We are very excited to announce that tomorrow (Nov 19) we will be in the field for a new survey of Khirbet ʿAter – biblical Ether (Josh 15:42; 19:7)! This town is mentioned in the same context as Libnah – and is almost-universally identified with Khirbet ʿAter which preserves the name. I discussed the potential significance of this site – as well as our goals for surveying it in this summer’s lecture (start around minute 30 or so for the Ether material). Faithful readers of the blog might remember my long-time interest in this site – I am very excited to see what will come of our investigation!
Aharon, Debi, Benjamin and others will lead a group of 20 or so people tomorrow in surveying the site. Benjamin has prepared a very nice survey map of the site. The surveyors will use this map, which is divided into distinct topographic units, to collect pottery. This will then allow us to have a better understanding of not only the dating of the site, but the development of the site through different periods.
Here are a few thoughts about the site:
The circular fortifications(?) of the site, which may be contemporary to the Iron Age fortifications at Tel Burna, are the most important architectural feature that we will be investigating. It seems that these fortifications were re-used as foxholes in the 1948 Israeli War of Independence, which is something that we have also observed at Tel Burna. The image below shows very clearly the circular fortifications, the foxholes inside of them, and (in darker red) the large building, which I will discuss next.
There is also a large building in the middle of the tel which seems to date later than the fortifications – we will be surveying this separately in order to hopefully gain enough data to suggest a date (Byzantine?)
The surrounding area around the tel has lots of agricultural installations that we hope to locate for future analysis. It also seems that there was a small Byzantine settlement to the east of the tel. We are very close to Eleutheropolis/Beit Guvrin – which was a major Late Roman/Byzantine center.
We will keep you posted on what we find!