The Tel Burna Archaeological Project
The site of Tel Burna is located in the Shephelah region, which served as a border between the kingdoms of Judah and Philistia in the Iron Age. A fertile area that supported agricultural production, the region became known as the breadbasket of the south and as suggested before by some scholars, we believe that the site is the best candidate for Biblical Libnah. The tel’s prominence is notable in its flat-topped shape, extensive size, and fortification which are still visible today. Survey finds from the 2009 season indicate that the city was an important entity in the Bronze and Iron Ages.
After two seasons of excavation – totaling 6 weeks in the field and working in 14 squares, the following sequence of settlement history at the site has developed:
- The Late Bronze Age IIB (13th Century BCE): these layers have been exposed on the western terrace below the summit. Two-three surfaces have been exposed, as well as a well-built wall, and a tabun. it seems these are all part of a domestic area, which will be continued to be exposed in future seasons. Finds from this area include many animal bones (probably related to cooking activities in the courtyard), several flint blades, pottery for restoration, a stone bowl, and two noses – parts of masks.
- Iron Age IIA (9th Century BCE) – levels of this period have been reached in the eastern section of the summit, both on the inside and outside of the fortifications, which were also in use during this period (see below). outside the fortification a surface with several smashed vessels was discovered, indicating that settlement extended outside the walls to the east (as opposed to the west, where the Philistine threat was more prominent). On the interior of the inner wall of the city, a 9th Century installation, built against the wall, was found with pottery – including a very nice hand-burnished bowl – and rows of loomweights.
- Iron Age IIB (8th Century BCE) – The 8th Century Remains cover the entire summit, as revealed by the 8th Century levels exposed in relation to the fortifications, and primarily the 8th Century architecture in the center of the summit, including a flagstone pavement, a beaten earth surface with vessels and loomweights and an LMLK stamped handle.
- Iron Age IIC (7th Century BCE) – Numerous silos and some architecture related to these silos date to the 7th Century. several of these have been excavated and found to store grains. One silo cuts the inner wall, indicating that the inner wall was no longer in use in the 7th Century BCE.
- Persian Period – in the Persian Period, patchy architecture is built from boulders in secondary use. these walls are many times built upon the foundations of the Iron Age walls.
- The Fortifications – the fortification system around the entire summit has been exposed along ten meters, enabling us to understand the way in which it was built and the periods it was in use. First, surfaces and life levels running up to the walls from the 9th and 8th Centuries BCE indicate it was in use during this time. In addition, the 7th Century BCE silo that cuts the wall shows it was no longer in use by then. The fortification is typical of Judah in this period – two parallel walls, connected by smaller walls, which form rooms all along the edge of the summit. this type of wall is known as a casemate wall, where in times of distress, the rooms could be filled with rubble, creating a very thick wall. the wall has been exposed to a depth of almost 2 meters!
- Shovel test pits – we continue to excavate the pits, and expect to be out in November, doing some more of these on the lower slopes. The purpose of these pits is to collect data using different survey methods, in order to compare the different methods and help develop single-site survey methodology for multi-period sites. A total of 53 pits have been excavated thus far.
- Cleaning and documentation of agricultural installations and caves in the vicinity, in the pursuit of data on the use of the wider landscape.
- The study of Ancient Borders – we continue to collect data on both sides of the Judeo-Philistine border, in order to understand the way in which ancient borders worked, and how border communities functioned and were influenced by their neighbors.
- Community Archaeology – In pursuit of reconnecting archaeology to the interest of the broader public, we will continue to run an open excavation, that anyone is welcome to join, for as long as they like. In addition, we continue to work towards the preservation and reconstruction of features that will make the site more understandable and interesting to visitors.