The Early Bronze Age at Tel Burna

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Hello all – First of all, many apologies for the long wait — we hope the coming posts will make up for it.
As mentioned, the following posts will each focus on a period identified in the survey at Burna, and we will begin with the earliest period identified in the survey – the early Bronze Age.
For those who are less familiar with this period, the Early Bronze is roughly 3200-2300 BCE, which can further be divided into EBI, II and III. Probably the most distinct event in this period in the southern Levant is the rise of urbanism, somewhere around the turn of the third millennium BCE. around 2300 BCE, the urban entities collapse, sending the southern Levant into a sort of “dark age”, for several centuries, until the reawakening of urbainsm in the Middle Bronze Age.
While excavations can usually distinguish between the three sub-periods, this is more difficult to do in survey pottery. what we can definitely say is that we collected more Early Bronze Age sherds than we thought we would. this is simply because, since it is usually covered by later periods, it is less abundant in surveys. somne of these can definitively be dated to the EBII-III, while some are less distinct.
The photo of the tell shows the fields where EB was collected in various areas (thanks to Gal Avraham and J Rosenberg for their work in preparing the figure), and it seems that the site may have been a small city, probably under the control of one of the larger entities (possibly Yarmuth).

Itzick’s Impressions from the ASOR-SBL meetings

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Itzick presented two lectures on the survey at the ASOR and SBL annual meetings in New Orleans. He received positive feedback from those who attended, and hopefully helped in the effort of gathering people for the dig. A few colleagues expressed interest in joining the team.

The meetings, as usual, included many interesting lectures, and were quite thought provoking. in the coming weeks, we will be presenting the survey finds here on the blog – so stay tuned!!

Watch out for Itzick at the ASOR/SBL

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If any of you will be heading to New Orleans this weekend, make sure you don’t miss the talks on Burna at the Annual ASOR and SBL meetings. This Friday, Itzick will be lecturing at the ASOR conference, between 2:00-4:00 PM, and on Saturday, between 4:00 and 6:30 PM at the SBL. Itzick will be presenting the preliminary results of the 2009 survey season. Be there or be square!

A little bit about the directors

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I thought some of you may be interested in a little background about the people behind the project: Joe and Itzick.

1_09_ 151ITZICK: I was born and raised in Israel, and earned my Ph.D. at Bar Ilan University on the Philistine Material Culture in the Iron Age IIA, which included the publication of the Iron Age IIA assemblage from the Hazael Destruction Layer (A3) at Tell es-Safi/Gath. For Twelve seasons, I have worked on the staff at the Tell es-Safi/Gath excavations, as well as directing a number of smaller excavations. I also work in the Archaeology Lab at Bar Ilan University. I currently teach courses at Bar Ilan and David Yellin College. I have recently published articles related to Philistine material culture, place names and their importance in ethnic identification, the status of Jerusalem in the Iron Age and the political structure of Philistia.

09.07.17 Tell es-Safi_2220  K60JOE: I Moved to Israel from the USA 15 years ago, and earned my Ph.D. at Bar Ilan University on the Middle Bronze Age in the southern coastal plain, which included the publication of material from Tel Nagila, Yavneh-Yam and Tell es-Safi/Gath, where I have worked on the staff for 12 seasons. I have also directed several smaller excavations, and work in the Lab at Bar Ilan, and serve as the program coordinator at the Albright Institute for Archaeological Research.  I have recently published articles related to Philistine material culture, the status of Jerusalem in the Iron Age, the Tell es-Safi Survey, and the chain of production of pottery in the Bronze and Iron Ages.

Get to know us a little better by joining us this summer at the excavations – June 13th to July 2nd!

A Nice View of the Tel

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Tell Burnat - Fields in spring timeOn 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.

The Survey Season

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survey fieldsIn 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:

  1. determine the periods in which the site was settled.
  2. determine the size of the site per period.
  3. 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.

Identifying the site

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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.

A little bit about the site

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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.

Fig3The 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 new Tel Burna Blog

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Hello Everyone,

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