Iron IIA square it looks that they are below the 9th cent destruction.
Area D: The gate area has many nice finds, including what looks like a collapse associated with the Philistine Bichrome phase, with all kinds of very nice complete vessels!
Area E: The donkey is almost completely uncovered and is very well preserved. The deep sounding is – very deep; and some interesting floors and walls are coming up.
Area F: A very interesting production location was found, most probably associated with metal working and it seems to be dated to the EB! If this is correct – this is quite cool. In addition, in the Iron I we have more of that beautiful bichrome krater (see pictures) and a very interesting wall made of kurkar blocks!
Area J: The J team took a day off due to the fast.
Area K: The 9th cent. destruction level is coming up all over and most of the squares have broken (or complete) vessels, installation and walls relating to this phase.
Area K2: We now have a really nice 10 m section of the monumental wall exposed – and it looks like it is Iron I/II.
In addition to that, the remote sensing team has almost finished the work in the lower city and will move to the south side of the tell.
We will provide a more thorough update later this week – but first – a brief update about some nice finds over the last couple of days.
In Area B1 – we have an enormous amount of Late Bronze Age pottery including different types of Cypriot ware, the typical (sort of crummy LB Canaanite stuff, and our first Lamp-Bowl deposit (see photo!) For more info on these interesting deposits see Joe’s informative post from a while back on the Gath Blog.
In Area B2 – things are slowly becoming clearer regarding the large house/structure next to to the Iron Age fortifications and Aharon, Matt, and team have also begun excavating further down the stepped trench – with finds from many different periods.
Besides the field work – the team has heard lectures from myself (on the Iron I) and Casey (on the LB) and we visited Beth-shemesh and discussed the very important excavations that are ongoing there.
Here are some photos – notice especially the bowl-lamp deposit and a special (feline) visitor to the site
The second week of the dig has started and things are going very nicely! This week our team is at its largest (over 140 members) and as always, it’s during the 2nd and 3rd week that the best finds pop up!
Here’s a review of some of the finds from the various areas:
Area A: Louise and her team are working in both early Iron I and Iron IIA. In the early Iron I, it looks like they are about to reach the levels of the building in the adjacent square and hopefully we will have real nice contexts soon. In the Iron IIA, they are still working on or at the very bottom of the Hazael destruction level
Area D: Amit and his team have come up with some nice finds. In the west, they have revealed additional portions of the city wall, and found some more finds from the destruction level. In the east, additional phases of the monumental architecture in the gate area have been revealed, as well as parts of the 3 stage phasing of this area.
Area E: Haskel and Shira’s team are rocking as well! More of the donkey is being excavated and it looks very well preserved. The deep probe is going very well, as well as various stratigraphic and architectural queries throughout the area.
Area F: Jeff and his team are working on late MB, LB and early Iron I and have some nice finds, including a nice Bronze Age baking tray, and large fragments of a very nice Philistine bichrome krater – among the nicest examples found since the beginning of our excavations.
Area J: Jill and her team are revealing more of the architecture in the area – which is becoming more and more complex as they go!
Area K: Eric and his team are excavating the Iron IIA destruction in several squares and it looks like they will have a lot of very nice finds in the coming days!
Area K2: Brent and his team are exposing more and more of the massive fortifications in this area – which are becoming larger and larger as time goes by. And from the pottery coming up, it seems quite clear that it dates to somewhere in the late Iron I to Iron IIA.
Andy’s remote sensing team continued their work on the lower city today – once again at a fantastic pace!
We also had a documentary film team from the Discovery Channel on site (and the’ll be back today as well) – and they were filming the team working in different areas.
In addition to it all, there was a field trip to the very interesting site of Khirbet Qeiyafah.
We made some significant progress in the first week – and we are excited to build on this momentum next week. Besides the excavation results, we also heard lectures by the dig staff – Matt Suriano (on “What is a Tell?”) and myself (Archaeological Recording and PlanGrid).
In Area B1: We have bedrock! (not really a surprise at this point Ian, Andrew, Seth, Ofer, and Victor worked hard in exposing an occupational layer related to the 13th century BCE that is filled with restorable pottery. Sadly, we think that this square is going to be the last square excavated in Area B1 ;(. On the other hand, we are very excited to open a new area on the western platform next season – B3. This area will be located south of the excavated area of Area B1. Due to the fact that the region received roughly half of the average rainfall and our Kibbutz Beit Nir Bull friends (who left us lots of “phytholith” evidence from their behinds :), the vegetation across the tell is far less high and thick than we have observed in past seasons. On account of this, we were able to trace and clean a very large architectural feature on the southwestern side of the platform that seems to be related to 13th century BCE (per our survey results and the excavation evidence from B1). Is it a large temple, a massive fortification wall, or gate? We will have to wait until next season :). We will point this feature out on the final aerials.
In Area B2: Aharon and Matt’s team have cleared off an enormous amount of rubble on the eastern edge of the tell’s summit. Beneath this rubble – Aaron, Ryan, Juliana, Sam, and Judah have exposed three walls of what appears to be a large Iron Age building that seems to have been built next to, but not in conjunction with, the western fortifications of the tell. This continues to add more complexity to the stratigraphic picture of the western fortifications. Based on our excavations in Area A1 (all the way back in 2011-2012), we assumed that we would simply find an Iron II casemate wall (9th-8th century BCE) with later silos (7th century BCE), but it is turning out to be considerably more complex and interesting.
In this next week, we plan to continue excavating a deep probe along a 5-meter wide platform that runs the entire north-south length of the tell on the western side (if you remember – Benjamin started this last year). This feature is very interesting as it appears to have been constructed at some point during the Iron Age II (8th century BCE?) completely changing the topographical layout of the tell. We will also be opening an adjacent square to get a wider understanding of this feature.
In addition, a number of new volunteers and staff will be joining us this week. It should be a great week.
So the first week – which is always the hardest one – is over, and it was a smashing success. Here’s a quick summary of today’s finds:
Area A: Louise and her team found some very nice finds today, including some shell beads from the Iron IIA level, and a nice lamp from the Iron I
Area D: On the western side, we found the continuation of the city wall on the northern part of the area, and in the metallurgy area we have some interesting installations. Near the gate more and more monumental architecture is being exposed.
Area E: The new donkey is looking quite well-preserved – and hopefully we will get some great results from it. In general, the area is going well and the deep probe is moving along at a great pace!
Area F: Jeff and his team had some nice finds today, including an Iron I surface with fragments of looks like an almost complete Philistine bichrome krater!
Area J: In addition to working on the wall, Jill and her team had a bit of surprise today – they seem to have uncovered at least one very nice Iron Age bronze bowl!
Area K: Eric and his team had some nice finds today – including a round stone installation – which might be part of another olive press!
Area K2: Brent and his team are working on the massive walls in this area, which are getting more and more impressive with every day!
Remote sensing: Andy and his team completed several more areas in the lower city. They have covered in one week more than I thought they would cover in two!
And now, we break for a long-needed weekend – and prepare the next week of finds!
We had a great day today on site, with a lot of nice finds and important progress.
Area A: Louise and her team are coming up with nice Iron I materials, including a large fragment of a very nice Iron I female figurine.
Area D: Amit and his team have some more materials from the metallurgy area and are exposing more and more architectural elements in the gate area.
Area E: Haskel and Shira’s team have discovered another donkey burial! That now is the fifth from this area!!
Area F: Jeff and his team found some interesting stone objects, possibly weights, from the MB levels, portions of an LB floor with some nice pottery, and what looks like a nice section of an Iron Age terrace.
Area J: Jill and her team have revealed a nice section of the architecture above the line of the outer line of the wall that was seen on surface – and things are getting bigger and more complicated!
Area K: Eric and his team are coming down on pottery and other finds in various squares – looks like the find will be seriously popping out in the next few days!
Area K2: Brent and his team not only have revealed very impressive masonry of the walls that they are excavating, but have come down on what looks like a floor with smashed, complete pottery. So far, it looks like a late Iron I/early Iron IIA context.
And Andy’s remote sensing team is plugging away – covering more and more parts of the lower city – and coming up with all kinds of promising “anamolies” that may turn into structures and contexts for further excavation.
Due to some changes in our logistics, we had the end of the week party in the field today, with pizza and popsicles – and then went on a tour of the fantastic stalactite cave near Beth Shemesh.
Great day on the site! First of all, it cooled down – and the temperatures were back to “normal”. We survived the heat wave!
Secondly, all the teams made great progress – and we are starting to see things all over!
Here’s a summary:
Area A: Deep into Iron I and a lot of nice Philistine (bichrome) pottery is coming out
Area D: In the metallurgy area in the west, additional portions of the metal production area, including some more tuyeres and slag. Ahuva, who has been part of the team since the first season (!) joined us – and on the first day she dug up two complete vessels (Iron IIA)!
In the gate area to the east, additional portions of the fortification have been uncovered and some very interesting surfaces with phytoliths and plastered features.
Area E: Working in various EB features, floors and architecture. This includes several places were they are clearly going into the earlier phases of the EB.
Area F: The team is working in the LB and MB. Of particular interest is a room next to the fortification wall in which a nice collection of stone tools and various bones, along with a large amount of pottery, was found, dating to the MB. And in the LB, portions of a nice surface with pottery and bones.
Area J: Jill’s team is already exposing a substantial portion of what we believe is a fortification wall – and picking up a lot of EB pottery!
Area K: Three news squares were opened – and Iron II pottery is beginning to pop up. Looks promising!
Area K2: Brent’s team is working away at exposing the massive architecture above the river bed to the north of K – and more and more lines of massive worked stones are appearing – along with a nice amount of burnt and collapsed mudbrick!
Magnetometry team: Andy and his team are working away in the areas between K and D and moving faster than we imagined. And so far, several interesting “anomalies” have appeared – definitely showing promise to excavations in the future!
Vanessa, who is a core team staff member in the Safi project (and is doing her PhD on the metal workshop from Area D), has just published, along with her colleagues, a really nice article on dyed textiles from Iron Age Timna. The article was published in the journal PLOS One – check it out here.
And in addition to the article itself, the study got some really impressive press coverage from media all over the world!
The 2nd day of the excavation was a great day in all areas, as everyone had started to excavate! While the heat wave continued – it was one or two degrees (C) cooler than yesterday…
Here’s a quick summary of what’s doing:
Area A: Louise’s team is deep into the Iron I in her square, with some nice early Iron I pottery coming out. Our objective in this area is to explose the earliest phases of the Iron Age in Area A.
Area D: Amit’s team opened up a few new squares in the gate area. One of our aims this season is to try and prove, beyond reasonable doubt – that it is a gate!
Area E: Haskel and Shira’s team are working away at various parts of Area E, trying to clarify various architectural and stratigraphic issues. Most importantly, they started what hopefully will be a deep probe below the E6 level, to try and see the earliest phases in Area E.
Area F: Jeff and his team are working on various issues in this area, covering Iron I, LB, MB and EB contexts.
Area J: Jill’s new area is located down the slope to the east of Area E, and aims to expose a section of a wall – possibly the EB city wall – what was discovered on surface a few seasons ago. So far – it’s looking good!
Area K: Eric’s team is working in the eastern part of the lower city, expanding and deepening the squares already opened last year. We hope to have a better understanding of the history of the eastern part of the lower city this year.
Area K2: Brent and his team are working just to the north of Area K – exposing a very impressive mass of large worked stones, possibly part of the northern fortifications of the lower city. Already, more and more parts of this are being exposed.
And Andy and his remote sensing team are working away at a great pace in the lower city (between D and K) and have already have some great results from the magnetometric survey.
All in all – things are going great – and it looks like it’s going to be a great season!
And to top it all off – happy US Independence Day those celebrating!
We have officially begun the 2017 season! The tents have been set up, the weeds have been cleared, the new squares in Area B1 and B2 have been marked, and we have actually started excavating. It was very hot the last two days – but everyone is in good spirits and excited to see what we will find this season. Yesterday, we managed to visit Tel Socoh, which is only about 1 km/half a mile from our accommodations in Netiv Halamed Heh.
This year, Matt Suriano has brought a group of students from the University of Maryland. We also have a number of returning familiar faces from past seasons.
This afternoon – Dr. Kathleen Nicholl will be lecturing on some aspects related to the importance of using geoarchaeological science at ancient sites.
In Area B1 – we already have some new architectural features related to the LB large cultic structure. Over the next week – we are hoping to find more evidence for cultic activity in this large building.
In Area B2 – Aharon and Matt have opened two new squares inside of the fortifications in order to trace the inner part of the fortifications and their connections to layers inside of the city.
Today was the first day in the field of the 2017 season! We have an enormous – and fantastic if I may add – team! We are this week altogether about 140 team members – just the staff is the size of (or larger) than many teams at other sites (about 35 staff members), so we hopefully will get a lot done!
By the end of the day, all the areas (A – Louise, D – Amit, E – Haskel and Shira, F – Jeff, J – Jill, K – Eric, and K2 – Brent) were up and running, and the magnetometry team led by Andy Creekmore was making great progress in the lower city!
More details in tge following days – here are some pictures of the various teams:
As previously mentioned, the new volume “Sea Peoples Up-to-Date” has appeared, and today I received my copy in the mail. In addition to the article by Louise and me, there are a whole bunch of very important and interesting articles.
I have no doubt that this volume will serve as a main resource – and jumping board – for much of the research on the Sea Peoples, Philistines and Late Bronze/Iron Age transition in general, for many years.
What is particularly impressive are the major changes that can be seen between contemporary research on these topics – and what was considered normative research just a few years ago!
Last week, there was an “Open Day” for candidates who are interested in studying in the department of Land of Israel Studies and Archaeology at BIU. As part of the various things that they did that day, in which they got a “taste” of the various topics covered in the department, they had an hour long visit in the Safi lab.
See below some nice pictures that Prof. Boaz Zissu, our dept. chair, took during the visit.
Just before we start the 2017 season, it’s a good time to acknowledge and thank all the various institutions, organizations and agencies who have taken an active part, collaborated with and/or supported the project, both now and in the past. Each and everyone has contributed to the project over the years, and deserve credit and thanks for this.
Here is a collection of their logos (and if I overlooked someone – do tell me!):