The Middle Bronze Age at Tel Burna

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The Middle Bronze Age – roughly 1900-1500 BCE (although there are plenty of arguments to move it one way or the other by 50-100 years) is a period of reawakening for urbanism in the southern Levant.  after a dark age of about 350 years, where no cities are found, cities begin to emerge once again, building palaces, temples, and most notably fortifications.  These fortifications are one of the hallmarks of the period, as they many times are the reason behind the shape of the tells we know today.  These fortifications include earthworks – known as ramparts and glacis – which encompassed the cities.  Some have argued against labeling the structures fortifications, preferring alternate explanations, linked to more “social” reasoning behind their costruction.

The survey revealed that there was a considerable presence of Middle Bronze Age pottery at Tel Burna.  The rough estimate of surface scatter (the area where artifacts found dating to a certain period) is 5 hectares.  this would mean that Tel Burna was a small city, and may have been encompassed by the earthworks mentioned above.  It would be interesting to see – through excavation – if the unique shape of the tell is a result of the construction of a rampart!

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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.