We have just finished the second week of our four week season – and we had a very successful week in terms of finds and clarifying some important stratigraphic questions. While we are a small team this season (between 15-25 people each week) – the staff agrees that this year’s team has been particularly excellent – as each person has been very hard working, flexible, and selfless.
In addition to our field work, we continued with our academic program. Jane gave an interesting lecture on the basics/significance of zooarchaeology with specific reference to the finds at Tel Burna, and Matt led a mini-workshop on writing in paleo-Hebrew in which the team created some ostraca (writing “Tel Burna 2017”) for our yearly Kiriath-Gat school kids.
In Area B1: Our team finished work in a square (PP9) that we opened last week – as we reached bedrock in sections the square and beneath the disturbed surface everywhere else. This surface also included our first “bowl-lamp deposit” as noted previously. To our delight (because we like finds) and chagrin (because of the immense amount of pottery washing) – we found an enormous amount of restorable Late Bronze Age pottery in this square including local forms and some very nice sherds from Cyprus (e.g., white slip milk bowl fragments, and an earlier form of Base Ring – which is common in the 14th century BCE). We also have evidence of more imported storage vessels (presumably) from Cyprus as we found in previous seasons in Area B1 – see here. On Thursday, we opened up a new square in B1 – right at the base of the tell – in order to clarify the architectural plan of the large, cultic public building that characterizes Area B1. After only two days of excavation by Jane, Scott and Barb, Benjamin, and Andrew, we think that have the continuation of the architecture found in previous seasons – which might indicate that we finally have the eastern wall of the building. We also had a very nice votive bowl that seems to be a miniature version of the popular LB “S”-Shaped Bowl.
Just above this new square – Ian and Sam have been methodically removing very loose fill from the five-meter-wide step that runs the length of the tell on the western side. This step is filled with sherds from the Late Bronze, Iron IIA, and Iron IIB and seems to be sitting on a huge stone wall/feature that we still do not understand. Related to this – Benjamin (who came over from Taiwan this week) finished the monumental task of probing a 2×2 meter probe through the rock core of this feature until he reached the level of the plateau of Area B1.
In Area B2: Aharon, Matt, Kathleen and team (Judah, Aaron, Ryan, and Juliana) have continued to expose a building that is adjacent to the casemate fortifications. Like in Area A1 and A2 – it seems that the Iron Age II structures were used and re-used from at least the 8th century BCE until the Persian period with possible periods of abandonment in between. Juliana exposed the handiwork of our Persian (late 6th-4th century BCE) friends who left their typical mark of pits that dug down into the Iron II architecture in some places within the building – as made evident both by the locally-made pottery and imported Attic ware. Of special note – this week we can confirm the connection between the outer and inner walls of the casemate fortifications in Area B2 – which were presumably in use up until the end of the 8th century BCE (Sennacherib?).
Looking to next week: With work finishing up in Area B1 – we will probably shift our focus to some of last year’s squares in the section that connections the summit of the tell to the western platform.
We will provide a more thorough update later this week – but first – a brief update about some nice finds over the last couple of days.
In Area B1 – we have an enormous amount of Late Bronze Age pottery including different types of Cypriot ware, the typical (sort of crummy 🙂 LB Canaanite stuff, and our first Lamp-Bowl deposit (see photo!) For more info on these interesting deposits see Joe’s informative post from a while back on the Gath Blog.
In Area B2 – things are slowly becoming clearer regarding the large house/structure next to to the Iron Age fortifications and Aharon, Matt, and team have also begun excavating further down the stepped trench – with finds from many different periods.
Besides the field work – the team has heard lectures from myself (on the Iron I) and Casey (on the LB) and we visited Beth-shemesh and discussed the very important excavations that are ongoing there.
Here are some photos – notice especially the bowl-lamp deposit and a special (feline) visitor to the site 🙂
We made some significant progress in the first week – and we are excited to build on this momentum next week. Besides the excavation results, we also heard lectures by the dig staff – Matt Suriano (on “What is a Tell?”) and myself (Archaeological Recording and PlanGrid).
In Area B1: We have bedrock! (not really a surprise at this point 🙂 Ian, Andrew, Seth, Ofer, and Victor worked hard in exposing an occupational layer related to the 13th century BCE that is filled with restorable pottery. Sadly, we think that this square is going to be the last square excavated in Area B1 ;(. On the other hand, we are very excited to open a new area on the western platform next season – B3. This area will be located south of the excavated area of Area B1. Due to the fact that the region received roughly half of the average rainfall and our Kibbutz Beit Nir Bull friends (who left us lots of “phytholith” evidence from their behinds :), the vegetation across the tell is far less high and thick than we have observed in past seasons. On account of this, we were able to trace and clean a very large architectural feature on the southwestern side of the platform that seems to be related to 13th century BCE (per our survey results and the excavation evidence from B1). Is it a large temple, a massive fortification wall, or gate? We will have to wait until next season :). We will point this feature out on the final aerials.
In Area B2: Aharon and Matt’s team have cleared off an enormous amount of rubble on the eastern edge of the tell’s summit. Beneath this rubble – Aaron, Ryan, Juliana, Sam, and Judah have exposed three walls of what appears to be a large Iron Age building that seems to have been built next to, but not in conjunction with, the western fortifications of the tell. This continues to add more complexity to the stratigraphic picture of the western fortifications. Based on our excavations in Area A1 (all the way back in 2011-2012), we assumed that we would simply find an Iron II casemate wall (9th-8th century BCE) with later silos (7th century BCE), but it is turning out to be considerably more complex and interesting.
In this next week, we plan to continue excavating a deep probe along a 5-meter wide platform that runs the entire north-south length of the tell on the western side (if you remember – Benjamin started this last year). This feature is very interesting as it appears to have been constructed at some point during the Iron Age II (8th century BCE?) completely changing the topographical layout of the tell. We will also be opening an adjacent square to get a wider understanding of this feature.
In addition, a number of new volunteers and staff will be joining us this week. It should be a great week.
We have officially begun the 2017 season! The tents have been set up, the weeds have been cleared, the new squares in Area B1 and B2 have been marked, and we have actually started excavating. It was very hot the last two days – but everyone is in good spirits and excited to see what we will find this season. Yesterday, we managed to visit Tel Socoh, which is only about 1 km/half a mile from our accommodations in Netiv Halamed Heh.
This year, Matt Suriano has brought a group of students from the University of Maryland. We also have a number of returning familiar faces from past seasons.
This afternoon – Dr. Kathleen Nicholl will be lecturing on some aspects related to the importance of using geoarchaeological science at ancient sites.
In Area B1 – we already have some new architectural features related to the LB large cultic structure. Over the next week – we are hoping to find more evidence for cultic activity in this large building.
In Area B2 – Aharon and Matt have opened two new squares inside of the fortifications in order to trace the inner part of the fortifications and their connections to layers inside of the city.
Check out this summer’s shirt – it comes from a very interesting late bronze krater from area B1 (area with the 13th cent cultic building). It shows two ibex eating from a (sacred) tree (i.e. The tree of life – perhaps related to the Canaanite goddess Asherah and/or Astarte).
Itzick and Oren Ackermann have arranged an important workshop at Ariel University on the archaeology of life science and the environment. There are a number of papers/presentations dealing with materials from Tel Burna. The booklet is at the following link abstracts booklet – June 14-15.
Here is an excerpt:
The science of archeology does not stand on its own, but is a part of the triangle of Archaeology, Life Sciences and Environment. Advancements in the methodology and technology of the natural sciences, and their integration into the study of archaeology, enable us to glean rich information from the earth that is not obvious to the naked eye. Such information is preserved in various remains such as materials within ceramic shards, charred remains, bone remains and sediments in the layers of archaeological sites. Analysis of these remains allows for sophisticated insights into issues such as the diet of ancient humans and animals, the utilization of raw materials, soil fertilization material, and more.
In addition, archaeological research appreciates that the ancient site is not an isolated island; rather, it is an integral part of the landscape system around it. Research, therefore, has expanded into the environs around the sites, areas where ancient human activities took place on a daily basis, as well as areas where significant events in human cultural history occurred.
All of this has left its mark on environmental landscape history, as expressed in the development of anthropogenic landscapes. In fact, human activities over the past thousands of years have become an integral part of the landscape system today.
Social and landscape systems have undergone cycles of prosperity and decay for generations. Understanding and
analyzing these processes in the deep time perspective enables the development of insights for models of sustainability in future human environmental systems. Hence, the combination of archaeology, life science and environment in the study of the past is of great importance for planning the future.
A broad range of topics dealing with archaeological finds, human activity, life science methods and environment will be explored during this two-day workshop. The first day will be comprised of five sessions held at Ariel University. The second day will be a field tour of the Shephelah and Judean Mountain regions, during which will present and explore some of the methods and research questions which are the focus of this workshop.
We would like to thank all of the participants and speakers at this workshop, for their contribution and sharing of their knowledge and ideas. We also want to thank Ariel University and the Ministry of Science, Technology and Space of the State of Israel for the generous funding they provided which enabled this exciting workshop to be held.
Wishing you an enjoyable, insightful and engaging workshop!
Dr. Itzhaq Shai
Dr. Oren Ackermann Ariel University June, 2017
Here are some related papers about Burna or by Burnaites (or Libnites 🙂
Tel tail comparisons: settlement size, location and consumption patterns through the metal ages – Jane Gaastra (UCL), Tina Jongsma-Greenfield (University of Manitoba)
Anthropogenic soils as cultural heritage and nutrient hotspots: a dialogue between Archaeology and Ecology – Ladislav Šmejda (Czech University of Life Sciences)
Development of flax cultivation and linen textile production in Bronze and Iron Age Palestine – Andrea Orendi (Tübingen University)
Reconstructing landscape and hydroclimatic constraints on agriculture at Tel Burna and environs – Kathleen Nicoll (University of Utah)
Check out this video of Leah restoring different vessels from Tel Burna – this short clip gives some examples of how pottery restorers put “humpty-dumpty back together again” 🙂
Nice work Leah (and Studio Jackie)!