As in previous seasons, week three proved to be fruitful due to the continued exposure of both new squares (in B1) and deeper layers (in B2) and the hard work of our fantastic team. Besides our weekly teletour (Azekah at sunset!), we heard several interesting lectures this week on a wide range of topics including Landscape Archaeology (Oren Ackermann), Archaeological Survey (Aharon Tavger), Conserving Archaeological Sites in The National Parks of Israel (Iosi Bordowicz), and Examples of the Importance of Chemical Testing on Ancient Remains (Stephen Buckley). We also had a number visitors at the site including Aren Maeir, Jeff Chadwick, Eric Welch, Daniel Frese, David Kotter (and many from the Tell es-Safi/Gath team), Amir Golani, Itzhaq Paz, Amihai Mazar, Aaron Burke, Sabine Kleiman, Assaf Kleiman, Laura Mazow, and Debi!
In Area B1: We finished yet another excavation square on the lower platform that had restorable Late Bronze pottery and includes traces of a wall that likely marks the eastern edge of the large enclosure that we excavated in previous seasons. Benjamin, Andrew, Jane, and Kay exposed more of this wall by removing the balk – in so doing – they revealed a number of walls that seem to be rooms on the western and eastern sides of the main public enclosure. Interestingly, it appears that the Late Bronze Age city continued beneath the rise of the the tell as some of the walls run directly into a large c. 2.5 m high x c. 5 m wide x 80 m long hump (glacis? retaining wall?) that seems to have been laid there in the late 8th century BCE (i.e., the time of Hezekiah, Sennacherib, Isaiah, etc.). On this hump, Ian and Sam diligently removed a large amount of loose fill at a steady rate of some 20 cm/day. Over the last couple of days, they also exposed a huge collapse of stones that may be related to the fortification wall (or a lower wall) that fell down the slope – presumably during the late 8th century BCE – although we will have to wait until next season to be sure. In the section above this huge collapse, Sheila, Andrea, Seth, and Yair have exposed an interesting feature that seems to be related to the Iron II fill/glacis(?) that we are still trying to figure out. Finally, Sam, Samuel, Ian, Andrew, and Benjamin also opened up another square in B1 in a last-ditch effort to find the southern wall of the large enclosure that dominates Area B1 – we hope to finish up this square by Tuesday (our last full excavation day).
In Area B2: Things are getting very interesting for Aharon, Matt, and Kathleen’s team! Juliana and co. (Ariel, Olivia, etc.) nicely defined a large rectangular room that is perpendicular to the casemate fortifications. This building seems to date the 8th century BCE with re-use also in the 7th century and Persian period. They also removed the balk that had separated the outer casemate wall from the inner casemate wall and the aforementioned building – after doing this it seems clear that the outer fortification wall was not being used in the 7th century BCE as there appears to have been occupational remains directly on top of it. Just below the fortification wall – Michal and Ladislav continue to expose the outer face of the wall – now at a depth of c. 2 meters – and they are still not have not reached the bottom. Amazingly, Michal seems to have a huge accumulation of metallurgical activity that includes evidence of crucibles, tuyeres, copper, slag, and iron with typical Late Bronze pottery. However – it is still not yet clear if this material is simply fill that was deposited against the wall during a period following the construction of the fortifications and was laid there in order to strengthen the wall (perhaps during the Iron II?); or if this layer postdates the wall’s construction, which would mean that the fortification wall would have to date to or, more likely, before the Late Bronze period. We might have a better answer to this very important question next week – stay tuned!
Further down the section – Aaron, Ryan, and Jane may have finally broken through the “balagan” (i.e., “mess”) that is square B7 which has produced three seasons of collapse and frustration – but now may be giving us a destruction layer that at first glance appears to be related to the early Iron Age (no pottery reading yet on this – but the in situ vessels appear to be Iron I…) This is of crucial importance to understanding the occupational history of the site – and will be one of our main focuses for our final week in the field. Again – stay tuned! 🙂