On the right, there is a beuatiful picture of Tel Burna and the surrounding fields in the spring. The picture was taken, and sent to us by Dr. Brian Schultz of Fresno Pacific University. The Tell is located on the far left. Besides showing the beautiful green fields around the site, the picture really displays the importance of the region for agriculturally-based societies, and the control that those up on the tell would have on the surrounding fields. Also notable is the river bed of Nahal Guvrin. Just south of the tel is a pumping station for the Israeli Water Works, however, even with the pumping, it seems like the natural water table in riverbed is still very high, as observed by the vegetation growing there. As many of you know, water is one of the most crucial resources in the Ancient Near East (and even in modern times), and the proximity of the river was certainly important in choosing the site in the Bronze and Iron Age.
Anyone who has photos of the site and would like to share them, please email them to us, and we will gladly post them.
In June, we set out to begin our project, by surveying the site. surveying has many facets, but the idea behind survey is archaeological study of a site without excavation (which is a very destructive process). the primary survey tool used today is surface artifact collection. this is done by simply walking around the site, in a systematic manner (and you can see the survey map here, which shows you how we divide and make sure to cover all of the surface) and collect the artifacts from the surface. most of the artifacts collected are pottery sherds. these sherds are used for dating the site, and retrospectively one can do the following with the survey data:
- determine the periods in which the site was settled.
- determine the size of the site per period.
- locate areas of excavation for the future.
While we are still processing the survey finds, we can share the following information with you. it seems that the site was settled throughout the Bronze and Iron Ages (Third-First Millennium BCE). the site seems to hae flourished particularly during the Iron Age, and it seems that the fortifications of the summit probably date to this time. the survey also indicates that in later periods (such as the Roman, Byzantine, and Arab) the tell itself was not settled.
One of the main issues that archaeologists deal with is identifying a site. Site identification helps in linking historical sources related to the site with archaeological data, and apply a well-rounded approach to the site’s past.
It is many times difficult to identify a site, since the only way to be certain of a site’s identification is to find an inscription with the site’s name. this is not all that common in the Bronze and Iron Ages, when inscriptions are hard to come by. Another way is if the site’s original name was preserved. this is more common, although not always is it the case. Finally, if one analyzes the historical data, and is able to pinpoint the location of a specific site mentioned in historical sources, then a possible identification can be offered.
In the case of Tel Burna, with no excavation material available, the problem is even more difficult. despite this, several scholars have suggested identifying the site with Biblical Libnah (although one should note that nearby Tel Zayit is a very likely candidate as well – as Ron Tappy, the excavator their, has recently published).
Libnah was a Canaanite town that was conquered by Joshua who allotted it to the tribe of Judah (Josh. 10:29-30; 15:42). The city was chosen as one of the Levitical cities (Josh. 21:13), which points to its role as a border site. According to 2 Kgs. 8:22 (and 2 Chr. 21:10), the city of Libnah was involved in the rebellion against Jehoram the king of Judah (in 9th century BCE) and later, a woman from Libnah married King Josiah in the 7th century BCE (Kings 23:31-32;2 Kings 24:17-18; Jeremiah 22:11).
In any case, even if the site is not Libnah, it is clear for the survey results (which will be mentioned in an upcoming post) that the site was a very important site in the Iron Age, along the border between Judah and the Philistines.
For those of you who are not familiar with the site, Tel Burna is located in southern Israel, along the banks of Nahal Guvrin.
The site is located in the Shephelah (foothills), not far from several other important archaeological sites: Tell es-Safi/Gath, Tel Goded, Maresha, Tel Zayit, Beth Shemesh, Lachish and Azekah. The Shephela served as a border between the kingdoms of Judah and the Philistines in the Iron Age, and was known as the breadbasket of the south, due to its suitability for growing crops, such as grapes (which is true until this day) and Olive gorves, important for olive oil production.
The prominent summit is a result of the fortifications that enclosed the upper city. these fortifications are still visible today, as you can see in the photo. These fortifications have been visible since at least the mid-1950’s, when Yohanan Aharoni and Ruth Amiran, two of Israel’s most prominent archaeologists, noted their existence.
Despite this, the site has never been excavated, mostly due to the fear that later periods covered the earlier remains. as you will see in a future post, this is clearly not the case, as the 2009 survey results hve shown
Welcome to the Blog of the Tel Burna Excavation Project. here you will be able to find information on the site, the budding archaeological project, the directors and communicate with us.
for Starters, here is a nice view of the site, as reconstructed using GIS technology (thanks to Gal Avraham). you will note that this is the picture that appears at the top of the page as well. you can see the riverbed (Nahal Guvrin) running just south of the tell, and the prominent, fortified, summit.
Itzick and Joe