The 2022 season has now come and gone. We had our largest and most experienced team ever. All of them worked very hard with great attitudes and we were able to accomplish many of our goals. Of course – we had a lot of fun also. See below for Bruno’s snippet on the Tel Burna season 🙂 as well as Erica’s Tik-Tok video (Go-Go-Go!) which features several people dancing that have apparently never danced before… 🙂
Now to a summary of the results.
Big Burna Picture
We are approaching the end of the excavation portion of the Tel Burna Archaeological Project, as we have now completed 13 years of work in the field including one survey season (2009) and 12 excavation seasons (2010-2019; 2021-2022). We will begin to shift more of our attention to the final publication(s) of the project, which will complete our already (very) robust preliminary and related publications that have appeared since the beginning of the project. Our emphasis on final publications is in line with the recent call to “publish or the finds will perish!” from our Philistine neighbor 🙂 Still, we have more to do at Tel Burna to accomplish our goals and we are looking forward to the 2023 season! In fact, we already have the dates if you would like to book Libnah for a summer vacation. Shishak and Sennacherib (apparently) came for a visit and they seem to have enjoyed themselves – why not you?
All told, we have excavated in seven areas. Below is a brief description of each area with the respective supervisor in italics (* – for areas that were active in the 2022 season).
Area A1* – eastern casemate fortifications (Late Iron IIA-Persian Period) and slope (Early Iron IIA and LB) – Debi Cassuto (past) and Jane Gaastra (current)
Area A2 – summit buildings (Late Iron IIA-Persian Period) – Debi Cassuto
Area B1 – western platform (Late Bronze cultic enclosure) – Chris McKinny
Area B2* – western casemate fortifications (Late Iron IIA-Persian Period) and slope (Early Iron IIA and LB) – Aharon Tavger
Area B3* – southern part of western platform (Late Bronze buildings) – Marcella Barbosa
Area C – agricultural installations (Chalcolithic-Byzantine periods) – Casey Sharp
Area D* – northern part of western platform (Late Bronze buildings) – Debi Cassuto
Area G* – southern casemate fortifications and gate (Late Iron IIA-Persian Period) – Chris McKinny
2022 Season Results
Area A1 – This area continued the work of the 2019 season outside/east of the Iron II casemate walls. The goal of this season was to further determine the nature of occupation outside of the walls to the east of the site. In past seasons, layers (destruction?) from the early and late Iron IIA were uncovered outside of the walls. Here is a photo from one of the very first days of excavating in Area A1. While more of the Early Iron IIA destruction was found in A1, the preservation of this area was not as high as in Area B2. It seems unlikely that the Iron II glacis (that covered earlier levels in B2) was also present on the eastern side of the fortifications. Near the end of the excavation season, Jane reached what appears to be architecture that probably dates to the Late Bronze Age – an important piece of data as this is the easternmost evidence of the Canaanite town.
Area B2 – Area B2 is the largest and most intensive (in terms of finds) areas at Tel Burna. Since 2016, Aharon Tavger has supervised this section/sondage which includes levels on the summit from the Persian, Iron IIC, Iron IIB, and late Iron IIA – to the western platform – which includes levels from the early Iron IIA and Late Bronze Age. Aharon’s goals for this season included the following: 1) removing two enormous balks to get down to the Early Iron IIA destruction outside of (and beneath) the casemate wall, 2) going down inside of the casemate fortification to date the fortification’s initial construction; 3) going beneath the Early Iron IIA destruction/level to see if there are earlier levels in the section; 4) continuing to remove Persian and Iron IIC levels to show the Iron IIB and Late Iron IIA levels. The Area B2 team made considerable progress towards each of these goals – and along the way produced about twice as much pottery washing, reading, and registering than the rest of the site combined! Regarding the Iron IIB, more and more of the Sennacherib(?) destruction was uncovered inside of the fortifications, which also included a very nice assemblage of several complete vessels and some more loom weights. Inside of the casemate room (in the center of the photo below), a huge amount of stone and earthen fill was removed to reveal the very nicely preserved outer, inner, and perpendicular walls of the casemate fortification. As was the case outside of the fortifications, this fill was deposited here some time in the Iron II but was taken from a very rich Late Bronze context from somewhere else on the tel (Area B1?) Aharon’s team continued to find an enormous amount of Late Bronze pottery (some of which is restorable!), crucibles, and tuyeres that is in secondary deposition. While they have not reached the floor of the inner part of the casemate wall, they should reach it early in the 2023 season. Below and to the west of the wall, Elijah, Jackson, Amaala, Katia, and others made it down to the Early Iron IIA destruction – work will continue in this area next season to further expose the late 10th century BCE destruction and its rich assemblage. On the far western side of the section, a deep probe descended beneath the Early Iron IIA and found some plastered architectural features, but it is not yet clear when this dates to.
Area B3 – Three new squares were opened in Area B3 and the results were excellent! First, Marcella’s team found massive architecture that seems to relate to the Large Cultic Enclosure that was excavated in Area B1 to the north. They also seem to have evidence of an additional building and even an alley or street that runs between these structures. Second, the team did an extraordinary job meticulously excavating six large storage jars which were smashed in the destruction of the Late Bronze town. Significantly, this is the first clear evidence of the nature of the type of destruction that ended Late Bronze Tel Burna, as several burned mudbricks were found atop the storage jars. In addition, the architecture in Area B3 is quite large and well-preserved allowing us to better understand the continuation of the structures from Area B1.
Area D – We opened Area D for two reasons. First, an antiquities thief claimed to have looted the site in this area (northwest from Area B1), and we wanted to see what attracted him to this location. Second, we suspected that the Late Bronze town continued in this direction which is some 75 meters to the northwest of the tel, and we wanted to see the extent of the Canaanite town in this direction. After opening three-and-a-half squares, Debi’s team clearly demonstrated that this area was part of the Late Bronze town. Indeed, the walls are quite massive even if they are crudely constructed. It seems likely that the looter simply removed some metallic material from a small pit that he excavated as Martin was able to show (through XRF) that this area was rich in bronze material. For a one-and-done season, this was a great result!
Area G – Our main goal in Area G was to clarify the complicated architecture around the gate by opening several new squares and removing balks (Jerry Jewel and co.!) The complicated architecture in Area G has become a bit clearer, but there remain several stratigraphic questions. It is clear that there were gate systems that date to an earlier period (9th century BCE?) and later period (8th-7th century BCE). It also seems that the earlier gate was destroyed with fire at some point in the late Iron IIA as indicated by burnt mud-brick. This earlier gate seems to date to the initial construction of the fortification when massive walls were constructed to protect the entrance to the fortified town. Much of this outer wall was exposed this season on the eastern part of the excavation area, which also includes a gate socket and (probably) a single gate chamber beneath the 8th century BCE gate. We also seem to have determined that there was a stone pavement that goes with the initial gate complex and (probably) also the drainage channel. The approach to the gate would have come from the east along a gradual paved slope. Somewhat surprisingly, we also found a 9th century BCE building outside and well below the gate (nicely excavated by Matt, Tiffany, and Violet!) Thus, it seems that there was an additional terrace along the outer face of the southern fortifications. This same picture is similar to what we uncovered in previous seasons in A1 – which likewise revealed extra-mural 9th century BCE occupation in the east. No such remains were found on the west in Area B2 – which faces toward Philistine Gath and the coastal route.
In summary, it was a great season with fantastic results and an amazing team! We did serious work and had a wonderful time doing it – we hope you can join us next year!