Taygete Atlantis: Excavation Blogs (Antiquity)


Tom Elliott (tom.elliott@nyu.edu)

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May 24, 2015

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

Preseason Day 1

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

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

We also took in our two new mobile offices.

Mobile office which replaced Container 9A

Mobile office which replaced Container 9A

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

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

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

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

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

May 21, 2015

The Tel Burna Excavation Project

Restored Pottery Vessels

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




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

The David and Goliath Story and Biblical Redaction

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

Check it out.


HT – Jack Sasson

May 17, 2015

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

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

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

The clip can be found here


May 14, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

See details below:

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

SPEAKER: Adi Eliyahu Behar

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

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

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

May 13, 2015

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

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

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

Check this out here.

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


May 11, 2015

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

Archaeology and Text Dialogue conference – was great!

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

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


May 07, 2015

The Tel Burna Excavation Project

Archaeology and Text Conference at Ariel University

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

See schedule here.

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

May 05, 2015

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

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

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

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


May 04, 2015

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

Grid 51

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

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

Grid 51 at work

Grid 51 at work

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

April 30, 2015

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

Extension of deadline to sign up for 2015 season

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

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



April 27, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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


The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

The 2015 Field Season

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

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

Grid 32 and the cardo:

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

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

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

 Destroyed walls in Grid 32

 Destroyed walls in Grid 32

The Tel Burna Excavation Project

Deadline Extended to May 15th

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

The Cerw Part 1The Crew Part 1

April 26, 2015

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

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

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

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

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


April 24, 2015

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

Microarchaeology and the Philistine Household

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

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

The article is:

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

Check it out!


April 22, 2015

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

Pictures from the Ackerman Family Workshop in Biblical Archaeology

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

It was a great workshop!

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

April 21, 2015

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

What’s in my bag? Check it out!

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


April 20, 2015

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

Mini-season on the tell today

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

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

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


IMG_3541 IMG_3534 IMG_3532 IMG_3529

April 19, 2015

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

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

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

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


April 17, 2015

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

Ackerman Family Annual Workshop in Biblical Archaeology

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

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

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

I hope to post pictures next week.


April 16, 2015

The Tel Burna Excavation Project

Recent Articles and Presentations

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

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

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

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


April 15, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

Should be very interesting!


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

Philistine names lecture online

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

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


April 14, 2015

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

TV interview about ISIS destroying Nimrud on Israel TV Channel 10

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

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

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


April 13, 2015

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

2015 Field Season

A little Ashkelon news as we continue to prepare for the rapidly approaching 2015 field season.

Josh Walton standing at the top of Grid 16

Josh Walton standing at the top of Grid 16

Congratulations to Dr. Joshua Walton, supervisor of Grid 16, who successfully defended his dissertation this month.

Applications are in and with the first wave of supervisors heading over in just five weeks, preparations are well under way for the upcoming season. This will be the second year of excavation in Grid 16 where work will continue to investigate the occupational sequence on the North Tell. 

Work will continue in Grid 51 where excavation should uncover further evidence for the 604 destruction of the city.

Supervisors Kate Birney and Jonathan Wylie discuss stratigraphy 

Supervisors Kate Birney and Jonathan Wylie discuss stratigraphy 

Finally, we will be opening a new area near last season's salvage excavation in a hunt for the Roman period cardo.

So, what about the accommodations in 1985? Well, this is what they look like today:

Campground where excavation members stayed in 1985

Campground where excavation members stayed in 1985

What a difference 30 years make. Obviously, it didn't look like this when the excavation was housed in the campground during the 1985 field season. The location couldn't be beat but the excavation stayed here only one year before moving down the street to the Shulamit Gardens Hotel. 

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

Snake update: Its been caught! A Coluber najadum

News flash from Dina Levine – the snake in the lab has been caught, and it has been identified as a זעמן – a Coluber najadumor in English – a Coluber snake.

For those of you who were worried – it is not venomous…

Here’s a picture that Dina sent:

Snake in the lab_April 2015


Snake in the lab! Yikes!

I’m not in the lab today, but Shira just called to say that a snake was seen in the lab! Everybody went out of the lab and they called the environmental services office of the university, who hopefully will send a snake catcher to get rid of this pest!



April 12, 2015

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

Nice article on new directions in archaeological research – particularly at Tell es-Safi/Gath – in ERETZ magazine

A very nice popular article, by Heidi Gleit, has appeared in Eretz Magazine, on the new directions in field archaeology, and in particular, those relating to the expanded collaboration with “archaeological science.” Heidi interviewed Elisabetta Boarreto (WIS) and Ruth Shahak-Gross (formerly of WIS, and now of U of Haifa), and yours truly, on this topic. While I gave the perspective of the “plain vanilla” archaeologist (I know, I’m modest…:-), Lisa and Ruty presented the perspectives of the archaeological scientists.

Needless to say, a lot of attention was given to the finds from Tell es-Safi/Gath.

Check it out – it’s quit nice!

Gleit_Archaeological Science_ERETZ 150_2015


April 07, 2015

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

Eric Cline lectures on the LB collapse at the OI – check it out

Eric Cline gave a talk about his great book on the 1177 BCE collapse at the Oriental Institute in Chicago. So, those of you who are too lazy to read through the book (but please, don’t tell Eric about this – tell him you bought his book…), check out the lecture!


P.S. And he mentions my lecture on the Philistines at the OI at around 11:10 minutes into the lecture…:-)

Louise Hitchcock on why the Aegean matters for Biblical Archaeology

Louise Hitchcock, field supervisor of Area A, has put out a very nice piece in Biblical Archaeology Review, on why the study of the ancient Aegean cultures is important for the archaeology of the ancient Near East and biblical archaeology.

Check it out here: Hitchcock_Why the Aegean matters_ArkiViews_BAR_2015


April 01, 2015

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

Lectures at the Archaeological Congress

As I mentioned previously, today the annual archaeological congress in Israel was held at BIU. There was a full day of lectures – many of which were very interesting. I have gave a paper on feasting in PNG and implications for the archaeology of the Ancient Near East – which I believe was received very well – and needless to say, I had a lot of fun giving it.

Amit gave our joint paper on the excavations in Area D – the lower city of Gath – and this as well went very well (see the pictures below of Amit giving his paper).

During the lunch break, we got together in the Safi lab, Safi team members and various friends, to raise a toast (see pictures below) in honor of Pessach/Passover – happy holidays to all!

photo 4 photo 3 photo 2 photo 1


New article on the Exodus as Cultural/Collective Memory

Just in time for Pessach/Passover, a paper on the Exodus from a cultural/collective memory perspective, has just appeared in a volume edited by Tom Levy et al., the proceedings of a conference on the Exodus which was held in San Diego two years ago.
The paper is entitled:
Maeir, A. M. 2015. Exodus as a Mnemo-Narrative: An Archaeological Perspective. Pp. 409–19 inIsrael’s Exodus in Transdisciplinary Perspective – Text, Archaeology, Culture, and Geoscience, eds. T. E. Levy, T. Schneider and W. H. C. Propp. Quantitative Methods in the Humanities and Social Sciences. Heidelberg: Springer.
Happy Passover/Easter for those of you who are celebrating!
And for those participating in a “Seder” tomorrow night – please feel free to use ideas that are presented in the article! :-)

March 31, 2015

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

“Young Scholars” conference at BIU, April 30th, 2015

This coming April 30th, 2015, a “Young Scholars” conference of the Dept. of Land of Israel Studies and Archaeology at BIU will take place. In the meeting, graduate and doctoral students from the department will present lectures (in Hebrew) on aspects of their research.

Among the various lectures, there will be two related to Safi: 1) Shira (Kisos) Albaz will speak about the faience beads from the EB at the site. 2) Nahshon Zanton will speak about new aspects of the typology of the Iron IIA pottery from the site.

In addition, there will be many other very interesting talks. The meeting is open to the public – see below the program: Kenes Hokrim Zeerim_BIU 2015 Should be very interesting – do join us! Aren

Archaeological Congress tomorrow (April 1st, 2015)

As previously mentioned, tomorrow, Wednesday, April 1st, 2015, the annual Archaeological Congress in Israel will be held at Bar-Ilan University and is open to all.

Among other lectures that will be presented at the meeting, you can hear me lecturing on feasting in Papua New Guinea and possible insights on the archaeology of the ancient Near East, and Amit, who will present (in my name as well), a summary of the last 7 years of excavations in the lower city of Gath (Area D).

Hope to see you there!


March 29, 2015

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

“Caveat lector” on a new book on the Sea Peoples…

A new book on the Sea Peoples has now been published by Osprey Publishing, who put out many popular books on military related themes. Some of these books are excellent, some less.

The book, which I purchased during my recent trip to Paris is entitled:

D’Amato, R., and Salimbeti, A. 2015. Sea Peoples of the Bronze Age Mediterranean c. 1400 BC – 1000 BC. Elite 204. Oxford: Osprey.

What can I say – caveat lector


March 28, 2015

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

What’s in Eric’s bag?

If you want to know what is in Eric Welch’s bag, as of the upcoming 2015 season, the co-director of Area F (with Jeff Chadwick), check out this very nice post on the ASOR blog.


March 27, 2015

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

Definitely “for the birds”…

A new book has just appeared in the OBO series, which seems to combine between two of my most passionate interests – the Ancient Near East and ornithology!

Definitely interested in checking out this new volume:

von der Osten-Sacken, E. 2015 Untersuchungen zur Geflügelwirtschaft im Alten Orient. Orbis Biblicus et Orientalis 272. Fribourg: Academic Press.

Here is the blurb which describes the volume:

This monograph studies the economic use of birds from the beginning to the domestication of some of them. Since when do humans hunt birds and how did they use them? The development of methods and significance of fowling and bird keeping are examined with a particular focus on economically relevant, especially fowl-like species.
Different kinds of ancient Near Eastern evidence and source materials (archaezoological, archaeological and philological) are examined and compared to ancient Egyptian and Greco-Roman sources. The book is based on a revised habilitation thesis that was critically evaluated by experts of all relevant disciplines and topics. In its breadth and comprehensiveness, it is an unique work and will be the indispensable reference work on poultry in the Ancient Near East for many years to come.


March 25, 2015

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

New article published online – on the environmental effects of Hazael destruction on the environs of Tell es-Safi/Gath

An article, whose research and publication was spearheaded by Oren Ackermann (our geoarchaeologist) – and a big team of collaborators (including yours truly), has just been published online in the journal Anthropocene.

In this article we discuss evidence retrieved from a deep section which was cut in a valley to the east of the site. The sediments in this pit were analyzed by a very broad team of experts in may fields (and thus, the long list of co-authors). From this study, which builds on earlier research which we conducted in and around the tell, we see that the destruction of Tell es-Safi/Gath by Hazael (ca. late 9th century BCE) had a significant anthropogenic effect on the landscape. Among other aspects, evidence shows that the sedimentation rates increased after the destruction of the site. We suggest that this can be used in other cases as well in which the correlation of a high sedimentation rate and an anthropogenic marker in the sediment, with a documented human event, may enable the deciphering of anthropogenic fill.

The full title of the article is:

Ackermann, O., Greenbaum, N., Ayalon, A., Bar-Matthews, A., Boaretto, E., Bruins, H., Cabanes, D., Horwitz, L. K., Neumann, F., Porat, N., Weiss, E., and Maeir, A. M.
2015. Using Palaeo-Environmental Proxies to Reconstruct Natural and Anthropogenic Controls on Sedimentation Rates, Tell es-Safi/Gath, Eastern Mediterranean. Anthropocene (doi: http://dx.doi.org/doi:10.1016/j.ancene.2015.03.004).

The online, pre-proofs version of the article can be found at:



March 24, 2015

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

Lecture by Ami Mazar on the Rehov apiary

Today, Prof. Amihai Mazar (HU), have a very interesting lecture, with his up-to-date thoughts on the apiary (honey producing installation) which he and his team discovered at Tel Rehov. The lecture was given as part of the departmental seminar of the Dept. of Land of israel Studies and Archaeology at BIU.

As usual, Ami was stimulating, interesting and threw out quite a few interesting ideas!

March 23, 2015

The Tel Burna Excavation Project

Excavation Academic Credit and Scholarship Opportunity

We are pleased to announce that academic credit is now being offered to participants of the Tel Burna Excavation project who wish to take part in this summer’s field school. The credit will be given through Ariel University in either 3 (two weeks) or 6 (four weeks) credit hours, which are transferrable to a student’s home school. The two week/3 credit course costs $500 and the four week/6 credit course costs $1000. For those interested please contact Dr. Itzhaq Shai at shai.itzick@gmail.com.

If you are looking for a way to fund your summer adventure at Tel Burna – here is yet another scholarship opportunity – this one is offered by Israel Scholarship.

2014 Season Min with a complete Iron IIB bowl

March 22, 2015

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

Visit to Tell Rumeideh and Hebron,

Today, I had the opportunity to visit Hebron and Tell Rumeida. Not only did I get a chance to see, once again, the antiquities on Tell Rumeida (including the new excavations) and the Al Haram el-Khalil/Tomb of the Patriarchs site, I had a very interesting tour with Thomas, a former member of the TIPH observer group, who showed us around central Hebron through his perspective – which is not one that you get to hear very often.

As you may know, Hebron is one of the most highly debated, and some say craziest, places on this planet, and to hear a slightly different perspective from those that I’ve heard until now (including both Israeli and Palestinian views of all kinds) on someone’s daily experiences in Hebron was very interesting.

Here are some pictures next to the EB and MB fortifications on Tell Rumeideh, which I took today:

photo 2 photo 4

And just for fun, here is a photo of Jeff Chadwick, aka Achish Melekh Gath, posing at the same place, way before the most recent excavations, when he was MUCH younger… :-)



March 21, 2015

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

The Elephant from Revadim…

A very interesting study has been published by colleagues from TAU, BGU and other institutions, on evidence of early butchery of elephants found at the prehistoric site near Kibbutz Revadim (about 1/2 a km to the east of the kibbutz, just to the south of Route 3), where the Safi team stays during the season. This site, the Revadim Quarry site, is of the late Acheulian cultural complex, of the Lower Paleolithic period, and dates to ca. 500-300 thousand years ago.

Various aspects about this site have been published in the past (such as herehere and here), but this new study shows some very interesting evidence of early human butchery of elephants, and even more interestingly, animal fat residue on stone tools relating to this.

So, while dealing with much earlier periods than those that we usually deal with at the Tell es-Safi/Gath excavations, this is quite an interesting aspect of the early history of this region.


March 20, 2015

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

“…and the corn is as high as an elephant’s eye”!

Today (March 20th, 2015) I visited the tell with some friends (and my son Noam) and we walked around the for a couple of hours. While the damage from the winter rains was a bit too much to make one happy, it nevertheless was great to get out to the site. As always, the site during the winter is quite a site to see – completely green – so different from colors in the summer.

What was particularly astonishing, and in fact I don’t remember this from past years, was the massive growth, and in particular the height of the thistles and thorns that were growing all over the tell.

To paraphrase the the song from the movie “Oklahoma” – they were as high as an elephant’s eye!

Here are some pictures of the greenery on the tell. For those of you familiar with the tell and how it usually looks, notice the colors, the massiveness of the growth, and how the paths are completely encroached by the growth! Notice how the remains of the village mosque are almost covered over by the bushes!

photo 5 photo 4 photo 3 photo 2 photo 1

And just in case you don’t remember the song “Oh what a beautiful morning” from “Oklahoma,” here it is:



March 18, 2015

The Tel Burna Excavation Project

Popular Archaeology Article Published

Check out Itzick’s newly published article on Tel Burna at Popular Archaeology (subscription required).

An archaeological team is excavating a site that is showing evidence of having been a fortified settlement belonging to the kingdom of Judah both before and during the time when the Assyrians were sacking the kingdom’s cities in the 8th century BCE.

Known today as the site of Tel Burna, the mound is located in the fertile rolling plains of the Shephelah, a region between the coastal plains and the Jerusalem mountains in central Israel. It is an area that, anciently, served as a strategic borderland between the Philistines in the west and ancient Israel and the kingdom of Judah to the east. Today, Tel Burna is surrounded by other ancient sites that have been intensely investigated and excavated over the years.  But this site has seen relatively little exploration and research—until now………….

LMLK, Personal Stamp, and Rosette seal impressions from the 8th-7th centuries BCE

March 15, 2015

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

Completely missed my point on the destruction of Mesopotamian culture heritage – but what’s new…

I was interviewed by the Jewish Chronicle Online regarding the destruction of cultural heritage in Syria and Iraq, even if the interviewer was interested more in the possible Jewish heritage being destroyed. I tried to explain that the Jewish side of this tragedy was rather limited, and that the general destruction of cultural assets is the problem (and even more so – the horrible acts of barbarism to the people living in these areas).

For some reason what was understood was that I was more upset about the destruction of the artifacts than the sites…

Well, at least they spelled my name correctly – oh, actually – they did not even do that… :-)


March 11, 2015

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

Reading an interesting book: “Disasters in Field Research”

I’m reading a very interesting book – “Disasters in Field Research: Preparing for and Coping with Unexpected Events“, authored by Ice, Dufour and Stevens.

Disasters in research cover page picture

This book is an excellent basic handbook on how field researchers in various fields (e.g. archaeology, anthropology, geology, biology, etc.) can prepare for the various types of mishaps – and in some cases – disasters, that can occur out in the field, and what to do when these things do actually happen.

The book covers a wide range of materials, scenarios, problems and solutions. While a lot what is covered is not new for someone who has been in the field in various places for many years (and add to that several years in army service), there are some great points even for an “old timer”.

And needless to say, those who are relatively new at doing research out in the field – this is a treasure trove of healthy and sound advice. I would read it – this may help you recover from various screw ups in the field – and even save your life in others.

A good thing to remember in any case, and this shines through in this book as well, is the well-known “Murphy’s Law“: Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong…


March 09, 2015

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

Official BIU notice on the new Israel/Aram Minerva Center

See here is the official Hebrew press release by BIU on our new Minerva Center dealing with Israel/Aram relations in the biblical periods. The English one can be found here.

And here is the notice on nrg.co.il.

Here it is on the nocamels.com site.

Here on the Jewish business news site.

March 07, 2015

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

College de France lecture online!

As previously mentioned, I presented a lecture at the Philistines at the College de France in Paris on Feb. 25th, 2015.

And, as promised, the video (and audio) of the lecture is now online, and below is a link to the lecture on youtube:

Check it out!


The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon


The excavation of Ashkelon, initially sponsored by Leon Levy and Shelby White and now the Leon Levy Foundation, began in 1985. Under the direction of Lawrence E. Stager and Douglas Esse, the associate director, four areas were opened for excavation. One of those areas, Grid 38, would become the longest continually excavated area on site. Two other grids, 50 and 57, would become sites of long term excavation. The final area, Grid 34/41, which was excavated for only two seasons, held one of the best preserved buildings uncovered in ancient Ashkelon.

The first official photo of the excavation

The first official photo of the excavation

As excavation began, some areas revealed their secrets quickly.

Fresco in church standing near Jerusalem Gate

Fresco in church standing near Jerusalem Gate

Work didn't always move as quickly in other areas.

Grid 57

Grid 57

There are a lot of familiar names on the list of Ashkelon staff in 1985 but two stand out, two staff members still work with the excavation today. The first is Lawrence Stager and the second is Paula Wapnish.

Who else was at Ashkelon in 1985? What about the stories of the accommodations? Can they possibly be true? The answers to these questions and more coming soon.

We have two more seasons of excavation and are looking for volunteers to join us for the 2015 field season. You still have time to submit an application. Consider joining us and becoming part of the Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon team.

March 04, 2015

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

Paper on Philistine names at upcoming “Names Conference” at BIU

Dr. Yigal Levin has sent out the program for the forthcoming 12th International Conference on Jewish Names which will be held at Bar-Ilan University on March 18th, 2015 (which by the way is my birthday…)

Among other papers to be presented at this interesting meeting, I will be giving a paper (along with Louise Hitchcock and Brent Davis in absentia) on a fresh look at Philistine names and terms, and what they can and cannot tell us about Philistine origins, language(s), social structure and other issues.

Here is the complete program of the meeting:

Bar-Ilan University

The Faculty of Jewish Studies

The Israel and Golda Koschitzky Department of Jewish History and Contemporary Judaism

The Project for the Study of Jewish Names

The Twelfth International Conference on Jewish Names

Wednesday, March 18, 2015, Feldman Hall, Bar-Ilan University, Ramat-Gan, Israel

Session A, 9:00-10:30: Names in Bible and Epigraphy

Chair: Dr. Michael Avioz, Bar-Ilan University

Mitka R. Golub, The Hebrew University in Jerusalem: Personal Names from the First Temple Period: Archaeological and Biblical Sources (Heb)

David Shneor, Shaanan College: Criteria for the Identification of Biblical Toponyms in the Writings of Ishtori Happarhi (Heb)

Asher Ovadiah, Tel Aviv University: Hebrew Inscriptions with Jewish Names in Elijah’s Cave at the Foot of Mount Carmel (Heb)

Yigal Bloch, The Hebrew University in Jerusalem: A Jewish Name in a Babylonian Toponym of 425 B.C.E. (Eng)

Session B: 10:45-12:15: Names in Eastern Jewish Communities

Chair: Prof. Yaron Harel, Head of the Department of Jewish History and the Dahan Center, Bar-Ilan University

Victor Hayoun, The Association for the Heritage of Tunisian Jewry: First Names in the Jewish Community of Tunisia (Heb)

Leah Bornstein-Makovetsky, Ariel University: Surnames of Izmir Jews in the 18th and 19th Centuries: Social and Historical Aspects (Heb)

Dov Cohen, Bar-Ilan University: Family Names of Cohanim in Izmir – the Cohen-Arias Family (1670-1970) as a Test Case (Heb)

Esther Shkalim, Tel-Aviv University: Family Names of Iranian Jews: Their Sources and Meanings (Heb)

Session C: 10:45-12:15 (room 102): 10:45-12:15: Names in the Ancient and Medieval Periods:

Chair: Dr. Itzhak Shai, Ariel University

Aren M. Maeir, Bar-Ilan University; Brent Davis and Louise A. Hitchcock, University of Melbourne: Philistine Names and Terms Once Again: A Recent Perspective (Eng)

Elody di Vito, EPHE Paris, Hebrew Names in Phoenician Inscriptions (Eng)

Phillip I. Ackerman-Lieberman, Vanderbilt University: Jewish Onomastics, the Cairo Geniza, and Westward Migration in the Medieval Period (Eng)

Ricardo Muñoz Solla, Universidad de Salamanca: On Hispano-Jewish Medieval Anthroponomy: The Case Study of Medina de Pomar (Burgos, XVth century) (Eng)

Lunch Break

Session D: 13:30-15:30: Names in Different Jewish Communities:

Chair: Dr. Orly C. Meron, Bar-Ilan University

Yosef Rivlin, Bar-Ilan University: The Meaning of Fictitious Names in the Responsa Literature (Heb)

Chanan Rapaport, The International Institute for Jewish Genealogy and Paul Jacobi Center: Jewish Family Names Composed of Acronyms – Notaricons (Heb)

Aharon Gaimani, Bar-Ilan University: The Influence of Rabbi Yehudah Heḥasid’s Ethical Will on Names in Jewish Communities (Heb)

Reuven Enoch, Ariel University: Last Names of Georgian Jews Based on Word-Combinations (Heb)

Reut Green: Name Giving as a Major Component of the Development of Hebrew Identity (1882-1914) (Heb)

Session E: 13:30-15:30 (room 102): 13:30-15:30: Jewish Names East and West:

Chair: Dr. Debra Kaplan, Bar-Ilan University

Johannes Czakai, Freie Universität Berlin: The Galician Konskription of 1785: The First Jewish Name Regulation (Eng)

Felicia Waldman, University of Bucharest: Sephardic Names in Late 19th and Early 20th Century Bucharest (Eng)

Grant Smith, Eastern Washington University: The Semiotics of Antonio and Shylock (Eng)

Alexandre Beider, Paris: Etymology of Jewish Surnames from the Maghreb (Eng)

Session F: 15:45-17:45: Names in Modern Hebrew Literature and Linguistics:

Chair: Prof. Aaron Demsky, Head of the Project for the Study of Jewish Names, Bar-Ilan University

Greetings: Rabbi Prof. Daniel Hershkowitz, President, Bar-Ilan University

       Prof. Elie Assis, Dean, Faculty of Jewish Studies, Bar-Ilan University

       Prof. Yaron Harel, Head of the Department of Jewish History and the Dahan Center, Bar-Ilan University

Erez Biton, Poet, Bialik Prize Laureate for 2015: Names in My Literary Ouvrage (Heb)

Ofra Matzov-Cohen, Ariel University: Names and their Contribution to the Text: A Comparative Study of the Novel Ahavah Shel Saltanat (Saltanat’s Love) and the Biography Zion Ezri, Beoz Ubehahavat Zion(With Courage and the Love of Zion) (Heb)

Ziva Feldman, Ariel University: The Poetics of Hanoch Levin and the Names of the Characters in his Works (Heb)

Tsvi Sadan, Bar-Ilan University: Toward the Onomastic Lexicography of Modern Hebrew (Heb)

Session G: 18:00-19:30: Names in the Land and State of Israel:

Chair: Dr. Dotan Arad, Bar-Ilan University

Shlomit Landman, Achva Academic College: The Cultural Perspective of Given Names in Israel, Based on Qualitative Interviews with Parents (Heb)

Sapir Omer Osias, Bar-Ilan University: Hebraization of Names in the Yishuv Period from the Second Half of the 19th Century: Perception, Progression and Effects (Heb)

Matanya Weynberger, Ariel University: The Hebraization of Family Names: Knesset Discussions from the 1950s (Heb)

Adel Shakour, Al-Qasemi Academy: Giving Children Hebrew Names in Druze Society in Israel (Heb)

The organizing committee: A. Demsky, Y. Levin, B. Kotlerman, I. Breier, T. Sadan

March 03, 2015

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

41st Archaeological Conference in Israel schedule

The schedule of the 41st Archaeological Conference in Israel, which will be held at Bar-Ilan University on April 1st, 2015.

There will be some very interesting lectures at the meeting, including one by me on archaeological insights from Papua New Guinea and by Amit Dagan on the Iron Age cultic finds from Area D at Tell es-Safi/Gath.

Here’s the schedule – hope to see you there!

41st archaeological conference plan_April 2015


And yet another article – on Bliss and Macalister’s excavations at Tell es-Safi/Gath

Just received the PDF of another just-appeared article :-)
Avissar Lewis, R. A. and Maeir, A. M. 2015. Bliss and Macalister’s Work at Tell es-Safi/Gath: A reappraisal in light of recent excavations. In Wolff, S. (ed.), Villain or Vissionary? R.A.S. Macalister and the archaeology of Palestine. PEF Annual XII. Maney: London.
In this study, Rona and I present an overview and assessment of the results of Bliss and Macalister’s excavations at Tell es-Safi/Gath in 1899, particularly in light of the finds from the current excavations at the site.
Once again, it can be found on my academia.edu website.

Two new articles on feasting have appeared! One on the Philistines – the other on Papua New Guinea.

Today I got the final, published PDFs of two new articles:

1) Hitchcock, L. A., Horwitz, L. K., Boaretto, E., and Maeir, A. M. 2015. One Philistine’s Trash is an Archaeologist’s Treasure: Feasting at Iron Age I, Tell es-Safi/Gath. Near Eastern Archaeology 78(1): 12–25.
In this study, my colleagues and I discuss archaeological remains from late Iron I Tell es-Safi/Gath which we interpret as evidence of feasting activities, and discuss this within the broader framework of Late Bronze and early Iron Age cultures of the eastern Mediterranean.
2) Maeir, A. M. 2015. A Feast in Papua New Guinea. Near Eastern Archaeology 78(1): 26–34.
During a recent trip to Papua New Guinea, I participated in a traditional feast, in the remote village of Teptep. In this article, I note some of my observations on the feast and some possible insights relevant to the archaeology of the ancient near east.
For those interested, the articles can be found on my academia.edu webpage (along with many other publications of mine).

March 01, 2015


Goodbye to all that

Peter Lacovara

Yesterday we finished up at the site for the season. We carefully re-buried all the ancient surfaces that were exposed in the Palace, North Village and West Settlement with clean sand to protect it from erosion until we return next year.

The West Settlement covered with a protective layer of sand.

The West Settlement covered with a protective layer of sand.

All our equipment, supplies and fashionable old clothes we wear to dig in went into storage and we submitted our final reports to our colleagues in the Ministry of Antiquities. We brought the season’s small finds with a police escort to the Antiquities Storage Magazine at the other end of Western Thebes where we entered through the massive, squealing, iron doors and past about forty snarling Sekhmet statues to deposit them with great ceremony into the JEM’s storage trunk.

Our last task is to return the survey equipment to Chicago House and bid our fond farewells to our workmen and assistants, our colleagues in the Antiquities Ministry, the New Memnon staff and friends and fellow Egyptologists in Luxor and after stops in Cairo, head home until next season.

In the meantime, we will be busy digesting all the work of this season, giving presentations, writing reports and doing further research as well as planning and fundraising for our further adventures at Malqata. We hope you’ll all stay tuned for our further adventures.

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

Event marking the publication of the new Jewish Study Bible – March 20th, 2015

Please note that on the evening of March 20th, 2015, at the Pardes Institute in Jerusalem, there will be an event to mark the publication of the 2nd edition of the Jewish Study Bible (which I noted previously).

During the evening, one of the editors (Mark Brettler), and several of the contributors (including yours truly), will present on issues relating to the volume.

See below for the full program. Do try and make it – it should be very interesting!


Jewish Study Bible event

TV interview this evening on the destruction of the Mosul Museum

This evening (Sunday, March 1st, 2015), I will be interviewed (in Hebrew) about the destruction of the antiquities in the Mosul Museum, on Avri Gilad’s program on Channel 20, which will be on at 7 pm (Israel time) this evening.

If you can – do watch it!


February 28, 2015


Ghost Town

Janice Kamrin

We have been working this season in a previously unexcavated part of the site that we are calling the West Settlement. Identified during a magnetometer survey in 2012, this lies northwest of the North Village and just east of “Trench P,” a long southeast-northwest trench excavated by Barry Kemp in 1974.

The team’s surveyor for the first half of the season, Christopher Gray, set up a grid of 5 m x 5 m squares over an area of 25 meters square. As we began to excavate within this grid, we uncovered the traces of walls only a few centimeters below the surface. At first, it looked like these were just ghosts, as if they would disappear if the wind blew. And in fact, in the squares we have excavated so far, only the foundation bricks remain – the walls are never more than a single brick high, and in a few places they are gone completely. Perhaps Amenhotep III’s builders dismantled this entire area at some point and reused the bricks in other structures. Even so, the basic plan is clear: the defined spaces here are large and regular, much more so than in the North Village.

The ghost walls begin to emerge.

The ghost walls begin to emerge.

As we cleared further, especially in the northeastern squares, we came across mud surfaces at several levels. The lowest of these is even and well packed, and evidently represents the main or original floor. Above this in some places is what may be a second floor surface, or might be a fill of decayed mud brick. Palace ware dominates among the sherds we found. In one room, we uncovered a large deposit (probably dumped here from somewhere else) of broken vessels, which included half of a lovely large blue-painted jar (enough so we can determine its profile) and fragments from a number of red-slipped bowls of various sizes. Mixed with and under these pots was a lot of charcoal and many bones, including the remains of several small fish!

Looking south across the site. The large deposit of sherds is in the center right.

Looking south across the site. The large deposit of sherds is in the center right.

Among the artifacts we discovered were several that may link this site to the manufacturing area where Diana and Catharine are working: an awl of copper alloy, which was found next to a carnelian bead; the bit from a discarded awl, also of copper alloy; a bit of a glass cane; and several fragments of material with traces of glaze on them that look like they might have been used in a kiln.

Bronze awl.

Copper alloy awl.

So what was the function of this area? The jury is still out. Our best theory so far is that this was a storage area connected in some way to the manufacturing site Diana and Catharine are exploring. We hope to learn more in the seasons to come.

The eastern part of the site after excavation, looking north.

The eastern part of the site after excavation, looking north.

February 27, 2015


Greetings from our 2015 team

It’s our last Friday, so we are back at the hotel today, packing and getting ready to go home.

Here’s a photo, taken yesterday, of this year’s team.

Our 2015 team, from left to right: our surveyor, Joel Paulson; our driver, Mohamed [] ; Catharine Roehrig; Peter Lacovara; Diana Craig Patch; our brick expert, Tony Crosby; Janice Kamrin; and our excavation manager, Hassaan [].

Our 2015 team, from left to right: our surveyor, Joel Paulson; our driver, Mohamed Mostafa ; Catharine Roehrig; Peter Lacovara; Diana Craig Patch; our brick expert, Tony Crosby; Janice Kamrin; and our excavation manager, Hassaan Mohamed Ali. (Missing: Chris Grey, surveyor)

The Tel Burna Excavation Project

Registration for Summer

The summer season is rapidly approaching – if you are thinking of registering – remember the deadline for registration is on May 1. Don’t miss your chance to find the next amazing find from Tel Burna!

Registration details can be found below.

2015 Tel Burna Excavation Information and Registration Packet

February 26, 2015


How do I stack thee? Let me count the ways.

Tony Crosby

In previous blogs we have briefly discussed the sizes and numbers of mud bricks used in the construction of the palace at Malqata; in this blog we are going to discuss the actual bonding patterns – how did they stack bricks to make the palace walls?

To review, there are two main sizes; bricks that are 30 cm long and those that are 40 cm long. The width of these bricks are approximately 1/2 their length and the thickness is about 1/2 the width, although the thickness will vary the least, regardless of the overall size. These proportions vary slightly, but bricks will normally be within a centimeter of these ratios. Recently, we are recording more and more bricks that fall between these two sizes, being 35 cm long and 17 cm wide. We have also found a few bricks, in only one location, that are 27 cm long.

The multiple sizes seems a bit unusual as they do not relate to the function or actual sizes of walls constructed; the same size wall may be made up of the largest or the smallest bricks. One example is the enclosure wall, which is 2.4 – 2.5 meters thick. Mud bricks 30 cm long are used for most of its length utilizing a simple bonding pattern of seven headers and one stretcher (7 x 30 cm + 15 cm + mortar joints). In one section the wall is made of 35 cm bricks with a bonding patten of six headers and two stretchers (6 x 35cm + 17  cm + mortared joints).

Enclosure wall showing the bonding pattern of 7 headers and one stretcher in a section that we added to this year.

Enclosure wall showing the bonding pattern of 7 headers and one stretcher in a section that we added to this year.

Another wall is 1.33 meters thick and made of three headers and one stretcher of 35 cm bricks and another wall of the same thickness made of four headers of 30 cm bricks. In all cases, small variations in the width of the mortar joints will made up any differences.

The most common bonding pattern is two headers and one stretcher for a wall thickness of 0.6 meters. The pattern on the vertical wall surface is always alternating rows of headers and stretchers, unless a mistake is made or there is a need to level a section of a wall – more on this later. We have recorded walls that are one brick wide, two bricks wide, three bricks wide, the most common, four bricks wide and every width up to 10 bricks wide, and then the enclosure walls which are either 14 or 15 bricks wide, depending on the size of the bricks used. The least common are walls that are only one brick wide; these are thin partitions or perhaps even walls that are not full height, as they would not be stable even if they were not supporting walls.

Sketches of several bonding patterns used in the palace.

Sketches of several bonding patterns used in the palace (drawing by Gina Salama)

Sketches of more bonding patterns used in the palace (drawing by Gina Salama)

Sketches of more bonding patterns used in the palace (drawing by Gina Salama)

An important character of all the walls is that stretchers are never used on the interior of a wall, only on the edges. A wall is never built with three stretchers as that would require a stretcher in the interior of a wall. A wall that size would always be made up of a header and a stretcher. Even the thickest walls — the enclosure walls — are made up of all stretchers except one or two on the edges of the wall.

One wall was documented that was 0.88 meters thick and the pattern was two headers of 35 cm bricks and the alternating course was two stretchers and one header. In one case there was a gap in the center of the wall of 18 cm that was filled with mortar and mud rubble; the alternate course had two 9 cm gaps also filled with mortar and rubble. In this case, stretchers used in the center of the wall would have eliminated the large spaces between and resulted in a much stronger wall.

A great deal of the variation in the bonding patterns is obvious only under close scrutiny. The most visible variation is on the wall surface when there is a deviation from the standard alternating rows of headers and stretchers. The most common is a brick that is set in the wall on its edge, rather than flat. The principle purpose is to level that and subsequent courses, which have strayed a little from level. The other purpose is is to correct a change in the bonding pattern that may have adjacent rows of headers, rather than alternating headers and stretchers.

Original mud bricks set on edge to level courses in a wall.

Original mud bricks set on edge to level courses in a wall.

On rare occasion we have documented bricks set on edge, but set parallel to the wall axis rather than perpendicular to it. This is perhaps the worst solution possible as this brick might just tilt a little on its edge and fall out of the wall. In this case, although it shouldn’t work well, the fact is that the examples we see are 3,400 years old.

Another example of bricks set on edge in the original masonry. Note the two thin courses immediately right of the bricks set on edge.

Another example of bricks set on edge in the original masonry. Note the two thin courses immediately right of the bricks set on edge.

Now, if these were problems faced by the ancient builders, you can bet that in our preservation of the palace we run into some of the same problems of unlevel courses and bonding patterns that don’t match. Well, we do it the same way as the ancients. In the example below we changed from two courses to one course; we did do a bit of sloping of the subsequent course, but in another course, we are level again.

New masonry showing the use of bricks set on edge to go from two courses to one course and the level the subsequent courses.

New masonry showing the use of bricks set on edge to go from two courses to one course and the level the subsequent courses.

So there we have it. Of course as a preservation project we not only want things to function properly, we also want the character of the original masonry to be reflected in the new protective masonry. By using the same techniques as the ancient builders in our new masonry and using the same bonding patterns, we achieve both.

February 25, 2015


Planning the Palace

Peter Lacovara

Before Tony caps a wall with a protective layer, it is carefully planned and recorded. In addition, Joel does a 3-D laser scan of the whole palace and we photograph the brickwork. The last step is to make carefully detailed brick-by brick drawings of the tops of each wall along with elevations and sections of special features. Although many of the earlier expeditions made plans of the palace, they did not record  this degree of detail. In examining the walls this closely, many details are revealed. I just finished drawing a long room called Mwhich appears to have been one of a series of storage rooms or magazines surrounding the central core of the palace.

Plan of M1

Plan of M1

M1 is a long, narrow corridor with low buttresses jutting out perpendicular to the walls. The buttresses, constructed of a different size brick, were added after the walls had received a finishing coat of plaster. They were placed at regular intervals of 1.85 meters and would have supported a low shelf for storing food and supplies for the palace residents.

Photo of M1

Photo of M1

In fact, the original Metropolitan Museum Expedition discovered a wall painting of a bowl of fruit, maybe pomegranates or dom-palm nuts, in a basket on a stand on one of the buttress walls.

Archival photo from the MMA excavations of 1910-11 (PA 12)

Archival photo from the MMA excavations of 1910-11 (PA 128), showing the wall painting as found

Bench End-Panel from a shelf support in the Palace of Amenhotep III-Fruit Stand (11.215.454)

Bench End-Panel from a shelf support in the Palace of Amenhotep III-Fruit Stand (11.215.454)


This same device of painting what would be stored on the shelf above can be seen in some of the tombs in the Valley of the Kings. The Egyptians obviously believed very strongly in a place for everything and everything in its place — for all eternity!

Shelves in the burial chamber of Seti I

Shelf for holding a bed from the tomb of Seti I

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

My lecture at the College de France

As I wrote about earlier, today I gave a lecture at the College de France, at the invitation of Prof. Thomas Romer. The lecture dealt with new perspectives on the Philistines, primarily based on the finds from Tell es-Safi/Gath.

At some time in the future the lecture will be online on the website of the College de France. I’ll update when it will be online.

The lecture went very well – and I got an official medallion (!) for giving the lecture! That’s a first for me… :-)



The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

Another Look

During the 1990s, it was not uncommon for grids to dress in costume and put on small-scale theatrical productions during Tell Tours. The picture below is a fun one. Can you identify the grid and/or the grid supervisor as well as the dig photographer? (The picture caption gives you a hint.)

Roman bath

Roman bath

In the previous "blast from the past," the photograph was of Aaron Brody standing in Grid 9 Square 38, an area that was opened in 1993. It was excavated for two seasons and produced one of the largest collections of Under-Glaze Painted Ware ceramics on site.  What are UGPW ceramics, you wonder? Check back to learn more.

I am overdue on starting with our dig retrospective -- it's coming soon.

Most importantly, we are still digging and accepting volunteer applications for the 2015 field season. Planning is well under way and we anticipate another exciting season. Half and full season  programs are available. 

February 24, 2015


Our 2015 Representative from the Ministry of Antiquities

Diana Craig Patch

Every year the Joint Expedition to Malqata is given an inspector of antiquities from the West Bank Inspectorate to join us for the season. Their role is an important one as they make sure we are able to work as agreed to in our concession. They also oversee the registration of every member of the team, which is another requirement of our excavation permit.

This season we are joined by Mrs. Amal Moatasem Mustafa, a seasoned member of the West Bank Inspectorate. Mrs. Amal was appointed to the Supreme Council of Antiquities (now the Ministry of Antiquities and Heritage, but still referred to as the SCA locally) in 2009. She received her BA from Sohag University in 2008, specializing in Egyptology. From 2009 until just two months ago, she was assigned to the Ramesseum, the mortuary temple of Ramesses II that was first made famous in Western culture by the Percy Shelley poem “Ozymandias.”   Mrs. Amal’s current assignment is as an inspector in the Carter Magazine, the huge storage facility north of Qurna where some of Malqata’s objects have been placed for safekeeping.


Janice and Mrs. Amal discussing pottery finds from the West Settlement

Janice and Mrs. Amal discussing pottery finds from the West Settlement

Mrs. Amal likes to keep busy and I was impressed, while speaking with her about her career, by how many places she has worked in this area since joining the West Bank Inspectorate. She joined her colleagues to record noble’s tombs for an SCA project in Qurna. In addition, she has worked with a number of other foreign expeditions: a German-Swiss mission at Tomb 95; an Italian mission at the Amenhotep II temple; and a Spanish mission that is reconstructing the funerary temple of Tuthmosis III. After 2010, she worked with ARCE (the American Research Center in Egypt) on a USAID grant to record the old houses of Qurna after the village was closed and the inhabitants relocated.   Mrs. Amal was also selected by ARCE to join a field school project in Tomb 110 where ARCE offered training in excavation techniques, pottery drawing, and bone analysis.

When I asked her what she liked about her job, she said she loved everything about it, especially the many opportunities she has to learn. Her favorite material to study is human bone, a comment to which I could relate because my earliest training in archaeology took place in cemeteries in North America. Given the chance, she hopes to have work in the future in the Valley of the Kings and also at Karnak. Mrs. Amal has been a great colleague this season and I have truly enjoyed being given the chance to get to know her and her family.

February 23, 2015


Frog Blog 2

Diana Craig Patch

Finding the fragment of a faience ring surmounted by a squatting frog led me to think about why frogs appear regularly as amulets or as decoration on small objects at Malqata. Years ago, the Met’s Egyptologists brought back seven frog amulets from their excavations for our collection. We know these are amulets because they are pierced to be strung as part of a necklace or bracelet, or perhaps even as decorative elements for rooms of the palace. The collection includes two molds for the manufacture of such amulets as well.

Frog mold from Malqata (MMA 11.215.685)

Frog mold from Malqata (MMA 11.215.685)

A study of the range of variation among our frogs indicates that they were all made in different molds. Their features are presented in various colors of faience –turquoise, light blue, and even green– sometimes with eyes whose color contrasts sharply with their bodies. These last are my personal favorites.

Faience frog seal amulet from Malqata (MMA 11.215.48)

Faience frog seal amulet from Malqata (MMA 11.215.48)

This leads us to consider why frogs are an important image at this site. After all, if you look at amulets throughout ancient Egyptian history, frogs are a constant but not at all common subject for amulets, unlike wedjat-eyes, scarabs, or Bes-image amulets. Although the sample in our collection is small, frogs are a significant theme, one of the more frequent subjects outside of floral elements, which seem to be the most common.

Many people who are interested in ancient Egypt know that the frog-headed Heqet is one of the key participants in child-birthing scenes. She is the goddess seen kneeling and assisting at the critical moment. So it is not surprising that frogs were associated with the concept of fertility. Both adult and young frogs would have been present in ancient Egypt in large numbers, reinforcing this association as well as one with overall fecundity. I think, however, it’s their cycle of reproduction that results in the massive birth of young frogs at the time of inundation. This would have worked well with the theme of Amenhotep III’s rejuvenation at his sed-festival. In the New Kingdom, frogs were a significant symbol of rejuvenation and eternity.

The goddess Heqat attends the birth of Hatshepsut, from her temple at Deir el-Bahari

The goddess Heqat attends the birth of Hatshepsut, from her temple at Deir el-Bahari

In ancient times, frogs were certainly common inhabitants of marshes and the Nile, so much so that the hieroglyph representing the number 100,000 and the concept of “too many count” was that of a tadpole. Although once abundant, today frogs are less common in Egypt, although at least seven species of toads and frogs remain. Like many other countries worldwide, including the United States, frogs have lost habitat to the housing needs of a growing population and suffer poisoning from pesticides and other chemicals that enter into their watery habitat. Also in Egypt, the need to provide an already large and growing body of university students with access to scientific knowledge in the classroom has recently severely impacted their numbers. Frogs are a keystone species, meaning that the ecosystem of which they are a part is seriously damaged if their numbers become too low. Tadpoles and frogspawn are are important food for many fish, and frogs are dinner for snakes and other animals. At the other end of this chain, frogs themselves eat insects, helping to control the large mosquito and fly populations that annoy old and young alike.

Mascarene grass frog (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mascarene_grass_frog​)

Mascarene grass or ridged frog (Ptychadena mascareniensis) (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mascarene_grass_frog​)

Lemon-yellow tree frog (Hyla savignyi) ((c) © Mehregan Ebrahimi)

Lemon-yellow tree frog (Hyla savignyi) (© Mehregan Ebrahimi)

February 22, 2015


How many bricks would a pharaoh make if a pharaoh would make bricks?

Tony Crosby

We cannot begin to know how many mud bricks were actually used to construct Amenhotep III’s palace at Malqata, but we can develop a rough estimate. To start with, the enclosure wall is 2.5 meters thick and was probably over 600 meters long. Each 1 meter of length of a wall 1 meter high requires 540 bricks – if the wall was only 2 meters high, over half a million bricks would be necessary. But a 2.5 meter thick wall would surely be at least 3 meters high, so I’m raising our estimate of the number of bricks in the enclosure walls to slightly more than 800,000.

The walls comprising the palace rooms generally are much thinner, the majority being 0.6 meters thick, although some are only 20 cm thick and some are 1.6 meters thick. For the sake of argument, let’s say that the average thickness of the palace walls is 0.6 meters. Our estimate of the length of all walls in the palace is 1800 meters, or more than one mile. After some additional quick math we estimate that if all the walls were 2 meters high, the total number of mud bricks would be about 400,000.

A typical completed mud brick wall before plastering.

A typical completed mud brick wall before plastering.

Oh, we forgot the floor paving… For our estimates let’s say there was 7,500 square meters of paving. If we assume that the paving bricks were considerably larger than the wall bricks, as they are in the west villas, our estimate is an additional 60,000 “really big bricks.”

Stacks of new mud bricks. This is a stack of about 3,000 bricks. Can you imagine what a stack of approximately 400 times more bricks would look like?

Stacks of new mud bricks. This is a stack of about 3,000 bricks. Can you imagine what a stack of approximately 400 times more bricks would look like?

So without really trying, we are up to 1,460,000 mud bricks, or to round it off, say 1.5 million. Now we haven’t counted the North Palace,  West Villas (the administrative area), the Amun temple, the Audience Pavilion, or other mud brick features of the immediate site. Rather than trying to calculate these, for now let’s just  double the 1.5 million: that’s 3,000,000 mud bricks of various sizes. A good brick maker can make about 1,000 bricks a day of the smaller sizes, but might produce only 600 a day of the larger sizes. For the sake of estimating even further, let’s say his average production is 800 per day. Rounding off again, it would take approximately 2000 days for one man to make the estimated number of bricks for the palace, or 1 day for 2000 men. . . or something in between! Of course you have to figure in sick leave, holidays and vacation, but I’ll leave that to you.

Mud-brick perimeter wall in the Palace, under construction. Current view, but probably not too different from the view 3400 years ago!

Mud-brick perimeter wall in the Palace, under construction. The current view is probably not too different from the view 3400 years ago!


Okay, so we have a lot of bricks, no doubt a lot of builders, different sized bricks, quite a few different mud brick bonding patterns, and probably a pretty tight work schedule. You also have a site that slopes from south to north and west to east, some “change orders” thrown in, and craftsmen and artisans who want things done their way. All these are just normal construction factors that the king had to consider and resolve when needed, on top of planning the festival itself! And then there is the plastering prior to painting. It’s just too much. I’m going back to counting bricks…

February 21, 2015

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

Ivory bowl article online for free!

For those who don’t have access to World Archaeology, or don’t bother looking at my Academia.edu site, Louise has informed me that the article on the early Iron Age ivory bowl from Tell es-Safi/Gath, which I mentioned before, can now be downloaded for free from the official publisher’s website!

Check it out!



Thank you, AEF!

Peter Lacovara

We are very grateful to  have sponsorship again from the American Research Center in Egypt’s Antiquities Endowment Fund for conservation work in the King’s Palace at Malqata. This important program was founded with resources from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) as allocated by the U.S. Congress. ARCE’s Antiquities Endowment Fund (AEF) supports the conservation, preservation and documentation of Egypt’s cultural heritage and the dissemination of knowledge about that heritage.


The Antiquities Endowment Fund awards one-year grants for projects that center on the conservation, preservation and documentation needs of Egypt’s antiquities. The projects supported by the AEF involve conservation or protection of sites, buildings or objects with the participation of conservators or other appropriate specialists. Other projects include the training of conservators and students, and the production of publications and presentations to share knowledge of Egypt’s cultural heritage.


With so many sites in Egypt needing conservation attention, the AEF is an incredibly important resource in supplying urgently needed support for archaeological sites, historic structures and artifacts that require timely intervention to ensure their preservation for future generations. To see some other projects funded by the AEF see:


February 20, 2015


Rest Day

It’s Friday again, so we aren’t at the site today. Instead, we did a bit of sightseeing, visiting the open tombs at Deir el-Medina and some of the noble’s tombs at Qurna.
Two weeks ago, Diana wrote a blog on a flint awl we found in the excavation area west of the Audience Pavilion. In the meantime, we have found two more awls, and we thought you might like to see them.

Flint awls from west of the Audience Pavilion

Flint awls from west of the Audience Pavilion

Back tomorrow.

February 19, 2015


Frog Blog

Diana Craig Patch

One of the loveliest surprises of the season was the find of a small ring fragment in the mortar  between two layers of brick in the exterior enclosure wall along the east side of the King’s Palace. As often happens with single isolated finds at a site as big as Malqata, the object is removed from its context and brought to you unless you are standing right there when it is discovered. At the North Village and the West Settlement, we see the material as it is found. But the King’s Palace was a huge structure: the workman who found the ring  was laying new brick next to the remains of original wall, and no one happened to be standing next to him at the time of the discovery.

Hassaan, our expedition manager, brought the fragment to Peter and me while we were talking about future restoration work in the central part of the palace. It is a large ring with a flat bezel in a brilliant blue faience. Squatting on the bezel is a little frog.

Ring and mold found at Malqata this year

The ring and a ceramic mold from excavations west of the Audience Pavilion

What immediately grabbed my interest was the size and the shape of the shank and its bezel, that is, the platform of the ring. A few days earlier at the excavation area where I have been working, to the west of the Audience Pavilion, I found –actually I didn’t find it, our workman did– a pottery mold whose impressed shape looked just like this ring. At the time we found it, I didn’t quite understand what the mold was intended to create. Although the impression looked ring-like, its diameter seemed big. With the find at the King’s Palace, it is clear that we have found a place at the site where the kind of molds that make these large rings might have been used. Shanks need to be large because they support the wide bezel intended to hold a little image, here a frog.

Rear view of the frog ring found at the King's Palace

Rear view of the frog ring found at the King’s Palace

Above you can see how the frog was made as a single piece, and then applied to the bezel, which had been molded independently with the shank. There is a hairline crack that indicates their join. After this step, the ring with its fancy bezel was fired as a single piece in a kiln.

Second frog ring at the MMA (11.215.120)

Frog ring at the MMA (11.215.120)

In the collection at the Met, we have two rings with frogs as a decorative element. One (above) looks like the lovely piece we found in the palace, but the other is somewhat smaller.

Frog ring at the MMA (11.215.121)

Frog ring at the MMA (11.215.121)

February 18, 2015



Anthony Crosby

The 2015 season of work preserving and “presenting” the ruins of the Palace of Amenhotep III at Malqata is in its second week. The preservation of the mud brick walls consists primarily of stabilizing fragile sections and applying one or two layers of new mud brick to the tops of the walls. The layers of new bricks protect ones underneath from continued erosion. The new bricks also will help visitors understand the extent of the walls, thus presenting a clearer picture of the overall palace plan and the room sizes and relationships.

An example of mud brick walls "capped" with one or two layers of mud brick. In this case there was clear evidence of the location and dimension of the doorway.

An example of mud brick walls “capped” with one or two layers of mud brick. In this case there was clear evidence of the location and dimension of the doorway.

The bricks we use today are the same sizes those employed during the original construction of the palace – 14 cm wide x 30 cm long x 8 cm thick and a larger size, 18 cm wide x 40 cm long x 10 cm thick. Actually we have found a few odd sizes of bricks as well, that are in between the two predominant brick sizes, but these are very few in number. Our bricks can vary up to a centimeter in all dimensions, particularly the thickness, just as the original bricks do. Our bricks are identifiable, primarily because they are new and not weathered like the originals, and each brick is stamped “JEM” during the manufacturing process. We use the different sizes in the same areas where they were used originally.

We do not know the reason two different sizes were used, but it is something that we continually study. At times, a different size is used in what is obviously a later construction, such as where a later wall is butted against a previously plastered wall. In other cases, it seems both sizes are used in the same wall. The primary distinction in the use of the two sizes is between the perimeter walls and the rooms surrounding the main courtyard of the palace. The smaller size bricks are used in the perimeter walls and the larger bricks are used in the palace rooms.

A low wall protected with mud bricks. It steps down at the left end because there is not clear evidence that the wall continued.

A low wall protected with mud bricks. It steps down at the left end because there is not clear evidence that the wall continued.

In addition to the application of mud bricks to the tops of walls; corners, wall ends, and doorway openings are also stabilized by new mud bricks. Identifying the doorways clearly is extremely important in understanding room relationships. However, if it isn’t clear that an opening existed, we do not represent it in new mud bricks. In other words if we are not certain about whether or not a feature such as a doorway existed, we do not interpret it by constructing what might have been missing. We simply end the wall in a series of steps in the masonry coursing, visually indicating that physical evidence of any additional wall or feature no longer exists.

A large fragment of painted wall plaster as it was uncovered at the base of an original doorway.

A large fragment of painted wall plaster as it was uncovered at the base of an original doorway.

During the process of stabilizing the walls we often find fragments of painted plaster buried at their bases. In most cases we simply leave them in place, or rebury them near the location where they were found. In cases where a particularly large or distinctive plaster fragment is found, we move it to a magazine. One particularly interesting fragment was located yesterday in the area of a doorway. In this case we carefully cleared the loose soil from over the fragment to determine its extent. We then even more carefully began the slow process of isolating the fragment by removing the soil from beneath it. We prepared a flat rigid support and as we removed the soil from beneath the decorated mud plaster, we slid the support under it. This operation was complete when we had the plaster on its new support. The last step was to secure and support the fragment’s edges with mud mortar. After the mud mortar had set, the fragment was transferred to the on-site magazine, where the sample will be evaluated by a conservator and appropriate action taken.

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

Article on Safi ivory bowl appears online!

A study, in World Archaeology, on the ivory bowl which we found at Safi two seasons ago, has now appeared online.

The study is entitled:

Maeir, A. M., Davis, B., Horwitz, L. K., Asscher, Y., and Hitchcock, L. A. 2015 An Ivory Bowl from Early Iron Age Tell es-Safi/Gath (Israel) – Manufacture, Meaning and Memory. World Archaeology 47 (DOI 10.1080/00438243.2015.1009154)

Check it out!


Upcoming Levi-Sala Seminar at BGU – on Alalakh (April 30th, 2015)

First notices have been sent out regarding a very interesting seminar (the annual Irene Levi Sala Research Seminar), which will be held at Ben Gurion University, on April 30th 2015. Prof. Aslihan Yener will give a day long seminar on the excavations which she directs at Tell Atchana, ancient Alalakh.

See the official notice – Salla Seminar 2015_Atchana

Should be very interesting!


February 17, 2015


Preserving Malqata

Diana Craig Patch

The Joint Expedition to Malqata’s fieldwork strategy has included site management. The restoration and conservation in the King’s Palace, the removal of camel thorn, and the building of fences around certain areas of the site have all been important stages in our strategy to support the West Bank Inspectorate under the Ministry of Antiquities and Heritage. The antiquities department has a strong desire to preserve this unique site for the future.


Removal of piled camel thorn and garbage

Each year JEM tries to do something for the site that represents our a strong commitment to this work. Over the past two years, in addition to the yearly removal of camel thorn and garbage, we built fences around the King’s Palace, and last year we also installed two large lights to assist the guards.

Stringing barbed wire for the fence (13)

Completed fence in foreground, and stringing a second fence in background

This year the Ministry’s Permanent Committee asked if we would consider assisting them by building a new guardhouse at Malqata. We agreed to this immediately,  and I am happy to say it is nearing completion. The site chosen for the structure is just west of the North Village on a natural hill composed of layers of gebel (natural rocky and pebbly desert), and clay. Our workers have dug a deep foundation and the house is being constructed out of mud brick. There will be a metal roof insulated with mud, two windows, and a door. Mastabas (mud brick benches) will be built both inside and out so that the guards have a place to rest or watch the site as their duties require.



From this hill, the guards can see north to the Temple of Amun, east to the Audience Pavilion, the North Village, and the King’s Palace, and south to a portion of the Birket Habu and the West Villas: a full panorama.



February 16, 2015

The Tel Burna Excavation Project

The Man Behind the Puzzle

In light of the last few posts that show the great work Jeremy has been doing with the pottery restoration from Areas A and B, we thought it would be nice to see the man with some of his nearly finished “puzzles.” Keep up the great work!

Jeremey (Yirmi) hard at work Jeremey (Yirmi) hard at work
Ornali assisting in the cataloging processOrnali assisting in the cataloging process



I wonder what the king is eating tonight?

Salima Ikram

It is fabulous to be at Malqata—an ancient Egyptian settlement with areas that show social stratigraphy and organisation. Kings, nobles, and commoners all lived here and celebrated the sed festivals of King Amenhotep III. I first worked on animal bones that were excavated from Malqata in the 1970s for my Ph.D., and am thrilled that the Met is digging now in different parts of the site so that there is a fresh source of bones to examine. The animal bones that I am studying come from trash pits, and undisturbed fill that lay in the North Village. By examining these, we are learning about what people ate and how animals were butchered.

Part of the [] bone of a calf, with butchery marks.

Part of the rib of a cow that has been chopped in half..

Many of the bones I am examining come from a pit just outside the enclosure wall of a ceremonial area known as the Audience Pavilion at the northern end of the Village. The pottery in the pit appears to consist of types associated with the Palace and ceremonial areas rather than types found in the Village, so it is likely that the animals were consumed as part of the festival. Most of the bones I am identifying come from cattle that were fairly young—under about two and half years old – which are more tender and delicious than the older animals. I establish the age by studying whether or not the long bones have fused—the ends of these bones join together with the main shaft at different ages. These animals would have been reared in the royal fields and brought to the palace and kept close to the royal kitchens so that they could provide fresh veal for the king, his court, and guests. They would have been prepared in a variety of ways—grilled, cooked in a stew, or fried in a pan. Sheep were also eaten, and these were young animals too. Ribs would have been barbequed and the fat from the tails used in cooking.

Vertebrae from a [].

Vertebrae from a lamb with the edges cut off. The preservation is amazing — the cartilage that connected the bones is still intact.

I also found a few bones from water birds—roast goose seems to have been a popular food at the palace! Fish were consumed as well—bones of tilapia, a fish that is commonly eaten in Egypt, the US, and Europe today, are found at the site. The fish were so well preserved that their dried out scales are still present! These vegetarian fish grow quickly. They were common in the Nile and also could be farmed in ponds. Quite possibly these bones came from fish that populated the Birket Habu, the gigantic harbor that was part of Malqata.

Bones from a Tilapia.

Bones from at least one Tilapia and possibly another fish.

On the whole, it seems that the king and his court enjoyed veal more than any other meat. It was jointed and then cooked in a variety of ways, although grilling seems to have been the most popular. This meat was also given as offerings to the gods as it was the most expensive type of meat in ancient Egypt. Mutton was also eaten, but was less popular, and fish was consumed in small quantities, together with birds, mainly water birds. Obviously everyone was well fed at Malqata!


Bath Time in the Palace

Peter Lacovara

The ancient Egyptians seem to have placed great importance on personal cleanliness. For most people, bathing appears to have been done in pools, rivers and canals but shower stalls were a feature in the Royal Palaces and in the model palaces.

In these stalls, the bather would stand on a stone slab with a drain cut into it and water would be poured over them by a servant standing beside a half wall enclosing the shower. Soap was made from natron and was beneficial for the skin. It may have even been scented as were soaps made from animal fat or vegetable oil.

The Palace of the King at Malqata boasted at least ten bathrooms. Only scant traces of them remain today, but when the Palace was excavated by Robb de Peyster Tytus in 1901 to 1903, he discovered a very well preserved bath in room N11, in one of the suites of rooms bordering the central court. Like all the other baths in the palace, it was made of sandstone which had been generously coated with gypsum plaster. It had a drain into the ground and a “splash guard” along the front edge.

Bath from Room N11  as excavated by Tytus

Bath from Room N11 as excavated by Tytus

Only a few fragments of these shower stalls can be found in the Palace today. They are roughly made out of a light brown sandstone and slathered with a thick coat of gypsum plaster. The plaster was also used to glue the sections of stone together and to coat the adjoining mud brick walls to protect them from splashing water.

Fragments from a Bath remaining in the palace

Fragments from a Bath remaining in the palace

The Temple Palace of Ramesses III at Medinet Habu has two of these shower baths in their original state. A sandstone basin is set against the corner of a small room and drains off into a basin set below ground.

Shower bath in the Temple Palace of Ramesses III at Medinet Habu

Shower bath in the Temple Palace of Ramesses III at Medinet Habu

The ancient Egyptians even invented the “Turkish towel” to add to the luxuriousness of their bath.

February 15, 2015

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

GVSU Skype lecture on line!

As I mentioned previously, last month, I gave a Skype lecture, on what we know about the Philistines, primarily based on our excavations at Tell es-Safi/Gath, for Grand Valley State University. This was in lieu of my lecture, in person, which I was supposed to present this past November, but was cancelled due to a mega snow storm which closed down the university.

And now, the entire lecture, just under an hour and a half long, is available on Youtube, courtesy of GVSU! Check it out!


February 14, 2015


Our Second Home in Luxor

Catharine Roehrig and Janice Kamrin

The other night, we went to Chicago House for dinner (http://wp.me/pBBFl-T). The JEM expedition members lived at Chicago House during our first two seasons, before moving to the New Memnon Hotel (http://wp.me/pBBFl-k6) on the west bank, so visiting there is like going home. Dinner ended with a slightly belated celebration of Diana’s birthday with a marvelous cake topped by a large sparkler.

Diana and her birthday cake at Chicago House.

Diana and her birthday cake at Chicago House.

The dinner guests included members of several other expeditions: the Mut Temple project (http://pages.jh.edu/~egypttoday/), the Djehuty Project (http://www.excavacionegipto.com), and of course, the Chicago House team (https://oi.uchicago.edu/research/projects/epigraphic-survey#House), and we got to hear what they are all working on this season, which is always a treat. As always, we had an absolutely lovely time.

February 13, 2015


Our Day Off

Today is our day off, so we won’t be posting a blog. We’ll be back tomorrow!

Dancers from a relief in the memorial temple of Hatshepsut, a female king who lived about 50 years before Amenhotep III.

Dancers from a relief in the memorial temple of Hatshepsut, a female king who lived about 50 years before Amenhotep III.

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon


I have some great pictures to share today. These came from Erin who worked at Ashkelon in 1999.

Grid 38 in 1999

Grid 38 in 1999

Erin S.

Erin S.

We'd love to hear your story and see your pictures as we look back on almost 30 years of excavation.  

We'd also like to remind everyone, we aren't done yet! We have two more years of excavation and some important questions yet to answer. Whether you would be joining us for the first time or the second, there is still time to create more memories at Ashkelon.

Did you know?

In 1985, the expedition stayed in one of the park campgrounds. In 1986, the team moved to the Shulamit Gardens Hotel. That hotel eventually became the Dan Gardens Hotel. In 2014, the Dan Gardens Hotel closed mid-season and the expedition moved to the Leonardo Hotel.


February 12, 2015

The Tel Burna Excavation Project

Area A1 (and B) Restoration Part 2

A few weeks ago we showed some of the area A1 pottery restoration process – here is another update of an Iron II storejar and a nice Late Bronze storejar from area B. Check them out!

Area B Storejar (Late Bronze) held by ItzickArea A1 Storejar (Iron II ) held by Itzick
LMLK type storejar (Iron II) held by Aharon Area B storejar (LB) held by Aharon
LMLK type storejar restorationArea B LB Storejar restoration

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

Jeff gives a talk about the Safi excavations at El Quds University in Jerusalem

Jeff Chadwick, AKA Achish Melekh Gath, field supervisor extraordinaire of Area F, yesterday gave a talk about the Tell es-Safi/Gath excavations at el-Quds University in Jerusalem.

Here is what he reported (from his facebook page):

Rare opportunity yesterday to share our excavation and research results with Palestinian archaeology students. I visited Al-Quds University (as part of the Albright Institute outreach program) to give a lecture on “The Archaeology of Tell es-Safi — Gath of the Philistines” to an audience of about 25 students and their faculty, and to express Safi director Aren Maeir’s greetings and best wishes to the group. The reception was very friendly, and I had quite a nice time meeting with both students and the faculty of the archaeology, as well as a number of deans and professors from other schools on the courtesy tour of the Al-Quds campus, which has grown into a fairly large and increasingly impressive operation. Below is a photo with three faculty and a few of male students. Left of me is Dr. Hani Nur-el Din, and to the right of me are Dr. Ibraham Abu Eamar (dept chair) and Issa Sarie — all three also Albright fellows. Thanks to the Albright Institute and Al-Quds for the opportunity.

And here is a picture of Jeff and some of the el Quds staff and students that is mentioned above:

Jeff lectures at El Quds U on Safi_Feb 2015

Thanks Jeff – way to go!


Safi on a bus advertisement! Definitely a First!!!

Liz Arnold, from Grand Valley State University, who is a veteran team member, just posted a picture of an advertisement on the side of a bus – for the GVSU summer program at Tell es-Safi/Gath!

The picture, taken by Haskel Greenfield, shows some Safi team members (Shira Kissos and Monica Enehaug) excavating some great finds!

GVSU Safi ad on bus_Feb 2015

This definitely is the first time that a picture from Safi has been on the side of a bus – and I doubt there are many excavations that can make a claim to such fame!

Way to go Liz and Haskel!



Fragile Elegance, Part II: Live and Learn

Diana Craig Patch

The other day my blog, about the beautiful glass fragment we thought belonged to the rim of a vessel, had a postscript pointing out that Malqata is a site used really only during the reign of one pharaoh.   That statement remains true; there is a small addition to the Amun temple during the reign of Haremheb but the site was never occupied substantially again. However I did not realize that there was another period that left behind a few traces at Malqata.

N145-E180-level 1_glass rim-side b_2-7-2015(canon4898)

From the same general area in which the blue rim fragment was found, we recovered another glass fragment belonging to the rim of a different jar. It too is lovely; the piece is made from pale yellow glass that is almost transparent. In addition, it is pierced horizontally in a technique known as a hollow rim. Its transparency and color were suspicious, however, because glass from Pharaonic Egypt is opaque rather than translucent, never mind transparent. However the site’s context made it difficult to believe this was from some other source. The Conservator in Charge of the Department of Objects Conservation at the MMA, Lisa Pilosi, specializes in ancient glass, so we decided to consult her. She told us that based on a study of the photographs we supplied she thought that the rim was a fragment from a vessel that could be no earlier than the Roman Period. Lisa wrote that Pharaonic glass was never transparent (true) and that she could see the bubbles created during glass blowing, the technique used for this vessel. Pharaonic glass is not blown (I knew that but the fact had slipped my mind). The “hollow rim” occurred when the glass was rolled over to form the rim (a piece of new information for me to tuck away for future use).

N145-E180-level 1_glass rim-side b_2-7-2015(canon4440)

It seems that a few pieces that are Roman in date can be found at Malqata. To the best of our knowledge, there is no Roman temple or sizeable settlement in the immediate vicinity from which the tiny pieces of glass and jewelry (also known from the site) might have originated. Roman sherds are uncommon and they should be ubiquitous in a settlement. During earlier excavations, however, a few intact Roman vessels and burials were found. It is likely that these objects, including this glass rim, come from the isolated burials intrusive to the site. The unusual piece of blue glass with white dots is therefore probably Roman too.

February 11, 2015

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

The Final Two Seasons

Planning is well under way for the 2015 field season. As we gear up for excavation, another important date looms on the horizon -- the 2016 field season which will be the final season of excavation for the Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon. That's right, after 30 years of excavation, generously funded by Leon Levy and Shelby White as well as the Leon Levy Foundation, we will complete our excavation of the ancient city of Ashkelon. 


We still have a lot of work to do and many questions to answer. In the field, we are looking to better understand the 604 destruction of the city, to identify the complete occupational sequence on the North Tell, and to investigate the cardo, one of the defining urban features of ancient Ashkelon. Out of the field, the expedition's publication program is thriving with volumes on the Middle Bronze Age, the Iron Age, the Islamic and Crusader Periods, the Hellenistic period, and a regional survey, well under way. Separate volumes on the Persian, Roman and Byzantine periods are also in the early stages of research and preparation.

As the final season approaches, it is fair to say that thoughts of previous seasons are intruding with greater frequency. Over the next few months, I'll touch upon some of the highlights of the excavation through the years; the people, the excavation, the objects. Have you ever excavated at Ashkelon? Do you have a story to share? If so, let us know, we'd love to hear them. 

Check back next week when we'll travel back in time to 1985 and the first season of excavation.

This winter isn't all about nostalgia, however. We are digging this summer and excited about introducing a new group of volunteers to the history and archaeology of Ashkelon. The application deadline is April 6th -- meaning, there is still time to submit one and join us for the experience of a lifetime.

I'll leave you with a blast from the past. Recognize anyone? What about the excavation area?


It’s in the Batter


Tony Crosby and Peter Lacovara

We are concentrating our reconstruction work this season on the outer perimeter wall, the southern apartments, and the central court of the King’s Palace. We have a formidable workforce this year, with three expert builders and 30 workmen to carry bricks and mortar. We are beginning with the western perimeter wall, which is the largest preserved wall on the site, measuring about 120 meters long and 2.5 m thick. Like the southeast-running wall it joins, the western wall was battered on its outer face, a possibility suggested first by Barry Kemp and David O’Connor during their work on the Birket Habu back in 1974. The gentle slope inclines inwards toward the top at about six degrees from the vertical. The batter was achieved by simply stepping back each course by approximately one centimeter. When plastered over, this would have presented a smooth outer face. Making the reconstruction even more complex , the wall runs over uneven ground that is 1.5 meters higher at the southern end than the northern end and straddles two major hollows ranging from one half to three quarters of a meter deep.

Work begins along the western perimeter wall.

Work begins along the western perimeter wall.

Following the protocol established in 2014, we place a layer of sand and plastic mesh over the ancient bricks to protect them and make it easy for people to see what parts of the wall are original and what sections are modern reconstructions.  Several days ago, we had an interesting surprise while cleaning the ancient brick preparatory to covering it — we found, wedged in the original mortar, a fragment of a faience ring surmounted by a squatting frog (more on this later).

Setting the batter.

Setting the batter.

It isn’t clear how high the wall stood; given its massive base, it could have been very high, but it may have been conceived to allow for a glimpse of the palace behind it. This is the case for the battered exterior wall around the temple of Medinet Habu, where the wall and gate at the entrance to the temple gave it a fortified appearance, much like a medieval castle. This is not surprising, given that this type of architecture originated in the Middle East. It appears at least some New Kingdom Egyptian palaces, such as one depicted in an Amarna relief, may have had this fortified style copied from Syrian Migdol fortresses. Such an impressive structure would have suited the pharaoh called “Amenhotep the Magnificent” quite well.

Reconstruction drawing of the battered perimeter wall outside Medinet Habu Temple.

Reconstruction drawing of the battered perimeter wall outside Medinet Habu Temple.

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

And the newborn is: A Minerva Center!

OK – so now that the official notice has been given (by Prof. Johanna Wanka, the German Minister of Education and Research at a conference at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot celebrating 50 years of relations between Israel and Germany [see here]), the full story can be told:

We have been granted a “Minerva Center” – which is a very prestigious joint Israeli/German grant program.

The center, which I will co-direct with Prof. Angelika Berlejung from the University of Leipzig, will be comprised, primarily, of a team from Bar-Ilan University (including Esti Eshel and Yigal Levin) and the University of Leipzig (including Andreas Schueler, Michael Streck, Marco Frenschkowski and Guenther Vittmann), and will deal with the character of Aramean-Israelite relations during the biblical period (Iron Age and Persian Period). We intend to study the multi-faceted relations between these cultures with a strong emphasis on what were the character of these relations – were they interconnected or not? Did they have autonomous aspects? And how much of the autonomy and dependency is real or just socio-cultural constructs. We plan to interface this study not only with archaeology, history, philology, textual and biblical studies – but input perspectives and ideas from other fields (such as social theory, socio-linguistics, international relations, law, psychology, philosophy, etc.).
The official name of the center is:
The Construct of Autonomous Decision Making and Inter-dependencies: The Case of Israel and Aram in Biblical Times
The creation of the center will enable 6 years of joint meetings, workshops, conferences and student interchanges – and not to mention – some really nice joint research on this fascinating topic!
Truly astounding news!

February 10, 2015

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

Astounding news! More details tomorrow!

Just got some astounding news! As the official notice is not yet out – I’ll will only provide details tomorrow.

But in the meantime – YABA DABA DOOOOO!!!!



February 09, 2015


Fragile Elegance



Diana Craig Patch

Spoil heaps, archaeological dumps, and back-dirt piles are all terms used to identify the mounds of debris that result from excavation. No one really wants to work in someone else’s debris because it means you are not looking at archaeological material in the context in which it was deposited. Early archaeology, that is, work done a century ago, took place when the field was really just beginning to develop the techniques that would become the foundation of the careful way in which we dig today. Excavations a hundred years ago were done on a large scale, focusing on large structures –palaces, temples, tombs—and collecting whole or substantially preserved objects. Smaller pieces were often missed. Although Herbert Winlock and Ambrose Lansing from The Metropolitan Museum of Art were both excellent archaeologists for their time, they still left behind fascinating information in their back dirt piles.

Fragment of a dotted rim from a glass vessel

Fragment of a dotted rim from a glass vessel

We have opened several squares in the area of spoil heaps from Lansing’s 1917-18 excavations west of the Audience Pavilion (or the Belvedere as it was then called). Although the carnelian is what originally caught our eye, we have been finding some other interesting pieces in these spoil heaps. Among these was a fragment of colored glass that appears to be from the rim of a vessel. Not much survives of the original jar, perhaps just 25% of the rim, but this fragment’s color, decoration, and thin wall suggests it belonged to an elegant vessel.The object’s shape on first impression suggested that the piece came from a bracelet, an identification that would have been significant because glass bracelets are quite rare and one from this site would be an early example. However Peter’s sharp eyes saw the thin broken edge, only 1 mm thick, along the underside, indicating this piece was once part of a vessel’s rim. The color is a dark but muted blue, a hue that occurs among the glass from Amenhotep’s palace. It is the decoration of evenly spaced tiny white glass dots set flush in the blue, however, that sets this vessel apart. So far I have been unable to locate a good parallel. None of the fragments collected and brought back by the MMA are a match. Most rims are the same shade as the overall jar color or they can have canes added in a striped pattern of contrasting colors, as seen in the examples here. Dots apparently are quite unusual.

Fragments of rims of glass vessels in Gallery 120.

Fragments of rims of glass vessels in Gallery 120.

Postscript: There is only one level of occupation at Malqata, that of Years 30-37 of Amenhotep III when he carried out his three sed-festivals. The spoil heaps have produced no  material belonging to any other periods, except the occasional pieces of modern bottle glass and plastic caps, so as unusual as this piece is it must date to the reign of Amenhotep III.

Fragments of rims of glass vessels in Gallery 120.

Fragments of rims of glass vessels in Gallery 120.

February 08, 2015


Secret Messages: The Wild TH63 Theodolite



Chris Gray and Peter Lacovara

While we were surveying in the palace we noticed that the micro-optic screw on the Wild T1 Theodolite we had borrowed from Chicago House was not working well. Luckily we could manage to do most of the survey work needed to establish grids and controls with it, but we still needed to set out the grid for the Main Palace, a task which involved one critical angle. Luckily, Chicago House came to the rescue again and lent us another instrument, a noble TH63 theodolite – a museum piece in and of itself and certainly older than Chicago House! Like our Land Rover, it has a venerable archaeological pedigree, as it had been used by The Oriental Institute during the Nubian Salvage campaign in the 1960’s.

The ancient Chicago House theodolite,

The ancient Chicago House theodolite and its pyramid-shaped container

The sturdy instrument is still in perfect condition after these many years and has its original handmade wooden tripod and ‘waterproof’ metal casing, but none of us knew how to use this arcane instrument. Luckily, and to our amazement, the original handbook was still nestled in the theodolite’s custom-made, pyramid-shaped container. However, the text of the handbook was impenetrable – an early precursor to the unreadable handbooks familiar to all those trying to operate imported TV’s and video players. We were beginning to despair of ever deciphering the cryptic Swiss technical language, when we made a fortuitous discovery. Nestling in a hidden corner of the pyramid box was a set of hand drafted and handwritten instructions lovingly penned (probably using a plume) explaining clearly how to interpret the intricate formulas required to read the angles. It saved the day!

The handwritten instructions we found tucked into the box!

The handwritten instructions we found tucked into the box!

February 07, 2015


It’s Great to be Back!

Janice Kamrin

I am the newest member of the JEM team, and it is my great pleasure to be back in Egypt. I have been an Assistant Curator in the Department of Egyptian Art at The Metropolitan Museum of Art for four years now; before returning to New York, I lived in Egypt for seven years, directing a cluster of projects at the Egyptian Museum, Cairo for the American Research Center in Egypt, and working with Dr. Zahi Hawass, then Secretary-General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, on a variety of his initiatives.

Most of my time in Egypt was spent in Cairo, but I always loved it when I had the chance to come down to Luxor. The air here is so clear and bright, the people are friendly and kind, and the monuments are endlessly fascinating. After my years away, I do see changes here – new buildings continue to sprout up, the plaza at Karnak temple is finished, and across the street from our hotel, The New Memnon (https://imalqata.wordpress.com/2014/02/08/our-home-away-from-home/), the temple of Amenhotep III at Kom el-Hettan looks very different! Hourig Sourouzian and her team have excavated and then reconstructed so much wonderful sculpture – I look forward to visiting the site properly soon, but I did catch a glimpse of the travertine hippopotamus as we drove by the other day!

We have been here a week but my first visit to the site was Friday, the day after we arrived in Luxor. We rode out to Malqata in the Land Rover to see how the site looked after a year away and to plan the start of the season. It was the first time I had seen the wall that now protects the site – the last time I was on the West Bank, children could still scramble up the scree slope to the temples at Medinet Habu!


Despite my study of old and new plans and satellite photos, I was not prepared for the vastness of Malqata. On that Friday, while Diana and Peter discussed where to begin this year’s clearance, Catharine walked me past the remains of the North Village over to the Amun Temple, and then we walked over to the King’s Palace, where Peter gave me a tour. I haven’t yet ventured past this point, but I look forward to exploring more in the weeks to come, as time permits.

Despite these changes, the air and the people here in Luxor are as I remember them. From our arrival at the airport, where we were picked up by Hassaan Mohammed Ali Ahmed, our excavation manager, to Chicago House, where the Director, Ray Johnson, greeted us and supplied us with coffee and a theodolite, to our wonderful hotel, where Sayed Farag El Nobe and his staff make us welcome every day, I feel truly at home. I look forward to working with Diana, Catharine, and Peter to uncover more of Malqata’s past.

February 06, 2015


We’re Taking a Break

Friday is our day to catch up with recording and relax a bit. We’ll be back tomorrow. In the meantime, here are some photos from the Egyptian Department archives that show what the site looked like when the Museum’s Egyptian Expedition started their work a century ago.

General view of the Palace site looking west at the beginning of the  1910-1911 season.

General view of the Palace site looking west at the beginning of the 1910-1911 season.

General view of the Palace site looking north at the beginning of the 1910-1911 season.

General view of the Palace site looking north at the beginning of the 1910-1911 season.

February 05, 2015


The Gem of the Desert, herset desheret

Diana Craig Patch

To my mind, carnelian is one of the prettiest of the semi-precious stones. The ancient Egyptians thought so too and used the red stone to make jewelry beginning in the Predynastic Period, as early as 3800 B.C.

String of beads, including carnelian, from a Predynastic tomb of Abadiya (Gift of Egypt Exploration Fund, 1899 (99.4.4))

String of beads, including carnelian, from a Predynastic tomb from Abadiya (Gift of Egypt Exploration Fund, 1899 (99.4.4))

Carnelian is a variety of chalcedony, with iron oxide inclusions that create its striking orange, red, or red-brown colors. Chalcedony is a form of quartz that has an almost invisible crystalline structure –known as cryptocrystalline or microcrystalline− unlike other well-known types of quartz, such as amethyst or milky quartz, which have macro crystals. This cryptocrystalline structure is shared by other types of quartz besides chalcedony, including agate (beads), flint or chert (tools), and jasper (rings and sculpture). The Met’s famous fragment of a face of a queen, possibly Nefertiti, is fashioned from jasper (http://www.metmuseum.org/collection/the-collection-online/search/544514?rpp=30&pg=1&ft=Egypt+queen&pos=16). The cryptocrystalline structure allows for all of these stones to be successfully knapped into objects because the stone fractures in predictable ways. Macrocrystalline quartz is significantly more difficult to work.

Flakes of carnelian from west of the Audience Pavilion

Flakes of carnelian from west of the Audience Pavilion

Carnelian was formed as solutions of silica that solidified into clumps in shallow ancient oceans in developing limestone beds. Chert and flint were often deposited in the same way. The source of ancient Egypt’s carnelian is largely unknown although one mine has been identified, Stela Ridge, located at Gebel el-Asr, west of Lake Nasser. According to James Harrell (http://www.escholarship.org/uc/item/57f2d2sk#page-2), this source was not active in the New Kingdom. Mostly it is thought that the carnelian was found as large, dark brown cobbles in Nile terrace gravels from southern Egypt and in Sudan where the cobbles have eroded out of limestone or sandstone deposits.

Fragments of cobbles and flakes from west of the Audience Pavilion

Fragments of cobbles and flakes from west of the Audience Pavilion

When a carnelian cobble is hit hard with a rock or hammer, it breaks revealing an interior with shades of red that is sometimes banded. Carnelian can be quite translucent if a thin enough piece is struck from the core (the cobble). Sard is a similar stone, but tends to be more opaque and brown in color, while jasper is an opaque dark red or yellow. The ancient Egyptians called carnelian herset. It is not clear what this word meant to them, but they considered red a powerful color with strong associations to blood and the desert.  That this semi-precious stone was important to the ancient Egyptians may be seen in its presence on lists of materials and tribute in inscriptions, including an important list from the temple of Dendera.

February 04, 2015

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

Grant from INSTAP!

Just notified that we (Louise and I) received a grant (less then we requested – but nice in any case!) from the Institute of Aegean Prehistory (INSTAP) which will fund some of the costs relating to the excavations in Area A of the Iron I levels! INSTAP has provided funding to the Safi excavations several times in the past – and it is nice that we are once again funded by them!



An Old Friend Joins Us at Malqata


Peter Lacovara and Diana Craig Patch

We first met Chris in the fall of 1979 at the site of Abydos, where he was the surveyor for the Pennsylvania-Yale Expedition and we were site supervisors. Charlie Evers, our architect at Malqata in 2010, was also part of that team. Chris will serve during the first half of the JEM’s 2015 season as the surveyor who installs the grid for excavation and assists with the documentation of the palace and surrounding structures.


Chris has specialized in providing survey services for the conservation and renovation of historic structures for over 30 years in a career that has included positions as the Head of Procurement at English Heritage in London and the Director of Documentation at the Getty Conservation Institute in Los Angeles. Currently he consults for a survey and engineering company in Los Angeles that specializes in 3-D high precision scanning. Chris has published on the importance of survey and documentation as a critical platform for conserving historic structures and archaeological sites, and has taught throughout the United States and the United Kingdom. He also serves on many professional boards for preservation and survey.

Although he has worked in Egypt many times, he has not been here for the past 30 years! Joining our team offers a great opportunity for him to meet long-lost friends and colleagues and revisit a country he says he will continue to enjoy. Chris has been building grids for the work west of the North Village and west of the Audience Pavilion and has been helping Peter with the mapping and planning of the King’s Palace and the surrounding territory. He will also be coordinating mapping efforts with Joel Paulson and providing input on data mapping and site management. Malqata is huge, and having another skilled professional like Chris working on its documentation is a tremendous help.

February 03, 2015

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

Radio interview for Voiceamerica program “Indiana Jones: Myth, Reality and 21st Century Archaeology”

This evening, I was interviewed by Dr. Joseph Schuldenrein, host of the very nice voiceamerica internet radio program “Indiana Jones: Myth, Reality and 21st Century Archaeology“.

In each session of this program, Joe discusses a different topic in archaeology with scholars in different fields. In this interview, we discussed the relationship between archaeology and the Bible – needless to say a very interesting topic.

While the interview was recorded (over skype) today, I’m not sure when it will be broadcast – perhaps even tomorrow. I’ll update when I know – and you can also follow on the shows website. As soon as it’s posted – do check it out!



A Surprise Among the Pebbles



Diana Craig Patch

For the first step in excavating our new square west of the Audience Pavilion, I wanted to collect all of the surface material so I could study the type of debris we might anticipate finding in an undisturbed stratum below or nearby. The surface, of course, was disturbed material, but debris in a spoil heap left behind by archaeologists reflects the ancient activities in the area. Studying the surface would tell me something about the site in the immediate area of the square. So the workmen collected everything on the surface of Sq. N150/E175, including the sherds and pebbles I mentioned yesterday. As I checked the piles of stone to make sure there was nothing there but natural pebbles from the desert, one piece immediately stood out. It was a flint awl still in perfect condition.


Although I am not a specialist by any means in stone tools, you cannot be trained in North American archaeology like I once was without learning a little bit about them. This tool is probably a core tool, that is, a tool made from a chunk or cobble of flint, rather than from a large flake knocked off a core. Flint awls, however, can be made both ways. This one’s size and the darker colored surfaces in the center of the tool suggest that before the awl was knapped, the stone was a chunk. The brown flint chosen for the awl is of good quality, meaning the stone’s matrix was smooth and even, making the flint easy to work. This piece was knapped (a term used in flint manufacture that means “hit with another stone to shape the edges”) to fit nicely in a hand by slightly rounding the lower edge. Further knapping brought one end to a well-defined point.


Awls are generally used for punching holes in leather or assisting in the manufacture of baskets. So far we have nothing that suggests this kind of work at Sq. N150/E175. This tool could have been used to make an opening or depression in any material softer than quartz, which is what flint is (more on this in a later blog). It is unusual to find a tool with a long thin point from a manufacturing site (we hope) still in perfect condition.

February 02, 2015


Digging West of the Audience Pavilion


Diana Craig Patch

Yesterday, Catharine and Chris Gray, the surveyor working with us for the first half of the season, laid out squares in two areas. One is immediately west of the North Village and the other is west of the Audience Pavilion’s enclosure wall. Last year Joel Paulson, who joins us every year for several weeks to tie in all our work to the overall plan of Malqata, set a number of grid points so we could lay out squares as soon as we arrived this year. To our amazement, last year’s stakes were all still in place. Often kids see a survey stake and pull it out for fun. I guess that the heavy reed stakes were unappealing or possibly difficult to see, either way lucky us.   This morning Catharine and Chris subdivided the 10 m squares of Joel’s grid into 5m ones, which are more manageable as squares for excavating, and we were ready to start.

Catharine stringing the grid

Catharine stringing the grid

The area to the west of the Audience Pavilion, a large mud brick platform, has small spoil heaps or dumps that were created by archaeological waste removed from the area around the platform. The earlier archaeologists put their spoil heaps just past (literally only 50cm) the west enclosure wall for the Pavilion. Back in 2008 when we started working at Malqata, Ray Johnson, the Director of Chicago House, mentioned to me that he had noticed small flakes of carnelian on the surface of these dumps. I have kept coming back to that piece of information over the years and I too found carnelian on their slopes.  So we decided this would be the season to explore the area and see what it might contain. The dumps of course are in the way, but we located our squares in a few areas that must have been pathways through the dumps to the Pavilion. On these paths there is less archaeological waste so we can reach the undisturbed strata faster.


Azib and his helpers gathering stone fragments from the surface of the new square

Azib and his helpers gathering surface debris in the new square

To begin work here, I had Azib, the head workman, and his two assistants first pick up everything on the surface of the new square. Since there is a lot of disturbance in the area, I wanted to be able to see immediately when we reached in situ material and I wanted an understanding of the types of debris we would find. I found it quite fascinating and the material much more varied than anticipated. There were of course pieces of stone that are part of the natural desert and these were easy to set aside. There were lots of pottery sherds too. They also are expected; these were interesting in that they were relatively small in size and looked a little worn. Generally sherds on a dump, especially in association with a royal structure like the Audience Pavilion, are large with edges that look freshly broken even though they are 3000 years old. The small worn sherds are part of the puzzle of this area of Malqata. We also found fragments of stone, none of it worked, but the types of stone –diorite, granite, sandstone, red quartzite− are not local to the region, meaning these were imported for a purpose. And we got carnelian. Chunks and flakes enough to fill a small bag! I am excited and hope the interesting material on the surface of this square is a small reflection of what lies underneath.  More to come…

Basket of rocks from the surface

Basket of pieces of stone from the natural  desert stratum

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

Lecture on Safi at the College de France, Paris, Feb. 25th, 2015

If you are in Paris (yes, that Paris…) at the end of February, you are invited to the lecture that I will be giving at the College de France on “New Perspectives on the Philistines in Light of Recent Excavations at Tell es-Safi – Biblical Gath of the Philistines.

The lecture will be on Wed., Feb. 25th, 2015, and is open to the public.

For more details – see here.

Je espère vous voir tous là!


By the Rivers of Babylon Exhibition and Conference at the Bible Lands Museum

Today, I participated in the first session of the fantastically interesting conference accompanying the opening of the “Rivers of Babylon” exhibition at the Bible Lands Museum in Jerusalem.

Although I had to leave early for some meetings, the lectures dealt with the absolutely fantastic cunieform documents from Babylonia which provide fascinating details on the post-Iron Age Judahites who were exiled to the region, during the Babylonian and Persian periods. These documents open an almost completely known window on the history of the early exile in Mesopotamia, after the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem.

To a certain extent, the importance of these documents is like the Dead Sea Scrolls – as they open up completely new avenues on a relatively unknown period in Jewish – and ancient near eastern – history.

Any one in Jerusalem in the coming months – definitely do go to this fascinating exhibition!


February 01, 2015


A New Partner

Peter Lacovara

The Joint Expedition to Malqata (JEM) is now a project co-sponsored by the Metropolitan Museum of Art and The Ancient Egyptian Heritage and Archaeology Fund.  The Fund is a private, nonprofit organization with a mission to support research  on Egyptian history and culture, and conservation of the ancient monuments.  In particular the Fund seeks to record and publish sites and monuments at risk from agricultural and urban expansion, climate change, and other threats.  The organization will also work to foster a greater awareness of those risks and to promote education and training in site management and protection. logo with fund In addition to supporting the work at Malqata, the Fund has plans to undertake a much needed program of site protection and publication of the palace-city of Deir el-Ballas.  The site, which I previously mentioned in this blog.(https://imalqata.wordpress.com/2014/02/20/a-visit-to-another-palace-city/), is about 30 km. north of Malqata and faces a number of the same problems. The Trust hopes to have an initial season this coming winter.  To follow the progress you can link through peterlacovara.com.

January 31, 2015


The Work Begins

Diana Craig Patch

The day started with breakfast at 6 AM and a ride out to Malqata for a 7 AM start time for the work. The morning was cold but clear and the fine weather brought the hot air balloons out in numbers. We counted fifteen sailing toward Malqata from where they take off in the northern part of the west bank. However for JEM, today was a good day and all the balloons landed in the desert or the floodplain, well outside of the site’s boundaries.


View of Kemp's old Trench P

View of Kemp’s old Trench P

We started today with a small group of workers, many of whom are well known to us because they have been part of our team for several seasons. We will be hiring more as the week progresses and Peter is able to begin the process of protecting the ancient mud brick in the palace. However the recently made mud brick still needs to be transferred from the manufacturing yard to the King’s Palace, so it will be a few more days before that work can begin.

Catharine and I however started work in one of the two areas of northern Malqata where we will work this year. As you may remember, we have recleared most of the North Village where Ambrose Lansing worked over a hundred years ago. During 2010, 2013 and 2014, we uncovered the eroding houses that make up the North Village and carefully recorded the remains of the mud brick structures. These drawings are now being turned into a detailed plan of the North Village. However, all of these houses were already disturbed and although we have collected some interesting information, there is not much in situ beyond the walls (where they survive).

Cleaning Kemp's old Trench P

Cleaning Kemp’s old Trench P

During the 2012 season, we had a team do magnetometry in various parts of the site. It was not particularly successful (see https://imalqata.wordpress.com/2012/02/12/magnetometry-at-malqata/ ) because the desert’s substrate is very similar in substance to Malqata’s mud brick.  As a result it was difficult for the magnetometer to find any differences between the two materials. To the west of the North Village, however, the team got readings that showed the remains of small house structures. It appears that this section is undisturbed and we are looking forward to clearing these rooms. To that end, we cleared the surface of Trench P, still visible from Barry Kemp’s 1973 season, which is at the south end of this undisturbed area. We will let you know in the coming weeks what we find!

January 30, 2015


Back at Malqata

Diana Craig Patch, Peter Lacovara, Catharine Roehrig, Janice Kamrin

Janice, Peter and Diana walking over the site

Janice, Peter and Diana walking over the site

We are delighted to see that so many of you are following our blog and looking for our first post of the 2015 season. We arrived yesterday on the West Bank in Luxor, and today we are busy unpacking and organizing, ready to head out to the field tomorrow.   We were excited to see the site this afternoon.  We will begin our daily post tomorrow after work, and look forward to keeping you informed about our activities!

Janice, Peter and Diana at the Palace

Janice, Peter and Diana at the Palace

January 29, 2015

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

Fantastic new fellowship for junior biblical scholars who want to get archaeological experience!

This excellent fellowship has been announced (the William G. Dever Archaeological Fellowship for Biblical Scholars) which is aimed at enabling junior scholars in biblical studies to experience first hand archaeology of the near east. I highly recommend those who are relevant to apply!

Here are the details:

The Society of Biblical Literature supports and promotes the work of peer organizations that also serve many of our members. This is particularly true of the American Schools of Oriental Research (ASOR). We are bringing to your attention an inaugural award that is an opportunity for a non-tenured biblical scholar.

The William G. Dever Fellowship for Biblical Scholars is a two-month travel-study award ($6,000) that will be made available in the summer of 2015 to a qualified American untenured faculty member in the field of biblical studies who wants to acquire elementary, first-hand experience in field archaeology and research in Israel. The intent of the award, administered by ASOR, is to help foster a dialogue between archaeology and biblical studies in colleges, universities, and seminaries, as well as in the larger discipline.

The William G. Dever Archaeological Fellowship for Biblical Scholars will provide $6,000 to be used towards transportation; one month on a specified dig; and one month travel to other digs, combined with a one-month residency (room and half-board) at the W. F. Albright Institute of Archaeological Research in Jerusalem, which will allow the Dever Fellow to conduct research in the Albright library. During residency, the Albright Institute will facilitate visits to excavations active in the field.

Details can be found at the following URL: http://www.asor.org/fellowships/wdever-scholarship.html.

And of you out there who want to dig with us at Safi and may qualify for this – do give it a shot!


HT – Jack Sasson

January 28, 2015

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

Ackerman Family Fellows for the 2015 season at Tell es-Safi/Gath have been chosen!

After receiving a a very impressive amount of excellent applications, the Ackerman Family Fellows for the 2015 season at Tell es-Safi/Gath have been chosen. Unfortunately, not all the applicants, who were all of exceptional quality, could receive fellowships. The recipients of the fellowships have been notified – as well as those who did not receive.

In any case, I hope that both recipients and non-recipients will be in the field this summer – joining the Safi team!


Short online article in Hebrew on pig use in the ancient Land of Israel

A short, online article on pig use in the ancient Land of Israel, in Hebrew, written by Liora Horwitz and yours truly, has gone up on the etmiqra web site. In the article, we discuss pig use from prehistoric periods and onward, with special focus on the changes seen in the region at the beginning of the Iron Age. As this has been discussed often in the past and somewhat simplistic suggestions regarding a supposed lack of pig at Israelite sites and consumption of pigs at Philistine sites, we demonstrate that the picture is more complex than often assumed. In fact, not at all sites in Philistia is pig actually eaten (more so in urban sites; less so in rural sites), and while in the Iron II there is good evidence for a supposed pig taboo in Judah, in the Israelite kingdom there is no clear evidence of this.

For those of you who don’t read Hebrew – an extended English version of this article will appear sometime in the future.


January 26, 2015

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

Things are sizzling on the project!

Things are quite “sizzling” in the Safi project right now. At last count, there are more than 25 different papers and publications in various stages of appearing – from accepted and in press, to submitted and waiting for acceptance (or not…), to those which are about to be submitted/completed! So, if all goes well, over the next year,  the project should have quite a few new “off-springs” to be proud of!

And have no fear – as soon as any appear – they will be announced!

Way to go Safi team!


The Tel Burna Excavation Project

Area A1 Restoration

Jeremy has begun the process of restoration for Area A1 (an Iron II strata outside of the Iron II fortification). So far, a nice complete(ish) Iron II storejar is being restored. You can check out this process and the location of the finds in the pictures below. This is a very nice find that illustrates that the Iron II habitation of Tel Burna stretched beyond the fortifications. Nice to see it coming together!

Iron II Storejar BaseIron II Storejar Base
Iron II Storejar Side 1Iron II Storejar Side 1
Iron II Storejar Side 2Iron II Storejar Side 2
Result = a Mostly complete (where's the rim Jeremy?!? :)) StorejarResult = a Mostly complete (where’s the rim Jeremy?!? :)) Storejar
The fortifications, silos and 9th-8th Century architecture in Area A1The fortifications, silos and 9th-8th Century architecture in Area A1 (storejar and other complete vessels were found to the east (left) of the outer fortification – which can be seen in the balk in the center of the photograph (south oriented))

January 18, 2015

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

Three Safi-related papers accepted (two pending small corrections)

Got some nice news over the weekend: three separate papers dealing with topics relating (directly or indirectly) to the Safi project have been accepted for publication: one without any need to revise, and two with some minor revisions requested.

More details once they are officially “out there”!

Not bad…



January 17, 2015

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

Skype lecture for Grand Valley State University, Michigan

As some of you may recall, this past November, I was supposed to travel to Grand Valley State University in Allendale, Michigan, to give two talks, at the invitation of Prof. Liz Arnold. Unfortunately, due to the blizzard during the trip, the university closed down, and I could not make it.

So, tomorrow, to make up for this, I will be giving a lecture, thru Skype, to a crowd that will be gathering at a lecture hall in GVSU. I will be talking about the excavations at Tell es-Safi/Gath. So, if any of you are around GVSU tomorrow (Sunday, January 18th) around noon – you are invited to join in! See here for more details.


P.S. Giving a full lecture thru Skype is new experience for me – should be interesting and fun!

January 15, 2015

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

Lecture at the Albright on Safi

As previously mentioned, this evening a gave a talk at the Albright Institute on recent finds from the Safi excavations. Despite the weather, the room was packed, and the presentation went very well. At the end – there was a nice discussion on various issues.


January 12, 2015

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

Ackerman Family Annual Workshop in Biblical Archaeology – “Southern Canaan in the Late Bronze Age”

Here’s the first announcement on an upcoming scholars’ workshop – The 2015 Ackerman Family Annual Workshop in Biblical Archaeology –  hopefully, the first of many such annual workshops.

This year the topic of the workshop will be And the Canaanite was then in the land” (Gen. 12: 6): Canaanites in Southern Canaan during the Late Bronze Age – New Finds and Perspectives”.

The workshop will be held at Bar-Ilan University (exact venue to be announced), hosted by the Ackerman Family Bar-Ilan University Expedition to Gath, on the 15th and 16th of April, 2015.

On the first day of the workshop, invited lecturers (from Israel and abroad) will present papers (in English) on various sites and issues relating to Southern Canaan in the Late Bronze Age. This day will be open to the general public.

On the 2nd day, the invited participants will take a tour of selected sites in southern Israel with LB remains.

Further details will be posted in the future.

Should be VERY interesting!


P.S. The proceedings of this conference are planned to be published in the future.

January 11, 2015

The Tel Burna Excavation Project

Tel Burna Discussed in Bible and Spade

Check out the Bible and Spades recent discussion of the major archaeological finds in 2014 – Burna and our “large public (perhaps) cultic building” in area B is mentioned at around the 8:30 mark.

New (top left) and old (bottom right) excavation squares in Area BNew (top left) and old (bottom right) excavation squares in Area B

January 07, 2015

The Tel Burna Excavation Project

Several ASOR Fellowship/Scholarship Opportunities

ASOR has just announced several fellowship/scholarship opportunities for this upcoming year’s excavations.

Do check out their listings if you are interested in funding for this summer. It can happen to someone digging at Tel Bura – here’s proof.

Of particular note is the “William G. Dever Archaeological Fellowship for Biblical Scholars”

“The William G. Dever Archaeological Fellowship for Biblical Scholars will provide $6,000 to be used to cover transportation; one month on a specified dig; and one month travel to other digs, combined with a one-month residency (room and half-board) at the W. F. Albright Institute of Archaeological Research in Jerusalem, which will allow the Dever Fellow to conduct research in the Albright library. During residency, the Albright Institute will facilitate visits to excavations active in the field.”

Dever with the Tel Burna Staff Dever with the Tel Burna Staff

January 06, 2015

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

2015 Application Available

Planning is well under way for the 2015 field season. Once again, we'll be excavating on the North Tell as we work to uncover as complete an occupational sequence as we can from the Bronze Age through the Crusader period. In Grid 51, on the South Tell, we will continue our excavation of Nebuchadnezzar's destruction of the city. This summer, we will also open a new area where we hope to uncover and excavate a segment of the city's cardo. It promises to be a great season. 

Looking for something exciting and unusual to do this summer? The 2015 Ashkelon Volunteer application is now available. 

January 05, 2015

The Tel Burna Excavation Project

Lecture on Tel Burna at the Annual Ben-Gurion Archaeological Conference

Itzick will be lecturing on the recent Iron II finds at Tel Burna at the annual Ben-Gurion Archaeological conference on January 15, 2015 starting at 8:30 am. The conference theme is “New Research on the Iron Age in southern Israel” (in Hebrew). It looks to be a very interesting set of lectures.

January 01, 2015

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

Ackerman Dig Fellowship Applications!

The deadline for the Ackerman Dig Fellowships has passed and I wanted to thank the many applicants for sending in the required materials.

We will send out answers regarding who will receive the fellowship by the end of January.

Clearly – and unfortunately, in light of the large number of applicants, and the fact that only about 20 fellowships can be granted, not all of those that applied will receive the fellowship.

But, in any case, I want to express my thanks to them all, and those that wrote the recommendation letters, for their efforts.

And needless to say, even if you don’t get the fellowship, you are invited to join the team this coming summer!

Hope to see you all in the field at Tell es-Safi/Gath, in late June, 2015!!!


December 31, 2014

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

Lecture on Safi at the Albright Institute, January 15, 2015

I’ll be giving a lecture – an update on the our work at Safi – at the Albright Institute in Jerusalem on January 15.

Here are the details: LectureArenMaeir

Hope to see you there!


December 29, 2014

The Tel Burna Excavation Project

Great News! Another Very Generous Donation from the Weisselberg Family

As always, Edward and Myrna Weisselberg continue to show their support for the Tel Burna project, providing us with a very generous donation, which will continue to allow us to work both int he field and in the lab, conduction research that is continuously shedding more light on the past history of Tel Burna and its surrounding region.

In addition, more good news arrived int he mail, with our first volunteer forms – remember – the earlier you get your forms in the better :-)

December 25, 2014

The Tel Burna Excavation Project

Another New Article Published on Tel Burna

See Itzick and Joe’s article that discusses the different types of survey methods used at Tel Burna.

Shai, I. and Uziel, J. 2014. Addressing Survey Methodology in the Southern Levant: Applying Different Methods for the Survey of Tel Burna, Israel. Israel Exploration Journal 64:172-190.

Merry Christmas!

December 24, 2014

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

New Issue of Israel Exploration Journal (64/2) is out!

The newest issue of the Israel Exploration Journal (64/2 [2014]) has appeared – with a nice group of very interesting articles covering a broad range of topics and periods (see here for the TOC – IES 64_2 coverpages).

As of 2014, I’m one of the co-editors of the journal – so I figure this is a good place to “make a plug” … :-)



December 22, 2014

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

New article on the Rephaim in Iron Age Philistia

This evening I received the PDF of a newly-appeared article, which deals with the “Rephaim” in the biblical and extra biblical texts from Iron Age Philistia. In this paper, I suggest that the Rephaim mentioned in regard to Gath and Philistia perhaps are in fact a multi-generational family of importance, spanning both the Philistine and Judahite control of parts of Philistia and the Shephelah during the Iron Age.

The paper appeared in a volume published in memory of the late Prof. Dr. Manfred Görg, the eminent biblical scholar and Egyptologist. This volume was co-edited by Stefan Wimmer, who was a team member at Safi for several years, and who worked with Prof. Görg for many years.

The full reference is:

Maeir, A. M.
2014 The Rephaim in Iron Age Philistia: Evidence of a Multi-Generational Family? Pp. 289–97 in “Vom Leben umfangen”: Ägypten, das Alte Testament und das Gespräch der Religionen. Gedenkschrift für Manfred Görg, eds. S. J. Wimmer and G. Gafus. Ägypten und Altes Testament 80. Münster: Ugarit-Verlag.


December 21, 2014

The Tel Burna Excavation Project

Academic Credit for Summer Season

We are pleased to announce that we are now offering academic credit for participation in the excavations of Tel Burna!

For those interested see the following:

Academic credit is available through Ariel University – please contact project director – Itzick Shai at shai.itzick@gmail.com

  • 3 credit hours for 2 weeks of field/academic work ($500)
  • 6 credit hours for 4 weeks of field/academic work ($600)

December 19, 2014

The Tel Burna Excavation Project

New Articles by Matt and Itzick

Check out the new articles that were recently published published by Itzick and Matt respectively.

Shai, I. 2014. Ashkelon: The Seventh Century B.C. By Lawrence E. Stager; Daniel M. Master; and J. David Schloen. Final Report of the Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon, vol. 3. Winona Lake, Ind.; Eisenbrauns, 2011. Pp. XV + 817, illus. Journal of American Oriental Society 134.2:516-519

Suriano, M.J. 2014. “Breaking Bread with the Dead: Katumuwa’s Stele, Hosea 9:4, and the Early History of the Soul.” JAOS (134.3).385-405.

Suriano, M.J. 2014. “The Historicality of the King: An Exercise in Reading Royal Inscriptions from the Ancient Levant.” Journal of Ancient Near Eastern History (1.2). 95-118.

Way to go!

December 16, 2014

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

Two weeks to the deadline for submission for the Ackerman Dig Fellowships!

Only two weeks are left to submit requests for receiving the Ackerman Family dig fellowships for the 2015 season at Tell es-Safi/Gath (deadline is Dec. 31, 2015).

If you are interesting in applying  (and why not!) – do this ASAP!


December 15, 2014

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

Christina and Zach describe their time on the Safi team – thanking BAS for their dig scholarships!

Christian Nelson and Zach Margulies, both old-time Safi team members (otherwise known as “repeat offenders”…:-), both have short pieces in the new BAR in a section in which various people who have received dig scholarships from the BAS tell about their experiences. Read them here – and don’t forget to apply for the scholarships for next season!


December 13, 2014

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

Josh Tyra is a star!

As previously mentioned, Josh Tyra, who was on the 2010 team at Safi, wrote and performs a great song on being a biblical philologist (“I am the very model of a biblical philologist”).

And now, in addition to the recording which we already put up on the blog before, there is a great Youtube clip!

Here it is:

Way to go Josh!


December 12, 2014

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

Tell Jemmeh report

Yesterday, I received a copy of the new Tell Jemmeh report – courtesy of the editor, David Ben-Shlomo (thanks!).

This is without a doubt a monumental report, of just under 1100 pages (!!), summarizing the excavations at Tell Jemmeh which were directed by the late G. Van Beek. Important finds from the MB, LB and in particular the Iron I-III, are described in the report. A lot comparative materials for our work at Safi is of course in the volume – such as various finds related to the Philistine culture.

Note – the report can be downloaded on the Smithsonian Institution website!

Kudos to David for doing this fantastic work and putting out this volume – on finds that otherwise might have remained unpublished for many years!

The full quote is:

Ben-Shlomo, D., and Van Beek, G. V., eds.
2014 The Smithsonian Institution Excavation at Tell Jemmeh, Israel, 1970–1990. Smithsonian Contributions to Anthropology 50. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Scholarly Press.


December 11, 2014

The Tel Burna Excavation Project

Great Aerial Video of a Very Green Tel Burna!

Check out this aerial video of Tel Burna – notice how green the site looks! The video was made by AirCamz using a DJI phantom. Cool!

December 09, 2014

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

Talk on an archaeological perspective on feasting in Papua New Guinea – Dec. 16, 2014 at BIU

Next Tuesday, in a meeting of the departmental colloquium of the Dept. of Land of Israel Studies and Archaeology at BIU, I will be giving a talk on an archaeological perspective on feasting in Papua New Guinea, based on some of my experiences in PNG.

Here is the Hebrew invitation to the talk: מאיר_סמינר מחלקתי 16.12.14

You are all invited! Should be a lot of fun – and a lot of great pictures – and even a few video clips!


December 08, 2014

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

BAR Dig Issue

Current and former members of the Ashkelon staff figure prominently in this month's issue of Biblical Archaeology Review. Look for them in "Digs 2015: Blast from the Past." More importantly, the issue includes important information about how to volunteer for excavations, including ours, that accept student volunteers for their summer programs.

Take a look.

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

Tell es-Safi/Gath in the BAR “Dig Issue”!

The BAR “Dig Issue” has come out – and needless to say, the 2015 season at Tell es-Safi/Gath appears there!

So now – no excuses not to sign up.

And remember – there is still until December 31, 2014, to apply for the Ackerman Fellowships!


The Tel Burna Excavation Project

New Article on Tel Burna Seal Impressions in ZPDV

Check out our newly published article on the “private” stamped handle (and a few other impressions – LMLK and Rosette) that was found at Tel Burna in 2012 in 8th and 7th century BCE contexts.

It was just published in the Zeitschrift des Deutschen Palästina Vereins (ZDPV):

Shai, I.; Dagan, A. Riehl, S.; Orendi, A.; Uziel, J.; and Suriano, M. 2014. A Private Stamped Seal Handle from Tel Burna, Israel. ZDPV 130: 121-137. 

Four-winged LMLK and RosetteFour-winged LMLK and Rosette
Private Seal Impression - Ezer HagaiPrivate Seal Impression – Ezer Hagai
Private Seal Impression - Ezer HagaiPrivate Seal Impression – Ezer Hagai

December 02, 2014

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

MA and PhD Stipends at the University of Manitoba

Haskel Greenfield has requested to post the following, regarding the possibility of MA and PhD stipends at the University of Manitoba, working on the EB materials from Tell es-Safi/Gath.

Here’s the notice:

MA and PhD Fellowships Available (University of Manitoba)
Two to three MA and/or PhD Fellowships are available in the Department of Anthropology (and Near Eastern and Biblical Archaeology Laboratory) of the University of Manitoba under the supervision of Prof. Haskel Greenfield, as part of his “Nature of early urban neighbourhoods in the southern Levant: Early Bronze Age at Tell es-Safi (EBAS)”, SSHRC Partnership Research Program with Bar-Ilan University, Israel.
The term of funding for the MA is for two years (minimum of $12,000/year) and the PhD for four years (minimum of $18,000/year), beginning September 1, 2014. PhD students or Post-docs may have the opportunity for sessional (part-time) teaching if courses are available, contingent on funding.
The fellowships are available for the scientific analysis of remains from the EBA of levels at Tell es-Safi, Israel, including (but not limited to):
·        Lidar scanning technology
·        Digital imaging of artefacts
·        GIS and spatial analysis
·        Archaeobotany
·        Phytolith
·        Scientific analyses of ceramics
·        Micro-debris analysis
·        Lithic source analysis
·        Trace element analysis
·        Geoarchaeology
·        palaeoenvironmental
·        Other specialties are open to discussion
Knowledge of any of the above archaeological methods, in addition to ceramic analysis, zooarchaeology, geology, chemistry, chronometric analysis, and palaeoenvironmental reconstruction are beneficial.
The successful candidate is expected to have a background Near Eastern Archaeology, the archaeology of complex societies, and archaeological field work and methods.
Experience in archaeological data management and knowledge of Microsoft Office products (including Access), imaging software, spatial analytic (e.g. ArcGIS) programs, Leica Cyclone, and SQL databases (e.g., DB2) would be an asset.
Applicants who are not Canadian citizens or landed residents must have their applications approved by Immigration Canada and acceptance by the Faculty of Graduate Studies by the start date of the fellowship.
Interested applicants should contact Prof. Haskel Greenfield (Haskel.Greenfield@umanitoba.ca) before January 1, 2015.
Completed applications for the graduate program should be submitted to the Faculty of Graduate Studies of the University of Manitoba by January 15, 2015 http://umanitoba.ca/faculties/graduate_studies/admissions/index.html.

November 30, 2014

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

Ashkelon in San Diego

The Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon was well represented at ASOR's Annual Meeting which was held at the San Diego Westin the week before Thanksgiving. A number of staff members chaired panels, while several others gave papers on subjects ranging from Islamic period Ashkelon and identity in early Roman Ashkelon to animal remains at Carthage.  In the midst of all the work, there was even a little time for staff to enjoy some good food together.

Dates for Ashkelon's 2015 field season have been set. The season will run from June 6 - July 17. Go here to learn more. The 2015 volunteer application will be available in the next week or so. As winter deepens, it is definitely not too early to start thinking about plans for the summer.

November 28, 2014

The Tel Burna Excavation Project

Scholarship Opportunity Jane C. Waldbaum Archaeological Field School Scholarship

If you are looking for some financial support to help fund your time at Tel Burna this summer – Check out this scholarship opportunity from the Archaeological Institute of America.

November 23, 2014

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

Last day of lectures in San Diego

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

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

November 21, 2014

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

Safi talks went very well!

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

Ho ah!


November 17, 2014

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

New BAS video with Safi lecture included

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

Check it out (and thanks to Carl!)


November 16, 2014

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

Busy week of lectures ahead…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


IMPORTANT: Ackerman Fellows – submission of materials

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

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


Congratulations to Amanda Rose for her PhD!

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

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

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

Way to go Amanda!


November 13, 2014

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

Louise Hitchcock lectures Safi for the AIA in Washington DC

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

The lecture was entitled:

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

Well done Louise!

November 12, 2014

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

Congrats to Chris Mckinny – his MA thesis officially accepted!

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

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

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

Way to go Chris!

Kudos to Merav Levmore-Raziel for her MA!

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

The title of her MA thesis was:

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

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

Way to go Merav!