Week 4 – Day 2

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Today was our last day digging at the site. Despite soaring temperatures, we managed to remove almost all of the equipment, the shades, etc. and pack it all up for next year.

Despite closing down all areas – we had a couple nice developments.

In Area B2 – the vessels continue – two complete vessels – a jug and a juglet were uncovered by Elizabeth (and her square B7 counterpart – Jane) – who must have set the Tel Burna record for most complete vessels excavated in a single season! They also have a great context with a very nice accumulation of seeds and other organic material. We look forward to excavating this destruction layer more in the future as well as a studying the abundant remains uncovered in the last two seasons.

In G – we finally found the other face of a very large wall that may be a Persian or Iron IIC structure built in connection with the fortifications. We will know more about this next season.

This afternoon – we have been packing up, finishing pottery washing/reading/registering and tying up loose ends – which will continue for the next couple of days. A couple of us went on a brief excursion to nearby Lachish – to look at the very large and impressive site to which Tel Burna has lots of parallels albeit in a much smaller package. The majority of the group also heard an interesting lecture by Prof. Michal Hejcman dealing with ancient environments, agricultural developments, etc. across many different landscapes.

Tomorrow – we will head to the tell even earlier in the morning to give a final sweep of the areas before the final drone photos.

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Week 4 – Day 1

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This weekend – much of the team toured in either Galilee or Jerusalem. My small tour group visited Herodium, Mount of Olives, the Israel Museum, the Temple Mount, and the City of David. In the City of David – Yiftah Shalev (co-director with Yuval Gadot) gave us a very interesting tour of the Givati Parking excavations in the Central Valley, and we also received a very nice tour of the amazing stepped street built during he rule of Pontius Pilate (built exactly between 26-33 CE!). Very interesting to see these discoveries in the context of an excavation before they will be visited by tourists.

Yesterday afternoon – I gave a general lecture on the archaeological and geographical background of the Shephelah.

Today – we were excavating in all areas and working towards shutting down each area for the season.

In A2 – a very nice LMLK Hebron deal impression was uncovered by Kevin and Sheila (who visited us for the day – it was great to see them!) Matt was particularly excited about this find as he scrutinizes every similar handle looking for impressions 🙂 Also – Debi and co. began closing down the area – as they removed the shades.

In B2 – much of the area has also been closed down except for the destruction layer which continues to be fantastic and quite labor intensive for both those digging it (Jane, Elizabeth and Elijah) and those trying to register the myriad of finds (Aharon, Sam and Matt).

In G – we are also working towards closing out the area for the end of the season. However, we have come down on the face of a very large wall which is pretty clearly the outer fortification wall – Ira and Gil (as well as Yarden and Shira) have now have exposed a substantial face of this massive wall which will hopefully allow us to better understand this area in the future and maybe provide clues to exposing the gatehouse. Bruno, Christian L, Marcella, and Ian also were working hard exposing both sides of what might be another piece of the fortification wall – although that remains to be seen.

We also had a number of visitors today including Ami Mazar, Baruch Brandl, Sam Wolff, Laura Mazow, Ido Koch, and Lidar Sapir-Hen.

This afternoon – Prof. Steve Ortiz led the team on a tour of Gezer – where they have worked the last decade.

Week 3 – Day 5

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Today – we had a lot of families (many familiar and friendly faces 🙂 join us for an abbreviated excavation day at the tell. We remain very much committed to the ideal of “community archaeology” and exposing people of all ages to the joys of archaeological discovery.

We also said goodbye (until next season) – to a few team members – here is a pic of Benjamin Yang beside Benjamin Gruber – Benjamin square 🙂 It was also the last day for Dr. Tina Greenfield and Dr. Andrea Orendi – see you next time!

We had good progress in all of the areas.

In A2 – the Persian pit continues and continues – it will be very interesting to reach the end – maybe we will find ourselves in a much earlier period at the bottom.

In B2 – Matt, Sam, Elijah, and Aharon have been furiously trying to keep up the recording/registration of the dozens of pottery baskets, complete vessels, crucibles, grinding stones, flotation samples, etc., etc. while Jane, Ben, Elizabeth and others continue to expose the Qeiyafa horizon destruction with immaculate precision.

In G – massive architecture continues to appear – Bruno, Seth, Christian L, and Marcella removed two balks and it seems very clear that we have a large well built building with a couple of phases. Ira, Gil, and Nimrod and Ochad Shai worked on exposing the outer face of yet another massive wall that seems to be connected with the fortifications. Gal Avraham and his family (and a few friends) also helped dig through the collapse of the fortification wall. We are all set for a great final week and we are excited to share some 3D models of the areas!

This afternoon – around 10 people from the team went up to Herodium near Bethlehem. Myself and Terry gave a tour of the fantastic palace-fortress of Herod the Great. Tomorrow – our weekend group will be hitting a few Jerusalem sites in he morning and then heading over to the Israel Museum.

Week 3 – Day 4

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Today was a great day at the tell – it was relatively cool and the finds keep on piling up.

We had several visitors to the site – including Dr. Hillel Geva (Israel Exploration Society) and Dr. Tsvika Tsuk (Israel National Parks) – and Itzick was interviewed by a Czech tv crew about Tel Burna.

In Area A2 – Jerry’s pit is getting deeper and deeper and there is no end in site. The pavement is continuing to appear and the architecture is slowly beginning to be more clear.

In B2 – what can we say – there is an enormous amount of vessels in this destruction – over four full weeks of excavation Aharon’s crew has excavated over 80 cm (c 3 ft) deep of destruction debris filled with burnt mudbrick and dozens of vessels! There is no end in sight – it seems that the destruction is two stories high as Jane and Elizabeth have been finding roofing/floor debris between the vessels. Needless to say – this will continue to be a main area of interest/research for this season and seasons to come – particularly in light of its possible parallels with Khirbet Qeiyafa and Khirbet el Arai (both excavated by Prof Yossi Garfinkel).

In G – we removed a couple of balks and – as usual – the architecture has become much more clear. We have something very massive on top of something even more massive. The problem is that we have very little ceramic finds in a good context (sometimes in situ) – which means that it is difficult to date. Our working hypothesis is that the latest phase was during the Persian period when the massive tower(?) was constructed. Tomorrow we will continue to expose some more of the large walls – that appear to be related to the city’s fortifications.

Yesterday evening – Dr. Tina Greenfield lectured on various aspects of Mesopotamian cities with a particular emphasis on her work there. Today – Dr. Oren Ackerman presented on paleo-anthropocene – which deals with geological changes in the environment related to human activity.

Week 3 – Day 3

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We are coming into the home stretch… we have our final plans/goals in place to end the season and it seems that we are on target so far.

We had quite a few visitors today including a group from the Israel Antiquities Authority (Pablo Beser and Vladik), Dr. Iosi Bordowicz (Parks and Nature Authority), Prof. David Ben Shlomo (Ariel University), and Prof. Erez Ben Yosef (Tel Aviv University), as well as Omri and Yoav Vaknik (who is working on a very interesting project/dissertation related to the use of paleo magnetism as a dating tool in the Iron Age).

In A2 – Jerry is digging a very deep pit through the presumably Late Iron IIA pavement. Terry continues to define a surface from the Iron IIB and Christian Prater, Sarah, Nichole, etc. are continuing to work across the Iron II layers.

In B2 – the vessels are endless in the Iron I/II destruction as Elizabeth and Jane have been digging through around a half meter of complete vessels – which probably indicates that we have two stories of collapse. In the adjacent square – Elijah found a very nice mortar and a collection of burnt olive pits – which are great specimens for 14C analysis. In the squares near the fortification – Benjamin squared 🙂 (Yang and Gruber) are exposing the lower surface of the Iron II building that is built into the fortifications. Michal, Martin and Mike are also working throughout B2 – taking XRF samples – but also exposing the top of the outer fortification wall.

In G – Ian and Ira removed a couple of balks today – which seemed to have clarified a few matters. It seems that we have a very large tower that was constructed in either the Iron IIC or Persian period. However, beneath this tower we still have a lot of architecture that is very massive and as of yet we do not understand. Marcella and Christian exposed a surface layer – and it now seems that we have a nice room or building beneath he collapse of the fortification wall. Seth and Bruno began exposing the inside of this wall – but as of yet we have yet to locate it. Gil, besides filling lots of different roles in the area, got a shot to work through our registration system and play with the PlanGrid app (see pictured).

Most everyday we are treated to some type of aerial acrobatics from the Israeli military – usually this is helicopter training (yesterday one buzzed Area G! Came within about 80 meters). Today, it was fun to watch a few planes practice fire control tactics with retardant and water – interestingly enough the hill that they were practicing on was Tel Goded – which some identify with Moresheth Gath (home of Micah the prophet) or (in my opinion) possibly Ashan of Joshua 15:42. In any event, check out the picture of the plane in action 🙂

Week 3 – Day 2

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We had a number of visitors today including groups from Ariel University and South Florida Bible College.

We also made some good progress in the excavation areas.

In Area A2 – things are getting interesting as Debi, Terry, Nichole, etc are exposing a large pavement that might date to the 9th century BCE. Pottery reading of the later phases in this area was also promising as it looks like we will have several complete vessels related to the end of the Iron IIB.

In B2 – progress continues on the destruction debris (11th/10th centuries BCE) and it now seems that we have some architecture on the balk which might be related to to the destruction layer.

In C – Ian and Benjamin closed up the excavation there and it is now clear that this area was used from the Early Bronze through at least the Persian period.

In G – things are slowly becoming more clear as we continue to “slog through” a very large collapse. Marcella and Christian found a surface today beneath the collapse – but with no pottery in situ – hopefully the context will be clear enough to assign it a date. Ira also found around 15 casings and live rounds of ammunition leftover from the 1948 war in a foxhole right above the presumed gate.

Bruno Soltic has also been using the drone to record various features of the tel.

This afternoon we will hear a lecture by Dr. Tina Greenfield on the zooarchaeology of Mesopotamia.

Week 3 – Day 1

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As we noted – several of us were in the Galilee this weekend and we were able to catch a few of the other many archaeological projects in action. We visited the very interesting second temple (and later) site of el-Araj – which they suggest (and I am inclined to agree) is a much better candidate for the New Testament site of Bethsaida. Dr. Steven Notley gave us a very interesting talk on the various things that they have uncovered there including a Byzantine church and an Early Roman bathhouse. They also have a lot interesting evidence related to the level of the Sea of Galilee at various points.

After visiting el-Araj, we went to Megiddo just in time to catch a tour led by Dr. Matt Adams (one of the directors of the project) that covered various topics including the so-called Iron II stables, the unbelievable Early Bronze I temple, and many other topics – this was also a fascinating lecture that engaged a number of other historical periods in the Jezreel Valley. It was also very cool to see the Megiddo expedition renew the excavation of the very controversial (so-called) Solomonic six-chambered gate – needless to say there will be much discussion on this in the coming months and years.

Today – at the tel we were joined by a number of new participants and work continued in all areas.

In A2 – there is more and more evidence of at least two Iron IIB/8th century BCE phases and Debi is beginning to get down to the 9th century level where there is a very large pavement. They also had a very nice mini juglet come up as a complete vessel.

In B2 – the work continues in the 11th/early 10th century destruction – more vessels, lots of charcoal, and a very nice chalice. At the top of the section – Aharon is beginning to move down through the floor of the casemate wall/room to get down to earlier layers that should run up next to the inside of the fortification wall – this will hopefully allow us to provide a date of construction for the fortification wall – which up until now we can say was clearly used in the 9th and 8th centuries BCE. Here is a look at the area from this afternoon’s tour of the site by the Tell es-Safi/Gath team led by Profs. Aren Maeir, Jeff Chadwick and Brent Davis.

In C – Ian and Benjamin are almost finished with a square near the agricultural installations – interestingly in this area the pottery indicates that it was used during e Early Bronze and Middle Bronze – as well as in the Late Bronze and Iron II (the two dominant periods at the site).

In G – we are progressing through a very large collapse of stones – hopefully we will be able to get through it and have some clarity with regards to the Iron II casemate wall which seems to have joined the presumed gate in this area – we are removing a balk or two tomorrow – so we might find out more.

We also were visited today by Prof. Michael Hasel of Southern Adventists University and co-director of the Lachish Excavation (finished last season).